Social media has seen a huge rise in fitness bloggers and sources of fitspiration (god I hate this term) in recent years, most of whom advocate low carb lifestyles. Some completely cutting carbohydrates all together and others limiting themselves to one measly organic, thinly sliced, with extra added protein, piece of rye bread a day. Foods like potatoes, rice, oats and bread have been given an unreasonably bad reputation. Now don’t get me wrong, for all I know this lifestyle could really work for them, and who knows, perhaps this low carb life keeps them sustainably sated. But I can guarantee you that they don’t go for a 10 mile run of a sunny morning or take part in high intensity athletics training sessions if all they’re eating is kale and poached eggs.
For far too long, I was striving to mimic the diets of these fitness bloggers, resulting in an irrational phobia of all carbohydrates. I was genuinely afraid of eating cereals, toast, roast potatoes, sushi, pasta bake, risotto, you name it, I feared it. By banishing this food group from my diet my strength as a runner began to rapidly decrease. I wasn’t even touching any of my PB times and would run for a mere 30 minutes before feeling weak and walking home.
Little did I know that without carbs, my body was grasping onto every little bit of energy it could find, taking cells from my muscles for fuel in order to survive. Carbohydrates are one of the most important food groups for daily energy. Our incredible little bodies break them down into glucose, a form of sugar, which is then used to replenish muscles after exercise as well as build up cells, tissues and organs. Without this glucose the body literally goes into starvation mode, using any extra energy to keep vital organs working.
There was one doctors appointment which really put this information into perspective for me. I recently saw a nutritionist who specializes in helping young people recover from eating disorders. Throughout the appointment he kept using the term athlete to describe me. Now, prior to this I had never really though of my self as an athlete. But honestly, if you are training several times a week, working towards new goals, you my friend are just like an athlete! Seeing myself in this new way helped me step up my game and intensified my desire to make a change. I can’t recommend this kind of perspective enough!
Having now spent time researching the real dangers of such a restrictive lifestyle, fearing carbs is a thing of the past. Of course, things like white slice bread are not the greatest for you, and I’ll still be avoiding these, but there are so many other incredible sources of fibre and carbohydrates out there. Bulgur wheat, buckwheat, rice, spelt, quinoa, oats, amaranth, sweet potato, barley, the list is never ending!
Yesterday is a prime example, that I just have to share with you, of how well my body is now performing after rebuilding a healthy relationship with food. Setting a 10 mile goal in mind, I made sure to carb up the night before my big training session. I spent an evening making an abundance of bulgur wheat risotto (a beautiful golden grain with a buttery taste), roasted veggies and chicken. I made sure to fill over half my plate with the bulgur wheat and ate until I felt content.
The following morning, pre training, I had a delicious bowl of porridge, made simply from oats, almond milk, and then topped with banana, plums, dates and peanut butter. This concoction is enough to make anyone feel like a superhuman!
Having properly prepared for this session I was able to smash a 10 mile run and beyond! I felt so great, that I powered through for a mega 11.3 miles in around an hour and a half and I genuinely felt unstoppable. I couldn’t believe it! Hopefully if I keep this up I’ll be on my way to a new PB time for my next half marathon in September.
Carbs really do give you wings people, and I hope that this post helps open your eyes to benefits of truly fuelling yourself like an athlete. I am still learning everyday, and I must admit that I still hesitate before baking myself a potato but I fight the anxiety and do it anyway, just like we all face situations that take us out of our comfort zones. Acknowledging the absurdity in this and challenging myself daily to break down barriers I created for myself, has set me free!
Fuel your incredible body, and never take its powers for granted.
Lots of love,