Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A day in my stomach's life...

Food, food, and more food: A day in the life of my stomach

Several people asked me to comment on my daily eating habits.  I should warn you that if you were expecting to read about exotic recipes or strange dietary habits then you might be disappointed.  Instead, I want to show you what I typically eat on any given day to compensate for the 3-5000 calorie exercise days. I eat to refuel and I eat in volume.  There is nothing fancy to my diet.  I don't cook much.  As my friend Will Sahlman once said..."I don't cook, I rehydrate" will see I follow his lead.  Most of my food consists of raw stuff that either exists in its edible form or gets dumped into boiling water to regain an edible form.   Here is a typical day in my stomach's life:

Breakfast 1

I usually get up at about 6:30 am and immediately brew a pot of tea.  Below is my 50 oz teapot that makes a superb brew (Earl Grey is my preferred flavor):

The tea helps me wash down a few (2 or 4) toaster pastries....

a banana or two...

and a couple of apples.

By the time I finish this small breakfast, I am ready to workout.

Breakfast 2

That small breakfast only holds me until about 10:30am.  Kathy and I reconvene in the kitchen for a chat while I make my second breakfast.  I eat all sorts of things but mostly this meal is filler.  A typical second breakfast is my oatmeal concoction consisting of raw oats (uncooked), apple sauce, raisins, flax seeds, apples (yeah, more apples), cinnamon, almonds, almond meal, and any other ingredient I have lying around that sounds like it mixes well with those essential ingredients.  Here is what it looks like after I ate about half my meal:

Many days, I am really hungry and the oatmeal just falls short.  I eat four eggs mixed with black beans and rice and an avocado.  Unfortunately, I just ate that a few minutes ago and failed to take a picture before I finished it.  Oh well.  Next time I promise to take a picture.  It doesn't look like much other than what my son calls a "dumpster diver" meal.  He has no taste.  I top off my egg mixture with a few ounces of Tapatio sauce - the best and cheapest hot sauce for my palate.

Lunch 1

I try to get at least one salad in me a day but there are a few days when I cannot muster the energy or enthusiasm to cut lettuce or even open the refrigerator door.  On those days, I go out and eat at our favorite Indian food buffet (Curry Mantra for those in the Fairfax, VA area).  My typical lunch looks like this (note the new pot of tea - sometimes I brew a second pot and have one cup and save the rest for the following day).  The bowl contents consists of mixture of baby spinach (about two large handfuls), one giant fistful of arugula, another giant fistful of butter lettuce (non-nutritive but I like the color it adds), half a bag of broccoli slaw, and some other thing like pea shoots or whatever the heck I can keep from going bad in our refrigerator that day.  I chop up all those ingredients so that huge bale of greenery fits into my food bowl.  Yeah, I'm like a dog; I have a big bowl and eat most of my meals out of it.

I also eat a few bananas, an avocado or two, and when I am feeling adventurous, I throw in about 30 medium shrimp or a who can of tuna (Tono - packed in olive oil for the extra calories and better taste).  I feel great after that meal but not too full to workout.

Lunch 2

After I workout in the mid-day, I tend to be hungry and thirsty so I quench my thirst with some electrolyte replacement drink.  My current favorite (Accelerade):
 tastes OK - not great but OK - and the most important thing is that it does not upset my stomach.  I drink a big cup (32 oz) of the stuff along with a few Lara or Kind bars.  My current favorites are these two:
These bars serve as filler so the fluid has something to buoy in my stomach.  After I eat this meal, I am ready for swim practice or whatever workout I left for later.  


I save my dinner meal for after my last workout.  Typically, I eat as much as possible so I can recover from the long day.  Last night, for example, I ate two packages of sausage tortellini and a jar of pasta sauce.  Here is what it looked like in the bowl:

I was so hungry I could have eaten two bowls!  Instead, I ate half a bag of potato chips (sorry Cheryl, chips are my friend).  And yes, I ate out of the bag.  Kathy reminds me that this is a bad habit but sometimes pouring chips into a bowl several times to just eat the entire bag in small waves seems like more of an obstacle than a practical solution for caloric restriction.  Here are my current favorite chips:

If I were not sleeping in a hypoxic tent at night, I would wash these awesome chips down with a beer (or two).


Here are a few oddities about my eating habits:
  1. I generally avoid dairy products because of allergies.  By avoiding them, I need to get my calories from other foods.  I use olive oil in just about everything I eat - save for my oatmeal because that would be disgusting.  Also, I avoid processed foods because they make me feel lousy and I want to be as healthy as possible while I train.  No sense of feeding my engine low-quality fuel; the tank might be full but the output will suffer.
  2. You'll notice I don't count calories and I never ration my meals.  If I am hungry, I eat.  My aim is to recover and eat reasonably well.  Losing weight is not a good idea and it would be very difficult to gain weight on my training program anyway. 
  3. I typically work when I am eating.  When I workout 15-20 hours each week, I have little time to sit in the kitchen for any period of time.  My work consists of talking to people and one person I talk with the most about work is my wife - Kathy.  We talk and I eat.  I also rely heavily on Google Hangouts to meet with my students.  They will all tell you that I typically eat while we meet.  Yep, that is my meal time.  The only meal I try to avoid working is breakfast where I sit with my son and we laugh together.  We are a weird family.  Rarely do we sit down for a meal together because we are all active but breakfast remains a daily ritual for Patrick and me.  We eat together and talk about the day.  Typically, we sit together at our breakfast bar, tell stories, read together, and laugh about whatever suits our fancy.  Here is where our daily breakfast takes place:
  4. My tastes change and my diet changes accordingly.  I almost never eat the same thing in consecutive days.  We eat out from time to time to keep our diets varied.  Indian and Mexican (cheap and traditional where available) cuisine comprise our exotic tastes.  
There you have it - my eating habits in a nutshell.  People ask me how many calories I consume each day.  I have no clue.  My aim is to maintain my weight at 165 +/- 2 lbs. and to do that with my exercise program, I suspect I consume about 5,000 calories per day.  I do not eat much meat and no dairy (aside from eggs), so my calories come from volume instead of density.  The most calorically dense foods I eat are potato chips (an entire bag only has about 1000 calories) and avocados (about 300 calories each x 2-3 per day is only 600-1000 calories); the rest of my calories come in small chunks of relatively healthy foods.  My mom would be proud that I eat my vegetables and fruits every day.

One final note.  Wednesday night sailing requires beer.  I drink a few beers while we relax on the boat.  Those beers are probably the only ones I will consume all week.  I gave up having a drink at night with dinner because I want to make the most of my acclimatization routine.  Alcohol only interferes with the process and it would be a shame to waste even one of these precious opportunities to prepare myself well for the climb.   Until next time....cheers! 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Week 7 Update: July 30th, 2013

Week 7 Update: Jul 30, 2013

All hail the thermostat! I reduced the house temperature to a chilly 65 degrees and the temperature in the tent finally got to a reasonably level. Yes, the fans helped but not as much as cooling the entire house down. In the near future, Kathy and I will be sleeping in our newly renovated basement where the temperature always remains about 65 degrees - cold for most but probably just right for our tent. Here are a few other things I learned this week…

  • Fatigue might be my friend but sharp pains in my foot are not! I skipped running during the latter part of the week and intend to eliminate running for the next few weeks until my foot and ankle fully heal.
  • Breathing seems to be more of a problem these days - not just for me but for Kathy too. We both struggle to catch our breath early in our workouts but after sufficient warm-up, we regain our breath and perform really well.
  • Battling some virus takes its toll.

Workout Progress

As I said last week, I planned three tough days and were they tough! Six days ago I posted my mid-week update where I detailed some of my trials for those days. Well, I heeded some wise advice and decreased both my workload and intensity to try to recover. I still felt a bit tired but no longer had an aching foot.

plot of chunk WeekEx

I did taper off my workouts but the figure below does not really show the reduction in intensity. Most of my workouts were just aerobic conditioning with nothing more intense than about 65% of my VOmax. It was amazing how rejuvinated I felt after those low-intensity workouts. Strange, huh?

plot of chunk DailyWL

My total hours are slowly creeping up. I am not at 115 hours since I started my blog and I figure, at the rate I am going and including several rest weeks, I should eclipse 200 hours in about 6 weeks. That 200 hour milestone will be ¼ of the way!

plot of chunk CumWL

Weekly Summary

I logged 21 hours last week. Whew! Yep, now I have a half-time job. I carried over some of Monday's workload to Thursday and I found that it was not bad. In the future weeks, I might try distributing the workload evenly throughout the week to see if the front-loaded week is truly a good thing. Consider this…

21 hours of working out spread over 6 days comes out to 3.5 hours per day. Last week, I put in three days over that total (4.25 hours on Monday and Thursday and 4.75 hours on Tuesday); the other three days were lighter (3, 2.75, and 2 on Monday, Friday and Saturday, respectively). I sure look forward to the lighter days after I load up on three consecutive days of 4+ hours of training. Unfortunately, climbing often requires 10-12 hour days but there is no need to train for the same number of hours. I always manage to muster the strength for those extra hours when climbing. While at home, I need to work and see my family.


I'm starting to hit my stride now. My productivity lagged a bit after I started sleeping in the tent. I am not sure why but I found it hard to concentrate for very long - perhaps due to the hypoxia but I think it was equally attributable to the steadily increasing workloads. Now I feel like every day is getting more productive than the previous. My foot injury along with the dip in my spO2 last week got me down a bit but I rebounded and am ready for more (just not more running for now).

plot of chunk Mood

Hypoxic Training

Last week was my first real setback. As I posted in my mid-week update, I had my lowest reading since I began sleeping in the tent. The 88% spO2 was a shocker to say the least. I immediately consulted my support team and they advised me to skip the tent or drop down to a lower level for at least a day or two. I skipped the tent on Tuesday night and all my vitals returned to normal the next day and the following day when I returned to 9000 feet (95% spO2 and a resting HR of 56 - still relatively high). The rest of my readings that week were much better with all spO2 levels at 93% or higher and my resting HR returned to normal at 43-45. A slight bump in the road was met with common sense and wise counsel.

plot of chunk Hypoxia

Updates for the week

Here are my updates for this week and a slight outlook for the upcoming weeks:

  1. Our electricity bill will likely go through the roof now that I discovered that only arctic temperatures in our house sufficiently cool our tent. I plan to test some other options rather than chill the house to 65 degrees every night. Any suggestions?
  2. Dan and I setup plans to climb in August. We will meet in Olympia and climb on Ranier. Stay tuned for more updates on our climb. Oh, my son Patrick is likely coming along - should be fun. He is really excited.
  3. Later next week (Week 8), I am taking off training for three days to sail a race with my friend Bob. We are racing in the Governor's Cup on the Potomac side. The race should be a nice break and ought to give me more time to appreciate the great outdoors.
  4. Swim practice ends for our GMU Patriot masters team today (Tuesday, July 30th), so I need to find another place to swim after today. I need to swim because I also plan to swim in a meet on the weekend of August 24th. Should be a good test of my fitness since I am competing in the 1500 meter free and the 200 meter IM.
  5. I begin hypoxic training this upcoming week just to see how things work. My first workout will be on Tuesday (today) and I hope to get in about 10 workouts before I head to Portland on August 18th. Expect a mid-week update on that aspect of my training.
  6. All work and no play makes Patrick a tired and uninspired academic. I plan to finish all the building projects on my house during the first two weeks of August. Working out and building are great companions. I also drink more beer because beer and building go together. About mid-week next week, I intend to post some pictures of my projects because they are part of my training. Remember, climbing requires fine motor control, frustration tolerance (forgot to add that to my list), and physically demanding labor. Combining my workouts with my building projects produces a reasonable simulation of daily mountaineering…without the beer.

Thanks for following….