American Society For Nutrition

Running Natural

Running Natural

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Posted on 07/01/2011 at 02:15:25 PM by Student Blogger
By: Laura S.

As noted in my previous blog entry: I love to run. I also love to talk about running, learn about anything running, and read all books about running. Recently, I picked up the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. This book is about a “hidden tribe of super athletes” also known as the Tarahumara.  The Tarahumara are known as “the running people.” The are a Mexican tribe who run 50 to 100 miles at a time “for fun.”

What I found interesting about this book, besides their inhuman running ability, is their diet. The Tarahumara eat a simple, whole foods diet. A staple in the Tarahumara diet is corn. The corn is then ground into cornmeal to use for the Pinole recipes. The Pinole is eaten on the run or at meals. Pinole is a variety of parched or roasted corn, ground into flour and then mixed with water. Sometimes spices and sugar are added. Pinole can be made into a drink, a thicker paste, or baked into a “cake.”

When going for a long run, the Tarahumara will make a thick drink out of the corn meal by adding water and sometimes other spices, cinnamon, and chia seeds. Per ounce corn meal has 160 calories. One energy gel, which long distance runners use to for quick carbohydrates during long runs, contains 100 calories per oz. If runners were looking for a more natural way to get a quick source of carbohydrates without added sugar, Pinole would be a good choice to try out.

Another staple in the Tarahumara diet is chia seeds. Chia seeds have suddenly become a hot new “super food” in the American diet as well. Chia seeds are packed with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. There are black chia seeds and white chia seeds. White chia seeds are rarely seen in the American grocery store, but contain more protein and fatty-acid content than black chia seeds. Chia seeds, unlike some seeds, can be digested in their whole form by the body. When using chia seeds in smoothies or drinks, allow the seeds to gel for several minutes to offer a more desired texture. An oz of chia seeds contain 140 calories, 9 grams of total fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 5 mg of sodium, 11 gram of fiber, and 5 grams of protein. They may be very calorie dense, but they are also a nutritional powerhouse.

While not all people will run 50 miles “for fun” on any given day, the diet of the Tarahumara is something even normal runners, or non-runners, can incorporate into their daily routine. There are numerous recipes on the Internet, or in stores, that incorporate chia seeds and Pinole. I highly recommended giving one a try. You never know how natural energy will make you feel. You may even be inspired to go for a run!