So a few weeks ago I did a little poll on my Instagram stories asking what people would like to see on my blog. Well, one of the most common answers I got was meal planning, recipes, and my nutrition! So I thought I would take a little time to share with you my nutrition journey to today and what I eat on a typical training day.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will notice that majority of what I post on my stories is food. I LOVE to cook, but more importantly I LOVE FOOD! I have really started to enjoy sharing what I cook on Instagram. I grew up in a family where almost every night we sat down and had dinner together, no matter how busy we all were, it was a huge part of our family time together. Of course there were times where not every one could be at the table for different commitments or perhaps different schedules, or when my brother or I moved away from home at different points in time. Having dinner together as a family is something I love and was definitely something I missed when I moved away for university. So maybe it's a little corny, but sharing my meal prepping on Instagram makes me feel a little like I am sharing my meals with all of you.
The fact that I love to cook is probably the biggest surprise to my mother. Growing up I didn't know how to cook anything other than pasta, (which if you ask my brother, did not turn out very well in the beginning), nor did I really care to learn how to cook. My parents made most of my meals and being as active as I was I never once thought about what it was I was putting in my body. My first year at university, living in residence and away from home for the first time was a huge learning experience. There were so many options (and unbelievable portion sizes) available in the cafeteria that I definitely went a little crazy. I didn't think there was anything wrong with the way I ate; having pasta or pizza every night because it was the one thing available super late after practice; having lemon poppyseed loafs and bagels with cream cheese for breakfast; oh and don't forget about the late night candy store. I thought I was training hard enough that it didn't matter what I ate, so you can imagine my surprise when at the end of my first year I had put on 15 pounds since graduating high school, and it didn't sit well on me either. When this was brought to my attention in a way that if you want to compete on a high level you cannot continue eating like this that I was honestly forced into changing my ways.
Over the next two years I struggled with my nutrition. I saw different dieticians but they didn't seem to mesh well with me. Either they were too restrictive or I found I couldn't put what they were suggesting for me into my real life, nor were they flexible on working with me either. I became very disoriented with nutrition and how I was eating and was struggling with my body image and how I perceived my weight, the latter for the first time in my life. My weight would fluctuate like crazy during the year and it impacted how I was training and competing as I did not understand what my body in particular needed. Then at the beginning of my fourth year, our team had a nutrition seminar with Lisa Spriet. About 5 minutes into listening to her presentation I knew I needed to work with her.
I have been working with Lisa since 2015 and she has been fundamental to my nutrition and my health in so many ways! The first year I worked with Lisa I saw huge improvements in my body composition and ran one of my most successful indoor track seasons. Lisa's philosophy with nutrition and the way she has been able to work with me as my body, my training, or my nutritional needs change has been a true lifesaver. Before working with Lisa, I didn't realize that I had certain stubborn food habits, in particular I was an emotional eater and struggled with portion control. I had no true idea of how what I was eating was impacting my body. Working with Lisa is also what inspired me to really get into cooking and meal prepping. The love I have for these is truly because of the freedom she has given me to explore food and enjoy the foods I love. Whenever I have concerns over my nutrition and training, she has always been willing to listen and work with me so I feel comfortable and confident on not only in how I am fuelling my body, but also how I feel living my life with food. I probably talk with Lisa about my health, training, and diet more than any other individual.
And now this is not to saw that I am at all perfect. I know I still have some bad habits when it comes to food and I there are times when I get into bouts where I don't eat as healthy as I know I can be. I love snacking, but sometimes I can over-snack when I am bored. What I have learned in the last few years is the importance of balance in nutrition, and a lot of that comes with understanding how my body works individually and finding a nutrition plan that works the best for me. It's fine to treat yourself or indulge every once in a while. I love to snack on popcorn and tortilla chips (some would say it borderlines on a tortilla chip obsession), I love to indulge on chocolate or have a glass of red wine. I try to not be hard on myself, letting myself enjoy treats and give into my cravings every now and then and know that it's all part of living balanced. The last thing I want is to feel that I have no control over food or my body.
About a year ago I started to develop irritable bowel syndrome. These issues likely started earlier than this; about six months earlier I had stopped consuming dairy because I was noticing I was starting to have digestive problems. Lactose intolerance runs in my family so after speaking to my family doctor it made sense to quit dairy and see if it made a difference. And it did, sort of. Six months later I was still have issues my digestion that were getting worse to the point where I was feeling embarrassed at practices or when I was out with friends. I noticed that even though I was training 4 hours a day and eating well I was still carrying extra weight from the off season in my main competition phase (my body likes to put on weight - regardless of fat or muscle, and my weight will typically fluctuate 5-10 pounds throughout the year, especially in the off season). My skin was flaring up and I felt generally fatigued in workouts. I don't know exactly why all this started happening; it could have been hormonal, I am not sure. Embarrassed as I was, I knew I needed to talk to Lisa about it and she suggested taking on an elimination nutrition plan called the Low FODMAP plan. Explaining what FODMAPs is or why I have changed what I am eating has been difficult, especially to my family and friends. I often just tell people I am dairy and gluten free now because it is a lot easier. There is a lot of information on the web on what Low FODMAP is, so if you are interested in learning more about it yourself, see here. In essence, the Low FODMAP plan works in phases to eliminate certain types of foods that can cause IBS in people (like me) when not digested properly. Then, the next phase is to try to reintroduce some of those foods to figure out which ones in particular are causing me problems. The Low FODMAP plan is also not meant to be permanent. The plan involved me eliminating gluten, dairy and lactose, as well as other foods such as garlic, onions, honey, certain cruciferous vegetables, and certain fruits. The plan was not restrictive in the sense that I ever felt limited by what I could or couldn't eat. In fact, this plan has made me more conscious of what and how I was eating and has made me be more creative in the kitchen, even learning how to make my own salsa!
Currently, I am still on the Low FODMAP plan. While I have seen huge improvements in my digestive health through this plan in the last 10 or so months, my IBS issues are still present. Some days everything is great, some days the issues aren't so bad, but I will still have really bad days here and there and it has been embarrassing to deal with. I have been able to reintroduce some "trigger" foods, but there are still some I haven't been able to (dairy is probably always going to be out and I have made my peace with dairy free ice cream - Ben and Jerry's is the bomb!) Since finishing the stricter elimination phase I have been working in a more flexible way that suits my lifestyle. Taking it back to basics when my digestive system acts up and indulging in more higher FODMAP foods when I feel I can handle it (sometimes eating cheesecake means suffering some discomfort in return). I feel like I eat balanced and there aren't really any foods I miss (let's just say I am very thankful for lactose free yogurt and garlic infused olive oil!)
My nutrition is never static and is always evolving as I need it to. I have worked extremely hard at my nutrition over the last 4 years. Overall, I will say I am the happiest I have ever been with my nutrition at this point in time! I feel like I understand my body and its relationship with food so much better. I also feel like a lot of the results I have seen in my body composition in the last few months are the result of this. I am the most confident in my body and with my body image that I have ever really been in my life. Right now, my focus is on being as healthy as I can, focusing on my digestive health and fuelling my body in a way that will maximize my performance on the track.
So with that, as promised! Here is a look at what my nutrition in a typical training day looks like!
What I eat in a day varies on what my training looks like for that day. On days where I have heavier training, I am typically consuming more calories and carbs than on lighter training days or on my off days. Tuesdays are one of my heavier training days in the week with typically my larger hurdle workout of the week followed by a lifting session.
Breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day! I just really like breakfast food and I am definitely not above having scrambled eggs for dinner. I train primarily in the morning so I try to make sure I have a big enough breakfast to keep me fuelled for a longer session but also not so much that I feel sluggish and heavy. My favourite breakfast before hurdle practices is some oatmeal (I make my own mix of different oats and ground flaxseed), with some almond butter, fresh berries, and topped with my homemade granola. I will make a side of scrambled eggs for some protein and top them with some hot sauce and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour (also high in vitamin B12!). If I don't feel like eggs, or I am in a rush, I will top my oatmeal with some lactose free greek yogurt. Of course, coffee is a must.
During practice I am typically sipping on water mixed with some electrolytes that have a higher carbohydrate content (I recently tried out Eload) to help with my energy levels. I also add some creatine for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. Post hurdles I move straight into my lifting session. A typical Tuesday can have me at track (including my lift) for up to three or three and half hours.
After my lift I am usually doing a quick five minute outfit change to get to ready for work. Luckily I work at Western University so I just need to walk 10 minutes to the student services building. I have a protein "shake" of a scoop of Vega Sport Chocolate Protein Powder with water and have a piece of fruit, typically a banana. This will usually hold me over until I can eat lunch.
So I will be honest, if I had to pick my least favourite meal, it would be lunch. Lunches are the meals I always struggle with because I tend to get easily bored with certain foods. For one, I have never been a big fan of sandwiches or salads which I feel are the typical lunchy foods. I am also really bad at timing my lunches because I am usually on the go during the middle of the day or I am just getting to work from practice and I get distracted, so I tend to eat lunch a lot later. With my meal prepping I will usually prep two different types of proteins that I can mix and match with different veggies and a carb that I can alternate throughout the week for lunch and dinner. This particular lunch was some turkey meatballs with zucchini, carrots and red pepper, some wild rice cooked in bone broth and some grilled french beans with garlic infused olive oil and steak spice.
If I haven't mentioned it already, I love snacking. I try to bring my own snacks with me to work and its usually always an assortment of crackers, nuts, various veggies (like baby carrots, cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes) and usually a piece or two of fruit. I also work where there is a fully stocked community kitchen, which is great if you're needing something to keep you going in the day. If I am needing some thing more I will go and make some GF toast with peanut butter. I am also working really hard at making sure I am eating healthy snacks throughout the day as the kitchen can have an endless supply of tortilla chips.
Usually my lunch and dinners are fairly similar in the week depending on what I meal prepped. So this dinner was some baked salmon lightly seasoned with lemon herb spice, some roasted and seasoned zucchini and carrots and a side of wild rice cooked in bone broth. Depending on my training load for the day, the amount of carbs I have with lunch and dinner will vary.
I don't always have a snack in the evening after dinner, but if I do a favourite of mine is always a bowl of popcorn popped in olive oil and topped with some nutritional yeast (if you haven't tried it, I highly recommend), or some toast with peanut or almond butter.
And that's it for now. Stay tuned as I will be trying to bring more of my meal prepping and sharing some of my recipes into the blog in the future!