There's a quiet renaissance happening in American distance running. At the IAAF World Cross Country Championships this year, the Americans beat the vaunted Kenyans, a team we haven't bested since 1984. In 2012, Galen Rupp became the first American since 1964 to win a medal at 10,000 meters, and at the outdoor track and field world championships, Americans won medals in the men's and women's 800-meter and 1,500-meter races for the first time . . . ever.
What made the difference? Data-based training and nutrition practices from the top U.S. coaches and researchers. Lately these methods have spread from the front of the pack toward the back. "I use the same concepts with the fast runners as I do with the not-so-fast runners," says Greg McMillan, a Flagstaff-based coach who trains athletes of all levels, both pros and beginners. Here are 11 principles you need to know for more efficient training and faster times.
Eat more carbs.
The American fast food diet – full of sodas and processed flour – has bestowed a bad name on carbohydrates and given rise to a slew of low-carb diets. Don't be fooled: Runners need carbs. "Low-carb diets may have certain health benefits for some people, but research has shown that decreasing the amount of carbohydrates in the diet reduces performance in prolonged exercise and the capacity to handle higher training loads," says Asker Jeukendrup, author of 'Sports Nutrition from Lab to Kitchen.' Unlike fat and protein, carbs are used almost exclusively to supply energy for activity, which means that the more you run, the more carbs you need. If you jog 10 miles per week, a little less than two grams of carbs per pound of body weight will do the trick (that's equivalent to about four servings each of whole wheat pasta and shredded wheat per week for a 170-pound man). Serious runners will need roughly twice that.
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