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Sports Nutrition isn’t going so well.

Posted Dec 16 2010 12:00am

My class is not at all what I was expecting. I thought it would be very practical and that there would be things I could take home and apply to my running. But I’m into my second class and so far it’s all irrelevant calculations and formulas. Like – how many grams of carbs do you need to eat before, after, and during a workout, and exactly when you should eat them and in what form. But in reality there are so many factors that come into play I’m not sure you can just make the same calculation for everybody.

People are different and I think you need to look at them individually. Formulas are a good base as a beginning tool, but it seems to me that throwing numbers at people is just going to make them calorie-counters. A better option, in my humble opinion, would be to teach people (over time) to understand and trust their own bodies. To be able to tell the difference between real food and what has been created in a lab.

That said, I do understand the need to grasp the science behind sports nutrition as it relates to energy and fuel. I just feel that there should be more to exercise and nutrition than the regurgitation of raw numbers.

For example, one of the clients I am currently working with is an athlete. He runs 6-7 times a week and enjoys it greatly. I presented his nutritional goals to my class as a case study this week and their first suggestion was – cut back on the running because it is damaging his joints and straining his immune system.

I argued that although running too much or with the wrong form could be damaging to the body, in this case the runner in question was very experienced and had been doing this for a long time, so his body’s definition of “too much” didn’t match their concepts.

Secondly, I made the point that running for my client was not only a regular form of exercise, but a huge stress reliever. And ultimately, the benefits from that stress relief far outweighed any detrimental effects on his body.

And thirdly, there were so many other nutritional improvements that he could be making – so why not implement those first instead of immediately cutting off the most enjoyable activity in his life?

But when I read my Sports Nutrition textbook, it’s not surprising that people think this way. It breaks exercise down into a raw, mechanical action instead of something that sharpens the mind and elevates the spirit. Like this terrifying passage about female long distance runners:

Blood losses in the urine, a condition called haematuria, may occur in female distance runners. This is due to bruising of the bladder lining caused by repeated pounding by the abdominal contents during running. Another condition, called haemoglobinuria (the presence of haemoglobin in the urine), can result from repetitive food strikes associated with poor running gait or pounding on hard surfaces. This causes some destruction of red blood cells in the soles of the feet … Another route of blood loss in distances runners may be via the digestive tract and may be visible with diarrhea. This is caused by repeated minor trauma as the abdominal contents bounce up and down with each foot strike.

Does that not sound like the most horrifyingly painful form of exercise? It’s no wonder my classmates were concerned. But running – and exercise in general – is so much more than this. And there’s no need for bloodshed. But people everywhere are terrified.

We’re scared to run without running equipment. We’re scared to miss even one day of our training plans. We’re scared to take off our shoes. And we don’t make a move unless someone in authority tells us to.

I got a question the other day that really made me sad. Someone asked – how many layers should I wear when I run outside?

How the hell am I supposed to know? Are you COLD? I had no idea where this person lived, whether they were a man or a woman, when they were running or for what distances. But if I had said “five layers”, they would have put on five layers. Do we really need someone’s permission to put on a sweater? Are we SO disconnected from our own bodies that we can’t dress ourselves?

It’s just mind blowing to me how in an age when we are surrounded by so much information, we seem to have lost almost all ability to think for ourselves.

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