Monday, May 7, 2012

The “Diet” Every Runner Should Know About

I am not talking about a “diet” to help you fit into your skinny jeans, although it might. I am referring to a diet to improve your health and to make you a better athlete. A diet to help you heal from injuries more quickly and to maybe even aid in preventing them. Many people lose weight on this diet, but that is not the reason I’m focusing on it.

Inflammation (swelling, redness due to injury, irritation or infection) is the culprit of many conditions from weight gain to depression to heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis. It is also the cornerstone of many running injuries:

  • Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a fibrous band of tissue in the bottom of the foot that extends from the heel bone to the toes.
  • Achilles tendonitis is an irritation or inflammation of the large tendon in the back of the lower calf that attaches to the back of the heel.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS, is due to inflammation of the iliotibial band, a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the leg.
  • Tendonitis and muscle strains are products of inflammation.

Granted the above running injuries are typically caused by over training, over use, incorrect form, etc., they are made worse with inflammation, and continued inflammation may delay healing.  A good SASA would try to reduce inflammation, right? Sure you can start popping NSAIDS (ibuprofen, etc.) like Jelly Bellys, but those can wreak havoc on your system and mask symptoms. I’m proposing another tactic.

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But first, let’s talk inflammation. Inflammation is not a disease, it’s a condition. Sometimes you want your body to elicit an inflammatory response to fight bacterial infections and viruses. It becomes majorly problematic, however, when our bodies are out of balance and we have more inflammation than we should.

Due to lack of exercise, stress, environmental factors, menopause hormones and the foods we eat, we can develop too much inflammation. You can combat excessive inflammation by being active, not smoking and being at a healthy weight for your body type. However, one of the most proactive ways to battle it is with your diet.

After I got the laundry list of injuries from my MRI, I took action. I knew recovery would include form changes, physical therapy, rest and other approaches. But, I wanted to do more. Type A personality in the house!

One of my injuries is high hamstring tendinopathy, a degeneration of the hamstring tendons and related to inflammation.  I naturally wanted to address the inflammation issue because it is something I might be able to impact.

Enter the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Many health experts support this diet as a means of preventing disease and being an overall healthy individual. Running Times ran a recent article called “Fight Inflammation with Food,” that gives runners ideas for how to reduce inflammation naturally.

The more I read about this diet, the more I realized:

  1. This diet could help to alleviate and maybe even prevent many conditions such as heart problems, cancer, and osteoporosis as I get older. I mean, I’m no spring chicken at 45.
  2. I am already eating many components of this diet, but with a bit more diligence I could be a true follower.
  3. This diet is not difficult. The foods are readily available and can be eaten in their most simplest of forms. It’s not expensive and does not require special potions and trips to the most exclusive health food stores in the nation.

There are several  books and approaches to the Anti Inflammatory Diet (AID). Below seem to be some common themes (from HERE):

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Super foods included in the anti inflammatory diet include, but are not limited to, all the stuff that makes you fart:

Avocadoes
Blueberries
Green Tea
Sweet potatoes
Beans
7 grain bread
Brown rice
Broccoli
Walnuts
Flax Seed
Salmon
Omega 3 rich eggs
Steel cut oats
Tofu
Tuna (mercury free)
Spinach
Almond butter
Greek yogurt

Check out Andrew Weil’s AID Food Pyramid (praise the Lord that wine is in there):

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I have been adding more of these super foods to my diet.

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Confessions and Impressions:

  • My kids freak out when they see all the spinach I put in my smoothies. If you know your primary colors then you know green (spinach) + blue (blueberries) = shit color.

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Click HERE for an anti inflammatory smoothie recipe.
I also add a few handfuls of spinach to mine.

  • Over the first few days  I felt like this diet should be called the “Anti Constipation Diet.” Hello many visits to the bathroom!
  • I admit that my donut this morning had so many trans fats and refined sugars that Dr. Weil would shit a brick, but oh well.
  • I did something blasphemous and actually threw away everything in my candy drawer beside my bed. Then I had a funeral services and spread the ashes over a case of spinach.

Regardless of whether I’m un-inflamed, I love that this diet makes sense and promotes healthy, clean eating. The foods on the list are packed with good stuff and eaten in the right amounts give me the optimal balance of carbs, proteins and fats. I’m all over it. Of course you can’t have one bowl of blueberries and be done. This has to be a long term commitment.

Do you follow any guidelines for how you eat? Do tell. I don’t follow a strict diet in any sense of the word. I just try to eat well, to cook from scratch and to eat foods in their most basic forms. I don’t do it all perfectly, but I do pretty well.

What have you added or eliminated certain foods from your diet? We don’t go out to eat a lot. We don’t eat a ton of meat. I don’t eat Crisco straight from the jar.

Have you ever heard of AID? I had heard of it before, but know a lot more about it now.

SUAR

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor (but if I were, my name would be Dr. Hugh G. Rection). I am also not a nutritionist . In fact, I know very little about most things.  Don’t eat this way if you don’t want to, and for God’s sake, don’t do it before you ask your own doctor or nutritionist.

62 comments:

  1. I am going to try this for my hamstring strain and see what happens. I do eat a lot of ginger already. May be better than popping Ibuprofen.

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  2. Paleo all the way :-)

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  3. Yes; I follow a vegan diet (98% of the time, anyway; occasionally I have to have a great dessert that isn't vegan!). It's very high in fruits, veggies and whole grains. Vegans' cardiovascular risk is only 4%, so I don't worry about that anymore! Not eating meat also cuts cancer risk significantly (although I do worry about the pesticides on my fruits and veggies). I feel so good on it, I would never go back! A couple of good poop side effects - I'm never, ever constipated and I always have to go first thing in the morning so I know everything will "move on out" before my morning run. :) And, if anyone is looking to lose weight, weight melts away when you switch to being a vegan and you get to eat ALL the time because your foods contain very few calories (so if you are a snacker, it's pretty awesome!). :)

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  4. PTL wine indeed. This is VERY interesting!! gotta get a good read of this in again and see what modifications i can make. I sorta had a bad eating week (a bad big nasty birthday does that to you)so need to be careful -er (not a word i KNOW! the next few weeks.

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  5. Thankfully I actually naturally crave the food you listed and have them right now.

    BUT - I am in love with sweets. My first half marathon is May 19th and swore to myself I would cut them out (ice cream, cake forms, bar forms, etc.).

    I also love french fries and have been doing well with substituting for salads and grabbing one or two off the bf's plate to satisfy the craving!

    I can tell my ankle is inflamed - maybe I need some blueberries right now :)

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  6. I think it's good not just for keep injuries at bay or healing, but for overall health too (cancer is tied to inflammation).

    I just read an article in Outside magazine that made a convincing argument for adding beet juice to the mix (YUM!) too. Helps boost your red count. May have to add it to my smoothies.

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  7. Great post! I've been working on this for some time now. So many foods we can eat to help reduce it!

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  8. I have pretty much given up beef. Besides the fact that it makes me have to take more than my share of pit stops, I've noticed that I feel overall more energetic when I don't eat it. Coincidence? I think not....

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  9. Great overview of all things anti-inflammation. I've tried to incorporate many of these items into my diet over the years, but I also have a serious sweet tooth - lots of room for improvement, right? We do smoothies too, but we call them sludgies, for obvious reasons. Excellent column! And in general - great blog.

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  10. I'm happy to say that I've moved more and more towards this kind of diet (without knowing it was an "anti-inflammatory" diet) in recent months. I'd say those are the foods that I eat 85% - 90% of the week. I have an occasional martini or take-out disaster - but that happens maybe once or twice a month. I've cut out almost all processed foods, fake sweeteners, white flours (most wheat really) I've cut way back on dairy and have started to lean much more heavily towards organic / whole foods. I am feeling much better about what we are all eating.

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  11. Love this post Beth. EVERYBODY should be eating like this. Remove processed foods from your diet and return to eating whole foods not 'food like products.' I would also advise against eating anything that says 'lite' or 'reduced fat', as these are just processed foods pretending to be healthy.

    Think about it - fat provides taste, take out the fat and you have to put in artificial flavorings (manufactured, not grown) to make the food taste good again. Better to eat the full fat, unprocessed version - and eat less of it. In fact you will eat less because it will fill you up more, low fat foods don't sate your appetite so you need to eat more of them to feel full - kind of a cruel joke that.

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  12. I eat most of these foods already.. hence the over abundance of gas in our house, but hey, the only thing inflamed in our house is our rear ends, so it's all good! ; )

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  13. I'm experimenting with a Paleo-ish "diet" (hate the connotation of that word)for 4 weeks, eating most of my carbs sandwiching my workouts. First week felt sluggish but not deprived. Second week I felt like normal again although I had an abnormal amount of daydreams about cupcakes. Down 5 pounds and ran a marathon yesterday, with simple carbs throughout the day. Felt great! Haven't decided if I'll stick with it 100% but cutting out processed food, simple carbs, and sugar makes sense. On my normal diet, I would occasionally wake up bloated but that has not happened in the last 2 weeks. The anti-inflammatory diet looks like an excellent way of eating for everyone!

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  14. Love to read all your posts! Three weeks ago I cut out sugar and white flour...I really feel a lot better and it wasn't as hard as I thought.. Giving up good french bread was the hardest, but you'd be surprized at all the bakeries that make whole wheat french. I'm one to want something sweet after dinner, so I've been drinking geen tea with a little agave nectar..it seems to satisfy my sweet tooth for now :)

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  15. hmmm.... Really going to consider this as my training picks up. Thanks for sharing this. Adding some of these foods starting today!

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  16. I've tried to follow South Beach and Paleo and am back to follow a combination of the two. I know I don't get enough variety of fruits and veggies so I started taking Juice Plus as well.

    I haven't heard of AID before but now I'm curious and interested in learning more.

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  17. Our food "diets" include no processed, no preservatives, no artificial additives, no high fructose corn syrup or GMOs. It has taken a lot of self education to know ingredients, but I am finally at a point where I can look at a label and pick out the hidden ingredients. Most recently I saw that Sabra hummus has preservatives.

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    1. Due to a high hummus request in my house w 3 hungry boys after school, I've mastered making it homemade in my food processor.Ive Googled recipes, try them all and mastered the flavor they like, serve w veggies. it's amazing the response I get from my family. It sure beats snacking on crap or store bought processed hummus. Much cheaper too.

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  18. I now eat Chia seeds - don't taste like anything and can be added to almost everything!

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  19. Hubz is a big fan of the anti-inflammatory diet - he's had 5 surgeries between his two knees, so it's a real issue for him.

    One more thing to monitor/minimize: Omega 6, which comes from seeds and nuts. Even the ones that are high in Omega 3 can be problematic. You're better off getting your Omega 3 from fish and other sources.

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  20. I started Paleo at the end of October. I am not a total hard core paleo but follow it about 80%. I have lost 15 lbs, blood pressure is down, arthritis has improved, and my appetite is decreased. I have given up on food that comes it a box, bag, or can, that is not food that is processed crap chemically altered to taste like food. We are eating too much HFCS and sugar. The 60 minute piece on sugar about 5 weeks ago was very interesting.

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  21. I have heard of AID, but don't know much about it. My father started eating more like this because of extreme RA. I am interested in it because of my ongoing knee issues. Thank you for ALL of the resources, I will be looking into them, and I shared it with my dad and some running partners. This seems like a healthy approach to eating that will also be helpful for healing. Thanks again for always providing such helpful info!

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  22. I learned with my foot nightmare that sugar is a huge for inflammation and to reduce sugar intake to about 20g/day (and only 2 fruits, but early in the day). Not easy for the chick who loves sugar(if you recall the day at The Market - ha).

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  23. I too know very little about most things. But I do know that shitting a brick would hurt!

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  24. LOL! Great to know I'm not the only who throws handfuls of spinach into everything that is blended.

    The smoothie recipe looks good except the bananas and kiwi (apparently if you're allergic to latex the aforementioned are most likely on your list too, something about being co-allergens). Makes me sad :(

    I do a smoothie with my juicer, beets, spinach, parsley, ginger, pineapple, carrots, broccoli, blackberries, mango, strawberries... Hmm, I'm missing the kitchen sink, LOL!

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  25. I am horrible when it comes to diets or changing up my diet... I will admit that I've always lived by the theme of I run so therefore I can eat.. However, if I want to improve as an athlete I definitely can't live by that anymore.. I would love to try this AID Diet but I just don't know how to grocery shop and cook for this... and its even harder to convince my meat eating boyfriend to go along with it...

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    1. Madison, there is a really good book at Amazon.com that gives info on the diet and recipes: http://www.amazon.com/The-Anti-Inflammation-Diet-Recipe-Book/dp/0897934857

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  26. I’ve been working hard at my grocery shipping and meal planning. I have been sticking to my outside rim shopping technique and only hit the vegetable, meat, dairy and bread aisles. I only go 'inside' unless it's on my list for a meal, I get it and get out, the inside aisles are not safe. :)

    I think most people know that in the grocery store if it has just one ingredient, food, ie, green beans, milk, pork, vino .. there is some study out there says that that ingredient has some benefit. The inside guts of the grocery store is a sea of 10 plus ingredient “food product.” So if you're eating and making your own meals using food you're likely way better off than someone eating a food product. How often do you see a study on Oreos or goldfish and the health benefits they provide?

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  27. Apparently this approach to diet makes your hair grow. What up Rapunzel?! I love this post. I feel so much better am so very nice when I am kind to my body and fuel it this way. Just looking for the nutritive value of raw cookie dough. Raw is the wave of the future.

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  28. I eat all the food on your list 90% of the time,, my biggestv problem is beer,, I love beer,, but I have been drinking Gluten free Beer. UGH !

    Tammy

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  29. This way of eating is good for so many things and thank you for the reminder! Smoothies are an awesome way to get so many good things into one little glass of yumminess. I put flaxseed meal on my salads and don't even notice it, I try to sneak in stuff like that wherever I can, can't to much of it really!

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  30. I follow the 80/20 rule with clean eating. It helped me lose 35 pounds and keep it off. Basically, staying away from processed foods, refined flour and sugars. I eat lean meats, veggies, and fruits. No fried foods, Or high fructose corn syrup. I make the same smoothies, with bb and spinach.

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  31. I read the book Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman and it is very informative and gives a clear explanation of how to eat in balance, including how to eat to decrease inflammation. If you need to lose weight, there is a great 6 week plan that is healthy and allows you to lose about 20 pounds (like I said, if you need to). Otherwise, the book is really about a life long change to healthy eating that allows your body to find the weight it's supposed to be at.

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  32. Since the 50 miler I have fallen into bad eating habits again because, well I was hungry all the time. and I was eating way too much "bad/easy" food because I was tired all the time. But those are just excuses. I need to get more color on the plate again even if it is not the AID. Most healthy eating plans call for the same thing, more color, more fresh foods, less sugar, fat and processed. Thanks for the reminder.

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  33. Good reminder to get back to better eating habits. I have fallen off and been eating too much crap. I have been fighting IT band issues and do have rheumatoid arthritis. Thanks for bringing this up!

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  34. This diet is very similar to a plan I follow from Precision Nutrition. www.precisionnutrition.com I am no spring chicken either but since I've started eating this way, I'm able to push myself harder and recover faster. I've also gotten a LOT faster. I didn't think I'd be setting new PB's at 41. I'm sure dropping 15lbs has also helped that cause, LOL.

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  35. I have my undergrad degree in Nutritional Sciences and know a lot about inflammation from my PhD studies-I put myself on an anti-inflammatory diet when I had my hip labral tear. Unfortunately, it didn't work since inflammation was only making my pain worse but not actually the root cause. BUT it worked really well prior to surgery and I stuck to a strict diet and no alcohol to prepare for the impending doom of surgery!

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  36. Great post lots of good information. I do try and eat healthy 98% of the time. My diet does consists of most of those items on that list.

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  37. I try to eat very "clean" - limited processed food, limited dairy, limited grains, no soy. I am a big fan of the Whole 9 and their Whole 30 program. There is a great blog and through their series of manifestos, they explain why certain food groups are not the best choices. http://whole9life.com/

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  38. I already eat alot of that stuff and im addicted to spinach. When it's in season I get "Korean" spinach from a local farm that is great sautéd with garlic and olive oil.I cook meat for my hubby and 4 sons (hubby is a retired butcher), but I eat only fish and seafood. Recently my 11 year old daughter has come over to the dark side with me and gone meat free

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  39. Thanks for the recipe. We do a pretty good job with everything on the list except tofu, tuna & salmon. Greek yogurt is a staple now that I'd never eaten before last summer. Love it.

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  40. I eat pretty well a good majority of the time... still can't resist my sweets and carbs, though. I just make sure that *most* of the time I reach for something healthy, first, before fulfilling every sugary, carby craving!

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  41. I have a very strict diet. Strict, I tell you. I eat when I'm hungry and stop before I'm full. That glass of red wine a day is not an option. Lots of good stuff, not so much processes stuff.

    Bison. I didn't see that mentioned in your diet. As near as I can tell, organically raised bison, preferably on the original prairie grasses is simply the best red meat you can eat. Lean. Nutritious as all get out. Tasty.

    MORE trips to the bathroom???? How can there be more? I heard a rumor you installed a desk and computer in front of one of the toilets in your home, and that was before this diet change.

    I don't know what's worse, the neon green smoothies, or that one in your photo. Let me think about it for a year or two.

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  42. It totally works. And it's a plain old healthy diet. Add some fenugreek.

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  43. I'm doing an anti-allergenic diet right now that eliminates all foods you could have problems processing and then introduce them back one at a time once your system has time to heal itself. I'm afraid I may have issues with more than one thing haha. I love the Andrew Weil’s AID Food Pyramid. Especially that it has red wine on it. :)

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  44. This list pretty much sums up my diet. I'm currently loving vegan protein powder smoothies with almond milk and berries now. I do avoid soy however (read so much about the dangers). I love sweet potatoes(immunity superfood!), berries, bananas, avocados, and salmon. Steel cut oats + almond milk + berries + ground flax is my new pre long run go to breaky. Greek yogurt, eggs, green tea; all faves! Great list!

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  45. Dr. Hugh G Rection- ha ha! I like to think I would be Dr. Peter Gahzinya.

    Great post as usual! I followed and anti-inflammatory diet after my marathon last year halfway like a cleanse, half way to see a difference in my performance.

    I liked it but I still craved my nut butters...NUTS.

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  46. Thank you so much for posting this! I have been trying to follow a diet similar to this, but these guidelines and examples are fantastic. I look forward to hearing more on how it goes!

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  47. Have you tried th "Wobenzym N" supplement from Germany that many athletes take (including me)? Google it!! It works!

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    1. Never heard of it. Will check it out.

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  48. More and more I see these 'diets' and the more and more I want to just tell people to be vegetarian. It is everything I eat now and it is easy and if you don't want to you don't even have to cook since veggies can be eaten raw.

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  49. Yay! I was so happy to see so many of the foods I eat every day on the list of anti-inflammatory foods! My one downfall would have to be eating spanish rice sometimes instead of brown rice. But I typically follow this diet unintentionally. I love that food pyramid as well! I have to agree that it looks MUCH healthier than the old standard. I love seeing fruits and vegetables as the base of the pyramid and soy products on there as well. :) Thanks for sharing! This was super informative. And with all of my inflammatory injuries, I should pay closer attention to these things.

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  50. I was really happy to see that a lot of the foods that I already eat are on the list. I read an article some time ago that said that Omega-3 Fatty Acids are good for folk like myself who have excursive induced asthma. And so we started having fish (mostly Salmon) once or twice a week… to the abject horror of my children. “We’re having fish AGAIN! Argh!” Music to my ears. Hehehehehe

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  51. Great post! You are hilarious, btw. I try to eat like this normally but have 'fell off the bandwagon' for the past few months. Gained weight, and although I had a recent stellar PR in my last marathon and half, I feel like shit! And I notice my recovery time is much longer and I am having more issues then I used to. Definitely found that chips, pizza, beer and vodka aren't exactly great recovery foods. But I never realized this was an actual diet. Love the idea and makes me more motivated to keep up with my good eating. Plus now I'll have an excuse when people ask why I'm 'eating healthy' or 'can't eat that'.

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  52. I tried drinking carrot juice with a combination of cucumber and it was effective for diet. Thank you for the recipe, I can't wait to try it.

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  53. I ate pretty much exactly like this over the summer, but now that I'm living in the dorms again I've been finding myself overeating because of the buffet-style cafeteria. I've gained a few pounds and I really need to get back on track! Eating healthy feels so much better. I just need to try to mimic how I ate over the summer with what I eat in the cafeteria. Easier said than done. :/ It's such a mental thing!

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  54. I have high hamstring pain,too. Will try to do better on my eating. Already do this stuff SOMEtimes,but not always.

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  55. hamstring pain is common. I've gained a few pounds and I really need to get back on track! Eating healthy feels so much better. I just need to try to mimic

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  56. In addition to your list, my doctor recommends a low to zero gluten diet along with a dairy free diet because both of those increase inflammation in the body.

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  57. Thank you for being equally excited about wine on the list.
    I love your blog. This is the best take on nutrition I've read in forever.

    I eat a crapton of kale, fruit, spinach and almonds. And grapes - frozen grapes! Just started with green smoothies, just cut out gluten (except beer.) I've been feeling way better this training cycle with all these changes.

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