As An Endurance Athlete
One of the most difficult challenges endurance athletes find is to regulate their appetite. With the amount of mileage and/training we clock in, the voracious appetite ensues and it seems to be pretty restless the remainder of the day. We are hungry ALL THE TIME. Or at least that's what it seems. How many of us begin to think about our next meal right after finishing the meal we just ate? How many of us calculate constantly well if I ran this many miles then I deserve to eat this much? How many of us are thinking about that scrumptious fatty temptation right now? Yes, this is the mind of an endurance athlete, a bodybuilder, or any active athlete.
1. Food is NOT a reward.
You are not a dog. Wholesome food is our source of nourishment. It heals. It empowers. It strengthens. It rebuilds. The EFFECTS of food are the rewards that our body receives. If parents begin to treat food to their children, they begin to develop this psychological association to food. Teaching children that wholesome food gives our bodies rewards is best--not an easy parenting skill according to childhood developmental psychology, but we should do it. I've worked with children of all ages over the past 15 years and it matters to view the effects of food as our reward. Our childhood habits become adult habits. Food is your medicine.
2. Drink hot tea before or after every meal.
Hot fluid has two effects: 1) The warm liquid begins to raise the body temperature at a minuscule level, but it helps. Research has shown that on average across regions people tend to consume less during summer months versus winter months. This is due to a physiological effect whereby when the body feels on average warmer, appetite is suppressed slightly. Every little bit helps. 2) The fluid provides a filling effect on the stomach because when distension occurs in the stomach, the hormone ghrelin stops being secreted. This hormone tells our brain we are hungry. We don't want ghrelin to reach the brain uncontrollably too often. When our stomach begins to get filled, the secretion of the hormone ghrelin is slowed down. I used Your Tea to kick off a detox for the first 14 days drinking tea before every main meal 3 times per day. The weight loss benefit of hot tea is simply two physiological effects that help us regulate appetite. It's usually best to drink it about 30 minutes before your meals because it then gives you time to control and think: am I really hungry or was I just "craving" something? Downing a bottle of water also helps. MANY times we confuse thirst to hunger or boredom. So try not to eat when your bored. Drink a bottle of water or hot tea first then wait to decide how hungry you really are.
Sometimes we don't want to look silly ordering a hot tea in the middle of summer. Pack your apples. Before you leave to go out to eat, eat an apple. It again has a filling effect in addition to providing a high nutrient and high fiber content while being relatively low in calorie. It's really hard to stuff our face with apples. So we just naturally slow down in eating.
4. Drink your protein within 30 minutes after you finish training.
I cannot stress this enough. 1) This has importance in helping your body rebuild important micro and macro nutrients you broke down during training and that 30 minute window is crucial. It is when your metabolic enzymes are most active and will maximize the quality protein you consume. 2) Protein has a filling factor. This is also physiological. We have different enzymes in our gastrointestinal tract that help digest the three major macronutrients: carbohydrates, lipids, and protein. *Alcohol (ethanol) is NOT a carb. Review the biochemistry or ask any chemistry professor. Runners often make the mistake and call alcohol a carb. Carbs have 4 Calories per gram. Ethanol has 7 Calories per gram. To give you some perspective Fat (lipid) has 9 Calories per gram so you can see alcohol has a pretty close resemblance in caloric density to Fat. I'm not bashing alcohol at all for adult consumers, but it's important to know what we are putting in our bodies accurately.
Back to protein: we have enzymes that digest protein later in our GI tract than carbohydrate enzymes so essentially when we consume protein, it takes longer to digest. If it takes longer to digest, it's allowing us to feel full longer. Drink your protein post workout.
In your car, put trail mix. At work, bring fruit. In your workout bag, pack that protein or apple. Same as before. It's healthy. It's filling. And it regulates your appetite so that when you are ready to order or eat your meal, you are not ordering everything on the menu or gorging. Preparation is key. Make the time to pack your snacks. It saves on average over $4K annually if you pack your breakfast/lunch on workdays AND it saves you from being tempted to make unhealthy food choices. If you're already tired of apples, you can really choose any fruit that has a high fiber/high water content to help regulate appetite.
Statistically, in countries around the world where obesity rates are lower therefore have less chronic health problems, it has been shown the use of smaller plates and utensils is ubiquitous. It really is only an American tradition where we think bigger is better in everything. In some things but not everything. Psychologically, it automatically restricts you to serve yourself less. Yes, it is a mind game we can willfully play on our own mind. Now just don't go serve yourself a second portion or else it defeats the purpose. Right? Sit farther from the serving area. Have a fruit salad with yogurt and mixed nuts ready to eat after your meal. Put away all remaining left overs before you go serve yourself again. And if you are trying to lose weight, don't go to buffets or all you can eat. You have goals so place yourself in conducive environments to your goals. It's the little things that collectively helps.
7. Be aware of your environment: avoid eating in red rooms.
I have a science background so I tend to like things backed with data. Statistically, research has shown that the average person will eat more in a red environment versus a blue environment. Something about red and how it's received in the retina then signals the brain to eat with a sense of urgency. Why do you think McDonalds is red? THAT was not a coincidence. Think about a lot of unhealthy fast food restaurants--there is a lot of red. A lot of these companies are tempting you more than just with their food. They have studied the psychology of eating. It's easier to play when we know the rules.
8. Keep a food journal.
Keep yourself accountable and write EVERYTHING down, at least when you begin for a few weeks. You may not know the calorie content of everything so begin doing research. Look at nutrition menus. Google food products' calorie content. If you are committed and serious to losing weight, this is not work. It's empowering. You have the power to decide what quality of calories are entering your body. What you will find immediately is healthier food options tend to have lower calorie content; therefore, you can consume more and intake MORE empowering nutrients. You feel healthier. You are more energetic. If this is too cumbersome, which might be time consuming to do all the research, this is where some might opt to hire someone to do the research for them: basically create a meal plan for you. It's just like a training plan; it takes daily prep with the right tools if we want to see an impact. But anyone can write down everything you eat so start today IF you are serious about weight loss. "Ain't nobody got time for that" mindset will not get you to your goals. If it's important, we make time. We manage our time.
When you begin to self educate yourself of all the healthy meal recipes that are out there or hire someone to do the meal prep for you, you will see it is far from boring. The most amazing physiological thing about the body is that it is SO adaptable. After a few weeks of adopting healthy eating habits, your enzymes change. Your palate naturally changes (taste bud cells are constantly transforming). Your blood composition changes. Your body begins to then CRAVE healthy food. Don't believe me? Observe anyone who eats healthy on a regular basis. They, most of the time, are pretty excited about it. Because it no longer is an obligation. It becomes something our bodies craves and has physiologically adapted to. If a very healthy person goes on an unhealthy eating binge for few weeks, their body will react almost like it's going through a toxic process. Keep in mind the same thing is in the reverse. If you eat relatively unhealthy, trying to transition into healthy eating with be difficult, BUT the body adapts and will begin to crave healthy.
10. Change our relationship with food.
I introduced this actually in my introduction because this point serves enough importance to begin and end with. Food has a powerful effect on our bodies. It has the ability to empower and regenerate every fiber of our body. At the same token, consumption of unhealthy toxic food choices are making micro damage to our insides, our arteries, our blood, our organs. Each time we consume food, we make the choice: will I help my body be strong? Or am I willing to hurt it because my mind says it's ok? Out of sight out of mind can hurt us. Just because we can't see the damage doesn't mean it's not there. I'm not saying you have to give up all those guilty pleasures forever. Absolutely not. I'm human and love my desserts. I've just changed my relationship with desserts that it isn't a reward. It's calories with some nutrient content that I give myself permission to intake because I've monitored all week what I've been consuming. Not a reward.
The beautiful thing about our bodies is they are resilient. In the majority of cases, it will bounce back when we give it the tools to bounce back. The relationship I have with food is fluid. Contrary to what most may believe, I CANNOT eat anything I want as some lean athletes can because when I do, I gain weight easily as obesity/overweight runs in my family. This is why I wrote this article to revisit when I struggle through emotional periods and share with others that it is ok to start over again. Most of the time, I am very good with my lifestyle of eating because of two primary goals that I hold very high in priority: 1) I want to perform at my peak athletic performance as often as I can, which translates into a daily high energy level and frequency in racing & 2) I want a high quality of life as long as possible since chronic health problems and obesity have taken the lives of three of my grandparents (the leanest, most active one lived the longest and highest quality of life until age 94). This is why it is so important to me to eat healthy, encourage others to eat healthy, and most importantly, "make" my parents eat healthy. It took years to change old habits in them and myself about 15 years ago, but now I am proud they look better now approaching their 60th decade of life than they did 20 years ago. Genes are not an excuse. It's a reason more to empower your choices. Empower your mind. Empower your body by viewing food as the most powerful choice you make daily to ensure a high quality of life today, tomorrow, and for a lifetime.
Please feel free to share with anyone you feel could benefit.
Please feel free to share with anyone you feel could benefit.