Before I get into this post, I need to emphasize that I am not a dietitian, nutritionist, personal trainer, or anything like that. I’m just a normal girl trying to figure everything out just like the rest of you. Before you start any kind of diet or fitness program, consult with an expert.
I’ve been thinking about making some changes to my diet and exercise regime. I feel like I’m in a rut and my weight loss and running successes have stalled. I’ve tightened up my eating a little bit the past couple weeks and I’m down about 4 pounds, but I have a long way to go to get back to my previous “after”. I’m hoping by mixing things up a bit, I’ll start to see more progress in both my fitness and weight.
The exercise changes are kind of the easy part. I talked a little bit about how I’ve ditched the watch in my last post and that running just hasn’t been fun lately. While taking away the time pressure is helping to a degree, I can feel that my body is just TIRED and ready for something else. I have one more long race on Saturday (a 25k) and after this, I’m scaling back on the distance. I’d like to get back into focused speed work, strength training, and maybe even *gasp* swimming. I think this will go a long way in both a) restarting my weight loss because I think my body is just used to running, b) healing some persistent injuries that I’ve been running through for months (I know, I know), and c) improving my strength and flexibility. Who knows, maybe even in a few months if I want to ramp the running back up again I’ll see some additional benefits in my distance running.
As for my diet? That’s easier said than done. I’ve been noticing a trend over the past year or so since my foray into the Paleo lifestyle. I wrote about my experience here and for the record, I have not been “paleo” since probably around Christmas time. I trained for a marathon while eating this way and while initially it was really hard, I managed with some adjustments (going more gluten free than paleo, still using gels, etc). The holidays came and I decided I didn’t want to restrict myself anymore. As a result, BOOM, weight gain.
The bottom line? My body really loves carbs. Probably too much. When I initially started eating “paleo-ish”, I dropped weight pretty quickly (most likely from the release water after my body used up it’s glycogen stores). When I started adding grains back into my diet, my weight crept back up and I even seemed to crave more carbs. I’ve never been a big “sugar” girl as far as candies and sweets goes, but put a bag of tortilla chips in front of me and watch out. Really good craft beer? A favorite. Pizza? I could eat that for every meal. What happens when you put a bunch of carbs into your body? Your body converts the carbs into glucose (sugar) and stores it as glycogen. Glycogen is used by the muscles for quick and easy fuel. This often also results in your muscles holding extra water and then any glycogen that isn’t used as fuel will be stored as fat. Both immediately (from water retention) and over time (from fat stores) this cycle can result in weight gain. (source) Also, if your body has excess glycogen to burn, it will use that for fuel before fat because it’s an easier fuel source for the body to process.
I want to break this cycle. I want to teach my body to use the (more than sufficient) fat in my body as fuel.
How am I going to do this? By going back to a low-carb (NOT zero carb), higher protein diet. Don’t worry, I won’t be eating three pounds of bacon at every meal, as appealing as that may sound. I’m really just looking to up my veggies and protein while reducing my carbs. I’m not going into detail here about how much and what types of carbs I’ll be eating because what works or doesn’t work for me may not have the same effect on you. Also, I haven’t really figured out the meal planning yet. Just be assured that I will eat enough and I will be eating real food. For the next four months, I’m going to focus on quality proteins, healthy fats, and lots of fresh vegetables. Maybe in a future post I’ll share some of my food journals but for right now that isn’t my plan.
I do have some fears about these diet changes. Like I said, I love carbs. I live in Beer City, USA so giving up good, craft beer when I really enjoy it is going to be tough. Pizza and tortilla chips are two of my favorite foods and after my race on Saturday, will essentially be off limits unless I decide to have a cheat meal (and with all the graduation parties and travel for my kids coming up, there will be some days when I eat more carbs I’m sure). I’m worried about having enough energy to work all day and then get to the gym to workout. I’m worried about feeling sick in the first couple weeks as my body adjusts.
The benefit to making these changes now is that I have no plans to train for any distance running events in the next 4 months. The longest I’ll run will be for maybe an hour. Luckily, I didn’t have a bad carb hangover as far as the headaches go when I started paleo, but I definitely noticed my energy level was a lot less for a couple weeks. Hopefully it won’t be as bad this time around.
I’m certainly looking for great, low-carb meals I can feed myself and my family. I’ve already started pinning some and if you have any yummy ideas, please pass them along. Any advice for dealing with all the parties and then my trips to colleges for the kids? I’m sure eating plain hamburgers without buns is going to get old after awhile.