Food is Fuel

On Thursdays, I typically eat pretty lightly. While I have my normal breakfast, my lunch tends to be something grabbed very quickly – a cup of soup or a protein bar – since I have to leave the office early to fly home, and I want to get as much done as possible before I go. Since my dinner is on the plane, I usually grab either a sandwich or some summer rolls/sushi to bring with me. Certainly nothing earth shattering, but that tends to be a lot lighter than my normal travel dinners, which are more likely to be at restaurants and include multiple courses.

This Friday, I was working from home, which meant that I was able to cook instead of eat out. Sometimes people think I’m lucky to get to eat all my meals in restaurants during the week, but in a case of “the grass is always greener”, I envy those who are home and able to cook. I’d love to be able to cook eggs or healthy pancakes for breakfast, and then have homemade soup or a yummy stir fry for lunch. It’s so much easier for me to eat healthfully when I’m at home, and Friday definitely proved that point – I started my day with steel cut oatmeal, and then had a grilled chicken salad for lunch. Nice and light!

Friday night, I was out at a happy hour, so it was back to restaurant food. We got a few apps to share instead of real meals, and I figured I’d make something to supplement at the end of the night – until I ended up getting home later than expected. While I knew that I hadn’t eaten enough, I also figured that since I was just going to bed anyway, there wasn’t much point in making food. Unfortunately, I neglected to take into account the fact I was taking a Refine class first thing in the morning. I definitely needed my energy, especially after the killer Refine class I had already taken on Friday morning, but I hadn’t prepared appropriately, so I just felt out of it and not energized for the entire Saturday class. I definitely need to eat a lot more if I’m going to keep up doing workouts like this!

Image credit: Rick

Saturday night, on the other hand, I went the complete opposite direction. After celebrating Theodora’s 30th birthday at one of my my favorite French bistros (I went there for my birthday this year too!) followed by a swanky cocktail bar, I had already more than made up for my dearth of calories on Thursday/Friday. However, that didn’t stop me from going to a diner at 3am and sharing disco fries (fries topped with cheese AND gravy) and loaded nachos with friends. What was I thinking?! I’ve been pretty careful about my eating lately, so all that heavy/greasy food made me feel absolutely terrible. That gross feeling continued right through to my Sunday morning TurboNYC class – and while I still worked out hard and sweated like crazy during the workout, I felt awful the entire time.

Both of these extremes reminded me of something I know but often overlook. As yummy as food can be, it’s also supposed to be fuel. If you don’t eat right before a workout, you’re not going to perform right – and that just sucks. This isn’t to say you can’t eat fun stuff too, but it’s important to balance that with what your fuel needs are. For a run-of-the-mill workout, maybe it’s okay to eat what you want – but eating far too little or far too much is going to screw even that up. Meanwhile, if you’re fueling for an important workout (e.g., competitive sports event), what you eat becomes increasingly important.

(I should add, I like to laugh about drinking beer and eating Indian food the night before marathons, but that’s in part because running a marathon for me is not necessarily an important event; I often use it just as a fun way to see a new place or as training for another race.)

With my busy schedule, it’s silly to go to a workout and then not be able to do my best – that’s just a waste of time. (And that’s why I canceled my Sunday morning Refine class right after Saturday’s morning’s not-so-great effort – it just didn’t make sense to tax myself with another class when I wasn’t fueled/rested for the first one). Overall, I had a great time this weekend, but it’s clear that I need to reconsider what my body will and won’t handle in regard to my workouts!

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