About 20 minutes ago, (as I start this…who knows how long before it’s finished and ‘up’?) I came back from my second exercise period with my new running shoes. I went up through the dry woods to Fox Pavilion, then turned east and walked (mostly) up over the “hump” of it, and down to the opening to the East Grass, angled across the corner to the diagonal trail *in* the dry woods that heads SW to meet the Fox Pavilion trail. Then went back up over the solid and broken rock to Fox, north again to the View Corner, and down the North Fence Trail to the creek. (Dry at the north end, as usual) Crossed there, turned into the shortcut trail to the Gully System, lots of twists and turns before it crosses to the west side of the gully system. South along the gully system and beyond where it turns abruptly into the main creek. South to curl around a little grove with chairs in it we call Fort Cedar because we originally laid all the cut branches across the gaps (but two) to help define the space. From there, twisty-turning back west to the main N/S trail near but not on the west fence, south into the woods and across Westbrook, and thence to Owl Pavilion, a few feet from the south fence, where I rested for 10 minutes in the hammock. Then started home, but through the woods…crossing Westbrook again (it has an abrupt turn from flowing mostly W to E, to SSE) then over the hump between Westbrook and the main creek, and across the main creek, and the twisting trail that then connects to the N/S woods trail that runs from the Entrance Meadow to the south boundary near the east side of the creek woods. Then east out of the creek woods on the main trail (South Fence Trail, though there’s a narrower one right at the fence, over the causeway where the old ditch exits our property, then alongside the north horse lot fence to the gate and straight in from there. Because I haven’t measured any of the trails across the creek with the distance measuring wheel, I’m not exactly sure how far it was, but when I used to ride my bike out to Owl and back, that was always 2 miles or a little more on the bike computer. The gully-system cutoff might’ve saved some distance (it wasn’t mown then, and it runs through a wide area of tall grasses–switch grass, Indian grass, and little bluestem..
I’m very VERY happy with the running shoes. And the store. (Ready to Run, on Far West in Austin) And the woman who helped me.
Saucony Mad River TR2. Left pic is the topside of the shoes, dark green with light blue tongue; right pic is after the first time on the trail…and after trying to pry the very sticky mud from the “dry” (!) swamp area from the soles. Amazing to come back from two miles (or a bit more) of hiking and running with my feet not hurting, and not feeling unstable on any of the surfaces. On Saturday I ran on the various surfaces we have, from solid rock (only a short stretch of that, and there are bits of spalled-off rock on it) to the mud, including “stable” gravel (doesn’t shirt, smaller pieces in dirt) to looser, larger pieces on a steeper slope. That was a about a mile on the trails I’ve walked/run most. Today I did a little over two miles, including trails I’ve walked much less often in recent years,. That let me hit every surface type and grade on the 80 acres and just like Saturday’s successful first time with these shoes, I felt secure in my footing on all of them. It was mostly walking as fast as I could, with stretches of running, but both Saturday and today I hit new records for how many steps before having to drop to walk. Today I did one stretch of 200 steps, the rest of the run segments ranged from 60 to 110 steps. Today I took a 10 minute rest at Owl Pavilion (we call our rain barns pavilions for the fun of it) because I had really heated up and wanted to cool off a bit before tackling a trail I haven’t done in several years. Such fun. Was tired when I got back but it was *good* tired. My lately-acquired Kerrits riding tights–the lightest of their warmer stuff, with just a bit of fleece in them–were perfect this morning as it was *chilly* for the first 3/5 of the round.
So…protein. I have thrived on a higher protein diet before, but kept being talked at because of it, and had finally given up even though it led to low energy, general achiness, weight gain and difficulty losing, and grumpy moods that resolved every time I had eggs for breakfast or a slab of meat. As I mentioned before, reading up on diets for people my age as I started this weight loss period, I found that research countered the usual dietician lectures about how we all eat more protein than we need. No. We don’t. OTOH, I’m highly skeptical of most of the diet advice online, from those selling their perfect protein supplement or weight-loss snake oil to the (I can’t help but think prissy) dieticians and the less than knowledgeable who want to condemn all animal-sourced protein as the cause of global warming because cows fart methane (so do we….and our cars fart methane and worse.) Yes, that’s oversimplification, and I could list and take down in detail all these, but…time is limited.
Among the groups in the US who are chronically short of protein are persons in custody–that includes those in jails and prisons (of whom we have more than any other country), who are ill-fed overall, plus those in hospitals (esp. hospitals run by certain flavors of dietician), in “homes” for the elderly and disabled, and the poor, who can’t afford (and may not have the facilities or time to cook) high-protein, complete protein foods. The government’s dietary guidelines, focused on keeping people from getting fat these days, fail to make use of current (or even recent) research into the actual needs of adults for increased protein intake in late-middle to old age; facilities that follow those guidelines are not feeding enough complete (and complete is a necessity) protein. The government’s earlier guidelines used broad categories (males, females, child, adolescent adult) without consideration of activity levels, age, health conditions, and activity, all of which–in addition to genetics–affect protein metabolism and thus requirements.
So what is protein *for*? First off, protein as understood in foods is not “a nutrient”. It is a combination of 20 amino acids, including the nine the body can’t make. Each of those amino acides IS a nutrient, and the amount of each that’s necessary depends on what proteins your body needs to make. What are some things the body needs to make? Tissues like skin, hair, nails, muscle, blood cells’ content (hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen around to enable body processes to work, for one. ) Parts of organs: the heart is a muscle. Most enzymes are proteins: lactase that digests lactose (milk sugar), for instance. Blood vessel walls contain elastin (protein) and tendons are made of proteins as well: collagen and elastin. Every protein has a definite balance and order of amino acids…and there are many, many types actively at work in our bodies, doing a variety of tasks that keep us alive. Most people think of protein in relation to muscle, but it’s a lot more than that. With regard to muscle, what’s needed to maintain muscle mass and prevent sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass common in aging, illness, enforced inactivity) are both the amino acids that muscle protein will be built from, and an initiator signal to start the process of muscle cell synthesis, a specific protein that starts the process. The body needs all the components in hand to start with; it won’t start building muscle until it has them all, in sufficient amounts, with the initiating protein (at a certain amount) . But it doesn’t stockpile amino acids for long–that takes energy, and a place to store them. Instead, an incomplete “parts” list means all the parts will be discarded to see if the next “delivery” in food gets the job done. If all the amino acids are present, but some are in excess or short, the body will discard the excess ones and stop building when it turns out of the short one. They stay around only a few hours, from meal to meal if meals aren’t too far apart, but best when all present at once after a meal, when it takes about an hour for the body to check the new inventory and get started on repair and new building.
Coming back to sarcopenia…old people metabolize dietary protein less efficiently, and typically begin to lose muscle mass in midlife. Some of that may be due to exercising less, but much of it isn’t…and the result of less muscle mass is that exercise becomes harder, and eventually painful, when the body is tearing down muscle and tendons fast enough (after injury, during illness, or during dieting to lose weight.) This leads to increasing weakness, inability to exercise, and repetitive injury, including falls and broken bones, with the attendant forced immobility. Losing muscle mass also leads to increased fat deposition when the relative difficulty of exercise and the general lowering of metabolic function puts the calorie balance out of whack…and that increases the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and secondary diabetes. Advice is usually given to avoid “fat prone” foods (typically those foods with high protein density), though more recent research has shown that eggs, dairy, and lean meats (which can include red meat) do not raise blood lipid values. And the elderly are often told to “be careful” and limit exercise to avoid falls and broken bones even if they want to move more. Exercise plans for the elderly (especially in settings like nursing homes) are based on gentle, slow, often seated exercises (which, to me, who’s not there, look boring and annoying.)
All experience is personal, and no two people (other than identical twins, maybe) have exactly the same body. But my personal experience has been that removing much of the animal protein from my diet resulted in weight gain, lack of energy, and discomfort when I tried to exercise. I like beans…but beans (and other vegetable sources) do not have the full set of amino acids in sufficient amounts; animal proteins do, and contain other important nutrients as well. Within days of raising my protein intake to that now recommend for older adults, muscle pain went away, and joint pain began to decline. The protein density of the food I eat has allowed me to acquire the necessary protein within the calorie limit that allows a steady weight loss…while building, not losing, muscle mass as a result of exercise. When I’m where I plan to end up, the need to lose a pound or so every week will enable a more liberal diet.
Which brings up “holidays”…the last element. I’ve had two food holidays–R-‘s birthday in July, and our anniversary on November 1…and Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Holidays are holidays and a feast is a feast. It need not be reckless but it can and should be a distinct difference from the everyday. So far I’ve had no problem (physical or psychological) with observing both a holiday and a return to the diet. We will have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (our family traditions, not someone else’s) and I’ll enjoy it. There’s a plan in place for the extra food, so I can get it out of sight and out of mind quickly. And then go out on the trails, weather permitting, in my new shoes, and see what’s out there. (Deer, black vultures, cardinals, some winter-resident sparrows, two species of wren, Carolina chickadees, spotted towhees…occasional coyote or fox, squirrels, a passing falcon…)
Have a happy holiday of some sort yourselves in this season…whichever and how many you like…and look for the beauty and peace that often seem like they’re missing but are merely shy and waiting to be found.