Hi everyone! I’m Carmen, and I was so excited when Gretchen asked me to do a little write-up about my experience as a runner doing the Whole30. I was excited to see a group of people doing the Whole30 together and am joining in on my third round. Just as a quick summary, my day job is as a university administrator, so most of the time, I look like this:
But every morning, around 4:15 a.m., I’m out and about my college town looking like this (and actually running, not just taking bathroom selfies):
I have been running for 21 years, since the age of 11. I did organized cross-country and track until I went to college, and have been running purely for enjoyment since then. I run an average of 75 miles a week which includes one long, weekly run of 20+ miles. It’s a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine not running for many years to come!
I did my first Whole30 during the summer of 2015. I don’t have any food allergies or stomach issues, but I was mostly interested in curbing my sweet tooth. Even though I’ve always felt that running allows me to pretty much eat whatever I want, I wasn’t feeling awesome on a daily basis, and I suspected that too much dessert was to blame. I was interested in the Whole30 because of the focus on high-quality food, and also because it does not involve counting calories. I knew I needed a change, but did not want to feel restricted in terms of my eating.
My Type-A personality led me to follow the Whole30 guidelines very strictly the first time around. I read the book It Starts with Food and followed the template of three meals a day with the hand-sized portion of protein, the thumb-sized portion of fat, lots of veggies and no more than two servings of fruit a day. And, I didn’t snack at all, per program guidelines. At first, I felt fine. However, I lost a lot of weight quickly (even though I don’t weigh myself on a regular basis, I could tell from my clothing) and after about a week, running started to feel hard. I was dragging after just a few miles. I didn’t know what to eat during my long runs since I couldn’t eat one of the large meals before a run and I didn’t want to snack. I was accustomed to bringing chews or gels with me on long runs, but those were not Whole30 compliant. I was also used to drinking Nuun during a long run, but since that was not allowed on the program, I switched to just water. So, 20+ mile runs with just water...not so easy.
Needless to say, this was not awesome for me. I did the entire 30 days like this. I felt great in other ways – I was sleeping so well, my skin was clear, my digestion felt great. I felt really good about what I was putting in my body and loved the emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods. I didn’t really think that I wasn’t eating enough – I mean, my breakfasts usually consisted of a whole avocado, two eggs and a whole sweet potato. I was hardly starving myself.
But, after 30 days, I had lost a lot of weight (that I wasn’t trying to lose to begin with) and my running was suffering. As I transitioned out of the Whole30 program, everything normalized – but I felt like I had learned a lot from the program and was making better everyday food choices, so I still felt that it was a success.
I decided to do a second Whole30 in November of 2015, leading up to a big international trip and my birthday. This second time around, I was sure to put some research into the Whole30 for athletes/runners (there’s a great forum on the Whole30 website about this!) and did not worry so much about the exact program guidelines in terms of portion sizes and not snacking. I made sure that every meal involved lots of carbs (I ate sweet potatoes and potatoes like they were going out of style), I added in 2-3 snacks a day depending on my hunger (almonds/cashews, plantain chips, fruit). For long runs, I brought coconut water (has both calories + electrolytes) and larabars or dates. Pre-run, I would have a banana or a couple of Medjool dates. I listened to my body instead of worrying about the exact program guidelines. If I was hungry, I ate a snack. I didn’t want to rely on sugar, but some days, I did eat more than two servings of fruit. Nuts are “limited” on the Whole30 but I did not worry about having a handful of almonds a day with my snack. I still felt just as awesome but my running stayed consistent.
I successfully maintained my weight on my second Whole30, but felt that my body was overall more toned. As a runner, I needed to make these modifications in order for the Whole30 to work for me. It took a little bit of experimentation to figure out what worked for me, and it may for you too (and it was hard for me not to follow the program outline exactly!). But I love how the Whole30 allows me to reset my body and return to an emphasis on high-quality eating. I hope it does the same for you! I’m excited to embark on my third Whole30 with this group and would be happy to answer any questions anybody has. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for letting me come in and share, Gretchen!
Thank you for sharing your story Carmen! I hope you all enjoyed hearing more about the Whole30 program from a veteran. I know that I'm learning so much from Carmen and the other participants in the Running Whole 30 group, so if you haven't joined yet, what are you waiting for?!
What questions do you have about the Whole 30?
Any one else have experience doing a diet before?
Who else is training for a race now? I started my marathon training this week!
linking up with Tuesdays on the Run