As you might expect, ugali furnished about 23 percent of the runners’ daily calories; after all, it’s the national dish of Kenya. There were some surprises in the dietary data, however. For example, just behind ugali in second place for calorie-provisioning was plain sugar, which provided about one out of every five calories (20 percent) consumed by the Kenyans over the course of the day.
That’s right, the vitamin-free, mineral-free, “bad,” “simple” carb from which Americans are fleeing was consumed in Rather prodigious amounts, about 133.5 grams (534 calories) per day. Similar levels of sugar consumption are sometimes blamed for the rising tide of obesity in the U.S., particularly among young people, but in fact sugar intake provides some key advantages for athletes involved in intense training on a daily basis: After all, the stuff re-stocks muscle-glycogen stores very quickly and effectively.
As long as the rest of the diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants (which is the case with the elite Kenyans), and as long as regular exercise is carried out and caloric intake doesn’t exceed caloric expenditure (also the case), sugar isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it can be argued (from the quick-glycogen-replacement standpoint), that sugar is a rather-desirable nutrient (before you send me any angry letters on this topic, please look up the frequencies of type 2 diabetes in Kenya and the U.S.)
In terms of providing calories, the “big-four provisioners” in the Kenyans’ diets were: ugali, with 23 percent of total calories sugar, with 20 percent of all calories rice, at 14 percent milk, hitting 13 percent
No other single food provided more than six percent of daily caloric sustenance (bread was at six percent, with potatoes and beans at five percent each).
Milk provided the lion’s share of protein, with 28 percent of daily protein grams (and calories), followed by beans, with a respectable 19-percent share, and rice and ugali were neck-and-neck for third and fourth, with 12 and 11 percent of daily protein, respectively. A smaller surprise? Since the Kenyans relied so heavily on full-cream milk as a source of energy and protein, their daily consumption of saturated fat checked in at about 28 grams — 252 calories out of the daily caloric quota of 3,000 or so."