Uh, pardon the hyperbolic title. It’s just that I get more people’s attention when I allude to some sort of amazing magic. Since I didn’t attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, we can arrive at the logical conclusion that I can’t perform magic. I mean, do I look like Harry Potter to you? Well, maybe a little. But if I really was Harry Potter, do you think I would’ve ended up with Ginny Weasley instead of Hermione? Certainly not. Anyway, in somewhat related news, I’m pretty sure that other fitness trainers and nutritionists didn’t go to Hogwarts either. So let me be the first to tell you there’s no magical breakfast food that will maximize endurance. Furthermore, I’m not going to include any of my customary scientific research in this post. Yeah, you heard me right. To demonstrate that I’m not a total egghead, I’m about to go all anecdotal on you.
In his book “50/50,” ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes answered a question about his choice of pre-marathon breakfast:
“A bowl of Greek style yogurt and granola with banana slices. I find it easy to digest, and it provides carbohydrates for fuel, protein for muscle integrity and recovery, and fat for satiety.”
If you’re not familiar with “ultra” marathon running, it’s like a regular marathon, except way, way longer. Like fifty miles, or one-hundred miles, or sometimes even farther. And did I mention the races are often set in brutal heat or freezing cold? Well, they are. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather get kicked in the face by a ‘roid raging Vitor Belfort after a TRT injection than run one-hundred miles. However, while I may not agree with Karnazes on his choice of sport, I certainly do support his choice of breakfast.
Hey, remember when I said I wasn’t going to include any scientific research in this post? I lied.
Let’s talk for a moment about Kenyan marathoners. Have you heard of them? I hope so, because they’re really, really good. Like 56 Olympic medals in long-distance running good. For a frame of reference on this impressive total, in long-distance running events, the United states has won… uh, way fewer olympic medals. Like, a paltry count-them-on-your-fingers amount. An American hasn’t won the Boston Marathon since 1983 and an American male hasn’t won an Olympic marathon since 1972. It would appear that if you weren’t born on the African continent, you shouldn’t show up at an international long distance running competition expecting to win. There are numerous reasons one could list to explain this recent dominance, including training methods, genetics, lifestyle, body composition, mental toughness, and race strategy. But since this post is about nutrition, well… You’re probably wondering what the macronutrient breakdown of Kenyan runners looks like, right? Great, me too! Let’s find out…
Food and macronutrient intake of elite kenyan distance runners. Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Dec;14(6):709-19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15657475
“The food and macronutrient intake of elite Kenyan runners was compared to recommendations for endurance athletes. Diet was high in carbohydrate (76.5%, 0.4 g/kg BM per day) and low in fat (13.4 %). Protein intake (10.1 %; 1.3 g/kg BM per day) matched recommendations for protein intake. Fluid intake was modest and mainly in the form of water (1113 +/- 269 mL; 0.34 +/- 0.16 mL/kcal) and tea (1243 +/- 348 mL).”
Approximately 75% carbs, 15% fat, 10% protein. Atkins would’ve been appalled.
Now, we’re going to use this information to create The Breakfast Parfait of Magical Endurance. According to caloriecount.about.com, the macronutrient content of a yogurt/granola parfait is: 84g carbs, 6g fat, 13g protein. I’m no mathemagician, but I do believe that puts us in the Kenyan macro ballpark (remember, there are about twice as many calories in a gram of fat as there are a gram of protein or carbs). By the way, if you’re interested in carrying this macronutrient breakdown through to lunch, one option is the Quinoa salad that I’ll be posting a recipe for in an upcoming blog (shameless plug). Have a yam or two, a mound of brown rice, and some lentils while you’re at it. Remember though, as I mentioned earlier, there’s no magical formula. What works for them may or may not work for you. But if ultra endurance is a goal of yours, you might as well give it a try and find out how your body responds.
In case you’re not familiar with parfaits, it’s a layered food (usually including some kind of fruit) arranged in a tall glass. Not only does it have a hilariously un-manly name, but it’s going to look eff-ing beautiful. Like, way more beautiful than Lindsey Lohan, plus touching the parfait won’t give you an STD.
- Yogurt (preferably Greek yogurt without added sugar)
- Granola (or a healthy breakfast cereal)
Then just arrange it in layers so it looks fantastic. Alternately, you can just throw all the ingredients together in a pile that looks like garbage if that’s more your style. Either way, it’s still going to taste great and give you a nice, natural few hours of energy.
Here’s a photo of one I made today:
These are easily prepared in advance and store well in the refrigerator. They’re also portable if assembled in a container with a lid. Give the breakfast parfait of magical endurance a try before your next run and see if it carries you one-hundred miles. Or three miles. Three sounds good to me.
“Dean Karnazes: Exploring the Limits of Human Endurance.” http://www.ultramarathonman.com/web/media/print/Adventures_Northwest_Magazine.pdf
Karnazes, Dean. “50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance.” Hachette Book Group. 2008.
“Food and macronutrient intake of elite kenyan distance runners.” Onywera VO, Kiplamai FK, Boit MK, Pitsiladis YP. Dept of Exercise and Sports Science, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Dec;14(6):709-19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15657475
“Kenya at the Olympics” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenya_at_the_Olympics
“List of winners of the Boston Marathon” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_winners_of_the_Boston_Marathon
“List of Olympic medalists in athletics (men)” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Olympic_medalists_in_athletics_(men)