Eat like a Kenyan to run like a Kenyan

Although there are many factors(known and unknown)that make Kenyans such amazing runners it might be a good starting point to eat like a Kenyan to run like a Kenyan.

Here are a few interesting stats for you:

-Between 1987 and 1997 Kenyan runners from the Kalenjin Tribe won 40% of major international races(middle+long distance).

-If you took all the best runners in the world at least 50% of the ones who have run 10k under the 27-minute mark are from Kenya.

eat like a kenyan and run like a kenyan

Wonder where the lions are…

-If you looked up the twenty fastest marathon results in the world in 2011 you would find that they are all Kenyans.

Hundreds of studies have been undertaken by some of the best scientific minds in the world to try and figure out the reason why Kenyans dominate running as they do.

Is it the high altitude and the thin air they grew up in that has given them such amazing speed and endurance? Is it their diet? Is it their bird-like legs? Is it because as adolescents running often became second nature? Is it a matter of economics so they can earn money to survive? Is it because of their love of running? Is it because they often train twice or perhaps three times a day? Is it their average body-weight of 129 pounds?

I don’t see the mystery. It seems obvious that it is the entire package and all of the above that makes them as successful as they are.

For most North Americans running is something they do in their spare time when they can break away from work, social life, or family obligations. Even Olympians have to work.

For Kenyans running is their trade, their social life, and if they excel on the world stage a financial opportunity to support their families.

Kenyans are always looking for a way to challenge themselves when they train. While most runners in the world will slow down going up a hill, the Kenyans speed up and see it as an opportunity to add to their conditioning.

Try it some time.

The next time you are out on a long training run, pick a route that has a huge hill at about the half-way mark. When you reach the base of the hill, try sprinting up to the top and you will see what I mean.

You will feel like death about half-way up and perhaps can’t sustain the pace and yet Kenyans glory in the different challenges running represents. What a huge advantage this gives them on race day.


This is a brief look from a recent study at how elite Kenyan runners in a training camp normally fuel themselves. It is brilliant in it’s simplicity.

--Breakfast at 8:00 a.m.
--Mid-morning snack at 10:00 a.m.
--Lunch at 1:00 p.m.
--Afternoon snack at 4:00 p.m.
--Supper at 7:00 p.m.

Vegetables, bread, rice, potatoes, porridge, cabbage, kidney beans, sugar, tea, full-fat milk, and ugali were the foods of choice.

–Kenyans do not use supplements or vitamins or magic potions.

–70-76 percent of daily calories coming from carbohydrates. Elite runners in the rest of the world average around 50%.

–Kenyans drink more tea than water each day and use full cream milk.

–Ugali provides about 24% of daily carbohydrates.

–Kenyans eat tons of the white death(sugar)and it is second place and provides 20% of daily calorie intake. After intense training sessions sugar replaced depleted glycogen stores quickly. Think real sweet tea with full cream milk. The key is to not take on more calories than you just expended. So in other words if you are not an athlete training intensely, sugar becomes the bad guy.

–Top four calorie sources…

–ugali, with 23 percent of total calories
–sugar, with 20 percent of all calories
–rice, at 14 percent
–milk, hitting 13 percent

–They eat carbohydrates within one hour of a work-out and this ensures glycogen levels return to normal quickly. The reason many of us get sore and tired after a long run is because we wait to long to replenish glycogen stores.

–86 percent of daily calories came from vegetable sources, with 14 percent from animal foods.

–About 13 per cent of daily calories come from fat and most of that is from full-fat milk.

–about 10 per cent of daily calories comes from protein.

–the majority of the protein comes from the milk, ugali, rice, and beans.

–a small amount of beef is eaten four days a week(3.5 ounces per serving)

–the majority of the fat intake came from the full-cream milk.

eat like a kenyan and run like a kenyan

Ugali & Sukuma

The weekly running total was around 75 miles per week, but about 25% of it was high quality speed work. For Kenyans that means in their morning 8-mile or 9-mile run they would throw in some 4-minutes per mile speed sessions.

It breaks down to about 33% quality running per week or 23 minutes per day.

The afternoon run was normally 4 or 5 miles at an easy pace. Much depends on the event they are training for. For instance, 1500 meter runners would incorporate more speed sessions into their training.

When you take all these facts into consideration it really is brilliant in its simplicity and it’s a diet any endurance runner anywhere in the world could easily manage. There is no hocus-pocus. There is no magic formula.

They burn calories and deplete glycogen and have discovered the optimum eating method of replacing burned calories and restoring glycogen stores to optimal levels as quickly as possible.

Wambui from Kenya emailed me with a link to this video on how to make Ugali……….



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *