Endurance Hydration

I have been talking on the show a lot lately about a couple of things; one (of course) is the never-ending saga of my inability to shed the weight I carry, and the next has been my issue with the second half of my racing, notably the way I feel after the bike portion of a triathlon or duathlon. Running off the bike is always a tough thing to get used to, but my issues go way beyond tough. It has been difficult to explain it to people how it feels but suffice it to say that there is just no energy in my legs. At all. I have tried to “power through it”, thinking that if I force myself to RUN it will clear out and the body will kick in. It doesn’t work. I try very hard to get my legs moving and they Just … Won’t … Go.

In prepping for the podcast I have been reading up on hydration (1), the effects of dehydration, and training and may be hitting on some things. The first being that I am nowhere near drinking the amount of fluid they are prescribing in the material I am reading. Not even in the ballpark.

I have done in the past the normal testing to check my sweat loss, and it normally comes out to about 41.3 ounces in half an hour (actually 35 minutes). This is come to by this formula (done about two weeks ago on a 2.2-mile run):

  • Starting weight of 277.0 – End weight of 275.4 = loss of 1.6 pounds
  • 1.6 pounds x 15 ounces (per pound) = 24 ounces of fluid loss + 0 fluid intake = 24 total ounces
  • 24 ounces / 35 minutes total time (or .58) = 41 ounces

Let me be crystal here … I took in NOTHING

And this was a short training run … so I went back and looked at my last duathlon in 2016

I drank 24 ounces of water mixed with 2 scoops of UCAN on my 90-minute drive … and nothing more before the race started. I drank … NOTHING … during the 1-mile first leg. In T1 I took one sip of water and got on the bike. During the bike I drank 2 times from a 24-ounce bottle, so let’s call that 4 ounces (Gatorade Endurance). In T2 I took one more sip, grabbed a handheld water bottle (20 ounces) and started the second run (3.1 miles). During this run, I drank at each water station (about 2 ounces each time for a total of 4 ounces) and about half of the bottle.

So, for a race that took me 2:09:32, I took in a total of ~44 ounces …

I did not weigh before and after, and was probably, according to my HR, working at a much higher level than the training run. So that means, using the training as a guide, I was under hydrated by about 148 ounces (192 ounces required [48 ounces x 4] – 44 ounces taken in).

Maybe this is the reason the run is bonking? It would make some sense since the person I trained with did much better at these races and drinks all the time.

I can also used a recent Saturday run as an example. I was carrying the same bottle with me and drank maybe three times in 4.5 miles. Granted I was staying in Z2 the whole way, but I have a tendency to NOT drink enough, and this may be the underlying cause.

The other issue is daily, ongoing hydration. I always thought I was drinking enough water, but according to the reading, I am well under the requirement. It states that daily fluid requirements are 2.5 to 3 L a day, and to average 8 ounces each hour. Now, 8 ounces is nothing really is it? One or two gulps and it is gone, so would/should be pretty easy to handle. I do carry around water each day, or have access to it, but I am bad at actually drinking it.

(1) Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes by Monique Ryan

Health and the 300-Pound Man

A large portion of a new lifestyle is getting your crap together. By that, I mean deciding that enough is enough and making the effort to change your way of thinking and living. Although hard, it is not as difficult as you may think, once the initial “lethargy” ends after your body readjusts. The hard part is facing the shaking heads, the tuts and clicks of tongues, from people who at first ask you how your losing so much weight, and then when you tell them how, proceed to tell you how that is not going to work, despite having proof right in front of them to the contrary.

It is amazing to me the reaction you get from people, especially those closest to you when you try to share with them what you have been doing to lose weight. It’s as if they take offense to the fact that you are improving yourself like they are being personally attacked. They tell you all sorts of things:

You’re neglecting your family!

You’re obsessed and that is not healthy!

You’ve become a zealot!

They don’t see the full picture.

I do not feel 55. It is shocking to me to think I am in my mid-50’s. I look in the mirror and do not see an old man. I have very little gray, and the gray I have is in my beard. I have a full head of hair. I have no wrinkling. The man looking back at me cannot be 55!

But, alas, he is …

And this is where my concern for friends and family come in …

When you go through life you expect certain things to happen. You expect at some point to bury your grandparents. You expect to bury your parents. But as the oldest in my generation, I do not expect to bury sisters, brothers, cousins, children, etc. I should be the first to go. Now, I know life doesn’t work that way. I am not naive. The older you get, though, no matter how you look or feel, the more you are faced with the reality of your own mortality.

At the age of 46, I was 313 pounds. Something clicked one day, and I decided that I was not going to be 300 pounds anymore. My younger brother, Michael, who has always been active, said it best to me once.

“If I am going to die young it will not be because of something I could have prevented.”

As I stood looking at myself in the mirror that day I understood what he meant. At this point, we had both had our cancer scares (mine was thyroid, his testicular). The only difference being that mine did cause weight gain. The wrong part was that I used that fact to explain my laziness and slothfulness and to dismiss it as an effect of cancer.

Don’t get me wrong. Anyone that has had thyroid cancer, or even hypothyroidism, will attest to the fact that it really screws you up. You feel tired all the time. You can’t focus. The last thing you want to do after working all day is to get on a bike or go out for a run. The “will” may be there, but not strong enough to get over the lethargy that sets in. But the result in my doing nothing was a weight gain of 120 pounds.

Shortly after this decision to end this spiral I was driving home and heard a radio show with a local doctor talking about the thyroid issue and its effect on testosterone production. Even though he was not in my insurance plan, I made an appointment and paid out of pocket for the test and consultation. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Not only was my thyroid meds out of whack, but my T level was also 97. So after adjusting the Thyroid and adding T Therapy, the weight started dropping. He was also the one that initially suggested that I sign up for a triathlon that was a year away (Escape from Fort DeSoto 2011).

I did.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

My weight leveled off for a year, and that’s where I discovered, though my Triathlon Coach, the Vinnie Tortorich podcast and Jon Smith and Debbie Potts on Fit Fat Fast (Debbie is now solo at The Whole Athlete podcast), and through that the books “Wheat Belly”, “Good Calorie Bad Calorie”, “Fat Chance” and a few more. After changing my eating lifestyle to No Sugar and No Grains (#NSNG) the weight started falling off again. In addition, my energy levels shot through the roof, and I was finding that my body was recovering from workouts, even long strenuous ones, much faster.

So, a breakthrough, and one I should share right?

That did not sit well with a few people. They try to poke holes in the eating method. They say it won’t work. “Calorie in calorie out” is the only true method, they posture.

The problem is that, even though I am standing right in front of them as proof that “calorie in-calorie out”, while indeed based on sound science, is not the only factor, it doesn’t phase them in the least. They stick to their food pyramid. You can show them the science, point them in the direction of numerous studies and academic papers explaining how wheat and sugar increases fat storage in the body, and they still stick to the old thinking.

“Go to a long distance Triathlon or Marathon, and after all the svelte and elite runners come through, wait and see the runners crossing the finish line at hour 7, 8, 10. They’ve all put in the work. They have finished their race. And the majority are still overweight.” ~ Vinnie Tortorich, Fitness Confidential

That was paraphrased, by the way.

The proof, as grandma would say, is in the pudding.

But you still read Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds, about people “carb loading” before a race (which has been proven NOT to work), or indulging in bad eating because “they burned it off during their workout”.

It’s all BS.

A wise woman told me once that I cannot take it personally when people listen to you and still go the other direction. All you can do is offer advice, and hope they listen, but if they don’t, then that’s their choice.

It’s a good way to think, and easy to do when it’s the odd man on the street or casual acquaintance. Not so easy when it is someone you care about. I want these people around me for a long time still. I don’t want to see them in a box. I’d prefer, as is the course of life, for them to see me in the box. I don’t think they understand that this is the place I am coming from … maybe selfish on my part because I don’t want them to leave me that way … but it comes from a true place.

You Are What You Eat

As I have progressed through the last 7+ years from a 300 pounds couch potato (mmm potato) to a more active athlete the biggest change I have made has not been in the amount of activity I have on a weekly and daily basis (though that has been significant), but more about the way and what I put into my mouth every day.

It has not been easy.

There are days that a pizza calls to me like a siren calling a sailor to his death. When I walked out of the gym where I used to swim, directly across the parking lot is a 5 Guys Burger.

Damn, I really wanted that burger.

But, for the most part, I have been able to push these cravings aside and eat sensibly. I have made some missteps here and there. I am only human. But the trick I have found is not to fall off the wagon and stay off. You need to get right back on that wagon, not the next day, but immediately after you do it.

As most know my weight issues started with my cancer diagnosis in 1994. I went from 180 pounds and peaked at 313. At 313 pounds I decided that enough was enough. I could blame it on cancer, and continue to not try to stop the progress, totally give in and stay on the couch, eating my potato chips that were balanced on my ample gut, and watch The Biggest Loser. I actively sought out a doctor that specialized in weight management. I was tired of hearing the same old story about how my body would never be what it was and that I needed to take the Synthroid and learn to cope with what I was dealt.

No. Not any more.

I was given a full panel of blood work and they found that not only were my TSH levels all out of whack, but my Testosterone levels were at 165 (they are currently at 212). I addition, what little T I had was being overly converted to estrogen, which basically put me in starvation mode and made me hoard fat.

Not good at all.

So I was switched to natural thyroid, put on a weekly regimen of T injections, and given medication to block the estrogen production. Immediately I dropped 25 pounds, and I mean within two weeks. I felt better even at a heavyweight of 270. I completed my first triathlon at that weight, but all it really did was give me the boost I needed to not only maintain my new activities but to strive for that goal weight of 200 pounds I thought was out of reach.

The weight continued to drop until I reached a low point of 236 in the Winter of 2011. By January 2012 I was again 255 pounds, and I am currently at 275. The frustrating thing is that I am doing nothing different than I was initially; I am actually eating even better than I was, I work out 4-5 days a week, and have completed a marathon, a number of half marathons, and 5 half Ironman and 70.3’s. My calorie deficit each day averages 750, which means I should be losing 2 pounds a week. But I am not. I am gaining weight.

I think my body is just very temperamental. I tried juicing and was told by some that juicing is not as good as I thought. I tried Fitlife Foods, which are actually very good meals but can’t afford to keep doing that. Am I doomed to just battle this every day until I can no longer compete, then just gain all the weight back and end up at the end no better off than I was when I started?

It is very discouraging, to say the least, more so because I feel I am doing everything right at least 90% of the time but not getting the results. I have still yet to find someone who can explain to me how a small slice of cake weighing less than 3 ounces turns into 1.5-pound weight gain the next morning.

I mean, how is that even mathematically possible??

Another issue with nutrition is finding what works for you. Those of you currently competing in triathlons, or other endurance races, know that the supplements are not cheap, and if you dole out $50 for a vat of protein powder that you don’t like, or worse that doesn’t like you, well … that’s a lot of money to just throw down the toilet (pun intended).

So, as far as nutrition goes, I keep trying to learn as much as possible. Reading books. Watching documentaries. Talking to fellow athletes. Anything I can to pick up on a tip or two. Everyone has an opinion, and so many contradict each other (Carbs bad! No! Carbs GOOD!) but what it comes down to is eating well and finding out what works for YOU.

  • Eat natural foods that are full of color.
  • If Man had a hand in it, leave it alone.
  • No fast food.

Pretty simple rules …

Now if only the weight would follow …

Skinny Fat

Ever heard of this term?

Most people have a different idea of what the term means. On Urban Dictionary, the term Skinny Fat is defined as

A person who is not overweight and has a skinny look but may still have a high fat percentage and low muscular mass. Usually these people have a low caloric diet, that’s why they are skinny, but are not involved in any sports activities or training’s and that’s why they don’t have any muscle. Since between the bone and the skin those people only have fat, the skin can be deformed easily because the skin layer is on an unstable matter (fat).

I am not sure I buy that description. When I think of the term Skinny Fat I think of people who are thin, and appear in shape but eat or behave in such a manner that, metabolism aside, would make an average person overweight. We all know these people. These are the runners who average 8:00 miles and post all over Facebook and Twitter how they scarfed down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s as a “reward” (how undoing all the work you just did is classified as a reward is beyond me). They are the ones that scoff at your No Sugar No Grain effort because, well, it doesn’t affect them in the same way.

The body is a lot like a database … Garbage In Garbage Out

What these people don’t realize is that looking in shape and being able to perform at a high level, the way they are inside, fueling themselves with unhealthy food, is affecting them in ways they may not see for decades.

Listen, folks … according to research stated in several sources (“Wheat Belly”, “Fat Chance”, “Good Calorie Bad Calorie”), only 20-25% of people can process sugar correctly. That means for every 4-5 people you know, only one can afford to eat sugar filled food and process them in a way that it will not affect them health wise. In a triathlon with 3,000 people that is 600. And most of them are the elites at the start of the race. Want proof? Go to a longer distance triathlon (Olympic or a 70.3) and watch the finish line. The elites are coming in under three hours, and they are all fit, fuel with sugar (not all, but most), and train like animals. Then near the end, you see the rest of us. We train hard also, we struggle through the race and finish, but we are overweight.

And where did we make our mistake?

We make mistakes by trying to emulate the professional triathletes eating and training habits. Pick up a magazine and leaf through it. Most are filled with “Training Plans of the Top Pro’s at Kona” or “Mirinda Carfrae’s Nutrition Plan”. We eagerly scoff this stuff up and fix our plans to match the pros.

And it fails 80% of the time.

I was (am) one of these people. Through my first season (2011) I ate like I had been eating to lose the initial weight and dropped from 313 pounds to 236 (between May 2010 and September 2011). Then, because I was now a “triathlete”, I changed my eating and fueling habits in Season 2 (2012) to match what the elites did. I started using sugar filled crap to refuel (chocolate milk anyone??) and added carbs back to my diet. My races got progressively worse through the season and I went from my low of 236 back to 263. Today I am at 278.

I learned my lesson, but here in 2018, I am still struggling to find what I lost in 2011. My weight is still in the 280-pound range and refuses to budge (though most of this is my own fault). The difference is that I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2014 and it has affected my training load. So, even with my healthier eating lifestyle, I am gaining weight. I am finding more and more that even a little bit of processed food, no matter how healthy I think it is, affects me in a negative way. My energy levels have fallen and I find it harder and harder to get it there to train unless it’s a weekend and I have a team obligation, and even then I am finding it harder.

So what is the takeaway?

The people you see running these amazing race times and scarfing the sugar crap may be part of the 20%. And if they are not, it will catch up to them at some point. Some of these people may never be fat or overweight. They may go through life judging their fitness by what they see in the mirror and on the race clock, oblivious to the damage they are causing internally until they drop dead of a heart attack at age 45. Stick to your guns and stay the course. Don’t be swayed by the ads and the magazines. If these athletes and/or celebrities were honest they would tell you that they don’t really use half the crap they are shilling.

Have you ever seen a pro scarfing chocolate milk right after a race? Didn’t think so!

Yes, there are people who are reading this and saying “there’s nothing wrong with sugar. Your body needs sugar. I eat sugar all the time and never have a problem!”, and more than a few that will comment on how they, in fact, use chocolate milk. As I have said, there are people who can do it. There are also people who smoke their whole life and never get cancer. Doesn’t mean that smoking is healthy.

The problem is that most do not see sugar addiction as a valid addiction

As an ending note, I am not talking about anyone specifically. In these types of posts inevitably someone I know thinks I am talking about them. I am not. If you want to eat crap and feel it’s OK, then have at it, but please … PLEASE … don’t characterize it as “healthy” or “OK”.

This is what my base issue is. On a social media post, someone who was having trouble with sugar cravings posted that it bugged them that a gym (in this case Lifestyle Family Fitness, now currently out of business … go figure) would have donuts on Wednesday for their patrons, and how she felt it was detrimental to those struggling. A valid point, and one that I share. Of course, there is always one person who chimes in with the “eyes on your own plate” metaphor. The respondent’s point (and I quote) was “if you want a doughnut just eat a damn doughnut. One doughnut won’t kill you”.

And there is the problem. People do not see a sugar problem, or over-eating, as a real “addiction”. If someone had written “I am a recovering alcoholic and seeing booze all the time is really bothering me” you wouldn’t tell them “hey man, eye’s on your own plate. If you need a drink then have a drink. One drink won’t kill you”.

Or would you?

I think the point is if you think I am talking about you, then maybe you need to really read what I am saying.