Learning to fuel myself, a work in progress

I am in a different state of existing that has left me challenged in new ways.  It’s a little confusing at first but I’m starting to get the hang of it.  I just need to start paying better attention to myself and my needs.  More specifically the overall picture and not only day-to-day.

I’m referring to fueling and refueling my body so that it performs the best that it can and so that I’m not doing damage to it without realizing it.  We hear and read a lot about how important it is to fuel your body when it comes to working out and exercise.  If I’m going to be completely honest, I sort of only half paid attention to this.  Because to me I equate properly fueling yourself with living healthy and well.  For example, you can’t expect your body to perform and be in top shape as you are scarfing down tons of processed foods and eating fast food for meals.

No shiz, right?  I mean that’s a pretty basic concept and while it is true, I have also realized that properly fueling yourself goes beyond that.  It’s not just about eating well but also eating enough and eating the right things for you and your body specifically (I say specifically because everybody is different and will respond to different things.).

This is the currently state of existence I was referring to in my first sentence.  I am at a place with my health, my training, and my weight where paying proper attention to how I fuel myself is key.  It’s important.  It’s number one on the list.  The times where I have slipped, have resulted in much unpleasantness on my end.

If you recall my small issue of being laid up not feeling well and praying to the porcelain god for an entire day, I believe that to be related to not fueling myself properly.  With as sick as I was, Scott is also convinced that I did catch something, so my illness was a result of the most awesome timing. I have that knack.

That day, I ran seven miles and did not eat a recovery snack/meal afterwards.  I went straight into having Sunday Breakfast (a OHC weekly staple).  I didn’t think anything of it.  I was eating so I must be refueling, right?  It wasn’t long after breakfast that I felt hungry again but was trying to hold out for dinner.  Why?  I don’t know.  I guess I didn’t want to spoil my appetite.  I did have small bites of stuff here and there but it didn’t help.  I was terribly hungry, weak, and nauseous.  When I did eat, my body couldn’t handle it and back up it came.  Rinse, repeat for the entire evening.

That sucked and I don’t ever want to have to relive an experience like that again.

Where did I go wrong?  On a normal Sunday long run, I come home and have yogurt and granola.  I’m hungry and need to eat.  Protein, grains, and fat help me recover and keep me full.  Yogurt and granola is all of that.  Then a few hours later, I have a big Sunday Breakfast.  All of these foods and calories help replenish my body.

Skipping the yogurt and granola step, means I missed:

  • Calories
  • Protein
  • Grains
  • Fat

It didn’t even occur to me that this would affect anything.  Yet it did and threw my whole body out of balance.  I didn’t eat anything extra at Sunday Breakfast so I didn’t make up for the missing fuel.  Clearly this was a huge mistake.

This past week, Monday, I ran four miles.  I don’t normally run on Mondays but it was snowing and my Sunday “long” run was cut short, so I headed out.  When I got back home I had a large bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and refueling purposes.

This was not enough and 1/2 an hour later I was starving.  It came up on me quick, one minute I was fine and the next minute I was starving to the point of shaking and almost being sick.

There was no way I was letting a repeat performance happen so I quickly started eating an apple and then I had a piece of bread with PB on it.  This calmed my stomach down once my body realized it was getting more fuel.

Why did this happen to me again, damnit“, is what I thought to myself.  Actually more accurately, my thought was, “WTF?!!” but I was trying to keep it PG.

I looked back on my week and reflected a bit.  I realized that I didn’t properly fuel myself and got irritated.

I consider myself pretty good at knowing what my body likes, dislikes, and what makes it work the best.

These are the things I know:

  • My body loves veggies and needs lots of produce to be happy.
  • My body also loves protein and requires it in order to preform.
  • My body likes animal protein, specifically that of the sea.  Land animal protein is alright but not too much.
  • I need protein everyday.
  • I need animal protein at least two to three times a week.
  • Fat is good, please give me healthy fats.  YUM!

When I looked back at what I ate last week, I quickly realized that I did not get enough animal protein.  Not because I was avoiding it but just due to how the week went, animals did not show up to the party.

I didn’t even think I was running on Monday, so on Sunday I didn’t take any measures to make sure that I fueled properly for the next day.

Part of what I learned is that fueling yourself isn’t just about replenishing after workouts.  It is also about preparing for the next day.  The next workout.  The next what-have-you.  It’s about being prepared.

I wasn’t prepared for that run on Monday and while I cranked it out, afterwards my body was in a crisis mode and I didn’t even realize it until it was almost too late.

Sometimes there is a small part of me who wants to focus on other aspects of my blog more and possibly decrease or stop the Daily Eats section, so that I’ll have more time to focus on other things.  Then the Daily Eats section totally saves my butt and I rethink that strategy.  There are times when I forgot I had eaten something until I see the picture of it and remember.  Writing out what I ate also helps commit it to memory so when the need arises for me to revisit the past few days of eats, I can.  Either by memory or just a quick check of the blog.  It has also helped me in paying more attention to my body and how it responds/reacts to certain foods.  While it can be a bit challenging and sometimes monotonous to type out my entire day everyday (especially when nothing exciting happens! Which is everyday :p) it has helped me grow and for that I am thankful.

But getting back to my point! Because I had written everything down, it was easier for me to scan the past week and see my mistakes.  Okay so where did I go wrong?

Looking back to that previous week, I see that I only ate some sort of animal protein once.  That was Fish Tuesday.  Typically I would have had seafood again on Saturday and possibly something else Sunday.  That Saturday was off because we were out to dinner with friends and Sunday was busy so I just heated up some stuff from the freezer.  Everything veggie based, nothing that had some heftier protein to it.

While I can get protein from other sources, my body is not one to be happy happy with only that.  My body does need some sort of meat action.  People can argue with me all they want, but it’s true.  This is how my body functions best.  I like lots of seafood but don’t require tons of land animal protein.  I only like that in small quantities and then don’t want it again for days.  Seafood goes down easier for me and digests well, and also doesn’t leave me feeling heavy or bloated.  Too much land animal protein will, which is why I stick to smaller portions.  All that said, I don’t need animal protein everyday and if I had to eat it everyday I wouldn’t feel very well.  Because of my clean eats and healthier lifestyle, I know this now about me and my body.  I only need it a few times a week to keep things happy.

Lack of protein and smaller dinners that week got me by but didn’t fuel me.  Then I asked my body to preform and it did but was left totally depleted.

I realize now that I need to start paying more attention to what I eat.  Not in a nit-picky way but in a more broader sense to make sure I get the things I need in order to run well.  My body at this point is very good at telling me what it wants and needs.  I am also in tune with it enough to get the message it sends out.

Thank goodness or otherwise I wouldn’t be able to type up this very long post! ;)  Most of this was me just having the need to write this down and develop the thought a little more so that I have it and can refer back to it.  But I decided to also put it out there, maybe others can relate.  This website is about a lot of things and one of those things is my journey to a healthier me and a healthier way of living.  This is part of that journey so it only seems right to publish it.   :)

8 thoughts on “Learning to fuel myself, a work in progress

  1. This is a really interesting post. I too read alot about fueling and re-fueling the body. It just seems strange to eat after working out, defeating the purpose. I feel like I eat enough to fuel my body but still feel lacking in the energy department. How do I know if I’m eating enough? I’m rambling..sorry it’s early in the morning.

    • Yasmin, I must eat something after working out or my body will get really cranky. I think refueling is important but I think eating the right things will help that and not blow the workout. Like fruit, yogurt, granola, stuff like that is good. Eating some McDonald’s afterwards not so much. That would blow the workout for sure.

      Amanda, Isn’t it funny what our bodies crave sometimes? It’s an always evolving ever learning process.

      Kilax, Thanks girl!

      TGirl, Yikes! Have you figured out a way on approaching this new news?

      Meredith, Thanks! :D

      Gena, I appreciate that! Like I mentioned before, I’m still learning but it’s going a bit smoother now.

      Dana, Welcome to OHC! Thank you for sharing your experience! Are you living on campus? I know college eating when having to rely on the school for meals can be very challenging indeed.

  2. I need to learn how to fuel myself as well. I am new to running and never know when I’ve ran “enough” to warrant refueling. But I got incredibly sick after a 3 mile run and was craving protein like crazy. I’m definitely going to try to up the protein and listen to my body more.

  3. I think it is great to have a log, so you could look back and see where you “messed up.” I bet over time, proper fueling will become more and more natural, but that’s just it – it takes time. And everyone’s body’s are different. It’s your own (fun) personal journey!

    I hope you have better run recoveries this week!

  4. I’m in a similar place right now. On the surface I eat really healthfully but it turns out I wasn’t giving my body what it needed. 

    This week I went to the Dr. and he told me I was likely anemic. It seems the pescatarian thing may need some revising. Le sigh.

  5. Dana says:

    I’m a college track athlete so i definitely know the importance of refueling and fueling prior to exercise. although i may require more fuel pre and post workout, it all boils down to the same thing. your body needs it to recover to be the healthiest it can be. and no, eating right after you work out will not defeat the purpose of working out because after you workout your body is depleated of its energy stores and needs something (and then some) for optimal recovery! even something small such as a piece of bread with a little peanut butter or even just a glass of milk and a piece of fruit (a glass of chocolate milk is optimal for the carbs to protein ratio) for the past year and a half i HAVE been fueling/refueling properly for my workouts, yet i HAVENT been eating enough otherwise to keep my body strong, which i am currently working on. trust your body! loved this post.

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