Wednesday, 6 January 2010

An unexpected bitter pill...

“...Popeye is a cartoon character Tim, he's not real – supermarkets don't do canned spinach!” was the reply my wife gave me when grocery shopping for the dietary requirements I needed to do my challenge of running 10k everyday. Thankfully you do get canned spinach, we'd bought the salad spinach but I was dreading the expense if it wasn't available in a can too.

Our shopping was due to the developments of my pondering over Christmas, which in honesty generally includes indulgences of food and drink. I'd found myself in the week leading up to the New Year thinking more & more about the sort of diet I would need during this challenge. Gradually my thinking lead me to knowing I would need help on the nutritional aspects and I suddenly realised this would play a greater role in ensuring I could complete this challenge. So I'd gone in search of a nutritionist, someone with experience in endurance events & their personal experience of endurance was high on my list. I found a recently appointed Triathlete Coach & Personal Trainer Stef Lawrence, who's got involved in Coaching & Training following his successes of always finishing in the top 6 of the Triathlons he enters.

My meetings with Stef had confirmed the nutritional requirements of the challenge were unique, where many sports people & athletes load up on nutrients a few days before & or after events to support their body; I would not have that privilege. I'd be continually putting demands on my body that needed to be repaired & recovered between runs everyday. This meant having a sound nutritional diet to maintain performance, my body and support my immune system.

I had originally thought I would be on a non-lenient, strict diet and to be honest its that part I knew would drain on me – I'd need a lot of support to keep to that sort of diet. You can imagine my surprise when Stef advised me I should continue to have my treats, such as take aways of Indian, Chinese, Thai and so on; only roughly knowing what I was eating, how it benefits me & the challenge. Knowing the benefits really meant “their nutritional value” and we spoke quite a bit about calories, food sources and what I nicknamed “dead calories” which are calories in chocolates, crisps & other such snack food & of no nutritional value.

The focus of the diet was simply a “balanced one of calorie percentages”: 60% Carbohydrates, 25% Fat and 15% Protein. The really interesting part came when discussing what to buy. As it turns out the most common diet mistakes is calculating a balanced diet, as mentioned above but using “grammes”. Apparently, its an easy & common mistake because supermarkets & manufacturers provide 100g label illustrations on their food about its content. The problem occurs when reading a label like this Fish Finger one:
As sold per 100g provides, Protein 10.5g, Carbohydrates 22.2g, Fat 17.5g, Fibre 0.6g & Sodium 1.4g
This totals 51.2g, so the remaining 48.8g will be water as it is frozen. One might think as it read “per 100g” that there's 17.5% Fat, however water doesn't count so it is in-fact 34.18% of the nutritional weight but not its nutrition or Kcalorie value. I learnt that the rough calories value of Carbohydrates per gramme is 4, Protein is 4 and Fat is 9. Making these Fish Fingers actually having a Kcal content of 88.8 Carbs (36.7%), 157.5 Fat (65.2%) & 42 Protein (17.4%); Fibre will pass through & sodium will dehydrate as we'd have lost most of the water cooking.

The answer to this Fish Finger meal problem for me would be to have loads of vegetables, but what? I learnt generally any food rich in colour light or dark are high in nutritional content like peppers, chillies and so on but dark greens are the best (cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach (to replace lettuce, as it mostly fibre), broccoli, watercress etc.). Spinach is a 1st Class food and a great replacement for lettuce in salads or generally adding spinach to meals as it contains a lot of Iron which helps boost the immune system.

As marvellous as all the science behind food was, it still left me with what to eat & how much. Stef explained getting enough Protein was going be the big problem, based on the demand I was going to be putting on my body, it will be breaking down muscle during each event but if I didn't feed that need it would continue taking just to repair itself. He confirmed this challenge will change my body type and keeping healthy specifically in regards to Protein & watching my weight loss was important.

Until this point I'd been mostly concerned about injury as being the main point stopping me on this challenge and I knew that my body would change a little, mostly for the better I'd hoped – so I'm left with an unexpected bitter pill to swallow, feeling worried and nervous that my body type could dramatically change and my body giving way due to nutritional aspects causing illness, heavy fatigue and with fatigue mood swings. Although I'm loving the challenge at the moment 6 days in, however I feel I'm going to learn a lot about myself over the months to come.

That's it for now, I'll share a bit about how I've translated the nutritional demands into meals another time. Thank you for all the comments on the Face Book page, private emails, pip-ping car horns over last weekend.

Please take the time to share the 10k-everyday idea and encouraging others to get involved -its as good as donating. If you're on Face Book simply type “10k everyday” in the search bar.

You can find micro blogging of this challenge at:, &

Send a friend request with 10k-everyday in it and I'll accept.
Good luck will any goals or challenges you have planned. Be well, Tim

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