So many of the blogs I read in the fitness/running/triathlon/wellness space do posts on food. There's even What I Ate Wednesday as a regular feature among Fitfluential bloggers. I've never been interested in following this trend, it just doesn't interest me to write (nor read) about it (most of the time - I do love food!). Still, I thought I might spend a single post on the very basic nutritional principles I follow. For some of you, it will be old news, but if I open a couple of eyes, it will be worth it.
First off, I am not vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or paleo. If that's what you're looking for, all I can do is apologize. Here are some regular features in my diet:
- Whole Wheat. Pasta and breads. I don't want to do without them, and I will admit, the white stuff tastes better until you get used to Whole Wheat or Whole Grain varieties. The difference is in the Glycemic Index; High GI foods will 'burn' (or give you the energy boost) very quickly, but then the insulin overcompensation leaves you sluggish afterwards, and maybe even hungry for more. Lower GI foods burn slower, giving you energy throughout a longer period... guess which is better for endurance sports? The analogy I like to think of is evergreen/soft wood vs. hard wood. As a kid, I always wanted to put pine or spruce branches into campfires and our cottage woodstove, since they caught quickly and made big flames right away. My father, however, knew better, and said they simply went 'poof', and made sure there was birch or maple to burn overnight so the cottage wouldn't get cold while we were sleeping.
- Brown Rice. We're probably not as strict about this one, but the same principle applies. Brown basmati is most popular in our household, it takes longer to cook, and can be a little harder to come by.
- Omega 3. I went to Wikipedia to make sure I was up on all the health benefits of this one. I think we started with it for the sake of heart health (which seems to be disputed), and/or pre-natal development, I also like the ant-inflammatory properties, for fighting off the effects of sore muscles or injury. With Down Syndrome Awareness month just past, I'll point out that Down Syndrome (a.k.a Trisomy 21) occurs at conception, so pre-natal nutrition has no effect on its occurrence, but giving the Lightning Kid every advantage through the nutrient in his breast milk is important. We get out Omega 3 Fatty acids through supplemented milk and dairy products, and make an effort to have fish once a week (good news: that's the best way to get benefits). We're also big Sushi fans!
- Breakfast. I'm always floored by the fact that eating breakfast is always touted as an overlooked health or weight loss tip; if I tried to skip breakfast I'd be turning into a cannibal by 9AM. One of the best things I eat for breakfast is steel cut oats as oatmeal (not instant). I usually mix it with yoghurt (sometimes greek yoghurt), brown sugar and blueberries. I also always have blueberries on my cereal; Anti-oxidants for the win!
- Caffeine - OK, I mostly use caffeine as a drug. In the worst sense of the word, it's a coping crutch to get me through the day, but I love it so much, my one of my favourite hoodies has a picture of a caffeine molecule on it. It's worth knowing that there are other benefits to caffeine. Metabolism boosting (fat burning), performance enhancing, pain relieving benefits... it's all good stuff that I can use to rationalize all those cups of coffee.
Race Day Nutrition
- Maybe it's because I stick to Olympic distance, but I don't really carbo-load. First, the best way to get glycogen for the race is to have your carbs two days before the race, but my main problem is I think carbs are generally over-abundant in my diet; let's face it, they are easy to come by in your basic North American diet.
- I'm lucky in that my gut seems to be made of iron (I sometimes contemplate having steak and eggs for breakfast on race day as a dare, but never do). My breakfast is often cereal on race day, because I know it'll be OK. I can take almost any carb gel and be fine - I usually time it so that I take my first about one-quarter into the bike, with another towards the end of the bike to fuel my run.
That's about all I could come up with for now. They say nutrition is the 4th discipline of triathlon, so there's lots more that could be explored...