I feel like I should start doing deadlifts. Or at least buy some free weights. After all, protein powder is only for meat-headed gym rats, right?
Once again, I’m wrong. Life has a silly way of teaching us lessons, doesn’t it?
Obviously, I never thought of myself as a protein powder person. I’d see those big jars in the store and think they were a waste of money. “I’m an endurance athlete – I need carbs, not all that protein,” I thought. (Notice the past tense.)
Let me back up. I’m not a trainer or nutritionist, but I read a lot on the Internet, so I understand that proper nutrition is important before, during and after exercise. Don’t take it from me – Google yourself! ;) OK, for real: Talk to your doctor or someone else who has proper training and experience.
Back to my point: It didn’t take long in my running journey to realize I needed something in my stomach before going for a run. On weekday mornings, I usually have a banana and Fiber One bar, and on the weekends I have a hearty bowl of oatmeal before a long run. (Not to mention COFFEE – it’s an important pre-run ritual for me!)
As far as during goes, I really like Gatorade chews or Gus for long runs, and I eat them every four or five miles, depending on the day/mileage. Again, you should do your own research to learn more about carbs, calories, etc.
Anyway, my after routine has been fickle. During the week, it’s easy to eat my normal breakfast after my run. BOOM. DONE. After long runs on the weekend, however … It’s been a crapshoot. I mean, sometimes it feels like a chore to get up and eat something. I wonder which is stronger: my hunger or my exhaustion. And some days, I’m just not hungry at all for a while. (And those are the days where I become ravenous a few hours later and can’t stop eating.)
I can’t be alone here. After a workout, it’s tough to find a snack that is satisfying, yet nutritious. I know I need protein, but all of my favorite protein foods seemed to come with extra sugar – which means extra points. I used to swear by snack bars loaded with nuts or peanut butter, but then I realized they were also filled with carbs. Then for a while, I loved a particular store-brand cereal with skim milk … then the store discontinued my favorite flavor.
Some people swear by chocolate milk for post-workout fuel, but that just doesn’t do it for me. I’m not a fan of the taste or the extra points (AKA sugar rush).
Then one day, I heard a fellow Weight Watcher on the Another Mother Runner podcast. Amy mentioned a protein shake from EAS that was only two points per serving – I was intrigued. I tweeted her for more information, and I brought home some vanilla and strawberry shakes to try – surprisingly, they were decent. Most protein shakes I've tried are thick and chalky – these were light, quite literally. They pack a whopping 17 grams of protein but only 1.5 net carbs.
Kyle and I would drink one here or there, but I still wasn’t vigilant about my post-workout nutrition, mainly after long runs. I would have a shake sometimes, or other times I would wait for lunch. If I was hungry, I’d obviously make a beeline for the snack cupboard But if I wasn’t? Eh, it can wait.
Then one day something scary happened. NOTE: If you’re my mother, please stop reading. I mean it, Pam!
It was a Saturday morning in January. Kyle was home from work, so I took advantage of the opportunity to go for a long run. Despite the slippery road conditions, I ran 10 miles. I felt good, great even, when I got home.
Again, Kyle was home so I decided to take a nice hot bath while he kept Kenlee distracted for a little while longer. I remember briefly thinking I should grab a snack bar before getting in the tub, but I was more cold than hungry. So I started the water instead. Ahhhh …
|Oatmeal: Weekday post-run meal; weekend pre-run meal|
When I stood up to wash my hair (because even though I’m nearly 30, I can’t figure out the best way to rinse my hair sitting down), I started feeling … shaky. Nauseated. Dizzy.
I sat down and let the rest of the water drain. I tried to relax, but I realized the shakiness wasn’t going away. Thankfully, I remembered KYLE WAS HOME, so I called for him and told him I needed help. I’m sure he thought I needed a towel or more shave gel … But instead, I told him I didn’t think I could get out of the tub.
Annoyed but concerned, he helped me stand up and told me to put my arms around him … Next thing I know, he’s yelling to Kenlee, “Help daddy find his phone! Where is daddy’s phone?!” The panic in his voice was just as scary as that day in August when he yelled to me, “Oh my God, I think she broke her arm!”
I was confused and concerned – I thought Kenlee was hurt. I shouted, “What’s wrong?!” and Kyle came rushing back to the bathroom. That’s when I realized I was on the floor.
For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a paramedic. He’s seen a lot of stuff. But before that day, he’d never seen his wife pass out and turn gray. He was scared, which made me scared. And we were trying not to scare poor Kenlee, who didn’t understand why momma was laying on the bathroom floor when she’d been told not to do that before …
Everything turned out fine – after convincing Kyle to NOT call 911 and get me a towel please, I had a banana and a shake before standing on my own.
This is all a super long way of saying nutrition is important – before, during and after exercise. Looking back, several factors could have contributed to my bathroom floor experience (the hot bath water opening my blood vessels, not enough chew or gels during my run, underestimating the extra exertion involved in running on ice/snow, etc.) But I know in my gut (pun intended) that it was a wake-up call to take my post-workout nutrition more seriously.
I was too embarrassed to share this story at first, but now I hope it can serve as a lesson for others. Plus, I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on this post-workout nutrition stuff. Those EAS shakes became a requirement after a long run … which wasn’t as friendly on my grocery budget, but I felt SO MUCH BETTER and decided they were worth the splurge.
Then one day, those big tubs of protein powder caught my eye. “But, I’m not a gym rat!” I thought … but I’m also not made of money. After some quick math, I realized I would save 25 percent by going with the tub of powder instead of the pre-mixed shakes. My frugalness won out – I brought the giant tub home.
Now, I’m here to admit I was wrong. Despite my pre-conceived notions of bulky weights and tire-throwing, protein powder isn’t just for strength training. And heck, the giant tub isn’t just cheaper, it’s also so much more versatile! I can use the powder in shakes or smoothies (recipes coming soon!), and I bet I could mix it in my oatmeal (haven’t tried it yet, but I plan on it) or other foods.
I’m not saying protein powder or shakes are the answer for everyone, nor am I endorsing the EAS brand. If you prefer the chalky shakes, snack bars, chocolate milk or chicken wings, that’s totally cool. My point is that nutrition is important for everyone – it’s not just for body builders. So learn from me. Make sure you’re taking your fuel seriously so you can have a great workout AND a great recovery.
|Behold, the protein smoothie! My latest post-run discovery.|
Trust me, the bathroom floor isn’t that comfy.