Nutrition Part 2: Carbs are your Friend

So…in case you missed it, last week was Nutrition Part 1, where I talked about my why, and my reasoning behind this whole process. I shared a photo, and explained how it all got started, but stopped just short of telling you how and what I’ve been doing (gotta keep you coming back for more, after all. 😉 ).

We left off at my first meeting with Duncan to talk nutrition, mid-November of last year. Like I said before, it’s much less scary and daunting than you might think. Basically, we sat down and talked about what I was currently eating, talked about goals, and then he made suggestions on what I could do differently.

So, what was I eating? I already shared last time about how I’d tried the whole low-fat/low-calorie thing (like pretty much any and every girl in high school/college/university in the early 2000’s, am I right?). I’d also been around CrossFit enough to have been influenced by the whole Paleo hype. I had tried going Paleo for about a month earlier in the year and had seen some results, but ultimately found being 100% Paleo wasn’t really sustainable for me. But I had settled on my happy medium: eating a  totally non-Paleo, but healthy breakfast (often Greek yogurt, homemade granola and fruit or my protein-packed oat bran), and for lunch and supper, being “paleo-ish” (translation, eat a protein, a ton of veggies, and maybe sometimes a bit of starch, but not a ton of carbs), and some small snacks before I worked out. And then of course, my sweet tooth meant I HAD to have something for dessert (Usually something small-ish). If there were parties, special occasions, or anything else out of the ordinary though, I had no problem indulging. Another thing: in addition to the raging sweet tooth, I also bake A LOT.

So, I thought I was doing pretty well. Tons of fresh veggies, and lean protein, and leaving room to treat myself. Not too bad, right? But I clearly wasn’t achieving results. The habit of undereating at meals and then indulging is years in the making. I think it stems from when I did Weight Watchers back in my university days. I would often eat smaller meals during the day, saving my daily points allowance for desserts, snacks and treats at night (which I’m pretty sure is NOT the recommended way to go about the program). But it was a mentality that I’ve held onto for years now: I like to treat myself and indulge, and so if I eat less at meals, I’ll have more room for those indulgences later on, right?

You can probably guess that Duncan put an end to this fallacy. He took a look at my diet, and said that I needed to eat more. Specifically more carbs. My breakfasts were ok, they just needed to be bigger. My half cup of Greek yogurt needed to become 3/4 cup, keep the fruit and even add more, and go for 1/2 cup of granola instead of 1/3 cup, keeping my chia seeds too.

At lunch and dinner? Vegetables and protein were fine, but I needed to add more carbs to the mix: cue the potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and even (gasp!) pasta (but not all once). And my beloved dessert? I negotiated: I could have a small chocolate or something every night (gotta keep that quality of life after all).

The funny thing about talking about nutrition and lifestyle with Duncan, is that he not only asked about how much I eat out in a week, but how often I bake (he knows me so well). I’m pretty good at not eating what I bake, but am terrible at eating a ton of cookie dough and tastes along the way.

So the plan was, basically, don’t eat what I bake, cut out dessert except for my small daily allotment and eat more food at meals. It makes sense: I work out so hard and so much, I wasn’t fueling my body enough, so when it got those treats, it was holding onto the calories for dear life. If I wanted to achieve results, both weight-wise and in my performance, my body needed to be fueled with those carbs that I had been denying it for so long.

Given that it was mid-November, we agreed that I would be pretty strict for a month, but then at Christmas could have a couple of weeks to eat whatever I wanted (again, quality of life: who wants to be cutting out treats over the holidays?).

I think I went straight to the grocery store to buy some quinoa and got ready to get started. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to skip treats and say no in the month leading up to Christmas, but I also knew I had a goal in mind: that strict pull-up wouldn’t happen on its own, and I was willing to do anything to get there.

Another side note: when you’re eating as an athlete, you have to look at food in a totally different way. This might not be news to all of you reading this who have done some sort of sport for years. But remember, I’m the girl who hated exercise. I only worked out because I had to, and never played or participated in any sports. So, basically, when I looked at food, it was either: what do I want to eat? or what can I eat to lose weight?

Seeing myself as an athlete and thus someone who eats as one has been a huge perspective shift. Maybe before I could get away with eating less during the day and then treating myself later on, but when doing CrossFit 6 days a week, sometimes twice a day, that just isn’t going to work. What and when I ate became a lot more important. I was no longer thinking about eating to look a certain way, but started considering how I’d feel after eating something, would it help me achieve my goals, and how would it affect performance?

This made the whole process of being pretty strict with my diet leading up to Christmas less painful. I kept my eye on the prize, and that was consolation as I stayed strong and said no to treats and indulgences. Like I said last week, thinking about being able to get better at something I love is waaay more motivating than the dieting mentality of self-punishment and trying to look a certain way.

So the first month came and went, I didn’t lose a crazy amount of weight, but saw definite results (aided in the last week by a horrible case of pre-Christmas stomach flu, unfortunately). And, then Christmas happened.

I texted this pic of my giant bowl of at bran to Jess the first week after tweaking my diet. My breakfasts seemed SO HUGE all of a sudden.

I texted this pic of my giant bowl of oat bran to Jess the first week after tweaking my diet. My breakfasts seemed SO HUGE all of a sudden.

I enjoyed unlimited, delicious treats while being home for a few days over the holidays. We’re talking two-a-day Hagen Dazs instead of two-a-day workouts. It was awesome.

But then I went back to the gym. I felt horrible. I gained a whole bunch of weight. My workouts sucked for a good 4 days. It was then that I realized how much of a difference nutrition makes to an athlete. When you’re used to eating whole foods to fuel performance, then you don’t give nutrition a second thought for over a week, your performance is going to suffer. And it’s ok. I’m not saying not to indulge or treat yourself (although in hindsight I wish I had showed even a teensy bit more restraint). Just be prepared, especially if you’re someone who typically pays attention to what you eat, to suffer the consequences of a few days of lackluster WODs.

…January came and I got back on track, following the plan, and (thankfully) WODs were good again. I loved how I was looking, feeling and performing. The pull-up still wasn’t here, but there was no stopping me now.

Once again, I’m gonna wrap this segment up for this week and come back with another installment. Stay tuned for where I’m at now, how this journey continues, and a few snapshots into what I’m eating these days. If there’s anything specific you’d like to know about, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to address it.

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