My body has changed in many ways since I started running: I lost weight and I lost body mass (albeit not as much as you would think – more on that if you keep reading). This surely is no surprise to anyone. What I did not expect was that I would feel less tired, because I often felt tired – so tired!
Maybe I should have expected it, but I didn’t. I’d always had issues maintaining energy levels throughout the day. Even if I wasn’t doing any exercise on that particular day, there would generally be a time I’d crash (around 4 o’clock, does that sound familiar to anyone?!)
In the first few months I ran, it took me the better part of the day to recover. Over winter when I skied every chance I got, I didn’t feel worn out so much. I contribute this partly to the fact that I ate whatever I could get my hands on, but also because you aren’t really expected to do much after you’ve retreated to your accommodation and the wood-fire has been lit.
Winter ended and I started running again. A couple of things changed:
- My exercise routine
- My fitness levels
- My diet
My exercise routine
Not only do I (try to) run twice a week now, I am doing free weights and I play basketball and roller derby. You’d think I’d feel more tired, wouldn’t you?
My fitness levels
All the skiing and running I have been doing have obviously made me fitter. My body is able to cope better with all the exercise now because of that. A 5km-run isn’t as big a deal as it was a year ago (when I ran my first 5-km event!) My body is more efficient, because it’s carrying less fat and more muscle. My legs have actually gotten bigger in terms of size, so have my arms (from the weights), only my waste is smaller. Like I said, I haven’t lost that much weight, but the weight now has a purpose. However for the first couple of months after winter, I still felt exhausted after exercising.
The first thing which changed my diet was being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. My GP suggested I’d try the relatively new FODMAP diet, developed by a research team of Monash University here in Australia. One of the doctors involved, Dr. Sue Shepherd, describes the condition on her web spot as follows:
FODMAPs is an acronym (abbreviation) referring to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are complex names for a collection of molecules found in food, that can be poorly absorbed by some people… [When that food arrives in the large intestine t]he bacteria then digest/ferment these FODMAPs and can cause symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome include abdominal bloating and distension, excess wind (flatulence), abdominal pain, nausea, changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or a combination of both), and other gastro-intestinal symptoms.
This seems to have a massive effect on me! A lot of discomfort and even pain has gone, so my body has more energy for other things. I also think that because it doesn’t have to battle with these foodstuffs it can’t absorb and I’m eating things my body can digest easily, I have more energy for other things.
Another massive change in my diet has been replacing part of my water intake with Gatorade. According to my (almost) sport scientist bf, I need the electrolytes, salt and sugar in Gatorade to replace what I loose during exercise. During one of his lectures, they made the best sport’s drink ever, but and I quote: It would taste like shit. Gatorade has more sugar in it than is needed to serve its purpose, but it needs to be marketable; it needs to be sold – hence the extra sugar.
This has had by far the biggest influence on my energy levels. In fact, the first time I drank it when feeling drained and exhausted after a weight’s session, I felt instantly replenished. Literally, like you see in the cartoons, or actually, remember Mario growing taller in the video game after he’d eat a mushroom? That is how I felt, like I’m walking tall again.
The reason why I’m sharing this with you today? Because I did a weight session for the first time in two weeks yesterday, and I was exhausted. In fact whilst exercising, I already felt like I would fall asleep if I’d let myself close my eyes. The most important reason I think lays at the root of this lack of energy was twofold: namely being out of practice and out of Gatorade.
So if you are trying to get fit, but feel drained and tired, you might want to try out a couple of things. Don’t do it on your own though, get an expert involved. You might think you need to get rid of a certain food or need more or less of it, but you don’t actually now what else you’ll be missing out on if you just give that up. I’m lucky to be dating a sport scientist, so he provides me with a lot of help and support. Not everyone is so lucky, and this your health and your body – your most important tool in life – we’re talking about, and it’s worth investing some money in to not make yourself feel worse or hurt your body in ways which can’t be undone.
Having said that: go forth and excercise!
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Are you trying to get fit? How has it changed you?