by: Brian Clarke
“How much can you eat!?” “You must eat like a cow!”
As a rickshaw runner, I hear comments like these all the time from passengers. And yes, it is
true – I have a big appetite, especially during prime rickshaw season. But this does not mean that
I just devour anything resembling food. I, as well as my fellow rickshaw runners, am aware that
this job requires good nutrition in order to sustain this active lifestyle and perform my rickshaw
runner duties well. One of greatest skills I’ve learned from this job is how to appropriately fuel
an active lifestyle.
You might be thinking, “I don’t pull a rickshaw all summer, this doesn’t apply to me and I
don’t really care if you can eat a lot”. Yes, I realize rickshaw runners aren’t exactly average on
the clean-out-a-buffet scale, but I believe the principles I’ve learned can be applied by anyone
who performs any sort of regular physical activity. The difference between my diet in the
rickshaw season and that of a single mother who does yoga three times a week is not necessarily
a difference in strategy, but a difference in scale.
I hope to share some of the lessons I’ve learned with readers, so you can apply them in your diet
in order to adequately fuel your activity.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist, these are simply practical tips that I have found
to be useful. I have however had my fellow rickshaw runner and certified personal trainer, Omar
Elamam, look over these tips to make sure the advice is reasonable. (You can read some of
Omar’s tips on staying fit in winter, and exercises for kids).
So without further ado, the three principles of the ‘rickshaw diet’:
Water is the source of the life, so use it! I learned this the hard way. Twice in my rickshaw
career, I have suffered from dehydration to the point where I was physically ill. It was not fun.
Even when I wasn’t at my worst, I can notice a huge difference in energy levels and physical
performance when I don’t drink enough water. We all know water is important, but sometimes
it’s so obvious that we forget about it. I’d suggest finding a way to ensure your consistently
drinking enough water, and hold yourself accountable. Paul Graham (owner of a local personal training company, P.E.A.K. Personal Training) wrote this really good article on hydration, why it’s important and some practical tips on staying disciplined.
Just like running without adequate hydration, running without enough food is brutal. If I start
limiting my food intake, my energy levels disappear. However, most diet plans are stressing
people to cut intake, cut calories, and so on. I’m not advocating eating like it’s your last
meal at every sitting, as overeating is obviously dangerous. But in order to sustain an active
lifestyle, you need to eat enough. Your body tells you if you’re providing it enough food to
fuel your activity, so listen to it! If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re full, stop eating. Spending time
calculating calories, carbs, points or whatever, like you’re trying to diffuse a bomb, is stressful
and not necessary in my opinion. Focus instead on eating good quality, non-junk foods, like
fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, nuts, healthy oils and milk.
This definitely sounds contrary to the rest of this article, but hear me out! As a rickshaw runner,
we are often on the run (pun intended) and don’t have time to always be worrying about what
to eat. Personally, I try to adhere to the two principles I’ve listed above, and other nutrition
advice, as efficiently and cheaply as possible. While it’s certainly not harmful to be constantly
aware of nutrition, the majority of people want to eat healthy in order to support and enjoy their
active lifestyle. I have found that using tools such as casserole dishes, Dutch ovens, blenders and
crock pots are excellent ways to quickly throw quality ingredients together in advance, and have
a good, tasty, nutritious meal come out that can feed me for a few days. This means that I can
maintain good nutrition without constantly worrying about it, and am able to focus on pulling my
In summary: drink water, make meals that include quality ingredients, and that involve as little
time and monetary commitment as possible without sacrificing the other principles. In coming
weeks, I will periodically post recipes that adhere to these three principle of the ‘rickshaw diet’.
Get started today! If there any issues or questions, please comment below or contact me.