Shifting Focus to the 5th Sport

6 Apr

I’ve decided that for this next race, I’m going to put a little more focus on my diet. Swim and bike will get plenty of attention–that’s inevitable–but diet is just as important as working transitions or swimming thousands of laps in the pool, so I’m gonna pay it some mind. I’ve devised a diet plan that fuses together my coach’s nutrition guidelines and some input from a friend who knows things. I’m using Calorie-Count.com to keep myself on track.

In general, I eat pretty clean. And that’s not me being delusional, that is a fact. I don’t do the fast foods or the frozen foods or the fried foods. I cook almost everything I eat, I pack my lunches, I rarely dine out anymore, etc… I stay away from the red meats and the pink meats (unless, as previously posted, I know they’re gonna be worth it). However, I do have the standard American Achilles heel: I don’t know from portion control. I eat really good stuff but I eat a lot of it. I’ve never been able to flip the switch from hungry to full, especially when food tastes good. I get that flavor in my mouth and I just want MORE!

So I’ve decided that part of my diet-watch leading up to TriMiami will have to do with portion control; or eating until just satisfied. There is, however, a potential snag here. Anyone whose ever trained endurance has some degree of experience with what I like to call, “Consumption Overdrive,” or “CO” for short. When the body is in CO, there is absolutely no way to EVER feel like you’ve eaten enough. No matter what you stuff down your gullet.

My very first full-blown CO experience was after my very first race back in the fall. It was a super sprint (400meter swim, 9 mile bike, 2 and change mile run) that I finished in about 57 minutes. So this was not some massive endeavor that took all day. And yet, I spent the rest of the afternoon eating about, oh, every thirty minutes. I’d eat something, feel OK and then half an hour later, as if on cue, my stomach would start talking like Audrey II: FEED ME, EDITH. FEED ME ALL NIGHT LONG! Short of eating people, I think I tried everything that is edible or even remotely edible on this, our earth to satisfy my hunger. Eventually, I just fell asleep.

TriMiami is a longer race and so my training volume will increase–it’s already begun. Wednesday and Thursday were both 2-a-Days, meaning they were bookended by workouts. I feel significantly hungrier on two-a-days than I do after a single, extended workout. Probably because my engine never stops running.

One of my students asked me yesterday if I get to eat anything I want because of all the training.  The answer is a sad but true “no.” When I started this adventure, I paid no mind to how much I consumed. I was vastly overestimating my calorie burn based solely on how hungry I felt and I gave myself a free pass to eat everything. I ended up actually gaining a couple of pounds.

Turns out, this happens a lot when folks begin an endurance training endeavor. And in general, we tend to overestimate (or underestimate) our needs because the one-size-fits-all 2000 calories/day USDA diet suggestion is on every food label in the supermarche. If you’re reading food labels, good! Don’t stop. But understand that 2000 calories a day may be a decent estimate for the average adult human–a sexless theoretical mean–but it might not work for you, a real person.

In order to know what you need, you need to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

From the Mayo Clinic:

The number of calories your body uses to carry out…basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate — what you might call metabolism. Several factors determine your individual basal metabolic rate:

Your body size and composition. The bodies of people who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.

Your sex. Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than do women of the same age and weight, burning more calories.

Your age. As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.

Show me the man/woman who naturally and happily alters his/her diet to accomodate for the gradual slide towards old age and I will show you a pig with golden wings. And please do not flood my inbox with pictures of bright-eyed, smiling 80-year old 7th Day Adventists. They are the exception, not the rule.

If you’re interested in getting real about your BMR, use the handy calculator on this website and then use the Harris Benedict Equation to figure out your daily caloric needs. Or, hit the Department of Health and Human Services website where even they have a tool to determine actual caloric need. I am sure that it’s based on BMR and HBE but it’s all done for you in one calculation. Chances are good you will be surprised by what you discover.

Keeping track of consumption is not a bad idea for anyone who wants to get real about how/what they’re eating. I try to check in with myself 2-3 times a year. Logging my foods and really paying attention keeps me honest and on track. Turns out I haven’t been eating nearly enough protein and I was certain that I had this under control. I keep coming in under by like 15-30%. So I’ve made some adjustments and we’ll see how they play out.

In the meantime, the real challenge is just coming up with the combination of foods that keeps me feeling full as my training volume increases. Any suggestions from the blogosphere would be welcome and appreciated!

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One Response to “Shifting Focus to the 5th Sport”

  1. Roberts April 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    I have done the calorie count thing before. I have even used that site you mentioned, Calorie-Count.com. I documented everything. It work, I just got sick of it. It was worth the experience. The most valuable lesson: Objects may be larger than they appear!

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