Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Quest for the Perfect Calorie

Is there such a thing as the perfect calorie, perfect food, or perfect health? In my endeavor to train for the TSE and become fitter, calories are playing a huge role -- not only the quantity but the quality make the difference in day to day performance. You can read a hundred books and get a hundred opinions on what's best and what's not. Every dietitian, nutritionist, and health guru will say their diet is best and will doubt certain foods others find nutritionally sound. It's confusing, stressful, and downright exhausting trying to figure out the labyrinth of bad and healthy food. I have no less than 26 cookbooks and 22 (maybe more) books on food, health, diet and nutrition. From going vegan to the paleo diet -- I've read too many of them. And what did I discover works best? Whatever makes my groaning, achy muscles feel strong and ready to perform. Yes -- the best diet is the one that is kind to YOUR body and the only way to figure it out is to start experimenting. No one can write the perfect combination for you -- you have to find it for yourself. Wine makes you feel good? Drink it. Goat's milk works for you? Include it in your daily regimen. I know an awesome multi-sport athlete who thrives on pop-tarts! I'm writing this because today, I feel strong as an ox and fit as a fiddle and I'm sure it's because of what I ate yesterday. I found when I eat what I think is too many calories of a certain food, I'm rewarded the next day with no aches, pains and an overall really good body feeling. Last night I gorged myself on peanuts and soy nut butter. My calories were high for the day -- about 2,600 (compared to about 2000 normally), but I feel GOOD this morning. The day also included the "quality" calories my body likes (sample below). Through the years, I've tracked all kinds of calories for all kinds of diets with the final daily count always being the calories, protein, iron, carbs, fat, and calcium to assure I'm getting adequate portions of each every day. The past few months I've been focusing on the kinds of food I'm putting into my body and I think I finally found a combination that works best and that's exactly what you need to do too if you're looking for the perfect calories. Experiment. Try new things or a combination of old and new. Try eating more or less. Increase your carbs (you'll be amazed at how good you'll feel if you up your carbs over 300 grams a day if you are training). Track what's going in your body. Track how you feel the next day. And remember what works, and what doesn't and apply it more on a permanent basis. You too will find YOUR perfect calorie. Here's what mine are. And what's interesting is this mirrors the Jack Lalanne diet with the exception of the sweets. He didn't have any for 76 years. But I love sucanat and Grade B Maple Syrup - my "natural" substitutes for white sugar which I dump on nearly everything, including salad (I don't use salad dressings but take great pleasure in pouring a tablespoon of syrup on my salad).

A Sample of Chili's daily diet that seems to work:
  • Soy Protein
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
  • Salmon, Tuna, or Shrimp (2-3 times a week)
  • Soy and Almond Milk
  • Lots of kale and swiss chard in all kinds of ways.
  • Eggs (free range only)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Nuts of all kinds
  • Whole grain bread
  • Some whole grains: Quinoa, millet, amaranth, bulgur
  • Blackstrap Molasses as needed (when I "feel" like I need iron).
  • A little whole grain pasta (not too often)
  • Sucanat and Maple syrup as sweeteners
  • NO DAIRY. (I think this is the big one that really made the difference on how I felt once I gave it up).
  • No red meat or poultry - although I'll eat it on occassion if I know the cow or chicken was raised humanely and locally. I'm struggling with the chicken though -- they're too cute too eat! But the cows are cute too.
Remember - experiment. Try different things to find your perfect calorie.


DailySAHM said...

I can't keep track of whether you're eating meat/eggs/dairy or not anymore! I thought you were currently an ovo-vegetarian.

I started tracking my food intake again three weeks ago, after I gained 5 pounds during my 3 months of no workouts at all due to my bulging disc issue. Between working out again and watching what I consume, I only have 1 more pound to lose.

Chili said...

You go girl... nice job. I try to focus on ovo-vegetarian, but will eat beef if it's local and free range (rare... I don't buy it). Defintiley no dairy anymore.