You can’t out-train a poor diet… or can you? I don’t believe you can, though others would disagree. Nevertheless, nutrition is an essential piece to the endurance puzzle. Eat too much, gain fat, get slow. Eat too little, lose muscle, get slow. Balancing your nutritional needs as an endurance athlete is tricky and requires plenty of trial and error. Lately, it’s been more error than success for me.
We back-loaded our vacation this year with trips to Ironman 70.3 Maine in August, two weekend trips to New Jersey in September, a five day trip to Florida and Disney World in October, and a birthday party for my daughter this past weekend. Needless to say, it’s been a nutritional challenge to constantly be traveling and without the ability to prepare many of my own meals. Even for a nutrition coach like myself it’s a struggle!
Leading up to my 31 mile charity run two weeks back I was eating everything under the sun. I couldn’t get enough into my system. That appetite hasn’t subsided since. What’s interesting though is that I’m well aware when I’m mindlessly snacking or eating past the point of satisfaction. If I’m aware of it, why is it so hard to stop? Great question!
It starts with your relationship to a specific food. Do you perceive it to be a “bad” food? If so, chances are you’ll end up bingeing on it. This is the first area to correct. Having a positive outlook on food (processed junk or not) is vital to our overcoming that mindless snacking. Additionally, we must understand our thoughts and feelings in those moments of snacking. Am I bored? Am I stressed? Am I on the couch? Am I in the car? An honest conversation with ourselves is critical here.
If you notice that you’re mindlessly snacking on popcorn while you watch TV each night it’s not your hunger cues telling you to eat, it’s your brain. You’ve conditioned your brain to expect popcorn while sitting on the couch so you naturally, and mindlessly pop it and dive right in. If this is you, for example, perhaps swap that popcorn for a bowl of fruit.
Same with boredom. That walk to the vending machine each day at 2:00 pm is most likely because you’re bored, not because you’re hungry. Understanding these instances and learning from them is a good way to make positive progress and break this cycle of mindless eating.
The importance of protein
Protein is a priority at SENS Fitness. It’s the backbone of a successful nutrition program. That said, we must not demonize carbohydrates and fats either. Those macronutrients certainly play an important role, as well. So how do I focus on building my meals around protein? Another great question!
It’s easier said than done, unfortunately. Here’s an example: earlier this week we were enjoying dinner at Disney Springs in Orlando, FL. The restaurant was famous for its house-made moonshine and fried chicken. Now we all know that fried chicken isn’t the best source of protein, yet I still ordered it. I passed up the spinach and kale salad with grilled chicken for a piece of grease that I ended up peeling the skin off of.
It’s not an intellectual struggle to know which choice was more nutritious. However, I made the less nutritious choice. Why? Let’s examine this some more. I was caught up in the atmosphere and fell victim to the menu marketing. “Home of the whatever!” “Try our famous, awesome food thing!” It gets us all. We also try to justify it. I told myself that I’d walk it off the next day at Magic Kingdom. Breaking news: You can’t walk off 800+ calories of fried oil in an afternoon.
The point of that example is that our surroundings, our dinner guests, menu marketing, and our brains impact our food choices significantly. And several weeks of less than ideal eating make those decisions harder even though we know what the healthier options are.
One meal away
You’re always one meal away from getting back on track. Remember that. When you realize you’ve made a less than ideal choice, focus on returning to proper eating habits at your very next meal. Learn from the previous misstep, leave it in the past, and move forward!