Since it is getting close to v-day I thought I would talk about the heart. Last night in my medical terminology class we discussed the cardiovascular system. As my teacher was lecturing about the chambers, path of blood flow and heart problems I was brought back to graduate school. My cardio phys class was 4 hours long (6-10pm) on monday evening. It was my first semester of grad school and the class was intense! However, I really started enjoying my marathon training (not a triathlete at the time) when I started taking that cardiovascular physiology class. I just think it is so cool how the heart responds to exercise and with training. There are so many physiological changes with training! I think we (me included) often forget the meaning behind training. Too often we train to get faster, get stronger, lose weight or gain power. But in our task of trying to reap the benefits quickly and becoming disturbed and bothered if we don't see those changes over night, we forget that the heart is undergoing stress on a daily basis in order to give us our desired results. Therefore, when expecting so much from the heart, do we give it the love that it deserves?
For example, think about your nutrition. You exercise every day but you may indulge in high fat foods. Nothing like real ice cream, cheese on everything, fatty meat and processed treats to replace those calories burned during training. Although a little of a healthy version of your treat is recommended, some people choose a high fat diet because of the way they look on the outside. Since you look slim and lean on the outside, there is nothing wrong with choosing high fat food on a daily basis, right? WRONG! Even if you watch your calories to control your weight, but choose high fat foods which keep you full and satisfy your cravings, you have no idea what is going on in the inside of your body. Foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat may contribute to heart disease. Although your exercise routine is strengthening your heart, there is plaque forming on your arteries which is decreasing the blood flow and increasing your chance for a heart attach or embolism (clot which travels). Although fat is necessary, be sure you are incorporating good sources of fat such as olive oil, nuts (choose unsalted, almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts or soy nuts), avodados, olives, part-skim cheese, low-fat (skim or soy preferred) milk, peanut butter (natural), lean meats, veggie meat and fish-to name a few. Also try to choose healthy butter options (Smart Balance) and try to cook w/ olive oil when cooking veggies (absorb vitamins). I wouldn't be surprised that there are many fit athletes out there who look great in spandex and a wetsuit (can't get any sexier than that!) but choose to have a high fat, calorie controlled diet which increases cholesterol levels (bad LDL increases, good HDL decreases) and clogs the arteries. You may not notice any benefits now but by incorporating a heart healthy diet to your healthy exercise routine you will increase your longevity..and time in triathlons/multisport (the real reason why you focus so much on your nutrition, right? :). If you cook at home you can 100% control what you are eating and you are aware of your nutrition at each meal and snack. I eat out 3-4 times a month, with maybe 1 of those being a restaurant and the other times being Moe's (I love the salad w/ beans, lettuce and tofu), Panera (I love the Orchard Harvest salad, dressing on the side w/ a whole grain baguette) and Village Inn (omlette and whole grain pancakes after a hard workout w/ Karel). Even though I am busy, I find foods which are natural, wholesome and easy to prepare. When I have time I cut up veggies and keep in the fridge and when I am short for time, I can never go wrong with an omelete, stoup (I make my own soup/stew and throw everything into a bowl w/ water and seasonings), a hearty salad or veggie burger sandwich.
I came across two sites on fast-foods which would be great reading. Remember that FAT is GOOD for you. Be sure you are choosing the right kind and you can greatly improve the health of your heart, in addition to staying full throughout the day.