I get many questions about what I eat as a mom, elite marathoner and dietitian. After easily giving up any form of sweets/fatty foods for 3 months last summer in preparation for my October Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which earned me my second qualifying time of 2:32 for the world championships, I knew I could again take my diet to a new level. I did not have one bite of any forbidden food. Not one. Not only did it allow me to get to a lean racing weight of 115 lb but it also provided a psychological benefit. Despite the fact that I'm a dietitian, what you eat is really only one of many parts that make an athlete succeed.
With each training plan, I increase my mileage and intensity so why not sharpen the diet? To be honest, what you will read about Phase Two is not really anything surprising but people are intrigued and it's an interesting topic.
When I meet with people to talk about their diet for diabetes, cholesterol, and weight, I tell them that we should all eat like we have diabetes, or like we are going to get it. I use the, "Just the Basics" handout, which I follow myself and is based on the following:
1) Space meals and snacks evenly throughout the day. Never skip. Eat within 1 hr waking.
2) Limit sweet and fatty treats. Enjoy small amounts regularly.
3) Drink 8-10 cups water, and 2-3 cups skim or 1% milk daily.
4) Make plate 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 lean protein and 1/4 whole grain at lunch and dinner.
5) Do 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.
I tell people to change what they think will be easiest first, then once they've succeeded, move on to the more difficult tasks. It does not happen overnight.
So, to move on to my Phase Two, let me first start by mentioning a few things that got me thinking about changing.
As an Athlete:
I read about Jessica Zelinka's "Gluten-free diet experience". Not only is she an AMAZING Olympic athlete, but also a mom. Secondly, Trent Stellingwerff sent out a survey to gain information from recreational to elite athletes on prevalence, beliefs and experiences with gluten (or not) on general health, gastro-intestinal issues, and performance. And lastly, I knew other athletes such as Rob Watson, had avoided certain foods during training and racing.
As a Registered Dietitian:
I started to become more intrigued with the reason for some components of current diet trends, e.g "Wheat Belly", Paleo, etc.
As a Mom
I wanted to continue modelling the importance of healthy eating as an athlete, particularly since my kids are starting to get more involved in athletics themselves. This week my eldest will have been on the ice 4 times! And I wanted to continue following Ellyn Satter's approach, which defines the role of the parent, the role of the child, and holds high the importance of eating together as a family.
I often tell my kids that the best food has minimal packaging, is reasonably priced, and home-made. Like many other kids, mine too ask for the packaged, processed, high calorie/salt/fat/sugar foods while at the grocery store, and other places, but once I tell them I can and will make something similar at home, they are usually satisfied. Or, I simply say no because I am the parent. My JK son will ask more for these types of things since he's younger and it's his first year of school where he sees what other kids have. But like my 7 y.o. son, I know he too will start to eat more, and better appreciate real food. Kids can be picky, they can eat a lot at some meals and not much at others, and that is completely normal. As a R.D. who went into peoples' homes to help with diet-related issues, I am very grateful for Ellyn Satter's work. My kids aren't "perfect eaters" but is there such a thing anyway? And they are growing to make their own choices, not only in diet, but in many areas of life. I can't wait until Heidi Smith, sport R.D. and author of my favourite, "Nutrition for the Long Run" publishes her next book called "Family Fuel" - all about how to feed a family with kids in sport. I must say that my kids didn't even know what McDonalds was for the longest time. Also despite the many trips to the arena, I've never put a coin in any machine. Not once. As a kid who also frequented the arena, I quit asking for things while there and my kids are now doing the same. You can only hear, "No" so many times I guess!
So with "Phase Two" I wanted:
-an increased awareness of everything going into my mouth
-even less processed/refined high sugar/fat/salt/calorie foods
-high nutrient density
-continued appropriate proportions
-flexibility and freedom
-decreased inflammation, particularly in the hip
-optimal immune function
In order to do this, I would limit or avoid:
-processed foods with lengthy ingredient lists containing words I can't pronounce let alone recognize, even with a degree in nutrition!
-high gluten-containing foods - wheat, barley, rye
-high-glycemic index foods
-high sugar foods
-high trans/saturated fatty foods
-high sodium foods
-high calorie/low nutrient dense foods
And I would include plenty of:
-natural, unprocessed, whole foods
-brightly coloured vegetables and fruit
-low-glycemic index foods
-low-fat, high-fibre, and high-protein foods
So here's how it looks, none or very little (some of these foods I haven't eaten in over 20 years, or ever!):
-crackers, white rice, bread, pasta, muffins, waffles, pastries, pancakes, cold cereal, white potatoes, bagels, wraps, pretzels
-flavoured or sweetened yogurt, most cheeses, dairy-type spreads such as cream cheese, high fat milk/cream
-bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, salami, pepperoni, fatty meats, deli meats
-juice or any drink other than skim milk, water, coffee with milk, tea with milk, hot lemon water
And here's what I am going to enjoy:
-squash, sweet potatoes, beets, turnip, carrots, quinoa, beans/peas/lentils, steel cut oats, red river cereal, brown rice as my whole grains
-cabbage, spinach, kale, mesclun mix, zucchini, egg plant, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, celery, brussels sprouts, green/yellow beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, mushrooms and nearly every vegetable
-berries, apples, bananas, melon, citrus and nearly every fruit
-skim milk, plain greek yogurt, cottage cheese, small amounts of goat and feta cheese (would like to try kefir)
-tuna, salmon, sardines, eggs, lean poultry/beef/pork, tofu
-nut/seed butters or whole - almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pumpkins
-chia, hemp, flax
Meals So what does it look like? Here's a typical day...
-greek yogurt + cottage cheese
-steel cut oats or red river cereal with berries, protein powder and some pumpkin butter
- coffee x 2
Lunch (1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grain, 1/2 vegetables with 1 cup skim milk)
-mesclun mix and/or spinach with vegetables and tuna, salmon, or sardines (new to me and I LOVE them!)
-pureed greek yogurt + kale + protein powder + frozen berries + nut butter (thank you for this recipe, Stacey!)
Snack* and coffee x 2
Dinner (1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grain, 1/2 vegetables with 1 cup skim milk)
-chicken breast or pork tenderloin or lean beef (I often go to my brother-in-laws blog for ideas)
-spinach or mesclun salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
-cooked vegetable, usually something green like brussels sprouts, beans or broccoli
-brown rice, quinoa, squash or sweet potato
-if dinner is early, around 5pm, I will usually have a medium-sized snack otherwise it's small with a big cup of tea
Lately I've been enjoying little bowls of various mixtures:
1) chopped apple or pear + greek yogurt + brown rice + cinnamon + almonds + hemp seeds + raisins or chopped prunes (my version of rice pudding)
2) greek yogurt + cocoa or chocolate protein powder + raw slow cook oats + chia seeds + walnuts or nut butter (my version of a peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal cookie)
3) a quick n' easy piece of fruit & a handful of nuts - my favourite is a gala apple with plain, unsalted peanuts
As a R.D., I struggled for the longest time with the use of protein. I'm a big believer in the big picture so would often cringe when people asked me about protein use, knowing full well that their diet and other lifestyle choices could use other, more productive modifications first. There are those people I counsel who reek of cigarette smoke and insist that organic food is the only way to go. And then there's terribly inactive people who consume copious amounts of expensive, convenience foods yet insist healthy eating is expensive. I digress, back to protein. The toughest crowd by far is the young athletes, particularly adolescent males who desperately want to build muscle mass. Protein is important but we can only do so much about our genetic makeup.
I can't remember exactly when but the first time I started using protein powder was when I was training in a particularly hot summer for a fall marathon. I simply couldn't ingest the appropriate amount of protein necessary to recover from training. So, back I went to my trusted friend, Stacey. She had done a considerable amount of research on the subject and gave me some recommendations. But I only used it during that training and racing period. Today, I get New Zealand grass fed cow whey protein isolate from my sponsor Eload Sport Nutrition and use it daily because my training is so much more. It is the same protein that is in Emend Sports Recovery Drink, something I can't live without! I consume about 4 cups of Emend, immediately after each training session. Not only does in aid in muscle recovery but replaces lost fluids and electrolytes, and gives me some time until I get home to cook and eat my next meal. It makes my recovery, really.
I only recently started using protein bars because the texture and taste didn't really appeal to me, I preferred eating real food, and knew there were endless amounts garbage protein bars that are simply glorified chocolate bars. I kinda felt the same about them as granola bars, which I do not buy for my kids! Marshmallows and chocolate chips, really? Anyway, I think the best place to go is a "Goodness Me" or "Whole Foods" type store to get the best protein with the least amount of added junk. But I must confess that I made an impulse buy the other day, getting a package of protein bars while visiting a Costco with my sister-in-law who's a member. Part of eating healthy all the time is planning ahead and I certainly do. I can't be bothered daily making brown rice or quinoa for dinner, or steel cut oats or red river cereal for breakfast, so I make a weekly crock pot batch, keep it in the fridge and reheat. But, when I was away for my son's overnight hockey tournament and the timing of meals was a bit off due to game times, I simply ran out of food the day we were to leave. I was pretty hungry when we went to Costco on the way home and we all know grocery shopping is best not to do when hungry. My stomach took over my mind, which rarely happens because I have a decent amount of self-control, and I tossed the box in the cart and ate one right away. So, I have the box and will use it when traveling or when I'm out and desperate. I did make some great purchases that day that I don't regret such as big bags of walnuts and almonds, a hemp/chia seed and dried cranberry mixture, and three-packs of greek yogurt.
This is a fairly straight-forward topic and here's what I use:
-daily omega 3
-daily pre/post natal vitamin/mineral
-daily liquid iron during 12 week build
Why Low Gluten?
Some people have to avoid gluten due to an allergy or intolerance. Some have celiac disease, a gluten-sensitivity, or dermatitis herpetiformis so a gluten-free diet is a must. Others have gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, and constipation, and find avoiding gluten, or eating very little, is beneficial. None of these issues were reason for me trying a low gluten diet. Rather, it was for the increased chance of reduced inflammation, better overall nutrition intake, and optimal energy, recovery, and immunity. It's only been a week and it's been quite easy. I haven't seen major differences but I must say that for some reason, everything I eat and drink seems to taste way better than it ever did before? Not sure what that has to do with but it makes eating all that more enjoyable!
Carb-loading has always been a major component before racing a marathon. Most of the time it included bagels, bread and pasta. Not sure what I'll do yet but I have lots of time to practice before long runs. We all know to never try something new before a race!
Like I said, diet is only one part. I certainly don't obsess about it.
Of course, I can change things up as I go. Like I said, I wanted flexibility.
There's always new findings from different sport nutrition studies so I'll try to keep up on some of that but to be honest, I don't get too excited about much of it, rather wait until I see consistency. I look forward to reviewing fellow RD and Saucony marathon runner and soon-to-be mom, Kimberly Meuller's book in June.
Back to Training ...
I had another great week, again faster and stronger than the one before. I completed 13 hours of a combination of treadmill running, biking, pool running, elliptical and swimming. Total mileage was 70 km at about 4:07/km and my longest distance was 18 km with 16 km at 4:05/km and the last 2 km OUTSIDE! I was thrilled to finally get outside to enjoy the fresh air and freedom again. I haven't had pain in my ribs for about a week but it did hurt while running outside vs the treadmill. It's only been 3.5 weeks since fracturing them so hopefully in another 2-3 weeks, when I'm running more outside, it'll be ok. My pelvis/hip continue to heal and were better aligned this week. Sherri and Patricia continue to work on strengthening other weak areas such as my upper back, shoulder, and right ankle. Every time I go in there, they not only have me doing the continued exercises for proper pelvis alignment but also throw in a bunch of new ones each time. Their support has been amazing. I don't even want to think about where I'd be now had I not started seeing them - likely not running at all!
This week should be another good one. Again, I'll be increasing the mileage and intensity as well as running more outside, and doing my first interval workout! My long run will be 23 km! And of course, I'll keep up the cross training.
Interested in a great blog? Check out fellow marathon mom, Mary Davies'! She just set a new 10 km PB of 32:53 in preparation for the New York City Half Marathon. She'll be running the marathon at worlds in August too.
|Registered Dietitian on the job.|
|My desk at work showing the plate model and my typical dinner (spinach salad with canned salmon, veggies and oil/vinegar dressing).|
|Riding the bike. Drinking Eload.|
|I don't think I've ever had the same salad twice. This one has chicken, beets, squash, spinach, onion, and sweet potato.|
|Our sweet Leah Maelle turns 2 this week. Why is her middle name, "Maelle"? We liked the names Mae and Ella. And we liked the name of Maelle Ricker who was the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal on home soil at the Olympics. She's only a year younger than me so I sure hope to see her in Sochi!|
|I love it when grocery stores have their produce located at the front. Put the best stuff in first, folks!|
| Love this pumpkin butter!|
Disclaimer: This blog is presented for informational and educational purposes only and is meant to complement the advice and guidance of a registered dietitian. This blog, is not intended and should not be construed as the delivery of medical care. Persons requiring diagnosis or treatment are urged to contact their primary health care provider for appropriate care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding nutrition, health, a medical condition, food, beverage, product, supplement, nutrient or drug-nutrient interaction. The creator of this blog disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided here