Nutrition

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I started to explore what I put in my body as I was studying massage therapy in 2009. We had a naturopathic doctor come in and talk with us about what our body needs and what might be possible irritants that lead to pathologies, sickness and discomfort. We also learned that each body is uniquely different, so what works for one might not work for another.

My wife has JRA and I wanted to help her figure out a natural way to keep her RA in remission without nasty medication. She had blood work done and found out different foods she was allergic too like gluten and dairy products. We didn’t have money to get my blood tested too, but an elimination diet revealed irritant triggers for myself. I found wheat/gluten to be very tough on my system to digest and also leading to inflammation and GI distress. I cut out most wheat products but really had a hard time giving up beer. I mean, come-on, I’m from Wisconsin; that’s what we live on.

As I started running more and more, connecting with my body and taking better care of my health I decided to give up the beer too and was completely gluten free. My running transformed and I felt so much healthier! I kept improving in the sport and also kept tinkering with what I ate.

I was GF for over a year with much success, but would still have gi stress in the latter stages of races and daily runs. Also, anything with caffeine in it made my stomach upset. In 2011, I decided to go mostly grain free. I still have a corn tortilla or rice on occasion.  I read different articles addressing a more paleo/low-carb lifestyle which intrigued me. I’ve played around with that the last couple years. I still use carbs, but mostly in the form of sweet potatoes and fruits. When I do eat carbs I use them strategically; I’ll eat sweet potatoes with lots of coconut oil the night before a race or long/intense run. I’ll have a green smoothie after a hard run with fruit and whey protein to replenish my glycogen storage and rebuild my muscles. I also take some amino acid supplements to rebuild my muscles after long/intense races or training sessions.

I don’t like labels and would not call myself low-carb, paleo, etc. I would say that I follow a diet with more protein & fat and less carbs than most people and that it has helped me recover faster, reduce inflammation and overall just feel healthier. My diet consist of mainly organic and local if possible grass-fed meats, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, sweet potatoes and coconut oil.   I keep tinkering with what works best for me and continue to read articles and others opinions and experiment with it. I believe each person/body is very unique and you need to find the best way of eating for yourself, each body accepts or rejects foods differently. Eating and cooking should be fun; experiment with new recipes, invite friends over and cook them a meal. There are so many awesome choices of food and a plethora of ways to prepare and have fun in the kitchen.

For racing I do use carbs; I try to keep them minimal mainly to keep my stomach under control and to promote fat burning as another viable source of fuel. I also do many workouts where I’m really depleted afterwards. I’ll run up to 5 hrs on 1 or 2 gels which is around 200 calories. During a race I stick to 100-200 calories an hour with gels and at the later stages of a race I might drink some Sierra Mist or Coke. There reaches a point at the end of 100 mile race that I’m tired of gels and liquid calories just go down easier. Also Sierra Mist or Ginger Ale can help settle my stomach.  I don’t drink soda any other time, but for races I make the exception.

What I eat…

Here is a sample of what I eat on a daily basis and days prior to a race. I hope to continue to put up some recipes on my blog for you to try out.

I like to have a tablespoon or two of hazelnut or almond  butter in the morning before heading out for a run. On training runs 3-5 hrs I might use 1 or 2 gels. I like to keep the calories low to promote fat burning and if I don’t need it I like to not have much sugar in my diet.

After a long day out on the trails I might have a green smoothie with kale, banana and some type of berries. If I don’t do a green smoothie I’ll have some scrambled eggs with sautéed kale or spinach and any other vegetables I have laying around the house with coconut oil and maybe some avocado too.

For snacking, I make Kale chips which I try to always keep on hand. Other options for snacking are carrots or other raw veggies, nuts and seeds. I really like walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. I also indulge in Justin’s hazelnut butter or some sweet potatoes chips after a hard run or race. And YES, I do enjoy a nice glass or two of red wine in the evening.

As for dinner I’ll have some type of meat (normally chicken or venison), some vegetables (zucchini, brussels sprouts, avocado, artichoke, broccoli, carrots, kale, spinach, cabbage, peppers, onions, mushrooms…etc) either sautéed or raw, washed down with some tasty water.

I also take natural herbal supplements every day by a local company in Ashland called Natura Health Products . I take these products daily during hard training sessions, but make sure to take weeks off sometimes so my body balances itself out and does not rely on certain herbs. I use them as tools to keep my body strong by not breaking down muscle and promoting a healthy immune system. The food I eat and herbs I take are all huge recovery tools. The healthier I am after races and hard training runs allows me to get back out in nature and enjoy life with my wonderful family.

Natura Health Products

  • Power Adapt helps you adapt to the stresses of life and intense training sessions.
  • Amino-Max supports the bodies ability to create protein, sustain energy and optimize recovery time.
  • Botanabol helps build strength and endurance, optimizes energy levels and recovery time.
  • Beyond Essential Fats are a perfect balance of Omega 3, 6 and 7 fatty acids which support a healthy function of the cardiovascular, neurological and immune systems, while promoting a healthy inflammatory response.
  • Beyond Whey is great after workouts or races. I add this protein powder to my green smoothies to promote a healthy recovery.

2 days before race
Breakfast – 200 cal of Justin’s Hazelnut butter or just plain almond butter.
Snack after run – green smoothie (kale, bananas and strawberries)
Lunch – chicken in a cabbage wrap, maybe some avocado and veggies of some sort (like kale, carrots or zucchini)
Dinner – chicken, veggies, sweet potatoes with coconut oil

Day before
Breakfast- 200 cal of Justin’s Hazelnut butter
Lunch – chicken, veggies, sweet potatoes with coconut oil
Dinner – chicken, sweet potatoes with coconut oil

Race day
200-300 calories Justin’s Hazelnut butter
100-200 calories an hour using VFuel and maybe some soda in the later stages of an ultra
2 salt-caps per hour
16oz water at each aid station. I drink a few cup at each AS too if possible.

This is what works best for me but take some time to experiment for yourself and see what foods work best for your body. Keep trying new things, most importantly enjoy preparing and making your food. Be mindful of the foods you choose and how you cook and prepare them. Enjoy going to a farmers market and maybe tonight try cooking something you’ve never cooked before.

peace, timothy

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96 Comments

  1. Thanks Tim – I think a lot of people are more interested in what super athletes eat than how they train. My wife and I appreciate all your posts.

  2. Hi Tim,

    Nice article! Would you snack at all between your lunch & dinner? Also, do you rely solely on the VGels and salt caps during your races or would you eat select foods on the go or at aid stations?

    • Hey Ben,
      Thanks for reading. I don’t snack much on easy days, but after a long run i’ll be grazing on random things. Mostly just snacking on whatever i’m preparing for dinner. Sometimes i’ll be preparing food for an hour or longer and will be snaking on carrots or nuts in the process.

      For racing, i stick to mostly gels, but might randomly grab something from an aid station like potato chips or fruit. For longer races in the mountains when i’m not moving as fast i’ll use a Justin’s hazelnut butter packet.

      cheers,
      t

  3. Great post!

    What I’ll add to the readers out there is that, everything Tim is doing has been substantiated by the research with respect to exercise performance (to say nothing about general health benefits): low carb daily diets, learning to burn fat during exercise, and fueling strategies – pre, during and post race; all these things he’s doing has been proven effective in research (and a nice place to find info on most of these things is in Noake’s “Lore of Running” – 4th Edition!).

    I’ve already felt some positive effects of having adopted many of these habits – we’ll see how it unfolds at Sonoma!

  4. Tim,
    Thanks for sharing! I love reading all your write ups!

  5. Really enjoyed this post. As an ultrarunner and a nutritionist, I’m curious and enjoying learning about how other athletes fuel their bodies. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Great post Tim been looking forward to this one and pleased to say that I’m following many of your good habits, less the giving up beer bit, and I suspect I “cheat” a lot more often

    This type of diet along with some high quality training has made a big difference to my running and endurance.

    • Brett,
      Thanks for reading! Glad you can still enjoy a good beer. The trick is to enjoy when you “cheat” and not get down on yourself. Enjoy whatever you eat and continually try to make the best decisions along the way.
      Cheers,
      T

  7. I always enjoy your posts, looking forward to some more recipes. My wife and I made those kale chips; pretty rad.
    I’ve been experimenting a lot lately after some race day stomach issues and it’s always interesting to see what works for other athletes whether it’s low carb, vegetarian, vegan, etc… Cool to see everyone is different.
    See ya out there sometime!

  8. Thanks for sharing. I have been eating similarly for over a year. My “cooking” involves dumping all that stuff in a blender and making soup or smooties. Alot of people say they can’t do some of the veggies alone but when they are in the mix with fruit, veggies and all it is great. I mix enough to take along the next day. Even at 68+ it has made a difference. Just can’t hang with the kids anymore! I follow the Hammer Nutrition “less is better” when it comes to calories on the run but like you say we are an experiment of one.

  9. Hi Timothy
    What a great post you have made here. Love the idea of all that good produce and fortunately there is plenty where I live in Western Australia. I am just wondering if it isn’t possible to eat your way out of all those supplements ?
    Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers,
    Mikael

    • Mikael,
      Thanks for reading.
      I know I get plenty of good nutrients in my diet, but I feel the supplements are just a nice addition to recover as quickly as possible after big races. Over the years I hope to keep learning more about my body and making the appropriate changes to live a long and healthy life.
      Be well,
      T

  10. Awesome article buddy. Great info. Good luck in your races. Looking forward to reading your upcoming race reports. Hopefully you will make more highlight videos of your races. Looking forward to your recipes.

    • Dylan,
      Thanks for reading, I’m looking forward to this weekends race and will post my race report a week or so later. I’m excited to put up some recipes as well.
      My in-laws make the videos and only Coe to a few races each year. They should be at WS again and will try to make another fun video.
      Cheers,
      T

  11. Tim, great post thanks so much for sharing

  12. I have failed at your Kale chips twice! I’ve resorted to okra until I get the kale timing down :)
    Thanks for your secret potions! see you at Run Rabbit??
    best, Brandon.

  13. Hi Tim,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and strategy on nutrition. Very informative. A few quick questions. You say that you drink 16oz of water at aid stations, does that mean that you don’t drink on the run in between aid stations? Also, do you make any changes to your nutritional strategy in regards to weather (hot v cold environments?). As I live in Singapore, but most of my races are in more temperate climates I am trying to find a balance between training runs in 95 F & 80% humidity and races in 60 F and 30% humidity.

    • Tristan, (great name by the way)
      I carry a hand held water bottle with me with 10-16 oz of water between aid stations. Depending on how hot and how far till the next aid I might carry another one, but normally just carry one. I stick with gels because they seem to work the best for me in cold or hot conditions.
      Thanks for reading,
      T

  14. Thanks for the insight! Nutrition is definitely something I’m still figuring out, so I really appreciate you letting us in on what is working for you. Cheers!

  15. Tim,

    I met you at Bandera over the past two years and I look forward to seeing you again in 2014. I have been following your runs, your blogs and wherever else I hear your name to better study how a great runner does it. Now I know why – This article details your disciplined diet, your self-discovery, while always tinkering for optimal performance! Ever since we walked together, along with my wife, up to the sign-in area this past January at Bandera, my wife and I have been such huge fans of you. You were very approachable and nice and we wish you and your family all the success in the world :-)

    See my Facebook for our pic together

  16. Hi Tim,

    Thanks a lot for the insight! I’m glad to say that looks similar to mine, and I’m looking forward to doing my first 50 miler in July on it. Definatly some interesting ideas that I’ll have to look into concerning pre-race carb-loading for the grain free.

  17. Great post, Tim! Do you also avoid dairy? I’m curious about your smoothies and whether you add yogurt or almond milk or some other sort of “mixer” to help blend the fruits.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Hey Eric,
      I don’t avoid dairy completely, but only have it on occasion. We don’t really keep it in the house as my wife is allergic to it. For our smoothies we normally just add water. We use coconut milk and yogurt on occasion, but normally just have them separate.
      Thanks for reading,
      T

  18. Hey Tim,

    You mentioned that you eat eggs, and I’m wondering how you incorporate them (when you eat them/how you prepare them etc.)? It seems like you go with the hazelnut butter most often for breakfast. I’m also wondering about your stance on cheese–that seems to be my weakness!

    Thanks,
    -Jason

    • Jason,
      I might have eggs twice a week. Normally for lunch or after a hard workout. I normally scramble or have them sunny-side up. I’ll also sauté some greens or other veggies to go with. Sometimes I’ll have hard boiled eggs too or make them in to deviled-eggs.
      I will have cheese on occasion, but we really don’t keep it around the house as my wife is allergic. I’ll occasional have cheese when we go out or maybe snack on string cheese once a month. I like cheese, but seem to spend my money on other necessities.
      Thanks for reading,
      T

  19. what kinds of foods would you take if you were trying to recover from a stress fracture?

  20. Thanks for the info Tim! I have been on a Low carb diet now for 4 weeks and will be trying out how I handle it at the Woodside 50k this Saturday. I have found that I have lots of food intolerances that will give me lots of issues not just while running. I started with the low FODMAP diet in December which helped a lot and for 4 and a half weeks have gone to the low carb diet and my stomach and digestive system has not been happier. I followed the guidlines from the book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Perfomance by Jeff Volek. The first one to two weeks was hell! Very dizzy and fatigued during runs. After 4 weeks my energy levels feel back to normal and I am curious how I will feel during a high intensity race.

    • Oh and thanks again for the info on what you have been trying for food leading up to a race. There is not a lot of info for what fueling strategies to use for races while on this diet.

      • Thanks for reading, I hope some of my incites help you. You’ll have to keep experimenting or race day, but on race day is when I like to use more carbs. I just go back to less carbs the next day.
        Best of luck tomorrow at your race!
        Cheers,
        T

  21. Tim, very timely. I wrote an “article” for our Southern region trail-running website EnduranceBuzz.com last week about my own journey into Paleo and some science facts I dug out, and submitted finally last week to go up some time today or tomorrow – and saw your post yesterday, emailed the website’s owner the link – because I mentioned you and Matt Hart as examples! So, thanks:)

  22. Hi Tim,

    Just found your blog and love this post- so much good info! I started a very similar diet (no added sugars/sweeteners, no gluten, minimal unprocessed grains- I will have a small portion of basmati rice or quinoa a few times a week) in Dec-Jan. I’m amazed at how much better I’m feeling and how much more I’m enjoying eating “real” food!! I have been experimenting with different foods to eat before long/tough workouts and races and finding what works for me. The info about adding in the sweet potatoes/coconut oil 2 days before is really helpful, I am definitely going to try that.

    Looking forward to following your blog and upcoming races… would love to see more about race/training nutrition and maybe some favorite recipes too :)

  23. Hi Tim, tks for sharing.
    I´m also trying to change my diet, from something near a vegan diet to a low carb.
    I reduced the Gluten a lot and I felt the diference.
    See you, bye.

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  25. Hi Tim, thanks so much for posting this. I am currently training for my first 50k and also an a non-traditional paleo-ish eater. It reassures me and gives my hope that this can be done right. I run because of the way it makes me feel and why would I not want to also eat that way, but doubt creeps in because it goes against much of the currently accepted nutritional wisdom. I look forward to integrating some of your suggestions and seeing what works for me. Best of luck tomorrow at Lake Sonoma, run strong!

  26. Great post Timothy, good luck this year!

  27. Pingback: EnduranceBuzz.com » My Paleo Journey

  28. Nice post, glad to see more posts on success experiences with this diet for endurance athletes, gives me more confidence I’m on a good path! I’ve been GF for several years, almost no dairy, close to Paleo. My last couple vices are packaged crunchy snacks like popchips or rice crackers and Arctic Zero frozen desserts.

    You must eat almost as many sweet potatoes as I do :) They’re my go-to and practically my favorite food right now. I need to learn to grow them myself (see outlawgarden.com for tips) Every day for breakfast, I eat a cooked sweet potato w/ almond butter. M-F (work days) I add 2 oz of lean protein (cooked chicken breast). Sat post-long run I add coconut manna (yum!) – not oil – and maybe a smidge of local raw honey. Sunday, my sw pot/alb is a treat along w/ scrambled egg whites, veggies and bacon.

    Wishing you all the best in your training, racing and health – and best to your wife as well.

  29. Thanks so much for posting this Tim. I am trying to shift toward a paleo/primal diet to help with running and to deal with prediabetes. Very helpful to read this. Good luck this season!

  30. Thanks for that report Timothy. Continued success to you.

  31. This is awesome info, Tim. Thanks for sharing. You definitely seem to love sweet potatoes, which is one of my favorite foods. I have a huge amount of respect for you as a runner and person. Keep it up!

    Wyatt

  32. Interesting read Timothy. It always good to read what others do in terms of nutrition and what works for them to get ideas for something new to try and find out what works.

    Karl

  33. Great post Tim. I’ve had similar issues with GI, and I too found that ultra-distance running helped me get more in tune with what my body needs from a nutritional perspective. Running the Tarawera 100k this year, I ate 80% of my total daily intake in fruit in the 4 months prior, and then on the day I ate close to 100% oranges for my source of fuel. I felt the best I’ve ever felt at this distance, and no GI issues. BTW, you did a great job at Tarawera.

  34. Thanks for the timely reminder to review what I put into my body. Very enlightening and inspiring :) Hope to see you in NZ again next year!

  35. Thanks so much for your awesome post on nutrition, Timothy! How many grams of protein do you think you eat/drink on an average training day? I’m training for a 50m in July; I’m always shoveling scoops of protein powder into my diet and feel like I’m overdoing protein supplementation to error on the safe (high protein) side. However, the extra calories (and protein) may do more harm than good? Have you ever experimented w/ training a few weeks on a diet without protein powder or obscene amounts of chicken? Thanks again! -Cory

    • Thanks for reading Cory,
      I don’t think i really over-do protein. I don’t eat meat everyday and when i do i eat a healthy portion and don’t gobble up a whole chicken. Everything in moderation my friend.
      cheers

  36. Excellent, this is where I have found myself also, and what is working for me too! Shame about the beer hey? :) I still have the odd one, post race though! Keep it up!

  37. Reblogged this on 74 running and commented:
    Great post on running and nutrition from Timothy Olson.

  38. Really great to see “real food” making it onto the ultra scene! We’ve been plagued with the “I run a lot so I can eat whatever I want” mentality for far too long. Personally, I’ve been paleo for 3 or 4 years now. I can totally relate to the desire to not want to place a label on how you eat… so whatever you call it, good on ya for being a stellar example of elite performance with real food. Keep on fighting the good fight!

  39. Cheers for the advice! You mention that you eat coconut oil and potatoes, is the coconut oil mixed (cooked) in with the meal or eaten raw? Do you take any food on the trails/snacks when not racing?

    Cheers!

    Dan

    • Dan,
      I cook my sweet potatoes with coconut oil.
      When I’m out on the trail I use things like Justin’s hazelnut butter and with all day adventures I’ll eat beef jerky. For racing I just use gels and soda.
      Take care,
      T

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  41. Great to read. I have been “Paleo/Low Carb” I guess you’d call it since March, and love the lack of soreness after a tough run and the quicker recovery. Getting my fueling dialed in took longer to get right, but now that I have, I love the lack of stomach … anything. Thanks for sharing your nutrition!

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  43. woww!
    my drinking and eating in my longs runs and races about same way!
    In all my training runs (up to 5hours) I don’t eat gels – only water.
    In my first ultra (2weeks ago) I was eat 2gels per hour and 2salt tabl. per hour and dring water or juice and later states coca or something. And I win this race like you win races. race was 104,8miles (4xmarathon) in very hard trail and I win this with time 14:51:04 (second place was 18:28 and third 19:00, last course record was 19:09). All old ultramarathoners was very surprised but right I know – my eating and drinking habbit was true, this is very important point in ultras…

  44. This is so cool thank you! I’ve just started training for triathlons and had no idea what to fuel my body with because I also adhere to high fat high protein and low carb and have allergies de luxe as well. My doctor told me to try chocolate milk (sweetened) after a race as well as it has the right amount of protein and sugars to restore the muscles. But the milk intolerance is not so great so I will try Coke and see what happens.
    Nicole, South Africa

    • Nicole,
      My wife drinks a soy-chocolate protein drink after runs. Much better to restore the body than coke. I only use coke at the end of long races, otherwise i dont drink soda.
      Also, green smoothies are great for after hard workouts.

      Hope you’re wonderful.
      cheers,
      Timothy

  45. Pingback: Western States 2013 | Sole to Soul Rhythm

  46. Hi, it was nice to see you in europe i hope you enjoyed the swiss alps.
    I have a question, why do you eat coconuts oil with your potatoes, is it to slow the GI or becaus the MCT.
    Thank you, i wish you a beautiful autumn

  47. Your blog is very nice thanks for sharing

  48. There are articles I enjoy reading and those that are so boring that I simply cannot stand reading them. This article kept me interested and engaged from beginning to end.

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  52. Tim, Great article, thanks for posting! I see you take 2 salt caps per hour in your ultra’s, what type do you prefer?

    • Terry,
      Thanks for reading. I’m not really personal to any brand. I have a bottle of SaltStick and s-Caps. I normally take about the same, but I really just listen to my body and what it needs.

  53. Hi Tim,

    I’ve been searching for write ups on LCHF particularly from an Ultra runner’s point of view and this is really useful!

    Many thanks for the great article ! Cheers Alvin

  54. Tim, was glad to read your post on nutrition during a race. You seem to have broke the mold on what seems what some main stream nutritionist advise endurance athletes to eat and how much. I finished Western States 100 in 2012, the same year you smashed the course record of 14:46! I can not wrap my head around how you were able to do that on 1 or 2 GUs an hour? With elevated heart rates on many parts of the course, I didn’t think could be burning fat as fuel. Then again, I am not in the same running class as you… I guess it is just conditioning and experimenting like you said. Hell, scientist said that Roger Bannister could not run the one mile under 4 minutes but he did. Best of luck on your continued success!

    • Thanks Chris! I keep trying to figure out what works best for running and recovery for myself, I’m glad it can help.
      There are many moments when I forgot what people tell me is possible and then I let my heart take over.

      Peace,
      T

  55. Fantastic and inspiring. I am embarking on my second long distance run this summer and will be following a similar diet to yours. I am posting my training progress on http://www.paleoandprimalliving,com. Keep up the inspiration.

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