Take this post with a grain of salt. I followed Whole30 with probably about 90 percent strictness and suffered a running injury partway through.
That said, I did experience some stellar stuff in the past 30 days so I decided to write about it anyway. I also did some documenting on Instagram if you want to check out some of my meals. My username is megsterb22 and I used hashtag #megswhole30.
I must have Googled Whole30 and running like 10 times before starting mine because I really wanted to hear from other runners how this program affects running performance for better or worse.
Here’s the bottom line, based on my experience: you can adequately fuel runs on the Whole30, just be vigilant about eating your potatoes/bananas/raisins/Larabars/whathaveyou before and after your workouts. The rest of the time, eat low-ish carb with proteins/fats/veggies. You might feel better, run better, rest better, lose weight and experience benefits you never even considered were possible (like breathing better?? what’s that about?). All of this happened to me.
I did get faster. For example, running 5 miles @ 8 min/mile isn’t typical for me, but this was one of my running-by-feel workouts during Whole30.
Other observations on Whole30: I had less anxiety, virtually no blood sugar dips/hunger spikes, more energy, better mental focus and improved sleep.
So what the heck is this half-past-trendy Whole30 diet, anyway? You can read in depth here but I’ll also give you a quick snapshot:
According to Whole30 creators/enthusiasts, if you cheat in even one itsy bitsy bit then you must totally restart the 30 days. Yeah, that’s not happening for me…I’m wholeheartedly with this chic’s rationale on the topic: I made an effort to be pretty strict but didn’t sweat it if I wasn’t perfect, because I live in the real world and don’t like to get too obsessive about food. Those are some dark rabbit holes I’d prefer not to tumble through. So I had fried calamari and wine on my anniversary, I enjoyed beer after a local brewery run for St. Patty’s Day, and I didn’t freak out if ranch dressing ended up on my salad in a restaurant.
But for 30 days I stuck mostly to local grass-fed beef, chicken, fish, eggs, salads with powerful greens like spinach, kale, chard and with homemade olive oil based dressing, grilled veggies galore, fresh fruit, nuts, potatoes (mostly sweet but sometimes white), and olive oil on almost everything.
OH, and only water, coffee and unsweetened tea to drink. This was by far the hardest part for me. I love my red wine and diet Dr. Pepper. That’s what can be interesting about doing the Whole30: you discover which foods and drinks you’re drawn to purely out of habit and emotion.
Here are some journal-style snippets of my Whole30 experience:
Pros: Sleeping like a rock, breathing better (?), and feeling great physically. Never feeing super hungry. Belly is most definitely less bloated/flatter looking. I really should have weighed myself on day 1 but didn’t, though I know I normally hover around 125. Today scale said 120.5. Surely this is water weight.
Cons: Already getting bored with food choices, probably because it’s the weekend and these are normally my splurge days (pizza, tacos, chips and queso, BEER). Bad sign to be bored this far in! Really missing DIET DR. PEPPER. Headed out for an 8-miler soon and kind of paranoid about not being fueled with enough carbs. Included a baked potato with dinner last night and forced myself to down the whole thing, then eating a banana and a Larabar before heading out. Overkill?
Morning group run of 5 miles went well. Eating potatoes the night before and banana right beforehand seemed to help energy levels.
Ran a 5K hosted by the local brewery and did better than I expected, 23:44, 20 seconds slower than my PR on a FLAT course and this one was hilly. Also scored a 2nd place award in my age group out of 60 ladies, woo-hoo! Today Brian and I are celebrating our 7th anniversary and so I planned this day as a cheat day, which really isn’t allowed on Whole 30, but we’re all adults here so I say do whatever you want and be happy. Had two and a half post-race beers, then a brunch of eggs and fruit, then dinner later on which included wine, fried calamari, lobster and crawfish etouffee over rice, and a shared dessert of lime cheesecake. The food was spectacular, so #sorrynotsorry. Had more wine when we got home, because why not?
I. Feel. Awful. Just awful. I slept terribly, I feel bloated, congested, sloggy (not a real word, but somehow completely describes how my body feels). Feeling that semi-hungover I want to eat all the things blood sugar dip. Had two eggs and some leftover oven baked potato fries and feel much better. Ready to get back on my Whole30 with no more cheat days in sight.
Had inexplicable urge to obsessively clean/organize the entire house. This is probably less Whole30 related and more the inevitable transformation of me into my mother. Energy levels are awesome.
Headed out for a morning group run of 5 miles and panicked when I realized I hadn’t eaten any carbs beforehand. Energy levels were great and it wasn’t a problem.
Noticing visible changes in my body and am down about 6 pounds now. My knee started nagging me so I’ve been resting it for almost a week, it’s super depressing.
Haven’t been running due to injuries and am missing it so badly. Having cardio cravings rather than food cravings! I’m down to 117 pounds, a loss of 8-ish total. Keeping an eye on this as I don’t want to go much lower on the scale, I just want to work on toning up. The end is near but I strangely have no desire to binge on french fries and pizza like I thought I would.
I could definitely feel the difference in my body at the end, but wasn’t sure if you could see it. I compared photos from day 1 versus day 30:
Please pardon the ridiculously short shorts, but if you want to document body changes you’ve got to suck it up and show some skin.
Changes aren’t super dramatic but definitely noticeable for me, mainly in the core area. I see much less love handle spillage on the sides of those shorty shorts there on day 30.
Yes, I pointed out my love handles to the internet, just for you, readers, in the name of science experiments and keepin-it-real-ness.
POST WHOLE30 PLANS
Now that I’m finished, I plan to just…keep doing what I’m doing, at an 80 or 90 percent strictness. I just feel so much better and am not really feeling all that deprived over lack of bread, diet soda and tortilla chips. I do miss wine and craft beer, but I now realize how *awful* it has been making me feel. I will definitely be drinking less alcohol and maybe sticking to just liquor with a club soda mixer.
Hopefully after some physical therapy and active rest (yoga, cycling) I’ll be back at it and can give a lengthier, more in-depth update on how running is affected by Whole30 eating.
Whether you decide to Whole30 or not, please do me this favor: if you have a nagging pain DON’T KEEP RUNNING ON IT. Listen to your body and honor its needs. Feed it love and wholesomeness and remember that each run (and meal) is a blessing.