Why Runners Cannot Eat Whatever They Want

Navigational Art and Directions By Colleen Yorke, © 2015.
"'I will run it off'— we comfort ourselves as we load a second helping on our plates. In a growing medical case against the devil-may-care diets of many endurance runners, researchers are publishing new numbers. We may not eat whatever we want after all. For one, junk food is still junk food. Certain preservatives in processed foods may change into cancer-causing compounds in the body. A concentrated amount of sodium may increase the risk of high blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Alcohol is broken down into fatty acids, which then accumulate in the liver. In fact, fat accumulation can be seen in the liver after a single night of heavy drinking. Liver cells and brain cells die with excessive exposure to alcohol.

We also tend to underestimate our total calories count. Those cute little burger sliders we have been scarfing down freely after a run? They have 300+ calories each. The refreshing beer? 200 calories per sling. On the flipside, running at best burns about 100 calories per mile. The actual caloric expenditure depends upon many factors, including weight, running efficiency, muscle mass, run pace, and even the type of run (hills, trail, or road). I for example, would need to run about 8 miles to eat 1 burger slider. Even if our high mileage running levels our calories intake, we still are what we eat. Ice cream, cookies, cheese burgers add salt, fat, and sugar to our everyday diet, which in large doses may take toll on our health. Boston Marathon's Director Dave McGillivray, who has more than 25 marathons under his belt, was recently diagnosed with coronary artery disease. Amby Burfoot, editor-at-large of Runner's World, discovered he had high coronary calcium, a condition probably similar to McGillivray’s. Both men liked to treat themselves with a post-marathon reward such as ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.

So while we know deep down that no matter how much we run, we can not outrun the negative effects of a poor diet, we all have our sinner's foods we crave from time to time. As with everything else in life, keeping binging within a limit and counterbalance it with healthy nutrition will allow our body to recycle and reprocess.