When it comes to nutrition, Alexi Pappas has never lived by the rule “If the fire is hot enough, anything will burn.” Instead, she’s always charted her own course towards a balanced, variety-rich diet. Despite at times being surrounded by athletes cutting dangerous amounts of weight in attempts to improve performance, Pappas—who competed for Greece in the 10,000 meters at the 2016 Rio Olympics—has maintained a healthy relationship with the food needed to fuel her elite running.
“When I eat clean, I feel better, run better, and I notice the difference,” says Pappas. “Smoothies or oatmeal in the morning have powered my long runs and high-intensity workouts, and healthy dinners of salmon and vegetables have given my body the recovery it needs.”
But as she prepared for the 2020 Houston Marathon on January 19, Pappas started working with dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede (author of the new food journal and habit tracker Sweat. Eat. Repeat.) to fine-tune her nutrition intake, map out a race-day fueling strategy, and make sure she was eating the right foods—at the right times—to fuel her elite performance. As a busy athlete, actress, and writer, Alexi wasn’t concerned with getting every detail down on paper—she found simply jotting down what she could and how she felt had the biggest impact.
“I was already eating pretty cleanly, yet once I started writing down what I ate and tracking the habits I wanted to stay on top of, I noticed I was more aware of what I was eating and how I was living,” she says.
Clearly it paid off: On Sunday, the 29-year-old shaved nine minutes off her previous personal best to finish 10th for women with a time of 2:34:26—less than one minute off the Greek national marathon record (of 2:33:40) set in 1998.
Check out a few of these pages from Alexi Pappas’ Sweat. Eat. Repeat. journal below to see how she’s been making it all work.
View this post on Instagram
with the sun at my back & the wind in my face 9 minute PR & top 10 in the race ⭐️ . . huge accomplishment for me to finish top ten in a gold label #marathon & big PR. i fought hard! there were dark moments & there were vibrant moments. i ran with a pack & i also ran much of it solo. i embraced each segment with confidence & also humility. the marathon is wild! i just kept reminding myself to be in the mile I’m in & pain is a sensation, not a threat. third Greek alltime & so close to the national record 🇬🇷 . i heard you bravies along the course & i feel so proud of this bravey *team* we’ve created together 💛 . . 📸 chris Cooper & @kenthaichi
Getting Fitness & Fuel on the Same Page
As a pro runner, Pappas runs most days of the week. From 18-mile long runs to 20km on trails and 12 x 600m road repeats, her nutrition goals need to accommodate for high mileage and high-performance efforts.
In addition to training, Pappas has had another big to-do on her list: Promoting her new movie, Olympic Dreams, which she filmed, produced, and starred in on-location at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. The film, which premiered at the South by Southwest festival last summer, will be released on February 14.
To keep up with her busy schedule, Pappas pauses at the end of every week to record her high-level wins and losses, reflects on how her fitness and fuel goals are working together, and what she can do to fuel a better tomorrow.
Food Journaling as a Top-Level Training Tool
Pappas keeps track of foods, fluids, and supplements needed to support her day to day. Listing food, hunger signals, and mood can provide valuable insight—without getting hung up on every calorie or macronutrient. A food journal becomes a place to record meals and take notes, an accountability log to illustrate how cleaner eating positively affects workouts.
Healthy Habits Are Made Over Time
Along with cleaner eating, Pappas wanted to work on a few habits to improve her overall health and running lifestyle. By focusing on a finite number of habits—like no coffee after 10 am, no artificial sweeteners, hamstring stretches before runs, dinner before 6:30 pm, and in bed by 9 pm—it helps create a tangible roadmap to success. A great reminder by looking at Pappas’ habit tracker page is that setting goals and making progress isn’t about being perfect every day rather, but staying after it over time.