Monday, 14 March 2011

Neanderthals, Nutrition, Athletes and Some Vegetables

Many of you who know me will know that I am constantly banging on about the Neanderthal diet (i.e. trying to keep to a diet as close as possible to the kind of food that was around in those days) - In fact, I believe I first came across this diet in one of Dean Karnazes' book. Of course the truth is in those days, they mainly lived off fruit and vegetables because meat was very difficult to come by!

When I get strange looks at work when I refuse chocolate, cookies and muffins, I usually like to quote the "if it didn't walk, swim or grow, don't eat it" saying. That said, I do need to get off my high horse as I make up for it when it comes to munching as much high carb / sugar content as possible during a race to the extent that I am nearly sick!

I try really hard to keep out 'junk food' from my diet but it is very difficult to achieve living in the UK where every other shop is a fast food restaurant and the need to remortgage your house to pay for the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables in local supermarkets. Unless you make lunch yourself, you only need to have a look at the ingredients (pig's toenail), saturates and high salt levels in a basic sandwich to know that healthy eating is not really taken seriously in the West at all. Jamie Oliver does a great job in promoting healthy eating but where is the Jame Oliver for sport and exercise - surely that is just as important!

It does make sense that focusing on diet is key to running success. I cannot afford to get my nutrition wrong when I am in the gym several times a week and out running twice a day. My body reacts with no sense of subtlety when it is lacking something nutritional; I usually get very tired, lethargic and VERY moody! I am not a nutritionist so I cannot really identify what I am missing in my diet when this happens other than to try and eat as much fruit and vegetables (as well as beans and peas etc) to hopefully accommodate this. I also supplement my diet with glucosamine and cod liver oil tablets. In addition, I have started to focus on taking in 2 shots of wheatgrass per day as well as drinking Beet It (beetroot juice) several days before a race to hopefully add a little to the endurance.

I love eating meat and fish too much to become a vegetarian, but I believe that there is some scope in reducing meat intake, especially red meat. In fact, it appears that many top US ultra runners stick to a mainly vegetarian diet relying on their greens and pulses. Roxanne McAnn who manages content for kindly pointed out to me that a lot of top athletes are vegetarians. Check out her Blog "15 Famous Athletes Who Are Vegetarians" here You will note that amongst that list is the US ultra runner Scott Jurek.

So I think the way forward for me is to increase pulses and greens in my diet and limit by meat intake to perhaps poultry.

p.s. two books I am currently reading on sports nutrition are:

"Go Faster Food: Over 100 energy-boosting recipes for runners, cyclists, swimmers and rowers" by Kate Percy

"Racing Weight" by Matt Fitzgerald


  1. Well there...Just checking up to see who Dan Doherty is! I'll be helping out at the Anglo Celt. I immediately took great interest in this blog entry, as I've just finished a tube of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles and understandably feel quite bad about that. On the plus side, I hardly eat any vegetables...naw, hold on...that's not right! Might need to read that blog entry again...

    I hear yer a Donegal man at heart. With a name like that, how could ye not be. I'm a Carndonagh man meself...Anyway, see ye in Perth.

  2. The Neanderthals were known for their strength and living in harsh conditions…We with all our luxuries have grown weak and lazy and this sudden health revolution should hopefully enlighten us. Great yet for some reason funny post…Thanks a lot.
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