Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Quest for Best Nutrition

Just a quick aside that the title of this blog began as My Quest for Good Nutrition, then got changed to Better, and now is Best.  Why settle???

If you have been following my blog for a while, first of all, thanks for reading!!  You also know that I am always striving towards better nutrition for many reasons that you can read about here and here and here.  The main reason is good health.  I want to put the very best things I can into my body. Secondly is fuel.  I train hard, and I do not want poor nutrition to undermine all the of the hours I put into training.  I would also be lying if I didn't say that I want to look good!  I think I could stand to be leaner.  And all good triathletes know that leaner equals faster!!

For the past two years, I have been gradually moving towards better eating each year.  The first year I really focused on calories and by doing that was able to lose all of my unwanted pregnancy weight from Noah. I logged every calorie I ate until I couldn't stand it anymore.  That was about 5 months and brought me to what I consider my body's setpoint--you know, the weight it tends to like being at most. I had just begun focusing on eating more whole foods and less processed foods, but I still resorted to using Splenda instead of sugar, and other artificial or processed "treats".  When I stopped counting obsessively I was training pretty hard and was able to eat what I wanted, within reason, without gaining any weight.  I also didn't lose any weight.

Last year, I decided to go further.  I cut out all Splenda and most processed foods.  I did two 12-week challenges where I cut out all added sugars of any kind.  I ate really good, real foods and made a point of not counting calories.  I trained hard and my weight stayed very steady right around my setpoint, give or take a few pounds.

So here I am in a new year, and my quest continues.  Don't get me wrong, I feel that I eat very well, and I am vigilant about nutrition.  So why the continued push?  Well, for me (and, truly, I think for everyone) good nutrition is not something that comes easily or naturally.  Why do I think that?  Well, take a look at my year last year.  I think I made great efforts towards good nutrition, yet, I lost no weight, I still had many moments (and sometimes weeks) of "cheating", and I just think I can do better.  People who are fit and lean are not that way by accident...they work hard for it, and so will I.

For this year, instead of focusing on losing weight, which clearly doesn't work for me once I am at my setpoint, I am focusing on body composition.  I am going to lose the body fat and get lean this year.  Yes, I am!  I have been doing a lot of reading to see what aspect I might not be hitting right on.  I have read The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, and Racing Weight.  I have also read a lot of stuff online from blogs to articles to scientific papers, as well as listening to my coach and other athletes I know.  I think all of the research is important, but I think what is even more important than that is that I need to go with what my heart says is right.

For me, right means eating a lot of whole foods - fruit, veggies, lean meats, nuts, seeds, dairy and whole grains--and not a lot of much else, especially sugar.  While I think there are some valid aspects of the Paleo Diet, my main problem with Paleo is that many whole foods that are nutritious are outlawed.  This is where I follow my heart.  I don't believe that milk and oatmeal and whole wheat bread that I make with my own hands is bad for me!  I do think I can eat too much of it, but I am not going to forbid things like that.

What I have gleaned from the reading, especially from Racing Weight, by Matt Fitzgerald, is something new that I have not tried before called nutrient timing.  That is the idea that certain nutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) are better eaten at certain times in the day, specifically relating to workouts.  Basically, during the window before and after a workout is the best time to eat carbs and even a treat, if you are going to have one, because it will either be burned up in the workout or used to replace the glycogen you've lost during the workout.  During other times of the day outside the workout window, it is best to focus on fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. (This is my very unscientific way of explaining this...I hope you don't mind the generalities.)  Also, I am really focusing on fueling my workouts effectively, so they are productive and I recover quickly.

I really like Fitzgerald's approach to getting lean for racing.  It is balanced and doesn't forbid any healthy foods.  He even includes a handy chart for giving your daily eating a score, which, as you know, is what I do.  His is a little more complex, but I'm thinking of giving it a go in the next few days to see how I rate.

So, do I have a set goal?  Kind of...My current body fat percentage is 25%, which is considered "normal" for a woman.  I would really like to get that down to around 20% by the time the race season begins.  I will be getting pinched by M. every month or so, to track my progress.  I am keeping a food journal, not so I can count calories, but so I can see trends in my eating.  On the top of each page of my journal I have written some inspirational comments to remind myself of my goals and reasons.  Sometimes it takes just a little bit extra, you know?

I'll keep you posted on my progress.  In the meantime, if you are looking to get leaner for the race season, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Racing Weight.  In my opinion, it is one of the most balanced books around for endurance athletes looking to get lean.

I'd love to hear how you keep yourself motivated to eat right!!


  1. That's a great goal for your year! I don't know if i was even down at 20% before my IM...probably more like 22-23.

    I too have changed eating habits a lot - went from eating a lot of junk to trying to eat healthier foods including actual fruits and veggies to last year focusing a lot on timing and this year will be more on ingredients I think. I really began to cut processed foods out last year and after reading In Defense of Food, I won't buy anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. I think avoiding food with all those artificial sweeteners really changes your cravings and gets you out of the sugar cycle.

    Best of luck!!!

  2. I just finished "Racing Weight" and let me second your recommendation. It made me think about what, when, how, and why I eat especially in relation to training. Good luck!

  3. I'm a big fan of Tosca Reno's Clean Eating books and magazines. These introduced me to new foods like quinoa and edamame. (Hopefully I spelled those correctly!) I still stray and eat things that aren't that great for me, but at least I have clean eating in the back of my mind at all times. I've just started training for my first tri and nutrition is something I really have to start working on. I'll just keep reading and learning and one of these days it will hopefully all sink in!

  4. I have been thinking about this alot too... and you're the 2nd to mention this book. I'm headed to the bookstore (or at least the online bookstore). Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Looks like I need to head to the bookstore. I went vegetarian about 3 years ago and feel a lot better. It works for me (I know it's not for everyone). But, as I ramp up for IM, I know I need to be more careful about my eating. What motivates me, however, is my skinny jeans. :) I want to look good in them.

  6. Thanks for your did take alot to write that post...but you know what I feel a little better thanks for reading, and your encouragement...and good luck with your goal!

  7. to be honest, what keeps me motivated is sadly, my scale, and how my clothes fit. I wish I could say my health, but that comes in second place.

    I think the timing of when you eat certain foods is interesting, and makes sense. I've been working on what I eat before and after a run, I'm not very good at that.

  8. Racing Weight sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for sharing!


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