Meet Valarie. Valarie is not only one of the most genuinely beautiful people I’ve ever met, both inside and out, but she is also an incredible athlete. After high school, she went onto Stanford University, and after to professional athletics in discus throw. Although Valarie’s way of eating is slightly different to the one I advocate for, I share her story to show that every single person is different. Every body is different. Every training plan has different needs, and even professional athletes struggle from the Nutrition Confusion that you and I think about constantly every single day. When you feel like you have struck a balance that is MOSTLY plants – like Val has, that is when you can focus on better things in your day to day life. I am so grateful that Val has opened up to me and shared her story of finding balance in food & training. Plant-Based diets are just that – MOSTLY plants, and supplemented in small amounts with foods that you think are essential for your mind, body and athletic performance.
For so long, nutrition seemed like a black box to me as a discus thrower. Like a mysterious puzzle that the harder you tried to solve, the more impossible it became.
When I left the comforts of home and went to play college sports, nutrition became way more complicated when suddenly I was the one deciding what, when, and how much I should be eating. To navigate the new challenge, I found myself seeking out any tidbit of information I could collect from those around me as to how I should approach my nutrition. Recommendations from older teammates, team nutritionists, coaches, and friends all accumulated in my brain to create a messy outline of what I should be doing. I struggled with knowing in the back of my brain the classic stereotype that successful throwers have to be big in tandem with all the other random information I was gathering. It lead to an approach where nothing was concrete, yet alone scientific about my nutrition approach and I felt insecure in my own skin.
I would try to “carb load”, but I’d feel bloated and lethargic. I would try to consume high amounts of protein, but still feel drained for workouts. I would try to keep fat to a minimum, but I could feel my tummy growing thicker. I focused on trying to build strength and muscle in the gym, but struggled with seeing the number on the scale climb. All of these together, led to anxiety about food. Stress slowly started to creep in during meal times taking away the joy of replenishing your body.
I felt agitated, perplexed, and overwhelmed as to why it seemed so unattainable to find the magic combination of food that would leave me feeling both fueled for training as well as confident in my body. I constantly wondered… is it actually possible to have both?
Now at 25 and in my second year as a professional discus thrower, I finally feel like I am finding answers to the questions I have always struggled with. I came across a company called Working Against Gravity that I noticed other elite athletes using. I particularly saw women crossfitters sharing their testimonials and saw their transformations where their bodies dramatically changed into lean, ripped, machines. It was exactly what I wanted. Their approach focuses on tracking macros. My nutritionists sets my fats, carbs, and proteins and adjusts them during our weekly check in to adjust to my workout load. For me, it is perfect! I eat a predominately plant based diet supplemented with meat, am gluten-free, and cook meals I am really excited about. It is specific, yet flexible to give me freedom to pick the foods I love throughout the day to hit my numbers. Since starting I have lost 15 pounds, but I am training better than ever. Something I never thought was possible.
Nutrition is SUPER complicated and I absolutely don’t have it figured out, but it is so energizing to start making headway on solving the mysterious black box. My biggest takeaways so far are: find good resources to shape how you think about nutrition, consistency is essential, and eat quality, wholesome food whenever possible!”