Eating for Speed

More Calories Make Big Differences

Maybe it's best not to discuss my eating habits in the Pacific Northwest.

Maybe it’s best not to discuss my eating habits in the Pacific Northwest.

Every year, when I begin training, I have the same problem: no increase in speed, but a noticeable increase in my waistline. When you research why people gain weight when training, you get the following suggestions:

  • You ran, so you deserve a reward! Go have that entire pizza and a pint of ice cream. You earned it. (Nope.)
  • You drink too much! That run made you thirsty, so have a pitcher of beer. (Nope.)
  • You carbo load for days in advance of a long run! (Nope.)
  • You don’t sleep enough. (Actually, I’m sleeping well, thanks.)

If anything, a good, long run has an appetite suppressant effect on me. Not only do I not want an entire pizza, I don’t really want much of anything. I don’t drink often, and no differently during training than during the couch potato months. I don’t eat more carbs before a long run, and I’m sleeping just fine.

So I asked my trainer for suggestions. After doing a bit of research, she concluded that maybe I wasn’t eating enough. When your body is training, sometimes it retains fat thinking, “Whoa! We might need this later!”

I ate poutine for dessert in Vancouver. These are the depths of my depravity.

I ate poutine for dessert in Vancouver. These are the depths of my depravity.

It sounded… well, a little silly. Eat more? And this could make me faster and leaner? Come on, that’s just counterintuitive. Who’s ever heard of eating for speed? But it was That Week and I felt like eating All the Foods anyway, so I gave it a whirl.

Mind you, when we get into any sort of distance (5+ miles), I’m pretty consistently a 12:30/mile runner. Not fast, and plenty of room for improvement.

Baseline for February 28: 12:31/mile over 10 miles.

After a week of unbridled eating, I went for my usual Saturday run. I was 29 seconds/mile faster than usual. That’s huge, and even more so when you consider that it didn’t feel like an increased effort. Well, that’s pretty cool. Maybe I’ll try it again.

Week 1 time: 12:04/mile over 11 miles.

The strange thing is that it’s hard to eat more when you’re not naturally hungry. I felt like I ate a lot of dumb calories, more fast food than I normally would. But hey, it’s for science, right?

Week 2 time: Ran a 5k race, so the pace doesn’t count (remember, we’re talking pace over distance here). However, I felt stronger than I had in years.

I got a bit more sensible about my eating this week, trying to reluctantly incorporate more meat for calories, and doubling up on fruits and veggies at each meal. I wasn’t looking forward to my solo taper run on Saturday morning because I wouldn’t have anyone to pace me. But I finished strong and didn’t struggle.

Week 3 time: 11:05/mile over 6 miles. Wait… what?

Now I didn’t know what to expect going into the race. Yes, I’d been running faster over distances of up to 11 miles, but anyone who’s run a half marathon can tell you that those last two miles (hell, even that last 0.1 mile) can really kick your ass.

Week 4 race time: 11:48/mile over 13.1 miles.

This hasn’t done a darned thing for the belly fat that I can’t seem to shake, but I’m not sure that I care. I’m setting PRs while eating whatever the hell I want. This is kind of enjoyable.

I should mention that as you’re reading this, I’m accompanying Michelle on a 15k run that I just signed up for at the last minute. Considering that I ate All the Foods on our spring break trip to the Pacific Northwest, I’m estimating that I’ll be running 4-minute miles! No, not really, but I’m curious to see what two weeks with no running combined with a week of massive calorie intake looks like over 9.3 miles.

Wish me luck!

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2 Responses

  1. Lori says:

    Interesting. I find running to be an appetite suppressant too (though oddly after just 20 minutes of slow swimming, I’m completely ravenous). I do feel like I’m eating more on the Whole30 than I typically do. If only I were running to find out if I’d be faster! Dragonboat-related soreness has given me just the excuse I need to avoid running much. Only three more weeks until the race though and then I’ll try to get back on the horse. Congrats on your PRs!

  2. Alisa says:

    Thanks, Lori! And yeah, I hit another much-faster-than-usual time yesterday. What’s up with this? And why does it seem that I can’t have speed AND button my pants at the same time?