Food, it is an essential part of our life. Without it, we could not live. Some people live to eat and others eat to live. I’m not sure I was ever a person who lived to eat; however, over the years the phrase eating to live took on new meaning to me.
Almost ten years ago, I decided to revisit this idea of being an athlete. I had not participated in anything that remotely resembled exercise since High School. In April of 2000 I started running. Actually, let’s call it jogging. Somewhere it turned into running but it definitely was not that when I started! In August of the same year, I entered my first road race since high school. That was it; I was completely hooked and have been racing consistently since that day. Soon fueling my body became an important part of my training. I started becoming very conscious of everything that I put into my body. I read many books, including Eat Smart, Play Hard by Liz Applegate, which I would recommend to anyone. I started to learn which foods were the best for me as a female and as an athlete. During my beginning years of running I also developed a chronic iron deficiency, although common among runners, sometimes difficult to resolve. Another round of research of all the foods rich in iron and a search to find an iron supplement that did not make me sick. Luckily, after a year of trying at least a half dozen different iron supplements I found one that worked. Another year of taking the supplement and I was finally able to maintain my iron levels. Anyone who has experienced low iron knows that it can wreak havoc on your energy levels.
In 2005 I decided to throw my hat into the triathlon ring and give the sport a shot. This brought me to a whole new level of balancing my caloric intake against caloric burn. For example, when you start your day with a 4 hour brick workout that results in a 3000 calorie deficit, it’s hard to intake enough food to replenish the body; however, if you don’t, your future workouts suffer. Throw in a strong desire to be the ideal race weight and you have added another component to already difficult balancing act.
I have lost my balance several times. They say that for every pound you take off, you can save 1-3 seconds per mile. Wow, when I learned that I won’t even tell you the calculations going on in my head! But, there is a point of diminishing return and you know when you get there. Your body cannot take the stress that you are putting it through. I have learned the hard way about not eating enough and being married to your scale.
I recently became very focused on my nutrition and weight again after losing my balance, which is what prompted this post. I am very in tune with my body, as most athletes are. I know when I’m on and I know when I’m off. I have all the tools and the knowledge to stay balanced; I just have to make that conscious decision every day to stay that way.
You will hear many triathletes say that proper nutrition is the fourth discipline, because without it we could never swim, bike, and run.