Posts Tagged ‘over-training’
After suffering an intense bought of stomach pains, cramps, and intestinal distress due to a “non-constipating gentle” iron supplement on Monday night… I’ve been re-reading everything I can about vegan iron sources and blood building.
I found the article bellow on a website called In a Vegetarian Kitchen. It’s an interview with Brendan Brazier, the vegan triathlete and author of one of my favorite books: The Thrive Diet.
The book is filled with great recipes and advice that I use often as a resource. He has some great recipes and really advocates gluten-free eating.
I agree with the underlying principles that Brazier presents, especially his explanation of stress.
I talk about the cummulation of stress often with my athletes. It’s not just stress from training that takes a toll on the body, but all types: nutritional (from eating the wrong foods or not enough), emotional (from work or relationships), and environmental (from toxins and polluntants in both our homes and the outdoors). Basically, the idea is that the system is overwhelmed by the sum of all these types of stress… and you can’t handle enough good stress if you are up to your neck in bad stress. This is why it’s nearly impossible to have a great workout or race after a devasting breakup, or at the end of finals week.
Check out the link bellow for Brazier’s tips on vegan eating as an athlete:
I feel that my situation was pretty typical of what a number of female athletes go through. I was prescribed Ortho Tri Cyclen* when I was 17 because I hadn’t had a period for more than two years. Not wanting to put anything artificial in my body and being scared about the hormones, I didn’t actually start taking the pills until I sustained a stress fracture in my foot during my freshman cross-country season at college.
After the fracture, a doctor convinced me that it occurred because my bone density was low. He said my bones were suffering because I didn’t have periods. This was the case because the absence of menses meant that my body didn’t have enough estrogen… and estrogen was the key to calcium being absorbed by my bones. He told me that my estrogen was low because I ran so much. And he said all this could be corrected by taking the birth control pill because it would supply my body with artificial estrogen that would keep my bones strong.
The Female Athlete Triad- of disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis- was a relatively new buzzword ten years ago and doctors, trainers, and coaches were quick to jump to the conclusion that the birth control pill was the easiest, quickest-fix band-aid solution to the most bothersome part of it. I wish that I could say that as a community, sports medicine has made tremendous progress – that doctors, coaches, and trainers know a great deal more about how to address these situations with their athletes, but I don’t really believe it’s much better. Birth control pills are more than ever being prescribed to young athletes (and non-athletes alike) as a quick-fix solution to problems that require a much deeper and more comprehensive look at the whole system.
When I look back at my own situation, I realize that the Doctor made a lot of assumptions in his hypothesis. First, he assumed that my stress fracture was due to having low bone density, though he never measured the density of my bones. In reality it was my training that changed significantly – I had gone from running maybe 40 miles per week on dirt roads in high school in Colorado to running 70+ miles per week in college mostly on pavement.
The other reality about my situation was that running or body fat percentage wasn’t the cause of my amenorrhea. I was always a very active teenager and a “late bloomer.” I played 3-4 varsity level sports during high school. I only had a couple “regular periods” when I was 15 years old and they ceased when I left to be an exchange student in southern Brazil. In Brazil I wasn’t allowed outside of the house alone. It was, by far, the most sedentary I have ever been at any time in my life. And like all exchange students, I gained a few pounds. And yet this is the time in my life when my periods stopped. When I returned from Brazil, I embarked on a 30-day wilderness education course backpacking across Colorado’s San Juan Range. But still my cycle didn’t return.
Over the years I stopped taking birth control twice for several months at time to see if my period would return on its own. Each time I noticed a marked improvement in my mood and digestion, but each time a friend or doctor encouraged me to go back on the pill because I needed it for my bones. I remained on a mono-phasal birth control pill until the age of 25. At that point, my digestive problems and allergies were so bad that I wanted to try anything to alleviate the situation. I read as much as I could find on the subject, scheduled a bone density scan that came back on the low side of normal, and quit the pill for good. It was a liberating feeling!
Eventually, about 7 months later, my cycle returned naturally for the first time in over 10 years. For the first year or two it was not consistent- some months it wouldn’t come, some months it would only last a day. However, the overall trend was one of progress.
Acupuncture has been the single most helpful tool for me in finding hormonal balance and regulating my periods. I highly recommend it!
1. Foot Strike Hemolysis—red blood cells are destroyed by runners’ feet pounding on the ground. You literally squish them as you strike the ground. This loss can be even more intense at altitude.
2. Sweat & Urine—small amounts of iron are lost in sweat and urine and these amounts can add up over time and worsen in hot weather.
3. GI & Menstrual Bleeding—small amounts of iron are lost due to bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract that is common with intense training/racing, while larger amounts can be lost through a regular menstrual cycle. If your cycle is causing you to lose more significant amounts of blood due to an extended length, heavier flow or increased frequency, you should report this to your doctor so that she can try to find the cause.
4. Low Iron Intake—runners who follow the traditional high-carb/low-fat endurance diet often do not consume much red meat, which is the best absorbed source of dietary iron. Many runners also tend to under eat in an effort to maintain an artificially lower weight. There is evidence that this type of calorie restriction lowers metabolic functioning and over the long term may lead to a sluggish thyroid or hypothyroidism.
Hematocrit— the percentage of red blood cells in the blood
Ferritin— the body’s stored iron (primarily in bone marrow, liver, and spleen)
Iron-Deficiency Anemia—clinically low hemoglobin or hematocrit levels
(B12 deficiency can cause another type of anemia, more common in vegetarians than meat eaters because B12 is difficult to get from a vegan diet)
Iron Depletion—low ferritin levels (for running purposes 30)
What exactly is ferritin again?
For one thing, different people seem to require different levels to feel good. One athlete may perform best as long as her ferritin is over 40, while another may require double. When fine-tuning for performance enhancement, it is best to track ferritin levels over time, that way you can get a baseline level of what might be normal for you. Unfortunately, few people think to go in for blood tests when they are feeling fine. Some sports medicine docs and coaches like an athlete’s ferritin to be above 100. It is commonly accepted in the running community that a score under 30 means you should be pumping some iron into your system, in whatever form necessary.
Serious female runners should have their iron levels checked a minimum of twice (preferably four times) per year. Competitive male runners should be tested annually, and those with a history of iron depletion (or vegetarians) should be tested at least twice per year. To ensure consistent results, always have your blood tested before running (i.e., when you are well-hydrated), because dehydration will make your iron levels appear higher than they are. Again, the major iron status tests of interest to runners are: hemoglobin, hematocrit, red blood cells and ferritin. And, depending on how savvy your doc is, you may have to specifically request the ferritin to be checked. Unfortunately, it is still not a commonly performed test by many family practitioners.
More on iron supps and common signs of deficiency in another post.
On the bright side, the rain does make it much more pleasant to bake. It is hard to believe that we’ve had such a dreary August. It is usually the only consistently nice month in the Northwest. Classes start on Monday and most of the team is back already. They had their camp over the weekend and we have our first practice on Friday. And just like that *** my weekends are booked until Christmas break.
Yesterday we went out to Sauvie Island to run the loop, to celebrate the end of our Sunday running freedom. It was beautiful, but it actually sprinkled on us for a little while. To be honest, I love the sun- but I don’t live in Oregon to put up with 90 or 100 degree weather like we had last summer. Ian often laughs and says that I “have the narrowest temperature range he’s ever seen.” It’s true. I HATE being hot- I absolutely wilt- and I get cold easily.
My tolerance, however, has been so much better since starting the thyroid medication. The difference was dramatic and the first thing I noticed. I used to get COLD. REALLY COLD. It would seep in and settle deep inside and I would feel like I was going to die. I know that sounds terribly over dramatic, but I did actually feel like I would die. The only way to warm up was to submerge myself in a boiling hot bath.
I’m not saying that the thyroid meds turned me into a Polar Bear. I’m still not like one of those middle aged men who wear t-shirts when it’s 40 degrees and refuses to don close-toed shoes. The pills just took the edge off. I still get cold (more easily than most), but I don’t feel like it will kill me.
Actually, I’ve been lucky with the thyroid medication- I haven’t had to tinker with the dosage at all since starting it last November. I know that is pretty rare and my good friend has had a much harder time. I’m still holding out hope that the Celiac caused the elevated thyroid antibodies and if I remain gluten free for long enough, maybe my thyroid will self correct. I know it is a long shot and I’m not into the idea of going off the thyroid medication in the mean time, so I’m not sure if it would know to correct if I’m medicating it? Maybe that is faulty logic?
There seems to be a growing number of people who think that athletes may, in part, cause the thyroid disorder from overtraining and undereating. It is an interesting theory.
I’m also holding out hope that my long time battles with anemia will go away with my gluten free lifestyle. So far, it’s a no go…. but iron is another story altogether…