I confess, when I was first starting out, I likely would have been intimidated by the title of this book and assumed it was for “real athletes,” not an overweight, almost middle aged mom jogger like me. If you’re thinking that as well, A) we are real athletes! and B) this book is great for any and all levels of runners. It seriously answers every question I’ve had about food and running, from what I should eat as part of my daily diet to how I should fuel workouts versus races to recovery foods. Even better, all of that information in wrapped up in well-written, easy to follow language that explains the science (and cites the science if you’re a geek like me who wants to check out the research papers). There are also tons of real-world examples of what that science translates to, in terms of your own diet.
The book is divided into several sections, with an introductory “common questions” that explains some of the basis of the book, like why the focus is on everyday fueling, why kilograms instead of pounds, how she chose the science and other things. The first section focuses on nutrition basics, walking you through how to figure out how many calories you need based on your weight and whether or not that weight is right for you (beyond just BMI). It also discussed the various macromolecules, like carbohydrates, fat and protein, and what those do for us, how much we really of each and what the healthiest options are for inclusion in our daily diets. There are lots of examples of how to use these healthy foods, especially helpful if you’re trying to introduce a new type of whole grain or a new veggie and aren’t sure what to do with it. This section also includes micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, with a balanced discussion of good food sources as well as guidance on supplementation.
The last section on Hot Topics included lots of interesting little tidbits about coconut water, paleo diets, beetroot juice, caffeine and lots of the other things I see tossed around on social media. She does a great job explaining the theoretical benefit of those things as well as what (if anything) is actually proven about these trends. I really appreciate that the whole attitude of this book is realistic, proven nutrition advice and not fad-driven opinions.
The appendix at the back of the book made me wish I’d gotten the paper copy rather than the e-book because it made my fingers itch for a pencil to start doing the math! (Don’t worry – there’s a link to a website where you can print the worksheets!) There are worksheets for calculating your BMI and your calorie needs (based on the science discussed earlier in the book), as well as your macronutrient needs. Plus, there’s a food log, a training and fuel log to use while you’re experimenting with your optimal nutrition and hydration and cheat sheets for exercise fueling. The appendix is a great resource for translating everything you read in the previous 200 pages into your real world.
Overall, I really loved this book. It’s a great resource for anyone who wants to fuel their runs for better performance or wants to better manage their weight (be it maintenance or loss) and overall nutrition while running safely and effectively or even if you just have a general interest in nutrition. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of nutrition for athletes – we’re all athletes if we’re hitting the road. Also don’t let the triathlete part throw you off. While there are tips scattered throughout specific for the particular needs of a triathlete, the focus is on a broader nutritional scope so I never felt like “this section doesn’t apply to me.” Each chapter includes a “Too Long; Didn’t Read” (TL;DR) summary of the high points, but I found myself really reading each section because it was just such an interesting blend of science and real world practicality and not just a recitation of the same “nutrition” blurbs we see over and over in health and fitness magazines.
Have you read any sports nutrition books you’ve enjoyed? Do share!