Brogan Austin, elite distance runner, talks cheat meals, training and loving cereal


As elite marathon runner, Brogan Austin looks ahead to the 2020 Olympic Marathon Team, he spoke to FoodSided about his nutrition and love of cereal.

Brogan Austin may not be a household name, yet. The elite distance runner is preparing for his chance at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Team. After winning the USATF Marathon championship at the California International Marathon last year, he is positioned to be a contender for an Olympic berth.

As the first US National Marathon Champion, Austin is a running powerhouse. In his 2016 US Olympic Trials debut, he placed 38th and has progressed up the ranks quickly. During the USATF Marathon championship, Austin surged at mile 23 and chased down the leader. His impressive performance puts him on track for the upcoming Olympic year.

Runners, especially distance runners, consume significant calories during training. While the average weekend warrior might be envious of those cheat days, smart nutritional choices can make a big impact in training. To compete at his best, a distance runner needs to understand how food impacts training regimes.

Ahead of the NYC Half Marathon, Brogan Austin spoke with Cristine Struble about his food choices, cheat meals and his many food obsessions, including a love of cereal.

Cristine Struble: As a distance runner, what foods help fuel your training regime? Is your diet balanced with carbs and protein or heavier on one versus the other?

Brogan Austin: There’s nothing more important in life than having balance. Balance in work, balance in training, balance in relationships, and even balance in nutrition. Putting in 100+ mile training weeks amplifies what you put in your body or lack thereof. As soon as I have an imbalance in my nutrition I get into a mental funk and I tend to have lower energy levels. Typically, my nutrient imbalances stem from not eating enough vegetables. I’m the king of consuming carbs and proteins, but I have to put in extra effort into getting my veggies. I usually have a Garden of Life Perfect Foods Greens Bar packed with 21 vegetables! with my lunch and additional raw veggies for dinner. Garden of Life also has a whole line of vitamins, so I take those as well as a sort of nutrient insurance policy. In regards to putting a stronger emphasis on carbs or proteins, I try to stay in the recommended 4:1 grams of carbohydrate to protein ratio, which is optimal for recovery.

CS: What is your preferred cheat meal? How often do you have a cheat meal and/or day?

BA: I get made fun of for this but I absolutely love Jack’s Pizzas. More specifically, their sausage and pepperoni pizza. A standard day for me involves waking up at 6 a.m. to get my shakeout run in, working from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. and then my longer workout from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. So sometimes my motivation to make a big, wholesome meal at the end of the day runs pretty low, and that’s when a frozen pizza can look pretty appetizing. I usually let myself have a “cheat” meal once every week or two.

Cristine Struble: When you are training, do you follow a specific eating plan?

BA: My biggest concern with nutrition is maintaining a good balance and making sure that I’m eating at least my minimum daily requirements for fruits, veggies, carbs and proteins. With that being said, I like to make some sort of pasta or casserole on Sundays to last me the week and then incorporate raw veggies as a supplement.

I don’t typically count my calories until I get closer to championship season and/or my volume dips down, as this is when it’s easiest to gain weight. Power-to-weight ratio is essential, but not eating enough is also detrimental as I’ve learned. Counting calories helps me make sure I’m maintaining my appropriate weight as well as giving myself enough sustenance as race day approaches.

CS: How important is hydration to your training?

BA: As far as hydration goes, drinking lots of water throughout the day is an absolute must. I start my day by downing 20oz of water before breakfast. Then throughout the day I’ll try to have an additional 64oz or more.

CS: What is your favorite pre-race food? What is your favorite post-race food?

BA: Two days before my race I like to carb-load with a pasta dinner. The night before my race I like to eat a little lighter and have salmon, rice, and veggies. Post-race is usually a burger or whatever other bad food I’m craving.

CS: Is there one food that you can’t live without?

I have many loves in my life, but cereal, ice cream and pizza are at the top. Choosing one would be like my parents saying they have a favorite child (it’s me of course).

CS: It is said that you have a passion for cereal, what is your favorite cereal? If you could create your own cereal, what would it taste like?

BA: Cereal is a Brogan breakfast staple. Over the years, my favorite cereals have evolved as I get burnt out on one brand and discover a new brand. Right now, I’m all in on Chocolate Mini Wheats. Creating my own cereal, that’s a tough question. If I could have a cereal that tasted like a warm brownie in ice cream then I think we’d be doing something right.

CS: If you could advise a young runner on good food choices, what is the best piece of advice that you could give him?

BA: Eat your veggies! Also, the more you can eat whole foods rather than processed foods, the better off you’ll be. It took me a while to figure this out, but after college I started focusing on my nutrition more. I definitely noticed an increase in my energy and I’m often in a better mood because of it. I try to eat a very colorful diet, which is sort of an easy way to force myself to think about having a lot of nutrient diversity, getting in some greens (leafy greens, green veggies), orange/yellow/red (could be vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, as well as proteins like salmon), some brown (whole grains), and lean proteins like fish, turkey, or chicken.

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I would like to thank Brogan Austin for taking the time to chat with me. I wish him well in his training and future races. He might be one of the runners to watch ahead of the 2020 Olympic season.