Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nutrition Redux

I've written about nutrition in the past, and when I remember, I'll dredge up some old blog posts and copy them into this new blog, but today is a new reality for me in terms of nutrition.

First, some biological facts about me:

  • Female (yes, despite my short hair and somewhat muscular build)
  • Age 59 (60 in a couple of months), aka near geezer
  • Height: 5' 2" or for you metric types 157.48cm. I'm a shrimp.
  • Weight: 111-114 lbs. depending on hydration status and some other things, or 50.35-51.72 kg
  • Important health factoids:
    • Post-menopausal (hit that milestone at age 52)
    • Hypothryoid. Yes I take Synthroid daily, 125mcg
    • Bradycardic: My resting pulse is typically 48 and my maximum heart rate is about 160.
    • Decent cholesterol profile. At last test, total 228, HDL 63, Triglycerides 81 (they've been lower I should work on that), LDL149. Cholesterol to HDL Ratio 3.6. It's all been better, but I'll see where it's at in about 6 months.
    • Osteoporosis: When I was first diagnosed (because I requested a bone density test), I freaked out. But, I know that this is fairly common in petite women, and my doctor praised me for my continued strength training. I do take Raloxifene HCL (generic form of Evista), and have not experienced any decrease in bone density in 4 years. I also take extra Vitamin D for this. I did get a TUE for the Raloxifene, as it was required.
    • VO2Max: Need to get retested, but last time I checked it was 58. Not too shabby!
    • Allergies and asthma: I have always had allergies that weren't extremely limiting, but they seem to have worsened over time. I am basically allergic to almost anything except foods, like dust, pollen, cats, dogs. I am not allowed to have cats anymore, even though I dearly love them. The asthma thing is new, after I had an asthma attack 2 years ago. I didn't land in the hospital, but my breathing was very compromised. I use Nasonex daily, albuterol before workouts (and sometimes other times of day depending on airborne allergens), and sometimes Advair. 
    • No ACL in left knee since 1982. At the time it was torn, doctors did not repair them. I have a brace, but only need to use it if I want to do side-cutting activities, which I generally avoid! But I did wear it back when I played volleyball and softball. I could have it repaired, but that would mean probably 6 months of no running, and as long as I do mainly linear sports, it's not an issue. However, the lack of ACL creates muscular imbalances that I am constantly compensating for. The missing ACL is on my left side.
Up until I hit menopause and for maybe 2 years after, I had my nutrition all dialed in, and I could calculate how many calories I needed daily based on my exercise output, and it was a snap to maintain a particular weight/bodyfat. But menopause did a number on me, and then the hypothyroidism didn't help. Turns out I've been hypothyroid for years--it was just a matter of being tested and catching results when I was experiencing symptoms. Which when you keep becoming depressed for no good reason is how we figured it out.

Anyway, both menopause and hypothyroidism fuck with your carbohydrate metabolism, which creates a logistical nightmare for an athlete such as me. I need carbohydrates to function and fuel my training, but I can't take in too much or my body will start laying down fat, which I don't want. I didn't cop to this until last year, after I'd put on maybe 8 lbs. which made me feel like a fucking blimp. I knew I had to change my diet, I researched, and just like any other fat person, knew I had to cut my carb intake. It's not like last year I was pigging out on starch. I wasn't. I wasn't eating candy. I was eating starchy carbs in moderation. But the amount I was eating didn't work for my activity level at the time. So I switched my dinners to feature just lean protein and a huge salad, and I dropped 8 lbs. over 3 months. That is how I was eating until this spring, when I "fixed" my Morton's Neuroma. But then I started training in earnest again. 

As I picked up my training, I found myself bonking on 2.5-3 hour workouts on the weekend. So I decided I was eligible to introduce more starches on Friday and Saturday nights. That worked great, but then around late April-early May, I kicked the training up a notch. And I found I needed to increase my carb intake again.

Now, sometimes people laugh or sneer at me like "tough problem to have" that I need to garbage up on carbs. It is NOT fun. I am small, and my stomach is small, so I can only put so much in there at a time, and I do strive for an overall good diet. But I also ascribe to some basic tenets of sports nutrition, and the Monique Ryan book I have from years ago tells me that when I am needing over 2500 calories a day (YES!) that it's OK to eat things like candy, so I'm doing that again.

Another problem I have is that hypothyroidism fucks with sodium metabolism. As you can imagine, managing my electrolytes is very important, and I am not yet at the point where I have that exactly right again. I used to have that all figured out, but things have changed. If I ingest too much, I will retain water for 3-4 days (to the tune of 5 pounds!). If I ingest too little, my workout suffers. If I'm working out in extreme heat, it seems I can go high on the sodium intake without the water retention, but I haven't figured out what is appropriate for other temperature variants. Generally speaking, I'm good with just Gatorade unless I'm working out 4+ hours then I switch to Infinit, and I have several custom mixtures with varying amounts of electrolytes that I am trying. It's time for me to keep track of what I'm ingesting again so that I can get this right for any training/racing conditions. Water retention isn't really that big of a deal, except that I feel like Puff Daddy, and most of it is in my belly and it makes me feel like not eating which is not a good situation.

Anyway, according to the FDA, here is how I am supposed to eat:

At the moment, it's actually more like this:
I am back to eating at night until I am actually quite full, almost uncomfortably full. I know I'm doing it right when I sleep well and have plenty of pep for my workouts the next day.

Yesterday I swam 3500 yards, ran 6.5 miles (easy pace) and lifted for 30 minutes. I did not eat any candy (sadly I am OUT!). Here is what I did eat:
  • Breakfast was a hard boiled egg on a toasted Blueberry whole grain English muffin, with about 1 tsp. seedless blackberry jam
  • Drank about 16 oz. Gatorade during the swim
  • 1 banana prior to swim (at 6:55AM), and 1 immediately after.
  • Post-swim (I was starving), had 3 eggs fried in butter (I was craving fat, and when I do that's what I eat) with 2 slices of whole grain toast slathered with butter. Then I took a nap.
  • 1/2 can of Coke just before I ran
  • 12 oz. Gatorade while running
  • 1/2 serving Endurox R4 right after I finished running
  • About 10 Pringles topped with my homemade muffuletta for a snack prior to lifting (I was hungry post-run)
  • Dinner was about 5 oz. spaghetti with chicken liver/mushroom sauce, including some Romano sprinkled liberally on top
  • 2 beers. One was Tyranena Bitter Woman, and the other was Magic Hat Electric Peel
When I woke up this morning, I felt hungry but not starving. I weighed myself and the scale read 116, and I was like WHAT THE FUCK??? But I see that I took in a boatload of sodium (in the muffuletta and Pringles), and my belly feels distended, so too much sodium makes Crackhead appear fat. The pasta sauce also has bacon in it, so there you go.

As you can see, I pay close attention to what I'm eating, with the objectives of:
  • Maintaining my lean body mass. I do not want to become emaciated. I'm carrying more muscle than I used to when I was training this much, and I would like to keep it that way, thank you very much!
  • Fueling my workouts and recovering from them. DUH.
  • Enjoying a variety of foods. Life is too fucking short to be a fucking perfect eater.
  • Taking in sufficient micronutrients. I do take a daily multivitamin plus additional magnesium just in case. The Endurox R4 also has a good hit of vitamins.
  • Not getting fat. On my frame, 2 lbs. are very noticeable. While I'm not actively going for a particular weight, I do know that I race well at 109-113 lbs.
Overall, I think I'm doing a pretty good job. Sure I could be more puritanical, but as long as the above criteria are being met, I think I'm doing just fine! Is managing these things difficult? Not really--it's become habitual for me. If I want to train at the level that I do, I absolutely must pay attention to my nutrition. I don't use training a lot of hours as an excuse to eat like crap, either. Yes, I occasionally will visit McDonald's after I work out 4+ hours, and I do like my 1 (sometimes 2) daily beer. I find it entertaining that every time I ramp up my training that I am always surprised at how hungry I can get, and how it feels like I am stuffing my pie hole 24x7. But then when I notice sleep disturbances and bonking, I realize I have to work harder at getting enough carbs. It's always a fun process!

Since I'm going to turn 60 this year, I thought I'd mention some birthday gift suggestions, just in case you are wondering what to get me:
  • A Loki action figure. These are hard to come by and/or expensive when taller than 6". I prefer this one, since it looks like Tom Hiddleston.
  • Pinarello Graal 
  • Sidi Drako MTB Shoes, Size 38.5 

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