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Saturday, July 7, 2012

More "clearing the pipes"

Occasionally I like to count calories in one of my fitness apps just so I can see how appropriate my caloric intake is and take a quick look at the nutrition and see if there's anything glaringly absent.   I compare it to how I manage my horse's nutrition.  Do I weigh her hay every day?  Or weigh the beet pulp and stable mix?  Or even the oil?  No.  But, on a regular basis I like to put a weight tape on her, test her selenium levels, weigh her food stuffs and see whether my estimations of weight and volume have migrated, or if there needs to be an adjustment to the program.  Tracking the data too often will make me compulsively crazy --> and studies have shown that the body is remarkably good at maintaining equilibrium and weight.  Especially us pesky humans. So, Farley gets a nutrition and health "check up" every so often (once a week I remeasure my volume of feedstuffs other than hay, once a month I weigh hay, 1-2x a year I measure selenium), and I do the same for myself.  I drag myself over to my parents and jump on the scale (I've weighed the same, +/- 3 pounds or so since the beginning of high school), track my food intake in an app, and run a 1 mile test on the track.  FYI the mile test is the best indicator of ANY of this crap of where I am health-wise.  The times and effort required absolutely follow my fitness and health better than any other parameter, including blood pressure, weight, cholestrol, or the amount of calories I'm taking in. 

As you might expect, today's post is yet more ramblings on the atrociously named book mentioned in my previous post, "The first 20 minutes".  (And yes, Funder is absolutely correct in pointing out how fluffy this title is - see my previous post for the FULL, fluffy title).  I will warn you now that this isn't a particular "light" read.  The book covers SCORES of studies, often with contridictory results, woven into the authors tongue in cheek commentary.  In a way it reminds me of my blogging style --> discussion of the evidence and different theories, not all of it fitting into a nice little package, and then the authors "bottom line" summaries at the end of each chapter, suggesting what changes she recommends for diet and exercise based on the discussion during the chapter.  It's effective, and I feel like I am permitted to actually use my brain and critically evaluate the evidence and either agree or not agree --> but not necessarily being lead down the yellow brick road by an author who pats you on the head and tells you not worry your pretty little head about the details. 

For the last 3 or 4 days I have painstakingly recorded my meals and exercise into an app that calculates the nutritional data and presents it in fancy pie charts and data tables.  And, I must admit I giggle each time I see my stats compared to the "recommended intakes".  Most of these programs assume you are trying to follow the government recommendations/American Healthy Heart Whatever guidelines.  Apparently, I should be limiting my sugars to 33 grams per day.  What's to laugh about?  I exceeded that today at breakfast.  For my post workout meal I had a glass of milk and 1/2 a cup of unsweetened applesauce.  More carbs than I would typically like, especially in the morning, but I'm trying to be conscious of the 2:1 refueling ratio. That particular meal contained 34 grams of sugar.  A red, bold, flashing alert blinks at me from my screen.  I have similar results blinking on all my previous days --> what's hilarious is that all sugars are still being treated the same.  The lactose sugar in milk products.  The fructose in fruit.  I consume none to very few foods a day that have added sugar, yet every day I am double the recommended amount of sugar grams (but very low in overall carbohydrates).  I laugh because the guidelines don't GET it.  Not all sugar is created equal.  Not all carbs are created equal.  The ONLY numbers I trust when it comes to my nutrition are the protein and fat amounts.  I feel like all the numbers related to carbs and sugar are at best misleading, and at worst a deception that forces dieting people every where to reach for those highly processed foods full of artificial sweeteners, added fibers, and processed flours.  Overall calorie consumption matters --> but what matters just as much is where those calories come from. 

This next statement is so important that I'm giving it its very own paragraph, and bolding it. 

Why do we have nutritional guidelines that cannot be met by consuming unprocessed foods?  In order to meet the guidelines as stated, much of my diet HAS to be processed.  And I think that is the greatest disservice human nutritional science has done to date. 

Let's contrast that to the horse nutrition field, where more and more we are recognizing that horses, both pasture ornaments and performance equines, function and perform the best on diets that are as close to an unprocessed and natural diet as possible.  Anytime you process the food (dried hays as opposed to fresh pasture), you have to make up for it (in this case, often with vitamin E supplementation that is lost in the drying process).  Yes, those high performance animals need additional nutritional support.  But lets be honest with ourselves --> who among us are elite marathoners?  Planning on running an ultramarathon in the next month?  The average human has much more in common with the pasture ornament than the Derby contenders, or the 100 mile endurance horse. 

When I look at my nutritional profile I look at overall calorie consumption, fat grams, protein grams, and the amount of calcium.  I have added a vitamin D and Calcium supplement to my diet daily since a close family member has been diagnosed with osteoporosis and I am at risk.  I consider vit D and Calcium low risk supplements and because of my demonstrated risk, and my concern that I don't get enough of either, I've decided to supplement. 

I ran today and I felt strong, and able, and powerful.  My problem all these years in my running is I've never really pushed.  I've always focused on exercising below a level that would hurt, or that I would be really tired, or winded.  Gradual increases in distance, and long slow runs have been the mainstay of my running since I was 16 years old.  Speed training was for advanced runners, increased your chances of injury, and not needed for the recreational runner happy with a 4 hour marathon PR.  However, I'm happily discovering the joy of letting myself go, instead of plodding along, knowing that I will never feel or look like that gazelle (at least now I can feel like one even while Tess bounds ahead of me giving me the perfect visual example of what I don't look like.  LOL).  I find that by varying my speed (1 min sprints followed by 75 seconds of walking or slow jogging/running) my muscles and joints don't feel as tired.  It's like by keeping up the same shuffling pace over hours and double digit miles, only certain parts of my physique were used and abused. 

And yes, I'm still running BAREFOOT.  In the last year I have run in shoes once.  I ran with a friend at school and forgot my run-a-mocs and running in town over sidewalks with broken glass makes me cringe, so I set out in my running shoes.  I didn't make it even 1/2 a mile before I was exhausted and my feet hurt.  I have not been injured since running barefoot.  A word of caution --> I also transitioned into the shoes over many many months.  If you switch to barefoot and expect to go out for your normal run in a week or even a month, you will probably be sorely (from injury...) disappointed.    I can't even hike in regular shoes any more.  I did the 4 day Point Reyes Hike in May/June in a combination of run-a-mocs and crocs and my feet never felt better.  I no longer wear "true" barefoot shoes during my normal daily activities, since I can't afford to buy a new pair every 6 months or so (I'm hard on shoes), however my normal shoes are chosen for an absolutely neutral heel to toe angle, and the ability for my foot to flex normally, and although they aren't as comfortable as going truly barefoot (measured as the amount of time it takes me to kick them off once I'm inside or sitting down), they haven't set me back in terms of being able to do my athletic activities truly barefoot, so it's an acceptable compromise between my checkbook and my health.

One more caveat to the book --> the information presented in "the first 20 minutes" is specific to humans.  Although in some general concepts can be applied to horses, the specifics can NOT.  Use it for your human self, and if it serves as a jumping off point for further research on how to condition your endurance horse --> good.  But please please please don't think that because it's good for the human, it's good for the horse.  Generally, animals respond in specific adaptive ways to exercise, but the horse is a whole 'nother animal :).  Even if you adamantly believe, like I do, that I'm secretly all horse inside. 


  1. It's funny, one of the things you pointed out about the book, the fact that she supplies so many examples of research that sometimes contradict, is one of the reasons an amazon reviewer gave it fewer stars. She did not like how she wasn't told exactly "what to do."

  2. Oooh they DO have a Kindle edition! Bought it.

    Shoes! What do you think I'm doing wrong with my shoes? I love my barefoot shoes and I wear them all the time and I'm totally adapted to them, I think, but as soon as I walk down a hot hill I get heel blisters. Not achilles blisters, and rarely anywhere else, just the bottoms of my heels blister within the first tenth of a mile. It's infuriating. My only theories: I need to lace them on tighter, or I need different socks (lightweight Smartwool socks currently). You've done way more hiking and barefoot hiking so maybe you'll have an idea?

    Great post again.

    1. Are you wearing a form fitting type of barefoot shoe or a loose one? Mine are extremely loose - they are completely made of leather and not stretchy anywhere. I've never gotten blisters with them, and I think that's the reason. That being feet have a LOT of callouses and I build callouses VERY quickly. The callouses are especially thick on the bottom of my heel (where the "vertical" and the "horizontal" meet), so this could be another reason I'm not noticing the issue......Another possibility --> when walking you typically land more heel first than running. Do you get blisters while running too? Is there a seam at the place you are getting blisters? Another couple options. Can you try and build up callous on the heel of your foot by walking truly barefoot outside (maybe carry the shoes until you feet start not feeling as good and then wear them?) Moleskin is VERY good for blisters, so if all else fails, put a patch of that on your foot wherever you have blisters.

  3. Yup, I like it. A new goal in life.

    Pasture ornament and proud!



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