In so doing, I signed myself up for an aggressive training program, beginning ASAP. I heeded my doctor's orders, and after 6.0 weeks I started riding. At first just rides at "endurance" pace, but after a week I started intervals.
I'm doing a few things different this time to try and accelerate results, including:
- Diet (not the fad kind, but the tao of eating kind)
- Workout & recovery nutrition (yeah, that's kind of like diet, but more specific to training)
- Riding on recovery days
10 weeks getting and recovering from surgery gives you time to think. While no doctor told my my weight or eating habits caused my diverticulitis/rupture, at a minimum, I suspect they didn't help. I've since read a number of books on nutrition in general, and nutrition for endurance athletes. These include:
- "Food for Fitness" by Chris Carmichael
- "The Paleo Diet for Athletes" by Loren Cordain and Joel Friel
- "Ride Your Way Lean" by Selene Yeager
- "Blood Type A: Food Beverage and Supplement Lists from Eat Right for Your Type" by Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo and Catherine Whitney (I skimmed the "parent" book, and have a friend who's been following the lists to try to diagnose food allergies)
- "The Warrior Diet" by Ori Hofmekler
Fruits, Vegetables, Lean Proteins, Good Fats, Alkalinity
Duh! A big point of intersection of all these books, recommendations from doctors, nurses, and probably most healthy people, is that most of the volume of food you eat should come from FRESH vegetables and fruits. Lean proteins, with healthy oils/fats are important. Getting a good balance of Omega-3s to Omega-6s. Finally, foods which cause a more alkaline than acidic body chemistry are important.
I drink a lot of fruit & vegetable smoothies, with whey protein (lactose free works better for me). Salmon and cod have replaced beef and pork for a lot of meals. Vegetables take up most of the plate, and starches are all but absent.
With each surgery I basically fasted (I was on an IV, a limited diet, or it hurt to eat/digest), for most of a week, and each time I felt pretty good, and I lost 10-15 lbs EACH TIME! It got me thinking about intermittent fasting, how it fit with my training, and good health in general. "The Warrior Diet" cites research and experience that biasing meals toward the end of the day, and fasting (eating very light) throughout the day burns more fat, less muscle, and has little to no impact on workout endurance or recovery.
Recently (up until last week), I was working toward bigger breakfasts (I was never much of a breakfast person, so my big breakfast may seem small to some). This was typically
- 2 eggs, grape nuts, and a piece of fruit, or
- A big fruit smoothie, with 2 cups of fruit, some broccoli or spinach, and 20-30 g of protein powder,
- A piece of fruit and a carrot or a few broccoli tops
- A small fruit smoothie, with 1/2 cup fruit, and 10 g of protein powder
- A piece of fruit and a carrot or a few broccoli tops
- something light wherever I might end up eating
Food Allergies / Sensitivities
As I sat in the hospital recovering, thinking about what I ate, I recalled a friend, years ago, mentioning a diet he was trying. I thought it had something to do with ancestry, or something. He told me it was "the blood type diet" described in Dr. D'Adamo's book. I went to the bookstore and skimmed the book, and next to it noticed the smaller / cheaper book (listed above) which categorized foods as "Beneficial", "Neutral", or "Avoid."
At this time I'm experimenting with the lists. Eliminating dairy, for example has had a huge beneficial impact - I suffer far less from allergies and asthma (i.e. haven't used inhaler since). Nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, etc.) I'm not so sure about (recommended to avoid). Many of the books prioritize broccoli, kale and spinach for different reasons, so there's a lot of that in the fridge.
Workout & Recovery Nutrition
The author of "The Paleo Diet" cites evidence that a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein in workout and recovery drinks aids recovery, as well as overall health & immunity. Also recommended for recovery, health, immunity is maintaining a more alkaline body chemistry. Thinking back to Winter / Spring training, I didn't have much protein on workout days, and had sugary / starchy meals surrounding workouts, and had a lot of Gatorade (more sugar). My weight loss was slow, and I swear I had the same cold from late December to late March.
I looked into changing my workout drink (from Gatorade to Accelerade), and spending money on a dedicated recovery drink. In the end, I just mix Gatorade and Whey protein (with orange Gatorade and vanilla whey it tastes like creamsicle) in a 4:1 ratio (by volume, which may not be exactly right). I drink less Gatorade(+whey) and more water, and make a recovery smoothie with an alkaline producing fresh fruit and/or vegetables (raisins, spinach), whey protein, and honey (roughly per recommendations in "The Paleo Diet for Athletes").
Riding on Recovery Days
In my first training program, I was really wiped out on recovery day. Or, maybe I just let myself feel that way... With a big jump on weight loss, thanks to my "fasting" in the hospital, I wanted to keep things going. I started riding "easy" on recovery days, trying to burn 400-1000 calories. After reading Selene Yeager's book, I learned I was on the mark for weight loss. She recommends staying below 75% of max heart-rate on recovery days so recovery is minimally impacted.
Most of my recovery day rides are done pulling my sons (ages 2 and 4) in their "bike buggy." We ride to an area with some trails, or to the local sledding hill - they run, I ride. Riding in the grass, pulling 120 lbs at 100 rpm, is like climbing a long, long hill... The time really flies by, and we all sleep better.
I know this is titled "Riding on Recovery Days", but I'll mention training days as well. I'm pushing harder in my intervals, being careful to keep my heart-rate down between intervals, and burning more calories for each workout (I pad the beginning and end with more "endurance miles"). My target on a workout day is to burn between 1500 and 2000 calories. As the race date nears, I'll work on doubling that once a week to better simulate race effort.
How do I feel?
My legs (soreness, strength/fatigue when riding), and respiration are better than ever. I can push harder on rides, and don't feel very sore the next day. I rarely feel "sick" as in having a cold. My abdomen is still healing, and I guess it will for most of a year. I get tightness, soreness, some sharp pains, and a "sick to the stomach" feeling that sometimes take me out of commission for a day after a hard ride. To be honest, that "sick to the stomach" feeling is more pronounced after kayaking, not riding. I rode at Maybury (twisty single-track, some short hills) a couple of weekends ago, and was expecting that feeling, and it never came...