*It is important to note this blog is based on my own experiences.
The general definition of ‘restricted’ is ‘limited in extent, number, scope or action’ (Oxford Languages, 2020). The first word alone speaks volumes. 'Limited'. In essence, a restricted runner is a limited one. Therefore, any athlete who restricts their intake rather than eating freely is limiting where their potential lies. Why deny yourself something so simple as food. Restricting is very counter productive. We work so hard in training, yet if we don’t fuel properly, we are placing limits on where that hard work can get us.
If you are focusing on restricting yourself, chances are you are in the wrong mindset. I know from my own experience, that when I was restricting my intake my focus was in the wrong place, and on the wrong thing. I was more preoccupied on ensuring I didn’t eat too much or eat certain things. Whilst my focus wasn’t necessarily on how I looked, it was primarily on food rather than my performance. I thought if I wanted to be the best athlete I could be, I needed to eat less, and this overtook my life. My mindset was on doing something that was limiting my progress rather than boosting my performance, which is now my priority. Now, I want to do my best to become the strongest and fastest athlete I can be, and I know this involves fuelling myself properly to allow me to perform to my best day in and out. When I was restricting I was preoccupied with denying myself vital nutrients more than anything else.
Lack specific nutrients
If you are restricting your intake, then you are undoubtedly denying your body of some nutrients or specific foods. In order to perform to our full potential we need to have a balance of everything in our diet. This ensure nothing is depleted and that we aren't deficient in anything. Restriction and denial is likely to lead to deficiencies which can in turn effect our energy levels, our ability to recover properly and how well our body operates when training. By preventing yourself from having specific foods, whether they are whole food groups or just specific foods, you will be limiting yourself. In the past, I found myself restricting all forms of dairy, thus denying myself vital nutrients such as calcium.
Restricting your intake takes a lot of energy. I speak from experience, it is exhausting. It consumes your entire life. Whether you are feeling slightly flat in a session or over thinking how much you ‘should’ eat in your spare time, it is hard on the mind and body. However, if this energy is channelled elsewhere, and not into restricting, it can have a significantly more positive effect. At my lowest, my energy was so transfixed on restricting that I was knackered when it came to training. Not only physically (because I couldn’t even run a lap of a football pitch) but also mentally, because I had spent the entire day fighting hunger. If all this energy is transferred to a positive place and used in a constructive way, things may head in a better direction. It is also tiring when you waste so much energy doing something you think will help you succeed, but it has the opposite effect. This is part of life, but not when you know what you are doing is detrimental.
So, next time you think about restricting, remember what it is you are trying to achieve and question whether that will help you achieve it. I still have to remind myself when that little voice creeps in, but I know the danger of restriction. If that voice of restriction is still too powerful, or you just need to talk to someone, there are a few links below.
Beat Helpline: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services/helplines
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!