Thursday, December 11, 2008

Learning to Count

I overheard a couple of co-workers talking about how they were going to start tracking food intake starting in the new year. This got me thinking, the stereotype is that Triathletes are anal about counting calories. Maybe it is true, I can't be sure because I have never straight out asked anyone. I do know that we typically read food labels a lot and care about what is going into our bodies. As for counting calories, have you ever tried it? I have (OK so I just proved that triathletes do count calories) and it is a pain in the rear. Especially for a triathlete who may be eating 4000 calories in a typical day. What this translates to is constant eating and in turn means constant tracking of calories. The longest I ever did it was for a week. That is all I could handle without going crazy trying to find out what was in everything... I just ate five strawberries, is that a full serving? How many ounces was it? What about that sandwich at Jason's Deli, did it have one slice of cheese or two? To much to remember.

So why do we do it? Why is it important to count calories? For a triathlete and for anyone looking to get the best performance out of their body it is essential to make sure you are balancing your diet. Counting calories and keeping track of Carb, Fat, Sodium, Protein, etc. will ensure that you are eating balanced. Balance is important for maximum performance.

Here is what I learned in one week:

1. Eating 3000 calories a day when you need 4000 may satisfy you and keep your hunger from showing up but it may not be giving your body the right amount of the things it needs and performance will suffer after repeat days of this. This is exactly what I found out the last time I tracked my food intake. I was barely getting enough calories per day

2. Humans like to lie to themselves. How long has it been since you made a visit to McDonald's? Are you sure or are you being forgetful because you don't want that guilty feeling? Tracking calories will tell you exactly what you had and when you had it. If you have to write it down you might think twice before eating it too. I know I would stare at the cookie I was about to eat and know that I would have to write it down which would mean that I would have to be reminded of my decision ever day that week. So instead I would put the cookie down and eat some grapes.

3. Changing eating habits, some of which have been around since childhood is a really hard drawn out process.