I spent this morning in the dentist’s chair having two (of a total of four) cavities filled. I told the dentist that I was afraid of having cavities filled because of bad experiences with oral surgery when I was younger — having 21 teeth pulled along with 2 years in a head gear and lip bumper and 2 more years in braces can do that to you. So, he shot me up with enough Novocaine to tranquilize a small elephant. Its 2 hours later and I still can’t feel my nose, left cheek and the outside of my left eye. When giving me the lecture on how to prevent cavities in the future, he told me that when I train I need to replace sports drink with water because keeping sugar in my mouth for 4, 5 and 6 hours is a recipe for more cavities.
So there it is — sugar strikes again.
The dentist’s comment about replacing sports drink with water also got me thinking about the adverse affects of sugar even while I’m training. Listening to a fantastic episode of Where We Live on WNPR, John Dankosky’s interview of Gary Taubes really linked concentrated liquid sugars to super high insulin levels which pretty much dictate to the rest of the body that it should store calories as fat. During the interview, Taubes made reference to a recent New York Times Magazine article he wrote (this is a fantastic article that does a great job summarizing all of Taubes’ work) in which Taubes set out in simple terms the fact that sugar, and in particular liquid sugar, makes us fat.
So here’s were I struggle. I want to be a fast triathlete. In order to be fast I need to both train consistently and improve my body composition.
To train consistently and make sure the hard days are hard (and to be able to execute well on race day) I need to train my gut to take in pretty massive quantities of sports drink, bars and gels, all of which contain enormous amounts of sugar. For example over the course of a 3 hour bike at an aerobic intensity I consume about 4 bottles of Ironman Perform, 1 Powerbar and 4 Powergels. That’s 105 grams of sugar and 221 grams of carbohydrates (which will turn into sugar albeit at a slower pace).
To improve my body composition, I need to pretty much cut out all sugar, because I have a super-sensitive insulin response. On weeks when I’m able to pretty much cut out all sugar (such as my rest week after Ironman Lake Placid) I loose weight. On weeks when I eat sugar, even if that sugar is consumed during training, I tend to not be able to loose weight.
I feel like I’m stuck. If I want to train well, I need sugar. If I want to reach my goal body composition I need to cut all sugar out of my diet. I know that I could limit my use of sugar during training but my fear is that it will cause serious problems on race day. Other than the very end of my marathon, I had no stomach problems at Ironman Lake Placid. I’m pretty sure that was the result of practising my nutrition over and over and over again. I don’t want to loose weight only to have to spend all the time I “gained” from loosing weight in the port-a-pottie.
I also worry that I’m becoming a bit obsessed. I have a Type A personality and I want to be able to control everything. The fact that I’m trying really hard to control everything and I’m not seeing results starts to drive me a little crazy. I’m really not sure I know what the solution is. I do, however, know that no matter what I do or what I advocate for, I won’t ever be doing anything like this.