Weeks to the Tremblant Ironman: 10.5
Weeks to the Muskoka (training day) Half: 4.5
A few weeks ago I had an appointment with a great sport dietitian and learned some very important things – first and foremost that I am underfed. Knowing that I’m a medical doctor by education, and someone who is quite familiar with nutrition, the dietitian was honest and direct. I wasn’t getting in nearly enough food for the endurance workouts that I was completing. Although I was eating well during my long workouts, getting in the 20g of carbs every 20 minutes, I wasn’t adding in enough recovery foods or eating enough carbs on a day to day basis. After years of healthy and balanced eating, it was hard for me to realize that I had to substantially increase my diet so that my body could recover well and continue to stay healthy as my training ramps up.
Many endurance athletes are aware that they need to eat more (case in point) but are ensure of how to actually get in the appropriate amount of nutrients. I’m not a huge fan of liquid nutrition or liquid calories and so haven’t been a big fan of smoothies or protein shakes. I’m learning though that it’s much simpler and faster to drink my calories than to eat them. Of course, I also realize that getting in more carbohydrates means that my diabetes management has to change – I have already figured out a good strategy for my needs but as my food intake increases, so does my insulin. Taking in an additional 40-60g of carbs per day (how many I was missing!) requires juggling of my insulin, and that’s ok.
Healthy eating can mean many things. I have always been an advocate for balanced eating, with no labeling of good or bad foods. I enjoy all foods, in moderation.
That said, looking through my food diary with my dietitian I found out that I eat a little too many high fat foods (avocados, olives, nuts, cheese) and far too few carbs. I am not averse to carbs and had a feeling that I wasn’t eating enough. What then happens is that my body can’t pull out the energy it needs from the fats as efficiently as someone on a low or no carb diet (I wouldn’t recommend low carb diets for athletes but am aware that some athletes choose this approach). My body therefore was getting confused – I was working out so much but not eating enough carbs, but was also somehow eating enough carbs that the calories and energy from the fatty foods were not being put to use most effectively.
So, in order to focus on #projectraceweight, I had to first change my diet, and overhaul my carb intake.
I have now been slowly tweaking my diet to include more healthy carbs – from bananas to greek yogurt, from apples to a second helping of sweet potatoes. I need an afternoon snack every day, and focus on quick and proper recovery foods. I prefer low GI carbs that have the most bang for their buck in terms of nutrition, and affect my blood sugars less intensely than higher GI carbs. I also have lowered my intake of (delicious) fatty foods like avocados, cheese, ice cream, and nuts. I still eat these foods, but try and reach for a fruit or vegetable first, then for a handful of nuts, for instance.
It’s only been a few weeks since I started this new plan and so far I have noticed that my energy has increased and I’m feeling better. My immune system is liking the extra carbs (carbs are crucial for a well functioning immune system) and my muscles feel strong. (Although I still did get sick this past weekend. A busy wedding weekend though is likely to blame.)
In my next appointment I’ll be looking at how to make minor tweaks to my diet to become a bit leaner, although my top priority remains to eat well to perform well. If I have a few extra pounds on my frame, then I have a few extra pounds. It’s not the end of the world.
Training is going well (apart from this little sickness hiatus) and I had a great training weekend up in Collingwood with the Toronto Triathlon Club over the May long weekend. The hills and the wind made for a challenging weekend of riding, but a fun trail run and group TT races balanced out the weekend and it was a lot of fun!
Looking forward I know that I need to keep focusing on my health, and getting in the right nutrients to be strong. My type A personality makes it so that I struggle with rest and recovery. I tend to use my rest time to be a busy body and socialize or get errands done. I need to listen to my body more and rest. Actually rest.
It looks like this week will be a bit of a write off in terms of my training but I am ready to hit the ground running next week. I’ll have 4 weeks until the Muskoka half, and I’m eager to see how I will perform. I am definitely stronger and leaner than last year, and so hope to see and feel the difference on race day.
So, with that, I’m off to nap.
Let me know – have you noticed that increasing your carb intake has helped your training? Has a change in your diet improved your immune system or made you a stronger athlete? Would love to hear about your experiences.