Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How Do Kenyan Runners Eat?

Like poor people.  As noted in Born to Run, this is not a bad thing. (It certainly beats starving, after all.)  The conclusion I've come to is this:

"The really interesting story in the China study (not the hooey in the book The China Study) is that people can be healthy on a wide variety of diets, from mostly vegetables to mostly carnivorous. What we cannot do are the extremes: vegan or completely carnivorous. Both cause nutritional deficiencies.

"The other really interesting thing was that it appears that a few foods cause a disproportionate number of problems. If you avoid those foods, you can eat a wide variety of foods in good health."

What is really interesting about the Kenyan diet is that it contains a fair bit of sugar. I've started to come to the conclusion that sugar isn't the worst thing in the world for you, especially if you're avoiding the common parts of a modern diet that are the worst things in the world for you: wheat and industrial seed oils.  Sugar and white wheat flour combined seem to have a uniquely bad effect on the human metabolism.  Top that off with industrial seed oils, and you're in a really bad place.

The article above doesn't mention wheat as being part of the Kenyan diet, and, since they're not eating large quantities of processed foods, they're likely not eating a lot of industrial seed oils.

But, with all that being said, must you eat like a poor Kenyan to be a good runner?  I really doubt it.  We evolved to run to hunt down large ruminants, not corn kernels.  To paraphrase Larry Niven, corn kernels don't run very quickly.  A high-starch diet is what you eat after you've eaten all the large ruminants in an area.  It's plan B for humans.

Thanks to Thad for finding this, click through to the link to see the discussion.