After 16 weeks of a new nutrition plan for me the results are compelling. Whether this way of eating is for everyone is a personalized choice. However, the results of eating quality foods, pairing foods groups, portion control and eliminating processed food cannot be denied. So what did I learn?
The Nutrition Plan I discussed in Part I & II has been enjoyable and sustainable for me. After an initial adjustment period to eating differently and working out menu options it has been an easy plan to follow. The question is – have I discovered the holy grail of how a COPD patient should eat? The answer is no. The reality of this experiment is that what I have eaten is based on some well-founded, scientifically proven, and widely accepted principals. Cut out processed foods, eat good quality food in moderate portion sizes and you will have a healthier body.
You can spend money on the latest fad diets and 12 week challenges but in most cases you will end up where you started. If you’re not willing to put in some time and research what foods, you should and shouldn’t eat then you’re wasting your time. Healthy eating isn’t something you try out, it’s a lifestyle choice and one that requires some willpower, especially if what you have been eating previously is junk food.
The unknown consequence of this new eating regime is how my training for the Gold Coast marathon would be affected. From early on in training it was obvious that the effects of this eating plan were going to be positive. I felt more energetic and was able to sustain that energy for longer periods in training. Add to this that every milestone run in my training program resulted in a personal best. There is much research supporting high fat diets benefiting endurance athletes and while I wasn’t on a high fat diet, I was consuming more good fats than ever before.
My goal time for the Gold Coast marathon was to go under 6 hours, something that I couldn’t do in the New York marathon. While the courses were different in their make-up, each had their own challenges. New York was difficult for me due to the varying elevations, while the Gold Coast course is flat but the last couple of years race day has been quite hot, and my airways don’t cope well with heat.
It was due to the heat factor that my training miles in the lead up to the Gold Coast marathon was 25% less than that of New York. In the weeks leading up to the race I was concerned that I hadn’t put enough miles into my legs and would fade badly in the closing stages. The one big difference between the two races was that I would start the Gold Coast race 6.5 kgs lighter in weight than I was in New York.
Final Test results
My final body scan results were very pleasing with a loss of 7.1 kilos of visceral fat, an increase in lean body mass and a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 23.2 which in the normal weight range set by the World Health Organization. This result was what I was hoping for, especially the loss in visceral fat as I was confident that getting my body to this level would be of benefit to my day to day life as well as my run times.
My doctor decided early on that it would be a good idea to monitor my blood while trying this new eating plan. In both rounds of blood tests no nutritional deficiencies were recorded and cholesterol levels were good.
Next it was off to the respiratory clinic to see what my PFT (pulmonary function test) and exercise stress test would reveal. My PFT results were similar to all my other results and recorded my FEV1 at just 27%. Unfortunately, my exercise stress test was abandoned after only 7 minutes due to an abnormality that come up on my ECG. The good news was that after close examination the cardiologist determined the abnormality was in the technology and not in my heart. The attending respiratory scientist did say that up until the point of the test being cut short, I was tracking better than previous results.
In a quest to receive some meaningful data into what the last 16 weeks had achieved I booked myself into our local sports science clinic to have my V02 max tested (VO2max is a measure of a person’s aerobic fitness) as well as my lactic threshold (The lactate threshold is a useful measure for deciding exercise intensity for training and racing in endurance sports). My V02 max results revealed an above average score of 38.9 which as a Stage IV COPD patient I’m quite proud of.
If you have read parts I & II of my nutrition experiment you have probably realised that from the early stages the positive effects have been substantial. As for the negative effects, there hasn’t been any. Race day at the Gold Coast marathon I was pretty confident I would better my New York time and run under 6 hours. To run 5 hrs 31 minutes was way beyond my expectations. The difference in the way I run now compared to 8 months ago is vastly different, I feel stronger, am less breathless when running and have quicker recovery times after training runs.
In my day to day life I definitely feel less fatigued and am able to squeeze more into my already busy schedule. It makes sense that by losing 10 kilos I would run faster and feel better, but it’s losing so much visceral fat (fat around your organs) and increasing my lean mass that I believe has made such a difference.
What can other patients take out of this
My experience has reinforced a long held belief I’ve had which is we don’t pay enough attention to nutrition. My medication I take every day keeps my disease stable as it does many patients, my quality of life improvements is without doubt a result to weight management through good nutrition and regular exercise. We are told as COPD patients that we need to carry an extra few pounds in reserve. Yet no one has yet given me a good reason for that. Is carrying a few extra pounds of fat around your vital organs a good idea? I wouldn’t think so.
I acknowledge that patients in severe respiratory distress can lose weight rapidly and need to put on weight. The question I have for healthcare professionals is how much different would a patient’s outcome be if they were taught about good nutrition and its effects when they were first diagnosed. I’m like any other patient, if I eat too much I become very breathless. Portion control is critical. I don’t have the energy I have because of any magic potion, it’s purely due to me being aware of the type of foods I need to eat and what I need to avoid.
Your quality of life as a COPD patient is determined by how well you take control of your health. I constantly ask question of doctors, fellow patients and anyone who I think can help me better my quality of life. If I carry to much weight I become more breathless, if I don’t exercise regularly I become more breathless, if I don’t take my medication I become more breathless. Ask yourself the question is your doctor an advocate of the path I have taken? Mine certainly is!