Category Archives: Weight Loss

It’s Your Life, Live IT!

2017-02-22_21-46-31It was around this time 3 years ago that I made the biggest choice of my life.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I didn’t know where I was going to end up.  I just knew that I needed to change.  I made the choice to walk away from the drinking and drug scene that was gobbling up my weekends and my wallet.  When I look back at the time, I was in total denial of where I was and what was going on.  I was self-medicating for my own choices that I had made and in denial that it was up to me to change it.  I blamed others and I rarely blamed myself for the bad choices.   Why, because I had essentially given up on my life.  I was trying to convince myself that this was the best my life was going to get.  I was fat, unhappy with my career, and inside felt powerless and trapped to change it.   Like many people out there, I was afraid to quit my job.  It was my income source, and when the economy was in the dump it was difficult to imagine myself being 37 and jobless.  So I stayed stuck and it was eating me alive.  I had the victim’s mentality.

Some people will say that it was because I had an addictive personality, but let’s be honest for a minute.   There was no addiction about it, I just didn’t want to accept the responsibility that I had to be the one making the steps to change it.   I wasn’t addicted to the drinking, the drugs, I wasn’t addicted to going out every weekend.  I was making the choice to do it, because I wasn’t in the right mindset to break the cycle.  There was no drug out there or treatment program that could have righted that ship.  It’s my belief that you can get all the help in the world to take control of a ship, but if you don’t take the wheel and start steering.  You will never correct the course.

You could say that change happened overnight, but many people will not understand it was that easy and I’ll explain why.   Change is the action of doing something different, and when I looked at myself and decided that I was going to do something different I “changed”.  I ditched the victim mentality and went to a victor mentality.  Now that doesn’t mean it was easy, but I started the moment in the other direction.  I had my doubts and I had my distractions.   That image of me in the mirror though is still fresh in my mind as to who I didn’t want to become.  As I started accepting that I was at because of my actions and no one else, life started to change and I started to find ways to succeed.  Steve Jobs once said “You have to believe that the dots are going to connect down the road in life.” and I heard that earlier this year and he was absolutely right.  When I look back at the choices I made there is a deliberate path to success with where I am at now.  Triathlon, tri club, beginner open water swim, volunteer swim coach, adult learn to swim coach, to volunteer captain for the swim area at the local races, and triathlon coach.

So the moral of this blog post is that it is your life and up to you to LIVE it.  Be the victor in your life and not the victim.

 

Ironman #3 Wisconsin

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Here it was…  Race Week!  The weeks leading up to race week were busy with the day job, coaching, swim lessons, and trying to plan a fundraiser for my Arizona 70.3.  It (race week) snuck up on me like Ashton on Punk’d.  This Ironman was different, I was having a hard time overcoming some nagging injuries and for the first time, my work really affected some of my long training days.   Anyways, we flew into Madison on Thursday and stayed with family outside of the Madison.  This was awesome because I rarely get to see family in the midwest.  It also kept me out of the excitement and I was able to focus on things for the race and stay off my feet for the most part.

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Sunday morning I arrived early and got everything situated with my bike and my bags.  My race support crew had already begun her plan for the day of spectating and supporting me.  What was cool about this race is that everything is inside.  That means no dirt or grass, but it was a long run UP to transition.  I got into the chute early so that I wouldn’t be just getting into the water as the gun went off.  As we made our way out to the start line there was a 9/11 tribute and the national anthem was playing.  I was getting ready to get this show on the road.

The Swim: 1:13:xx
56_m-100735778-digital_highres-1364_104123-3746856The cannon went off, and whoa.   This mass start was a washing machine the entire 2.4 miles.  From the start I had some people not just brushing my feet, they were grabbing them and holding (WTF?).  So I kindly kicked them in the face.  I’m sorry (#notsorry), but you don’t need to be holding onto someone’s feet when they are trying to swim.  It’s dangerous for them.  So for 1 hour and 13 minutes I endured a constant body to body contact sport.   Thankfully I am very confident in swimming and didn’t have any issue’s of panicking.   I can see how beginners hate the mass starts, it can get downright insane.  From the swim I had a nice run up the parking ramp up to transition.

The Bike: 6:26:xx
8_m-100735778-digital_highres-1364_022787-3746808There really isn’t much to write about when it comes to one of the best supported bike courses by the community other than, it was fan-f8ckin-tastic.   Getting out the doors and finding that a volunteer had my bike ready to go was awesome.   I rode it down the helix and got my Edge 1000 situated and my HR turned on.  The first thing I noted that was missing was my power was gone.  It wasn’t pairing or something.   So I took 2-3 minutes to mess with it, and then said F it.   I was to ride this old school by HR zone and feel.  Humming along at an avg 20 MPH my HR didn’t go above 141-150 much and I didn’t feel like I was over-extended which was good.  The hills were rolling and the climbs were easy since you had a really good downhill leading up to it.  There was only 2 hills that presenting a challenge:  Barlow and some other.   I had driven the course the day before with my family.   I knew what to expect so I tried to conserve leading up to it.   Then finally it where there.  Both sides of the climb were lined with fans cheering everyone up the hill.  There were people unclipping at the bottom and mid-way through.  As I approached the guy next to me looked at the hill and said F-This, and unclipped.  I powered up it out of the saddle and felt surprisingly good.   The other hill wasn’t as bad, but again it was Tour De France style cheering which helped out alot.  I got to special needs and as I was swapping out my bike bottles I was hit by another rider.  I went to the ground pretty hard and was totally unexpected.  Could tell that something was wrong once I started pedaling again and my entire right side of my butt started to really hurt.  Thankfully I didn’t have to ride up Barlow again, but loop 2 had more wind.  As I headed back to Madison, I was really worried about being able to run.  As much as I wanted to let the crash disrupt my race and get frustrated, I kept remembering what I tell my own athletes:  Don’t waste anytime worrying about stuff you can’t control, all it does is waste time and energy.   So I kept my head up and hit T2.

Run: 5:33:xx
As I set out on the run I didn’t really know what to expect since I did virtually no research into this course.   I wanted to be healthy enough to run it.  I was a bit concerned about my legs from the bike accident but I set out anyways.  At this point the course was very high in energy as we ran through the capital area and out around the University of Wisconsin campus.  Soon we were on the field of Badger Stadium which as awesome.   It’s been a while since I was on the field and it was great to relive some of the memories of being a football player under the lights.   I was cruising a 10-12 min mile as I was walking up the hills and had a positive mindset the entire time.   As I approached the first turn around I was able to see my family out there cheering me on.  This was a welcome sight since I’m normally doing these things with my main girl as my on-course support.  The Base Performance tent is always the life of the party out on the course.  Matt Miller and Tony Demakis always have the energy to get everyone going, and being a part of their team is a blast.  The 2nd loop I decided it was time to enjoy some of the scenery, so I walked the entire field of badger stadium.  When’s the next time I’m going to be on the field?  Here I was at mile 20 and it was still light out and I was feeling really good still.  Everyone has read stories about the finish line at Wisconsin, it’s what sucked me into wanting to do it.  As I approached mile 25, you can see the energy on both sides of the street.   As you’re running through it, you suck the energy in and you turn the corners to the chute and it’s nothing short of amazement.   The community there is fantastic and the best that I have encountered at any of my races of any distance.  As I was running down the finish chute I made sure that there was plenty of time between me and the next person.  I was pretty happy to have a 5:30 marathon time after everything.

I really recommend this race to any athlete who wants to do an Ironman.  I believe the course and the community really set this race apart from all the others.  Yes there are so many other races out there that have scenic courses and great community support, so what makes this one different?   In my opinion having Mike Reilly there and the transition being inside really bring it out, but what brings it over the top is the bike course support from the community.  Having them out there on those climbs kept us all going and lifted our spirits.

 

$50K to Kona in 2017.. #50k2Kona

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It’s most Ironman triathlete’s dream to go to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.  Some triathletes are fast enough to qualify year in and year out, and others will do 12 Ironman triathlons and try to get into through the legacy program.  Then there are the charity fundraising slots.  It was my plan to age up into a slot where I could be fast enough to qualify and be an old guy who thinks he could race.

A good friend of mine ran it by me that I should try and raise $50,000 to race in Kona.   That’s right, the Super Bowl of triathlon.  He was able to raise it for his 2016 race, and immediately thought of me for 2017.  My first thought honestly was, why me?  As we spoke it became clear that my story is such an inspiration to many, and that I deserved it.  As we spoke more I shared my concerns in that $50K is a LOT of money and that I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it without A LOT of help.  I’m just not a good fundraiser.  We spoke some more and I told him that I would think about it and get back to him.

SmileTrain is a charity that fixes cleft palate for children around the globe.  I mean who doesn’t want to help kids smile?  Shouldn’t everyone have a smile?  Those of us without cleft palate take for granted what a smile does for us.  A smile tells others how we feel without having to physically say anything.  A smile that we see on others makes us feel better when we’re having a bad day.  Personally, I love making people smile.  It doesn’t matter what the age is.

The seed was planted.  I immediately started to think about it, and weight out all my options.  I questioned myself, cause my gut feeling was to do it.  I was pretty much afraid of failing.  It was a huge leap, but I couldn’t ignore my gut.  I’m always preaching to my clients that they need to get outside their comfort zone.  You can’t let the fear paralyze you from making a choice.  I spoke to my mom about it, she’s always been my biggest supporter and she mentioned that I’ve always found a way to overcome every challenge that I’ve taken on.  She was right.   I’ve overcome obesity, alcoholism, self-confidence problems, and most anything that I’ve put my mind to or decided to accomplish.  I’ve got a killer team helping me with this and plenty of support.  I deserve the chance to continue to inspire others and embody the mantra of Ironman “Anything is Possible”.

So what’s next?  Well, first will be a strategy pow-wow with my team.  First though I still can’t believe what I just did.

Believe in Yourself… ACHIEVE GREATNESS

Base ProgressionFirst half marathon ever back in 2008, couldn’t run 1 mile without having to walk.  Took me over 3 hours to finish… 3:16:09 to be exact.  Every step I took was filled with a constant battle of a version of myself saying “This is stupid, I’m no runner.  I’m Fat, these people are fast.  I don’t belong here.”  The other version saying “If that guy can do it, you can do it.  It might take you all day long, but you will cross that finish line.”  Back then I couldn’t run 1 mile without having to walk.  So I walk/ran, I ran what I could and then walked till I could run again.  I did a 5K earlier that August in my quest for weight loss with a time of 37:45 and I wanted to die afterwards.  In fact after both races even though I finished, I let that negative self-talk tell me that in fact I was not a runner.  I made up my mind that I hated running.  For 2 years I let this train of thought derail my weight loss and I stopped running all together.

Then in 2010 I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon again (pictured above on the left).  I had some friends sign up and they wanted me to run it with them.  I agreed to.   Here I was faced with the same voices in my head, negative and positive.  This time I couldn’t run at all… I walked my way to a 3:49:01 finish.  That’s right, I walked all 13.1 miles.  There was a level of dissatisfaction in knowing that I couldn’t run a whole mile.  I felt deflated and let down.  I wasn’t proud of finishing in a little under 4 hours.  I let the negative self-talk win again for years to come.  I didn’t have any guidance from anyone.  Social Media was just starting to take off, and it’s nothing like it is today for people.  I kept telling myself I have to try harder, and when I failed I’d beat myself up over it.  Most people know how it goes… I’m not good enough, I’m too fat, I don’t belong here.   Almost everyone who’s overweight knows that mentality.  We believe that this is OK, and that if we aren’t hard on ourselves no one else will be. We see what the fitness industry puts out as the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality, or the CrossFit mantra that you need to have bloodied shins or hands.   No one tells us right off the bat, that this is wrong and destructive.  It’s not just destructive to our bodies, it’s destructive to who we are.

I let this mentality drive me to the gym every morning.  I lifted the weights, I ate according to what the “experts” said in the articles.  Nothing was changing, the scale was the same number week in and week out… 270-290lbs.  My body fat% was stuck in the same rut of 21% to 25%.  Like anyone who’s trying to lose weight, this infuriated me more than someone cutting me off.  I’d frantically look at what I was eating, what I was doing to work out.  I know I chatted the ears off some friends over it as well.  None of it made sense, and I didn’t pay any attention to it at the time.  I neglected how I thought of myself and how I thought of how I approached things.  I not once thought of how my negative mindset was like shooting myself in the foot on a daily basis.  Sadly this was not the defining moment where my life changed and I had that a-ha moment.  I let this continue into triathlon training.  It got me through training, racing, and training.  Inside it was the same frantic beat myself up over it.  The search through the data revealed nothing, so I’d train even harder.  I knew the saying, you need  time to recover yada, yada, yada, but I didn’t believe it.  Remember… no pain no gain.  I knew the workout smarter, not harder stuff.  I didn’t believe it, and I made the excuse that it didn’t pertain to me because I was fat.  Fat people didn’t have the luxury to recover.  We can rest/recover when we’re dead.   I rationalized it all with “I’m harder on myself than anyone else.”  I didn’t do it publically either.  I did it when no one else was watching.  We and I, in my opinion make/made up reasons to keep thinking that way and give us a way out, “I’m trying to, I’m a work in progress, or I can’t”.  Les Brown has a saying that when we fight for our limitations, we can keep them.   That is what I have done and many others continue to do.

Finally, at some point down the road I started to embrace that I wasn’t ever going to be a fast triathlete.  Yes, I was a fast Clydesdale triathlete, but I wasn’t a fast triathlete.  It probably was the best and most profound choice.  It was around this time that I actually started to believe in myself.  I embraced “I might not be fast, but I’m doing it, and I’m having fun!”  I was able to change my entire mindset towards everything.   When I stopped worrying about how fast I was, it was a whole new world that opened up.  I stopped worrying about being lean and thin, and just let my body do what it was going to do.  Sure enough it did, I changed my diet to be more metabolically efficient.  It really aligned with how I look at food for fuel now, instead of some having to be some pleasurable experience.  Good things were starting to happen.  It might have been while I was training for my first Ironman that I started to really believe in myself.   There is something to be said that changes you when you start physically going farther than you thought you could.

When you realize there is good in you, you start to see the good around you as well.  Then good things start to happen TO you.  It starts with realizing that there is good in you.  You can hear it from all the people in the world, but if you don’t believe it, it won’t mean a thing to you.  Why is that?  Because you’re so blinded by disbelief that you can’t see it.  As a friend says “fantasy land”  I had that frame of mind as well at one time.  We call it fantasy land because we are so blinded by our ways that we decided that we can’t accept it another way.   It’s not a fantasy land at all.  We see it all around us in every day life.  Facebook is really big with this we see a wilderness picture with a nice saying on it, then a few thousand likes.   What we need is a believe button, how many people believe this?  Embrace your faults, be kind to yourself, be positive, the list goes on and on.  It’s POSSIBLE, for you to love yourself and NOT be seen as a narcissist or self-centered.  It’s NOT bad to love yourself.   All of a sudden more weight started to come off more as I stopped fixating on what I ate to what the experts where saying, and I ate according to what I felt was right for me (#metabolic efficiency). Just so you know I just ate 2 whoopee pie’s from last night all at once (yes I enjoy food at times).   My training started to get better and better.  I finished my 2nd Ironman slower than my first and with an injury.  I didn’t beat myself up for it, I didn’t look at what I didn’t do, I didn’t have that negative mindset through the entire race.  There was no voice that was saying quit, you can’t do this.

Then last month I was surprised to find out that Base Performance had chosen my Ironman Louisville finisher photo to be used in their ad in Triathlete Magazine (pictured upper right).  It wasn’t till I was writing this blog post that it came to me.  I DID achieve greatness that day.  I shed some of the demons that really plagued me through training, through racing, through weight loss, through diet missteps.   The ad is for Base Performance products, but for me it’s something completely different.  It’s the defining moment to date for all the blood, sweat, tears, and mental fights I’ve had with myself to overcome my own hurdles.  That picture and phrase together, show me that no matter what comes my way, I will over come it.  It might not be easy, I might fail a few times, but I’m going to overcome it.  I just found out that they are going to be using the same ad in next months magazine as well!

As several people have told me, and I believe them now.  You can tell by your smile that you’re a great person.  The picture in the lower right that I’m using for my book and I use for my health coach site (www.chrisholleyhealthcoach.com) really show that I am happy with myself, I don’t obsess over the negative around me, I look at the positive around me, and that I care about people’s health.

 

 

 

Under 4 Weeks Till Oceanside 70.3

Well, it’s been 2 years since I last did this race.  I told myself I wasn’t going to do it again, yet here I am.  I don’t have the same feelings for the race that I did my first time around (I’ll read my race report later).  I know I can do it, there isn’t any doubt in myself about that.  I know the course, I know the people, and most of all I love the excitement and energy at the race.  I approached this race much differently than the first time.  I’m much more confident in myself.  I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll finish, and I’m looking to beat my 6:24:03 time as well.  I’ve trained a little bit differently, and my nutrition has been more dialed in then ever.  On race day back in 2014 I was about 245lbs and this morning I was 207 lbs at a 15% body fat.  I’ve been running easier than ever and I’ve been riding amazing.   I just got my bike MEP done and I’m burning primarily fat well around 190 watts.   I’m not doing any warmup Olympic distance triathlons and I haven’t done any OWS’ yet.  I’ll probably jump in the 19th for a nice swim from the shores.  We’ll see.

I’ve got the San Diego Half Marathon this Sunday, and I’m going to try and break that 2 hour mark.  I’m lighter, fasters, and I really want that qualification letter for the USA Half Marathon.  Even though I can’t race it, I want to know I qualified.   The previous 2 half marathons I casually ran them.  The first one I was cruising at nice 10:30 pace and felt great the entire time.  In fact I picked up the pace into the 9:30’s the last 3 miles.  It didn’t help that I rode a hard day the Saturday before that either.

On the weight loss side of life, I’ve been hovering around 205-210lbs which is pretty healthy.  I’m body fat % is still sitting pretty at 15% instead of the 10% that I’d like it to be.  I know why, I’ve been casual with some of my diet.  I’ve had the occasional dessert at dinner, or candy bar at the store.  I didn’t live and die by those macro numbers that I “KNOW” I should eat by to drop weight.   Am I angry about it?  No.  Should I be?  No!  The reason why I shouldn’t be angry about it is simple.   When I look back when I first started, I had a body fat % of 40, yes 40%!   I don’t let an of these numbers define who I am or what I can do.  Don’t you let those numbers define you either.  You are in charge of what defines you.  I let my actions define me, I let my accomplishments define me.  I am in charge of my life and who I am. When you say “I _____ ” you declare to yourself something.  If I say “I am in charge of my life and who I am.” I just declared to myself and everyone around me that I’m in charge, not them.

Realizing the Past, Reaching for Tomorrow

This past week has been nothing short of amazing.  Most people who know me these days know very little of my past before my weight loss and life transformation.  They only know of my earlier years of my Transformation Tuesday posts, or reading my blog archives.   Looking at me today, you couldn’t even tell how troubled I was inside.  I’ve been very public with everything that’s gone on in my life, and it’s really helped me move forward through everything, and not feel shamed by any means.  If it’s one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t please everyone, you can only do your best and have faith that in the end you’re going to end up where you thought you were.

Back in the mid-2000’s to 2011 I was running my own IT consulting business working insane hours sometimes up to 90 hours a week.  The weekends would come and I would do what most single adults do.  Go out with friends to the bars to unload from a hectic weekend.   It was like that old Bill Cosby standup routine when he talks about the weekends.  I’d get totally smashed, and not have a care in the world what was going on around me.  I had this who mentality that I was king of the world and that everyone liked me, because I was funny.  This also made me forget about the fact that I was overweight and unhappy with myself.   Now, I didn’t blame being unhappy or overweight on anyone else.  I knew I had control over both and I chose not to do anything about it.  In the process of this perpetual cycle of mine I made the choice to drive home under the influence.  In fact most adults who get behind the wheel after 1 drink and not driving for 1 hour after drinking it, are driving under the influence.   I just got caught, not once, but twice.   I make no excuses of it, it was my actions and my choice no matter how poor it was.  Even after that 2nd DUI I continued to drink, just this time I didn’t drive.  Insanely enough I moved to Pacific Beach where I partied and I just walked home instead of drive home.  There were times where I’d wake up in bushes and in bed wondering, how on earth I got here.

It wasn’t till about December 2011 that I woke up one morning in the hallway that something happened.  I managed to make it to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror and I asked myself “What the hell am I doing?  There has got to be more to living life then being happy with your job, going out and getting smashed, and waking up not remembering what happened the following night.”  The following day, I started looking at other possible career fields where I didn’t have to work 80-90 hour weeks.  I started using my 24hr Fitness membership that I’d been paying for, for the last 5 years.  I was up at 4:30AM and in the gym at 5-6AM so that I could get it in before work.   Most of all though I quit drinking, cold turkey.  It was hard, ok it was really hard.  I stopped meeting my friends at the bars and in doing so I often wondered if I was being selfish.  At first it really bothered me that maybe they would hate me or look down upon me for making the choice to not hang out with them.  Then finally I hit a break with a new job, it was a step down in terms of where I was on the IT world, but at the time I didn’t know the wealth, and the profound life change that I was about to embark on.  I took the leap of faith and took it.  All of a sudden I was working an 8-5 job Monday through Friday.  I took a big pay cut, but I got a personal time raise.  By now I was a few months sober, I’ve done the time for my DUI’s to the State of California, and I was a much happier man.  With all the changes going on, I was down an incredible 50lbs and back under 300lbs (again).  Over time I’d lost contact with the people I went out with all the time, but yet new people found their way into my life as I made other things more important in my life.  I was on my way to the next chapter of my life.

In 2013, thanks to a friend that I met on one New Year’s Even night, I signed up for my 2nd triathlon in my life.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this race would change my entire life from the moment I walked out the door.  It was the ITU Triathlon in San Diego, I had so much fun, and I found my calling.  Some people call it the bug, but there was just something inside of me that knew I had to be a part of this sport at some capacity, even if I was just a slow fat guy.  I joined the local triathlon club, Triathlon Club of San Diego aka TCSD where to this day I have met some of the best people on this planet.   I got involved, and began volunteering as an Open Water Swim Coach with their BOWS (Beginner Open Water Swim) group on Thursdays.  I started volunteering at races as a swim buddy to encourage those afraid of the water that they could finish the swim and be a triathlete.  I’ll remember my first time swimming with someone.   She finished the swim, took off her googles and tears came down her cheek and then she gave me a big hug and said “Without you there, I don’t think I could have finished.”  I had to tell her to go finish the race, and off she went.   That moment was more rewarding than all the nights out drinking combined.  I got teary eyed from it and knew that I found where I belonged.  Since then it’s now 2016, I’m still a volunteer swim coach with TCSD, I still volunteer at races when I’m not racing.  I’ve found that watching people achieve their dreams of completing a triathlon when they didn’t think they could.  So when I found out that because of my past DUI’s that I couldn’t get the some of the coaching certifications, I knew it was time to see how I could get them removed.

At the time when I got the DUI’s it really didn’t impact me much, so I didn’t even worry about getting them expunged as it’s called.   I looked into what I had to do, and I had to get some letters of support from my peers.  So I asked on Facebook of people who’d write letters of support.  I figured I’d only get a couple of responses, but what I got was completely overwhelming.  People I hardly knew to people that I went to high school with have come out in show of their support to have the DUI’s expunged.  I knew that not everyone would agree with me asking to have some wrong choices removed so you can get to a better future.  However, you don’t know how far you can go till you try, so that’s what I did this week.

Metabolic Efficiency and the Plant-based Endurance Athlete – Dina Griffin @ eNRG

Metabolic Efficiency and the Plant-based Endurance Athlete
Dina Griffin, MS, RD, CSSD, METS II
Sport Dietitian
Certified Level II Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist
Metabolic Efficiency and the Plant-based Endurance Athlete
Before we get into the “meat” of this article, let it be known that I am not trying to cause any controversy or debate as to whether vegetarian or vegan nutrition patterns are superior or inferior to omnivorous patterns.  There are many reasons athletes choose to follow plant-based patterns such as ethical, moral, spiritual, and/or health reasons; there are also many militant perspectives to try to persuade you one direction or another.  The purpose of this article is to highlight a few concerns for vegetarian and vegan endurance athletes from a sport dietitian perspective and to provide a short Metabolic Efficiency case study on a recent female athlete with whom I worked.
*Abbreviation you will see throughout this article:  PBEA = plant-based endurance athlete
For those who need a clarification on “vegan”vs. “vegetarian”, here is a brief description:
  • Vegan:  Avoids all animal foods, animal by-products and any food that contains any animal-derived food in it. This means no meat, poultry, dairy, fish, or eggs in any form or contained in any other food (such as baked goods). True vegan followers avoid honey, animal broths, and gelatin.
  • Vegetarian:  There are different “levels”such as those who permit eggs, dairy, or fish. All other animal foods are avoided.
Next, let us highlight some issues and concerns in the context of plant-based nutrition patterns.
Protein
While true there are ample plant-based sources of protein, I can report that many of the PBEAs with whom I have worked truly have inadequate protein intakes.  Following nutrition periodization principles, there are certain times of the training year (and within certain types of training blocks) where protein needs are increased based on the volume and intensity of training. This is a common area where I see PBEAs struggle or are simply unaware of their body’s needs.  This particularly holds true for athletes who are restricting their dietary intake to pursue weight loss. Protein intakes can range from 1.2-2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.55-1.1 grams per pound of body weight) depending on health and training. This can be difficult to achieve for some PBEAs, especially if they have several food “dislikes”and are not a fan of cooking.
Tips:
  • Know your protein sources.  For vegan followers, these include the general categories of legumes (beans, peanuts, lentils, peas, etc.; try sprouting to improve the nutrient profile and digestibility), nuts/seeds, nut/seed butters, soy foods, whole grains, seitan, spirulina, sprouts and protein powders. Yes, there is protein in vegetables (such as leafy greens), but you must eat A LOT of vegetables. Vegetarians have more flexibility in protein sources if including eggs and dairy.
  • Vary your protein sources.  This may seem like an obvious one, but I see countless PBEAs who eat the same thing every day with little variety.  Know that not all proteins are the same, meaning the amino acid content can be quite variable. There are “indispensable”amino acids which must come from dietary sources since the body cannot make them. Supplementation of amino acids may be necessary, especially for ultra PBEAs or those in strength-building training blocks.
  • Keep it clean. It’s interesting how many PBEAs eat processed and refined foods for their protein sources, yet these items can be loaded with fillers and synthetic ingredients. Do the body better by keeping your protein sources as simple as possible.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
 
If you are a PBEA who is an ultra runner, long course triathlete, or a female, micronutrient deficiencies are more common than you realize.
Tips:
  • Work with a board certified sport dietitian who can assess your nutrition intake and physical training patterns. Food choices can be optimized to enhance the micronutrient quality. Appropriate supplementation can be recommended as it fits your own specific needs.
  • Get regular blood work. The blood work you get with your typical annual physical is rarely adequate for PBEAs. Seek guidance from a board certified sport dietitian so that appropriate labs can be ordered.
  • Variety in food intake will help.  If you refuse to follow the above tips, then I strongly recommend you get into the habit of eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
A Metabolic Efficiency Case Study:  The Female Vegetarian Endurance Athlete
 
Many PBEAs assume that to improve metabolic efficiency (how your body uses fat and carbohydrate as an energy source at rest and during exercise), you have to convert to omnivore patterns and eat gobs of steak. While omnivores have more flexibility in food choices to facilitate metabolic efficiency, it is not necessary to begin eating animal proteins to make an impact on how your body uses its fuel sources. The underlying “trick”is to learn how to put together foods to stabilize blood sugar levels throughout daily eating.
Meet “Dee”, a female marathoner in her 50s who is a lacto-ovo vegetarian (no soy). Her goals were to find out her metabolic efficiency (M.E.) level and to lose weight.  Her daily nutrition resembled this prior to beginning the M.E. journey:
  • breakfast: coffee, bagel, cream cheese prior to run OR 2 eggs with wheat toast if no run
  • post-run: baked good from coffee shop
  • lunch: veggie dog on wheat bun with ketchup, mustard
  • snack: nonfat greek yogurt
  • dinner: “fake” meat with spaghetti or risotto or pizza
This is her M.E. test data before making any nutrition changes:
As you can see in the graph, Dee was unable to utilize fat as a predominant energy source in her running paces.  After the testing, we reviewed her food preferences and devised strategies for her to begin changing her food combinations to promote M.E.  Her new nutrition day resembled more of this:
  • breakfast:  oats/quinoa with walnuts + 1 egg before run OR eggs, veggies, cheese if no run
  • snack: full-fat greek yogurt with berries
  • lunch: wheat tortilla with beans, seitan, veggies, avocado or cheese
  • snack: almonds
  • dinner: roasted veggies or salad with a whole grain and protein source such as BeyondMeat or legumes
A blood workup found that Dee was headed towards iron deficiency anemia. She also had low levels of vitamin B12, zinc, and vitamin D. This explained some of the fatigue and sluggishness she had felt during her recent training runs. Dietary suggestions were made in addition to providing her supplementation recommendations.
Dee continued with her running program, which involved 4-5 days of training per week. When she returned to the eNRG performance facility for her second M.E. test 4 months later, she had lost 9 pounds. She reported feeling stronger for her runs and having good energy throughout her days.  Here are the results of her second M.E. test:
Through her training and her dietary changes, her Metabolic Efficiency Point moved to within her targeted marathon goal pace. She ended up with a new PR and reports feeling in great health with the M.E. lifestyle.
In summary, if you are a PBEA, I recommend working with a sport dietitian who can assess your needs (in conjunction with your goals) and guide you towards optimal health within your food preference parameters. Improvements in Metabolic Efficiency can align with your health and performance goals with further dietary and training fine-tuning.  To all of the PBEAs out there, give it a try!
-Dina