Here we go again. Talking about FOOD.
You guys, if you’ve ever effed yourself over and dieted for like long periods of time (or attempted to diet, or had shitty feelings towards food, or just a sketchy relationship in general), well, this one is for you.
I’ve spent a lot of energy dealing with food issues and insecurities. A LOT. I’ve read about it, taken the PN course on it, taken certifications on it, and allll that stuff.
But at the end of the day, I’m still a female, who loves to move heavy shit around that requires energy, who has a little devil in the back of her head that sometimes skews the story related to food and all that stuff and likes to say…….”it’s ok to not eat so much for meals, maybe we can drop a few pounds” regardless of if I’m eating enough for my activity or my recovery. Basically, I’m human. And I have some sketchy little food issues buried down deep. Regardless of if I WANT them around, they still ARE around, because stuff like this doesn’t die easy, you know?
Anyways, I digress. I’m getting off course. I’ll try to stay on topic.
Back when I was still prepping for the RKC, at least right before I started my training program…..well, I was having fun and moving tons of weight. And I was eating pretty much according to my habits (eating protein and veggies at each meal, plus a starchy something, plus hauling in water). Training was whatever, and even though I had a blast it wasn’t super duper serious. So my food stuff was going great, I was eating in a way that felt good for me.
Here is where it pays to NOT be your own coach sometimes (because if you coach yourself, you can often screw yourself over because your emotions are involved…..instead of just facts and data).
My food stuff didn’t change. But the purpose, volume, intensity and DRIVE in my workouts HAD to change, and DID. Because I was beginning to zero in on specificity and training to complete specific things by specific dates with specific weights and performance measures attached to them. I feel like I should have been the FIRST one to realize this, but of course….I’m usually late to the party in this department. What would make sense if one went from kickin’ it and having fun and doing whatever to “I have to rock and pass the RKC with AT LEAST 16kg kettlebells?” Would it make more sense to A) keep playing loosey goosey and hope for good performance in workouts and wonder why you don’t feel like working out sometimes or B) up your food intake to accommodate a higher training load (or at the very least, keep a close eye on it)?
Yeah, I spent a bit of time doing “A” when I should have been doing more “B.” Of course, what happens here then is you can get into a training rut (and a life rut!). Where you wonder why your workouts sucks, and that your drive isn’t there and you don’t even CARE if it’s there. This is the sucky spot because you still need to perform, but you don’t desire to. And it’s a mind game because it is usually something you love. So you question yourself, and doubt yourself, and wonder if you are *ever* gonna figure it out (Cliff’s note, NO, you don’t….you just keep learning).
Since I like to know where I’m at as a baseline before I make change….I decided to try not to change how I was eating for a few weeks, and decided to track my food intake.
First off…yes, tracking calories can be somewhat arbitrary. There is always a margin of error. And it’s tedious. But at least it gave me some data, you know? And so I could sort of have an average to work from.
Well…..here is the perfect storm. I was following my habits (protein/veggies/carbs/water), and what I thought were appropriate amounts. Those amounts that were defaults for me. That seemed like they were how I should eat. And of course, old food insecurities always show up when they aren’t wanted, and so I just assumed I was eating the way I should be….I mean, it looked healthy, so it should be healthy and enough, right? Well, I determined my baseline intake. I was averaging about 1600 calories on a rest day. 1800-1900 calories on a training day.
You guys, I don’t know what to tell you here. I’m not a small individual. I have muscle on me, and some body fat. I’m not little. I love moving the hell out of iron so I’m strong. And training for the RKC meant about four serious training days in the gym focusing on VOLUME and moving weight and being stable, and snatching bells at high intensity, and staying safe, and for the love of all that’s holy, all those double front squats in my training program, and one day of moderate work. My old diet mindset had won. I was eating to try and shrink (although somewhat unknowingly) and not eating to fuel my performance.
And my energy and enthusiasm surrounding my workouts and sort of life in general relayed the message to me every day that I wasn’t eating enough, but I just wasn’t getting it. Like I said, I’m sometimes the last one to the party when it comes to this kind of stuff. Even though the signs were there – low energy and enthusiasm surrounding workouts, soreness and not quite recovering as well as I’d like, and finding myself “always picking up a quick something to eat” if I was away from home. Like, I always needed an excuse to eat something that was either a snack, or a meal out, or something just a little bit not my norm because I deserved a treat (even though this was the simplest way my body was having me eat more calories because it just wanted energy).
My steps next were fairly simple. Increase my food intake slowly over time to see where I could “land” where I was keeping a stable weight, feeling great during workouts, feeling HUNGRY for food, recovering well, and where I felt nourished.
I kept a slow climb in calories, usually about 100-ish a week increase. I made sure my protein target was set to about .7-.8 grams per pounds of body weight, I kept my fat in the 75-85 gram range, and then the rest were carbs.
I’m going to save you the details of the slow climb. But at the peak, at least during RKC training, I was getting about 2600-2700 calories in on training days without my weight/body circumference being affected.
Compare 1800 calories prior to this and 2700 calories at the peak of RKC training. That is a 900 calorie difference on training days. I was NOT eating to perform in the beginning, I was stuck in that old diet mindset.
Let me tell you how I know I was in the right place when I was at the 2700 calorie number. My appetite started to come back once I started feeding myself appropriately. Also, I started to have more energy during the day, and not like I could constantly take a nap. Oh, my workouts? I went from pissing and moaning about 16kg kettlebells to “holy crap, these are getting light and let’s hit 20kg’s!” My recovery was better and faster, and I wasn’t getting that sore muscle annoying stuff. And my sleep was getting MORE SOUND. Because I was eating at an appropriate level for my size, my daily activity and my training. And I was no longer pre-occupied with treats, because I was actually making an effort to eat appropriate sized meals throughout the day.
You guys, if I was packing in 2700 calories a day on a training day, why in the hell do I see ladies trying to starve themselves on 1200 calories a day and trying to rock a Crossfit workout? Or a marathon training plan? Or being a figure competitor? This is a topic for another day, but it is one that I’m super sensitive to, and we need to address this.
So, the RKC came and went. I stayed in the 2600-2700 range on training days for about a month after even after my workouts dropped in intensity. So I was probably eating a bit too much then, because my level of leanness changed a bit, but whatevs. Since then my activity and training has changed once again and I’m at a range where that level of intake on training days is pretty good, although I’m probably going to try to push the envelope again here soon to see if I can take it just a tad higher.
Moral of the story – if I’m continuously doing all the things to build a healthy strong body with a healthy strong metabolism…..look at where I can take my calories. And once I’m in those high levels, look at where I can go? I mean, I can drop 200-300 calories a day and drop a little body fat if I want, without really noticing just too much gone in the food department each day. Could I do that if my calorie level was 1200 or 1500 calories? Heck no. I’ve literally built myself into a calorie burning machine. That has options.
I plan on sharing my next steps here with you. I think it’s super interesting. And I think it debunks every crappy thing about the diet and fitness industry that are so often thrown in our faces. We don’t need to live off 1500 calorie meal plans and be miserable. We CAN eat and move and live for EXPANSION and not to be all consumed with being less and taking up as little space as possible. This doesn’t mean we all turn into oompa loompas in the next month either.
I’m treating this as a science experiment on myself. And I’d like to share with you. I’ve been paying attention to my calories burned numbers on my Fitbit, and on training days, they fall into that 3000 calorie range, and I don’t even have the Fitbit that monitors heart rate, I have the one that monitors steps only….so it is probably a little low on that calorie range. I’m going to spend the next few weeks pushing upwards on my intake if I can, so long as there are no upward changes in body size/weight. And so long as my workout performance continues to be awesome, and my energy stays great and I feel good. Like I said, a science experiment.
Here are a few things you should know right now related to all this:
– This is specific to ME, not “all women across America” and everyone has their own specifics (but I will be so bold as to say that many women suffer from a diet mindset and probably undereat quite a bit without knowing it, only to feel like a failure if they binge later….even if it’s their body’s way of getting the calories they so desperately need).
– Even though it *sounds* like I train a lot, I wouldn’t say that I do. I’m lifting and doing some moderate swings about four times per week. I’m also doing *easy* jogging intervals (like 1 min slow jog, combined with 2 min slow recovery walk) with my husband and kid *sometimes*.
– I walk for funsies and don’t power walk. And I do living room yoga like twice a week
– When I ramped up my food intake….I didn’t just throw a bunch of calories into the mix each day and hope for the best. I tried very hard to take a gradual step up so I wasn’t all crazy about food and didn’t feel bloated or icky. I also wanted to find my “threshold” of where I could eat the most, train where I wanted to, and NOT put on pounds that weren’t muscle related.
– I have actually started weighing myself again freely, without any attachment to the number or any weird feelings about it in general. Basically, I think it is really interesting to go between training day calories and rest day calories and see things bounce around but generally stay the same.
– I’m not trying to lose weight. Or gain weight. I’m trying to stay stable here for a bit and possibly (if my head is right) do a very short and small fat loss stint in a month or so, and then push the envelope AGAIN in the calorie department. You know…science experiment
– I’m scared to death to share this with all you, because it makes me vulnerable and insecure but food “ick” plagues a lot of people, and I’m no different. So maybe this is helpful, who knows.
Stay tuned! *nervous laugh*
(Consider this the new training log. I’m bored writing training logs!)