One of the best side effects of becoming a triathlete for me has been the dietary changes it has prompted me to make. For years I have always struggled with “yo-yo” dieting and the weight fluctuations that come with that. Counting calories and cutting out macro nutrients(fat, carbs, protein) works for a little while, but they are not sustainable over the long haul. The fact is your body needs a balanced intake of all of those nutrients to properly function. By pushing your body’s limitations through triathlon or any endurance sport, you are eventually forced to take a new perspective on the food you eat. Food is looked at more as a fuel to get you through those long or intense workouts and less as some short-lived taste.
As I sit here writing this post, I am 4 months into what I thought would be a 1 month experiment. I am still going strong with my whole foods, plant-based diet. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical that I would continue this after my “A” race of the year, Ironman Muskoka 70.3 was completed and a week of vacation that followed. I thought I would atleast have a couple “celebration” meals, but I never deviated. I really have no desire to go back to all crap I ate before. The food I am eating now is so tasty and nourishing, it is well worth the extra time and effort in the kitchen(and a few more trips to the bathroom too! ). The improvements I made in this years’, much more difficult, half-ironman race compared with last years are testament to the fact that this diet provides all the nutritional needs and more for endurance training and competition.
One thing I wanted to do was make sure that I was meeting those nutritional needs through a blood test analysis. I used the InsideTracker website from SegTerra. They had sent me a 30% off coupon via email so I decided to get the full panel analysis which came out to around $200. After signing up, they have you pick a local LabCorp testing facility to make an appointment for your blood draw. There was a testing facility within 10 miles which made it easy, although the girl that took my blood that day did not instil a whole lot of confidence in me. She stuck the needle in and starting making “huh?” and “hmmm?” noises when nothing came out at first. I am not a big fan of needles and have fainted before at the site of them, so when she did this I instantly starting feeling the room spinning. Eventually the blood started flowing and I filled up the 4-5 vials pretty quickly. Then it was off to the lab they go.
My last blood test was back in January 2012 and several of the standard cholesterol-levels were a bit out of range. I thought this was a good comparison since I was still eating meat and diary several times a day at that time and weighing about 25-28 more pounds. After about a week, I received an email back from InsideTracker indicating that my results were in. At first glance, I was a bit disappointed as I thought the improvement would be greater. After thinking about the fact that it was only 3 months, I soon realized that every cholesterol-related marker had made a good shift in the right direction. We are always looking for everything to be a quick fix and this was one example of me still having some of that mindset. Making a lifestyle change to eating a healthful diet is a change whose results will come gradually over time. Just like a habit does not broken overnight, neither does its affects. So without further ado…
||Jan 25 2012
||Sep 1 2012
|Total Chol (mg/dL)
|HDL Chol (mg/dL)
|LDL Chol (mg/dL)
So as you can see from the chart above, every one of my cholesterol-related markers has moved in the right direction. The best part was that my HDL or “good” cholesterol increased and my Chol/HDL ratio has decreased substantially. My LDL’s are still a bit high, but they are moving in the right direction. I would like to see that down in the low 100’s. Even still dropping 20 points in 3 months is not too bad. Also, my triglycerides have moved from the top of the normal range to more into the center of the optimal range.
One mistake I may have made was getting my blood tested immediately at the end of my training season and especially after my highest training volume week of the year. A couple of my markers were low, but that could very well be from the state of fatigue I was in at the time. The other nutrient markers that were out of range were Vitamin D & Potassium(see image to the right). I will probably get this checked again after the New Year. One nutrient I was concerned about was Vitamin B12 which is the only vitamin that you are supposedly not able to get from plant sources. Atleast anymore. B12 comes from the ground. We used to absorb it by working in the dirt, but now since we are so removed from that and live in such a germa-phobe society we can only get it from the animals that absorb it.. Anyway I am pleased to see that my Vitamin B12 is right in the “sweet spot” of the range. All of my other nutrients we all normal so looks like most things are pretty good.
Great article from NY Times’ Mark Bittman on how our unhealthy “America Diet” is contributing to Alzheimers or Type 3 Diabetes…
Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes? – NYTimes.com.