Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Review: The Endurance Diet by Matt Fitzgerald

How many of us runners struggle with nutrition? I know I do. Over the years, I've made adjustments in my diet based on experiences--good and bad--while training for endurance events. I think I've found what works for me, but could I be doing things differently? Probably. There doesn't seem to be a lot of agreement on what is the perfect balance of carbs, proteins, and fats needed to sustain an endurance athlete.

In his new book: The Endurance Diet: Discover the 5 Core Habits of the World’s Greatest Athletes to Look, Feel, and Perform Better, running expert and sports nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald shares the research behind the diet that he says fuels the majority of the world's elite athletes.


Fitzgerald identifies 5 key principles to the endurance diet: 
  1. Eat Everything,
  2. Eat Quality,
  3. Eat Carb-Centered,
  4. Eat Enough,
  5. Eat Individually.
If you've ever read any of Fitzgerald's books, you know there's a lot of science behind his information. Being a science gal myself, I feel comfortable with this approach. As most of us know, there is a lot of bad nutritional information out there. My Facebook feed is full of posts from folks following a variety of eating plans including Beachbody, Paleo, and Gluten-free. Pretty much everyone is a "nutritional expert", or so it seems. That's a big problem for us non-elites. It's tough to sort out the good nutritional information from the bad. Most people get their diet info from popular press or friends who may have had success following a fad diet. I mean, heck, when I was in college, my roommates and I wanted to drop the freshman 15 and so we were all on the "grapefruit diet". Yes, the "grapefruit diet" is exactly what it sounds like. All we ate was grapefruit. Did we lose weight? I don't think so--most of us gave up after a day or two because it was so restrictive. 

Most runners don't follow such extreme diets--at least I hope not--but judging by the food pictures in my Instagram feed, I think a lot of folks aren't eating the Endurance Diet. As I read about the 5 principles of the diet, I found myself nodding my head. Eat everything? Yes, please! But wait, eat quality? Fitzgerald is talking high-quality foods like veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meats, seafood, whole grains, and dairy. Even with the emphasis on healthy foods, so-called low-quality foods are not completely off limits. That means my Hershey's chocolate nuggets get to stay. Me likey.

Eat carb centered? Yes, carbs are good, if you choose high-quality carbs. Carbohydrates provide us with the fuel our muscles need to function. According to Fitzgerald, most elite athletes eat 60-80% of their calories as carbs. Talking about carbs reminds me of how most of us are so prone to extremes--when I talk about carbs to my overweight patients, I often hear the remark: "carbs are bad". Not all of them are bad. But if all you eat are processed white carbs, then Houston, we have a problem. Quality carbs include whole grains, fruits, and veggies. 

Fitzgerald encourages athletes to avoid restricting caloric intake, which is one sure way to bonk. By paying attention to their appetites and responding to their dietary needs in general, including individualizing what they eat, all athletes can perform better. Throughout the book, he gives plenty of examples of elite athletes and how they meet their nutritional requirements. There is information on building the habit of the healthy diet and lots of encouragement of how to stick with it. At the end of the book are recipes and nutritional information. 

If you are looking to find that missing piece to your running puzzle or just want to develop healthier eating habits, Fitzgerald's book is probably the best "how-to" manual I've read. With his trademark evidence-based information, this book is solid science on fueling properly for the long run. There's nothing fancy here, nothing extreme. The Endurance Diet is a sustainable, common-sense eating plan.

As an aside, a study was recently published debunking the controversial low carb-high fat diet that some athletes follow. Also known as the ketogenic diet, this most recent study showed how the low carb-high fat diet negatively impacted endurance. If you want to read more, Alex Hutchinson does a nice summary on RunnersWorld.com, with a link to the study. 

Disclaimer: I received a galley copy of The Endurance Diet from DaCapo Press in exchange for my honest review. All opinions here, as always, are my own.

Do you follow a carb-centered diet? What diet works for you? 


Here's the link-up badge! Remember that the link-up stays open for 2 weeks--so there's still plenty of time to read this month's book and share your review. The comments stay open forever. If you want to link-up another fitness related book, that's ok too. Try to comment on everyone's review. Thanks for participating and for supporting our authors and the book club!

Next month, we're reading about an American running icon! Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist, shares his journey in his memoir, My Marathon: Reflections on a Gold Medal LifeThanks to Ana, who writes over at Mother Run Hike Repeat, for the suggestion. This link-up will go live February 17.



I'm linking this post up with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five 2.0. Because, thanks to Matt Fitzgerald, I have 5 new diet habits to share!



An InLinkz Link-up

a Rafflecopter giveaway This post contains affiliate links.


60 comments :

  1. I've already read next month's book. I'll have to reread it.

    I really like Matt Fitzgerald, although I haven't read this book. Yet. I happen to be reading a couple of nutrition type books at the moment.

    My eating style is constantly evolving, but it mostly jives with what you've laid out. Except I'm not an intuitive eater. And only other people who have really struggled with their weight for much of their lives can truly understand that. I like Paleo, but I'm not Paleo -- definitely not going ketogenic; I like vegan/vegetarian, but I eat everything.

    I have found that I do better with very little processed carbs -- pasta (although nothing is off limits), bread, etc. Sweet potatoes, plaintains, brown rice -- yes please! And plenty of fruit (especially bananas!).

    I also find that I really do do better with no startchy carbs at dinner most nights of the week. But every BODY is different. What works for me won't work for you, yadda yadda yadda.

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    1. But the basic principles in the book will work for everyone, you just have to tailor it to your needs. Check it out.

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  2. Sounds like an interesting book. I take it you should only follow that while maybe training for a longer distance like a marathon?

    Also, I am still having trouble uploading my runs to the Strava app. If I go to add, the only option is add manual(which isn't allowed the challenge said) or record activity where the gps map pops up to start your run. Where do I go to upload my Garmin connect runs into the Strava app?

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    1. I think this is an eating manual that you could follow all the time. It's very healthy.

      There's a setting in Garmin connect where you can link your info to Strava.

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  3. I have read a few of his previous books and found them really useful. I completely agree with the major tenets you mentioned and do believe that eating whole, real foods are the way to go. I work really hard to eat lots of variety and color in my foods and do love my carbs as well. I have no energy when I try to cut them out. Nice review!

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    1. Your diet is so good! I wish I could do as many veggies as you do.

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  4. Sounds like an interesting book! I like that this diet is balanced and sustainable. I agree with you that so many of these fads are crazy... and don't come between me and my carbs. I get CRABBY without them.

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  5. I get stuck in a rut of eating the same things, even though I do consider myself a healthy eater most of the time. I need to work on variety. I just may read the next book and join in (GASP)!

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    1. I'd have to agree with you on the diet--I pretty much eat the same thing all the time for breakfast and lunch. Kind of sad, really.

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  6. Thanks for the review! I have a degree in Nutrition so I think I would enjoy a science approach to supporting data. My diet is pretty simple (boring?!). I eat everything except dairy and gluten only because of intolerances to both. I eat like 5 x per day (just because I am always hungry) and that's kind of it. I think our society complicates it too much (thus, why I left the field and got into high tech). It's not always easy (treats and wine do come calling) but it's very simple. And I always think about the foundation of what I was taught: variety, balance, moderation. Works for me (OK, maybe not so much moderation when we are on vacation but really, how much damage can you do in a week?! Gotta live a little).

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    1. It's tough to work around those intolerances. Sounds like you've done a good job with it!

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  7. I haven't yet read any of Matt's books and I need to! He seems so sensible, plus, he enables my wine and chocolate habits quite nicely. I don't think I've ever had a grapefruit in my life.

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    1. Any diet that lets me have wine and chocolate is a-ok by me!

      No grapefruit? Really?

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  8. This is a great review and I appreciate the insight. I often get asked if I can help people with meal planning. While yes, I took a course in sports nutrition, no, I am not a registered dietician. The only thing I ever suggest to people is to eat quality food. Other than that I try to steer clear of giving anyone diet advice.

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    1. Me too! Altho I dispense plenty of it in my job. Too bad it goes in one ear and out the other!

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  9. I love his 5 principles. I followed Atkins to lose weight, and it worked for that, but I lost all my muscle mass and had no energy. I try to eat a balanced diet and am trying harder to limit highly processed foods, but I can't always do the preparation and planning it takes to eat fresh.

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    1. I try really hard to do homemade and fresh--sometimes it's hard.

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  10. Sounds like an interesting book and one that I would probably like to read! I try to eat well but this month has been horrible for eating 100% good. Time to clean up the diet!

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    1. Hey, awareness is the first step, right?

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  11. I met Frank Shorter - he is so nice.

    I like those 5 principles. I try to eat well and I do most of the time but I do cheat with sweets which I think is ok in moderation.

    As Holly said, I tend to eat the same things - oatmeal for breakfast, bagel for mid-morning snack, yogurt & granola for lunch, banana for afternoon snack.

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    1. I like to think I do well most of the time too but Fridays are pizza night at our house. And there is always wine being consumed..

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  12. I seriously JUST downloaded this book yesterday! I cannot wait to read it because I eat a lot of carbs (yes, quality ones and some not so much) but, like you, I'm always looking for the science behind nutrition and how I can eat better...or really eat less and not be hungry. Is there a book for that?

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    1. I'm always hungry, so I don't have any advice for that!

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  13. I've really enjoyed his other books, I'll have to give this one a shot! <3

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    1. Lots of good, practical information here!

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  14. I like that list of 5, because I really like to eat everything! Sadly, I do have to remind myself frequently that I can't eat how I did 30 years ago.

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    1. That "eat everything" should have an asterisk! He explains more in the book..

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  15. Definitely adding this to the (never ending) list. And next month's looks great, too!
    Love Matt Fitzgerald. He is a stellar researcher and writer, and what I've seen from him thus far makes me really respect him.

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  16. Sounds like a good book! Love carbs lol, but I'm sure I don't get quality carbs all the time.

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  17. It sounds like a great read! I like that you're encouraged to eat everything, I find a lot of these "diets" way too restrictive and just not realistic for me.

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    1. He just provides the framework and the athlete can tailor the diet. All good.

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  18. Sounds like a great book! I love reading about nutrition for runners...there is always something new to learn. His approach sounds like a good one.

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    1. I liked it because it's not one size fits all!

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  19. This makes me want to order the book asap! I love Matt Fitzgerald's books - there really is so much science and research behind them. I can't wait to read this one - thanks for posting Wendy!!

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  20. Sounds like some sound advice. I enjoy Matt Fitzgerald's books however Racing Weight was completely unreasonable for me.

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    1. I think this diet is flexible enough for everyone.

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  21. Well you had me at #1- eat everything! That is my diet but in moderation! I hate to deprive myself of anything and I think my beef allergy has worked for me. Less is more and more for later :) it makes my lunchbox happy!

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    1. Right? I like how you can adapt this plan to your specific needs.

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  22. This sounds really good. I do like carbs, so I would probably say I have a more carb-centered diet than not. Not sure it's always high-quality, but I am on board with what is being said.

    I don't follow any specific diet plan. I try to eat well and drink a lot of water. I'm not always successful but I do my best.

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  23. I don't follow a specific "diet". I eat mostly proteins and veggies with complex carbs/fruits and dairy to sustain my training and fuel me for races.

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  24. I don't know you have the time to read all these books Wendy! This does sound like a good one though. I've been thinking recently that I'm not eating enough during the day for lunch. And any guidelines where you can still have a few less than perfect foods is a winner by me!

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    1. Oh, I love to read! I don't watch much TV--I like to curl up with a good book!

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  25. Sounds like Matt's book is an interesting read. I don't follow a specific diet plan per se, other than to generally eat healthy. I do drink a shake every morning, but I made that choice/addition to my diet for multiple reasons. Its important that everybody find both the diet and exercise regimen that works for them.

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    1. I think this is less of a diet and more of a framework for a healthy eating plan! Sounds like you already do that!

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  26. This book is on my Amazon wish list, sounds like I need to give it a read!

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  27. Sounds like an interesting book. I like the concepts of eating everything and not restricting caloric intake. I will definitely have to read this book!

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    1. It's a great framework to build your eating plan around!

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  28. I have some food sensitivities. I feel and look so much better when avoiding corn, wheat and dairy. I also limit sugar. We're all a little bit different, have to do whatever works best for you.

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    1. I have some food sensitivities as well--the nice thing about this plan is you can adapt it to your needs.

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  29. This books sounds like it is right up my alley. This is pretty much how we eat in our house anyways. I would definitely be curious to give this a read.

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  30. Sounds like a good read! I always strive to focus on my nutrition but fall short...with my training focusing on my first 50M this summer, nutrition will be very important!

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    1. This book fits nicely into everyone's diet!

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