Running in the 'Meda: Your road diet

Running in the 'Meda: Your road diet

Marty Beene

Photo by Marty Beene.

Summer, also known as Fruit and Berry Season (to me), is probably my favorite time of the year. Yes, I know, you can pretty much get whatever fruits and berries at any time of the year nowadays - they might just be imported from some warmer climate. But right now, there are delicious, ripe and relatively local peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, umpteen kinds of berries, and a half dozen fruits that are various hybrids of some of the above (like pluots - whose idea was that?). Then there are friends and neighbors with fruit trees who generously pass around their bounty, like the bags of plums our friend Dimitri gave us - OMG, those were so delicious!

Fresh vegetables are also looking good, and our own garden is starting to produce some decent quantities of green beans, snap peas, and even a few tomatoes. (But, hey, lettuce, are you going to grow or not?!) Vegetables don't seem as glamorous as fruits, but they, too, are delicious.

The great part of the delicious fruits, berries, and veggies is that they are so good for you. It's almost impossible to eat too much, especially the vegetables. It seems almost universal when some health or fitness god is interviewed or profiled in the media or even in anecdotal stories of healthy longevity, that fruits and vegetables are a big part of the conversation. A recent interview I read with a former standout high school and college track athlete from Sacramento, now in his mid-40s and a standout competitive cyclist, revealed that he eats "mass amounts of vegetables" each day. I asked a guy I used to work with how his grandparents lived to be over 100 (and did so at a very healthy level), and he speculated that when most Americans were focused on meat and potatoes in the early-to-middle 20th century, they also included tons of fruits and vegetables.

Why is your weekly fitness blogger writing about food? Simple: Food is your fuel. Whether you're an Olympic athlete or just someone trying to improve your health, fueling your body with healthy food that includes the macro- and micro-nutrients in the right quantities and proportions enables it to do whatever fitness activities you do at an optimal level. When appropriately fueled, you have more energy, so will feel more motivated to do your workout. The USDA's recommended proportion of carbohydrates in a normal adult's diet is about 55 percent; fats, 30 percent; and protein, about 15 percent. And guess what fruits and vegetables are: carbs!

What I like about many of the articles and educational material I've read about healthy eating is that it's generally easier to increase your consumption of something than it is to reduce your consumption of something. (Right? When you diet, you're always trying to cut back on something, which is hard.) One of the reasons "eating more" can be easier is simply arithmetic. Your stomach is only so big, so if you fill it with less healthy (e.g., processed, overly fatty) foods, you won't have room for the good stuff. Then, your end result is a diet that isn't as healthy as it could be. Instead, for example, eat a meal of healthy food, then consider whether you want dessert and how much you should eat.

The great thing is that you really don't have to cut very much completely out of your diet; you'll just eat less of the "bad" food. Yes, I still eat ice cream and cookies, but always after I've already eaten a healthy meal, so I'm not replacing the healthy food with food of little nutritional value.

What are your favorite summer fruits, berries, and vegetables, and how do you maintain a diet emphasizing healthy foods? What's growing in your garden?

In other news, don't forget to sign up for the Alameda Mayor's July 4th Parade R.A.C.E., which is a 5k race that immediately precedes our annual parade. Information can be found here. Proceeds for this event benefit Alameda's Midway Shelter for abused and homeless women and children.

Marty Beene, a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and specialist in senior fitness and fitness nutrition, is owner of Be The Runner; he trains adults of all abilities individually and in groups. He can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.