South East Asia’s top marathoner, Mok Ying Ren, confesses to treating himself to an occasional meal of burger and fries.
Displaying a picture of a rather huge burger with a side helping of fries, Mok, a medical doctor in the Singapore Army, said, “I ate this burger at Turf City a few weeks ago. It’s good sometimes to enjoy some food – maybe once every month or every two weeks.
Run For Cover Clinic
Mok, shared these insights with the audience at a talk cum discussion held by Mount Elizabeth Hospital – during the weekend.
This talk had been organized as part of a pre-run clinic for next month’s Run For Cover event, a 24-hour treadmill challenge.
At the clinic, Mok and Russell Ericksen were discussing their diets.
Vegetarian versus eating anything diet
Both Mok and Russell are top runners in Singapore.
Mok won gold medal at the SEA Games Marathon in December last year. Russell, a researcher at A-Star, runs a marathon in around two and a half hours and took part in Ironman events in the USA – where he comes from.
Mok eats anything while Russell is a vegetarian.
Mok’s I-Eat-Anything Diet
Mok eats a wide range of foods, including rice with vegetables and chicken as well as grilled fish with pasta for his meals. He also has cereals for breakfast and granola bars for snacks. According to the marathoner, he is getting a good spread of vitamins and minerals from his food.
Mok believes that restricting certain foods and cutting these out of your diet exposes you to deficiencies in micronutrients that are essential for survival. For example, women sticking to a vegetarian diet may suffer from anaemia or a lack of iron, which is found in red meats – because they lose iron when they have their periods every month.
Generally, the doctor believes in eating anything, but in moderation. For example, besides his burgers, South East Asia’s fastest marathoner also enjoys his flavourful local zi-char delights, such as chilli kangkong and soft shell crab.
Russell’s Vegetarian Diet
While Mok eats everything, Russell is an ovo-lacto pescetarian, which means that he eats plants, fish, eggs and dairy products but he does not touch other meat, which he has abstained from, for the past 14 years. This was a decision that he had made as a 16-year-old and he has never looked back since.
Russell’s diet consists of meals such as an egg omelette for breakfast, a vegan burger for lunch and a multi-grain pita or wrap with cheese spread for dinner. In between meals, he will snack on frozen berries, fruits and coffee.
Vegetarian Diet Keeps You Healthy
Going on a vegetarian diet has plenty of advantages, such as putting a person at lower risk for some types of health problems commonly associated with red meats, such as diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancers, according to Russell.
As well, because of his diet, Russell says that he has not been sick in more than three years, but then he quickly adds that being vegetarian and eating spinach won’t suddenly make you gain super strength like Popeye.
Vegetarian diet aids in recovery
In terms of running, eating vegetarian food may also aid in, and help to speed up recovery after completing a hard race or a workout. This is due to the vitamins and minerals that are present in these types of foods, according to Russell.
But the researcher, who can recover from a hard run within about 24 hours, quickly added that the types of food consumed is not the only factor that affects recovery after a workout. Some others may also include the amount of sleep taken and how hard you have pushed yourself during a race.
And on hearing about the advantages of Russell’s diet, Mok jokingly quipped, to thunderous laughter from the audience, “Actually my diet is pretty similar! Maybe I am a vegetarian after all.”
Eating several small meals a day
But despite their dietary differences, the two top runners both have one common belief – that it is important to eat small meals several times a day instead of three big meals. Both runners consume at least five to six small meals in a day, to enhance their performance – as elite athletes.
Mok also added that students at the Singapore Sports School are given seven small meals a day. Eating on such a regular basis, would prevent sudden rises and falls in the body’s blood sugar levels.
Timing of food intake is important
At the same time, it is important to time your refuelling to half an hour to one hour after a hard training session, according to Mok.
Said the doctor, “That is the time when the body produces hormones that will absorb the nutrients from the food. So if you eat within this window, it will restock the glucose and proteins – and you will be ready for your next training session much sooner.”
Mok added that this is why he always makes it a habit to have either protein shakes or chocolate milk as soon as he has finished a hard workout. According to Mok, these drinks are easily digestible and the body can convert them to fuel without much difficulty.
Carbo Loading Before A Race
But whether you are a vegetarian like Russell or an “I-eat-anything” runner like Mok, carbo-loading is important for runners, especially when a race is approaching.
Mok explains that our body is carb-driven, and we need to eat plenty of carbs to pep up our body. So he points out that during a marathon, runners should take gels, which contain a quick fix of carbs – and not binge on items such as chicken drumsticks – to give them energy to complete the distance.
Easily Digestible Foods Before A Race
At the same time, you should eat easily digestible foods before a race, to prevent problems on race-day, according to the marathoner. Even for vegetarian runners, consuming a large salad when a race is impending, is not a good idea, even though it is typically a healthy choice. That is because salads contain plenty of fibre, which can create havoc with the stomach during the race and cause indigestion and stomach cramps.
But whatever diet you choose, it is vital to watch what you eat, in order to get the proper nutrients to help with running a good race, according to Mok.