The Endurance Diet’s Five Core Habits
1. Eat everything
Perhaps the most formative thing about The Endurance Diet is that it is not really a diet in the strictest sense of the word. All diets restrict low quality foods, so in that regard the Endurance Diet could be called a “diet”. However, all other diets restrict certain foods (or food groups) calling them unhealthy for one reason or another. Paleo eliminates many healthy carbs. So does Atkins. Weight Watchers uses an algorithm calculated by inputing calories, fat, and other nutrient numbers to assign a point value to the food in question. The Endurance Diet throws all that out the window and instead encourages one to eat everything. At the most extreme you should only limit intake of certain foods.
Fad diets tend to work for non-competitive exercisers whose primary goal is to look better naked. Those same diets are a disaster waiting to happen though for the athlete that wants to be at the top of his or her field. Don’t believe me? Read the book and find out for yourself. Matt backs up his Endurance Diet with numerous studies and research, conducted around the world over many decades, to prove that the Endurance Diet is the only one to follow for peak fitness.
Four particular types of processed foods became central to modern diets: refined grains, sweets, processed meats, and fried foods. Whole wheat bread was turned into Wonder Bread, milk into ice cream, pork into bologna, and potatoes into potato chips, as it were. Unlike the natural whole foods they come from, these four types of processed foods are linked to negative health consequences such as obesity and heart disease.
2. Eat quality
To maximize the quality of your diet in the popular sense, you need to select your high-quality foods carefully, buying locally grown, sustainably farmed fruits and vegetables sprouted from native or heritage seeds (and/or growing your own); wild seafood bearing the Marine Stewardship Council’s Certified Sustainable Seafood Label; meat from free-range, grass-fed, and hormone- and antibiotic-free animals; organic dairy products and free-range eggs; and locally grown everything whenever possible.
Where you buy your food has a huge impact on this aspect of the Endurance Diet. After adopting this habit my shopping at Wal-Mart dropped off significantly and increased at health food stores like Sprouts and online markets such as Thrive. I like what Matt said though that “some apples may be better than other apples, but there are no bad apples.” In other words eat as much high quality food as possible but do not sweat the small details. That will just take the fun out of it and simultaneously make it more likely that you will not continue with The Endurance Diet.
3. Eat carb centered
The average American does not consume enough carbs to properly fuel a body engaged in any sort of rigorous endurance exercise. This can lead to all manner of health issues, difficulty losing weight, and even in some cases weight gain. Many of the current fad diets today limit carbs or remove them all together. While they do have a proven track record of weight loss it isn’t because carbs are bad but rather many of the unhealthy foods the western diet includes just happen to be carb heavy. Your body needs carbs to create glycogen, the main fuel for muscles. Without it you will not be performing at your peak.
Scientists have been unable to identify precise quantitative daily carbohydrate requirements for individual athletes based on training volume or overall energy expenditure. What they have found is that, in general, athletes with moderate training loads (up to two hours of exercise per day, depending on the type and intensity of training) who consume 5 to 7 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day perform worse when they eat less carbohydrate but no better when they eat more, and that athletes with heavy training loads (over two hours per day, give or take) who consume 7 to 10 g/kg daily perform worse when they eat less but no better when they eat more.
4. Eat enough
Serving size is critical as is paying attention to your bodies cues of satiety. The best way to key into your bodies natural ability to alert you to being full is to slow down while eating. Too often I scarfed my food down as fast as possible only to feel over stuffed a few minutes later.
The true solution to weight gain and other consequences of low-calorie targets is to abandon calorie targets altogether and replace them with the feel-based approach to regulating food intake that elite athletes use… Vigorous daily cardio exercise itself offers powerful protection against obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and aging. Calorie restriction offers no additional protection to people with a high level of endurance fitness. Instead it creates other problems by failing to supply the body with the raw materials it needs to absorb and adapt to the stress of training.
5. Eat individually
Different cultures around the world eat different types foods. However, their overall makeup and ratio within the genres of high quality foods are surprisingly similar. As I outlined in my Low-FODMAP blog post last week, I have to eat a little more individually than most. A while back my neighbors threw a house warming party. I did not stick to my Low-FODMAP diet and I ended up in the Emergency Room after 30 hours of excruciating pain and vomiting. Matt’s book talks about athletes with moral and allergy related dietary restrictions that I found encouraging.
To eat individually is to identify and accommodate your (1) needs and no-no’s, (2) allergies and intolerances, (3) likes and dislikes, (4) cravings and crutches, (5) schedule and lifestyle, and (6) morals and values…
For me following the Five Core Habits has been quite easy. With my newfound motivation I removed bad habits from my diet and implemented Matt’s Five Core Habits. Within a few short weeks the bad habits had been replaced with better ones. When I was hungry instead of going for a bag of chips I opted for fruit or a hard boiled egg. My fruit, veggie, and nut/seed intake also increased significantly. Conversely my meat consumption decreased. A ten ounce prime rib meal at our local restaurant became two meals instead of one. Interestingly, many of our family dinners have shifted into the vegan/vegetarian realm as I often eat meat for lunch.
Some days you just want to have pizza, ice-cream, or a cookie. The Endurance Diet addresses these “crutch foods” too. Rather than forbid yourself from ever indulging Matt encourages it – but only in moderation and occasionally. While on the previously mentioned family vacation my brother took me to the world famous Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon. Rather than refuse I enjoyed a doughnut. It was delicious and I did not have to feel guilty about it. I knew that in a few days when I got home with my new Elite Direto (purchased in Portland – the land of no sales tax) that I would most certainly burn it off plus a whole lot more. Life is too short to sweat food too much 😀
… including all types of foods in the diet, eating mostly high-quality foods, placing carbohydrate-rich foods at the center of most meals and snacks, and relying on mindful attention to internal signals of hunger and satiety to control the amount of food you eat.
Overall since starting The Endurance Diet I have felt much more healthy and energetic. Despite eating a lot of food (it takes a lot of food to fuel five to six workouts a week) the weight keeps coming off, the muscle tone increases as does my endurance. If you are interested in improving your overall fitness through nutrition than I highly recommend that you read The Endurance Diet by Matt Fitzgerald. I am certain that you will find it as informative, transformative, and helpful as I have.