"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver." ~Mahatma Gandhi
In addition to working full-time, running The BMK, cooking for a handful of special clients and tending to the needs of four rescued cats, Adam and I also train for triathlons. This year we've got 4 half Ironman races (1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1 mi run) and one full Ironman race (2.4mi swim, 112 mi bike, 26.2mi run) on the calendar. One of the most frequent questions I get is, "What do you guys eat?!" The answer? A lot! But, not as much as you'd think.
Finding the right balance between nutrition and exercise has been an ongoing endeavor. I follow a few basic rules:
- Fresh, real, un-packaged, unprocessed food as often as possible.
- Adjust the quantity of food with exercise load (heavy workout days = more food)
- Adjust the timing of meals with exercise time (two early a.m. workouts = larger meal at breakfast, lighter meals as the day goes on).
- Remove all the "White Devils" - white rice, white bread, white pasta, white sugar.
- Double up on vegetables, eat half the amount of starches and grains.
- Plan weekly menu and shop on Sunday. (Reduces trips to store, impulse buys, $ spent)
Earlier this year, our Coach gave a talk on the principles of Metabolic Efficiency (see Bob Seebohar's books for more info!) and I spoke briefly about how to translate these principles to the dinner table. The general principle behind Metabolic Efficiency is that our bodies use two main sources for energy - carbohydrates and fat. We have a limited store of carbohydrate calories in our body at any given time, but our stores of fat calories are vast. You can train your body to tap into those fat stores for longer by doing two things - exercising at a lower heart rate (thus improving your aerobic capacity) and by weaning your body off the highs and lows of carbohydrate dependency.
A quick note here - carbohydrates are NOT bad. They are necessary, vital and beneficial when consumed from quality sources. Nutrient rich whole grains, psuedograins, tubers, and fresh fruit are healthy sources of carbohydrates. Enriched, bleached, refined grains, sugar-laden packaged foods and nutritionally vacant foods are empty carbohydrates that offer your body no more than a quick fix and a guaranteed crash. What we want to do, as healthy eaters and/or athletes is to remove the junk from our diets and replace it with food that can readily translate into fuel for our bodies. Fueling our bodies with real, fresh, nutrient dense foods enable us to not only perform better, but allows our immune systems to fight off stress, fatigue, colds, and chronic illness. A healthy, balanced diet requires eating good food at regular intervals - this gives our body and our brain a steady stream of fuel to carry out our daily activities.
Eating a poor diet that's high in empty carbohydrates, refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and deep fried fat flavor keeps us eating more, but results in undernourishment. We depend on synthetic vitamins to provide nutrients our diets lack, but those nutrients require more effort for our bodies to break down and are often lacking in the full makeup our body needs to perform optimally. Our blood sugar swings wildly from "Oh-my-gosh-I'm-so-full" to "I'm-starving" and our mood responds accordingly. Without thinking, we reach for the nearest food source that satisfies our hunger cravings and our addiction to empty food. Breaking this cycle takes work. Healthy food may even seem bland at first! Allow your taste buds a few weeks to adjust to the taste of real, fresh food and I guarantee you that after 4 weeks, you will not find your old foods tempting to the taste.
Below I've included a PDF to a guide I put together for our team. In it I discuss some possible meals and ideas based around healthy eating and metabolic efficiency. While we are mostly vegan, the guide is for omnivores and I plan on creating a more specific plant-based only guide to go along with this one as well as a Sample Week Menu.