We asked Caitlin Chock, a consistent writer for RunBlogRun, to reach out to Matt Fitzgerald and speaking to him about his newest book, The Endurance Diet. We think this book is a perfect read for not only adult athletes, but for all high school cross country and track coaches as well!
Matt Fitzgerald and His Latest Book: The Endurance Diet
By: Cait Chock
Matt Fitzgerald has established himself as the go-to man when it comes to all things sports nutrition for endurance athletes. From Olympic medalists and professionals to mortal runners, he’s able to write in such a way that no matter how seriously running fits into your life, the advice delivered will improve your performance. What’s even more refreshing is that his writing, on subjects not always known to be ‘super exciting’, is, in fact, very entertaining to read!
For his latest latest book, The Endurance Diet, Fitzgerald traveled the globe eating with some of the world’s best endurance athletes and learned a few things that even surprised this multiple book author.
I had the treat of chatting with Fitzgerald about his latest release, The Endurance Diet, what message he wants to deliver to athletes, and even the exciting projects he’s already working towards…the man never stops!
1) Congrats on your latest book, The Endurance Diet! I think at this point you should just get a whole shelf at Barns and Nobles. But in seriousness, you’re the go-to expert in sports nutrition these days; where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I wrote The Endurance Diet because I grew tired of seeing athletes get seduced into trying fad or extreme diets that seldom produce results and that, even insofar as they do yield results, are unsustainable for most people. I’d also become fed up with the reductionistic stories of “biological plausibility” that are used to peddle such diets to athletes who lack the background to distinguish science from pseudoscience.
Through my experience, I’ve developed a conviction that the most reliable way for recreational endurance athletes to fulfill their potential is to copy what the world’s greatest endurance athletes do (with proper scaling, of course). With very few exceptions, elite endurance athletes don’t follow fad or extreme diets. Instead, they adhere to what I describe as high-quality versions of culturally normal diets that are balanced, inclusive, and easy to sustain because they are essentially normal, but with high standards.
As a sports nutritionist, my practice consists largely in taking athletes who come to me with problems that are caused by not eating like the pros in one way or another and getting them to eat like the pros. The results are always positive. So, in writing The Endurance Diet, I sought to do for all endurance athletes what I’ve been doing for individual athletes for some time.
2) Was there anything that even you learned through researching and writing this book? Anything that surprised even you?
I learned a lot in researching and writing The Endurance Diet. One of my most striking observations was just how comfortable the pros are with their way of eating. These folks don’t spend a lot of time worrying and stressing out about food the way so many recreational athletes do. This observation heightened my appreciation for the importance of the psychological dimension of diet. In my view, a healthy diet has two components: healthy food and a healthy relationship with food. I’ve never encountered an athlete who had an unhealthy relationship with food and yet was able to sustain a healthy way of eating. The Endurance Diet that the elites practice is based on a healthy food combinations and fosters a healthy relationship with food.
3) Can you tell us a little about the process of writing this book; from what you did for some of the researching, interviews, and then what message you really wanted to profess?
As an avid reader, and as someone who considers himself a writer first and an expert second (if an expert at all), my goal in writing any book is to deliver a compelling reading experience along with valuable information. For this reason, I chose to include a “food travel” element in The Endurance Diet (think Matt Fitzgerald meets Anthony Bourdain) Instead of merely telling readers how elite endurance athletes eat, I wanted to show them.
So, I travelled all over the world and sat down and ate with a great variety of world-class racers: Canadian cross-country skiers, Brazilian triathletes, Dutch cyclists, Kenyan runners, and Japanese runners. I like to think that my descriptions of these experiences not only make for interesting reading, but are also a powerful way of demonstrating that elite endurance athletes in all disciplines and in all parts of the world really do share a set of core eating habits.
To supplement my travels, I created a questionnaire and emailed it to elite endurance athletes all over the world. Through this process I was able to gather information from athletes representing 33 countries and 11 sport disciplines.
4) Tell us a little about your own training and competing these days. A little social media stalking will prove you’ve accomplished some pretty huge (and LONG distance) accomplishments and person ‘firsts’ and ‘bests’. I think you make me feel lazy on the daily…haha.
2016 was a good year for me running-wise. I’ve struggled a lot with injuries in the past, but I’ve figured out some things and have been able to stay fairly healthy lately. Last year I took advantage of this by running my first two ultramarathons (a 50-miler and a 50K) plus four marathons and a solo marathon time-trial.
5) Writing and coaching wise you are everywhere, so please let all of us know what you are doing. And I will venture to guess already planning your next book perhaps?
This past year I hooked up with James Lawrence, a.k.a. the Iron Cowboy, who completed 50 solo iron-distance triathlons in 50 states in 50 days back in 2015, to launch an online training community for endurance athletes, called Team Iron Cowboy. I’ve also partnered with a Texas-based company that makes a really cool product called BSXInsight, a wearable that allows athletes to perform accurate, noninvasive lactate threshold tests on their own treadmill or bike. The word “game-changer” is overused but–what can I say?–it’s a game-changer!
6) Entering 2017 what are some of your goals? Personally, professionally, athletically?
I’ve got some exciting plans for 2017. One of them is Top Secret for the moment, but I can reveal that in the spring I will spend eight weeks travelling across the country and running a marathon in a different place every weekend. It’s research of a sort for a future book called Life Is a Marathon, which will explore the marathon mystique and why marathon running fulfills deep, psychological and even spiritual needs for some people, including me.
7) Finally, what does The Endurance Diet have to offer athletes that is different from any of your other books or books out there, be it in message or delivery? And in one sentence, what is one message from the book that athletes need to start taking advantage of TODAY to improve their nutrition game…and in turn performance game?
The underlying premise of The Endurance Diet is that the world’s greatest endurance athletes actually know what they’re doing–something that, weirdly, they are not always given credit for. The training practices that are used universally by world-class endurance athletes today are the products of a generations-long process of natural selection in which inferior methods went extinct and optimal methods were discovered and retained. These same methods are proven to yield the best results for recreational athletes as well.
The same is true of diet. Decades and decades of high-stakes competition have produced a set of core eating habits that are practiced almost universally by today’s champions because they work better than any alternatives. So, in a nutshell, the message of my book is this: If you want to get the best results from your training, stop falling for fad or extreme diets that are based not on real scientific proof but on jargon-filled scientific-seeming stories about why they ought to work and instead simply emulate the dietary best practices of the best performers.
Thank you, Matt Fitzgerald for your time, it’s always a sincere pleasure! Be sure to check Matt out on his website www.mattfitzgerald.org, follow him on Twitter @mattfitwriter, and you can pick up The Endurance Diet today in stores and ONLINE.
Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004 and previously ran for Nike. A freelance writer, artist, and comedian, you can see more of her work on her website, Instagram @caitchock, and Twitter @caitlinchock.