a pretty dragonfruit
Whew! It’s somehow already February and even though I made a resolution to be better about nutrition this year, nothing has really changed.I think the thing about nutrition that makes it so tough (even for MD-to-be’s!) is that there is so much information out there, and it’s hard to tell the good from the bad. I know how important it is for training and performance, plus just for my overall sense of well-being, so this month I’m breaking it down and going after nutrition hard.
Most of the information that I’m using to
change actually make my nutrition plan comes from prior knowledge, personal preference, and a few great resources: Racing Weight, which is designed to help endurance athletes discover and achieve their optimum weight and body composition for performance, the Triathlete’s Training Bible, the wealth of information on triathlete.com, plus, you know, good old Google for when I have questions that haven’t been answered.
Upfront, there are a few things I should say:
1. I’m not a doctor yet, and even if I were, this is not medical advice. It’s just what I’m doing to try to improve my fitness.
2. I don’t think this plan is sustainable for me because it calls for some rigidity that my lifestyle doesn’t support. My hope is that in doing it for a month, I will develop some healthy eating habits that stick around :).
3. In general, I will stick to whole, unprocessed foods. I’m already pretty good about this; probably 80% of what I eat is made from scratch by me.
geeked out in the produce section of Whole Foods – I love how it’s all arranged!
The first step to good goal setting is making sure that your progress is measurable! So, I’m going to start with the following metrics:
- body fat percentage
- sleep quality (more about this in a later post)
- energy level
- resting heart rate
- fitness curve (from Strava)
- 1 mile time trial
The goals I’d like to achieve were a little harder to define. According to Racing Weight, I should lose another 6% of my body fat to get to the ideal ratio (13% BF for me). Personally, I would rather be a little less aggressive because I don’t feel like looking like a skeleton. I’d like to aim for about 17% and see how that goes – it means losing about 5 pounds. According to the TTB, I should lose around 13 pounds, which seems like wayyy too much to me. So, for now we’ll aim for 17% body fat, and general improvement or no change in any of the above metrics.
snacking while writing this mammoth post :)
Part 1: Staying Accountable
In my earlier post about eating well while traveling, I mentioned the first step of my plan: increasing accountability by tracking my eats on myfitnesspal. This is recommended by all of the sources that I read. I started doing this a few days ago, and it has made such a big difference already. I think this is because:
- Logging a food makes me think about why I’m eating it. Am I bored? Actually hungry? Way too hungry to the point where I should have eaten hours ago?
- Apparently, the only thing I ever really reach for is carbs in many forms: fruit, vegetables, cereal and pumpkin/banana loaf are way up on top. On the opposite end, I’m pretty bad at eating protein. Since it’s hard to tell “good carbs” (fruits etc) from bad (ahem, donuts), Matt Fitzgerald proposes the use of a “diet quality score” in Racing Weight.
- Logging food reminds me how important the timing of my nutrition is.
Bottom Line: I will track my food intake every day this month, and rate the quality of my diet once per week.
Part 2: Managing Content
There doesn’t seem to be much agreement anywhere about how to split the ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fats in a triathlete’s diet. All acknowledge that a very low carbohydrate diet will produce fat loss but will also sacrifice performance. A diet too high in carbohydrates will encourage fat deposition, which is clearly not ideal.
I’ve decided to follow the ratios prescribed in the Zone diet, as this appears to offer a reasonable balance of protein and carbohydrates while allowing for fat intake as well. Further, most sources agree that 1.2 g of protein / kg of body weight is the amount of protein I should be aiming for. I based my goal calculations off of that to create the ratios below:
Bottom Line: Get all my macronutrients in a 30/40/30-ish ratio and stay in the neighbourhood of 1450-1550 kcal/d, with added allowances for strenuous exercise. This should support my general activity level + training while encouraging reasonable fat loss.
Part 3: Timing!
So far, I haven’t found any hard and fast rules here, but I like the idea of general guidelines. Nutrition gurus for athletes and non-athletes alike agree that the bulk of calories should be eaten earlier in the day, and carbohydrates especially should be earlier. For me, this will play out as:
- Most carbohydrates before noon
- Stop eating by 9 PM (definitely the hardest thing I’ll have to tackle!)
Part 4: Water
Ah, water. This should be easy, but it’s not. My coach has been known to call me a camel because I never drink water during workouts, and I’m pretty bad about it during the day too. Since I realllly hate the washing-machine effect (aka working out with my stomach full of liquid), I’m going to approach this from an all-day angle. The goal will be 1L of water, black coffee, or unsweetened tea each day.
Stay tuned in the next few weeks as I try to navigate nutrition properly. I’m hoping to share some breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas that work with this plan and that are feasible for other busy athletes out there! In a month, I’ll do a review of my progress – I can do this for 28 days, right?
Any tips, tricks or thoughts on nutrition to share? Happy February!