and other thoughts...

and other thoughts...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Plants, Protein and Building Muscle

This is not a post on how to eat a plant-based diet that includes plenty of protein so one can build muscle.

It is a post questioning how to do that.

I am vegetarian for the most part. I do occasionally eat fish, but I eat no land animals. I am not vegan, although I do try to limit my intake of dairy. I drink almond milk (sometimes soy) instead of cow's milk. I do eat cheese, yogurt and butter, though certainly not daily. I don't eat whey protein powder. I don't eat anything that includes gelatin.

My reason for being mostly vegetarian has to do with my love of all animals. It's fairly straight-forward. I love cows, goats, pigs, chicken and ducks, and so I choose not to eat them.  I'm disturbed, also, by the arbitrariness around which animals we (as nation) eat as opposed to which animals we care for guardedly. Pigs can make wonderful pets, for example. They are intelligent, bond with each other, bond with humans and care deeply for their young. So it makes no sense to me that we eat them--and in doing so support a system that abuses and slaughters them inhumanely and en masse--and yet we do not eat dogs. At any rate, I don't want this post to become a diatribe against eating meat. I've done my research in terms of the ways in which animals are bred, abused and slaughtered-- so you don't need to enlighten me about how it's perfectly justifiable to eat meat or fowl, or drink cow's or goat's milk etc. I know where I stand.
And I will now stop trying to enlighten you.
There. Done with that.

What I do want to write about is how I can work toward eating a (mostly) vegetarian diet that is rich in protein and hence supports the building of muscle.

To be frank, I've always poo-pooed the idea that one needs to eat protein in order to support her health, fitness and muscle growth. I've always believed that one should try to eat a balanced diet and the protein intake will take care of itself. Also, I've never wanted to become particularly muscular; I've just wanted to be strong "enough."Being a woman who grew up in the late 70's and 80's, I am a person who covets a slender, sleek, too-thin body as opposed to one which appears strong and buff. I'm relatively small, I've worked hard to stay small, and I've enjoyed being small.

But I'm getting older, and I've noticed that I am having an increasingly hard time maintaining my weight. This is partly a consequence of not working out as much as I used to. Lately I have been working out more, however--and then more still, and the weight isn't coming off as it has in the past. Also, I am pooling more fat in my belly. My arms and legs seem to get smaller, but my belly stays the same--very fleshy and round. At times I think I actually look pregnant. I have small legs, arms and butt, but my stomach is just so round and large. Some of these changes, I know, have to do with the wildly fluctuating hormonal levels that accompany the wonderful process of moving toward menopause.  But I know there are women my age who DO NOT have this belly, so it can't be all that! Also of note, my cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels are higher than they were just a few years ago. (My cholesterol ratio is still very good, and my blood pressure isn't worrisome. It's just HIGHER than it was.)

So speak to me.
Are you 40-50+ women experiencing this, too?

The articles I read continually point to eating more protein in order to build muscle mass and avoid the accumulation of this belly fat.  I understand that I need to limit my intake of grains because, when consumed, they cause sugar spikes in my blood which in turn cause countervailing rises in insulin--which will, eventually, contribute to insulin resistance. Truthfully I don't eat a lot of grains, but I also eat very little protein. I eat mostly... well, fruits and vegetables. And I'm starting to wonder if in doing so, and not eating enough in terms of beans, vegetarian protein powder, eggs and cheese, I'm suffering from lack of protein.
What are your thoughts on this? How many grams of protein do you eat per day and in what form?

I'm also starting to think about strength work.
I hate doing strength work. I mean it. I really hate it. I want to run, swim and bike. I have a hard enough time getting in those workouts! But I think my performance in all three disciplines has plateaued substantially, and I'm wondering if really focusing on strength work as opposed to focusing so much on the swim/bike/run will help? Of course I've been told by my coach that it will help, but I want some of your personal experiences to fuel my willingness to change my strength training habits. In short, I want feedback from you. I want to know it's helped your PERFORMANCE in addition to your looks.

What do you swear by?
What is the best use of my time in terms of very specific strength work?

I just bought three books. I read about one on uber runner Laura's blog. (Laura has the most amazing runner's body I have ever seen, in addition to simply being an amazing runner. Of course, she is much, much younger than me, but I've never had a body like hers!) Anyway, this is the book I read about on her blog:

And these two books are books I found when reading about Stronger Curves on Amazon. 

Has anyone read anything by this man--Michael Matthews?

I plan to start doing strength work next week. I've already started to add more protein to my diet. (I find this hard because I AM worried about putting on weight. I need to lose weight right now, not gain it.)

I'm eager for feedback.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Get Back

It's been nearly a year since I've written. There are reasons.

First, I became sick of writing about training and racing. I could not think of a new thing to say about it. I became boring--even to myself. Part of this is because I was quite burned out of training and racing. So, I stopped training, and subsequently stopped writing about training. I did race a bit anyway. My conclusion is that racing isn't fun if you are not in shape to race. Racing without having trained is just very, very painful. There's little reward.

Second, I stopped blogging because I decided to teach again. I took four and a half years off from teaching. I didn't miss it at first. I didn't miss it, actually, for several years. But then… I did miss it. I missed the act of teaching, but it was more than that.  I also missed having a profession and being a professional. I missed immersing myself in a craft. I missed having a reason to read the cheesy YA books I love. I missed the rhythm of the work week. I missed drinking coffee as I drove to work. I missed saying, "I'm a teacher."

Because that is what I am.
I also love to run and read and do triathlon and train and garden and write and take care of dogs and my kids. But I think I was *meant* to teach. I'm good at it in a way I will never be "good" at those other things. I missed being very good at something and I missed being respected for being good at something. I missed that a lot.

So I went back to teaching.
And when teaching you don't want a blog out there that reveals you--a blog in which you have used foul language and admitted to resorting to unsavory urinary practices while racing and in which you indulgently and obsessively self-analyze.

You can still access that blog if you have permission from me. If you want permission just leave me a comment asking for it. But that blog is just archived writing now.  The IronMatron has retired.


This blog will not just address my adventures in training and triathlon-ing--but that's basically what it will be about.  I'm sure it will be self-indulgent and overly self-revealing in some ways--just as the IronMatron's blog was, but I'm hoping it will not be quite so raw and…exposed.  I suppose if I don't want to be raw and exposed I simply shouldn't have a blog. But I miss the tri-blogging community. I miss getting and giving support from people who love to do this crazy endurance stuff like I do.  Most of all, I miss thinking and writing about ME. I love writing and thinking about me. You know? I'm 44. One of the gifts of being middle-aged is that I'm so over pretending I'm not completely self-absorbed. It's a waste of energy trying to deny it, so I'm choosing to embrace it instead.

Plus, now that I'm teaching again I need a way to procrastinate grading papers.  I love teaching, but MAN do I dislike grading papers.


I'm thinking about all the awesome racing I'm going to do this summer!
I'm really, really excited to do some racing, and to do it when I'm IN SHAPE. I am extremely sick of being out-of-shape. It's hard to feel superior in any way when you are as slovenly and lazy as I have been over the last year or so.  See, I'm self-absorbed AND I enjoy feeling superior. It's a winning combo.

Right now I'm in that awesome planning stage. Everything is possible! I'm not tired or sick, and the calendar months stretch out before me, so innocent and naked, just waiting to be filled up with hours and hours of training.

Of course, the job part does make filling that calendar up with training a bit challenging. I simply don't have the hours to train that I used to have. Also, working makes me tired. Also, I have a long commute. Also, I still have those three awesome kids and four awesome dogs and that one awesome husband.  Also, we are moving from one town to another over the next few months.

But in those very few hours that I have left, I plan to TRAIN!

Actually, I've already started training. But my efforts are a bit on  the pathetic side. Apparently when you take two years off from serious training it is not easy to just--you know--get right back at it. I remember in the days of yore completing 8 hours in a week of training was very light--a recovery week even. Now eight hours kills me. KILLS ME. I need hours more sleep and I start weaving, by Sunday, with fatigue. I'm hoping this gets better soon.

The two races I am most excited about are:

Yes, that is right! I am racing Boston in 2015. I qualified over the summer very surreptitiously.

AND THEN, I'm racing with Ange and Andy and a bunch of friends. I'm really excited for this event. It begins with a 1.5 mile swim, then it moves to an (approximately) 95 mile bike from South Berwick, Maine to the base of Mt. Washington, and concludes with a run/hike up Tuckerman's Ravine.

Doesn't that sound fantastic?!

I can't wait.