I recently read the following article...
As a runner I'm always curious on little tips and tricks to improve my diet... in hopes that, at the end of the day, it helps translate into a PR.
But the content of the above article contradicts all of the current theory in sports dieting...
Is it just me, or is this the Worst Advice Ever?
I'm truely curious to know what the rest of you think.
Actually, that's typical advice for someone who runs at a high level. I'm really not sure how well it applies to recreational runners, for whom the 50/25/25 level would seem more appropriate. Other sports may have different recommendations, but high carb is considered best for running. I know Tim Noakes has begun advocating a diet higher in fat but I don't know the details so I can't really comment on that.
different sports have different diets, and diets are different for non-athletes and athletes so make sure you're researching the right type of nutrition.
I agree that some of the information in this article is outdated (eg: margarine vs butter). Many running magazines and websites will occasionally recycle older articles to fill space (Runner's World is famous for this), and stale information might escape an editor's attention. Not sure I'd go as far as to say it's the "Worst Advice Ever," but it reflects a snapshot in time that has since passed in the annals of sports nutrition.
When dealing with highly technical subjects such as this, that are based on ongoing research and shifting consensus, it's hard to put together an article that will stand the test of time. For example, I used to think that the brain requires sugar for fuel, as we were taught in school. It's true that low blood sugar affects brain function, but it is possible for the brain to "learn" to metabolize fat with some interesting fringe benefits. Turns out the same low-sugar state can have other positive effects on the human body, whether or not it belongs to an athlete.
The most glaring example of old information was the mention of cholesterol. Arterial disease has less to do with cholesterol, which is regulated and produced by the body, than it does with the arterial wall inflammation that occurs when blood sugar is too high, causing cholesterol to stick as a result. The writer also does not take into account the pro-inflammatory nature of the unsaturated fats he champions, and the necessity of a good balance of saturated fats to healthy cell function. Basically, the old divisions between protein, fat, and carbs are not as distinct as they once were, rendering much of this discussion moot.
Much confusion comes from likening food to fuel. We are not cars, and eating something in search of a direct effect is not as useful as understanding how many chemical changes food goes through as we digest and metabolize it. While we do store carbs as glycogen, and use glycogen to fuel our muscles, the subtle shift to fat-burning as we run is more important to know, since fat is far more calorically dense, and we are not limited to storing two hours-worth. Also, an athlete is not going to store much more glycogen than a non-athlete, no matter how high a percentage he/she eats, so what's the point? The aim may be to fatten up, but with fat being four times as efficient, it doesn't take much (about a pound for a marathon). The other health concerns are more important. I would reserve fattening up for livestock, and concentrate on the greater physiology.
A better rule to follow might be a diet that more closely resembles what shaped human metabolism for millennia, before the relatively modern introduction of refined carbohydrates and the cultivation of crops, particularly grain, that made them possible. It might not make running for hours on end more comfortable or successful, but it should allow the sport to be part of a healthier lifestyle overall.