It appears my years of nutritional ignorance need to come to an end.

I'm not sure why this makes me sad. Maybe it's because I really did want to believe a Big Mac could sustain a healthy lifestyle. I wanted some diligent, blue-collar scientist to find nutritional value in french fries.

And finally, I hoped that a raised chocolate doughnut could somehow be infused with protein without changing that melt-in-my-mouth taste one bit.

So while I've improved my eating habits — fewer fast-food meals and far fewer doughnuts — I have not committed myself to actually understanding the effect of the food I eat.

I did not care whether the fat was saturated or not, only that it was yummy — and convenient.

The trouble is, I can't accomplish my goal of running three more marathons this year if I don't educate myself and then change my deliciously wicked ways. To be accurate, I could finish three more marathons. But I want to get better each race, and I can't do that without a dietary overhaul.

This issue surfaced as I talked with Ken Hollen, the owner of Diet and Sport Nutrition. Ken is likely the only reason I've been able to shuffle through two marathons on the chili dog diet.

But when I brought up what I might eat or take for recovery, he got real with me.

Recovery, it seems, is a dirty word when it comes to sports nutrition. It assumes that operating on fumes was a wise idea in the first place. It's sort of like buying a lot of stuff on credit and then trying to figure out where you can buy a lottery ticket in hopes of mitigating the damage.

"Why do you want to destroy anything in the first place?" he said. "Provide the fuel to pay for the energy you're going to be using up front."

He said that it would be much wiser, and more efficient, if I kept my tank full and, in fact, continued to refill it during and after exercise.

I have struggled after both my marathons to eat enough. I feel a bit sick at the thought of eating even my beloved french fries. Ken said that's because I've emptied the tank, and the only way to change that is to train with a full tank — every day.

He said sometimes people (a lot like me) will come into his South Jordan store and ask what they can take to give them energy or provide carbs during an athletic competition.

"It's too late," he said. "You have to train with the right nutritional balance. ... Then you have the potential to go out and actually see what you can do."

One sign, he said, that I'm on the wrong track is how I feel after some of my workouts.

"If you have the right fuel, every time you train, you're going to get better," he said.

Alas, that's not me. Some days I feel great; others I struggle to shuffle three or four miles. Most of my meals are not well thought out, purposeful nutrition. They are man-I'm-hungry-where-is-the-nearest-drive-through moments.

And while I will remember those Filet-o-fish combo meals with affection, I think I need a trial separation. It's no one's fault. We just don't have the same goals anymore.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com