diets · health · nutrition

Eating Vegan: Not necessarily healthy, not necessarily unhealthy

various-fruits-and-vegetables-arranged-by-colorI don’t know why veganism creates such intense reactions in people. You’ve got your non-vegan folks who insist that vegans are undernourished–what the heck do they do for protein? Then, on the other side of it, you’ve got your so-called chefs who assume that grilled veggies make a sufficiently nutritious vegan meal.

There are those who insist that animals were put on this earth for our use, so we should just eat them. Or that plants have feelings too. Or that domesticated animals don’t have it so bad anyway. See a bunch of these arguments and responses to them here.

But today I want to address one issue and one issue only: is a vegan diet healthy or unhealthy?

That’s really a silly question, akin to asking if food is healthy or unhealthy. Some is, some isn’t. Whether your vegan diet is healthy or unhealthy depends on what you eat.

James Fell’s article, “Are Vegan Diets Healthy?” gives a clue as to what gets people’s backs up.  The author objects to “militant” vegans, but admits that only a small minority of vegans are militant.  Being vegan, I can attest to this fact. Most of us quite frequently dine quietly alongside, even with, people who are eating food that we think comes from an industry that promotes unnecessary animal suffering.

Then there is the even less political arm of veganism, those who won’t even use the term. They defer instead to the “plant-based” diet.  These are the folks most likely to be in your face not about the ethics of animal farming, but about the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. They’re purists in a different sort of way, moralizing food choices for reasons that have nothing to do with animal ethics.

Obesity researcher, Yoni Freedhoff, is quoted in the article as saying:

There are some vegan organizations that like to tell people that this is the ticket to weight loss, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. You can have plenty of vegan calories as well. Going vegan does not necessitate a healthy weight.

I’ve blogged before about the sad truth that going vegan doesn’t produce a weight-loss miracle. And it doesn’t automatically mean you’re eating healthy foods, either. But it doesn’t mean you’re not.

Lots of people like to say that vegans can’t try properly because they can’t get enough protein. The article about vegan diet and health talks about endurance athletes who have forgone animal products with no negative impact (and sometimes, they say, a positive impact) on their athletic performance

The author goes on to say:

“Veganism is an ethical concept more than a health concept,” said Dr. Garth Davis, a weight loss surgeon in Houston, Texas and an expert in plant-based diets. “I don’t use the term ‘vegan’ with my patients. I prefer ‘plant-based.’”

Dr. Davis told me: “I think most vegans did choose it from an ethical standpoint, but it has changed and grown over time to include those who find they perform better at sports on plant-based diets.” He echoed what Lindsey Miller and Scott Jurek said that many choose it for health reasons because it makes you think more carefully about your food intake.

“You don’t have be vegan in order to be healthy, but being vegan is a very healthy way to live,” he said.

Notice the emphasis on the less political/ethical “plant-based.’ Here, the health benefits take centre stage.  Sure, if you focus on whole foods in your plant-based diet, you’ll make healthy choices. That’s probably the reason why so many people slide the two together. But vegan doesn’t mean only whole, low fat foods. I made an amazing vegan spiced pumpkin cake with a chocolate glaze yesterday and I’m glad I took it to an event where I wouldn’t have to contend with leftovers.  Despite containing pumpkin and being vegan, it wasn’t the healthiest thing to come out of my kitchen this weekend.

It should come as no surprise that James Fell, author of  “Are Vegan Diets Healthy?” concludes:

The takeaway here is that, yes, vegan can be a very healthy diet, as long as you do the work to ensure you do vegan well, and avoid the processed vegan “food.” From a health perspective, going vegan can make it so those who struggle with healthy eating are made to take their nutrition more seriously.

Because cutting out fast food burgers in favor of more plants is a good idea.

I’m the last person to discourage anyone from opting for a vegan diet and lifestyle, but the fact is that cutting out fast food burgers in favour of all sorts of other possibilities is probably a good idea.

And it’s worth saying that as with any approach to eating, you need to do a bit of research. One thing I’ve discovered, for example, is that vegans actually do need to make a point of getting their B12 because it is a necessary vitamin and occurs naturally in only a small range of plant foods. Most non-vegans get their B12 from meat products. For a vegan, plant-based “milks” as well as cereals are usually fortified with B12, and you can also get it from B12 supplements.

That’s just one factor. We’re not born knowing what constitutes a well-rounded diet that meets all of our nutritional needs. Whether you opt to eat a vegan diet or not, the simple fact is that whether your version is healthy or unhealthy depends entirely on the specific choices you make.

 

Weekends with Womack

Food Fighting—when we say no to “good” food and yes to “bad” food

This week I’ve been reading and writing about intuitive eating, and thinking more about the meanings food has for us—the humans. I’ve been blogging a bit about this lately here and here.  What we eat, why we eat what we do, and what food does for us are all really fascinating and complicated questions, with no easy or one-size-fits-all answers. Our families, our cultural, ethnic, racial, regional and national traditions, our cooking know-how, our incomes, our biological variations—all these contribute to what we eat and what it means to us.

Lately I’ve been thinking about food as resistance, food as anti-authoritarian means of control, food as a way of acting out against, well, whatever. This reminds me of a scene from 1953 movie The Wild One, with Marlon Brando. The scene is here and the quote is this:

Mildred: Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?

Johnny: Whadda you got?

brando

Maybe Brando didn’t have this in mind, but food is a prime way of rebelling against whatever they got.

Catrin Smith has a really interesting article on women prisoners’ attitudes about food in prison. They have two sources of food—the prison cafeteria, which serves institutional, non-tasty but supposedly nutritionally balanced food, and the prison store, which sells cookies, chips, and other snack foods, which are high in sugar, salt, and fat content. In nutritional terms, the cafeteria food is “good” and the store food is “bad”. However, Smith found in her interviews with the women prisoners that

“Prison food is frequently defined as ‘bad’, in that it remains symbolic, irrespective of its actual quality, of disciplinary control. Here, controlling a prisoner’s intake of food can be seen as an important means of exerting power in a context in which a woman is rendered a subject to the regulations of the institution. Women prisoners are relegated to a child-like state – told when and what to eat – and food becomes associated with penal authority and denial.

Not surprisingly, prison food and eating practices, in turn, become a powerful focus of frustration and anger. At the same time, ‘bad’ food, as defined in dominant nutritional discourses and the women’s own accounts, becomes a source of pleasure (hence ‘good’), not least because of its taste but also because of its very power and status as ‘forbidden’.

Attempts to control the diet of women prisoners so that they ‘conform’ to the imperatives of the institution, or even, for that matter, to the demands of ‘good health’, may therefore be resisted or ignored in favour of the release offered by ‘unhealthy’ food and dietary behaviour.”

This phenomenon is pretty common—we see “good” food resistance also in students who reject or throw away cafeteria food, resulting in lots of waste and also loss of nutritional intake. What are they eating instead? A la carte items like fries, burgers, pizza, chicken fingers, for one.

friesFor another, lots of schools get revenue from vending machine purchases of sodas, energy drinks, and all kinds of snack foods.

vendingPolicies vary a lot from school to school about student access to vending machines, but they are a part of student eating in many schools. Also, many high schools have policies allowing students to eat off-campus, at places like this.

mcdsI remember well that feeling (for me, starting in college) of freedom to go where I wanted, select my own meals, and control when I eat and how much. It was for me in some ways a vehicle for rebelling against parental authority. My mother denied my sister and me regular access to sugary cereals, snack cakes, chips, candy, etc. Of course this was for our own good, but when I got to college and went to a friend’s apartment, I remember seeing this in his kitchen cupboard.

debbieNow, I don’t actually LIKE this kind of food (probably because I didn’t develop a taste for it, courtesy of my mom’s oversight—thanks, Mom!). But the IDEA of it seemed transgressive, rebellious, bold.

One of the primary tenets of intuitive eating is that no food is prohibited, even Little Debbie cakes or this new burger, recently unveiled by Hardee’s in the US, which features a beef burger, hot dog and potato chips, all housed in a bun.

burger

I know that for some situations in which I desire some nutritionally “bad” foods, I will want to exercise some external control, follow a rule or nutritional guideline, and not buy or eat those foods. An example of this (for me) would be when I pass by the chips aisle in the grocery store. However, for other situations, I know I will want to go ahead and eat some of the foods I consider to be “bad”. For instance, if I’m at a birthday party, I will always want some cake and ice cream. The difficulty is figuring out how to regulate those processes so to be able to exercise my judgment in accord with my own desires and values and health goals.

Bottom line: it seems to me that I need more strategies than those provided by intuitive eating in order to deal with the issue of when-to-eat-rebelliously and when-not-to-eat-rebelliously.

Readers, do you ever eat “rebelliously”? I’d love to hear any comments you have.

Weekends with Womack

Hidden values in intuitive eating, or can I eat a Big Mac intuitively?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted here with some worries about intuitive eating, which is a key component of the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement. Here’s another brief installment.

There are a lot of things to love about HAES—it’s body-positive, emphasizing weight and body and self-acceptance. It also promotes physical activity of all sorts, stressing that bodies of all shapes, sizes, and capacities can be physically engaged, active, and fit. And this blog is all about that, as am I.

But their emphasis on intuitive eating gives me pause. In my previous post, I listed the principles of intuitive eating from a book about it that Tracy discussed here .  Here they are again:

  1. reject the diet mentality
  2. honor your hunger
  3. make peace with food
  4. challenge the food police
  5. feel your fullness
  6. discover the satisfaction factor
  7. cope with your emotions without using food
  8. respect your body
  9. exercise: feel the difference
  10. honor your health with gentle nutrition

All of these make a lot of sense as a reaction to the feelings of deprivation and anxiety that often result from dieting.   I mean, who wants to be stuck eating only this all the time?

sad

Intuitive eating is supposed to liberate us from the tyranny of all-salad-all-the-time. Of course I love salad as much as the next person, although maybe not as much as all those online happy women alone eating salad. You know, like this woman:

happy

But sometimes I really want a burger and fries. Or cake. Or doughnuts. Or tempura. Or fried dumplings. Or macaroni and cheese. Sometimes I really want foods that I know are not especially healthy for me, are very calorie-dense, are highly processed, and which contain a lot of sugar, salt, fat, simple carbs, or other ingredients that I know play a part in overeating or unhealthy eating FOR ME. Like these:

bad food

And yet at the time I want them. I really want them. I want them now. There’s no ambiguity about this at all. And when I eat them, I feel satisfaction.

Of course, the intuitive eating plan has a response to this feeling of wanting these sorts of foods—you invoke rule 7: cope with your emotions without using food, and also rule 10: honor your health with gentle nutrition.

My problem here, though, is this: my feelings or intuitions about what foods I happen to want at any given time are not always very fine-tuned. Yes, of course, we can often recognize feelings like the rush of momentary desire that results from say, walking at a street fair and smelling fried dough or cotton candy and thinking, “wow, wouldn’t it be great to have something like that?” For me, I try to acknowledge that feeling and keep walking past booths like this one:

fried dough

I do so because I really subscribe to rule 10: honor your health with gentle nutrition. But there are also times like this past week when I was out and about, wanted a late lunch, passed this place in Harvard Square and thought to myself, oh yeah, I’d love a burger and fries. That sounds perfect. And it was– I ordered the People’s Republic of Cambridge burger with cole slaw and Russian dressing. Eating it felt fine and satisfying and yummy.

The problem is, my intuitions about what I want at any given time may lead me to gentle nutrition, but I know for a fact that they also lead me to corn dogs. In order to say no to corn dogs (which, for me, is what I would like to do in general for a bunch of reasons), I have to enlist other faculties:

  • my powers of judgment
  • my knowledge about nutrition
  • my desires to develop and maintain patterns of healthy eating FOR ME
  • my will to override any other momentary desires (or peer pressure, or other emotions triggered by the presence of some food)

Enlisting these faculties means ignoring or overriding messages from my body or my feelings or my intuitions or my desires. Of course we all know this—it’s no news. But it does present me with a problem: in the moment, it can be very hard to distinguish between eating intuitively and eating in a way that runs counter to my desire to honor my body with gentle nutrition. In order to make a judgment call at the time, I have to go outside the intuitive eating paradigm and invoke standard nutritional rules, like the one that says, “give me a break—corn dogs? Really? I don’t think so.”

I’m still thinking and working on these ideas, so I welcome others’ experiences and comments here.

eating · sports nutrition · training

Why I’m Trying PN “Lean Eating” after a Year of Intuitive Eating

fresh-fruits-and-vegetables1On Monday, after long discussions with Sam about her experience with Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program, I started my one-year commitment to the program.  If you’re not familiar with it, see Sam’s detailed review here.

I’ve been doing and enjoying Intuitive Eating for a year. When I started the Intuitive Eating approach, I was obsessed with food and weight, weighing myself daily, gaining instead of losing, and generally feeling crappy about myself after years and years of the diet roller coaster.  I didn’t think I could handle one more climb to the top of that hill even if the “wheeeeee!” of going down felt great.

The Intuitive Eating solution was to stop focusing on weight–no more weigh-ins (read about that here).  It felt very nurturing to me, and much more in line with my feminist principles than the obsessive focus on seeing a certain number on the scale.  The central principles of honoring my hunger and respecting my body really altered my attitude and refocused my attention.  Self-awareness increased.

And yet, over the course of that same year, I’ve become more interested in triathlon. I’m training harder to prep for the summer season, with regular swimming workouts, three-times a week running, and on-going resistance training in addition to my yoga practice.  And that’s not even fitting cycling into the equation (it’ll be back in the spring).  And though I have gone on record saying that to me, sports nutrition counseling is like dieting in disguise, I feel as if it’s time for me to make some changes.

One of the principles of Intuitive Eating–the last principle, in fact, because it is so loaded for so many chronic dieters–is “Honor your health with gentle nutrition.”  I don’t want to exaggerate. It’s not as if I’m living on junk food and soda pop or anything like that.  But I do feel as if I’ve not quite mastered nutrition since I became vegan just over three years ago. And while I’ve been focusing on a more intuitive approach to eating, nutrition hasn’t been the main guiding principle in my choices.

And truth be told, I’m ready for a change.  From what Sam has told me about the Lean Eating program and from everything I’ve read, it’s not a diet and it can be compatible with an intuitive eating approach to food. So let’s just say that this year, I’m honoring my health with the re-introduction of gentle nutrition.  Nothing extreme will work for me.

One of the things I like most about the Precision Nutrition approach is the focus on healthy habits.  In week one, we’re not even changing anything about eating. We’re just committing to a schedule of working out and active recovery, and adding one “five-minute action” to our day. It can be anything. Mine is at least five minutes of meditation before I sit down to work each day.

Sam has blogged about habits. Habits work well because they’re things you can do without having to think too much. At first you need to be hyper-conscious, but after a time, they become a part of life.  This kind of approach strikes me as entirely compatible and consistent with Intuitive Eating.

I like the sense of community, support, and camaraderie I’m experiencing already on the PN Lean Eating forums. So far, I’m liking my coach (Janet) a lot too, as well as the mentors in my group, who are helping to orient us newbies.

What am I most worried about? Though we haven’t started yet, I know that tracking progress is an important element of the program.  They want weekly weight. body fat, and body measurements, and I think it’s monthly photos.

After a year of staying away from this kind of tracking, I’m going in with a new attitude: that it’s just information. If I can maintain a neutral attitude to that information, I’ll be happy about that.

Of course, I could skip that part. But I have made a commitment to do the program “as directed” for at least the first three months. If I’m struggling with any aspect of it, I’ll approach the coach, the mentors, or the group through the forums. There are quite a few women (over a hundred) in my group, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find some like-minded people along the way.

I’m also kind of excited this time about learning to eat in a way that supports my activities better, and also, to be perfectly honest, about the prospect of getting leaner and stronger as I go into the home stretch of the fittest by fifty challenge and prep for a summer of triathlons and 10K races.

eating

Luna Bars: “Nutrition” for Women

Apple-and-Peanut-ButterI had no idea until today that Luna Bars are actually specifically marketed to women. The Luna brand is a sub-brand of Clif. Now I don’t know if the packaging has always said “for women” on it, but today when I was shopping I noticed it because they had a sample station where you could try the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut bar and the S’mores bar.

Let me say up front that I have nothing against Luna bars. In fact, both of my samples were delicious, like eating a candy bar really.  But it’s the idea that they are “for women” that got me curious.

I asked the woman who was in charge of the Luna samples.  She said something about iron and vitamin D, and then as she walked away she mumbled something like, “I don’t actually know why they say ‘for women’ on them.”

So when I got home I went to the website. The Luna Bar website is quite an interesting place to go.  It’s got a whole section about nutrition where it tells you that when you get a snack attack at the office you can reach for hummus and veggies or…I’ll give you one guess.  Yes! A Luna Bar.

The nutrition page also has information about how to find your “power curve.” That’s about keeping fueled so you don’t run out of energy before the end of the day. You can find your “happy place” between lunch and dinner with a S’mores Luna Bar. In other words, the Luna Bar (of any flavour) is, according to the website, a great thing to include in “smart snacking.”

Luna’s four key ingredients that make it a “whole nutrition bar for women” (trademark) are calcium, vitamin D, iron, and folic acid.  Adults need all of these, but the blurbs say that women of childbearing age especially need folic acid to fend of neural tube birth defects and that women under 50 need 18g of iron per day, over 50 they need 8g.

Using the White Chocolate Macademia Nut bar as an example, you’ll get 15% of your daily vitamin D, 30% of your daily iron (for women under 50, let’s assume), 35% of your calcium and 100% of your folate.  You’ll also get 7g of fat, 25g of carbs, 11g of sugar, 9g of protein and a total of 190 calories.

That’s not too bad for an occasional snack, I agree.  It’s a bit better than a Kit Kat Bar. A Kit Kat’s 210 calories will give you 11g of fat, 27g of carbs, only 3g of protein, 6% of your daily calcium requirement, and undisclosed amounts (if any) of iron, vitamin D, and folate. And despite how much I love Kit Kats, I actually thought the Luna Bar was tastier.

In the end, I didn’t buy it because (a) the fact that it’s marketed as “whole nutrition women” seemed a bit….I can’t quite find the word I want…”shady” maybe?  (b) I’m already maxed out of storage space with a box of Clif Bars and a box of Protein Builder bars, and I actually don’t eat them all that often (maybe twice a week at most).

In the spirit of many websites these days, Luna’s website goes far beyond the bar itself in a section called Luna Life.  Why?   Because…

You’re not only what you eat. Here we take a look at what feeds your strength. Whether you’re an athlete, an artist, a foodie, or just plain awesome, we hope you’ll find something here just for you.

And they are indeed doing some good things on that page, all by way of encouraging us to incorporate Luna Bars into our lifestyle.  Do I object to that broad kind of marketing? Not necessarily.  In a capitalist economy the bar that can lodge itself into our brain and become associated with our healthy and active lifestyles is the bar that will do the best.

In targeting women, Luna is attempting to do just that — to become associated with a certain type of lifestyle–active, yogic, accepting of who we are, providing us with positive messages such as “love your legs for what they can do, not just how they look” (though someone who can’t walk might not appreciate that message, non-disabled women with body image issues sure can use the pep talk).

And of course Luna supports causes that appeal to many women — breast cancer research, and a charity called “healthy child, healthy world.”

But let’s get back to the Luna Bar and its place in a well-rounded diet.  Whatever they say about “whole nutrition for women,” the fact remains that a Luna Bar is not the best or the worst thing to reach for if you need something between meals.  It’s got a treat-like quality and, I think, is probably as satisfying as a chocolate bar while slightly more nutritious.

The thing is, you’re probably better of still going for the apple slices with peanut butter that they mention, or the hummus, or a handful of almonds and a few raisins.  For me, I need to be cautious of my motives for purchasing things like this. If I like them too much, then they become regular parts of my diet when they only deserve to be occasional.

But now I’m rambling.

LUNA is all about good food and good nutrition, but let’s face it: You’re not ONLY what you eat. Here we take a closer look at what feeds your strength. Whether you’re an athlete, an artist, a foodie or just plain awesome, we hope you’ll find something here for you. – See more at: http://www.lunabar.com/luna-life#sthash.rVadEv5E.dpuf
LUNA is all about good food and good nutrition, but let’s face it: You’re not ONLY what you eat. Here we take a closer look at what feeds your strength. Whether you’re an athlete, an artist, a foodie or just plain awesome, we hope you’ll find something here for you. – See more at: http://www.lunabar.com/luna-life#sthash.rVadEv5E.dpuf
sports nutrition

Vegetable added everything

I’m a big fan of adding veggies to everything, sneaking them in where I can. Here’s some great hints here.

But I just got back from the weekly family grocery run with news to report on the added veggies front.

(So much work, all that moving food off shelves, into carts, into car, back home, into cupboards…sometimes I think I should just ring a bell in the driveway and teenagers could eat the food there. And yes, I feel incredibly privileged that my complaint about feeding teen athletes, not to mention two large dogs, is the work and not the expense.)

But what I noticed today was the ever increasing range of products with added vegetables. Apple sauce with peach and carrots, bread with added spinach, fruit juice with celery and greens. I started to wonder what’s next, cookies with added vegetables.

The Country Harvest bread promises 1 serving of vegetables for 1 slice of bread. I preferred the red kind, with red and orange added veggies, to the green kind, hello spinach, but the kids preferred neither and feed their toast to the dog.

I think they’re holding out for the vegetable Oreos.

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cycling · diets · eating · Guest Post · sports nutrition

It’s all about the fuel! (Guest post)

image

I ride a Rocky Mountain hybrid and my spouse and I enjoy biking every time we can. Our minimum ride (the “quicky”) is a 30 km ride. But we often go for longer rides and have done as much as 110km in a day. We are not as serious about biking as a lot of readers of this blog are but we take it seriously enough. We have some bags for our longer runs and take what we need with us: water, snacks, tools, a spare tube, sunscreen, long sleeved t-shirt, money and a credit card. I am also fully equipped to ride to the office with a wonderful clip-on sturdy bag that can carry my books and binders.

We just came back from a 77 km ride and are both seriously exhausted. Why? What happened?

Yes it is 39 degrees with humidex. We left early to beat the heat but that was tough because at 10 o’clock, it was already pretty hot and the sun was shining in all its glory. But that was not the problem. The problem was: we made a rookie mistake! We did not fuel properly!

It does not matter how hot it is. It does not matter how fit you are. It does not matter what bike you ride. It does not matter how fast or slow you go. It does not matter how old you are. It’s all about the fuel!

We had plenty of water. That was not the issue. But water is not the fuel needed for such rides. Water is some kind of fuel and sufficient for a “quicky” but one needs more than that for a prolonged ride.

First step to our rookie mistake: a light breakfast low on protein. It was hot early and who feels like a hearty breakfast on days like this? I had fruits and 1/3 cup yogourt with sunflower seeds. Eric had raisin bread and fruits with one Ensure (dental surgery aftermath). We both had lots of carbs but very little protein.

Second step to our rookie mistake: we took only water with us. We had 3 litres of water between the two of us. We did not have any energizing drink with salt/sugar and other nutrients (yes, I consider salt a nutrient).

Third step to our rookie mistake: we thought we were going out for only 50 km so we did not bring snacks. We usually carry nuts and dry fruit bars when going for longer than 30 km.

Fourth step to our rookie mistake (which is connected with the previous one): we thought that 50km would take us to lunch time in Fonthill at our favorite fry truck in the area which boasts the best poutine in Southwestern Ontario. The plan was to ride 40 km to the truck, have a poutine, and ride the 10 km left back home.

At about 30 km into the ride we had a choice of turning left or right. Right was taking us back to Fonthill too quick and left was a small detour that would make the ride 50 km, what we were aiming for. The small roads in that area are populated by farms and there are no cornerstores or garages where to buy fuel. We were on our own with our water. A series of other detours (caused by us not wanting to ride on gravel roads because it hurts my wrists too much) made the ride much longer.

At about 50 km, we hit our wall: Muscles burning, slight headache, slight nausea. We were drinking water like mad but still that was not enough. I was hungry and my body was screaming for fuel. At some point I thought: “Man! I am pushing like crazy and yet riding at only 9 km/h on a flat road!!!” You should know that my normal cruising speed is between 22 and 25 km/h. Eric asked: “Are we that out of shape?? Our tires seem to stick to the road!” He even checked the tire pressure! The pressure was fine but we were not.

The problem was we ran out of fuel. Badly. No energy left, whatsoever. Well, a little I guess since we made it back. But at some point, walking my bike up a hill, I did feel like I was going to collapse, right there on the spot. We made it back to Fonthill and the fry truck after riding 56 km. We did not run out of water before getting there. But water was not enough. We were lacking proper fuel. This was remedied partly by purchasing one litre of iced tea (probably not the best but I can’t stomach energy drinks and sports drinks) and more water for the remaining 11km.

And then we did ourselves in… we had our poutine (after all, we deserved it by then, right?). Yummy as ever (did I mention it is the best poutine in Southwestern Ontario?), but poutine is what it is: it feels like a brick in your stomach once you have feasted on it. And that it did. I did have some chicken breast alongside it and Eric had a burger. But this further improper fueling just made everything worst. The last 11 km were long and hard. I normally ride 11 km without even thinking about it. Earlier today, I was thinking about every push on the pedals… and about the brick in my stomach. Improper fueling is what caused all this.

One shower later and trying to recuperate (I think it will take until tomorrow morning) I muse about this experience. Lesson learned: if it is not a “quicky” we got out for, bring proper fueling. Because a planned 40 km can morph into a much longer ride. Nobody needs to hit a wall as we did. All we have to do is plan ahead and care enough for our bodies to feed it what it needs: nutrients that will fuel it with the energy we need to enjoy whatever it is we engage in. Exercise should be fun and will be fun if we fuel properly.

It’s all about the fuel!

Christine is a feminist continental philosopher who lives with spouse and cat in the Niagara Region. Biking and training are favorite activities as is gourmet cooking and reading gore thrillers when she travels to conferences, taking a break from writing her monograph on Nietzsche.