Lessons in Fuel

I am just returning from the Cross-Country World Championships at the Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala, Uganda and I learned a very important, and very hard, lesson in fuelling. To honour the end of the Dieticians of Canada’s Nutrition Month I thought I would share my failure to fuel properly before the World Cross-Country Championships.

To say that I felt ‘empty’ when I started that race. I felt like when the gun went off that my legs were hollow. No pep. No sauce. Nada. It felt like my energy stores were about 20%. And they probably were.

This is not an excuse. This is what I learned for next time and what I am sharing. This was a lesson, one that I need to learn from as well.

After the challenges I faced in Venezuela last year, I had packed a large bag of bars (CLIF + Picky) and food to keep myself fed, but when I arrived at the hotel all the food just looked so good and I wanted to take in what was local. When I had been thinking about this trip, I knew there were two obstacles to overcome before getting to the start line. Managing the stress of the flight and trying not to get a GI Issue. I think when I took in the ‘experience’ of Africa (through Uganda) that the probability of staying ‘gut-healthy’ went down. Lesson Learned.

On the second day I was there I began to have some GI distress, which only got worse over the next 48 hours, into Saturday afternoon before the race. I felt like I couldn’t keep anything in my system. When I looked at food I felt nauseous, which meant I did not eat as much as usual. Things were so bad Saturday morning that not only did I need eat breakfast or lunch, but in all honesty I had no interest in coffee either (ok, or Cadbury Mini Eggs!)

Having not consumed much of anything my energy stores were depleting, add in the GI distress and I was losing more energy stores that way too. I was trying to stay on top of my fuel and nutrition by consuming various bars and snacks I had packed, but in retrospect it was just not enough.

What did I learn:
  1. Stick to what works for you (for me) leading into big events. I should have snacked on the bars and other things I brought with me and stuck to more simple foods at meals.
  2. You need a lot, A LOT, more energy than you think to run 10km+. I think I lost 3 kilos (~7 lbs) on Saturday, add in a couple more kilo loss on Friday. I would have been better off going in +2-3 lbs of extra energy to complete the distance, having extra stores than not having enough.
  3. Eat what you would before a workout: Ok, really I didn’t learn that this trip, but I did get a good reminder about it. I recommend cutting back on the fruits and veg, and adding in more grains and starches before racing some of the longer distances.
What Does a Typical Day of Fuelling look life for me.

Breakfast: Yes, It is true I am in love with coffee. My day does usually start with coffee, many glasses of water, and a bowl of Stoked Oats made with 2% cows milk (for an extra shot of protein and good-fats). I usually have another cup of coffee sometime in the morning.

Lunch: The creation usually starts with a bed of greens (i.e. Kale, Spinach, etc.) and then a fridge inspection occurs. What leftovers can I pile on top? What else is in there for an interesting lunch? We usually have a container of some sort of ancient grains or potatoes cooked up for my hit of complex carbs. The protein usually comes from the left overs (i.e. steak, salmon, chicken, etc.). Then comes the addition of whatever other cooked and raw vegetables happen to be in the fridge. If I’m feeling like the fat content is low, I’ll add in some olive oil to get it up there. I usually accompany my salad (but think family size bowl not salad bowl) with some plain greek yogurt with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

Dinner: Yes, here is where I’m saying my boyfriend is the greatest. I often come home from my late afternoon workouts to a prepared meal. We are a red meat house; I love it and I need the iron. My favourite post-workout meal is cow (of some description), roasted potatoes (which are totally swimming in a bath of olive oil and salt in the oven), steamed kale and green beans. We often make what we call ‘thin salad,’ which is usually some baby romaine with thinly sliced peppers, carrots, cucumber, green onion, with a dressing of olive oil, balsamic and a splash of maple syrup.

Desert: Because I think desert is its own meal! I don’t believe in deprivation. I have a sweet tooth. I do enjoy the evenings when I sit down with my boyfriend, and when his kids are around with them too, we watch TV or catch up, and we enjoy a bowl of ice cream or chocolate or both(!), make a cup of tea, and then head to bed.

Oh you thought that was it?! Ha. My favourite meals are snacks!

Snacks (anytime and all the time!): Hi I’m Sasha, and I’m a snack-aholic. Except I don’t think it’s a problem, I contribute snacking to my success. Snacks get a bad name, because we typically see them as vending machine foods, but they do not have to be.

My daily snacks can include: A traditional CLIF bar, Sierra Trail Mix is my current favourite, PB & Chocolate is up there too. A Moroccan Your World Picky Bar. An apple, sometimes with PB smothered on with every bite. A banana, again sometimes with a hit of PB or chocolate hazelnut butter. Veggies and Dip (usually Tzatziki, since legumes and I don’t get along!). Toast, Rice Cakes, a Breakfast Round usually with some form of nut butter and banana. Handfuls of cereal (i.e., Frosted Flakes, their Grrrrreeatttt!). Sometimes I make Stoked Oats into cookies or pancakes and eat that as a snack. Can of tuna. And the list goes on. Pretty much a healthy, hearty snack in and around 200+ calories.

And who am I kidding, when the mini eggs are around, or whatever holiday candy of choice, you can see me picking at the bag all day!

At the end of the day, pick healthy foods, eat more good fats, and fuel yourself right. And yes, eat the chocolate!