Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Shalane Challenge: Why am I doing this?

For the past 4 or 5 months, I've been hearing from my running buddies and online friends about this great new cookbook by Shalane Flanagan, called Run Fast. Eat Slow. Flanagan is arguably America's top female marathoner, an Olympic medalist and the top American woman (and 6th overall) in the marathon at Rio. Nutrition is a huge component of marathon fitness, so when Flanagan came out with a book on nutrition, runners paid notice. The book is still on the NY Times top ten sports/fitness books list, and not only does it seem to give solid nutritional advice, the recipes actually taste great.

I won the book at a Christmas party and was intrigued, but my wife, a non-runner, didn't seem interested in its "skinny runner girl" vibe. The book is filled with gorgeous photos of Flanagan and her equally-fit co-author, nutritionist and former UNC teammate Elyse Kopecky, so I can see how it might be a bit intimidating to a non-runner.

A typical photo from the book

But since my wife is out of town this week, it seemed like a good time to try out the recipes. What better way to do it than to go all-in and cook ALL my meals from the book for the week? Since I'm also currently tapering for the Houston Half-Marathon, watching what I eat a little more closely seems like an excellent idea.

Flanagan and Kopecky's philosophy on nutrition is to not worry so much about consuming a particular number of calories or macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs, etc) per day, but to focus on eating wholesome foods. To be honest, I'm a little skeptical of this philosophy. The only way I've ever been able to lose weight and keep it off is to concern myself a LOT with calories. But I figure I can try this out for a week and see how it works. Worst case scenario I might add a few new recipes to my wheelhouse.

The book features an elaborate chart of a week of meals, from breakfast through dessert -- a different home-made menu for each meal.

That's a lot of recipes!

The authors explain that Flanagan doesn't actually eat this richly; she tends to prepare a food (like, say, granola for breakfast) in bulk and then have it as leftovers for the next day or more, and even freeze some for future weeks or months. Makes sense. I don't think I'd be able to prepare a different from-scratch recipe for 5 meals a day either, and I'm no Olympic-class marathoner!

That said, the first day was quite a whirlwind of activity, and I haven't even written up my dinner post yet! I'll get that to a bit, but first I wanted to let you know why I'm doing this and what's in store for the rest of the week. I'll probably be posting only once or twice a day from here on out, and then at the end I'll write up a summary of my thoughts on the book and its philosophy. Hope it's useful to you!


I'll try to keep a complete list of all the posts in the series here.

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