Michel Roux Jr is best known for his cooking. His family name, Michelin stars, many culinary TV appearances and running of Le Gavroche restaurant see to that. Less well known however is that he’s also a very handy runner with 21 marathons under his belt
I was lucky enough to catch up with him for a run in London’s Battersea Park where he opened up on his philosophy for all things running and food.
What came across was his clear belief in doing the hard work to achieve results, but at the same time balancing this with high quality enjoyment of the good things in life.
If training’s feeling like a chore, this one’s for you, and if training’s feeling great then Michel’s advice has your back to make sure it stays that way.
Lesson #1: Run more, enjoy more, succeed more
“Chefs notoriously have a bad diet. We’re constantly picking, eating anything we can get our hands on – a lot of sweet stuff, a lot of bread – and living off coffee and cigarettes. I was no different and I suffered because of it. I had really bad migraines, a bad temper and wasn’t managing the business as well as I could.
“I gave up the cigarettes, cut out alcohol during the week and started running again.
“Within three years I was running my first marathon. The migraines disappeared, I became calmer and even my attitude to food changed. My appetite improved, my tastebuds got better, I found I could think straight, everything.”
Proof once more that exercise is just about the best piece of life-enhancing health care there is. If it was a drug people would be queuing round the block for it. What they don’t know is all you have to do to get it is run around the block instead.
Coffee can be a great performance enhancer, just not when paired with cigarettes, stress and no exercise
Lesson #2: Run to eat, and eat well
Running can be hard and suffering is part of the game sometimes, but you don’t need to make mealtimes a sufferfest too. Quite the opposite in fact, advises Roux.
“When people ask me why I run, I give them the same answer I gave in my book ‘The Marathon Chef’ - ‘I run because it makes me hungry’.”
And after running, there should be some indulgence.
“It needs to be something you’ve earned,” Roux says so don’t be shy of a little of what you fancy once the miles are done.
Lesson #3: Chocolate and fat are fuel
Dark chocolate - a great source of antioxidants thanks to its high cacao content. Raw cacao is even more potent, which is why it's in our 33Fuel Pre & Post Workout Shakes
The personal indulgences Roux enjoys are fats and chocolate, although any aspiring chefs hoping to sweeten him up with a box of Quality Street need to think again.
“I hate cheap confectionery. I can’t stand it, far too sweet. When it comes to chocolate I find the hit from a good piece of dark chocolate far better and more satisfying.
“My other great indulgences are fats. Especially butter - I can eat butter like no one. I buy Brittany butter with salt crystals in it and easily get through a pack a week, and that’s not cooking with it, that’s just eating it. I love the stuff.”
Tasty and satisfying, increasing good fats in your running diet is a great way to boost natural fat burning abilities, the bedrock of all endurance fueling success.
Big up with the butter - Roux's a big fan
Lesson #4: Start with real food
Unsurprisingly for a man who’s devoted his life to fine dining, ordinary sports nutrition with it's gunky ingredients is not on his running menu.
“I don’t like energy bars. I find them sickly and horrible. For a 100km ultra I didn’t eat anything like that - for solid fuel I went for dried fruit, bread and cakes.”
Lesson #5: Life is too short to drink bad wine
Roux puts quality ahead of quantity every time when it comes to wine and he’s not averse to a glass the night before a race either.
“Running has never stopped me enjoying good wine. While I don’t drink during the week, what I save there lets me really splash out at the weekend – life is too short to drink bad wine.
“The night of a marathon you should always stick to your routine, and for me that means a nice meal with pleasure and enjoyment, which certainly includes a glass of wine. It helps me relax, sleep well and feel good.”
“António Pinto who won the London marathon in ’92 and ’97 owned vineyards and swore by a glass or two over a meal after training – in other words, leading a normal life!”
Just in case you thought this was a one-off, more recently Beaujolais winemaker Francois D’Haene has racked up three wins at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), one of the world’s hardest 100-mile ultramarathons.
Good wine is no bad thing for Roux and his running
Lesson #6: Never try anything new on race day - this includes what you eat beforehand
When he ran the Midnight Sun marathon in Tromso inside the Arctic Circle which has a 10pm start, Roux found his eating plans somewhat unsettled by the unusual start time.
“Tromso was a gorgeous race, but very strange as you start at night when your body’s getting ready for sleep and my run wasn’t helped by an awful meal I ate beforehand.
“I went into a local restaurant and they were serving whale. I thought, ‘well, it’s local, why not?’ So I was brave, but it was bloody horrible. Very dark red meat, almost the texture of beef, and intensely fishy. I kept burping it up during the run. Not good.”
Tromso - beautiful, just watch the whale dinner before your marathon
Lesson #7: Training is an escape
“Training allows me to get away from work for a moment. I don’t take my phone, no music, I just like to savour the moment, the sounds of my breathing, the sounds of silence. It’s pure escapism".
Scroll down for more performance-boosting content
Real food, really powerful
For your race weekends and biggest training blocks, unlock your best performance with the best nutrition. 33Fuel's unique Pre & Post Workout Shakes harness the 33 most powerful athletic foods in nature, serving them up in one delicious shake blend packed with protein, good fats, slow release carbs for stable energy and a monster hit of natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Power up your race day performance with the legendary 33Fuel Pre & Post Workout Shakes