How the Red Food Diet will help you become a Faster Runner
Recently, I looked inward – at the food going into my body. Diet is an opportunity to make adjustments and fine tune training. I mentioned it recently as one of 4 little things that you can do to improve your running. I think it’s much more than something little.
I’ve been experimenting with various “alternative” diet plans, and after about a month, I’m excited to report some of my findings.
If you’re not familiar, the Red Food Diet is gaining more and more popularity among athletes world wide. Before getting into specifics, here is some background.
What is the Red Food Diet?
In short, the Red Food Diet involves eating only red food for 30 days, then slowly adding back foods of various colors. Some research coming out of China has shown the color red, “stimulates the production of red blood cells” – the part of your blood that carries oxygen from your lungs to your muscles, and carbon dioxide back to the lungs for expulsion.
As most runners know, the amount of oxygen in your blood stream (measured in parts per million) is what keeps you moving faster, longer (this is why aerobic training is so important). Blood doping (that insidious practice by only the most deplorable of athletes), results in a similar effect, albeit illegally.
Now, we may have a very legal, very healthy alternative.
The working hypothesis is that red food requires less energy to be converted into oxygen, and subsequent muscular output. You can expect fuel entering your body to be converted 3 – 5 times faster (depending on the R-value of the food you are eating).
To figure out what your E-value is, use this simple formula.
R x (W / Y) * (3.1/G)/18 = E-value.
R is the “R-value” of the food you eat (explained below), W is your weight (in pounds) and Y is the energy conversion ratio. G is the gastronomic number of the caloric density of the food in it’s most raw form (think peppers right out of the ground). I’m honestly not sure where the 3.1 or 18 come from.
The closer this number gets to 1, the faster and more efficiently your body can use the ingested red foods as energy.
Scientists at the University of Beijing, Suzhou campus, conducted studies using two groups of people. The first group self described as living a “sedentary lifestyle.” The other were average runners with a modest 20 minute 5k PR.
The “sedentary” group was given a diet of only red foods for 30 days, and also a standard, couch-to-5k training plan. The “active” group received the exact same plan, but told they could eat whatever they wanted.
Both groups did a 5k time trial at the beginning and end of the study. The group who was eating only red foods ran 20 – 50% faster after a month. The control group (those eating whatever color they wanted) showed no improvement at all. How’s that for conclusive!
Are Red Foods Really the Only thing You Can Eat?
In short, yes. According to Lona Sandon, RD, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, had this to say in an interview with WebMD.
There are many red fruits and vegetables to choose from and they each bring something a little bit different to the table…
She went on to add that the majority of red fruits and vegetables contain massive amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants have been linked to such miraculous feats as “fighting heart disease and prostate cancer to decrease the risk for stroke and muscular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in people aged 60 and older). Antioxidants soak up damaging free radicals.”
The U of B.S. study also examined the effects of these free radicals. Damaging free radicals are when non-red foods (of any conflicting color palette), are floating around the body, waiting to get converted for use. Depending on the color mixture you have eaten, they may be left floating for too long.
What Types of Foods Can you Eat?
Surprisingly, a lot of food is red. Apples, raspberries, Hot Tamales, pomegranate, strawberries, Twizzlers, even watermelon counts as red.
Find a red crayon. If your food is as red as the next 2 or 3 crayons in the 120 ct box, you can eat it.
A lot of people don’t realize that hamburgers, when very, very rare, are totally fine. Not only is red meat high in iron, but it’s also creates red blood cells extremely fast. The mistake most people make is eating their red meat well done. In fact, red meat in general has the lowest R-value on this diet.
“R-value” is the capacity of a food to resist blood flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the resistance. The scale goes from 0 – 100. Red meat, has an R-value of 1. By contrast, arugula has an R-value of 100 (because it is green). Anything with a value 100 or above is typically not red.
Here are three of my go to meals.
The Power Breakfast
- Rare Steak
- Breakfast Hash (must use red potatoes), seasoned with Red Himalayan Sea Salt
- 10 oz Strawberry jam
This is pretty self explanatory. Marinate the steak in the jam overnight, grill (rare), use the remaining jam to top the steak in the same way you might with steak sauce. Shred the potatoes, grill and top with salt.
The Carb Load with a Twizt
This is a great meal to eat the night before a tough workout or race. Because there is little fiber in this meal, you won’t have to worry about taking an unplanned, emergency bathroom break right before you run.
- Red pasta sauce
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 lb ground beef (cooked medium so there is plenty of pink left in)
- Hot Tamales
- 1 large bag of Cherry Twizzlers pull ’n’ peel
- Mix the tomato stuff together with slightly browned beef
- Pull apart 3 – 4, of the Twizzlers pull n’n peel’s to use as noodle base
- Mix sauce on top of “noodles”
- Top with hot tamales to give it a little kick.
Traditionally Twizzlers are not considered part of a healthy diet. That said, they do contain 26g of carbohydrates in just one piece, at only 110 calories. By comparison, a standard serving of pasta has half the amount of carbohydrates, and double the calories.
The Recovery Shake
I make this shake after any run of 10 miles or more. Not only does it provide a much needed glycogen supplement, but it’s fruit flavor mimics the effects of the antioxidants found in real food, without having to eat any.
- 16 oz bottle of V8 juice
- 1, 5 lb bag of Swedish Fish
- 2 cups ice
Dump all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth.
V8 is high in sodium, something your body needs after 60 – 90+ minutes of running. Swedish fish provide Omega-3 Fatty Acids, as well as vital post-run-protein, a necessary component of healthy recovery.
So, am I running faster after 30 days? In short, yes.
Your Red Foods
What other red foods could you start eating on this April Fools day to help you become a stronger runner?