You hit the fast food disk a couple of times a week, and your grocery cart fills up regularly with cookies, packaged donuts, ice cream, chips (and salsa). But you are thin. It runs a lot, and it is not gaining weight, so everything is fine, right? Well not exactly. Leave the chocolate cake and listen to us.
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While runners tend to be much healthier than the general population, with lower rates of diabetes and heart disease, that is mainly due to a healthy diet rather than running regularly , says Sara Mahoney, Ph.D., President of the exercise science department at the University of Bellarmine. In general, because runners run, they take care of their bodies by eating well and resting.
But not all. Some of them, and we all know one, subsist on donuts and hamburgers. In the short term, running can mitigate the negative health effects of that lifestyle. But for decades, exercise loses its protective abilities.
Dave McGillivray, 63, director of the Boston Marathon, learned this in the worst way. McGillivray, who runs the Boston course every year since 1973, recorded 90 to 120 miles per week at its peak, and every year on his birthday he reaches his age in miles.
Four years ago, however, McGillivray began to feel short of breath at the beginning of practice. An angiogram revealed that he had severe coronary artery disease. "Wait a minute," said McGillivray. "I've been running all my life, I've done eight Ironman Triathlon and 140 marathons, I've run into the United States, how can I have blocked arteries?"
McGillivray has a family history of chronic heart disease, and there was also I've been eating as a teenager for most of his life. "As a runner, I felt that if the oven was hot enough, it would burn everything I put," he says. "So I would eat anything and everything I wanted"
That attitude is not uncommon among runners. Half of the Runner & # 39; s World Twitter followers who responded to a survey said they eat what they want because they run and do not gain weight. Those numbers are aligned with a recent survey of recreational ultrarunners, which found that 62 percent do not follow the nutrition recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine, despite being aware of them.
But the fact that the number on the scale looks healthy does not mean that your diet is not causing internal damage. "Time and time again, I find runners between 50 and 60 years old, who think that they have done almost everything right in their life from a health perspective, that they end up with heart disease, when I talk to them about their diets, they are often quite shocking, "says McGillivray's physician, Aaron Baggish, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at the Heart Center of Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
While diet is one of the most important components of health among athletes, it is also one of the least understood, due to the lack of clinical trials, says Baggish. Still, he points to the excess of simple sugars as "the most common dietary transgression among endurance athletes, but specifically runners." It is called white bread, white pasta, white rice and refined sugars. "Eat large portions of these, and the body turns them into bad molecules, bad types of fats, bad species of oxidative sugar, things that do a lot of damage to the vessels of the heart," Baggish explains.
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Still, runners often hear contradictory messages about how exercise-particularly high intensity sessions-can eliminate the evils of the junk food habit. A recent study by Christian Duval, Ph.D., a researcher in the department of exercise science at the University of Quebec in Montreal, provides the case in question: Duval fed a small group of men between the ages of 18 and 30 Breakfast sandwiches, hamburgers, french fries, desserts and sodas for each meal of the day for two weeks. Subjects did not eat a vegetable, and were consuming "an enormous amount of saturated fats, a large amount of sugar, which is even worse than fat, and chemicals found in processed foods," says Duval. But thanks to an additional prescription for interval training, Duval subjects did not gain weight. In addition, when he analyzed his blood to determine the accumulation of fat and inflammatory processes, the main causes of heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases, it did not seem that the diet had any effect.
But this study, which was widely reported, was over the course of weeks, not years. The damage of a bad diet can take much longer to register. Take atherosclerosis, a condition that Baggish says rots for many years. "It's a process that starts when we're young, and it accelerates gradually over time." People do not feel symptoms until the disease is quite pronounced and progresses.
In a few words: you can not overcome bad eating habits. As Baggish says, "Even if you exercise like a demon, if you do other things that are not healthy, poor diet choices will overtake you."