Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nutrition, running and weight


I've written before about my observations related to workout effort and weight. The key point is that maintaining an ideal weight should not be viewed as a complex series of actions related to diets that force unnatural behavior and/or over-training to burn off calories. Simply put, if your focus on fitness and weight maintenance isn't sustainable your results won't be sustainable. Last August I decided that my diet and level of activity were unacceptable and chose to change my behavior. I never considered any changes related to quick weight loss because that wasn't the point. The point was more about managing cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure by introducing more activity, reducing portion sizes and making better choices for foods. Everyone has their own unique body chemistry and what has worked for me won't necessarily yield the same results for others. But I have been successful in meeting all my goals to date.

This morning I weighed in (I only check weight once a week, always in the morning before my run) and noted that I have largely stabilized at a weight that is 13% lower than my benchmarked weight from August '09. My BMI has gone from 27.2 to 23.6, and my cholesterol, triglyceride and other vitals have all moved well into the normal range. My average running distance has increased almost 30% since August and this is also key to getting to full equilibrium. As weight has come off the effort required to run an equivalent distance has decreased. Increasing distance while maintaining the same safe and satisfying diet has allowed me to reach a level that is both sustainable and healthy.

Now that I have reached this point I need to think about where I go from here. I do plan to keep increasing distance and I'll need to build more muscle to increase my performance. I may need to eat more to do that because without the right level of protein a runner can do damage to muscles when pushing hard. I suspect that may be why I experienced a hamstring pull doing tempo runs a few weeks ago. It's all about balance. This is my typical diet. You can compare it to Sedentary Man's:

Pre-Run
90 calorie Special K bar (high complex carbs, low sugar, low protein)
Half cup coffee, .5 oz. non-fat milk


Breakfast
200 calorie Larabar (nut varieties, high protein)
6 0z. coffee with fat free milk


Lunch
Stir fry with tofu, vegetables, brown rice and low sodium soy sauce
Whole fruit


Dinner
Boca burger, whole wheat bread
Sun Chips
Trader Joe's Omega nut mix (1.6 oz.)
Whole fruit










I've been introducing small portions of chicken into my dinners, typically mixed with vegetables, to increase protein levels. I also add edamame to increase protein. As I've said before, it's really about listening to your body. At this point I believe I have the balance right. Compared to August I have significantly more energy and I am far less stressed. Good results are motivating and the level of effort required to maintain my balance is reasonable enough so that I look forward to my daily workouts.

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