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Avoid training gimmicks

Charlie Lincoln

Runners, triathletes and athletes in general are constantly trying to find an edge to increase their speed, their endurance, and their overall fitness. Unfortunately, there are too many people who try to promote gimmicks, gadgets, fads and diets to take advantage of these athletes for personal profit. Whether it be infomercials or multi-level marketing schemes, I recommend that you save your money, get off the couch and start walking, running, cycling, or any form of aerobic exercise.

For the past two years, Barry Sears, Ph.D., has been touting a dietary program for athletes that focuses on a 40:30:30 ratio of carbohydrates: protein and fat.

In fact, Dr. Sears has sold more than one million copies of his book, “Enter The Zone,” and he is now promoting his new book titled, “Master The Zone.” He is also responsible for the tremendous sales volume of several energy bars, including PR Bar, Ironman PR Bar and BioZone Bar. Please note that Barry Sears is not a medical doctor, his research has never been published and he relies upon anecdotal accounts and athlete testimonials to justify his claims. His theory recommends a diet in which 30 percent of your daily calories should come from protein, 30 percent from fat and 40 percent from carbohydrates. He also recommends that your carbohydrate intake should come from fruits and vegetables and not from breads or pasta and that dairy should be all but eliminated from your diet. This compares to a more traditional athlete diet of 10 percent to 15 percent protein, 20 percent to 30 percent fat and 60 percent to 65 percent carbohydrates.

The result of the Zone Diet will be optimal athletic performance and good health, according to Dr. Sears. This claim is based on his theory that a diet of this type will produce “good eicosanoids,” compounds that respond positively to infection, trauma, allergy and exposure to toxic substances. He also claims that “bad eicosanoids” are the ultimate cause of heart disease, cancer and other diseases of the immune system.

What this diet really does is lower your overall caloric intake to just 1,300 calories a day for women and 1,700 calories a day for men. If I limited my caloric intake to 1,700 calories and continued to train every day, I would lose weight, too. It wouldn’t matter if I was getting my calories from the Zone Diet or from Twinkies, I would still lose weight and any related fat. Dr. Sears also claims that 75 percent of all Americans have a genetic defect that makes them get fat when they eat carbohydrates. Most marathon runners and ultrarunners get more than 80 percent of their calories from carbohydrates and I have yet to see a fat marathon runner. This claim is completely unfounded according to Chris Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and an associate professor at Georgia State University.

In an article in the International Journal for Sports Nutrition, Ellen Coleman, R.D., M.A., M.P.H., of the Sports Clinic in Riverside, Calif., states that there is no research to support the contention that eicosanoids control everything from athletic performance to disease. “… there are no simple cures for ailments and no easy paths to perfection. A dietary panacea does not exist.” The Zone Diet may actually have a negative effect on athletic performance because it contains too little carbohydrate and too few calories.

Remember the hype of the Scarsdale Diet, the Atkins Diet, the Grapefruit Diet and stay away from the Zone. It is based on unfounded claims and supported by testimonials and not documented research. Stick with your exercise program, eat moderately and you will lose weight, you will lose fat and you will become stronger, more fit and have greater endurance. Every once in a while, something new comes along that does work, but its claims are based on hard research and not on Joe Montana’s testimonial or any other paid athlete.

If you have questions about training, nutrition, shoes or anything else to do with running, stop by World’s Toughest Endurance Sports or call me at 542-6296. For those runners on-line, my e-mail address is Wtough@oakweb.com

Run long and keep smiling!


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