I'd consider myself a pretty healthy person and eater for the most part. I'm careful about the food I consume for the most part, going for organic when possible, and I'm a calorie-counter. However, this week, I've had a learning opportunity. I am learning that I need more education on my nutrition as an active vegan.
It all started this past weekend. On Saturday, October 9th, I had my usual "high calorie" day. It's the one day a week that I allow myself freedom to eat some extras. Unfortunately, I got sick just after lunchtime. I had gone to Starbucks for my weekly soy drink and despite my always being very vocal about my allergies to dairy (before I went veg, I was already lactose-intolerant, so even the slightest bit in my food gets me sick), dairy became involved in my cinnamon dolce frap. Within an hour or so after finishing the drink, I was sick to my stomach and the remainder of my day was anything but enjoyable.
Forwarding to Sunday. It was race day, and thankfully, I was feeling better by the time I got up to get ready for the event. I ate my usual oatmeal and cup of almond milk of a breakfast and headed out for the race. Since I got sick the day before, I didn't get a chance to pick up a Vega sport drink packet, which I like to drink before races when I can. So, the race began for me sans one. Once the race was over, I had a slice of an orange and a banana as well as a bottle of water. About an hour later, I ate a Larabar. Then, proceeded to continue my day as usual with my normal caloric intake and what have you.
By the time I arrived at work the next day, I was drained. My body was telling me that it was tired. Figuring it was simply the race from the day before, having exerted more energy, I figured I'd be okay by the next day. Wrong. By Tuesday, I was still feeling as though I was not sleeping, when in fact I was getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night. I had already cut out my morning workouts since the race, so what was the deal? When I got home from work on Tuesday night, I knew this was more than simply being tired. Something was wrong. But, what?
Upon waking up on Wednesday morning, after a good 8 hours of sleep, I still felt as though I had been hit by a big rig truck. I felt as though I hadn't slept at all. That's it, I thought to myself, I had to do something. I needed to figure out why I was feeling so lethargic. So, I made a call to my family doctor. Thankfully, my doctor had an opening a few hours later and I would be able to talk to her.
Upon seeing my doctor, she asked me a lot of questions about my recent activity and schedule. My mom came with me, so she was a bit of help on a few things which was nice. She did an exam on me and ordered some blood work, since I mentioned concern on my iron levels and such. The doctor believed that the events of the past weekend were to blame. She informed me that I was more than likely burned out due to Saturday's illness and overdoing it at the race on Sunday. Not giving myself proper pre-race and post-race nutrition definitely didn't help matters. I agreed that I needed to better educate myself on vegan nutrition some more since it seemed I may not be getting enough when I workout. After losing weight and getting healthy, I've been very diligent on calorie-counting. This is fine, but I need to be adding more when I push myself at the races.
Last night, my doctor called me with most of my blood work results. The tests showed that I was dehydrated and even had low blood sugar (this after I had eaten breakfast about 4 hours prior to getting blood drawn). Still waiting on B12 and maybe one other result which should be in on Monday.
This situation has taught me that while I have considered myself a healthy person, I've got a lot more to learn about being a healthy vegan athlete. Even though I'm not running anymore, power walking and cycling can take a lot of energy. Now, my goal is to better understand my nutrition needs before and after working out, especially when it comes to races where I tend to really push myself hard.