It is easy to overlook the importance nutrition can play in the role with athletic performance. If any person wishes to be athletic, they must have a proper diet. I have seen my friends be on diet programs you can find on https://prodiets.org/nutrisystem-vs-jennycraig/ and the results it has had on their life and fitness is excellent. I feel fairly fortunate in that I am able to eat all things; gluten, dairy, you name it… I eat it. I have seen our eating patterns change slightly throughout the years, but those changes have been gradual and they’ve been logically prompted by a mix of both educating ourselves yet still retaining what ‘we enjoy’ in that mix. I recall sometime back in 2009 when I thought maybe I had a gluten allergy; my stomach just seemed off. I had heard some recommendations to ‘remove something you consume daily’. So, I thought, what is loaded with gluten that I consume daily? Why beer, of course. I figured that for a few days, I’d not drink beer. After about 3 days, I walked in the door with a 6-pack of IPAs. Derick said “But I thought you were cutting that out?” My response: “Yah… I don’t think I have a gluten allergy.” J Needless to say, we soon found out I had gallstones and I ended up having my gall bladder removed early 2010. So while I was having ‘stomach issues’, this went to show that it isn’t always the most obvious, or most popular, culprit.
I sought out a consultation with Brett Singer at Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute in October 2014. This was prompted both by my realization that while I consume all things and I ‘felt good’, I knew there were likely areas I could improve. Another reason I wanted some help was that I repeatedly saw my weight dipping when my Ironman training kicked up. It wasn’t much, but when you are an athlete, you notice a few pounds and I know especially going into an Ironman, it isn’t healthy to have your weight too low. On the contrary, other athletes actually sought medical weight loss at times. I didn’t quite understand it because I never skip meals, I eat when I’m hungry, and I even eat when I’m not hungry (ie: if I know if I need a meal, I’ll eat it, because my body needs it even if my appetite is low). Brett had me do a 3-day recall which I made sure I did during three ‘normal’ days. I recorded every last thing, and I was pretty specific, even down to the brand of what I consumed, so as to give him the most thorough look at my diet. I did the 3 days in the end of October 2014, when I was just ramping my training back up after a few weeks of rest after Ironman Hawaii; so the days I selected were fairly average in terms of my training load, diet and visiting the right weight loss clinics like the Sarasota Weight Loss.
Some of the main points that Brett came back to me with were as follows.
- Protein: He found that I was consuming a large amount of protein at dinner (often in the form of a meat), but I was a bit low on protein consumption at breakfast and lunch; and protein is essential for preventing breakdown and loss of muscle mass. So he recommended I consider adding eggs or greek yogurt to breakfast more often and turkey to my lunch wraps; small changes but changes that get the protein up quite a bit. He also recommended I try an isagenix cleanse shake to replete the deficit protein. Additionally I could benefit by moderately decreasing the amount of protein at dinner (and spacing it out better through the day), as he pointed out that by taking more protein at one time than my body can synthesize, it is essentially oxidized/wasted.
- Fat and Carbohydrate: Brett fully supported my routine of ‘not excluding anything’ (ie: enjoying things such as cookies, ice cream, peanut butter) however my overall fat consumption was pretty high; which very well could be making me feel full and satiated, which in turn may be preventing me from getting sufficient carbohydrates in. Which makes complete sense to me; many things I like are higher in fat (and still healthy, such as avocados and peanut butter); but I need to be conscious of getting in enough carbs as they are critical to provide energy for peak performance. Interestingly enough, after a big training day, I’ll crave a burger and a spinach salad loaded with berries and nuts; or a huge kale salad with a steak; and while this is ‘healthy’ my body needs more carbohydrates than this provides. So, I am trying to actively assure I am not substituting essential carbohydrates for higher fat foods that my body may crave.
- Breakfast: I told Brett that I’ll frequently start a workout (usually a long run or a bike ride) feeling ‘full’. Before a long run, I may have toast with jam and peanut butter, and before a long ride it is usually a banana with peanut butter and granola cereal with soymilk. He pointed out that the pre-ride meal is pretty heavy in fiber and fat. So he simply suggested dialing back the amount that I eat pre-ride as that much cannot be broken down quickly enough. I realized my long run days come after a big ride day, when dinner is usually late thus I wake up almost still ‘full’; so I need to eat more post ride the day prior, a bit less later in the night and keep the pre-run breakfast low carb/low fat so my gut isn’t uncomfortable for a long run.
My overall takeaways were that while I am doing fairly well overall, I could benefit by being more aware of the ‘timing’ of what I eat and when I eat it. It will benefit me to also be conscious of getting sufficient protein at breakfast and lunch, especially when I have frequently exercised before these meals. While it is good to consume what you like, even if I am not a huge fan of pasta and carb-heavy foods, I need to be cognizant of consuming more of these on regular basis given what I ask of my body (in forms of what I like; such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc). It was good to hear these things, and just to be more aware of what I am putting into my body. One thing I really like about Brett’s approach is that he was not at all critical of allowing me to enjoy what I enjoy… that being coffee at breakfast and post-lunch, cookies and/or chocolate and ice cream in small amounts daily, and my evening beer before or with dinner; he accepts that we can enjoy all things in moderation but called to my attention that there are areas that I can do a bit better.
Food and drink should be enjoyed; they are one of life’s pleasures. But as athletes, it is important to remember too that they are fuel to help us perform at our best; and we can maximize the ability for them to do so if we gain awareness of what we consume and when we consume it.
Relaxing after a long training day
One of my favorites; kale, berries, beets, mozzarella, nuts
We like to enjoy dinner as a family. Another favorite; filet, potatoes, asparagus, big salads
Celebrating! Always take time to celebrate.
Many thanks to the gang at Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute.