Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Food for Fuel

I took a rest day today. I decided that when Dan's alarm went off at 6, if I felt like going for a run I would, otherwise I'd sleep until 7 when my alarm was set to go off. So, with nothing to report on the training front, I'll report on my other favorite topic... food. A few years ago, when I first got into triathlon training, I noticed that I was sluggish a lot of the time. I had no energy to get through my workday. I could get through the workouts fine, but just felt lazy. After my annual doctor's appointment, when everything checked out OK, I decided to take a look at my diet. I scheduled an appointment with a nutritionist at my gym. She ran a few tests to measure my resting metabolic rate and had me keep a food journal for a couple of days. After analyzing the results she concluded that I was taking in enough calories (2700 per day at the time) to fund my lifestyle but I was eating the wrong foods (too many snack foods, fast foods- not enough whole foods). Since then I really strive to view food as fuel and think about what benefits I am getting when I put something into my mouth. I learned to eat many more fruits and vegetables. I learned how to plan food for my day and how to pack healthy snacks that will keep my energy levels up. Now, I carry a cooler everywhere so I am never left to reach for junk. I am sure I still take in 2700 + calories per day, but now they are not empty calories. I am getting nutritional benefit from the food choices I make.

Nowadays, my typical day looks something like this: Wake up. I like to be out the door in 15 minutes for my workout so if I'm swimming or biking I down an Ensure High Protein shake while I'm getting ready or driving to the pool. If I'm running, I tend not to eat which is something I'm going to have to change during my marathon training. After my workout, if I have a second workout I will usually eat something in between like a banana, Ensure, or Cliff Bar. Once I'm on my way to work, or finished with the second workout, I eat breakfast. Usually this consists of a banana or Naked Juice Smoothie, grande nonfat latte (yes, I'm an addict), and a lemon zucchini muffin or cereal. Between breakfast and lunch I eat several snacks which may include yogurt and berries, dried fruit, Nature Valley granola bar, or whole fruit. Lunch varies depending on my work schedule. I'm not a sandwich person. Or rather I'm not a boring sandwich person. I would eat a sandwich if it was a little exciting- maybe egg salad with spinach on toasted wheat bread, or turkey and avocado with spinach and mustard. But just meat on bread.... boring. I cannot eat boring food. And I've tried to find some healthy options in the frozen food section that I can keep at work. This week when grocery shopping Dan and I looked in the organic section of the freezer aisle. I found some Kashi frozen meals and Amy's organic burritos that are made of natural ingredients. You never know what you're getting into, but they were actually really yummy. A nice surprise! And then in the afternoon at work I tend to snack on fruit, veggies and Laughing Cow cheese wedge, cottage cheese, English muffins with PB. I try desperately to avoid the break room which inevitably has boxes of Cheez Its or other highly processed snack foods lying around. In the evening I usually munch on an apple during my drive home. At home we make chicken or pork with veggies for dinner, or homemade pizza with ham and pineapple. Once a week we might order pizza from Papa Murphy's and we usually eat out on Sunday afternoons.

Lately, I've been reading a lot about processed or refined foods (white sugar and white flour) and all the negative health effects. I'm trying to further cut these things out of my diet as they contribute to inflammation in the body and are stored as fat (after their chemicals do all sorts of damage) because our bodies don't know how to process them. Thankfully I love to cook, so I don't mind shopping for whole foods and ingredients and making things from scratch. There are lots of easy, simple meals that don't take a lot of time and are so much better for me to be eating. Oh, and... the better I eat, the better I feel. After my initial visit with the nutritionist and I made changes in my diet, I noticed significantly more energy. When I eat poorly, my body gets nothing from the food I eat and I lack energy. When I eat healthy, I get vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats that keep me going all day long. I am what I eat!

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