A few weeks ago, I was offered a galley copy of Matt Fitzgerald’s new book The Endurance Diet to review and I jumped at the chance. It’s available for sale as of today (Dec 27th) so I was really excited to get an early sneak-peek.
I’ve read three of his books. I really liked Racing Weight although I continue to eat cake, thus sabotaging my efforts to hit my own racing weight. I enjoyed 80/20 running and gave the training plan a shot, coming close to a PR – my thoughts on the process are here. I started the hugely popular How Bad Do You Want It? and clearly I didn’t want it very badly because I thought the book was super-dull although everyone else loved it. So I hope that I’m qualified to be a fair reviewer of his latest publication!
The Endurance Diet springs from one of my favourite parts of Racing Weight – the collection of top athletes’ daily eating plans tucked away at the back. I found this fascinating, and apparently so did Matt Fitzgerald because he did more work on this, sending out questionnaires to many other top athletes from 11 different sports and 32 countries. Having analysed all the data, he was able to pull out the common threads that link them all together. His argument is that if we, the hobby joggers of the world, eat using these basic rules, we are likely to improve our athletic performances. So far, so logical.
The five rules that he pulls out of the questionnaires are:
- Eat everything
- Eat quality
- Eat carb-centered
- Eat enough
- Eat individually
Eat everything is based on elite athletes eating from all the six different food groups – fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meat and seafood, dairy, whole grains and nuts, seeds & healthy oils. In principle I agree but as a vegetarian (sometime pescatarian to be precise) I hmmed and haaahed a little. To be fair, Fitzgerald (whilst clearly not a fan of vegetarianism/veganism) flags the dangers inherent in a vegetarian diet – lack of iron being one pertinent to me – and recommends veggie athletes be very careful to ensure their diets make up for that loss, and I have to agree.
Eat quality talks about the obvious – eating decent food and not crap. He does recommend that athletes eat a little crap if it makes them happy and helps them have a healthy attitude to food. Given the number of eating disorders in runners, I appreciated this. Fitzgerald goes over his Diet Quality Score system – a way of scoring your diet by giving you points for healthy choices. He outlines this in great detail in Racing Weight and goes over it again here in some detail as well.
Eat carb-centered talks about having carbs as the mainstay of each meal. I’ve read some writings lately of Tim Noakes who argues precisely the opposite so I am very much undecided on this one, but Fitzgerald argues his case well – basically that most elite athletes eat a LOT of carbs as it fuels performance.
Eat enough made me giggle because I have never knowingly under-eaten. Apparently some people don’t eat enough to fuel their workouts and they need to eat more. I am not one of those people and I have a sneaky admiration for them. But if you’re not eating enough, eat more. It’s fun.
Eat individually gives a nod to tweaking your diet for what works for you, acknowledging that whilst the above rules are worth sticking to, everyone is different and it’s important to know what’s good for you. There is slightly more grace shown to vegetarians here as he discusses ethical choices around food and some common sense about the popularity and lack of necessity of gluten-free for most people. I liked that.
Another thing I liked was the idea of writing down your ‘perfect day’. If you were to eat perfectly for one day, what would it look like. He doesn’t suggest you eat those foods over and over and over again, but it’s an interesting place to start trying to make small changes.
Fitzgerald then spends more time discussing other issues – supplements, how to fuel during races, how to stop mindless eating and how to eat with intention. He talks about super foods in a refreshing way – instead of ‘Buy lots of expensive green stuff from Wholefoods or you’ll never be healthy’ he picks 22 everyday foods that are proven to help improve overall health and athletic performance and encourages us to build them into our everyday diet. I liked that. He includes a chapter of healthy recipes and an extra chapter which sums up his book 80/20 running.
So…what were my impressions?
There is a lot of overlap here with 80/20 Running and Racing Weight. Many things were familiar to me, having read those two books. But I think this is a good introduction to his writing and a great start for people looking for solid general principles to improve their diet for performance. This would be a great first Matt Fitzgerald to read.
If you’re not particularly science-y, this is also a good read. I admit I was slightly overwhelmed by the science in Racing Weight (not helped as I was reading it on a cruise and was dazed by sunshine, sleep and margaritas) and this is a much more approachable book.
There were a few passages that I took slight issue with – early on, Fitzgerald writes ‘To be as fit as you can be, all you have to do is eat like the world’s fittest people. If only, Mr F, if only!!!’ But later on, he modifies this to ‘If you want to become as healthy and fit as you can be, given the amount of time you’re able to invest in your training, you need to eat like an elite.’ Feels more realistic.
What changes will I make to my diet, having read this book?
Well…once the holidays are over, I will…
- Be more careful to eat on a weekly basis the super foods he mentions – things like salmon, eggs, bananas, almonds etc. Real, every-day foods that make a difference.
- Try doing a ‘Perfect Day’. In January, when my parents have gone back to the UK, I’m going to plan a perfect day’s eating and see how it goes.
- Think about supplements I may need – specifically vitamin D, Omega 3 and Iron.
- Try Gatorade. I’ve never taken Gatorade in races, assuming it’s horrible, sugary crap. Apparently it’s actually engineered to help you race harder. Who knew? Not me!!! Might need to have a think about that.
So overall, I think The Endurance Diet is a solid book giving good advice on broad principles to help you eat like an elite athlete. I think Racing Weight is the better book, but this one is definitely easier to read and is a great introduction to Fitzgerald’s writing.
You can buy it HERE. (Not an affiliate link, just being helpful).
Thanks to the publishers for my free copy!