Sunday, September 26, 2021

Eat More And Triumph

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I remember a fellow cross country runner who was on the stockier side, was really strong and fast (of course now I know he had what we call a mesomorph body type). The teacher in charge back then suggested that he '"needed to weigh a certain amount so he could run even faster".

This teacher had good intentions no doubt, but he was a Math teacher 'assigned' to be in charge of cross country running and not a 'real' running coach. Looking back, I'm not even sure if that teacher himself ran at all.

Anyway, my friend took his 'advice' and tried to lose weight mostly by not eating or eating a lot less. Not only did he lose weight, he lost a lot of his natural strength and his confidence to boot as he fared poorly in races thereafter. He quit running soon after. 

We now know that being a good athlete is all about finding what works for you. It's about finding YOUR 'strong'. We need to fuel our bodies adequately if we want long term growth and success.

For some runners, that means following that advice my cross country teacher gave to lose weight. For others, it means having a body that looks different (to the norm) and weighing more or less. All body types can work given our different and unique genes and backgrounds.

The problem with that advice is that it is often interpreted from elsewhere, an outlier perhaps, a person that won an Olympic medal. Interpreting data from outliers may be great if you're an exercise scientist writing up research to publish in a scientific journal. Definitely not great for giving advice to other athletes.

Athletes that go against their unique genes and background will not fare well with this training stimulus. They will be like a ticking time bomb and will almost always get slower with time, just like my former team mate.

Consider the *New Zealand rowing team, A survey they did found that all but one rower was at risk of having low energy because of their beliefs and eating habits. Coaches and Rowing NZ officials worked with their rowers to take up a challenge and eat more, thus changing their approach and culture to fueling. The rowers became faster, stronger and happier. Rowing was New Zealand's most successful sport at the Tokyo Olympics and four female boats won medals.

Here's what rower Brooke Donahue, who won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics recently said, "Now I understand being lean isn't a priority, being strong is," and "It doesn't matter what I sit on the scales. It's opened us up to understand it's not about a number but more about a good feeling, knowing we're fueling well." 

Eating well and eating enough can fuel your performance and recovery for long term growth and adaptation. Food can be your legal and natural performance enhancing 'drug'.


McFadden S (2021). Tokyo Olympics: How Our Female Rowers Ate More And Triumphed. Published on 17 Aug 2021. *Article on the New Zealand rowing team is taken from Stuff.

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