The special diet for Kenyan runners is a low calorie diet. The foods that they grow up eating are foods low on calories such as maize and beans.
Majority of Long distance Kenyan runners were born in poor homes where they grew up being fed on a diet of maize and beans, not the most ideal food to feed your children but when you don’t have the means you have no choice. Animal protein a good source of high calories, is expensive for the average Kenyan family, the only time this poor families buy meat is during special occasions like Christmas Party! They get most of their protein from grains.
The low calorie diet has given them a lean body that is essential to long distance running. You can mark out a Kenyan runner in a race by his razor thin body.
The Daily Kenyan Diet
For breakfast the average Kenyan family drinks tea with milk and eat sweet potatoes or arrow roots, a traditional African food rich in carbohydrates. For lunch and supper a family eats a mixture of Maize and beans.
When I was ten years old my parents enrolled me into a boarding school. Boarding schools in Kenya are not just for the rich, we have low cost boarding schools. Every lunch time we ate a diet of maize and beans.
What Kenyan Runners Share with Ethiopian Runners
To show you why I think a low calorie diet is one factor to their long distance running dominance, let me compare the environment of Kenyan runners with Ethiopian runners.
Ethiopian runners are the only ones that seem to seriously challenge the Kenyan runners. Ethiopia is known for its poverty and famine, an environment where kids grow up being fed in a low calorie diet. An Ethiopian runner is as lean as a Kenyan runner. Although they grew up in different countries, they share a similar low calorie diet.
In trying to understand why Kenyan runners have dominated long distance running, most experts focus only on their training and living in altitude. The issue of low calory diet needs to be considered as one of the many factors that explain the dominance of Kenya’s in long distance running.