Fueling on Beets, Beer and Tang

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In his 50th year with more 100-mile wins than many will ever even attempt to run, Karl Meltzer’s nutrition plan is one to take note of. From the outside, folks probably think he spends his days sipping on Speedgoat Blend coffee, Red Bull, and maybe a beer or two. Fortunately, I got an inside look at how his real nutrition shapes his success.

Before we chatted I had my own thoughts of what he ate, having had a number of front-row seats to his during-race fare (as Cheryl and I have crewed our husbands together over the years) and every time we have been out to breakfast or dinner it’s been post-race, so I knew of the post-race beer, burger and pancake guy. I also knew of Cheryl’s love of healthy foods, so I was really curious what the day-to-day consumption looked like. Karl’s shopping, cooking and eating habits are filled with variety and surprises. Enjoy what’s on his plate!

He starts the morning with eggs, over-easy or scrambled, and toast or he will eat oatmeal. From there he heads out on his 1-2:30 hour run. While he typically doesn’t eat during his runs, he always takes gels…just in case. When asked about running in a non-fasted state, he told me, “I am not trying to fast. I like to feel good when I run. I am not looking to change the ball game.”

Post-run he will have Ultragen (what we both agree is the Cadillac of recovery drinks), and then a full-sized meal around noon. This will be filled with leftovers from dinner, which could be a hearty soup, steak and potatoes, or homemade pizza and lots and lots of vegetables.

Karl said that he does much of the grocery shopping for himself and Cheryl, and while price dictates many of his decisions, as it does for so many, there are certain things that are priority: high-quality meats and organic carrots and beets. He and I spent quite a few minutes singing the praises and difference of an organic vs. non-organic beet. Another favorite purchase of his is bok choy, which he said he learned to love after Scott Jurek served it to him. With so much goodness going into his cart, I questioned him repeatedly when he told me about his habit of Tang and Country Time Lemonade mix. In case you thought powdered drinks aren’t produced anymore, Karl is buying them regularly to mix with big bottles of water throughout the day for flavoring. “It’s inexpensive and it tastes great.”

Around 4 p.m., he’ll have another half portion meal, which might be a grilled cheese sandwich, some fruit or some more leftovers. This is shortly followed by 5 p.m. “crack open a beer” time. While Sierra Nevada is a go-to, Natural Light is the regular. I asked if he would take a Natty Light sponsorship, and he said, “They would run out of beer.”

Of no surprise, Karl likes to soak in every last minute of daylight outside, which means in the summer, dinner might not happen until 9 p.m. or so. They will often grill meats and veggies, and he shared his grilled beet specialty (soy sauce, oil, salt and pepper). He says, “I feel better with more protein.”

Because of Karl’s race success, I thought it would also be interesting to know of any race eating rituals. When asked about day before meals, he said that he doesn’t stress over a special menu but eats earlier the day before a race. Race morning he eats yogurt and a banana. He gets whatever is at the grocery, but doesn’t like Greek Yogurt. Karl said he once had a huge breakfast before Hardrock and 30 minutes into the race he was in the woods going to the bathroom. After that he stopped eating so much and then would just start taking gels earlier into the race. During races he likes First Endurance Vanilla, NUUN, Saltsticks/Scaps!, water in his bottles and then a Red Bull when he sees crew. He doesn’t pound the caffeine during races as too much caffeine doesn’t sit well. And, as already noted, Karl does enjoy his post-race burger or chili verde burrito.

In the end, between Karl’s daily nutrition and his race fuel choices, when I asked what his eating mantra was, I was so grateful for his balance and simplicity. “I eat to sustain and only when I am hungry.”

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About Author

Meredith Terranova has a B.S. degree in Human Nutrition and has been helping her clients reach their nutritional goals since 2004 at her consultancy, Eating and Living Healthy. Meredith recently completed her third Ultraman, and has raced over 50 ultramarathons with several wins and podium finishes. She and her husband Paul Terranova live in Austin, Texas, and enjoy a lifestyle centered around endurance sports. Learn more by visiting eatingandlivinghealthy.com.

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