Should Runners Eat Raw Foods?

by Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
Author, Eating for Energy


There are a lot of misconceptions out there about the roles of sugars and grains as they relate to athletes of all calibres. Common sense and a lot of advertising copy might tell you that sugars are great for short burst energy, and grains help you load up on carbohydrates for exercise. But there ís a difference between the good carbs that will be fuel for your engine, and bad carbs that will burn fast and hot, and leave you running on empty.

Speaking of running, let’s look at the common sense idea for breakfast. You might think you would do well to eat a bowl of instant oatmeal a few hours before a big run. Somewhere along the line, someone told you that carbohydrates were important for exercise, and oatmeal is natural, so must be a great choice, right?

Not so fast - literally. If you’re a runner, you’ve probably heard of those crazy feats of human endurance and sacrifice known as ultramarathons. There are now countless races, including the grueling Western States 100 Mile race in the mountains of Colorado, and the mind-melting 135 mile Badwater Ultra in Death Valley, California. Runners in these events have to be as close to perfection on foot as you could find. They have to be finely tuned engines of human endurance. So you would probably be surprised to know that some of those races are being won, not by sugar-slurping carb-loaders, but by athletes who live solely on raw, unprocessed foods?

That certainly doesn’t include your instant oatmeal. While it might have carbohydrates, many of the natural nutrients have been stripped from the oats to make them easy to cook quickly and the enzymes in the oats die as the boiling water is added. And all the processed sugar in those little packets can mean a drug like sugar high that will crash on you before you even finish tying up your sneakers.

So, what’s the alternative? What would an ultramarathon runner and raw food fan do? Why not try a green smoothie before your next run? You don’t need a complex recipe to prepare a quick and easy breakfast of champions here. Simply take a handful of spinach, a squeeze of lime and a large pear. You can have it blended and devoured in less time than it takes to make oatmeal, and the results will amaze you.

What’s so great about this very simple smoothie recipe? The raw spinach has fibre, a ton of vitamins (A, B, C and K), and a lot of healthy phytonutrients and enzymes that would be lost or reduced by cooking. And the extra citrus will unlock the iron and other minerals in the spinach, allowing it to be more easily absorbed.

The pear contains natural sugars and not the processed stuff that flavours your maple and brown sugar oatmeal. These are the good complex carbohydrates that will power you. Your body will be able to digest these items with more ease, turning them into fuel that will propel you through your run, rather than leaving you to crash when those simple carbs in your processed and cooked breakfast run out before you do.




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