Tag Archives: training

You BETTER eat your Breakfast OR maybe you should skip it?

IMG_1107Nutrient timing is for the dogs…or is it?

This article is fantastic for breaking down some of the different aspects of nutrient timing. Some of the myths and some of the things you have heard your whole life: you better eat your breakfast!!!

What the article underscores is that if you are not an endurance athlete or a body builder, but just someone who is trying to maintain or lose weight in a sensible typical manner by eating whole, unprocessed foods and getting some exercise, you *really* don’t need to worry about nutrient timing. Whew…thats a relief!! BUT the article also underscores the need for you to experiment and figure out what works for you because ultimately…everyone is different.

I’m about to use myself as an example, which is not scientifically significant as I am a data point of one, but the truth of the matter is that no volume of scientific journal articles will really tell you about YOU and how YOUR body does best with its own food timing. Journal articles can give a place to start, but ultimately if eating a certain timed way makes you feel the best, chose the best food for your body the most frequently and supports your level of activity then that is the right meal timing strategy to chose. Some people need to eat more frequently, some need to eat less frequently. There really is no wrong or right about meal timing, but what ultimate nutrient timing is best for you is whatever timing strategy that supports you choosing healthy, whole, unprocessed meals majority of the time. As far as meal timing, I may not be the best case study as a former endurance athlete and currently in training for kettlebell sport. But one thing I can provide insight into is that at any given time what your body needs may change. You need to be always adjusting and challenging what works and what doesn’t work for YOUR body because ultimately it will give you the best feedback overall of what really is working.

Here is my story of exploring meal timing:

Back in 2000 I visited my first nutritionist because I realized I had gained some weight and needed to lose about 20lbs. First thing she did…put me on a 6 meals a day plan. One thing I found helpful about eating more frequently is that for me it helped me not eat so much at my main meals. I also started food logging. So…were lots of little meals the right choice? Or was logging my food? I don’t know but the combination did work for me at that time and I lost some weight.

Then I went to grad school and meal timing became somewhat non-existant. I don’t actually recall what I did most of the time. I just remember it being stressful. The last 10 months got extremely stressful and I gained 20lbs. No bueno. What ever I was doing, didn’t work  for me…at that time. This was most likely because the last 6 months I hardly exercised. Your body can’t distinguish between ‘good’ stress like exercise and bad stress like writing a dissertation. There is a limit to the amount of cortisol load from stress that a body can handle.  I was so stressed out I remember running a mile and it just being too freakin hard to do.

Then I graduated, moved and got into endurance sports, found a new nutritionist and got a little freakish about meal timing…exercised a lot…lost 18lbs of fat…gained 10lbs of muscle while endurance training. Since I was endurance training, nutrient timing IS suggested and it definitely worked for me…at that time.


Then in 2010 my body had enough of all this high volume endurance stuff and I got mysteriously sick, which was diagnosed as possible overtraining syndrome. After I got sick, I don’t remember what I did for food at that time, but it felt like I didn’t eat much but magically gained 15lbs. Guess what ever I was doing didn’t work for me…at that time. 


July of 2010 I discovered kettlebells and the next year I spent falling in love with kettlebells, training for my RKC certification and believing I was eating appropriately, but when it came down to it after 7 months of kettlebell training all I had to show for it was 4lbs of fat loss and 2lbs of lean muscle gain. At the time I was still in ‘endurance training’ mindset and still eating 5 meals a day because that was what I was used to doing. Since I was training pretty hard for the RKC my food intake supported all of my training so I got a lot stronger, but I had wanted to drop 15lbs I gained when I got sick in 2010. For me there was nothing magical about kettlebells and fat loss (and in truth 80% of fat loss is what you eat, not what you do) so all of my fussing about nutrient timing really wasn’t working for fat loss at that time.


July 2011 I joined Lean Eating over at Precision Nutrition and discovered a lot of new habits. I discovered that I was eating out of habit and not because I was hungry and I had this idea that being hungry was a bad thing.  I discovered I was eating because my scientific brain was telling me I *should* eat but not listening to my body of when I needed to eat. This lead to me taking out my morning snack and eating only 4x a day instead of 5x.  When I started to listen to what my body needed and not the idea of I needed a certain number of meals, I started to lose weight. Which worked for me at that time.  


20120603-134028.jpgI have also experimented briefly with intermittent fasting (leangains) and what I found was that for me…chronically doing intermittent fasting was a really bad idea for me for a number of reasons.

     1) I was training in the morning before work so working out and then not eating to lunch really screwed up my system even my sleep!

     2). I couldn’t focus for the life of me in the morning.

     3). It threw me into a crazy afternoon carb craving and I started craving and eating things that didn’t support my goals.

This didn’t work for me…at that time.

Below is the nutritional hierarchy of importance of eating according to PN that you should focus on first before you even worry about meal timing. Once those are squared away and you are doing them consistently…meal timing is a piece of the puzzle to take into consideration, but for most of us it is best to first figure out the How, Why and What we are eating and then possibly start experimenting with the When afterwards with some personal experimentation.

Your nutritional hierarchy of importance

  1. How much are you eating?
    (Recommendation: Eat until satisfied, instead of stuffed, follow PN’s Calorie Control Guide .)
  2. How you are eating?
    (Recommendation: Eat slowly and mindfully, without distraction.)
  3. Why are you eating?
    (Hungry, bored, stressed, following peer pressure, social cues, triggered by hyper-rewarding foods?)
  4. What are you eating?
    (Recommendation: Minimally processed proteins, veggies, fruits, healthy starches, and healthy fats.)
  5. Are you doing #1 to #4 properly, consistently?
    (Recommendation: Shoot for 80% consistency with these items before moving on.)

And only then consider…

  1. When are you eating?
    (Now you can consider breakfast, late-night, during your workout, etc.)

For me I have settled into 4 meals/day. 3 main meals and then a snack in the afternoon. The snack tides me through my evening training so I feel fueled up and not hungry. This works for me…at this time.

That being said, I am challenged by the PN article to try something different. One thing I have learned is that I can’t abandon breakfast because I saw with my ‘leangains’ experiment that it wasn’t helpful for me to skip breakfast, but I’m wondering how my hunger/eating would change if I ate a heavier breakfast? I usually only consume 300-400 calories in the form of a protein shake. I wonder if I ate solid food and ate around 600-700 calories how I might feel differently throughout the day? I know on weekends when I have a big brunch I will eat brunch and then maybe dinner. This could be an interesting experiment…

What kinds of experiments do you think you would like to try?

Eating Breakfast?

Eating more (5-6) smaller meals a day?

Eating only 3 meals a day?

Skipping breakfast?

Challenge your assumptions and see if you can figure something new about how best your body runs. Give it a try for a month and then see if you see any positive changes.

Continue reading


Overtraining Syndrome


Can you overtrain?  Some people debate it. I’ve seen a lot of strength posts and read a lot of triathlon/endurance posts related to it. I used to be a triathlete for 7 years and overtraining syndrome was actually not that uncommon (I did live in the mecca of triathlon training in San Diego and every other triathlete was training for an ironman) or at least what those of us in tri-geekery circles called overtraining syndrome.

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • A compulsive need to exercise

Here is the thing…some of these will show up during a hard training cycle for an event. That’s normal…and it is key to BACK OFF. But if you back off for 2-3 days or a week or two…and DON’T bounce back that’s when chronic overtraining syndrome starts to set in.

But most people don’t really talk about it. Even doctors. They don’t really know what it is or why it happens. Hormone imbalance? Cortisol too high or something like that? No one really understands it well…at least that is what my doctor told me back in 2010. Why one person is more susceptible vs. another is a bit of a mystery.  For some people, their training will put them into a state of OTS because the body has just had ENOUGH. They have been pushing really hard for a really long time without eating enough or taking in enough fluids or recovering properly to support the training. The root cause of OTS and people’s susceptibilities to it is still not fully understood.
In March of 2010…back when I was a triathlete, I came down with OTS…possibly. I had a sports med doc diagnose me as such… and to this day I’m in a bit of denial about it, but even after I recovered…I never went back to triathlons. That *might* be a good way to say ‘loss of enthusiasm for the sport’.  In my case I think it was a combination of SUPER high stress (ie cortisol) for a NUMBER of years combined with poor digestion (due to a gluten intolerance not diagnosed til 2012) which resulted in some nutritional deficiencies (folic acid, ferrtin, Vit D, magnesium…). Mix in 8-12 hours of consistent training that had my HR over 140bpm and the body will say enough at some point.
I had a holistic nutritionist think I had adrenal fatigue…which is a little too ‘woo’ and out there for me. There is no technical definition for someone who might be having trouble with their adrenals unless they have full blown Addisions Disease…and that’s when the adrenals just don’t work. And some people think that people with adreanal fatigue should take supplements with adrenal pieces in them. Ewww…sorry that thought just grosses me out. If you are going to take supplements, please research every ingredient on its list for safety AND if it actually does anything. Just because it is in the ‘natural’ food section does not mean it is fully tested or safe. I give prescription medication and over the counter medication just as much of a ‘stink eye’ as I do things in the natural food section. Don’t stop taking anything that a doctor has prescribed…but please, please, please…ask them lots of questions. I’ll talk more about supplements later. I’m not against them…but everyone should understand what they are taking and why.
I don’t know if I truly had overtraining syndrome…I just know I felt terrible for about 5 months and could barely pull myself out of bed. Exercise…hurt……the only thing that didn’t hurt was yoga…I ignored my friends…I slept a lot…I was apathetic…I quit triathlon and never went back. I did find kettlebells…so it is a part of the story of how I got here.
But my reality is that I now live in a very different body than I had prior to the OTS melt down. I’m either more hypersensitive to my training or I just can feel my body’s reactions a bit more these days. The reality is I can’t push like I used to be able to push. I fall off that training ‘cliff’ a lot more easily than I used to and easily wake up utterly exhausted if I push too hard. The reality I have to live with is that because I sorta ‘broke’ myself a few years ago…I need to be more mindful and focus MORE on my recovery and be kind to myself. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t train hard…it just means I need to be more mindful of the feedback my body tells me.
The point of this post? A new athlete really shouldn’t worry about OTS in the beginnings. It takes years of bad choices both in allowing too much life stress and too much endurance exercise to wear you to that point. Putting a large cortisol load on the body through life stress and endurance exercise can cause OTS. Generally the areas that OTS seems to pop up are endurance training (half iron distances and beyond for triathlons or marathoners and ultra marathoners) and I figure competitors. I’ve read so many posts on women’s bodies totally freaking out after a figure competition that to me personally (I am NO doctor or expert on this topic) it sounds like over training syndrome and their bodies totally rebel after competition.
So…train hard, recover well…and listen to your body.