Nutrition is a tricky subject in general, but it gets much more complicated in this age of information. While we may know a lot more, we also tend to overwhelm ourselves with the plethora of articles recommending this or that food or supplement or diet. Every day you can hop online and see a new trend or fad in the world of performance nutrition, and much like the anti-vaxxers, it can be easy to fall for the pseudoscience behind many of these fads. Between the fat-burning properties of sweet potatoes/throxine and the energy enhancing ability of carbo-loading/L-Carntaine, it can be difficult to figure out what’s actually best. What the heck are we supposed to ingest for maximized race-day performance? It seems like there’s no clear answer. But what if I told you there was? What if I told you it’s been right under our noses since 1955?
Chances are the newest diet isn’t going to be the magic bullet you crave. Put in terms of our own training, one workout doesn’t make or break the season, but rather, the culmination of hard, consistent work determines our results. So what’s the nutritional equivalent to consistent, hard training? I’m glad you asked. It’s Waffle House.
If you’re still reading and haven’t been blinded by your own cynicism you can thank me after your next PR. What follows is the undeniable evidence you’ve been craving to shape your own performance nutrition.
Running isn’t the most financially rewarding sports in the world and many athletes walk a fine line between getting by and going hungry. There’s a tricky, unforgiving balance between hours spent at your part-time job and hours spent training or recovering. Once you factor in costs for travel, shoes, physical therapy, and other standard cost-of-living expenses things can get stretched pretty thin. Making matters more complicated is the pure amount of caloric replenishment needed to sustain your metabolic furnace.
Thankfully there’s a place where you can head between your 8-mile tempo and work to grab two eggs, two sausage patties (or bacon or ham), grits (or hash browns), TWO pieces of toast, and a large waffle for under $10. Throw in a bottomless cup of Joe for under $2 and you can slurp up a week’s worth of caffeine for less than your 4th-grade allowance. Not only is your pocketbook happy with your choice, but you’ve efficiently refueled your body after a hard effort within a 30 minute window* thanks to Waffle House’s model built around quality food served at fast-food speeds.
Not convinced yet? Well perhaps you’d like to take a look at Waffle House’s namesake, the Waffle. Where else can you find quality waffles? Belgium. Is it any coincidence that Belgium also hosts one of the fastest, most prominent track circuits in Europe? No. Waffles = Fast Times.
I’d like to wrap this up with some anecdotal evidence. In high school I joined a group of runners from other schools to travel by van to the Footlocker South Regional in North Carolina. I had been on a hot streak coming in and was very excited to have an outside shot to qualify on to San Diego. And then I bonked. While my finish wasn’t horrible, it also didn’t qualify me on to the Footlocker finals. But here’s the thing: I didn’t have Waffle House for breakfast that morning.
Jumping forward eight years, I’m in Manchester, England. I wake up early and walk to the nearest restaurant. There are no Waffle Houses in England that I know of, so I order the most similar meal I can find. Eggs, meat, potatoes, toast, and a waffle, all washed down with lots of coffee. Later that evening I would run a lifetime best in the 1500. Now go get yourself an All-Star breakfast, champ.
If you aren’t sure exactly how to structure your Waffle House program, here’s an excerpt from my running/nutrition log leading up to a race.
Monday: Waffle House All-Star breakfast with over-easy eggs, grits, wheat toast, sausage, waffle. Coffee.
Tuesday: Waffle House All-Star breakfast with over-easy eggs, grits, wheat toast, sausage, waffle. Coffee.
Wednesday: OFF or light coffee consumption.
Thursday: Waffle House All-Star breakfast with over-easy eggs, hashbrowns smothered and capped, wheat toast, sausage, waffle. Add side of extra sausage. Coffee.
Friday: Waffle House All-Star breakfast with over-easy eggs, grits, white toast, sausage, waffle. Add side of hashbrowns. Coffee.
Saturday: Waffle House All-Star breakfast with over-easy eggs, grits, white toast, sausage, waffle. Coffee. Race. Repeat** (Waffle House is open 24/7).
Sunday: Waffle House All-Star breakfast with over-easy eggs, hashbrowns covered, bacon, waffle. Coffee.
*Proximity only guaranteed if you live in the South. Prices and selection may vary.
**Replenishment is key, so be sure to buzz back to your nearest Waffle House post-race to refuel.