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Confession: I’m something of a nutrition nerd. I find great joy in experimenting with different diets, macronutrient silliness, supplementation—primarily to see what effect is has on physical and cognitive performance. My friends frequently joke about all of the “dirt flavored” food I eat. Sometimes these experiments are successful, sometimes they’re a wash, and sometimes they’re a complete bust. Like that time I ate only tacos for a month.
I began studying ketogenic eating after years of hearing stories from friends—mostly endurance athletes and high-performing entrepreneurs—about their success using it to hit race weight, fuel through incredibly long events, and to boost brain function. A multi-year stint in CrossFit predating my running career had the concept of “fat-adaptation” on my radar, but it was something that most folks I had interacted with simply didn’t understand. I decided to double down and run my own experiment.
After 45 days of eating around 20 grams of carbs and 100 grams of fat per day, I had dropped twenty-five pounds of fat. My runs were getting faster, my brain was on fire, and I had more energy than I had in years. For the first time in my life, I was developing a visible six-pack.
Crossfitters are fond of saying, “you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.” Regardless of what you might think about Crossfit, they’re right. Sure, you can work out enough to justify an absurd number of calories, but this still doesn’t make all those donuts you ate on the way to work healthy. In fact, all that sugar is probably wreaking havoc on your training. Not to mention your pancreas, brain, adrenals, abdominals, genitals, and wallet.
Intrepid travelers already know how tough it can be to eat healthy on the go. Air travel and hotels are like a black hole, junk food supergravity drawing you slowly into a singular abyss. Traveling light and border crossings make carrying food a logistical challenge, sometimes impossibility. Pair that with the lack of cooking options in most hotels, and it’s easy to go completely rogue. Even a cheapo butane camp stove and a styrofoam cooler are big luxuries when all you have is a motel-grade Keurig and a microwave.
A race director friend told me that the average ultra-distance trail runner stays in the sport for about four years. I’m not exactly sure where that number came from, but it seems reasonable. Injury, burn out, family commitment, work, loss of interest–we’re all at risk of losing that spark that helps push us to the finish.
For me, an injury last year spawned a cascade of events that completely destroyed my motivation, not just for running, but for life in general. It was a dark time, and it took more than a year for me to crawl back out of the hole that I’d dug for myself. I lost everything in the process, including my self-respect. I was totally defeated.
Breaking from stagnation has been one of the most difficult challenges I’ve had to tackle. That experience led me to start researching the science behind motivation. There’s quite a bit of psychology at work here, but the good news is that once you understand it, you can start stacking the deck in your favor.