Excited to share the good news that I just passed the ISSA-certified Sports Nutrition Specialist certification. It took months of lectures, lessons, lots of studying, a 638 page textbook, a 183 page workbook, more studying, over twenty quizzes, and one big, badass final exam.
I have a deep interest in learning how to fuel athletes for top performance, including the basics, i.e., maintaining the right macronutrients mix, as well as digging into the details, like getting into the nitty gritty of micronutrients, i.e., vitamins, minerals, specific amino acids, sodium, etc.
In the past, I thought if we ate enough spinach and nuts among other things, we’d basically get enough iron, calcium, vitamin C, D, and so on from food.
It wasn’t until 2014, a few months after I ran the Chicago marathon (unknowingly and completely anemic) that I went to the doctor to try to find out why I was so tired and weak during workouts or runs.
Blood tests revealed that I was severely anemic and probably had been for the previous two years or so. My levels were alarmingly low, and yet I just thought that was how I was supposed to feel while running long distances. I figured people get tired when they’re running, so I didn’t question it until my performance was laughable.
The last straw was when my personal trainer at the time had me doing assisted pull-ups and I could only complete four or five. I would just stop mid pull-up and start laughing. I couldn’t manage to get myself up and yet by all accounts, I should have been able to knock out ten of them easily. My trainer asked me to get my iron checked.
After my diagnosis, I started taking supplements on and off while staying vegetarian, but my levels didn’t improve. Maybe because of my veggie diet or maybe because I wasn’t consistent with the supplements, or maybe because of both.
After seven years of a vegetarian diet, my doctor asked me to start eating fish and meat again. Even after that, however, my iron levels still remained low. Not as terribly low as they once were, but low enough that the doctor insisted I take an iron supplement in addition to eating meat and fish. So I did, on occasion, when I remembered. I still had it in my mind that I would and should eventually get everything I needed from food and the supplement was mumbo jumbo. I’d heard that most ingredients in any supplement or vitamin leave the system before it’s taken in, so I didn’t think it really mattered.
For a couple of years after that, my blood tests would inevitably come back low in various micronutrients like vitamin D or iron (again), or I’d have a wonky thyroid number. But each time, I’d try to fix it with food and forget all about the supplements. I’d remove sugar from my diet and add in some black beans for iron. Ironically, after eliminating all processed foods from my diet, my thyroid number went back to normal, but the micronutrients still came back deficient.
It wasn’t until I put myself on a high quality, steady (meaning I took consistently it every day without skipping) one-a-day vitamin, plus additional vitamin D, calcium, and raw iron supplements, did my blood work – and more importantly – energy levels, recover sufficiently.
I never knew how good I could feel because I thought tired and weak was how everyone felt when running, until I was on a solid vitamin and mineral regiment. Now, I run long distances and feel strong.
If this is you, there’s hope. Of course, check with your doctor on what’s right for you. But if you’re feeling tired or weak, a blood panel might give you an indication of why. You’ll probably have to ask specifically for them to test for iron deficiencies. It’s not included in a regular blood test.
All of this is why I decided to specialize in sports nutrition. It’s important and personal to me.
If there are other people out there like me, who believe they can get all the nutrients necessary to perform at peak levels without vitamins and minerals or additional supplements but still struggle to do so, I’d like to share my story and the science with you.
Not saying my story is going to be yours, but the transformation in my diet has helped me perform at a higher level, recover faster, and I get to keep running without injury.
If only I knew this back in my thirties, but those days are gone.
Right now, it’s time to celebrate. 🎉
Stay healthy, runners. 🙏🏽