There’s a saying in the endurance racing world: “When friends and family tell you that you look fit or thin… you’re ten pounds away from race weight.” “When friends and family tell you that you look sick… you’re 5 pounds away from race weight.” “When they stage an intervention because they think you have a serious disease such as cancer… you have now made it to race weight!”
When I first came to college, I weighed in at 191 pounds for my team physical. I was the heaviest middle distance runner on the team by far, and it wasn’t long until my coach pulled me aside to talk about trying to drop some weight. The problem, was that I wasn’t really fat to begin with. I had been lifting weights for the past 4 years for football so I was solid. The athletics department arranged for me to have a dietition who put me on a regulated diet with the goal of dropping 30 pounds in about a 4 month time frame. That was my real first attempt at dieting. The athletics department even coordinated with the campus cafeteria to have specific serving sizes available for specific meals when I came through the line. I wanted to be a good college runner, and I believed this was what I needed to do, so I stuck to the diet. Those 4 months were miserable. I got down to 162 pounds between October and February, but instead of my half mile times getting faster, I got slower, and couldn’t seem to stay healthy. Long story short, the diet culminated with me nearly passing out in one workout, and we (my coach and I) agreed that the diet goals were a little too much, we stopped. I went back to eating regular, which I describe as “whatever really sounds good” and I seemed to settle in right around 170 pounds.
For the past 15 years, I have pretty much remained at that same weight. It may fluctuate a few pounds here and there, but I’ve been pretty normal. I wouldn’t say that I ate terrible. For the most part, I consider my diet to be fairly healthy with the exception to the binge foods – pizza, peanut butter, cookies & cakes, and so on. For anyone who’s read my blog before knows, I have also become reliant on Diet Mountain Dew over the years. I have residency training to thank for that one. Above all, I have always been a firm believer in the saying that if the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn. Well my furnace ignites from both ends and is hot enough to melt steel, so I usually would not think twice of having a second cookie or donut.
A few weeks ago, I made the conscious decision to clean up my diet so I began the Advocare 24 day challenge. The reasoning for this was mostly to try and cut out carbonated sodas (my Diet Mountain Dew) and then to try and get rid of the junk food in preparation for Ironman Louisville, which is now 5 weeks away. I also had a minor goal of dropping about 5 pounds for racing purposes, but this one was really not that important if it happened or not. My 24 challenge ended yesterday.
The Advocare 24 day challenge kit comes pretty self-explanatory. Green boxes for the first week, Purple boxes for the next 2 weeks. They have a drink called Spark that is basically a vitamin-rich caffeine replacement. Tastes like any other sports drink – works like a charm though, as I haven’t had any soda in 3 weeks (with the exception of a few cans on the 2 days that I had to complete 100 mile rides). The other products basically boil down to probiotics, fish oil, multivitamins, and additional dietary supplements. The real benefit to the challenge is more so the lifestyle changes such as focusing on portion sizes, drinking more water, and making more appropriate food choices.
The first day or so went fine – then the headaches kicked in. A few days of Tylenol seemed to mitigate that problem only in time for the probiotics and fiber to work its magic. Let’s just say Shannon readily pointed out how I was blowing the covers off the bed at night, and even our dog seemed to keep his distance from me. I also needed to start waking up an extra 15 minutes before my runs and planning the long runs better to incorporate additional bathroom time. After about 5 days, I just started feeling exhausted. Week 2 of the challenge was a total waste for me training-wise as I felt blasted the entire time. I still managed to complete my key workouts that week, but was feeling very tired and ended up taking 2 days off completely. That’s not normal, and even one morning, I awoke at 4am, started biking, had my heart rate in the 140s for 45 minutes before I declared that I could not finish the workout. I stopped and went back to bed. I was asleep within 5 min! This was right about the time when I decided to weigh myself, and realized in the first 10 days of the challenge I had dropped 6 pounds. I guess avoiding carbs & sweets, and drinking water like its my job is not too good for maintaining your weight, especially when you are training like I currently am. I had to start supplementing more so I added back some carbs – bagels, pasta, and my other food addiction – peanut butter – and the energy level started to come back up, and more importantly, my weight held its own.
If you go on the Advocare website, it is filled with inspirational stories of how people have transformed their lifestyles with this new style of diet modifications. My opinion is that the combination of supplements and dietary commitments enable you reset your diet and system, and since you’ve invested in the kids, you are more likely committed to seeing it through. The first 10 days were a fairly decent challenge for me, and I’m sure I sort of rolled the dice by trying to drop weight 8 weeks out from an Ironman, but at least for the time being I’m feeling good. I’ve hit all of my major workouts this week. I have 2 more weeks of training to go before taper, and I’m effectively off Diet Mountain Dew and judging by the fact that I have had a few patients over the past few days tell me that I look tired – I’ll interpret this to be a “looks-sick” on the race weight gauge, so I guess I am 5 pounds away from race weight! I’d say I’m right on track for a good race this year. Don’t worry, I have no plans of losing more at this point. The Advocare webpage also includes the obligatory before and after pictures. I will say, I started taking these pics thinking there wouldn’t be much of a difference, but I guess I was wrong.