Thursday, August 7, 2014
My Nutrition Philosophy
In a nutshell: Nourish and fuel your body.
The longer version:
When I was a swimmer growing up, I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I was hungry, in whatever quantities I wanted. I gave no thought to what I put in my mouth. Thankfully my parents had instilled some pretty good habits in my sister and I, e.g., always eating breakfast, limiting soda, eating lots of veggie, sitting down together every night for dinner, and packing us balanced lunches the majority of the time for school. With a 20-hour per week training schedule and a growing body to fuel, it made sense to eat pre-morning practice meal, breakfast, snack at break, lunch, pre-afternoon practice meal, and dinner. I'd estimate that I consumed nearly 4000 calories a day back then, no big deal.
Fast forward to my post-swimming and pre-triathlon life... it took a while to adjust my diet down from 4k calories a day of whatever I wanted to something a bit more realistic for a somewhat sedentary life in an office. There were a few years where I definitely didn't workout much, yet I was still eating basically whatever I felt like eating until about a year and a half ago.
A year and a half ago, I started to think about what I ate and I started to notice a lot of changes in my body. I started trying to eat 5 meals a day in order to have sustained energy throughout the day. I started to cut out overly processed foods, sugar (and cheese), focusing on real ingredients and whole foods. I've always cooked a lot for myself, but I started to swap out ingredients for healthier options. I started to focus on eating more lean protein and more veggies. And I started to focus on drinking lots of water. Then I started to notice that these changes made me feel great! More energy and less "hanger" were definitely bonuses.
For a while there, I was limiting my carbs and doing a form of carb cycling, which was great and helped me achieve a weight loss goal. Now, I've added some carbs back into my diet, mostly in the form of oats, sweet potatoes, fruit, sprouted grain bread, and quinoa. I know that my body needs these carbs for energy as an athlete, but I also know that white flour and some simple carbs make me feel really icky. Don't get me wrong though, I do eat these things on occasion!!
Overall, I think about how I need to fuel my body properly to get the most out of it. Choosing food that makes me feel good is key to that. Getting enough macro and micro nutrients is also key. In addition to my food, I take a liquid supplement (with vitamins, essential minerals, superfood mangosteen, and aloe vera) to ensure that I am getting everything my body needs. The final element is balance. It has always been important for me to not obsess over what I eat (clearly, I used to never think about it at all), and to allow myself to have whatever I want on occasion. The key for me is getting back on track with my "nourish and fuel my body" philosophy rather than continuing to indulge in the stuff that may taste great, but doesn't make me feel great. You have to put premium fuel in the tank to get the best results!