As runners, many of us are frequently on the lookout for ways to improve our performance. Nutrition is one of the factors that often packs a big "bang for your buck", so to speak. Improving your nutrition often results in improving everything from your race times to your recovery. Along those lines, it's fairly well known that the best runners in the world eat a diet that maximizes their carbohydrate intake. (Runner Marci had a great post in December on this very subject) So if I want to improve my performance, I should improve my nutrition and maximize my carb intake and the stars will align and I'll set PR after PR, right?
Unfortunately, there is a bit more to it than that - and I've run (hahaha) into a conundrum. This season I've been working to improve my diet. And before you ask, yes, I still eat sweets on occasion and decaf mochas from Starbucks are still my weakness. But I've been trying to do the best I can this season to fuel my body with high-quality foods. I was excited to receive Matt Fitzgerald's "Racing Weight" cookbook for Christmas and have been reading and trying recipes from that for a few weeks now. I've also read his Racing Weight book and really like that he takes the approach of improving the quality of your diet (vs. cutting calories) in order to achieve your optimal racing weight.
The challenge I have is this: I've calculated what my optimal carbohydrate intake should be based on the formula he provides in his book and confirmed with a few other sources that it was reasonable. For my training load of 11-14 hours a week (my runs + strength sessions), I need 3.75-4g of carbs per pound of body weight. Which equates to about 436g of carbs per day.
I decided to calculate my carb intake for a few days a week or so ago and I am falling pretty short of my target. As in, I'm about a third short - even on a day when I'm consciously trying to eat more carbs! But...I'm probably within a few pounds of my racing weight and I am not really trying to put on any weight at this point in my season. In order to increase the carbs without really upping my calorie intake (which might result in pounds gained on the scale), I'd most likely need to give up some protein/dairy and nuts/seeds in favor of more carb-dense sources. So here's where I need help:
Fellow runners - if you are close to your racing weight (i.e. you don't want to gain any weight) and still want to increase your carb intake, what do you do? Do you give up some food variety to try to optimize your carb intake by eating carbs, carbs, carbs all the time during heavy training? Or do you just forgo maximizing your carbs and just focus on eating all high-quality foods? Should I give up my daily lunch of a nice big salad with nuts/fruits/cheese and opt for a more carb-heavy item? Am I overthinking this?
And for those of you that have had success with upping your carb intake, did that impact your weight or leanness? Has anyone come close to meeting their "target" carb-intake goals without eating 8 million bananas a day? Sound off in the comments below (pretty please?)! Would love to hear from some of my favorite speedy ladies too (Sarah, Teal, Jasmine, Kris, Marci, Laura, Jen, Tina, Katie and Tia) if you guys have the time!