Summary of my diet for marathons
One of my bowling partners was going through some weight loss and her husband recommended she switch to a higher protein diet, exercise and also count her calories and what they were (fat, carbs, protein, etc). This got me to start looking at my own diet and found it had very little protein, or much less than i needed.
Sometime after the first marathon, i decided to add more protein in my diet. I tried a few different protein powders:
- Started with Muscle milk but found a lot of carbs and fat. Guessed that it was milk based and not much better than milk.
- Cytosport protein – this was much better nutritional wise (less fat and carbs), but didn’t taste nearly as good. With muscle milk, it tasted pretty close to milk. Cytosport when mixed with milk was fine but using water took some getting used to. Mostly at the time i mixed with milk.
- Tried body fortress protein as the supermarket didn’t have any other ones. It was ok with milk but didn’t taste very good even with milk and it was hard to mix.
- EAS: this was much more expensive but there was a sale at the time so i thought to try it. It tasted great but it was a bit expensive. It tasted ok when mixed with water. This is my preferred brand of whey protein.
As a disclaimer, try not to use whey protein often long term. Many go in cycles and generally avoid it during down time or non intense training. I generally try to use it only for one or two servings a day, and ideally spread out during the day.
It is always good to have protein around. When I am not running, I would use the protein powder as an appetite suppressant to reduce my caloric intake so I do not gain too much weight when I am not running. Usually protein is hard to come by. Carbs is usually abundant so it comes in handy when you lack protein. Also, other forms of protein is expensive so supplementing your diet with whey is cost effective.
There are other great sources of protein, such as fish, nuts, cheese and yogurt. With proper planning, you can avoid using whey protein completely. However, sometimes you fall behind or just need protein so whey is very convenient, especially if you are traveling for work or vacation. Also, the best use of why protein is in the morning as it is fast acting and this is when your body is the most deficient in protein. Having it in the morning will give your body a nice protein boost. At nighttime, many use yogurt, meat, or cottage cheese as they are slow to digest and slow to be released into the body so it gives your body a steady source of protein when you are sleeping. Some say it only lasts for about 4-6 hours so either way you will need some protein in the morning if you want to keep a steady supply of protein to your body.
When i started running more, about 40 miles a week, i found that i didn’t eat enough for the training. I started to find a powder for carbs. Eventually, i found Serious Mass by Optimum Nutrition. The powder is about 75% carbs and 25% protein, which is great for a recovery drink or when you need extra calories. It has a good ratio needed for running.
Just as a warning, this is mostly maltodextrin, which is just sugar. A similar cheaper shake can be made from buying maltodextrin and whey protein separately. Also, i believe long term this can’t be healthy so use only when needed. i used this to supplement with real food and tried to minimize the use of this. A blender or immersion blender is needed for this. It cannot be mixed with just a spoon. Blender works best but immersion blender is a very good alternative. Initially try small amounts of this. If you drink too much of this, it may and can cause a hypoglycemic shock as it can be a large dose of sugar all at once. After about two months, i was able to drink a full serving with milk so about 1600 calories, 1200 of which is just sugar. I would recommend to start with maybe 1/8 of serving, or 1/4 of a scoop (serving size is two large scoops of powder with 20oz of water or milk). Usually you will feel a bit thirsty after drinking this shake, especially if mixed with milk as you really need water to process sugar.
Usually, i would drink 1/2 to 3/4 of a serving late a night, right before bed. This way I can slip in extra calories and my body would be able to digest it overnight. I would wake up starving though.
When i was initially doing this schedule, i was using the whey protein with milk and then also the Serious mass with milk. I was eating upwards of about 3000-3500 calories a day, which is a lot because i was only 26 years old and 160lbs. I did end up losing weight doing all this running and doing this diet for a few weeks. This was mostly because i was converting so much fat into muscle that I needed this many calories to do it. Now two years later, I am eating about 2800 calories a day and running about the same distance. I am also more efficient at running those distances.
The serious mass shakes are very effective in carb loads as its a large caloric shake but it doesn’t fill you up as much as food. I used it pretty effectively in carb loading before marathons. With the carb shakes, you can eat much more than normal.
In terms of cost, its the lowest in terms of calories per dollar. Pasta and pasta sauce comes close and could be less if you buy them both in bulk, but the convenience of the shake is hard to beat. However, if you have enough time to prepare your meals, go with the pasta. You can use whole grain pasta for a bit more fiber and protein. There are special brands of pasta that has even more protein but less fiber than whole grain.
When you are traveling however, you often won’t have the resources to cook so these shakes offer a steady and predictable diet when away from home. I carry protein everywhere and any hotel room would have cups and a spoon. I use EAS as it mixes with water easily so I always have protein. I don’t always have a blender so its difficult to use Serious Mass anywhere. I could check in a bag and use an immersion blender, but I usually like to travel light and avoid checking in any bags at all cost.