I am super excited to share my friend Danielle with you all. She is a ball of sass. We met in college and it was girlfriends at first sight. I wish she lived closer so that we could inspire each other in person but alas it is not to be. I will just read this post over and over when I need some Vitamin “D” 🙂 I think you will enjoy her post and her brilliant writing style.
Enjoy and get inspired 🙂
That is probably how I woke up one morning at the age of 27, completely out of shape and weighing 160 lbs (5’5″). Once a vibrantly active athlete and outdoors woman, I could no longer keep up with my nieces and nephews on the tennis court.
Breathless and flushed, I realized something needed to change. Fast.
I began with a fad diet. Although I recognized it as such, I needed something regimented–a plan to follow, and follow it I did. I was soon 25 lbs lighter, but still out of shape. Worse, I was afraid to start the process of getting in shape for fear of revealing just how out of shape I was. A friend soon encouraged me to join her at a women’s only fitness center. Although I felt silly, and the exercise felt less than authentic, I started to see changes in my body–tighter abs, definition in my arms, a lower number on the scale. While it was the right move at the time, I wanted more. I wanted to be outside.
It was about that time that I was contacted by Team in Training (TNT). And it was about that time that I set the goal to complete a triathlon by the age of 30. Fortunately, my local TNT chapter was set to launch a program for a triathlon that was practically in my backyard. I signed up, raised the money, participated in the training they offered, and completed the triathlon despite a punctured tire on the bike leg (and at the age of 28).
Ironically–or perhaps fortuitously–I was hooked…on running. Running was by far the most challenging event of the triathlon for me. I was embarrassed at my earliest performances in group training, but was elated when my team commended me as the most improved runner in the group at our banquet. Upon handing me the plaque, my coach said, “Danielle, you’re an endurance athlete.”
And that changed everything.
I began devouring books, websites, and knowledgeable others related to running. I ran 6 days per week. I lived, breathed, and talked (ad nauseum, I might add) about running. But I was gaining weight, and the definition in my arms seemed to disappear. I realized that I needed to balance my activity with my nutrition–I needed to be an endurance athlete who participated in endurance eating
And that is where this blog post really begins–with the way that I fuel my body as a runner (and cyclist, and occasional swimmer).
Although some health issues have broken my ardent stride, I definitely notice a correlation between the times I am most focused on running and the times that I am fueling my body with the best foods. I mean, I’d love to paint the image that I am always the picture of health, but I still really love all food–even those foods I shouldn’t. When I’m training, though, I make better decisions about food. My goal is to walk you through the way I eat as an endurance athlete.
(As a certified carboholic, I feel it necessary to tell you that I spend a lot of time justifying carbs as fuel for the body. While true, I also feel it’s necessary to tell you that I love all the carbs I shouldn’t, some to the point that I worry about gluttony as my own deadly sin.)
Breakfast is key in my world. Partly because I prefer to exercise first thing in the morning, and partly because dangerous monsters emerge from inside me when not properly fueled. Prior to a workout, I generally eat a protein bar (maybe half depending on calories in the bar–if 150 or less, I typically eat the entire bar–and my planned exertion) and drink a cup of green tea.
Following my workout, I have two go to meals, and my focus at this point is really on protein sources. The first is about as simple as you can get: plain Greek yogurt topped with strawberries (or whatever seasonal fruit you prefer) and walnuts, and sweetened with honey. This is also when I enjoy my morning coffee. Some days I eat this breakfast prior to my workout and save the bar for a mid-morning snack.
Another breakfast that I absolutely love is a breakfast bowl I call “Sassy Spinach Satisfaction” (not really for any other reason than the dish includes spinach and it’s fun to say). In a bowl, I put raw spinach, top it with two eggs over medium (so still some yummy yolky goodness that can mix with everything else) and add salsa (go for whatever spice level you prefer…I like mine spicy…hence the sassy name!). I confess that as an occasional carnivore, I will sometimes add turkey bacon, but vegan “sausage” works just as well for flavor.
My weakness in meal planning reveals itself at lunchtime. I wish I was more creative, but leftovers typically define my lunchbox, though sometimes a pita filled with veggies and hummus, with a side of fruit, invigorates my midday palate.
My weakness in empty calorie consumption usually rears its head mid-afternoon. You know, you think you’ll get home from work earlier than you do and your only salvation seems to be the vending machine? When I’m training for an endurance event, I can often justify the stale chocolate bar that seems to scream my name, but I rarely feel good about it after. Knowing this, I plan ahead by throwing some apple or pear slices and almond butter in my lunch bag. Sometimes, I’ll toss in a cheese stick and almonds, or a protein bar (depending on AM intake, though a second protein bar is usually still better than vending machine fare).
Since I enjoy cooking, dinner is my favorite meal of the day because I can usually take my time making it. The freshness of the ingredients I chop is therapeutic after a long day at work. One of my favorite meals is quinoa stuffed poblano peppers. I love this dish because it’s really quite simple to put together, there’s a ton of flavor, and the quinoa–while adding protein–gives me a false sense of carb overload! Poblanos are not hot peppers as the name might suggest, so I adjust the amount of jalapeñ
o according to our dinner guests. For the hubster and I, the amount is typically doubled (spicy=sassy).
c. each chopped green & red bell peppers
2 tsp. minced seeded jalapeno
1 T minced cilantro (fresh is best, but 1 tsp dried will work)
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Combine water and quinoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed (10-15 minutes). Add bell peppers, onion, jalapeno, and garlic to a skillet and sauté
for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and add quinoa, green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, and lime juice. Cut chilies in half lengthwise and remove stems and seeds. Pour tomato juice into 9×13 baking pan, and add poblanos. Spoon quinoa mixture into each chile half.
Caption: Quinoa stuffed poblano peppers with lots of yumminess inside!
Top with shredded cheese. Bake 20 minutes covered with aluminum foil, then 10 minutes uncovered.
Caption: After baking, spoon a bit of the tomato sauce from the pan on top of poblanos.
At this point, you might be thinking that these meals don’t seem much different than what a non-endurance athlete/eater might prepare. And I would agree. The challenge for the endurance athlete is finding the right balance of carbs/protein/fat without overdosing in any one area, and maintaining a reasonable caloric intake.
While I tend to focus more on not gaining weight while I am training, I’ve also gone too far to the other side, losing a dangerous amount of weight while training for an event (at one point I was down to 113lbs…about 10lbs lighter than my best running weight). When that happened, I couldn’t stop eating less. I hadn’t been that thin since middle school, and the thought of the numbers on the scale ticking upward frightened me. But a (fortunate) health scare forced me to quit running for a while and I relearned the balance between nutrition and activity.
My point here is that every body is different, and while exercise can help you lose or gain weight–depending on your goals–all of us must be cognizant of our body’s individual demands. I like to keep a nutrition and activity journal, documenting what I eat each day, along with my mileage/time, and my overall feeling of health (am I fatigued, motivated, hungry, etc). I use this to determine patterns so I can gauge what my body needs most at different times in my cycle, what fuel I metabolize best on long runs, speed workouts, etc, and when I simply need to take a break and enjoy that chocolate bar from the vending machine.