Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nutrition Woes

You may have read my Weekly Rambling 1/31/11 that included Superbowl Sunday... yeah the one with the Smores dessert pizza that I oinked out on!  I thought about this post after reading a few articles and threads online about nutrition for endurance athletes.  It is no secret that shedding a few pounds helps performance, most if not all endurance athletes have thought about how their weight affects training, racing, and even everyday life at one point or another.  I have been clearly trying to cut out some of the junk from my diet to make a gradual transition into the season and get closer to that Racing Weight that we are all trying to hit.

Take a look at Andreas Raelert at Kona in 2010.   This guy is chiseled to the bone.  Is that realistic for all of us? Probably not, just as some people are born with an inherent ability to excel at one thing or another, we are not all graced with a metabolism that allows us to easily keep off pounds or lose what we have put on in the past. 

What became very apparent to me is not that we do not know how to do it, we have read the books, we have counted calories to make sure our body gets the nutrition it needs, but that there are things that get in the way of that.  A year ago or so my wife and I were discussing how every weekend seemed to be another excuse, so and so is coming to visit, so we will probably go out to eat.  Well Billy and Suzy are having people over, so we will probably eat crappy that day.  I am now realizing more and more, they are just what I called them, excuses.

The inspiration behind this post came from seeing someone post a thread about critiquing their nutrition habits.  I found that people are quick to jump on adding their two cents, yet by typical standards many cannot follow the same advise they provide.  I am in no way taking a dig at people for supplying comments, I think it is great to get multiple other opinions because maybe someone else can provide something we simply overlook.  I just found it amusing for some reason.

It is simple:
Calories In > Calories Out = Surplus = Weight Gain
Calories In < Calories Out = Deficit = Weight Loss (at some point also decreased performance)
Calories In = Calories Out = Neutral = No change

Since we have all seen the above equations, how do we stop making excuses for ourselves?  Try some of these helpful hints to eliminate some of your excuses.

  • Excuse 1: We are going over to someone's place to hang out.
    • Prepare food to take with and share.  Depending on the activity, find some healthy snacks you enjoy and can share with others such as Veggies and Hummus, Guacamole, or Fresh Salsa. 
  • Excuse 2: We are traveling a long ways.
    • Pack some snacks that travel well.  Try these homemade energy bars, lara bars, or fruit and veggies, a small cooler with some turkey and peppers for roll-ups is one of my favorite.
  • Excuse 3: We are going out to eat with someone.
    • Do your homework in advance.  If it is a chain restaurant, look up the menu online on their webpage or use the Livestrong Nutrition Guide to look up the best choice.  
  • Excuse 4: I have a sweet tooth and nothing works unless I have something sweet
    • Try some of the Chocolate Cheerios, these have become a staple, I keep a bag at work for an after lunch treat to satisfy that craving.  Also see that a piece of dark chocolate is a good way to remedy this.
I have been preparing this topic for a while and it slipped away, but I was reminded after reading Annie's Blog about her journey.  Many people ask what program she used, and she replied with something I could not agree more with, "It's not a program, I don't believe in programs, because they have an end. It is a lifestyle change."

I had set a goal on New Years Eve.. yes that was prior to the S'Mores pizza fiasco... to lose some weight.  At the time I was around 173 pounds.  This was a weight I used to think was my "ideal" weight, meaning I could eat without being too picky and exercise on a regular basis, but not crazy endurance sport like hours.  Having read the Matt Fitzgerald book about Racing Weight, I decided this is the season to race at a lower (yet still healthy) weight, and do it properly.  Last year I dropped to 163 at my lowest, and was physically exhausted, I am not sure how many hours  week I was putting in, but it was probably to the tune of around 8 or so.  I did it by basically depriving my body of nutrition, which lead to fatigue quickly.  This would explain why my performance flat-lined or got even slower as the year went on.

After seeing that trend last year, I knew something had to give.  I have taken a whole new approach to nutrition and am feeling great!  2/7 Weekly Ramblings outlined a typical day for me now.  As you can see, I still include snacks, I love Laughing Cow cheese with some pretzels or Wheat Thins.  I also still get some sweets, be it Dove Dark Chocolates, ok you got me, I also have some of the Butterfinger Chocolate Eggs, and yes last night I had a bowl of frozen yogurt with toppings (choc syrup, butterscotch chips, coconut, and caramel)

The most important part is the most basic principle, calories in < calories out to lose weight.  I don't know my exact numbers in and out, and frankly I have not added up workout caloric expenditures, but I have been able to judge by my energy levels that I am getting what I need without starving my body.  I am now at 160, a goal I had set for my Rev3 Knoxville Olympic race.  While I have met the goal, still have the energy for workouts (and my hours are growing above 10/week), and love seeing some definition, I do know I am not at my ideal race weight.  I still have plenty of body fat that could go.  A steady course on nutrition combined with consistency in workouts should allow me to continue shedding that excess fat and convert some to muscle as my strength and endurance goes up.

The most exciting part is yet to come.  How do these results translate to racing?  I just completed my FTP tests again and both my 20 minute power and 5 minute power increased by over 10 watts each.  As my wattage continues to grow, and body weight drops, I see my watts/kg growing.  I have been able to push the bike pretty well in the past on lower numbers, so I am itching to get outside and see how much it has given me in the real world!


    Jeff - DangleTheCarrot March 3, 2011 at 7:01 AM  

    Good post Jeff. I have read racing weight and think it should be a required read for all endurance people.

    One of the things I have done (I am at my "race weight" right now) is not let myself go in the offseason. When the volume decreases so does the calories. In the past when my volume would drop below 10hrs/wk I'd still eat like I was at 15+ hrs/wk.

    Annie nailed when she said she doesn't use a program. It has to be a lifestyle change, that is the only way.

    Kacie Darden March 3, 2011 at 9:02 AM  

    That was a great and inspiring post, particularly since you are seeing results in your power!

    Caratunk Girl March 3, 2011 at 11:26 AM  

    Great post Jeff, this is one of my biggest struggles. I love that you are seeing the power!

    100% agree - it is a lifestyle change, not a program.

    I would say a big challenge for me is that no one else in my house wants to eat well, so crap still lives in the house...stuff that I wouldn't even buy so I wouldn't be tempted, you know?

    Hollywood March 3, 2011 at 11:30 AM  

    All I'm going to say is that there's more than calories in/out. It's been proven you can lose weight only eating twinkies(seriously; google it), but for anyone, and especially athletes, there's SOOO much more to it. Just sayin'

    Jeff Vanis March 3, 2011 at 12:05 PM  

    I know there is more to Nutrition than calories in vs calories out, for weight loss that general rule applies. Just as the Twinkie diet works as long as you are burning more than you take in, it does not necessarily set you up for peak performance.

    I would agreed with there being more to it when you start factoring in endurance sports and related performance. That is another topic about quality calories vs junk or filler for fuel.

    Dianna in Maui March 3, 2011 at 12:24 PM  

    Our biggest challenge at home is the fact that I love to cook and my family loves to eat. I've trained (see "spoiled") them silly over the years. If we ate creme brulee and chocolate souffle for dinner every night they would be in heaven.

    But being able to cook also opens the door for healthy eating, and so I've been tweaking things over the past two years to get everyone to be a little healthier.

    And if I could add Excuse #6: "Just this one time won't hurt you...have some more."

    eye lift March 8, 2011 at 11:00 PM  

    I knew that nutritions may help many ways. But it is unknown for me. Your article is very useful.

    nose job July 7, 2011 at 10:18 AM  

    I know there is more to nutrition calories in comparison to the loss of calories by weight, to this general rule applies. Like the Twinkie diet works as long as you burn more than they take does not necessarily mean that is configured for peak performance.

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