Off the Course Nutrition – How to Maintain A Healthy Balance 

When I was a kid I ran cross country and track. As a middle schooler and high schooler I was pretty fast. I also raced BMX and was a typical scrawny teenage boy who at that time just wanted to gain weight. My motivations were outside of running or biking at that point – more typical of a teenage boy, my goal was to gain weight and turn into a stud by my senior year. No matter what I did, I could not gain weight. It was something that I thought about all the time and I worked hard to try to get my ideal body. Fast forward many years, and if I am being honest, even as an adult, my weight and body image have been something that I have been preoccupied with  - although for different reasons. 

As a teenager, the reality was that I was self-conscious of my weight and being too thin, but truthfully nobody else really cared. And guess what? This is still true today, but the problem is that the habits I picked up as a teen caught up with me, and lead to the opposite issue - as an adult, I needed to lose weight. My weight gain didn’t happen overnight. It was year after year of  just another pound or two. I was not really aware of it happening, but at some point, I realized I needed to lose weight and change my eating habits. Just as it was true when I was a teen, I was still thinking about my body image, but now as an adult, I had to grapple with the need to lose weight to regain my health. 

My favorite meal before I started to pay attention to my health: a fried chicken sandwich

My favorite meal before I started to pay attention to my health: a fried chicken sandwich

In my experience, nobody really told me that I needed to lose weight. But once I started losing weight, I heard comments like: you look great, how much weight have you lost? When I would say around 50 lbs, the next comment was usually – oh I thought it was more than that. To me this was clearly a backhanded compliment - and it motivated me to return to a healthy BMI. 

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The process took time and patience and was not easy. At the end of the day nutrition is quite simple, most athletes know what they should and should not eat, but simple is not always easy. At Evolve we are great about working with our athletes on how to properly fuel life in and out of training. However, it is hard work to change bad habits. The ability to modify your entire approach to eating is hard to do all at once. I started with just getting my calories in check, but quickly learned that doesn’t work unless you get your macronutrients in check too. If you can’t get your macros right, you are starving all the time or you feel terrible. The biggest game changer for me - and what I attribute my success to - is that I log my food day in and day out. I do this on days where I feel like my eating is fueling me and on days where I feel like my eating is indulgent. Tracking has kept me on track for many years. 

A typical meal now that I treat food as fuel

A typical meal now that I treat food as fuel

To keep it simple - here are my top 5 favorite things that have worked for me and I think will work for you as well. 

  1. Track my food daily on a tracking app - no matter what I eat or if I know the exact nutritional info. This was the biggest game changer for me. 

  2. Treat my food as fuel. Opt to eat foods that will help me be a better athlete and feel better all around. Recently, I have phased out alcohol. In the past I would cut it out  for races, but lately I have stopped all together and for me it is amazing how great I feel.

  3. Understand that it is important to fuel my workouts and not skimp in training  in order to eat fries and cake. When we are training we get our fair share of sugars from gels, sports drinks and recovery drinks. It is important to minimize processed sugars from your day to day food intake. However, in-season sports nutrition plays a vital role in performance. 

  4. Know that I am human and that there is a time for splurges, but make sure to enjoy them versus punish myself with guilt.  I will be honest, that there are many that think that food as a reward is not a healthy habit, but I do love a yummy post race treat. I am human and this is a lifelong process. 

  5. Understand that the goal is to better my health and not go on a diet. This is a lifetime of changes, not just a one time thing. 

At the end of the day, you need to fuel your body like it is a sports car. Would you put low-grade gas in your sports car? NO! It might not be easy, but it has been worth it - I feel better than I did when I was in my thirties and I am improving in my athletic pursuits even as I age! Those two things alone have been worth the time it takes to log my food!

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