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! 


  1. Seems a little light on protein.I would estimate that you might need as much as 150 grams the stuff.Nuts are a great source.A good sized handful provides 15 gms.

  2. Yeah....I agree. How about adding some fish and other lean meats to this. Not that I know much about conditioning, but it would seem a good idea.