Nutrition is such a loaded topic. I don't frequently talk about how or what I eat because I don't want to get into an emotional discussion with someone about why one way is right and another is wrong. There is no one right way to eat. Everyone is going to need to experiment and determine their specific dietary needs. With this said, let me tell you about the changes I have made in the last year.
I have been a vegetarian since I was 15 years old. I never liked meat. It always bothered me. It was easy to exclude from my diet, but way too easy to fill that hole with junk food. In all of this time, the only vegetarian I have ever lived with is my 4 year old daughter. I am very used to people eating meat around me. I do buy meat for my family. I am VERY particular about what meat and dairy I buy. I buy local/clean/antibiotic and growth hormone free. It may cost more, but, I do the best I can. I believe that nutrition is a choice. It needs to be a conscious choice. And I will do the best I can to avoid factory farming. It's not perfect, I know.
I made some significant changes last year. And they have changed my life. I am still a vegetarian, and I frequently flirt with a vegan lifestyle. Being plant powered is a commitment that I feel strongly about and I know it works for me. With this said, I still wasn't feeling right. I struggled with hypoglycemia and I could never get my race nutrition right. I suffered from stomach distress and random aches and pains and creakiness. I knew sugar was a problem.
I must say, I LOVE sugar. For me it is a crazy addiction. I will always be thin, but my body composition changes when I eat too much sugar. And once I start eating sugar, I don't stop. I want MORE. And if you're wondering, for me, I have to be mindful about the amount of fruit I consume. Too much fruit doesn't work for me. This is individual to me and I encourage you to experiment on your own with fruit. And I am referring to anything with the -ose on the end of it i.e. sucrose, fructose, dextrose, etc. I mean PROCESSED SUGARS. And I believe they are poison.
I began to read and research. The resources that I found very helpful: Rich Roll podcast, Vinnie Tortorich World's Angriest Trainer podcast, and endurance athletes Scott Jurek and Brendan Brazier. I made a commitment to a no sugar and no grains diet. At first, I felt the need to feed the obsessive demon that lives inside me and I tracked my calories, fat, proteins, carbohydrates. I eventually was able to let that go. There is no need to me to track calories and such. I learned to eat when I was hungry. I quickly became "fat adapted" and I unintentionally end up occasionally living in a ketogenic state.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) encourages us to eat a high carbohydrate and low fat diet. We have been taught that when we want to lose weight we should cut our calories and exercise more. NO NO NO! This is total bullshit. And at this point in time, it actually makes me angry. This diet that we've all been sold leads to weight gain and loss yo-yo dieting and on a more dangerous front, disease and metabolic syndrome(s).
My nutrition includes a high fat diet (avocados, nuts, and seeds), moderate protein, lots of veggies, and simply no sugar / no grains. Keep it simple. I got this message. I had no intention of losing weight, but in the course of a year I still weigh the same, but I am a size smaller. I have lost body fat and leaned up. I also learned that our body composition is based on roughly 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. No more starving myself and exercising more. This only creates stress on the body and this stress will show itself in the form of weight gain, moodiness, and fatigue.
A bit of a side note here…. I have learned it is important for me to enjoy life. I will occasionally enjoy a favorite of mine such as corn tortillas, or a few crackers here and there. I am not triggered by ingesting grains. However, when I attempt to put a little life into living with sugar such as ice cream or candy, well I enjoy it but I pay a price and feel crappy afterward.
My race nutrition has also changed significantly. I no longer consume the sugar filled gels, shot blocks, and the like. No more sugar filled drinks in the name of sports nutrition. I will not consume sugar or fake sugar. I have adapted and typically I don't need to consume anything while exercising until about 2-3 hours after I start. I drink mainly water, and I have also been experimenting and found positive results with the plain UCan mixed in my water bottles. I no longer "bonk" when I don't eat. I simply get hungry. When exercising it is also VERY important for me to take electrolyte tablets. I like SaltStick tablets. Electrolytes are CRUCIAL! This is what keeps you from cramping up. And if you attempt to get the proper amount from a sports drink, the amount of sugar you will consume to get adequate electrolytes will most likely cause stomach distress.
This nutritional journey has been interesting to say the least. I learned that I was doing it all wrong. And what we are being inundated with from the media is crap. Ditch the processed sugar. NOW. This is crucial. I have learned that plant powered nutrition that excludes sugar and grains is GOLDEN for me. It has changed my life.
I encourage you to experiment. And let me know how it goes!