As the title of the book suggests, the book's focus is on the nutritional aspect of running - how to fuel for optimal performance. And this book covers it all: fueling during training, during the taper period (one to two weeks before the race), the night before the race, the morning before the race, the 30 minutes before the race, the race/run itself, and post-running. Fitzgerald focuses mainly on food, supplements, gels, sports drinks, and a few other nutritional "tips" such as how to enhance sleeping the night before a big race. While the main focus is nutrition, there is a small section on pacing, a few section on achieving and maintaining your "ideal racing weight", including what he believes to be a good, balanced diet, and a section on how to best train for "the wall" as well as training plans for the half marathon and full marathon. Included are a total of six plans, three different levels for each type of marathon.
One of the great things about this book, is that most recommendations are based on actual experiments and studies. There is also, of course, stories of personal experience and the experiences of other elite runners, but for the most part, Fitzgerald sticks to the science. When their are controversies on a specific topic, he usually explains both sides before giving his personal recommendation.
What I Like
Being a science major, I greatly appreciated that in many cases, Fitzgerald explains the science (at least to some extent) behind why he recommends a certain technique. For example, he explains that fat loading increases the body's reliance on fat as a fuel thus decreasing its reliance on glycerin as fuel source. This slows the depletion of glycerin stores while running. Specifics like that make me much more inclined to actually take his advice that if he had just said "fat loading will you give you more energy on race day."
Along similar lines of being specific, I like that Fitzgerald gives specific foods that he suggests will enhance running performance, including "top meal ideas and recipes for runners." He also provides a few specific one day meal plan examples for fat loading and carb loading during the taper period. Also, instead of just saying something like "you need lots of carbs," he gives numbers in the form of x grams of carbs/kg of body weight for different periods in the training/racing process.
Fitzgerald also does a good job about giving you options. He understands that different bodies are, well, different and that what works for one person won't necessarily work for everyone. To give an example, he provided five different methods for nutrition during running, each some combination of water, sports drink, and gels (from one extreme - using all three - to the next extreme - using none of the three).
Finally, I think Fitzgerald does a great job explaining the different components of the training plans. He doesn't expect you to just know what a tempo run is for example (which is a good thing because, being new to running, I had no clue what it was!). When I first glanced at the training plans, I was lost, but after reading his explanations, not only did I understand what the different runs were but also why they were beneficial to enhancing running performance.
What I Don't Like
There's really not too much about this book that I didn't like. I mean, not every tip is all-natural or anything, but that's not the focus of the book. The focus is providing ways to boost running performance, and that's exactly what was provided.
Really the only thing about this book that I would have to say I wasn't too fond of was that in the reaching your "ideal running weight" section and when Fitzgerald talks about getting into shape after a race, it seems as if he assumes that you're currently overweight or that you will definitely gain weight in the period following a race (I could be wrong about these two things, but it was my interpretation). Thus he offers a number of weight loss suggestions. I personally have absolutely no need or desire to lose any weight, and I think assuming that the reader does have that need is not at all necessary. I find this type of thing in a lot of fitness and health books actually, which drives me crazy. Some of us want to exercise and eat healthy simply because it makes us feel good, we enjoy it, and we want to treat our bodies well. Health and fitness isn't just about losing weight! Okay, rant over.
Overall, I learned a ton from this book and can't wait to implement a lot of Fitzgerald's suggestions in my own training. I definitely recommend this book if you're looking to boost your running performance, are preparing for a race, or simply want an interesting read about running!