Monday, August 16, 2010

Nutrition; or, "My Rookie Mistake"

I started realizing last week that I was tired a lot and often had a headache or some muscle aches, and it was affecting my runs--my legs were super tight and painful on even short runs.  I thought maybe I was missing a nutrient or something, so I started to keep track of what I eat on a daily basis.  Calorie intake occurred to me too, because Frayed Laces recently posted about her calorie intake during bike rides (and it was a mind-blowingly huge amount, and I never take in many calories on a run).

Get this.  Apparently I average only about 1450 calories a day.
I feel so dumb now, and I hate admitting this publicly.  But, I'm posting about this in case there are other rookie marathoner-vegans who need to learn about this, too.

I wasn't skipping meals, really.  There were occasional days where I'd creep toward 2000 calories, but it was usually through getting takeout or eating tortilla chips (so not the healthiest, either).  It looks like I tend to eat a large and caloric breakfast, a snack-y lunch (like hummus and carrots or something), and then I fall off the wagon with dinner... I just never care about dinner.  I will eat whatever's around, or I will get takeout.  Sometimes dinner is something with a lot of vegetables and thus not a lot of calories.  And also I know there are times I'm working and don't feel like stopping to make food, or I'm sitting on the couch and not eager to get up to make something.  If I want snacks during the day I usually eat a)nothing, or b)carrots or radishes or a banana, or c)well... usually nothing.  It seems that I tend to have one big meal a day (breakfast) and then don't really make myself good meals the rest of the day and generally ignore feelings of hunger, often unintentionally because I just have my mind on other things or am out and about and it's difficult to just buy a vegan snack.

So here I am, this purportedly health-conscious person, eating 1450 calories a day.  I didn't know anything about calorie intake, really.  So why is this such a problem, you might ask?

I ran my info through this calorie need calculator, and it says that I need 1950 calories/day to maintain my current weight and 2500 calories/day if I'm doing 1 hour of activity a day.  I averaged my time spent running weekly and it's more than 1 hour a day (and increasing).  So I need to be eating probably more between 2500 and 3000 calories a day.  It occurred to me to bust out my Hal Higdon book, and he has a chapter on nutrition... and he says if you're running at least 30 miles/week you probably should be eating 3000 calories a day (obviously it varies by your size and weight, but he doesn't mention that).   I guess I assumed I was eating what I needed to all along (I had no idea how many or how few calories I was eating, actually, because I hate calorie counting and I figured I was probably close enough).

So, I'm supposed to add 1000 calories to my diet each day and somehow I won't start packing on weight? I can't say I was/am totally convinced, but I also recently met this amazing cyclist (he rides for a local team) and he told me he saw a nutritionist for awhile, and he had the same concerns when she told him to up his calorie intake... but that she said instead of gaining weight, you will get stronger and faster because your muscles will have more energy and more ability to store glycogen or something.  And that your body starts expecting to have that many calories so will just burn them instead of storing them as fat.  He's a whole different athlete than I am (he burns like 7000 calories on a ride sometimes) but I guess the same principles hold true.

So the facts are that apparently I should be eating a lot more than I am.

The plan is to start keeping portable snacks by the door (clif bars, bananas, trail mix) in case I'm headed out and need to grab something on the way.  And I'm going to keep things I can eat quickly in the fridge (hummus, other bean-spreads, soy yogurt, things like that) with some pretzels and nuts around.  I think I probably also don't eat enough carbs, but my next step will be to see exactly what percents of carbs, protein, and fat I'm eating each day (I guess it's supposed to be around 60% carbs, 30% protein, 10% fat, which I kind of already knew but stopped paying attention to).  And yet somehow during all of this I need to still make sure I'm eating enough vegetables as usual.

My breakfast alone is around 450 calories (I almost always have 2 servings of steel-cut oats made with 1c. soymilk and a banana, with half a cup of yogurt, a cup of blueberries, and some rice protein powder).  I ate the same thing after my long run on Saturday, and was hungry after just an hour.

I also learned that sometimes thirst can masquerade as hunger, so it's possible if you're really hungry that you're dehydrated.  So I'm also trying to drink more water (which I should be doing regardless of the calorie stuff).

It's such a new and different way of thinking, to think that it's actually bad for me to NOT have calories.  I don't want to gain weight and I think I've somewhat internalized the American mainstream fat-paranoia and calories=bad mindset.  But the stakes are different if I'm being a runner, I guess.  I hung out with the cyclist after my long run and his 100 mile ride on Saturday and it was great because he was chowing down on everything he could get his hands on and made it seem fun and positive (he's a vegetarian with vegan tendencies, too, which is nice) and it's nice to have support from people who make eating lots seem awesome instead of like a source of guilt.

So I'm reframing my thinking.  If you're new to marathoning, it's worth taking a look at your calorie intake. I'll keep you posted on how this works out for me.  I guess this is why I have this blog, though... to post about and share things I learn while training :)  The plan is to be attentive and eat when hungry, while hopefully not swinging too far in the opposite direction and eating TOO much.

(Two years of running and it takes marathon training for me to realize I need to eat to run.  Wtf was I thinking?)

ETA:  As far as eating TOO much goes... I think this is perfectly impossible for me.  It's now 5pm and I've been steadily eating all day... big breakfast, lunch, snacks, chocolate soymilk... and I'm still only at 1500 calories.  I'm going to run and will have dinner after, but I know I can't eat another thousand calories in the next 6 hours before I go to sleep sooo... this is going to take some practice.

1 comment:

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