Dr. J on Running

Food for the Run

23 October 2009

Last week, I discovered that my runs hurt a lot more if I ate certain foods before I laced my shoes. In particular, a lunch of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, deep fried breaded okra, corn bread and peach cobbler presented unfavorable carbo-loading for a mid-afternoon 12K run.

My travels took me to the great state of Alabama for a conference. A landing fee of $85 covered the cost of breakfast, lunch and snacks for the week. True to southern tradition, lunches featured the best of deep-fried cooking from the Deep South. Alas, my work schedule and the onset of winter gave me a choice between early-morning runs in the dark and freezing temperatures, and afternoon runs in warm sunshine. I opted to run in the warm sunshine, and banked on my internal furnace to burn quickly my lunch.

On Tuesday, lunch consisted of fried chicken, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and corn bread, apple pie and sweet tea. I ate heartily, changed into shorts and T-shirt, and set out for a six-mile run. The first half-mile went by uneventfully, then Colonel Saunders’ revenge hit. Painful spasms grabbed my chest as awful burps wrung my neck and throat. I pushed on, confident that the discomfort would subside eventually. That it did, about four hours after I finished the run.

Slow to learn, I moderated my roast beef lunch on Wednesday by skipping dessert. This time, I ran a whole mile before the burps began. I slowed down then sped up in an effort to loosen the discomfort, but gave up after five miles. Pain eventually went away after three hours. I noted the progress.

On Thursday, my 70-minute tempo run on a full stomach of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, fried okra, peach cobbler and corn bread was my least painful run of the week. My boady had adapted to artery-clogging delicacies before intense physical activity. Only the okra made a return trip up my throat mid-way into the run, and the incredible discomfort subsided in time for dinner. There, I feasted on fried alligator, chicken wings and seafood gumbo.

My weeklong adventure in reckless eating produced unintended benefits. I ran more in three days than my total weekly mileage a few weeks earlier. The burning pain of acid reflux and the indescribable agony of indigestion enabled effortless running with a fluid form – or at least that was how I justified my delinquency.

As I sit in Atlanta awaiting a return flight home, the smell of southern cuisine in Terminal C is calling me towards Paschal’s. There, I will order shortly blackened catfish, mashed potatoes and collard greens. However, I will not run for 18 hours, the time it takes my rejuvinated digestive system to turn the fat and protein into energy for the long run.

Dr Kamal Jabbour eats responsibly most of the time, except on travel. Dr. J receives email at kamal@jabbour.org. His RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever the endorphines move him to write.

© 2009 Dr Kamal Jabbour