Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Food as Fuel

It's no secret that on my get-healthy journey my relationship to food has evolved. It started out pretty simple: Cut calories, reduce junk food intake, eat more fresh foods. And, at the time, that was good enough. I was seeing results.

Fast forward to present day. My activity level has increased drastically since last year at this time. The introduction of longer, more intense workouts has changed my dietary needs. A couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to feel dizzy during my strength circuit workout. When I evaluated things afterward, I realized that I'd only consumed about 400 calories up to that point in the day. I'm an evening eater, so I'd developed the habit of saving most of my calories for dinner and a snack/dessert. Clearly, this strategy wasn't going to cut it anymore. It's tough to go out on a successful run or kill a strength training session when your body has no fuel to go on. Duh--right?

So, I've been working on changing my relationship to food yet my body what it needs to do the work I'm asking of it. This is happening none to soon as I'm starting official marathon training in a week and a half! The major change I've made is spreading my calories out throughout the day better. I still eat my low cal breakfast and lunch, but I've added in a small mid-morning snack (usually a small apple or handful of grapes) and a pre-workout snack (I'm a huge fan of a banana or a spoonful of peanut butter prior to a run). This has forced me to work harder at planning healthier dinners, which benefits both B. and me. A sugar-free real fruit popsicle or a pudding cup tops out my night. And, if all goes well, I'm still within my calorie allowance for the day.

So, instead of thinking of food only in terms of calories and how it affects my weight loss, I'm focusing on food as fuel for my activities, while still being mindful of not over-consuming. This also applies to food/beverages that hinder my fitness goals...The girl who used to love a bottle of wine or two on a weekend night barely drinks one glass every couple of weeks now. I also avoid caffeine on days I run (the better to focus on hydration). And, I'm (trying) to limit dairy other than yogurt b/c it seems to affect my allergies (weird but true)...This one's tough as a frozen custard is my favorite thing in the world...sigh.

Summer has been a great time to start changing my eating habits. The availability of fresh fruits and veggies makes it easy to get more fiber, and because they're mostly low cal, you can really fill up on them. I've also learned to love protein in the form of peanut butter, hummus, beans, etc. By the time fall/winter rolls around and my desire for comfort foods increases, hopefully these new habits will be solid.

It's nice to feel like I'm not starving until dinner time. It's nice to go on a run and not collapse when I get home. I've noticed an improvement in strength both during my strength training sessions (I can do most of No More Trouble Zones with 8 lb weights now!) and during runs (the local hills are getting easier and easier). I'm sure marathon training will require further tweaks to this new food philosophy. I'm trying not to obsess about how this might affect the loss of my last 8 stubborn pounds. I'll let you know how it goes!

1 comment:

  1. That is a great way to look at food (and a healthy way)! I too have had my share of dizzy spells when working out. It is amazing how every so often, you have to reassess your food intake and your activity level to make sure they match up!