The Tarahumara Diet, Extremely Nutritious But Difficult to Follow
Those who follow a Tarahumara diet plan usually do so in hopes of emulating what an indigenous group of people of the same name do very well. These people can run for incredibly long distances. The Tarahumara, who live in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico, escaped from the Spanish conquerors several hundred years ago simply by running away from them, and running for very long distances. When they hunt they do not try to catch the animals by running swiftly after them. They run at a slow pace, and they keep running until the animal drops from exhaustion. Ranchers sometimes hire Tarahumara to chase down wild horses. Few horses can run fifty or more miles in a day, while many Tarahumara can run one hundred in a day should the need to do so arise.
To Run Like a Tarahumara – Eat Like One
It is said that a Tarahumara running in sandals or even barefoot can easily outdistance the best of the ultra marathon long distance runners. It would seem to make some sense then, if you want to be able to run incredibly long distances with seeming ease, you might try eating as the Tarahumara do. You might even take up running barefoot. Others have.
The Tarahumara diet has become more and more strongly promoted in recent times. There are both products and plans that can be purchased. As is the case with many diets, it has become somewhat of a fad, particularly among long distance runners. It may not make a lot of sense to spend too much money on those products that are promoted if you truly want authenticity. The diet of these indigenous people is quite simple. Beans with corn tortillas, and occasionally a little squash, is about as simple a diet as you can have while still being nutritionally complete. There are many Americans who enjoy an occasional evening eating at a Mexican restaurant, but there are probably not so many who want to eat beans and tortillas day after day.
Diet Plays Somewhat of a Secondary Role
The running ability of these people is said to mainly derive from two things, cultural importance and extremely physical conditioning. Diet is also important, but it isn’t completely clear how important. One reason why those who would like to be able to run as the Tarahumara do focus on the diet is because the cultural importance associated with running is simply not understood for those who are not Tarahumara. The Tarahumara literally run because their livelihood depends upon it. Running is a part of their identity. The can run far because of their extreme physical conditioning, and their physical conditioning is largely a result of their running. A healthy diet helps of course, but a healthy diet alone may or may not enable you to run for great distances.
The Tarahumara diet consists primarily of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates make up about 80 percent of a typical meal. The remaining 20 percent is made up of protein, mainly protein from vegetables, and fat. Very little meat is eaten. Occasionally small game or fish will be added to a meal, as well as goat’s milk or goat cheese. One of the more common food items is pinole, a powdered form of toasted corn.
The Diet is a Healthy One
One thing is certain about the Tarahumara diet. It is much healthier than the typical American diet. The Tarahumara people rarely have diabetes, colorectal cancer, or any type of cardiovascular disease. They rarely experience heart attacks or stroke, nor do they experience much in the way of gastrointestinal disorders. That may be changing to some degree as these people, who have lived in relative immolation for several centuries are becoming more and more acquainted with junk food, which is rather sad.
While it was mentioned earlier that the average American might not care for a steady diet of beans and tortillas, a very tasty dish that is reasonably authentic is not hard to put together. Such a dish would consist of cooked pinto beans, corn tortillas, green chili sauce, monterey jack cheese, guacamole (mashed avocado), and a side of corn chips.
When it came to running in the Olympics for the first time the Tarahumara lacked one thing. That was instructions. Several were entered in the marathon. They ran at their usual pace. As a consequence, they were not among the leaders at the finish of the race. When they reached the finish line they just kept on running. When they were finally stopped they complained that the race was much too short.
It would seem that to be able to outdo one of these runners in a very long distance race, running would really have to be a part of your life, and something you would do day in and day out. A diet consisting mainly of complex carbohydrates with a little protein and fat would help, but what the diet would most likely do for you would be to improve your health. One advantage you might have over a Tarahumara who has not raced competitively before would be knowing how long the race would be and where the finish line was.