Tag Archives: Weightloss

$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.

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Oceanside 70.3 2016 – Race Report

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There I am running with Shangrila Rendon on my 2nd loop at the Ironman 70.3 California race.  For those of you who don’t know who she is… she is a Guinness World Record holder for the fastest female to race a Quintuple race (5 Ironman Distance triathlons in 5 consecutive days).  It was a pretty defining moment for me to see her out there and her cheering me on as I raced by just struggling to keep my body going.

Leading up to the race I was feeling confident that I was going to have a breakout race and finally be able to actually run the entire half marathon.  My running has improved, I’m leaner, and over all I’m feeling great about my nutrition since moving to being more metabolically efficient.  Then around Tuesday night my stomach felt a little iffy and I spent most of the night sitting on the toilet.   That’s right I either caught something or ate something bad.  I wasn’t holding anything in, and I felt fine otherwise.  Fast forward to Friday morning I still wasn’t 100% but I told myself and C that I plan to race.  If I have issue’s Friday night or Saturday morning, or anything during the race. I’m going to not race or I’m going to stop.  Her condition was only if I go to the medical tent after I finish… Deal.   The problem isn’t so much being sick, it’s the amount of fluids you lose during the process of sitting on the throne and the lack of nutrients in your body.    It was simply the smart thing to do, and that’s live to race another day.  I had consulted with 2 doctors who have my best interest at heart so I knew that I wasn’t making a blind choice.  I told myself that I was ok with the outcome… If I DNS or DNF it wasn’t cause I wasn’t capable or didn’t have the drive.

Race Morning:
I got about 8 hours of sleep that night, thanks to some essential oils from some friends and some Imodium.  I was weary to eat anything for obvious reasons so I skipped my breakfast of eggs, bacon, sweet potatoes, with butter.  I preloaded with some pedialyte as we made our way to transition, and physically I was feeling fine.  I got into transition late so I had to do the fastest transition setup known to mankind before they closed it.  I’ve really simplified my transitions to where it takes me about 5 minutes to get everything in place and out I can go.  I was in the second to the last wave, so I still had a whole hour before I started.  I spent some time chatting with some Team Challenge friends and team mates before they had to march off into the Oceanside Harbor to start.  I chugged my 2 scoops of UCAN 30 minutes before the swim start, threw on my wetsuit and it was time for me to march down that same plank into the harbor.  The best part is that even with the pro’s already out of the water and you still being in that 2nd to the last wave, there is still a great amount of energy to keep you pumped.  So I was able to feed off it all and stay collected.

Swim: 36 mins
BOOM the horn goes off and out I go.  The water temp was 62 degree’s race morning and I LOVED it.  There was plenty of swell to go around and plenty of people who kept stopping in front of me.  I had no problems sighting the buoy’s but swimming around/over people got tiring.  My stomach though at the time was starting to wobble and I was wondering if I was going to have an accident in my wetsuit (that would not be good).  I was able to finally find some calm water out of the pack of people and cruise to the swim exit.  I felt at this point that I had a better swim that I did, but my stomach and my calves and core were cramping a bit.  As I was jogging back to T1 I saw C and she gave me some more pedialyte.  I told her that I’m was done, my legs just aren’t there, and my stomach was feeling woozy.  I remember her telling me that maybe I just need to sit down in transition and see how it goes.  I had plenty of time, but nope I told her I was done and she was going to meet me at the exit.   WELL, I did what she said and as I was sitting there gathering myself and looking at my bike, I decided I should give it a shot.  I’m feeling a bit better, and if I can make it off the bike I can walk the half marathon.  It wasn’t going to be pretty but I could do it as long as I kept it easy.  So I put my big boy pants on and helmet and went out the bike exit on the bike.

Bike: 03:55:19
I remembered this course from my first go around with it in 2014 and knew I had to keep it calm and easy the first half.  I did exactly that and felt great, I took a third of a bonk breaker bar down at the 30 minute mark and 10-15 minutes later I felt my stomach kind of curl again and I thought, oh no… this isn’t going to be good.  However I kept riding and it went away.  I always grab water at the bike aid stations and the volunteers at aid station 1 are always a blast.  This year it was some sumo wrestlers handing out water and Gatorade which made me laugh as a I whizzed by.  I chugged my third of a bottle with UCAN and MCT Oil and I was feeling pretty back to normal keeping my watts and HR in my fat burning zone, saving my carbs for those hills.  Then around mile 25 I notice my rear wheel bumpy and I think I just have a flat.  I pulled over and sure enough, not only did I have a flat.  Something shredded about 3 inches of my tire!  I don’t carry a spare tire for a 70.3, GREAT.  Thankfully it was by a volunteer captain who was able to radio for the bike people to come out.  About a hour or so later I was on the road again complete with a new tire and tube.  As I sat there waiting and watching people whiz by, several people offered me a tire and tube.  I didn’t take it, just because they might need it.  I’m not trying to qualify for worlds and I knew I had plenty of time.  Yeah there was a part of me that felt that maybe this is a sign and I just need to stop, but I kept moving on.  Into the next aid station it was bathroom time or so I thought anyways, and then again I thought that maybe this is it and I had to stop.  Maybe it was just my body telling me that it wants to stop.  I stood at my bike questioning if I wanted to battle the hills today.  I told a volunteer who wanted to give me Gatorade that I was done, I didn’t need any.  So I sat on my bike for about 5 minutes waiting to see what my stomach would do, and sure enough it calmed down.  I was good to go, and off I went.  I could see the hill in the distance, the same hill that I almost had to walk up a couple years earlier.  The same hill that intimidated me so much to where I didn’t ever want to do the race again.  The same hill that is claiming these cyclists and forcing them to walk.  I was able to power up and not be totally dead afterwards.  Mentally this was a huge boost and exactly what I needed.  I cheered everyone else on around me to not give up and to just keep at it.   I’m sure some of them might have despised me for zipping by them as they where walking and I was cheering for them.  I was sincere since I was in their shoes before at one point.  I know how difficult it can be, and I know that when I was in their shoes, it helped.  Finally piled up the last climb and made the final right towards the coast into the headwind and just held on for the rest of the ride.  I tried to keep things steady as she goes, and I knew my run was going to be horrible.  Finally as I rode into transition there was a small sigh of relief that I was almost done.

Run: 2:42:xx
I took my time in transition again to collect myself and wondered if I should even bother running out.  I didn’t know what time of day it was or if I’d have enough time to walk a half marathon after the bike wait.  I didn’t want to be walking and then be told I didn’t have enough time.  After a few minutes of drinking more pedialyte and gathering myself I set out on the run course.  It was great to see all of my Team Challenge teammates as I set out on the run, it really lifted the spirits.  I really enjoyed the change to the 1 spot transition and the route it took us on.  By this time I had friends everyone on the course to cheer on.  After all the reason I signed up for the race was to be out there with them cheering them all on.  I was an hour late to the party but still got to see a lot of them out there.  It was right after the turn around that I had to use the bathroom again… thought it was going to be the final straw… but thankfully it wasn’t.  This time though I was riding that line of not having anything left in the tank.  I was taking some gel’s at the aid stations with some water and base salts. Just anything to get some energy going.  I was reduced to a walk/run as the reserves were running out.  I was still maintaining a 12 min mile so I felt good about things.  Running through the Fil-Am-Tri area was always a huge lift of spirits as I heard my name called and everyone cheering.  I should have stopped and asked for a donut or 12.  It was around mile 8 or 9 that I ran into Shangrila and we chatted.  I couldn’t tell you about what though.  It was nice to see her out there cheering for everyone.  I gathered myself even more for the final push.  At this time my calves were pretty well knotted with some cramping here and there.  Kept taking the salt and water in, pouring water down the back and putting ice in the hat.  I was happy to still be able to keep passing people.  Finally the last 2 miles were in sight, and I could see the FAT’s (Fil-Am-Tri) banner and told myself I just have to make it there and I’m home free.  The tight calves were causing my left knee to hurt and as I was approaching the finish chute my left hamstrings started to cramp up.  Luckily there was a woman in front of me, so I thought to myself… Let her get her moment.  So I slowed it down to a walk so that I wouldn’t it for her going across the finish line.  This gave me a small rest.  Then she slowed to a walk.  When I asked if she was alright and she replied “yes”.  I took off running through the finished.  My finish time was over 7:31:xx and I knew it was going to be ugly.  As promised I found C and we went to the medical tent to be checked out.

Finishing up:
Every race is different, even if it’s the same course.  The day is different, the weather is different, and the moment is different.  Now some people will say that I made a stupid choice to race in the condition that I was in, and that’s ok.  It’s their opinion.  I consulted 2 doctors, 2 RN’s, and I was in good hands through the entire race.  I had a plan in place if I got into trouble, and there were people on the course who knew my condition and would have stopped me if they felt that I wasn’t able to finish.  Having that level of support from the tri community is simply amazing.  With that said, I was fine in the medical tent.  They just made me get some more fluids in and rest a bit.  It was all precautionary.   Even checked in with my doc buddy later that night and he said if I needed anything let him know and they’ll take care of me.

The race really tested my body, my patience, and my perseverance.  It was a constant battle of quit or should I keep going.  It also shows that no matter who the athlete, sometimes you just have to slow it down and collect yourself.  It’s these kinds of races where everything seems to go wrong that you find out what type of athlete that you really are.  Do you keep getting up when it seems you’re always falling on your face, or do you just stay down.  We are capable of more than we think we can do.  We just have to keep getting back up.  We need to have faith and you have to believe in yourself that we are going to get across that finish line.  It’s been a while since I was in that position, so it was a nice reminder out there that I still got up, and crossed that line.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

2015 – A Look Back

It’s been a while since I last wrote and for good reason there has been a lot of things going on since I did Ironman Louisville.  Moved into a new apartment with the girlfriend, finished my IRONMAN Certified Coach certification, finished up my Advanced Nutrition Diploma, enrolled in my local community college for their nutrition program, and got signed up for my US Masters Swimming level 1 and 2 certifications.

What a year 2015 has been.  Back in January I had a general direction of the year I wanted to have and I knew there would be some choices that I had to make.  Some where easy, and some where hard, but I didn’t have any idea that I would end up where I am now.  I am ending the year as an IRONMAN Certified Coach, USMS ALTS (Adult Learn to Swim) Coach, and soon to be Holistic Health Coach.  Through my weight loss and life transformations of being a drinker to now I’ve inspired many people to take control of their own lives and that it’s possible.  I have a great girlfriend whom I love and we recently have our own place.   Now I didn’t have an exact plan for anything, but I had a nice general direction.

I lost a good friend this year Darryl and while we lost contact as I tried to get my life back on track and he was getting his life on track there I’ll always remember his laugh.  I regret losing contact with him, but sometimes things do happen and you can’t beat yourself up over them.  I had to get my life in order for me, and the important part is that each one of us is better for knowing each other.   As long as I can remember his laugh, he’ll always be around.  I also had the chance to visit my dads grave when I did Ironman Louisville and say some final thoughts to a man I didn’t really know, but felt that there was some closure to an unknown and unfinished chapter in my life.  Thankfully I don’t let things get me down, and I’m able to keep myself up and keep going.

When I look back though I can only see so many positive things that have happened to me, which has been a direct reflection of the positive things that I’ve tried to do for other people.  My mentality has always been “Lead by Example”, and so far it’s inspired more people then I could have ever imagined.  As I slowly start to build my coaching business both for health and wellness and endurance multisport the basis for everything I do is to stay positive and have faith in yourself both mentally and physically.   In the words of the late Greg Plitt “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is just enough!”

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

Metabolic Efficiency Part 2–The Weight is Coming Off!

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So I started this whole Metabolic Efficiency thing at 243lbs back on July 21st and since then I’m down to 226lbs.  I knew the basics to it, burn more fat for fuel instead of carbohydrate.  I knew that it didn’t include counting calories.  I knew that it included the whole low-carb high fat diet.   I had my doubts about it, because it went against everything that you learn from personal training and in terms of fueling the body during long endurance sports.   I also know that 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories of energy and 1 gram of carbohydrate gives you 4.  So you have more than 2 times the amount of energy in fat then carbohydrate.  However, your bodies preferred method of energy is carbohydrate.

So how am I going to get my body to burn more fat and less carbs… well decrease the carbs and increase the fats!   Been doing this for 2 weeks now, and surprisingly I’m eating more spinach, squash, zucchini, and kale then I ever have before.   I’m eating more fish (I try not to eat beef, pork, or chicken), and I’ve reintroduced actually bacon and butter back into my diet!   Little did I know that even though I’m eating tons of greens/carbs I never really knew how low value of carbs they were and filling.   Stuffing my face with spinach and kale (about 2-4 ounces) every day is hard work.  You can see from my MFP (My Fitness Pal) screenshot that I eat… a lot.

MFP

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In doing so, I’ve actually started to become accustom to finding that I’m enjoying cooking more, and looking at more veggies, and the side effect is little to no sugar!  So you can see that even with 80 grams of carbs I’m still getting most of my energy from “healthy” fat sources.  You can see on there avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, and butter.   Now keep in mind yes I’m under my calorie goal by MFP… I don’t count calories so I couldn’t care less about it.

So what about my performance during my workouts?  Let’s just say that I can go 2 hours without needing anything besides maybe water and electrolyte salts on a hot day.  How do I know this?   Well I got a Metabolic Efficiency Profile test does that tells me what % fat vs carbohydrate I’m burning at various intensities.   I now know that if my heart rate is cruising at 151 (Z2) I’m burning roughly 75% of my calories from fat… and with 2000 calories of stored carbohydrate I’m going to go for a while.  If my HR is racing at 155 then I’m reaching that 50% cross over area where I’m getting half my energy from fat and from stored carbs.   So since I’m a slow runner I can now start increasing my effort while trying to maximize my fat burning engine so I don’t need to worry about all those sugar based drinks and gu’s out there that could cause all those wonderful GI issues.  So what do I take on those long training days that are 2+ hours?   I hate Generation UCAN, which is a super starch designed not to spike your insulin levels so you can keep burning fat, and not sugar.  Yeah it can get a bit goopy but so far, it’s working out great!

So now that the science behind it is out of the way, I’m 2 weeks into it.   I haven’t felt any energy crashes.  I raced Solana Beach Triathlon on nothing but water and felt great the entire time.  Took 4th in my division, I’m ok with that cause once again I’ve been training for an Ironman, not a Sprint.  I’m down almost 14lbs, mostly fat.  I’m sitting at approximately 18% BF and I’m feeling like things are falling into place.  Putting on some muscle to get some power back on the bike and I’ve never really ran at this weight for a long time so I’m going to be curious to see how my body adapts to being not just lighter but leaner.