I have a pretty good relationship with food. I’m not afraid of eating, I enjoy and seek out really good food, and I’m extremely discerning (my mom would say picky) about what I eat. But sometimes it gets a little complex. To the rules I already had when I started working out — eat only real food (as opposed to any packaged, processed food-like substances), avoid factory farmed meat, eat organic or local/seasonal as much as is affordable and practical — I added a new layer. Eat food that will help make me strong.
My diet has changed pretty drastically in the last year. I eat a lot more meat, a lot less bread, and quite a few more calories. I only count calories before a meet when I want to make sure I don’t accidentally come in over (which I’m learning is not a problem, coming in five pounds under that last two times). But even though I’m not counting, I still try to eat reasonably most of the time. I’m just a bit taller than 5 ft 1 and no matter how heavy of weights I lift, there’s just not much room on a frame that small to hide excess weight.
But sometimes, I just toss my rules out the window and decide to enjoy food that’s just not that good for me. I do it without guilt and without remorse, and just chow down on what makes me happy. I did that over the long weekend, starting with a platter of fried goodness while out at a friend’s birthday gathering Friday night. Fried shrimp, french fries and coleslaw with a beer — all of which I enjoyed with great relish. Saturday en route to visit family we had to choose from highway offerings, so I had a tuna fish sandwich — honest to goodness two slices of bread from Panera along with a bag of chips and an apple. Fistfuls of pita chips, wedges of cheese and grapes made for an afternoon snack on the lake, then it was a local steak and veggies plus a glass of winefor a normal dinner. Then I polished off a slab of chocolate brownie/cake birthday treat my mom made. The next day was a family reunion and I won’t even list the crap I ate there. My protein choices were limited to fast food chicken or deviled eggs, so I went with the eggs and a plateful of carbs followed by pecan pie. While I was on this roll I had pizza cheesebread for dinner with, why not, a Vanilla Coke, my first in two months. And there was still birthday cake, so I had more of that. Steak and eggs with fried apples made up my breakfast the next morning, and it was leftover cheesebread for lunch. Somewhere along the weekend I managed to eat about half a jar of almond butter and a couple of bananas too. I made a token effort at something healthful for dinner with chicken breast and veggies, then put it on an Ezekiel tortilla topped with cheese, avocado and a spoonful of sour cream.
After such a horrific eating spree over the weekend I was a little leery going for my Tuesday morning workout. I hadn’t nourished my body with an abundance of proteins, fruits and veggies — instead I had blasted it with salt, fat, carbs and empty calories.
But you know what? I crushed my workout. We started with high box squats, five reps at a time, Ben loading weight and loading and loading. At last he said “we’ll stay here for two more sets,” and I asked how much it was. It was 205 pounds. Yes, it was box squats, but 205 pounds on my back is 205 pounds on my back, and I was rocking them and I knew it. We moved on the bench for a four rep max and I nailed 91 pounds for two sets of four, a PR. I knocked out body rows hanging from a pull-up bar with my feet on a shelf, and then got to the hardest work of the day, 25lb kettlebell single arm presses on the floor. And although I moved the weight extremely slowly, I got 3 sets of 8 each side, and then for fun did a few chin-ups.
“Maybe I should calorie blast like that more often!” I said, joking, to Ben. “You can’t get stronger if you’re calorie deficient,” he said.
I wouldn’t have thought I was calorie deficient. If I were to estimate, I’d say I eat about 1800-2000 or so calories on a normal day. But evidently doubling that for a weekend gave me some kind of boost because I didn’t get shaky once during the workout. If every training day could feel like that, I’d gladly stuff myself. If that puts a little meat on my bones, well, I don’t think that will hurt.
So I’m embarking on a bit of an experiment this week. I’m eating more calories, I’m eating more carbs, and I’ll see how I feel. Friday is a heavy day, so we’ll see then if eating like I mean it will help me train like I mean it — and get strong like I want to be.