Saturday, June 25, 2011

Foodie Math: More exercise=more room for food

I thought I would move away from food for one post and talk a little about what I do for fitness. It’s sorta related to food as I have to plan my food around my workouts, or sometimes, my workouts around my food. I workout in some form or other most days of the week but do I change what I do during the year depending on weather, races etc.
This year, for Jan-June a typical week looked like this:
Mon Strength workout (BFL) 30-45 mins
Tuesday Spin class 75 mins aka Sweat fest
Weds Strength workout (BFL) 30-45 mins
Thursday netball training 1.5 hours aka run around while having chit chat with the girls in between
Friday Strength workout (BFL) 30-45 mins
Sat netball game 1 hour
Sun Rest day or easy hike (if nice weather-which hasn’t been very often this year to date!)
BFL stands for Body For Life. It’s a 12 week fitness training program that’s been around for years. You can read more about it here
There are 3 components, cardio, strength and also a food plan. The appeal of the program is that you alternate between cardio and strength workouts during the week. You do 3 cardio and 3 strength workouts but they are all short. Strength days are 30-45 mins and cardio is 20 mins but of intense interval training.
I really wanted to focus on my strength as this area has fallen short over the past year due to injuries.
I decided to follow the strength plan listed but I would insert my own cardio workouts in as I had netball and spin class already going. Conveniently, they fell on Tu/Th/Sat allowing me to do the strength workouts on M/W/F as dictated in the plan.
I finished the 12 week program last week and am stronger than I have ever been. My arms are strong (I’d even go so far as to say pumped), I’m lifting more weight than ever with my upper and lower body and confident in my body’s ability to handle almost anything! I usually work very well with a structured plan so I devised my own 3 month plan for the summer. It’s pretty similar in essence with alternating strength and cardio days but I have some specific goals I want to achieve during that time. I want to be able to do pull ups….unassisted! I’ve never been able to do them but then again, I’ve never trained myself specifically to do them. That is the focus of this plan. I also have my fantastic workout partners who make a huge difference to my commitment and confidence in the program. The BFL food program followed a simple structure. Eat 6 times a day, small meals containing one portion each of protein, carbs and fats from the list provided. I tried it but it was too much food for me and I felt like I was snacking all day and never having a full meal. I love snacking but it’s best when between meals, not AS the meal.
My cardio plan changes slightly for the summer. Netball drops to once per week and I’m outside more running and hiking. The Grouse Grind is my big cardio focus in the summer. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s climbing a mountain trail that's steep and relentless. It’s famous in these parts as a great workout/pastime. Anywhere from 35-90 minutes of pure uphill slog dubbed Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. Last year I was on the trail about 2-3 x per week and got pretty fast averaging 50 minutes. I don’t enjoy it, per se, when I’m on there but I know it’s a great workout and there is no slacking! You are committed to finish and the faster you go, the sooner it’s over. It helps that there is the best view of the city at the top as well as beer if you want. The nice part is that you get to ride the tram down as it’s a one way hike. I’ve done it twice this year so far with the goal of doing it 1-2x per week. So far they’ve both been a slog and I’m 99% sure that’s due to not eating right for the hike. By that I mean, eating the right type of food at the right time. I eat well always but when preparing for intense exercise, I find that what I eat the day before and also just prior to the exertion is key to enjoyment/success. I did the Grouse Grind lots last year so I experimented with nutrition. I was very focused on improving my time as I had entered the annual Grouse Grind Mountain Run that was at the end of September. Cutting even just 1 minute off my time took a whole lot of extra effort as I am at max exertion for the whole climb (picture heavy breathing, beet red face, sweat dripping off ponytail-yes I CHOOSE to do this to myself). Losing/gaining 1-2lb body weight affected my time, the air temperature affected my time, what I had/hasn’t eaten or drank affected my time. Through a process of trial and error, I discovered what worked well. Green tea just before I set out in my car for the 15 min drive to the trail really gave me a good energy buzz and cleared my head. I had to make sure not to drink too much though as I hate feeling the need to pee halfway through. There are no washrooms during the hike, only at the start and end, unless you want to take your chances off the trail with the bears and the steep drop offs.
I also need to rest the day before…no netball, no heavy leg workouts, no late nights, no crazy drinking! For food, what I ate the day before helped. I ate clean but need to eat more in the way of carbs such as oats, grains etc to build my glucose stores up. The day of the climb, eat a larger meal a few hours before and then have a snack about 30 mins before. I found the best pre-climb snack was a homemade energy pudding from the Thrive Diet (

2 bananas
½ cup dates
¼ cup ground flaxseed
¼ cup roasted carob powder (or cacao nibs to make pudding 100% raw)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp sea salt

Blend in a food processer. I would make a batch and have about ½ to 1/3 of the product. I find my blood sugar drops fast once I get hungry. I have to eat every 2-3 hours in some form. As soon as I start feeling hungry, I know it’s only about 30-60 min until I start to feel lightheaded and unwell. So for me, I eat this pudding before I leave the house and it doesn’t cause me indigestion or cramps during the hike. It looks kinda chocolate mouss-ey but tastes good, goes down easily and does it’s job well.
So even though I started this post on exercise, it has come around to food! I’ve done the Grind twice this year so far and both have been sluggish and slow but I wasn’t following my pre-climb routine. I’ll try it next time and see how it affects my time. I’m hoping to get down to 50 mins again but I’ll be happy with 52. Obsessed? Moi?

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