Weekly Review - 19 Jun 2016

Wednesday: Today's run was good; I aimed for heart rate, and when I checked my pace (well after I was done), I averaged in the low 12s. A month ago I was in the mid to low 13s. Yay for progress. I'm looking forward to next week's race! Also of note: I saw a shooting star as I was walking and warming up (thanks, Alex, for reminding me to look up), and I saw a rabbit as I was cooling down.

I haven't written anything about last week, so here are my memories:

  • Wednesday's run was so cold that I put on running tights and a long-sleeve t-shirt. Endomondo reports the weather as 55 °F and 12 mph wind.
  • Saturday's run was excellent. My longest run of the year (~7 miles) and I felt so good that I pushed past my intended stopping point for a little bonus distance. I would have pushed out further but my wife wasn't feeling well and needed me to get home.

Friday: Left Achilles tendon started aching today. If I had to guess, this is a symptom of running on roads with a large crown; the pain I've been feeling in my right knee seems to correlate with this, too.

Saturday: Digestive issues, again. Possibly the stevia in the protein powder I've been using?

Sunday: My feet were sore for most of the day, and my Achilles still aches. The foot pain might have something to do with sprinting around in my hiking shoes with the kids last night. (Heh.)

On a serious note, though, the pain has left me wondering if I'm getting enough protein. I've been optimizing my diet around calories; I'm wondering if I shouldn't optimize it around protein instead. To that end, I'm wondering if I shouldn't cut oil out of my diet. With my current diet, on a non-running day, I'm looking at around 65g of protein if I don't eat animal products and don't supplement. I would prefer to do without either.

Basically, the back-of-the-napkin average for protein in plant food seems to come out around 7g per 200 kcal; legumes, grains, and nuts all fit this average. Broccoli is insane, ~15g for 200 kcal, but that's around 6.5 cups of broccoli. Our current fruit, cherries, come in at ~3.5g per 200 kcal, at a somewhat more reasonable ~2 cups. The point I'm driving at here is that 7g per 200 kcal works out for quick and dirty math.

So, if my base metabolism is burning roughly 2700 kcal a day, and I'm attempting to lose a pound a week, that puts me at 2200 kcal. 3 tablespoons of oil is 350 kcal, add in a tablespoon of maple syrup in my oatmeal and you're at 400 kcal of (almost) protein-free food, which leaves me with 1800 kcal. Multiply that by our 7g per 200kcal and you end up with 63g of protein, which is below the FDA recommendation that someone my weight get 0.36g/lb of body weight, which ends up being 72g a day. If I was at my last known "ideal" weight, around 170 lbs, it would be perfect (61g / day).

I'm not at my ideal weight, though, and I am a runner. So something has to give. Giving up oil and maple syrup will give me another 14g a day, at 77g. Factoring in the 3 mcal (3000 kcal) I burn from running and walking (that's a software estimate), that's another 15g of protein averaged across a week, putting me at 92g. That's still shy of the numbers quoted in the linked Runner's World article, 110-154g per day for me, but it's an improvement. If I add in animal products, it becomes very easy to reach that number with lean meat: lean chicken comes in around 30g per 200 kcal. For comparison, fatty beef is closer to broccoli when it comes to protein, at roughly 15g per 200 kcal.

If I continue to supplement, it's also easy to reach the target numbers. I'm currently using Vega Protein Smoothies, which ring in at 37.5g of protein per 200 kcal, and fiber-reduced hemp protein, at 25g per 200 kcal.

So, all of this considered, I have a number of dials I can tweak here to adjust my protein intake. I can control:

  • my calorie deficit
  • my protein-free calories (oil, maple syrup)
  • my exercise load
  • my animal protein intake
  • my supplement intake

On the flip side, losing the extra 30 or so lbs I'm carrying around will also help, dropping my range from 93-130g, but that's not something I can tweak today.

So, that's where I'm at. I'm not making any big changes until after my next race, on Wednesday, but I'll probably cut down on oil over the next few days and see where that leaves me.

On the subject of adding or not adding animal proteins: I think the reason I had digestive issues as a vegan comes down to two ingredients: stevia and chocolate. Well, it might be stevia extract (e.g. Reb A), or even monkfruit extract that's causing the problem, and not stevia leaf itself, but I don't think it matters in the long run. The long and short of it is that both of these ingredients seem to correlate with digestive issues; chocolate appears to damage my stomach so badly that it hurts for days afterwards. I'm still confirming this, and there may be other foods, possibly almonds, that cause this stomach pain, but I think I'm getting close to figuring it out.

One more thought on that subject: I experienced hungry anger over the past few weeks while eating meat semi-regularly. When I examined my diet, I found that I was way low on calories; on the worst week I was 7 mcal (7000 kcal) under my estimated caloric burn between base metabolism and exercise, without even realizing it. I was logging my calories and my exercise, but the deficits accrued over the week, and it wasn't obvious that I was way low until I was raging.

Anyway, until my next update, be excellent to each other.