Knowingly under fuelling
Trigger Warning: I am going to start this blog with a trigger warning, if you are struggling with any type of disordered eating or distorted body image, please think twice before reading my blog. I am sharing my story with hope that it helps even one person who maybe going through the same. I am not an expert and I am only sharing my experience and things that have helped me improve my relationship with food and my body image.
My only food related memories from my childhood was just that I had a real love for it! That love continued until I entered my mid 20s and that’s when my open relationship with food and acceptance of my body changed.
Joining the gym and starting strength training became my medicine. It made me feel good, strong and healthy in both my body and mind. I loved the challenge and thrived on creating a stronger, leaner physique. When I started to see changes to my body, I started to become addicted. I used to absorb so much content online on what was perceived to be the “Perfect body”, this distorted my reflection in the mirror and soon dictated how I lived my life. Food and life for me became restricted. I tracked every macro, every gram of food and adhered to strict food timings. I wouldn’t attend any social gatherings with friends or family with a fear of derailing my “progress” and if I absolutely had to go somewhere I would go with my food prepared in tupperware (even to restaurants).
On reflection I wasn’t living. I had created no memories with those closest to me and I ended up putting a strain on a lot of my relationships. My training and restricted eating started to hinder not only my life but my body. I am still suffering the effects of amenorrhoea, this condition for me was triggered by excessive exercise and undereating. I want to add this has been diagnosed by my consultant, who I was having to frequently visit when these symptoms started to happen.
It was then I knew something had to change
The long term health effects of what I was doing to myself could be severe. Early ageing symptoms such as; brittle bones, hair loss, lack of sex drive, infertility amongst others were either happening or I was warned would come to fruition if I continued on this path. This was very difficult for me to absorb and for a while I continued living my restricted life, in denial.
My turning point
My husband, a lover of life and triathlon, encouraged me to get involved in endurance sport. His sell at the time was that I could eat what I wanted and take a more relaxed approach to food and training. At that time in my life, I knew that’s what I needed. My body and mind were crying out for enjoyment of movement again along with quality, quantity and variation of food.
I started endurance sport through running. I won’t lie at first I seen it as a new and effective way to burn calories, but my mindset began to change when I started to see progress. Soon I was performing runs at a lower HR and faster speed and I wanted to continue progressing, but how? I started my research through podcasts, books and blogs some of, which I have listed below. Consistency is key but my research also alluded to adequately fuelling your sessions to get the best results.
Taking on food whilst working out? The concept seemed completely counterproductive to me at the time. I’m trying to burn calories not take more on, however I thought I would try it just once to see if the literature was right. I started by taking a gel every 30 mins on my long weekend run. I felt great, my pace was comparable but my RPE was a lot lower. Is this all in my head? The only way to answer this was to try it again, and so I did. I quickly realised this was going to be a game changer for me and my progress both mentality and physically. Fuelled runs allowed me to perform better and feel stronger.
Who would have thought someone with disordered eating habits only months prior would be taking on calories, whilst training? I definitely did not.
Since then my relationship with food has continued to improve, cycling has played a big part in this. The amount of calories you need to take on, during a long endurance ride seemed quite significant to me at the start, I will be honest the calories and sheer amount of food frightened me. It is only now a concept I am getting used to and embracing. I am finding the more fuel I take on the better I can perform over longer periods of time. I also experience better recovery and improved sleep. Cycling is a truly incredible sport and in my experience this is reliant upon sufficiently fuelling your session. Who wants to go out on a long ride to bonk, feel horrendous and resent the rest of the cycle home? Not me! I had to experience the notorious bonk to say this and realise it is not what I want from this sport. Fuelling my cycles adequately rewarded me with the enjoyment of being outdoors and creating some epic memories, all whilst getting in an incredible workout and leaving me feeling pretty elated.
The Vox Performance Project
With my experience and the journey I am on, I couldn’t believe it when I had the email confirming my acceptance to be part of the Vox performance project. The project is sponsored by Precision Fuel and Hydration and Supersapiens whose aim is to better educate the group on adequately hydrating and fuelling their workouts to get the best performance from themselves. I know, I couldn’t believe this opportunity came at this time in my journey! So far the insight I have gained has been invaluable, the monthly calls we have with the team and sponsors have really allowed me to understand the benefits of a strong fuel and hydration strategy not just whilst training but around training.
Whilst I will discuss some key learnings from the project in my next blog there are two learnings I would like to reference, as I believe these will aid your progress as they have with my own.
Firstly understanding the amount of carbs needed per hour dependent on your exercise duration and intensity. The illustration below gives you a guide to work towards, which I have started to adopt to get the best performance from myself.
Training the gut is a term referenced often, however how do you do it? The illustration below gives you a clear strategy to implement on the build up to your next race day.
It is quite overwhelming for me to look back over my journey the past 18 months to see how much progress I have made. The more I learn about endurance sport and fuelling the more I am embracing it and the less I am paying attention to how I look or how my body is changing. My mentality towards my reflection has moved away from aesthetic goals and towards an immense gratitude for my body and a realisation of how much it gives me. All I want to do is look after it as best I can and I am enjoying the journey of understanding more and more every day on how I can do that. Nutrition plays a big part, as well as minimising stress, maximising sleep and recovery, stepping outside of my comfort zone, creating new relationships and connections with people, educating myself and living a life of gratitude and fulfilment.
My mindset didn’t change overnight, it is something I am continuing to work on. Do I have negative body image days? Yes, but they are far less frequent than they once were. Do I still track my food? Yes, most days, but it’s not to keep calories low, instead its to make sure I am eating enough to fuel my lifestyle and help my body recover. Do I have complete freedom of food? Not yet, but this is a journey and I know I will get there, as with any training I just need to consistently work at it to get to where I need to be.
It must be how my mind works but for me personally I needed the knowledge and understanding before I was able to implement any change. The past 12 months I have committed to reading one book a month, listening to podcasts weekly as well as enjoying the benefits of blogs and YouTube videos. I have a real thirst for knowledge and I enjoy testing and learning what works best for me, as everyone is different. I have shared a few of my recommendations below, I hope they help you as they have helped me.
- The Chimp Paradox – Prof Steven Peters – Understanding your mind
- Think like a monk – Jay Shetty. This gave me a new, profound outlook on life and allowed me to adopt immense gratitude for every day.
- 80/20 running – Matt Fitzgerald – Training method
- Cant Hurt Me – David Goggings – Mental Resilience
- Breathe – James Nestor – The science and importance of breathing
- Training Food – Renee McGregor – Fuelling your goals
- Eat More, Live well – Dr Megan Ross – Gut Health Doctor on Diversity of diet
- Atomic Habit – James Clear – How to implement small changes for remarkable results
Both blogs offer an immense amount of information and insight in to a whole host of subjects. Fuelling, hydrating, training, caffeine, recovery, body image are just to name a few.
These are just a selection of podcasts, which have helped my mindset with life as well as training.
- The Supersapiens Podcast, How they Train, The Rich Roll Podcast, Inside Tri Show, The Food Medic, Feel Better Live More, How They Train.
These are just a selection of life, food and training channels, which have given me understanding and insight.
- Precision Hydration, Eloise Du Luart, Nutty foodie fitness, Lionel Sanders, Ruth Astle, Team Charles-Barclay, TriathlonDan, Natacha Oceane, PTO Hub, That Triathlon Life.
I know this has turned in to a lengthy blog so if you are still around I just want to say thank you for reading, I really hope something you have read has helped you in some way.
Often if you are struggling with some of the things I have alluded to in my blog its comforting to speak to someone who has gone through similar experiences. My name is Jade Evans and my insta user is jadeevans4791, I just want you to know I am here for you!