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How I’m giving refined sugar the boot!

When the diet begins to take a toll, runners need to take action. Here's one runner's experience

A calorie is a calorie, right? I would like to think it is, but I know that’s not the truth. As a long distance runner the quality of fuel I put into my body can mean the difference between dragging my butt, or bounding through an early-morning run.

I’m rarely one to feel tired and lethargic, so much so that when I do, I know something is wrong. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly increasing my weekly mileage while coming back from a foot injury, which means fuelling requirements are also changing. On top of the increasing miles, I’ve been experiencing some very, very hot runs in the Nebraska heat and humidity.

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I fully expect my paces to drop when at 6:00 a.m., it’s already 25 C with humidity up in the 90 per cent range. What I don’t expect is to feel sluggish right out of the gate, and then continue to drag myself through however many miles the day calls for. There’s a difference between feeling gutted by the heat, and feeling like my body is just not ready to run well.


After a few days of querying myself about what could be going on, it became evident that I wasn’t getting the proper nutrition given the increased miles and temperatures. I was taking in too many refined sugars in place of the ever-so-important complex carbohydrates.

I’m generally a pretty healthy eater, so it’s not as if I was indulging in bags of potato chips and candy during my recovery time, but I was getting into more chocolate bars and cookies than my norm. On the whole, I just wasn’t paying attention to the fuel my body needed to run– mainly because I wasn’t running. I didn’t even notice any lack of energy because I wasn’t demanding much of myself physically.

Over the past couple of weeks, my body has made it clear that it needs better. So, gone is the evening ice cream and midday toaster pastry. These simple, refined carbohydrates are being replaced with whole foods, such as a second serving of fruits, a second serving of couscous, or homemade peanut butter cookies made with wholewheat flour and no sugar. These changes are not difficult to make when the positive results scream loud and clear. In one evening I was able start feeling better on the next day’s run simply by making sure I got enough complex carbohydrates into my body rather than a near-pint of ice cream.

Though I’m taking into more consideration what I’m putting into my body, this is by no means an attempt to cut out all refined sugar from my diet. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an occasional treat, as long as it’s a rare occurrence, and as long as it’s not in the place of the goods my body needs to do what I want it do– and that’s to function and run at its best.