Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Food for Thought

Oh I love this weather…thunderstorms pretty much every day for the past week, and they're so random. Right now it's sunny, but this afternoon is supposed to turn icky. It makes planning out my aqua-jogging more difficult. Luckily I made it to the YMCA this morning for about an hour before work and saw a lot of people I haven't seen in so long, which was nice.

Before we get too far, I want to clarify one important point, because I've been getting a lot of comments from people. I really, really appreciate everyone’s concern, but this is NOT a deathly serious injury. So please please don’t worry! Yes, it's painful (at least it was at first), but really the heel fractures were so much worse. In fact at the moment I hardly feel any pain at all, only when contorting into unusual positions. Just sitting here I feel totally normal. It does hurt if I get up after sitting for a while, but after the first two steps that almost entirely goes away too. I can lift my bike in and out of the trunk of my car, so I don't even have to take the bus to work! The scary thing is that with the way it feels right now, I probably would be out running if I didn't know it was fractured.

It was amazing how quickly the pain went from disabling to just annoying. But then I thought back, and my heels did pretty much the same thing. It coincided with my doctor prescribing twice-daily doses of naproxen, but when I stopped the naproxen (it slows bone healing) they were remarkably better--suddenly I could walk! So I think this is the way it goes with bones; initially everything in the general area hurts like shit, then the dull "bone" throb settles in, and then all of a sudden that (almost) goes away. Doesn't mean it's healed, though!

So, in the meantime I'm back to bone regeneration. Which means lots of vitamins and calcium and my new obsession, protein. I never used to pay attention to protein, but being a vegetarian (as I've mentioned before, one who doesn't like eggs) makes it really hard to get enough. When I was seeing my nutritionist she really stressed this because it helps your body heal and keeps your skin healthy, along with building muscle. After years of abusing my body with lots of running and not enough food, it's time to treat it right. So I try to get at least 70 grams of protein a day (my nutritionist recommended 60, and the Mayo Clinic recommends at least 50; bodybuilders go for 1g per pound of body weight). I usually average somewhere around 90. Not sure if the excess helps, but it certainly can't hurt. Once I did go over the bodybuilder rule of thumb (there was a lot of peanut butter involved) and got pretty excited about that, but it's not like I'm going for bulging muscles here.

So how do I get my 90g? There are a couple of foods I eat almost every day:

1.  Protein "shake". I found some protein powder that isn't disgusting. I mix it with water before I get on the stationary bike, stick it in the fridge, and drink it when I'm done. That's 25g of protein per scoop (I use one), plus 12% DV of calcium. It took a little while to get used to the taste and texture, but when I'm hot and sweaty anything that involves liquid is welcome! It's also really filling so I don't get massively hungry right after a workout. In fact, I might miss it if I didn't have it for a day.
2.  Protein bar. They do in fact come in varieties that don't taste like crap. It took me a while to find the LifeChoice brand (I've only had the Double Chocolate), after trying PowerBar and some others. They do still taste a little weird, but I can stomach them and almost fool myself that they are a dessert. Plus, they've got 21g of protein and they're a lot smaller than most brands.
3.  Greek yogurt. I was really reluctant to try this, I'm not sure exactly why. Despite the fact that it was really hard to get used to, it's now one of the highlights of my day. I started out with Chobani plain and then discovered that the generic brand at Weis has nearly identical nutrition facts in terms of protein, calcium, and calories, and is significantly less tangy. I eat the plain flavor (has the most protein) and load it with brown sugar and sometimes light maple syrup. When I tried this the first time, I was surprised at how the flavors worked together…delicious! I thought I'd never reach beyond Yoplait, but the Greek stuff is great because it's so much more filling, and the texture is so thick and creamy. Plus, that's 18g of protein and 20% DV of calcium!

So with those three foods alone, I'm over 60g for the day without counting everything else I eat. Interestingly enough, my nutritionist debunked the myth that peanut butter is a really good source of protein. Before now, if anyone asked where I got my protein I would always retort with, "I eat a lot of peanut butter." But two tablespoons (which is the usual serving size, although I can easily double that in one sitting) only has 7g of protein. I don't eat that much peanut butter.

On a side note, LifeChoice also makes three other kinds of bars. The wellness nutrition bars (14-15g), energy bars (7-8g), and the meal bars (10g). They're only available at Walmart so I haven't been able to try too many flavors, but everything I've tried to far has been great. I highly recommend the Cookies & Cream energy bar, it really is just like a dessert!

So I guess all these health problems have made me more aware of how I treat my body, not just the pounding I put it through with high-impact activities but also what I fuel it with. I realize that protein and calcium aren't the only important things in my diet, but for the moment they're the ones I'm obsessed with. What's next? Omega-3? Fiber?

All in all, I think even though I am a bit obsessed, I'm way healthier than I was before any of this happened. Even after I fractured my heels, I was in denial for a while about the contributing factors. I'm still working on balancing my diet. But the place I'm at now is lightyears better than where I was even a few months ago. Small steps--one at a time.
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