Matt Fitzgerald "The Endurance Diet"

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  • #17097

    Hey all. I’m reading a book called The Endurance Diet by a guy called Matt Fitzgerald. In this book Matt has interviewed a lot of athletes all over the world, looked at what they eat, and from this data defined a couple of principles: one being “eat everything” (eat all the food groups: fruits, vegetables, etc), one being “eat quality” (eat healthy instead of crap), and another being “eat a lot of carbs”. Last two being “eat individually” and “eat enough”.

    I picked up this book because I think I can get some easy wins by improving my nutrition just by eating healthier and more varied in general. I don’t know much about nutrition but this book seemed reasonable after reading some Amazon reviews, for sure much better than all of the dieting crap out there.

    I’m typically a huge fan of books like this dealing more with general principles than prescriptive rules, and the principles seems to be highly reasonable. However the book is a bit distracting in a few different ways, and I wanted to discuss the book in this forum.

    The first distraction is that the author, apart from interviewing a lot of marathoners, also focus quite a lot of time on sprinters and runners competing in short distances (like 5000m and less). Most of the evidence in the chapter dealing with the “eat a lot of carbs” principle point to research done in these shorter distances. The exception being interviewing Kenyan marathon runners. I think the author has a case in his reasoning for spending less time on ultrarunners and similar, his reasoning being that these are more niche sports and has not yet attracted the most talented athletes, making it more difficult to study nutrition effects in isolation as reliably as more popular sports. However, that in a sense makes this less relevant for what I’m doing, which is mountaineering. Even more so as I’m not at all naturally talented.

    The second distraction is a minor one but still makes me cautious: the author had an unconvincing take on VO2Max being the most relevant metric for aerobic performance. I don’t have the book right now so I can’t quote.

    The third distraction is similar to the second one, but most research quoted is about anaerobic performance rather than aerobic. I am not surprised given the prevalence of research into this kind of work, but it still makes the read a little bit noisy.

    Thoughts on this book and other books I may want to read?

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    hafjell on #17102

    You can’t go wrong with eating healthier. I can’t argue with an author I haven’t read, but if you’re hoping for gains in mountain sports which require very long days on your feet, I’d keep it simple. Train on fat, race on carbs has worked for a lot of folks here. Also, fasted training will change your body and performance. The deeper I get into training the less I want to read because most of the voices are distractions. Check in here (which is what you’re doing) for guidance, but otherwise stick to the principles in TftNA, AND learn to listen to your body and sort out what works for you.

    Anonymous on #17233

    We like to keep dietary recommendations fairly general and loose because diet is like religion and politics. No matter what you suggest you are bound to offend someone. What we recommend in our books and on this site is based of many years and many athletes trial and error. But, there is no doubt that many diets work too. We are, after all, omnivores and you do not need to look very far to find people in endurance sports succeeding on every thing form pure carnivore diets to vegan diets.

    One trend we have seen repeat itself is that the more volume of aerobic work you do the less you need to worry about become fat adapted by diet manipulation or fasting. Those training under 10 hours/week will probably be able to boost fat adaptation with carb restriction and fasted workouts. Those training more than 15 hours/week can eat just about anything and still see big gains in fat adaptation.


    sannk06 on #17331

    Curious if Scott’s advice would change if the subject was a middle-aged menopausal woman. I have not had time to train aerobically 14 hours+ a week very often (last summer for a ultra marathon swim across Lake Tahoe, most recent), but I usually gain weight when I do. I eat a healthy diet, defined as no junk, little sugar (but obviously do eat carbs), grains, fresh veggies, fish and chicken with the occasional burger. Any thoughts on a gender/gender-age differential?

    Anonymous on #17391

    I’m not qualified to to comment on age/gender differences as it relates to diet and weight gain. But I will offer some observations related to this that may shed some light.

    1) Are you gaining muscle mass because of increased training volume?
    2) Both aging men and women, even when training, put on fat more easily. This seems to be greater in women.
    3) Swimmers, especially those spend long hours in cold water add subcutaneous fat. Body Fat measurements among swimmers are almost always higher than among similar level runners or skiers.
    4) Added weight is not an issue for swimmers since they are not having to carry that weight and the added fat makes them more buoyant.
    5) High aerobic training loads increase blood volume and increase muscle glycogen stores. Both mean more body weight.

    If you are healthy and handling the training load well then I’d recommend not perseverating over adding some weight.


    sannk06 on #17437

    1. Yes, I definitely gain muscle mass due to increased training volume
    2. Yes, that has been my experience–I was hoping there was something I could do to minimize that danger!
    3. I don’t think I swim in water cold enough to add sub-cutaneous fat (the so-called “bioprene”)–usually nothing colder than 60 degrees.
    4. While swimming is not weight-bearing, I am also a backcountry skier and trail runner (in need of a knee replacement, so mostly a hiker and uphill skier only right now) and for those activities I would prefer to be leaner. I guess after knee replacement–when I can train on land at a higher level–I can compare the effect of land based training with ultra-swim training.
    Thank you!

    Rebecca Dent on #17565

    Hi be,

    I am the dietitian for uphill athlete. The book you refer to by Matt Fitzgerald sounds like it has some sensible guidance and perhaps starting points for you. As Scott has highlighted dietary advice is individual but there are some general principles that everyone should follow and can follow regardless of dietary preference that will support both training, performance and health. These basics principles tend to be getting enough protein daily, eating sufficient protein at each meal from good quality protein choices, plenty of vegetables and fruit (particularly your green leafy veg and berries), including healthful fats (your poly and mono unsaturated fats and the right choice of saturated fats), starting each training session hydrated. We can then include carbohydrates as suits and required for the specific training session/sport/individual/training status/dietary goals etc.

    Each different sport and disciplines within this sport will bring their own nutritional requirements. We are starting to see more research being carried out on elite ultra distance athletes but it is still a growing body of evidence and again as Scott highlighted we have seen many diets work. With these shorter distance running events, there is a significant body of evidence that supports an increase intake of carbohydrate at the right times for optimal performance. The Kenyan runners carry out a lot of their training sessions fasted but their staple intake is still carbohydrate.

    There is never one straight forward answer to a nutrition question as lots of variables come into play to consider and also nutrition guidance needs to be provided within context for that individual, which is why it can often be so confusing. I would perhaps suggest start with the general nutrition guidance you have found helpful from Matt Fitzgeralds book then look at your own nutrition needs around your specific training sessions and goals.

    Rebecca Dent on #17566

    Hi Sannk06,

    With reference to your question regarding if nutrition guidance is different for middle aged menopausal women, generally speaking one of the main focus should be as we age is to ensure we carry out resistance based exercise to optimise body composition (supporting muscle mass gains and maintenance), increase protein intakes to meet your needs whilst also controlling for energy intake. If weight loss is your goal it is possible to lose body fat as we pass through the menopause, it just perhaps requires a little more focus on total energy intake and dietary composition. Due to hormonal changes with age there is a greater tendency to store body fat, especially around the waist.

    sannk06 on #17727

    Thanks Becdent–I was hoping there was some more dialed in research on menopausal women diet/training, although, to be fair, I suppose there aren’t many (elite) ultra endurance athletes who are still competing and thus a shortage of ready subjects. I do indeed have “greater tendency to store body fat” than I used to, and perhaps I just need to try taking my training up a notch (i.e., more strength) and see if that helps.

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