Sunday, December 6, 2009

the weight of the matter

Through the past year I have revolutionized my nutrition. The struggle as an athlete and coach even was how to balance nutrition while distance training and keep on keeping on. Last January I began to delve into the Paleo diet and through my work with the Wizard and QT2 I came to the Core Diet. The Core Diet is often mistaken for Atkins to those who don't know it well.

The Core Diet is pretty much the same as Paleo for Athletes, with the exception that it has better guidelines for balancing weight loss with distance training. We made vast improvements in my body composition throughout the past 6 months. It's tricky because body composition is not truly measured in pounds as it is in body fat. For me that means calipers. While they do have a margin of error they are much more reliable than a..... scale. A scale? really? You step on a scale and it tells you how much body fat you have? Read the directions on how it is done..... please. Then use some common sense.

Body composition is important in triathlon. The lighter you are the faster you can go, but with great exception. Many athletes fall into the lighter is better and then end up with significant injury, most commonly in the form of stress fractures.

Many athletes also believe that lighter right now is faster forever.

Women should aim for a body fat percentage of 12-14%, and that 12% should be on race day. Not before. Men.... 5-7% and again, that 7%.... on your A race day. Getting down to that lower range and even below it in December for a race that is 7 months away will guarantee you this:

1. Illness
2. Injury.

Your body needs fat to perform certain functions. Cell metabolism for one. The low fat diets of the nineties are out, the focus is now on whole foods, real foods, I think that's a great thing for our American culture.

In an Ironman race 10 pounds is said to be good for 10 minutes off of your time. Of course this excites me as I am 15 pounds lighter than when I did my 10:58 at IMFL in 07. I believe I have about 15-20 to go, but we will allow my latest body composition analysis determine that.

However if you don't have 10 pounds to lose..... then think of trying to lose that additional 10 as time added to your time. I honestly believe that it works inversely. So save yourself the time and the heartache. Be healthy, get your composition analysed by something other than your $150 scale.

A few rules on the core diet are ones easily incorporated into any lifestyle:

1. Drink 80 ounces of water every day (That's 2.5 of those Nalgene bottles)
2. Eat four fruits per day
4. Eat four veggies per day
5. Eat 6 time per day.

The biggest complaint I hear with nutrition is time. No one has time to devote to planning meals or preparing meals. But we all have time to plan our weeks and our training. Be just as serious about your nutrition then! I spend about an hour on Sundays cooking, chopping, preparing meals for the week. I store them in small Glad Lock containers and then when the time comes my preparation time is minimal.

I remember feeling a significant difference in how I felt after just 2 weeks eating in the Core. Energy levels soared, I felt cleaner, I felt really good. I was no longer relying on bread and bagels for my carbohydrates, I was relying on much healthier sources like fruits and vegetables.

Many people thing that because you are not eating bread and bagels that this is Atkins. Not so. It's a tough thing to give that stuff up, especially if you are a swimmer like me and Saturday mornings have always meant swim practice then pancakes!

Take a look at your fruits and veggies. Look at how much you can get from those sources. There is certainly a time and place for the higher carbohydrate foods, those we call workout windows and I will outline those another day.

The biggest focus when eating in the Core is healthy nutrition. I think of all of the years my body was starved of the micronutrients that it needed. Especially with the health issues I have dealt with in the past 2 years. My body soaks that stuff up now and I feel that difference.

The Wizard is pretty strict on making sure you eat enough fat, enough vitamins, he reminds us that we lose health when we aim too low. He aims for 0.5-1 pound of weight loss per week, which is easy to do in a world when you aer taught that you can lose 3-6 pounds by drinking 3 shakes a day.........

Now is the best time to begin working on the nutrition front. I don't enjoy the treats that the holidays bring. Growing up with an eating disorder this was the worst time of year for me. I am happiest when I avoid it. I am happiest when instead I try new fruits and vegetables. I feel good at the end of the day. I don't' feel like I have the sugar induced false high.

So begin establishing those habits now. Good habits. Healthy habits. The water, the fruits and the vegetables. Find out what your body composition is and then begin upon a long term plan to getting it to where it should be by race day, remembering that on race day it can be at its lowest, afterwards you add a few pounds.

It's wonderful to be fast. There will be no such thing as fast if you are a woman with 8% body fat and a stress fracture though, as you watch from the sidelines.

Be healthy!


Damie said...


Bob Turner said...

Very good info. I will look at the Core diet. I think people often look for the easy solution to weight loss when it really comes down to changing your lifestyle - permanently. I'm going to check this out because when I "go low" it is often accompanied by a sluggish, low energy calorie coma that I have to battle through in order to get where I want to go. There is a fine line between eating for improved body composition and maintaining quality training sessions. I agree this is the time of year to focus on it. Great post!