Tuesday, July 8, 2014

TriTalk Tuesday - What's for Dinner?

Hello hello and it's Tuesday again!  Cynthia from You Signed Up For What? and Courtney from The Trigirl Chronicles decided to take on one of the toughest parts of being an athlete - of being a human! - this week.  Nutrition.  Not Race Day Nutrition (that's next week), but the day to day diet of someone who is trying to train for a triathlon or other athletic event.

Nutrition is said the be the fourth discipline of triathlon.  By whom, you ask?  People, ok?  Just PEOPLE.  Everyone agrees that what you put into your body is a critical part of your training, your life, your physical being, and your sanity.  Frustratingly, no one seems to agree on just what the right approach is.

Spoiler:  I don't have the right answer either.

I actually find the subject of nutrition so very confusing, that I'm actively soliciting comments on this blog post.  Please, oh readers, help a Cupcake Tri Girl out at chime in!

This used to be "right" - base of carbs, then fruits & veg, then protein, then fat:

BUT obesity rates have more than doubled in our country since the 1970s.  Now 2 out of 3 Americans is overweight or obese.  1 in 3 is obese.  What's scarier - these days about a quarter of preschoolers are overweight, and one in three school age children are above a healthy weight.

Just think about what that is going to look like in another 20 years in terms of diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, and the host of other factors than come with obesity!!! 

So the "conventional wisdom" of the food pyramid has now shifted away from a carb-loaded, grain heavy diet, and now looks like this:

Fill your plate halfway with fruits and vegetables, get about 1/4 protein, 1/4 grains, and a little bit of dairy.  This is more or less what I strive for (I know... I'm a follower...)

Fish, avocado, quinoa, broccoli, and 1/4 sweet potato

Great big salad over 1/2 the plate, quinoa and beans,
 turkey kielbasa and watermelon
Right about now I'm guessing that several of you are yelling "Carbs!  Cut carbs to lose weight!  High protein!" while the others are chanting "Carbs fuel your workouts.  Carbs fuel your workouts!"  So confusing.  I have tried varieties of "clean" diets.  I tracked everything I put in my mouth like it was my job (counting calories) for a good solid six months and lost 20 lbs.  I went on Weight Watchers.  I also go through periods of this (particularly during peak training weeks):

My favorite diet - "The Rungries"
My nutritional situation is complicated by the fact that I have severe reactive hypoglycemia.  For a full explanation of what the heck that means, please read my review of PocketFuel (I even made graphs!).  In a nutshell, my body can't handle large doses of sugar/carbs, or being without food for more than a couple of hours at a time.  I absolutely must pair carbs, protein, and fat together in the right ratio every time I eat (which is several times per day), or I suffer the consequences.  My blood sugar fluctuations are a huge part of my battle with anxiety and mood issues.  They also make trying to lose weight very difficult and training for long-distance endurance sports very difficult.  Yes, my current goals are to shed a few pounds and train for a 3-4 hour Olympic.  We've already discussed that I'm crap at goal setting.....

A lunch from my Clean Eating phase:
apples, homemade coconut granola,
and tuna & avocado on an egg and flaxseed wrap

Every time in my life that I've deviated into new dietary zones I have made myself very sick very quickly.  After last week's goal post I told my coach I was trying to cut back on the pounds again.  I could here the "No!!!!  You need to fuel your training!" echoing all the way from his home in NYC.....  He was correct.  After a single day of attempting high protein, lower carbs I was a sick puppy.

After all this experimentation, the only single thing that I can say makes a big difference is vastly reduced the amount of refined sugar in my diet.

These would be onion rings.  Which are awesome.
I'm in workout gear so I assume that I earned them!

All of the above is why I stick to the current wisdom (the plate picture) and try to not get too caught up in popular diets.  I also try to not get too hung up on the scale.  After all, I'm smack in the middle of the healthy BMI range.  Just because I look like a 34 year old who had two kids, but want to look like a 22 year old, is not a reason to jeopardize my training or my health.  Since starting my triathlon journey over a year ago, my weight has stayed the same, despite 4-6 workouts a week.  The endurance athlete lifestyle does not lend itself well to looking like Jillian Michaels, alas (though if folks have suggestions... go for it!)

I actually am so very deeply confused about my calories in versus calories out that I bought myself a new toy - the Garmin Vivofit.  Ok, I actually got it because I wanted it, it looks cool, and I like playing with data.  But rationalization is a skill, so....  My thoughts are that I have office days were I sit at a desk, I have big training days, I have crazy-running-around Mommy days, and I'd like to know what the range of those days really looks like, and how much fuel I should be taking in.

Garmin Vivofit, pristine out of box!
 I'll end this not-quite-helpful solicitous ramble with my favorite foods to have on hand for training.  When I'm really in deep training weeks, when I've had the presence of mind to meal plan (note: these two are usually mutually exclusive), these are my go to foods:

  • Quinoa.  The only grain that is also a complete protein (all amino acids).  #nutritionalhack
  • Almond milk.  More calcium than regular milk.  And I just feel virtuous drinking it.
  • Avocados.  I eat them plain, out of their skin, with a spoon.  Even other athletes think this is odd.  
My Mother's Day "mad libs" from my 5 year old.
Mommy likes avocados and to "lots of things" all day...

  • Salmon.  Which is sad, because my family hates it
  • Tons of produce.  Frozen in the fridge for emergencies.  My family also has organix produce delivered to our door once a week.  We never know just quite what we will get, which is part of the fun.  We have usually been members of a CSA (community supported agriculture), but are trying to make a go of it with our home garden....
The first of our carrot crop this year

  •  Grilled chicken.  Buy it in value packs, grill en mass.  Quick protein source and there are tons of fast dinners you can throw together with it.  Quesadillas anyone?
  • Protein powder - I haven't found one I really like yet.  Suggestions welcome
  • Greek yogurt.  Either plain or vanilla.  Much more protein per spoon than regular yogurt.  Again, it's all about pairing protein/fat/carbs....
  • Energy snack raisin thingies.  I don't have a name for them really, but you take equal parts almonds and raisins (and a handful of chocolate chips if you want) and put them in a food processor.  (Soaking the raisins in hot water for a few minutes first helps). Then roll them into bite size balls.  A training must.
Ok all my nutritionist readers - how am I doing?  What tips, beyond the usual athletic advice, would you offer someone with blood sugar issues?


Hannah said...

I love plain avocados too! I'll scoop it out of the skin and just eat it as a snack :)
As far as suggestions for protein powder--since it sounds like you have a picky stomach, I recommend Hammer Nutrition's protein powder--they have Whey, Soy, and even Vegan options. Whey is my personal preference. :)

Anonymous said...

Do you research the glycemic index of foods to control your hypoglycemia? There's a book called "The GI Diet Clinic" that talks about the effects of different carbs on your blood sugar. But you can probably find a lot of info about glycemic index online.

Anonymous said...

Nutrition is confusing for a LOT of folks. There's a lot of conflicting (an outdated) info out there. I'm a Nutritionist and work closely with endurance athletes.(I'm a long distance runner, myself) I am a huge advocate of a plant strong diet, especially for athletes. (that doesn't necessarily mean you have to totally give up all animal products - though, that is the healthiest option.) As for protein powders - ditch 'em. They are not healthy options at all. And, they're unnecessary. Athletes are fueled by carbs - but they need to be good carbs. Steer clear of all processed foods - that includes all the white stuff. Get those carbs from fruits, veggies and whole grains. Start choosing your foods based on their nutrient density. The are the foods that will fuel your workouts and aid your recovery. Keep you plate filled with whole plants foods and minimal amounts of animal products and I guarantee that your performance will be better, you will experience less inflammation and will recover faster. Happy Racing!

Unknown said...

I also love avocados plain. They'r so yummy and you just can't argue with the good fats and omega-3's! I also have issues with cutting carbs. During lulls in my training cycle it's fine, but when my training is picking up or peaking my carb intake pretty much doubles or triples. I need them to fuel me through workouts otherwise I bonk.

Salt said...

I'm shoveling vanilla Greek yogurt into my face as I'm reading this. Your go-tos sound a lot like mine (we could go out for salmon together!) except that I hate avocado. I know. There's something wrong with me.

I watch what I eat in the sense that I try to avoid things that are processed when I can or have a lot of extra sugar, but I bet my diet would probably make some health nuts very sad. I've been trying to get better for sure. Especially right now when I can't really run.

Anonymous said...

I worked with a nutritionist when I had to be on Metformin (good times :-/ ). She taught me a lot about checking the glycemic indexes of foods in connection with blood sugar levels. It really does help keep your levels evened out - although I'm probably preaching to the choir on that!
Also -- I love eating slices of avocado. I have weeks where I'd put avocado on everything if they weren't so darn expensive!

Gabi @ LeanGreenIslandGirl said...

Love avocados, love greek yogurt! Recently started eating more raisins, because like almonds, they're an easy snack. Love CSAs...this year we refocused on our own garden, but then Ironman training took over and our garden suffered a little and now I miss the CSA. Those carrots looks good!

Cynthia @ You Signed Up For WHAT?! said...

I've started to eat avocados like that at work because it's annoying to find a knife and slice them up there (and too messy!) and I like it! Your post is making me hungry for quinoa....

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