After a record-breaking 2015 season, top SF State men’s cross country runner Drew Feldman hopes to reach his goal of crossing the finish line at the NCAA Championships this year by training his body on and off the track. Feldman revealed how his diligent diet plays a prominent role in maintaining peak performance throughout the season.
Feldman is known by coaching staff and teammates for his dietary habits, bringing his own food wherever he goes. Even keeping food in his locker, just in case.
“I don’t want to be caught somewhere where I can’t buy food or eat healthy,” Feldman said. “I don’t want an excuse to eat crappy food.”
Although Feldman has adapted his own version of a runner’s diet, he said the diets in most publications are fads.
“I feel like the media can sometimes make things up,” Feldman said. “In reality a runner at our level can get away with not having a strict diet.”
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology James Bagley admitted there is no one-size-fits-all diet that leads to peak performance of all runners, however there are some common denominators.
“If I were going to say what is a runner’s diet, it’s probably more carbs than most people would eat,” said Bagley.
Bagley said carbohydrates are broken down and used for energy quicker than fat or protein in the body and that carb-loading is a technique connected with endurance runners.
“They eat large portions of carbohydrates the day before a race in order to enhance the storage of energy through glycogen in the muscles and liver,” Bagley said.
Feldman said that this practice is beneficial to runners training for marathons, but not necessarily for cross-country runners who train for 8K and 10K races.
Feldman instead focuses on awareness of his body and eating healthy foods that help him fuel up as well as recover from races, which include carbohydrates as well as foods high in iron like beef and green vegetables to prevent exhaustion from iron deficiency and protein to regenerate after the 70 to 80 miles the team runs every week.
“I keep in mind what I’m eating at all times,” Feldman said.
Men’s Cross Country Head Coach Tom Lyons said it’s not just what his runners eat that proves important, but when they eat.
“One of the real important things is to eat within half an hour after you’re done running,” Lyons said. “You don’t want to go do an hour and a half run and then wait two hours to eat lunch because that is when your body wants to take in the nutrients and replenish right away.”
It is for this reason Lyons strategically schedules his runners’ morning practices to end around lunch.
Timing is an important factor for Feldman as he prepares for Thursday’s race, which overlaps his academic schedule.
“I have a race on Thursday and class right after, so I’m definitely going to make sure I eat something before I go to class,” Feldman said, “I’m not just going to go there on nothing for 3 hours after racing an 8K, that would just be stupid.”
Lyons said that even though a healthy diet does help, two of the most important aspects of optimal performance he tries to instill in his runners is staying hydrated and maintaining a regular sleep pattern.
Although the hydration factor is a given for exercise, or life in general, the latter can prove difficult even to the non-athlete college student juggling school work and a social life.
“There’s different times of the year they struggle,” Lyons said, referring to midterms and finals. “But we adapt.”
Feldman agreed that being a college athlete amongst friends living the college lifestyle presents its obstacles.
“A lot of times friends will be like ‘let’s go to In-N-Out’ and I know In-N-Out’s great, and it’s cheap, but is it healthy?” said Feldman. “Whether I’m preparing for a meet, or in season, or even just trying to be healthy, it’s a decision you make.”
Feldman said that although his eating habits may not always be in line with his friends, he stays true to what he knows is healthy for him and his lifestyle.
“Honestly, people can give me shit and I’ll be like, that’s cool, you’re not running the way I am,” said Feldman, “The only person doing my thing is me.”