High Fat, High Protein Diet: What EXACTLY Do Elite Runners Eat?

UPDATE: Although I did use this diet for a while, I can now confidently say that I do not think it was good for me long term. I strongly recommend taking a listen to this podcast with Nancy Clark, to hear why I changed my mind.

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I talked about how I felt so much better for doing the high fat and high protein diet, and I can now say that again that this runner diet (although I still hate the word!) is working very well for me.

If you have ever wondered:

What do elite runners eat?

Well, hopefully by now you know that I do share more than any other female elite (or male for that matter). I don’t mind sharing my fuel foods, my prerace meals, and of course, the sweets I enjoy every single day.

After the marathon, I did my two weeks of full on indulging as I always do, where I eat whatever the heck I want and gain weight like crazy, and I believe its a good thing (Really!). During those two weeks,  there really is no elite runners diet, just eating by what I like.

If you don’t believe me, listen to this podcast with Lanni Marchant, where we discuss what in season and out of season elite eats look like (and they are not what you expect!). *Note* Many elite runners diet plan will not allow this kind of eating, they might be a little more restrictive, but Lanni and I just like to be real and believe after a marathon, we all deserve to splurge 🙂

I took a few weeks to reign it back in, but now I am back to eating a high fat, high protein diet, and I can already feel the difference.

I hate to admit it, but you truly do feel SO much better eating this way over the typical marathoner diet, and not to mention it is great that I do not have to worry about eating chicken thighs because they contain more fat, or limiting my oils while cooking, or even taking SPOONFULS of coconut butter (aka pure fat) out of a jar as a snack.

I feel so much more satiated, and it does not leave me with that rumbly, hungry feeling every hour like I did in the past.

I was actually really nervous getting ready to put the post out last week about eating more fat and protein every day.

I thought I would be hammered with negative comments of people asking me what the eff I was doing?! How can I be a runner who doesn’t eat pasta or oatmeal or even healthy whole grains? 

What kind of runner’s diet is this girl recommending?

Even though I made it clear that I have found a common ground by making sure my plan to eat keeps my dinner time meals pretty much the same with food runners are famous for, I have found that actually, a lot of the time I don’t want those anymore.

The more I am eating in this way, the less I am craving those typical carb heavy, stodgy meals.

We may occasionally have stuffed peppers with quinoa or go out for a pizza or lunch at a gourmet sandwich place (Wallace Station for East Hampton Hot Ham and Brie Panini is worth breaking for), but for the most part, I actually enjoy eating the meat or fish (grass-fed/free range/sustainable of course), along with a lot of vegetables and fat.

Tina Dinner

And actually I am not even low carb this way. I still get a good amount of carbs through the vegetables, as you can eat all you like. Remember that all vegetables, even broccoli, contain carbs, it’s just not sugars like the processed kinds.

Despite not getting bombarded with people telling me I have disordered eating like I expected, instead I was shocked with how many people said they want to give this a try.

The question I got the most was, can you tell me what you do eat in a day?

I told you I did not drop my calories (still estimate I get around 3000-3500 a day), and I gave you the foods that I eat in general, but I guess you guys wanted a more exact amount to see just what that means.

So that’s what I did.

I am not really a fan of tracking my calories, as just don’t feel the need anymore.

Calories do not really mean anything.

Sure they give you a rough idea of how much you are over or under doing it, but I often found that I would end up feeling bad about myself if I was “over” (as if the caloric measurements are that accurate anyway), or if I was under, I would eat more just cause I could, just cause I like eating, not because I was hungry.

And I am really working on honing in on that intuition and listening to my body.

Calorie counting is definitely not that.

So instead, I just wrote down everything I ate for one day, with how much, for you to see, and here it is.

Note: This was a “healthy” day. I would say this is about as squeaky clean as my diet gets.

Other days there will be a few more foods in there that are probably not ideal for health.

Steve and I do go out to eat a few times a week, and those are the times I get whatever I want, bread, sugar and all. But here is an example of a nutritious day of eats.

So here is exactly what I ate:

5:30am

1 tbsp Nutiva coconut manna SO good

1 banana

1 cup Fuzzy Duck coffee with 1 tbsp creamer (creme brûlée – Eeeek cringe, but its soooooo good!)

3 brazil nuts

8am

1 tbsp Power Fuel Nuttzo

10am

1 tbsp Nutiva coconut manna #addicted

4 large eggs with 1/2 cup tomatoes and 2 mushrooms in an omelette (cooked in 1/2 tbsp ghee)

Tina omelette

1 square Trader Joes Dark Chocolate

1 cup parsnips, roasted

2pm

1 tbsp homemade almond butter

1/2 cup sweet potato chunks, roasted

1 tbsp Dark Chocolate Nuttzo

4pm

1 handful almonds (apparently I was enjoying nuts today!!)

1 bottle Mamma Chia & Greens Beet and Ginger

Tina Mamma Chia

1 serving Epic Bison Jerky

6pm

1 boneless chicken thigh cooked in honey and lime marinade

1 cup broccoli apple salad

1/2 avocado

1 cup Trader Joes Israeli couscous cooked in bone broth

2 grilled pineapple rings

Tina dinner

1 1/2 cups Candy overload ice cream (with sprinkles) in our lovely new soapstone bowls

Ice cream tina

3 blocks Dairy milk chocolate

9pm

1/2 cup mamma chia blueberry granola clusters

A lot of food, right?

I would hope that if you have been reading my blog for a while that you know I do not restrict, nor do I look like a rail, so you know I eat, and besides, when Tawnee did a nutritional analysis, she told me my caloric intake was more than enough, phew!

The key here is that it is mostly whole, real foods, and the best way to make sure you stick to this is by preparation.

You have to put aside a few hours on a Sunday (or another day) to prepare nutritious foods, so that when you are busy during the week, or get in from somewhere STARVING, you have healthy options to reach and grab, as that is when we tend to make more choices, when those healthy choices require time and effort that we just do not have.

I wrote a whole post explaining exactly how to food prep without breaking the bank, you can read it here.

Tina prepared vegetables

I spent a few hours a week preparing the foods and putting them into containers that are easy to eat when I need them. That means cooking up mountains of roasted vegetables, grilling 8 chicken thighs at a time, and filling your pantry with nutritious staples from brands you can trust. Some of my favorites are on my Team Ice Cream page.

I said I was not eating much of the processed foods, and I told you I had cut cereal, but in the evenings I can have a few things that are not so good for me, and I loved their granola clusters so much that it was worth sacrificing other things for, and I didn’t even need to feel guilty as the ingredients list is pretty stellar, especially as it is high in fat and protein!

So, there you have it, a full explanation of my diet, and I really did write down all that I ate that day plus one brand I would trust if you do need some prepared foods to take with you….let’s face it, with summertime here already, refrigerated foods do not last that long out of the fridge!

 

Was it what you expected? What brands do you enjoy prepared foods from?

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31 Comments. Leave new

  • carla birnberg
    June 1, 2016 5:29 am

    oh we LOVE LOVE LOVE all things MAMMA CHIA here too. I think the child was…6? when she started drinking it (!). Time flies….

  • Beauty in Christ
    June 1, 2016 7:53 am

    Wow Tina, you are like the person I want to imitate in the way you look at food. You fuel your body so well, and you aren’t obsessive about it. I loved this. ‘Calories do not really mean anything.’ Well, that’s still something I struggle with, and I’m going to keep coming back and learning from you, because you truly have been a blessing in sharing your journey, your ups, and downs with food. I want to spend more time meal prepping, because I think it would be truly a blessing to my family, and it would help fuel us with so many nutritious foods.

  • disqus_EMN8COo0zM
    June 1, 2016 8:23 am

    I think you know I’m a veggie girl but I read your recent nutritional posts with interest. I am naturally thin (don’t hate me) but the funny thing is, I have always consumed lots of healthy fats (nuts, trail mix, avocados and yes, coconut butter out of the jar!) because I just naturally gravitated toward them. Your “calories don’t matter” statement is true in my own experience, too. I could eat a whole bag of trail mix and not gain an ounce – which never made sense from the “calories in/calories out” POV. As for the protein, I probably should up my intake given all the running I do, so thank you for helping me realize this. I do want to point out if you are ethically opposed to me like moi, there are also lots of sources of high-quality plant protein including seitan (I have no gluten issues, luckily), tofu, tempeh, etc. xx Dynise (aka Urban Vegan)

  • I just made some coconut butter and completely forgot about it!! I gotta eat some now!

  • I recently started eating more like this during the week and I’ve seen such a huge difference. I didn’t really know it was actually a thing, just me being weird but I’m glad I’m not alone!

  • Thanks for sharing this. I’m on day 3 of trying something similar. 🙂 it is difficult. I don’t eat sweets but I love bread and cereal, I’m excited, will see. Quick question would you have things like dates as a sugar substitute when you need the sweetness

    • Hi Maryo, you mean during the daytime? Honestly, after a few days of really committing to this, I find for the most part I do not crave the sweetness during the day, especially when I have that avocado recovery bowl I posted a few weeks ago (which is kinda sweet anyway). I found that I was so content with the food I was eating that I didnt crave the sweets….other than in the evening, which I look forward to every single day. Does that help? Haha not sure I answered your question!

  • I make a big batch of roasted veggies every week for lunches or dinners, but it never seems to last long enough 🙂 Chicken thighs are my favorite cut of meat…so underrated.

  • Glad to hear that your new eating style is working so well for you. As a vegetarian, I depend a lot of my whole grains for extra protein as well as carbs. Sounds like you are doing the Whole 30 plan

  • Brent Poulsen
    June 1, 2016 10:00 am

    great post would be curious where your runs fit into that time line.
    Curious what you would eat before a morning interval or tempo run.

    • Yeah, I did think I should have mentioned that. That day I ran just after the nuttzo, so maybe like 8:15 or 8:30am, and I had an elliptigo ride for 45 minutes at 5pm. Before a workout I always have a sweet potato with almond butter and a coffee 🙂 Hope that helps!

  • Hi Tina, I’m really interested by this post and would like to try eating in a similar way to see if it improves the way I feel. However, I am a vegetarian, so I find that getting enough protein from “real” food sources can be difficult for me. A lot of the time I find that I rely on processed imitation meat products in my meals. I was wondering if you had any advice or suggestions for how this way of eating can be adapted to fit a vegetarian lifestyle? Thank you! Cass

    • Hi Cass, yep, that does make it a little more tricky with the protein side of things. I am not really eating any of those vegetarian imitation sources of protein, especially as Tawnee wanted me to stay away from Soy. I think it would be better therefore to use beans, lentils ect to get those animal proteins. I am afraid I am not really sure about the better quality imitation products, but I would say to look up paleo vegetarian, that should give you the best options. Will have a think about it to see if I can figure something out for you 🙂

  • My husband so wants to make this shift, and I’m just not there yet. Thanks for the info to help me make the decision! I’m heading off to google now to see how this might impact our little ones.

  • Colleen Baker
    June 1, 2016 10:54 am

    This was such a great post!!! I was definitely surprised at the amount of fat you fit in your daily meals. You were not kidding when Tawnee really increased your fats! I am shooting to change my daily nutrition to include more fat and you’re post has definitely shown me how I can sneak it in. I, like you, spend either Saturday or Sunday cooking up vegetables, grilling meats, and making meals so that I can just grab and go. As far as processed foods, I can’t say that I really have any, besides KIND granola every now and then. I would be interested to try out Mamma Chia’s granola clusters, though!

  • Sprint2theTable
    June 1, 2016 11:56 am

    Do you ever feel hungry? I tried going high fat/high protein but without the carbs I was starving again an hour every every meal.

    It all looks amazing though! And I want those ice cream bowls!

    • Actually not at all. I am not low carb though, just lower than traditional runner diets, I just have the carbs from whole food sources like those roasted veggies and then my evening meal is the same. But that is interesting though, I find that I feel significantly less hungry with the fat and protein as they are slower burning and keep me fuller for longer. But if you found what works for you, then keep it up 🙂

  • The mushroom omelette looks delicious and so fluffy! I’ve seen Mamma Chia foods in stores and have considered trying them, especially as I start hiking more this summer and get into marathon training in August for CIM. I’m obsessed with chia seeds. I don’t purchase a lot of prepared foods, but they do come in handy for backpacking or after a long run.

  • Carolyn Fergus
    June 1, 2016 1:23 pm

    So interesting! I’m fascinated by this. I’m also curious about the context for your meals – when and what kind of workouts you did – but am already so thankful for your openness and honesty in sharing this.

    By the way, your attitude about food is great. Loving these posts a lot.

  • I love mama chia! I haven’t had the opportunity to try out their bars yet though! They sound amazing!!

  • Thanks for sharing this, it’s very helpful to see what you get through in a day just as a guide to what/how much we should be eating, even if a bit less for those of us doing less training than you. It really brings home the point that when you’re training, your body really does use the extra energy/calories to sustain it. I’m always concerned about overdoing the food thing as I don’t want to be carrying extra weight when I run so I probably err on the side of underdoing it instead. But you’re making me really want to get on top of getting the balance right, so thanks as ever!

  • Richard Lawrence
    June 1, 2016 6:27 pm

    I can’t buy nut butters. I will eat the whole thing in one sitting! 🙂
    Global running day and I forgot! It was so hot and humid in Atlanta. Running sounded like a miserable idea, so I got and did some cycling. I’m also recovering mentally and physically from a terrible 10K on Memorial Day.

  • This looks like my diet for the past three months up to my first marathon and it worked really well. I noticed that in the last two weeks (my taper) I started to want a higher carb diet, but rather than grab the bread I ate more bananas and peanut butter. Thanks for the post!

  • Thanks for posting this! I listen to Tawnee’s podcast and have been curious about the LCHF thing for a while. When you write the breakfast/lunch/dinner posts, would you consider doing a few budget-friendly options? That’s the main thing keeping me from trying it… a teacher’s salary only has so much room for things like coconut manna and quality seafood.

    • Sure! I can come up with some kind of post for that. You are right, the manna and some of the other foods can be a little pricey, but for the most part, we make meals very inexpensively as we are just buying produce. Will come up with a post 🙂

  • Emily Labutta
    June 2, 2016 7:45 am

    Thanks for the great post! Would you be willing to do other WIAWs so we can get a good idea of what eating like this, for a runner, looks like? Thanks for the refreshing view on calories too. They get in my head way too often, and become a terrible taskmaster.

    • Sure! I will be doing more posts on eating in the future, I just do not want to become too much of a focus on the blog, and I want everyone to find their own favorite foods and combinations to experiment, but I am thinking of doing a post on favorite recent recipes, which should help.

  • Do you have to try and stay below a certain number of grams of carbs? Also, when you made this change to a lower carb/higher protein and fat diet, did you notice any differences in your running at the beginning? Like did running feel more difficult before it became easier?

    • Nope, I have absolutely no idea what my carb intake would be, I just try to make good choices, and see what happens.

      I did not notice a difference, but most people do take about 2-3 weeks of feeling awful and fatigued before they feel better. I would maybe transition over a little slower. That is why I kept my evening meals the same, so it was not such a big shock to the system. Hope that helps 🙂

  • Martina Di Marco
    June 7, 2016 2:36 pm

    Thank you for granting my wish 😉 Cant wait to read about your new recipies!

  • Love that you shared this with us! I’ve been inspired by you to start changing my diet a little bit now that I’ve started marathon training again!

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