I currently work at the University of Westminster and was very lucky to be invited to take part in a summer research project run by some of our Nutritional Therapy students. Participants have been asked to exercise according to the NICE guidleines, which means 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week and receive other advice from the students about our diet and lifestyle. Our body composition and biochemical indices have been measured before we start the programme and they will be measured again halfway through and at the end to see if the exercise has made any improvements. Check out this video of the BodPod body composition tracking system to see what they had me do!
I decided to take part because I wanted the health check and the nutrition advice. For the most part I’m pretty happy with my body. Happy with how I look at least. I’ve been the same size and shape since adolescence, but that’s not a good reason to assume that I’m healthy. I’m quite heavy for my height and so I worry that my joints might suffer from running unless I lose a little bit of weight. I also worry that my race times are suffering for the sake of my biscuit habit. I guess I just wanted to find out how healthy I am and improve anything that could help my training.
Luckily for me all of my blood indices were very good. Apparently my cholesterol and blood glucose levels are great and blood pressure fine. If any of you are into detail, my results are:
|diastolic blood pressure||64||69||66.5|
|systolic blood pressure||114||112||113|
|Plasma glucose (fasting)||4.29|
This all made me very happy. However, my body composition report was less glowing. At 5’8″ and 12 stone it has been confirmed to me that I am heavy, though my 29% body fat implies that I’m not desperately unhealthy. I’m basically on the brink of being a bit porky, but am currently (just about) in the “moderately lean” category.
I would like to not be squeezing into the “moderately lean” category though, and I’d like to not be so heavy either. This may mean that I have to shrink a bit, or a lot, or not much at all … I don’t know how big an effect losing body fat will have on my appearance, but if it helps me run faster I’ll definitely give it a try.
I’m going to give my diet a bit of an overhaul, which means a totally honest analysis of what I currently eat and figuring out what is good and what is bad, what can stay and what could/should go. I have an awful feeling that this last category is going to include that tub of Hagen-Das I ate on Friday night watching the Olympics opening ceremony…
I read Matt Fitzgerald’s book ‘Racing Weight’ recently because I wanted to learn more about how runners should balance their diet. It was a great read because it didn’t just bombard me with meal plans and restrictive nutrient ratios. Quite the opposite in fact. Fitzgerald goes to great lengths to discuss key research in sports nutrition and show how mixed the findings can be, pointing out variables in the experiments and other external factors. As a result he doesn’t recommend high carb/high protein/high-low anything. He gives you the bare facts, explains clearly how your body uses food, and explains how you can balance your diet, not an online dietician, not Cosmo… you. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable, accessible and informative read; far funnier than I ever imagined a book about nutrition for endurance athletes could be, and far easier to understand than I could have hoped. Fitzgerald doesn’t just give readers information and ideas – he equips us with them, and I feel quite confident that I cake some positive changes.
Secondly I am going to keep a totally honest food diary using the Training Peaks website, created by Matt Fitgerald and mentioned repeatedly in his book. There are other similar websites but I’m a sucker for shameles promotion and like to indulge other peoples’. This bit of my diet-shake-up scares me. I’m going to see exactly where I’ve been going wrong and I’m almost certain it’s the tasty bits. I’m going to do this for a fortnight I reckon before I make any decisions about what to change, but judging by my diary so far two scones after dinner is one scone too many.
Thirdly, inspired by Fitzgerald’s book, I’m going to make a list of things I should eat in a two-week period. As an IBS battler I’ve become a very habitual eater, but that’s about to change. I’m going to keep my eating plan sensible: things like ‘two oily fish based meals a fortnight’ and ‘at least non-dairy serving of 1 lean protein a day’. Nothing impossible, nothing drastic – just a sensible checklist that will make me more conscious of what I’m putting in my gob. The theory is that if I take the time to consider food in relation to the bigger picture (i.e. where does this doughnut fit into my two-week plan?) I will also take the time to put the silly food back down. I’m telling y’all right now though: this plan will include an ice cream and wine quota.
My aim is 72kg by the end of the year and/or 25% body fat. I’d like to know what that feels like – will I feel lighter when I run? Will my times improve? Will I feel healthier in general? Will I look any different? Who knows?! But I need advice please! What foods should I be including in my fortnight checklist? Do you have any good dinner-for-one recipes for a house sharer? Any lunchbox suggestions? Are there any alternatives to a double chocolate caramel Magnum? All suggestions welcome! In exchange I will keep you posted on my progress…