Monday, February 7, 2011

Eating right....and getting it right!

A couple weeks ago I met with a nutritionist as part of an employer-mandatory health check.  The appointment was extremely comprehensive and it was interesting to get a snap shot of my health.

Prior to meeting with the nutritionist, I was asked to keep a food log for three consecutive "normal" days that would be reflective of the way that I usually eat. By "normal", this means not going out of my ordinary habits too much.  Keeping a diary of food intake is actually quite exhausting, but it does bring focus to the quantities and types of food that one consumes in one day.  

Day #1
Day #2
Day #3
Cheerios + banana w/ 1% milk
Cereal + blueberries w/ 1% milk
Earl grey tea w/ honey + 1% milk
Hot cereal w/ brown sugar; banana, 1% milk
Earl grey tea w/ honey + 1% milk
Non-fat chai latte (post run)
3 kiwi + ½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
Soda water
Non-fat chai latte
Low fat banana bread
Non-fat chai latte
Low fat banana bread; mandarin orange; water
Pre-run: banana
Grilled turkey sandwich with avocado, spinach on black olive bread
Honey yogurt + cherry compote
Roast beef sandwich on whole wheat w/ veggies + mustard
Handful plain chips
3 mandarin oranges

Leftover quinoa (without cheese or tomato sauce);
1 cup nonfat yogurt;
3 oz manchego cheese
Apple, diet coke, apple muffin
During ride:  Water w/electrolyte
Post ride:  500ml chocolate milk
Apple, herbal tea
Chicken + black bean soup
Tortilla chips (handful), cheddar cheese as topping
2 cans soda water

3 cups Italian quinoa (quinoa mixed with tofu ground round, peppers, zucchini, kale, tomatoes, tomato sauce, cheese)
1 can soda water
3 pieces pizza (2 veggie / 1 ham + pineapple)
Diet Coke, water

Grapefruit cup, handful blueberries
Blueberries, ½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
13k run
(gel + Nuun)
Bike ride – hard 60’
3k swim
14k run

Although the nutritionist was in general quite pleased with the amount and variety of food that I was eating, we did get into an interesting discussion concerning eating for performance and it made me realize that the way I view nutrition is really quite different from most of the population.  I love food and it is my fuel.  I look forward to meals and generally prefer healthier foods like veggies, fruit and yogurt over processed or fast foods.

However, just because you burn calories doesn't mean you get to consume at will (How many times have you had someone say, "you are training so much, you can afford to eat whatever you want!").  Uh-uh.  Garbage in is garbage out.  Although I burn a lot of calories while training, it is still easy to eat them back. As such, over eating is just as much a concern as under-eating and keeping a nutritionally balanced diet is really, really challenging - particularly because I am usually VERY strapped for time!  

One of the most important lessons I learned last year while training for Ironman was that squirrelling doesn't work.  Your body can store only a finite amount of nutrients and glycogen, so for the most part you ALWAYS need to keep your nutrition balanced and on track.  You are only as good as what you have eaten recently...of course, bearing in mind that yummy snacks like ice cream, licorice and chocolate have their place in all of this.  Everything in moderation, right!? :)

My inherent frustration with nutrition is that, although I am very interested in learning how to eat better, I find most sources of nutritional advice to be very condescending and unrealistic.  It is hard enough to work full-time, train, manage 9 tonnes of laundry, keep my dog happy and still stay sane...I do NOT need to feel guilted out by authors on nutrition who seem to think we are all latent Martha Stewart clones.  Even the Health Canada guidelines are frustrating at times - it seems completely unrealistic at times to get in all of their minimums every day without completely overeating or losing my mind.  Any recipe with a preparation time greater than 30 minutes is strictly out of the question, as is anything too contrived.  Whole grains and beans are awesome, but if I need to spend two days soaking and draining them, forget it!  

So I stick to what I know - fresh fruit is always on my desk at work and I try to make leftovers of health dinners for lunch to have later in the week.  I read labels.  I prefer healthy lunches and frequent snacks over large meals, and I try not to snack late at night.  (Stop tempting me Lay's potato chips!)  Yet, there always seem to be lapses where I am rushing from work to workout when I need to eat NOW.  Those are the dangerous times when overprocessed / convenience / junk food is most appealing and I totally blow my diet.  Half a pizza anyone?!           
So if anyone has any great suggestions as to nutritional planning or great tips that work for them, I would love to hear them!

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