Racing Weight

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
Total cholesterol 3.72
LDL cholesterol 3
HDL cholesterol 1.71
fasting triglyceride 0.57

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.

So what am I going to do? First of all I’m going to tell my colleagues to stop saying thank you with Double Deckers. Words will suffice from now on.

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…


7 responses to “Racing Weight

  1. I had an interesting lecture which ended on a side about obesity, and how best for patients to lose weight and keep the weight off, greatest efficacy was bariatric surgery…

    And don’t do anything other than the advice given to you by the research group, by changing things independently without being told by them will mess up their results and end up with bad advice being given in the future.

    That includes the food diary etc, for healthy meals for one: vegetarianism has the answer for everything, check river cottage veg pot noodles, make your own sauces instead jars etc. But like I say, let the people advise you, ask these questions again afterwards if it hasn’t succeeded.

  2. It doesn’t always work for everyone, but I noticed the ‘puppy fat’ drop off me when I decided to stay away from the meat. I still eat fish in modest proportions (mainly the oily kind and occasionally the battered kind!).
    My other tip would be – think about what you are craving and find the ‘healthy’ or ‘homemade’ alternative – I LOVE chips, so I started making my own (sweet potato wedges with paprika fills all kinds of belly holes!). Even stuff in the supermarket that claims to be healthy – soup etc, is always better if you have time to make it yourself as you can see EXACTLY what goes in it. And as Roo says above – make your own sauces. Always easier than you think and way healthier.
    The book that accompanied my biggest loss on weight/body fat was Jamie Oliver: Ministry of Food. Simple, easy recipes easily adjusted for one. His 30 min meals are also cracking.
    Lunch … leftovers! Pasta, couscous or whatever I’ve had the night before – jazz it up with a few bits of salad and maybe some mackerel. Yum.
    Is it dinner time yet …..

    PS – Timothy’s top tip that helped me out – pretty much ignore the calories on the food in supermarkets, and instead take in the Saturated Fat … AVOID the evil sat-fat!

  3. Thanks guys! I do always make my own sauces, but lunch is normally tinned soup… That can be changed. I’ve already got involved with the sweet potato wedges, though mine are cajun not parika! Any other ‘alternative’ comfort foods?

    And a few meat free days a week are on the agenda too…

  4. I love this Hannah, only just discovered your blog recently and it’s great!
    Having had a few months off with “the ankle” (plus eating far more than usual but I’m going to keep syanig it was the ankle) I’m going to need to shift a few pounds for my October marathon and had just started to look into how weight effects race speed so this is really interesting, I’m going to tread the book and get back on track with healthy eating. I’ll follow with a few of my tips when I’m not at work and have time to put a coherent list together!
    See you tonight for track…

  5. Pingback: Racing Weight: The fat fight continued… « Red Head On The Run·

  6. Pingback: Racing weight: the challenge continues… « Red Head On The Run·

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