Friday, December 5, 2008


Imagine my surprise almost two years ago when I first started running and a friend said, “now that you have your training started, let’s work on your diet.”

My diet? WTF is wrong with my diet?

Well, if you’ve been around my blog long enough, you probably have a few suggestions. And that friend did too. Plenty of people had plenty to say. I’m better for it now.

Obviously, the first to go were cupcakes (at least they were the first things to go on my should-not-eat list; they didn’t necessarily leave my diet) and all the tarts and tortes that make me smile. In sum: sugar was a problem.

Before I started training (running, in particular) I paid little attention to what I was eating as it related to how I was running or swimming. I was the healthiest eater I knew. Unfortunately, relativity doesn’t count here. Instead, my diet was very backward: I ran or swam or cycled to eat, not the other way around.

That food could actually help me do these things better never crossed my mind.

For years I spiked and dropped on blood sugar, ever skipping breakfast, sweetening up lunch, crashing every afternoon and overstuffing dinner. It was almost impossible to make it through a day without fighting the nappies or needing coffee to think about mounting an elliptical for a shamefully short time.

The more I talked to fit people, though, the more eating right for training made sense. Even if it did take a year and a half to really take hold.

I listened to vitamin stories and checked the magic of nutrition bars. I heard about the “hour after workout” rule and the secrets of Ensure shakes. But it was the training runs after a high-energy meal (antioxidant-rich fruits, lean protein, good carbs) that made it all dawn.

But what really brought it home for me? Recovery meals.

I was reading about the damage we do to our muscle fibers, ligaments and tendons during average and intense workouts. And all the memories of how my vitamin- and protein-deficient body let my leg fracture and my muscles ache from overuse. Sure, I was overtraining for the most part, but I wasn’t giving my body the resources to rebuild and recover at all. Like proper nutrition and rest.

While the brain-training book provided some background on nutrition, one piece of advice really stuck: you must become fanatical about eating in recovery! And if there’s anyone who can become fanatical about eating, well, that would be me.

It helped to understand a) how our bodies are damaged during exercise; b) how our bodies rebuild and improve in recovery; c) how antioxidants, lean proteins and carbs consumed within an optimal one-hour period contribute to that rebuilding effort. Perhaps it’s all a mental game (but I have been brain training!), but that knowledge somehow makes me feel better when I eat and feel lighter when I run.

And there’s so much more to learn. I just picked up a book about running nutrition, and I’m emotionally prepared to learn how bad my diet used to be and how to cope with all the guilt I feel next time I fall for that cupcake.


kelsalynn said...

I can relate to this post so much. I never realized how much I was spiking and dipping during any given day because of my diet... but now that we balance out our meals every time, I feel so consistent throughout the day. I can FEEL my body needing its fuel. It's amazing how important food is and frankly, how our society has totally lost sight of that.

But cupcakes and torts are okay once in a while too!!!