Kilian Jornet’s diet, through the lens of a nutritionist

Renowned elite ultrarunner Kilian Jornet published a post a few days ago about his diet. It’s not the first time he writes about what he eats as an elite athlete, but his post generated a lot of reactions and comments.

It makes sense, because as runners we are curious about how top performing athletes train and eat. And considering his results in the past 10 years, it’s no wonder that everyone in the running community is watching every step that Kilian Jornet takes, looking at how he trains, how he lives, and of course, what he eats.

I strongly believe in the idea of modeling – following the footsteps of someone with more experience than we have, who is successful in what we want to achieve, and who has already been through the process we are in.

It can really help to learn their process, their way of doing things, and their general growth tips. But it’s a different thing to have wrong expectations, because sometimes, even if you add the same elements in an equation, the result will be different. Just think about how absurd it would be for me to go out and do one of his trainings, at his pace.


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I was thinking to do a post about my diet and I was looking for a picture for that… but I didn’t have any, I believe that speaks about how a foodie am I, so I post a picture of what eating allows me to do: to train and climb mountains. My relation with food is that I need to eat to get energy to be alive and to train. Is not that I don’t enjoy eating but I don’t care much more about the flavor thing on a daily basis. During my youth I was basically eating pasta with tomato sauce or legumes and salad mostly every day. Now it is 2 factors that I take into account for my diet: the carbs/calories and nutritional aspect and the environmental footprint of its production. I ate basically a vegetarian diet now (I have never been eating much meat before, never been a fan of the taste) and is mostly carbs (pasta, potatoes, rice or bread) and veggies or legumes. Not much protein at all (some cheese, soy). I think diet is something that will work depending every person habitudes and characteristics in terms of performance, but I also believe that some choices can be made not only towards flavor or performance but environmentally thinking as taking less animal products, more local or bio, etc. And since we need to eat every day (almost) the impact can be important.

A post shared by Kilian Jornet (@kilianjornet) on


In his post, Kilian mentioned a few things that I want to comment on.

The first part of his post goes like this: “I was thinking to do a post about my diet and I was looking for a picture for that… but I didn’t have any, I believe that speaks about how a foodie am I, so I post a picture of what eating allows me to do: to train and climb mountains. My relation with food is that I need to eat to get energy to be alive and to train. Is not that I don’t enjoy eating but I don’t care much more about the flavor thing on a daily basis.

The man is obviously the type of person who eats to live, not lives to eat. For him, food is mostly fuel. These people actually exist and I have one at home. There’s nothing more I want to comment about that, just to accept which type of person you are and what comes along with that.

The following part of his post goes like this: “During my youth I was basically eating pasta with tomato sauce or legumes and salad mostly every day.”

That might seem like a bad diet from some points of view, such as lack of nutrient variety, but eating home cooked pasta with vegetables is pretty healthy. And even more so for a runner who uses those carbs.

Then, Kilian goes into more details about how he eats now: “Now it is 2 factors that I take into account for my diet: the carbs/calories and nutritional aspect and the environmental footprint of its production. I ate basically a vegetarian diet now (I have never been eating much meat before, never been a fan of the taste) and is mostly carbs (pasta, potatoes, rice or bread) and veggies or legumes. Not much protein at all (some cheese, soy). “

Here, I have more to say. First, it’s obvious that as he started fine tuning and working all those small tweaks that have an incremental impact in his performance, he started paying more attention to nutrition. This includes the calorie balance – not eating more than he uses but not less, either.

It’s really important for a runner to know his or her caloric needs, periodized across a year, depending on the volume and intensity, on how training is going, and also during races, when most ultrarunners can’t eat as much as they burn after several hours of effort.

The fact that he is a vegetarian has to do with the factor of individuality in each person’s diet. It’s how he prefers to eat, not necessarily how everyone should be eating. He makes it clear that he doesn’t really have foods that he loves eating, but he does mention something that he doesn’t like that much – meat.

Also, Kilian mentions eating little protein, in general. I know, I’m surprised he’s not on keto, too. Kidding, I’m not surprised, because running long and fast works on a carb centered diet.

As you might have figured out by now, life’s not fair. We don’t all get the same genes and the same metabolism. Or four lungs, as Kilian probably got from Mother Nature.

That’s why our bodies react differently to the same nutrition patterns. Based on this, it matters more to pay attention to what works for you than trying to follow someone else’s diet, hoping to get the same results.

Finally, he talks about choosing less animal products, buying more local, and considering the environmental impact of his choices. This has a lot to do with finances and education – not everyone can afford to choose or knows the consequences of their choices.


The diet for endurance athletes


Coach and author Matt Fitzgerald has a famous book called The Endurance Diet.

I recommend you to read it and also look more carefully and honestly at your own meals.

You’ll see that the advice that Fitzgerald gives in his book is pretty much in line with what Kilian talks about here. The author insists that refined grains, processed, fried foods, and sweets are low quality foods that athletes should avoid. But he also stresses how important it is to eat even those low quality foods that we like, in small quantities and not too often.

His 5 recommendations about the diet of an elite athlete are:

  • Eat everything
  • Eat quality
  • Eat carb centered
  • Eat enough
  • Eat individually

Kilian Jornet’s post about his diet checks all these five aspect. How does your own diet score?

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Photo: Jordi Saragossa

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