Sunday, March 3, 2013

Food As Fuel: Why Triathletes and Marathon Runners Eat So Wierd

This  post is Part III of my research paper on the eating habits of 141 triathletes and marathoners I surveyed in the Fall 2008 during my first year of graduate school in anthropology. At that time I was still new to the various theoretical perspectives in anthropology and was figuring out myself how best to explain why people do what they do. In this post I will explore some of the reasons why triathletes and competitive marathon runners have their peculier diets and eating rituals according to two various anthropological perspectives.

Diet and food are the reflections of one's culture and status or class

The first theoretical model I used to explain the diet and eating practices of triathletes and competitive marathon runners is a post-modern one which explains the motivations of behavior and values as a product the dominant mores in a culture and one's class. I used the anthropological concept of one’s un-selfconscious habits and routine practices known as habitus. One's habitus consists of the variety of practices and routine habits of day-to-day living that are based on one's culture and one's class status in society. This concept was developed by French post-modern anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu. He believed that one's perspectives and habitual practices of day-to-day living were actually the products of the cultural rules and values of one's society and one's socio-economic status in that society.  Either a person abides by the dominating ideals and practices (e.g. the hegemonic values) of his or her society or resists them. In the early days of triathlon it was a counter-culture sport that resisted the some of dominant values of American culture that idealized corporate life and making a lot of money as the dominant goals for an adult. This pre-Babyboomer culture relegated competitive sports to professional athletes, the military and young people who had the time and resource to train. Participation was regulated to members of a school or club team in order to compete in races. 

The habitas of triathletes and marathon runners: Socio-economic class and dominant class values

The sport of triathlon matured from a bunch of crazy races done by a bunch of counter-cultural teachers, ex-Navy SEALS and lifeguards into a highly conventionalized sport that reflects the dominant values of fitness and individual achievement in American culture. It also has become commoditized enough to have financial barriers to entry for their participants (Giulianotti 2005). A typical triathlon race entry fee has escalated from $30-$50 to $100 and more per person. The Ironman triathlon entry fee was $300 in 2008 and is much more now (World Triathlon Corporation 2008). The sport is no longer accessible to people of average means. According to Triathlete Magazine, the average subscriber spent $24,408 each year on triathlon-related purchases in 2008 (Triathlete 2008). Triathletes and marathon runners routinely eat high-carb and nutritious home made meals and specially formulated high-carbohydrate meal supplements. 

The socio-economic class indicators of the triathletes I surveyed are congruent with their dietary practices  and the amount of leisure time required to be a competative triathlete.

  • 71% are professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, environmental engineers, computer engineers, teachers, college professors, scientists, etc.
  • 50% have an annual household income of $80,000 or more
  • 53% have earned a bachelors degree
  • 33% have post-graduate training, certification, a masters or a doctorate degree
  • 42% have the leisure time to train 10 hours or more a week

The socio-economic class indicators of surveyed marathon and ultra runners also correlated with their upper middle class diets and time to train.

  • 81% are professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, environmental engineers, computer engineers, teachers, college professors, scientists, etc.
  • 56% have an annual household income of $80,000 or more
  • 87.5% have earned a bachelors degree
  • 49% have post-graduate training, certification, a masters or a doctorate degree
·      50% have the leisure time to train 10 hours or more a week

 Triathletes’ and marathon runners’ food choices of “what to eat” reflect the resources and ideals underpinning the dominant culture dictated by professional socio-economic class (Bourdieu 1984). According to sport anthropologist and marathon runner Charles Prebish, like religion, a sport is both reflective of the dominant culture and supports the maintenance of the social status quo over time as it becomes commoditized and institutionalized (Prebish 1993). Individual achievement, self-discipline, sacrifice and unremitting work using ones “God-given ability as a way of glorifying God” is a core Protestant value that has dominated American culture since this country began (Prebish 1993:100). Mastering fatigue and hunger, many triathletes and marathon or ultra runners wake up “dark-thirty” (a term meaning “before dawn” according to one of my Ironman triathlete informants) each morning in order to get in an early morning run, bike ride or Master’s swim workout before they go to work. Again denying their hunger pangs they may skip the 12 o’clock lunch break with their co-workers in order catch a noon workout and then snack alone at their desks later.


It's no surprise that the rise of individual sports, fitness gyms and adult competitive athletes occurred with the rise of the "me" generation of Babyboomers. This generation valued individualism in their thinking and lifestyle choices and rejected some of the traditional and conformitive values of their Word War II generation parents. Beginning with the running boom there was a growth of street races that were open to anyone who could pay the entrance free.  In the early years of  triathlon, it was an individual sport where competitors competed against each other rather. The strain of individualism and counter-culture of the 1970s combined with the health and fitness movements to create these sports that were both the products of the new fitness and health culture and individualist and feminist counter-culture movements of the time. 
 Science is upheld as the ultimate authority in their food choices according to 92% of the surveyed triathletes who answered “yes” to the question if their athletic performance would improve with “scientifically advanced equipment, training aids or nutrition products.”  Slightly less  marathon runners,  83% , said “yes” to that question (Appendix B:15). None of the triathletes surveyed chose “low cost” as the most important factor in their food choices (Appendix A:14) and only 1% of the surveyed marathon and ultra runners did so (Appendix B:14).
 The surveyed athletes responses are congruent with the dominant American cultural and the sports nutritionist view of the importance of basing one’s diet on nutritional guidelines that are based on scientific research in maintaining a healthy lifestyle (Hab 2008; USDA 2008; Maughan 2002, Ryan 2007). In my secondary research, articles and papers written by athletes, coaches, sports editors, exercise physiologists and sports nutrition experts seem to conceptualize the human body scientifically as a “bio-machine” and perceive food as a fuel for the body machine (Applegate 2006, Burke 2007, Fitzgerald 2006, Maughan 2002, Ryan 2007).
The rules and strict codes of behavior, dress and ritual for a sport often reinforce class divisions and may create financial barriers to participation (Bourdieu 1984:212).  Bourdieu mentions the high membership fees, strict dress codes and rules enforced at private tennis clubs that effectively keep out the masses and reserve participation in these sports at these exclusive venues for the elite few. Bourdieu avows that tennis played in a municipal club with non-traditional attire of swim-trunks and running shoes, for example, is “indeed another tennis, both in the way it’s played and in the satisfaction it gives” (Bourdieu 1984:212).
Racing in a long-distance triathlon or ultra race without consuming scientifically formulated and packaged-for-convenience carbohydrate supplements is a different kind of race. In the early counter-culture days of triathlon before packaged endurance food supplements, Ironman triathletes such as Dave Scott relied on a support crew who carried his rack of 10 bananas while he raced (Scott 2008). The modern Ironman triathletes now must carry their own energy supplements and depend on their special needs bags to carry them for hours of bike racing. Consuming raw fruit such as bananas instead of the triathlete-marketed packaged food supplements of energy gels and carbohydrate replacement drinks, pegs one as an amateur according to several of my interviews with my triathletes. These items are more than status markers however. Not using them puts one at a material disadvantage when racing long distances.
Though one’s cultural habitus is unconscious, it presupposes beliefs influenced by one's culture and daily practice. In the translated words of Bourdieu, “The habitus is necessity internalized and converted into a disposition that generates meaningful practices and meaning-giving perceptions” (Bourdieu 1984:170).   

The meaning of foods and food rituals

The other theoretical models I used were the interpretive one's of the British Structuralists Victor Turner and Mary Douglas. They both believed that there were universal cognitive structures in every culture that structured behaviors and practices as either good or bad. Turner believed that social rituals affirmed one's identity and membership in their group and reproduced their group's rules in successive generations. These universal structures are known as binary structures and were pioneered by French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. I asked my triathletes and marathon runners how they felt about their diet (which foods were good ones and which foods were bad ones and why). I also asked them about their eating practices while training for a race, during a race and immediately after they finished a race. From these questions I learned about their common food beliefs, dietary rules and rituals which involved food.   What I found out was really interesting. Most of them had strict food rules and food rituals which they followed  during their training and racing regimes. But, they also broke these rules ritually in certain contexts. 

Structure of a meal: from A+ 2B to CHO + xMm

According to sports nutritionists and my surveyed triathletes and marathon runners, a good meal for an endurance athlete can be in either a solid or beverage form but it must include a lot of carbohydrates (Applegate 2008; Fitzpatrick 2006, Ryan 2007). The traditional meal structure of the British which has influenced much of the food of dominant Anglo-American culture consists of a meat that is accompanied by a starch and a vegetable according to British anthropologist Mary Douglas (Douglas 1975). According to her research, the proper British meal includes an entrée of meat (A) that is accompanied by two side dishes (2B) or "A + 2B". The two side dishes include a starch and a vegetable. This entrée can be in the form of the proverbial "meat and potatoes" (with a side salad or cole slaw) or a hamburger with a meat patty sandwiched between bread and one or two vegetables (with ketchup being a vegetable in this context). The primary linchpin of the British meal though is meat.
 Triathletes and marathon runners seem to have their own “proper meal” structure in the formula "CHO + xMm". The linchpin for their meals is, instead of meat, is an easily digestible carbohydrate such as pasta, potatoes, rice or bagels and bananas.  The letters “CHO” is the sports nutrition and chemistry term for carbohydrates (Maughan 2002). In ”xMm”, the "x" signifies a multiple or quantity of "M" (Macronutrients) and "m" (Micronutrients). Macronutrients  or "M", in this reference, are proteins, fats, and sugars in a diet that is optimized for athletic performances. The  micronutrients or "m" are the necessary vitamins, electrolytes and minerals  in a nutritious diet for an endurance athlete (USDA 2012).
What they eat: Semiotics of good and bad foods

The surveyed and interviewed athletes generally categorized foods as either “good foods” or “bad foods” most consistently by their digestibility (important for consuming foods while training and racing), their functional ability to increase the athlete’s endurance, and their perceived healthfulness (Appendix A: 27, 28; Appendix B: 27, 28). When asked to name “good foods” and “bad foods” triathletes and marathon runners athletes alike categorized foods by the foods’ perceived health, athletic and performance functions. Good foods were described as “healthy”, “nutritious”, “high carbohydrate”, “anti-oxidant”, “fresh”, “whole grain”, “organic”, “non-processed”, “vegetarian” and “raw” (Appendix A: 28; Appendix B: 28). Some of the descriptions they used for good foods seemed to be symbolic of the ideals of these sport cultures such as “lean”, “in moderation”, “light”, “low fat” and “whole” (Appendix A: 28; Appendix B: 28). Believing that they are what they eat, triathletes and marathon runners seem to prefer eating “light”, “low fat” and “whole” foods and thereby would imbue their bodies with those qualities and thus they, in turn, would seem to embody their sport cultures (Appendix A: 28; Appendix B: 28).
Bad foods were described as the very qualities triathletes and marathon runners try to avoid with their athletic performance. Symbolic of these bad qualities are their “bad” food descriptors such as “fake”, “processed”, “high fat”, “fried” (“fried” is also a slang term for “tired”—a state these athletes avoid when training and racing), “preserved,” “fat” (race times are slower generally the heavier one is), “heavy,” “artificial” and “junk” (term for over-training without a specific performance goal is called “doing junk miles” in the lingo of both of these sport cultures).
The categories of foods are based on their functional attributes. These functions are perceived to be based on scientific research on exercise physiology and sports nutrition as well as the health and fitness trend in American culture-- rather than on religious beliefs or traditions.
Good foods–
Moderate amounts of high carbohydrate and micronutrient rich foods were uniformly cited as generally “good foods”, a category which matched the prevailing sports nutrition discourse (Ryan 2007; Maughan 2002 ;USDA 2008). What I didn’t see that surprised me were foods being categorized “good” because they were “organic” or “natural.” Perhaps the mainstream acceptance of those labels have made them no longer differentiating or meaningful or perhaps these are just not as important to these athletes as the foods functional qualities in regards to one’s athletic performance. Though a few respondents did say that they preferred vegan or vegetarian foods.  Also, many foods that were good were noted as “lean” which reflects the dominant fitness trend and embodied culture of runners as lean and athletic (Bourdieau 1984: 214). Representative examples of “good foods” for triathletes are in Appendix A: 28 and for runners are in Appendix B.

 Bad foods–
The bad foods cited by marathon runners and triathletes generally mirrored the same foods categorized as “bad” in the American media lately. Foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, MSG, too much salt, and trans fats are “bad”. These athletes usually consider fried foods and “drug foods” such as coffee, alcohol and refined sugar are as “bad”. Also, considered “bad” are red meat, processed foods, fast foods. Representative “bad foods” by surveyed triathletes are in Appendix A: 27. Representative “bad foods” according to surveyed marathon and ultra runners are in Appendix B: 27. The responses for both of these sport cultures are nearly identical.

Food Rituals: Pre-race meals and post-race rites of reversal


Sharing a meal with others is symbolic of social ties and is often practiced ritualistically before an important race. Triathletes and marathon runners who train and travel together to a race often have a  “Pre-Race Pasta” party or partake in “Carbo Loading” dinner. The commensality of these meals enforces the social bonds within the group of athletes and friends as they experience a spirit of communitas, or a feeling of egalitarianism and connection with each before a race (Giulanotti 2005:6).

Something interesting happens to the earlier mentioned food categories of “good foods” and “bad foods” when many triathletes and marathoners attend post-race awards dinners and celebrations. In these celebratory group meals many athletes who have abided for often months by strict dietary rules go on what is called "post-race binges". During a post-race binge, the categories of foods get reversed. What is normally a  “bad food” like a hamburger and fries or alcoholic beverages, are now temporarily re-categorized as a “reward” or a “treat” and consumed with gusto and in large quanitities (Appendix A: 26; Appendix B: 26). Once these athletes cross the finish line many of them seem to ignore their food prohibitions and, quite frankly, go temporarily food crazy and eat things like donuts and steaks and junk food with abandon. Post-race celebrations seem to function as a rite of reversal as a socially acceptable way to blow off steam  (Turner 1964). Many of these normally "early to bed and early to rise" athletes stay up late, party and sleep in the next morning. Some representative responses of what triathletes I surveyed said they ate after they raced  in their post-race binges are in Appendix A. The marathon and ultra runners I surveyed had similar food category reversals are are mentioned Appendix B.  
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Individualism, asceticism and the right to happiness

The sports of triathlon and marathon running both reflect the dominant individualistic culture in the United States where pursuing happiness is a right. (Csikszentmihalyi 1990) According to my triathlete and runner informants’ responses, the reason why they live this way is for self-improvement (Appendix A: 3; Appendix B: 3)--with the exception of only 2 of the 133 the survey respondents. 
The sports of triathlon and marathon running also profoundly reflect the Protestant value system that has dominated American culture since America’s beginning. According to anthropologist and marathon runner Charles Prebish, the value orientations underlying individual competitive sports such as triathlon and marathon running are “more or less secularized versions of the core values of Protestantism” (Prebish 1993:97). The assumptions held by the Calvinist doctrine of Protestantism, as interpreted by sociologist Max Weber in his influential book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, is cited by Prebish to be nearly identical to the values held by marathon runners (Prebish 1993:98). A marathon runner’s disciplined diet and daily training regime, his “hard work”, is believed to be a necessary part of his success.  To the Calvinists: “Work per se was exalted; indeed, it was sacred. The clearest manifestation of being chosen by God was success in one’s work.” (Prebish 1993:98)  This individual drive for success (“Winning is everything”), self-discipline (“No pain, no gain”) and hard work (“God helps those who help themselves.”) are some of the most valued qualities in an athlete. They are also the original tenants of Protestantism (Prebish 1993:99). According to Prebish this congruency between the Protestant religion and individual competitive sports in the United States in not an accident. Like religion, a sport is both reflective of the dominant culture and supports the maintenance of the social status quo over time as it becomes commercialized and institutionalized (Prebish 1993:101).

Conclusion

The deliberative and structured food ways of triathletes and marathon runners are a significant element of cultural behavior. The food ways are a product of the athletes training schedules and physical demands, true, but are they are also products of the athletes’ belief in the supremacy of science and their position in the economic system. “All strictly health-orientated practices such as walking and jogging” are in the “ascetic dispositions of upwardly mobile individuals who are prepared to find satisfaction in effort itself and to take the deferred gratifications of their present sacrifice at face value” (Bourdieu 1984:214).
From reviewing the material culture of the typical triathlete’s or marathon runner’s diet, it became clear to me that food was considered more as a “fuel” for the “body machine.” Also, science in the form of sports nutrition articles and scientific sounding food packaging claims, seems to be the authority dictating much of the foodways of triahletes and marathon runners (Leslie 2001) and eating certain foods before races where one of several “pre-race rituals” practiced by most triathletes and marathoners. Meals and snacks are considered more as a means to an end (Appendix A: 22; Appendix B: 22) with the end being health and an optimal race performance. The exception to this is the post-race celebratory meals that clearly seem to function as a rite of reversal--a socially and culturally acceptable means for these athletes to relax their food rules and eat for taste, pleasure and commensality rather than for their individual health and athletic performance goals. 
The food ways of triathletes and marathon runners are chosen for their functional attributes in helping them pursue their individual goals of self-improvement. The meaning of their food choices, influenced by sports nutrition and food marketing, are at the same time, symbolically maintaining their self-identity as being members of  their class status and their these sport sub-cultures. Their daily practice as triathletes and marathon runners with their sports nutrition diet and structured training workouts and pre- and post-race food rituals, produce and re-produce these sport cultures. 
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Appendix A: Foodways Survey for Triathletes (n=29)

1. How many triathlons have you done (of any distance)? (29 answered)

3.4% (1)             None yet (zero)
6.9% (2)            1
6.9% (1)             2-4
27.6% (8)            5-10
13.8% (4)            11-25
20.7%            (6)            25-50
17.2% (5)            50-100
0.0% (0)            100-200
3.4% (1)             200+

2. How many Full Ironman distance triathlons or longer races have you finished?
   (29 answered)
62.1% (18)            None
20.7% (6)            1-2
10.3% (3)             3-5
0.0% (0)            6-9
6.9% (2)            10+

3. I train and race triathlons primarily for (choose best answer) (29 answered)
93.1% (27)            self-improvement
6.9% (2)             to help others (wish to support my team, work, country, family, charity or group)

4. Many of my current friends are triathletes. (29 answered)

58% (17)            True
41.4% (12)             False

5. Age (29 answered)

0.0% (0)            Under 20
10.3% (3)            20-29
27.6% (8)            30-39
31.0% (9)             40-49
24.1% (7)            50-59
6.9% (2)             60-69
0.0% (0)             70-79
0.0% (0)            80+

6. Gender (29 answered)

31.0% (9)            Male
69.0% (20)            Female

7. An athletic, lean and tanned body is essential for achieving my goals and mirrors my values. (29 answered)

37.9% (11)             True
62.1% (18)             False

8. What do you do for a living? (25 answered)

0.0% (0)            Student
4.0% (1)            Retired
12.0% (3)            Caregiver or homemaker
(of your own children or elderly parents)
84.0% (21)            Work or profession (fill in below):

About 57% of the respondents who work are employed as professionals such as accountants, medical doctors, engineers, and teachers.

9.Annual Household Income (28 answered)

3.6% (1)             0-$40,000
42.9% (12)             $40,000-$80,000
35.7% (10)             $80,000-$120,000
3.6% (1)             $120,000-$160,000
3.6% (1)             $160,000-$200,000
3.6% (1)             $200,000-$240,000
7.1% (2)             $240,000 +

54% of the triathletes had over $80,000 in household income
18% of the triathletes had over $120,000 in household income.

10. Highest level of education (28 answered)

0.0% (0)            High School
14.3% (4)             AA or some college
53.6% (15)            Bachelor’s degree
14.3% (4)            Some graduate study or certification
17.9% (5)             Master’s degree
0.0% (0)            Doctorial in law degree
0.0% (0)            Medical doctor, Ph. D, other doctorate degree

11. Do you train and race on your own or with friends? (28 answered)

35.7% (10)            Alone (I train and race mostly on my own)
64.3% (18)            Communal (I train and race with friends or family)

12. On a good training day, about how many times do you work out physically? (28 answered)

17.9% (5)            1 time or activity
71.4% (20)            2 times or activities
3.6% (1)            3 times or activities
7.1% (2)             4 or more times or activities

13. How many hours per week do you normally physically workout (during race season or when actively training)? (20 answered)

Average: 14.2 hours
Men’s average (5): 14.8 hours
Women’s average (15): 13.5 hours

14. I can improve my race times and/or my performance with scientifically advanced equipment, training research, training aides, private coaching or nutrition products. (28 answered)

92.9% (26)            True
7.1% (2)             False

15. Why do you eat what you eat? For example, what is the most important factor in   choosing your food? (27 answered)

70.4% (19)            Nutrition, health and/or athletic performance benefit
11.1% (3)             Convenience, ease of preparation or availability
0.0% (0)            Low calorie
0.0% (0)            Low cost
0.0% (0)            Habit or tradition
18.5% (5)            Fine ingredients and preparation, excellent quality and taste
0.0% (0)            Sustainability, organic, and/or animals rights factors

16. Where did did you get most of your current knowledge and beliefs about nutrition? (Check all answers that apply.) (27 answered)

14.8% (4)             My parents or other family members
0.0% (0)            My religious, spiritual or moral beliefs
0.0% (0)            Environmental, sustainability and animal rights information
44.4% (12)            Written sports nutrition and scientific research information
11.1% (3)             Trial and error
22.2% (6)            Word-of-mouth from friends, athletes or coaches
7.4% (2)             Other

17. Where do you frequently eat or snack (check all that apply) (27 answered)

88.9% (24)             Home
14.8% (4)             In the car
18.5% (5)            On my bike
18.5% (5)            Restaurant/deli/fast-food place
48.1% (13)            Work
3.7% (1)             Fitness center, park, pool, beach or trail

18. When do you normally eat? Please check each approximate hour that you normally consume calories as a food or a beverage.  (27 answered)

0.0% (0)            1 AM                        25.9% (7)            1 PM
0.0% (0)            2 AM                        22.2% (6)            2 PM
0.0% (0)            3 AM                        37.0% (10)            3 PM
3.7% (1)            4 AM                        29.6% (8)            4 PM
0.0% (0)            5 AM                        3.7% (1)            5 PM
14.8% (4)            6 AM                        33.3% (9)            6 PM
55.6% (15)            7 AM                        59.3% (16)            7 PM
25.9% (7)            8 AM                        14.8% (4)             8 PM
14.8% (4)            9 AM                          0.0% (0)            9 PM
40.7% (11)            10 AM                        3.7% (1)            10 PM
14.8% (4)            11 AM                        0.0% (0)            11 PM
59.3% (16)            Noon                        0.0% (0)            Midnight

19. How often do you eat (consume calories as a food or a beverage)? (27 answered)

0.0% (0)            1-2 times a day
7.4% (2)            3 times a day
40.7% (11)            4 times a day
44.4% (12)            5 times a day
3.7% (1)            7 times a day
3.7% (1)            8 + times a day

20. Do you normally prepare most of your food or do you buy it pre-made or packaged?  (27 answered)

66.7 % (18)             Make it or eat it un-prepared (raw)
33.3% (9)            Buy it prepared or packaged

21. How regularly do you consume the items listed below?  (25-26 answered)

Never                         Sometimes             Often                        
Energy or nutrition bars            11.5% (3)            34.5% (9)            53.8% (14)           
Energy or sport drinks                        24.0% (6)            36.0% (9)            40.0% (10)           
Energy gels                                    28.0% (7)            40.0% (10)            32.0% (8)           
Vitamin/mineral supplements 7.7% (2)            42.3% (11)            50.0% (13)           
Caffeine (coffee, tea, etc.)            4.0% (1)            40.0% (10)            56.0% (15)           
Low alcoholic beverages             8.0% (2)            76.0% (19)            12.0% (3)           
(beer/wine)
High alcoholic beverages             68.0% (17)            28.0% (7)            0.0% (0)           
(shots/mixed drinks)
Anti-inflammatories                         20.0% (4)            68.0% (17)            12.0% (3)           
(Advil, Motrin, etc.)
Electrolyte replacement pills            54.2% (13)            8.3% (2)            37.5% (9)           
Fast-food or take out                        54.2% (13)            41.7% (10)            4.2% (1)           
Restaurant food                        4.0% (1)            88.0% (22)            8.0% (2)           
Home cooking                                    0.0% (0)            7.7% (2)            92.3% (24)           

22. Do you eat to train and race? Or, do you train and race so you can eat what you want?  (27 answered)

51.9% (14)            I eat to train and race better. 
48.1% (13)            I train and race so I can eat what I want.

23. Night before an important race: Do you eat a certain food, food category or supplement the day before an important race? If so, please explain.  (25 answered)

Only one of the twenty-five respondents said that they didn’t eat anything special the night (or 2-3 nights) before an important race. The other twenty-four respondents to the triathlete foodways survey mentioned eating special foods such as these: high carbohydrate foods or “carbs” such as pasta, rice, potatoes and moderate amounts of foods that are not spicy and are easy to digest. My triathlete informants told me that they try to eat the same foods before a race so as to better their chances for a good race.

24. Race morning: What do you normally ingest before an important race? How long before the race? (23 answered)

Typical “Race Morning” foods eaten by triathletes were: energy bars, bananas, oatmeal, Gatorade, water, bagels, peanut butter and honey (or jelly) sandwiches. The triathletes were pretty precise not only what food was eaten, but the quantities eaten and the period of time they ate before the race start. A typical response was this one: “1/2 banana, 1/2 energy bar; coffee; energy drink. 2-3 hours before; energy drink right before race.”

25. During a race: What do you normally consume while racing? (23 answered)

The triathletes’ “During Racing” foods most commonly mentioned were packaged carbhohydrate supplements such as energy gels, energy beverages and energy bars such as PowerBar. A typical response was this one: “I keep hydrated with Cytomax and water. Half Ironman=12 gels, Ironman=12 gels, Half Marathon=4 gels. I take a couple of PowerBars on the bike for the half and full Ironman. Ironman I always take a couple of Hostess fruit pies and a package of fig Newtons.”

26. Celebrating after a race: What do you normally consume the evening after you finish an important race? Is it different than your pre-race diet? Explain please.   (18 answered)

The triathletes I surveyed wrote responses such as these:
·      “anything/everything and beer”
·      “love burritos and margaritas!”
·      “French fries, burger, salty foods. Wine or beer. Treat foods.”
·      “whatever I'm craving at the time, frequently something full of fat and salt (like pizza) after a long race.”
·      “A big fat steak!”

27. Please name some "bad foods". For example what foods and/or beverages are bad for you and may hinder you achieving your athletic, health or philosophical goals if consumed too often? (24 answered)

Representative responses of “bad foods” for triathletes:

  • “simple carbs, alcohol, processed food”
  • “Alcohol, preservative laden foods, ice cream”
  • “fried foods, lots of meat, lots of alcohol, soda!”
  • “CHOCOLATE, COFFEE, SUGARS, STARCH”
  • “anything with fake sugars desserts fast food of any kind”

28. Please name some "good foods". For example what foods and/or beverages are good for you and may help you achieve your athletic, health and philosophical goals?  (24 answered)

Representative responses of “good foods” for triathletes:

  •  “carbohydrate foods like bagels, oatmeal, energy gels, bars like PowerBar.”
  •  “I find whole foods are best and I also try and avoid a lot of dairy …”
  • “high carbohydrate foods like bagels, oatmeal, energy gels, bars like PowerBar”.
  • “fruit and vegetables and juices. Yams/sweet potatoes for high carb content.”
  •  “WHOLE GRAIN BREAD, BANANAS, PASTA”

END OF FOODWAYS OF TRIATHLETES SURVEY


Appendix B: Foodways Survey for Marathon Runners  (n=117)

1. How many marathons or ultras (races over 26.2 miles) have you finished? (117 answered)

6.8% (8)             None yet (training for my first!)
5.1% (6)            1
15.4% (18)             2-4
22.2% (26)            5-10
22.2% (26)            11-20
18.8%            (22)            21-50
4.3% (5)            51-100
5.1% (6)            100+

2. Based on your training and racing, what would you call yourself if asked?
    (117 answered)

20.5 % (24)            Marathon runner
43.6% (51)            Ultra runner (runs distances longer than the 26.2 mile marathon)
23.9% (28)            Runner
3.4% (4)            Formerly competitive runner
6.8% (8)             An athletic person
1.8% (2)            Other

3. Most of the time I train for, and sometimes race in, marathons primarily for (choose best answer) (115 answered)

98.3 % (113)            self-improvement
1.7% (2)             to help others (wish to support my team, work, country, family, charity or group)

4. Many of my current friends are runners. (117 answered)

79.5% (93)            True
20.5% (24)             False

5. Age (114 answered)

0.0% (0)            Under 20
8.8% (10)            20-29
27.2% (31)            30-39
32.5% (37)             40-49
23.7% (27)            50-59
6.1% (7)             60-69
0.9% (1)             70-79
0.9% (1)            80+

6. Gender (113 answered)

52.2% (59)            Male
47.8% (54)            Female

7. An athletic, lean and tanned body is essential for achieving my goals and mirrors my values. (113 answered)

33.6% (38)             True
66.4% (75)             False

8. What do you do for a living? (111 answered)

5.4% (6)            Student
8.1% (9)            Retired
5.4% (6)            Caregiver or homemaker
(of your own children or elderly parents)
81.1% (94)            Work or profession (fill in below)

55% of those who work were professionals such as attorneys, accountants, scientists, teachers, physicians, engineers, writers, and managers.

8. Annual Household Income (110 answered)

10.9% (12)             0-$40,000
32.7% (36)             $40,000-$80,000
21.8% (24)             $80,000-$120,000
20.0% (22)             $120,000-$160,000
8.2% (9)             $160,000-$200,000
3.6% (4)             $200,000-$240,000
2.7% (3)             $240,000 +

56% of the runners had a household income of $80, 000+
35% of the runners had a household income of $120,000+

10. Highest level of education (115 answered)

1.7% (2)            High School
10.4% (12)             AA or some college
37.4% (43)            Bachelor’s degree
11.3% (13)            Some graduate study or certification
25.2% (29)             Master’s degree
5.2% (6)            Doctorial in law degree
8.7% (10)            Medical doctor, Ph. D, other doctorate degree

92% of the runners held a bachelors degree or higher.

11. Do you train and race on your own or with friends mostly? (112 answered)

            51.8% (58)            Alone (I train and race mostly on my own)
            48.2% (54)            Communal (I train and race with friends or family)

12. On a good training day, about how many times do you work out physically? (115 answered)

54.8 (63)            1 time or activity
39.1% (45)            2 times or activities
3.5% (4)            3-4 times or activities
2.6% (3)            5 or more times or activities

13. How many hours per week do you normally physically workout (during race season or when actively training)? (111 answered)

Average: 11.6 hours
Men’s average (57): 11.7 hours
Women’s average (52): 11.5 hours

14. I can improve my race times and/or my performance with scientifically advanced equipment, training research, training aides, or nutrition products. (115 answered)

84.3% (97)            True
15.7% (18)            False

15. Why do you eat what you eat? For example, what is the most important factor in   choosing your food? (111 answered)

34.2% (38)            Nutrition, health and/or athletic performance benefit
(Females responded higher: 40%, than males 29%)
21.6% (24)             Convenience, ease of preparation or availability (males responded a higher percentage with 31%)
8.1% (9)            Low calorie (females responded higher: 14%, than males 4%)
0.9% (1)            Low cost
9.9% (11)            Habit or tradition
14.4% (16)            Fine ingredients and preparation, excellent quality and taste
10.8% (12)            Sustainability, organic, and/or animals rights factors

16. Where did did you get most of your current knowledge and beliefs about nutrition? (Check all answers that apply.) (110 answered)

5.5% (6)             My parents or other family members
0.9% (1)            My religious, spiritual or moral beliefs
7.3% (8)            Environmental, sustainability and animal rights information
38.2% (42)            Written sports nutrition and scientific research information
25.5% (28)             Trial and error
13.6% (15)            Word-of-mouth from friends, athletes or coaches
9.1% (10)             Other

17. Where do you frequently eat or snack (check all that apply) (111 answered)

86.5% (96)             Home
22.5% (25)             In the car
3.6% (4)            On my bike
26.1% (29)            Restaurant/deli/fast-food place
59.5% (66)            Work
5.4% (6)             Fitness center, park, pool, beach or trail

18. When do you normally eat? Please check each approximate hour that you normally consume calories as a food or a beverage.  (111 answered)

0.0% (0)            1 AM                        32.4% (36)            1 PM
0.9% (1)            2 AM                        18.9% (21)            2 PM
0.0% (0)            3 AM                        28.8% (32)            3 PM
1.8% (2)            4 AM                        24.3% (27)            4 PM
6.3% (7)            5 AM                        16.2% (18)            5 PM
15.3% (17)            6 AM                        36.9% (41)            6 PM
47.7% (53)            7 AM                        31.5% (35)            7 PM
26.1% (29)            8 AM                        28.8% (32)             8 PM
19.8% (22)            9 AM                          18.0% (20)            9 PM
33.3% (37)            10 AM                        8.1% (9)            10 PM
14.8% (20)            11 AM                        2.7% (3)            11 PM
42.3% (47)            Noon                        2.7% (3)            Midnight

19. How often do you eat (consume calories as a food or a beverage)? (109 answered)

4.6% (5)            1-2 times a day
15.6% (17)            3 times a day
23.9% (26)            4 times a day
36.7% (40)            5 times a day
16.5% (18)            7 times a day
2.8% (3)            8 + times a day

20. Do you normally prepare most of your food or do you buy it pre-made or packaged?  (110 answered)

68.2 % (75)             Make it or eat it un-prepared (raw)
31.8% (35)            Buy it prepared or packaged

21. How regularly do you consume the items listed below?  (108-110 answered)

Never                         Sometimes             Often            
Energy or nutrition bars            15.6% (17)            56.9% (62)            27.5% (30)
Energy or sport drinks                        12.8% (14)            37.6% (41)            49.5% (54)
Energy gels                                    17.3% (19)            37.3% (41)            45.5% (50)
Vitamin/mineral supplements 21.1% (23)            26.6% (29)            52.3% (57)
Caffeine (coffee, tea, etc.)            10.0% (11)            20.9% (23)            69.1% (76)
Low alcoholic beverages             22.7% (25)            53.6% (59)            23.6% (26)
(beer/wine)
High alcoholic beverages             65.7% (71)            31.5% (34)            2.8% (3)
(shots/mixed drinks)
Anti-inflammatories                         28.2% (31)            56.4% (63)            15.5% (17)
(Advil, Motrin, etc.)
Electrolyte replacement pills            41.8% (46)            30% (33)            28.2% (31)
Fast-food or take out                        42.2% (46)            50.5% (55)            7.3% (8)
Restaurant food                        2.7% (3)            81.8% (90)            15.5% (17)
Home cooking                                    0.0% (0)            23.6% (26)            76.4% (84)

22. Do you eat to train and race? Or, do you train and race so you can eat what you want?  (109 answered)

56.0% (61)            I eat to train and race better. 
44% (48)            I train and race so I can eat what I want. (Females responded slightly higher percentage: 45%)

23. Night before an important race: Do you eat a certain food, food category or supplement the day before an important race? If so, please explain.  (101 answered)

The percentage of runners who mentioned they eat “carbs”, “carbohydrates” or high complex carbohydrate foods such as pasta, potatoes and rice was 55%.

Only 24% (24) of the runners said that they don’t eat anything special for dinner the night before (or 2-3 nights before) an important race.  The majority, 76% (76), of the runners said they do eat special foods before an important race and many of my informants mentioned that they “try to eat the same thing” before a race—to stick to what has worked in the past and to better their chances for a good race.

24. Race morning: What do you normally ingest before an important race? How long before the race? (103 answered)

The most commonly mentioned foods for breakfast on race day morning were: bagel, banana, oatmeal, PBJ sandwich, energy bar and toast. Most common beverages were: water, coffee and an energy drink. These foods were consumed  generally 1 ½ to 2 hours before race start. Triathletes usually said they tried to “eat the same thing” before an important race.

25. During a race: What do you normally consume while racing? (104 answered)

For shorter distances such as marathons, energy gels were most commonly eaten while running. For longer distances such as ultras, foods most commonly consumed while running were less processed: baked potatoes with salt, cookies, gels, bananas, jelly beans, oranges, grilled cheese sandwiches, gummy bears, pretzels, electrolyte pills and Fig Newton’s.

26. Celebrating after a race: What do you normally consume the evening after you finish an important race? Is it different than your pre-race diet? Explain please.   (102 answered)

·      “… ice cold Sierra Nevada beer, big salad, maybe even some nachos. Mostly salty cravings and fat cravings”
·      “very much so, often I will eat a very large, fatty, high protein dinner, like a gigantic cheeseburger, or fried chicken.”
·      “1 or 2 beers, some sort of red meat. This is very different from my normal diet which is primarily vegetarian.”
·      “Beer and Mexican food. Spicy.”
·      “BEER OR MARGARITAS... BECAUSE I CAN!!!”

27. Please name some "bad foods". For example what foods and/or beverages are bad for you and may hinder you achieving your athletic, health or philosophical goals if consumed too often? (105 answered)

Representative “bad foods” according to surveyed marathon runners are:

  • “French fries, alcohol, sweets”
  • “Anything that takes a while to digest or impedes digestion. I tend to avoid: meat, friend foods, especially fried meat, cheese, anything ‘heavy’”
  • “Liquor, fast foods, red meat, salt, processed foods”
  • “Too much fat”
  • “Processed foods tell me ‘evil’. Although I used soda in ultras, just consuming them (my big vice) is not good at all. Dairy products…Eating too much puts on fat. Take out food. Coffee…”

28. Please name some "good foods". For example what foods and/or beverages are good for you and may help you achieve your athletic, health and philosophical goals?  (104 answered)

Representative “good food” according to surveyed marathon runners are:

·      “lean protein sources, wild salmon, grass-fed beef, veggies, fruits, nuts, fish oil, olive oil, coconut oil, protein supplements, maltdextrin for recovery.”
·      “whole grains, fruits & veg[ie]s”
·      “skim milk, yogurt, whey protein, bananas, apples, berries, oatmeal, lots of broccoli, olive oil, chicken breast, salmon, … wheat breads. Water”
·      “Chicken, fruits, oatmeal, salads, beans, pasta, seltzer water! … fresh, stuff that is lower in fat content, stuff that will fill me but not fatten me…”

END OF FOODWAYS OF MARATHON RUNNERS SURVEY
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