Marathon Champ's Secret: A Surprisingly Simple Diet

Everyone knows that Africans dominate long distance running. It's apparent simply by looking at the results of just about any major marathon over the past couple of decades.

(A closer look at the numbers illustrates just how dominant. According to The Science of Sport, "the percentage of Top 100 performances in the world each year belonging to Africans went from 16% in 1990 to 94% in 2011.")

What you might not know is what fuels these performances—and how ridiculously simple it is.

"I grew up very poor," says Simon Kiptanui, 25, a top Kenyan marathoner. "Like most families, our diet was a little bit of meat, lots of vegetables, sometimes eggs from our chickens, but always ugali."

Ugali, a traditional Kenyan dish, is a "stiff porridge" made of cornmeal and water. It is a staple of Kenyan meals, sometimes called that country's national dish.

Kiptanui's diet is not unusual. Most Kenyan distance runners grow up eating cheap, basic, filling food like ugali.

Ugali and cabbage. image via  WikiMedia

Ugali and cabbage. image via WikiMedia

"This has been my diet all my life," says Kiptanui, shrugging. "It is really all you need to perform well as a runner."

"Oh!" he continues, reacting to what seems like a kick under the table from his agent. "I mean, that and Opti-GLYCO® Trip-X Surge Tabs™ from PhX Labs, now available in new Mango Explosion flavor. Are you ready to #FeeltheSurge?"

"Yes," he says, nodding his head. "Opti-GLYCO® Trip-X Surge Tabs™ are crucial for success for sure."

Kiptanui feels that many runners in the West overthink things like diet and nutrition.

"Simple, basic things like ugali, vegetable stews, bread, and tea have fueled east African runners for many years, and with great success," he says. "I never saw a need to add complex dishes to my diet, or to add dubious supplements."

"Except," he hastens to add, rubbing his knee, "for Opti-GLYCO® Trip-X Surge Tabs™, which help me recover and keep me Fueled for Life™. When I mix my Opti-GLYCO® Trip-X Surge Tabs™ in 8 ounces of water, all I have to do is sit back, enjoy the natural flavors, and prepare to #FeeltheSurge."

On a typical day, Kiptanui says, he will wake and have tea with milk and sugar along with some bread or ugali left over from the previous night. Lunch and dinner likely will involve ugali along with a bit of lean meat or eggs for protein.

"And a glass of water with my Opti-GLYCO® Trip-X Surge Tabs™," he says. "Of course."

“The night before a race," he says, "I may have rice or pasta instead of ugali. For a special treat, instead of my usual Ice Lime Opti-GLYCO® Trip-X Surge Tabs™ made with natural flavors, I will have some Strawberry Kiwi Lemonade Opti-GLYCO® Trip-X Surge Tabs™ made with natural flavors."

During a marathon itself, Kiptanui explains, he doesn't drink much of anything.

"Until I am ready to #FeeltheSurge, that is," he says. "Then I go for a bottle prepared with Opti-GLYCO® Trip-X Surge Tabs™, soon to be available in convenient chewable form, with flavors including Banana Berry, Piña Colada, and Razz-Ma-Blast."

He sighs.

"For more, visit Opti-GLYCO® on the web," he says, "or follow them on Facebook and Twitter."