Athlete On A Budget

I really like saving money. I like finding deals or simply learning to live with less. One of my favorite ways to do this is with food and cooking. Once I learned how to cook and make a few cheap staples, I’ve been able to both save money, but also afford higher quality items, such as organic or specialty things.

I have always enjoyed reading posts about how to eat well and not spend an arm and a leg. These resources were great, but I found myself constantly adjusting the amounts and therefore cost, because I eat a lot more than the average person. I eat like an athlete, so I taught myself how to do that while still living a frugal life.

For example, a normal breakfast for the average person might total 500 calories are cost $1.00, say oatmeal with milk and maple syrup or honey and fruit. For me, I add a few tablespoons of peanut butter and nuts to get myself to around 1,000 calories. It sounds like a lot, but three table spoons of peanut butter is 500 calories and depending on brand of peanut butter only costs you $0.20-$0.40.

I thought when I actually looked at my spending and eating, it would be a lot harder to stick to my budget, however on the contrary, the most nutrient dense and calorically dense foods did not have to be expensive. It was when I added extras like pre-made granola, superfoods or things not in season where the money added up.

I want to look at my day, break down the costs, calories and actually show how I eat like a plant based athlete on a budget.

I work at a job that takes care of my lunches and a snack or two, which is a huge benefit. However, when I am not at work, I eat mostly like what I would have for dinner, so the price is comparable. The following is what I eat in an average day, followed by the cost breakdown for my breakfast and dinner, which I eat quite a lot of when it gets cold.

Breakfast: oatmeal, peanut butter, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, banana

1/2 cup oatmeal (Wegmans bulk, organic): $0.62

3 T peanut butter (Skippy brand): $0.26

2 T walnuts (Aldi’s): $0.20

1 T pumpkin seeds (Wegman’s bulk, organic): $0.21

1 banana (brown from CTB, but let’s say Wegman’s organic for argument sake): $0.23

Total cost: $1.52

Total calorie: 1,052 (using my fitness pal app)


Lunch: Hummus, sprouts, tomato, lettuce, parsley garlic dressing on sourdough bread, small soup, pickles


Snack: smoothie with spinach, peanut butter, chocolate protein powder, banana, milk, ice


Dinner: oatmeal with peanut butter, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and blueberries, veggies with yogurt dip

Snack: chocolate ginger brownie


Through the day I drink water and coffee. Sometimes I have juice or kombucha if I have a longer run or workout that day or if I want it or it’s free (were throwing it away because it’s expired).

I would like to do more breakdowns of my daily eats as an athlete on a budget. It is as enlightening for me as it might be fun to read. I have realized that if I am smart with my purchases, I can afford to buy my groceries from my organic co-op, which I would like to do more often.

A few tips just in the beginning which as you’ll see, I use frequently:

– Cook beans with some sort of fat, or add it afterwards

– Use peanut butter willingly as it’s the cheapest nut butter

– Season rice as you cook it

– Bananas are the highest calorie and cheapest fruit, they also act as a natural sweetener

– Eggs should always be free-range, cage-free and organic, ideally local, they are cheap protein and fat but should be used sparingly as they are not as ethical or environmental as beans or nuts

Is this something you would like to see more of?

Would you prefer the meal breakdown or a grocery list?

Would you like both organic and regular prices?

How I Eat Cheap Everyday

I love food and I love to eat. 

I also am on a budget and although I do get a free meal from work, I like to cook some things myself. My mother taught me how to spend frugally and get the most bang for my buck. Watching her cook for us when I was young showed me how to make delicious, simple food.

When I went vegan, I ate tons of peanut butter and jelly. I still do this, but I also know how to cook which I am proud to say I now eat more nutritiously.

At the end of the day, I eat essentially similar things and use spices or sauces to change it up. However, if I am being honest, I could eat the same thing every day.

Breakfast: grain (with milk)+peanut butter, fruit

examples of grains: oatmeal, cornflakes, mini-wheats, raisin bran, bagels, bread, WAFFLES

Lunch: Salad/Sandwich, pickle/chips


example salad: bead of spinach or lettuce, tofu or beans, sprouts, tomatoes, peas, dressing

example sandwich: ciabatta bread, seitan/hummus, lettuce, tomato, cheese/avocado, onions

Dinner: Grain+bean+sauce, steamed veggies 

example: white rice, chick peas, tahini/avocado salsa/sauce (flavored with nutritional yeast, s/p)

Snack: granola bar+peanut butter

There are a few things I do not do, which is simply because I just haven’t added them into my budget. The pros of these things aren’t there for me:

Superfoods (I use protein powder very sparingly and it was sent to me)

Organic (I think eating fresh fruits and veggies is important, if I find myself in a financially enough secure position, I will buy organic, but right now I’m not concerned)

Out of Season Produce (no.)

Zoodles (not enough calories for the amount they cost)

Gluten-free (I am not celiac, and often these products are more expensive, so I choose not to buy them)

Cauliflower rice (I prefer my white rice just fine, and again, not enough calories for me)

Now, saying that I do not buy these things regularly does not mean I will not eat them nor never buy them. I am not black and white with foods as long as they’re vegan. For example, if I go to a cafe or restaurant and they put maca powder or spirulina in my smoothie, I will gladly take it. I also am always up for trying different kinds of pasta like black bean or chickpea, but I do not buy them frequently.

I have a few resources for all those people who want to start making some of their own food, but also mind their budget:

No Meat Athlete 5 Sauce System <—I USE THIS SO MUCH!

Healthy Eating On A Budget

16 Affordable Vegan Finds at Aldis

Naked.

One morning a few days ago, I was getting into the shower. I had some time before going to the next thing, so I paused and looked at myself, sans clothes, in the mirror. 

It’s been a while since I’ve done that, like months. 

I took a second and really saw myself.

I look different.

I am not overly toned to the point of looking unhealthy.

I have more cushion in my stomach and hips.

My boobs are fuller and do not just hang off my rib cage.

My love handles spill a bit over the waist band on my spandex.

I look appropriate for what I am doing. I look more like my mom (who is healthy). 

I do not look like I did when I was marathon training, nor how I did when I started running ultras.

I look fuller, stronger and not like I have a problem.

The training I am doing, the way I am resting, the food I eat is doing what it’s supposed to. I’m turning into a trail runner.

The thing is, the 15 pounds I’ve gained in the past few months have not really distributed yet. It’s still mostly on my mid section. But that’s ok. I sometimes get uncomfortable when my shorts are tight. I don’t have definition there. My belly sticks out.


I’m in love with this. 

This process. This path that has taken me so long to embrace. The changes necessary to both enjoy my life, let go of control and run well. 

I enjoy not having a routine. I enjoy spending time with friends and family. I enjoy impromptu bon fires and s’mores after a huge dinner of fried rice. 


I enjoy being cooked for by my friend’s chef boyfriend. I enjoy milkshakes and bagels at 3PM with my mom. I enjoy not worrying about training and just letting it come. I enjoy working around other people’s schedule and not making them work around mine.


I enjoy the feeling of being able to say this is enough. I don’t have to hit some quota of miles. I trust my training plan.

I now also trust my body. My beautiful naked, un-toned, strong, stubborn, silly body.


I trust you. I love you.

Thank you so much.

Eat Food and Don’t Think

Last week, I posted a couple shots of the cookies I was eating as an afternoon snack on Twitter. I have been loving the #restdaybrags threads as they help keep my focus on both recovering and resting but also ENJOYING the down time.

Let me preface this by saying that for some, eating big portions or without a reason (i.e. eating not out of hunger or to recover from a workout, but just because) can be hard. I won’t get into society’s standards for women nor the obesity crisis that is apparent in America today, but let’s just say if you focus on it too much it will make you question everything you put into your mouth.

Being in the vegan health scene can be like that too. There are a lot of detoxes, raw diets, low fat diets, fruitarian diets…the list goes on. I have gone down this rabbit hole a time or two in the past 5 years being vegan and at first you feel awesome and righteous…then the people in the movement really start to annoy you. You start to wonder why cooked rice is deemed “bad”. You start to hate having to pee every 30 minutes because of all the water in the fruit you are eating.

That’s not where I want to take this article, but it is a good reminder that there is a lot working against us when we want to enjoy food. So give yourself a break if you have anxiety sometimes over what you put into your mouth.


Anyway, I started getting involved in the #restdaybrags community really after I posted a picture of a large chocolate chip cookie I ate randomly during my shift at work. I had not worked out that day. I wasn’t hungry or starving. I didn’t think “I should have this because I am trying to gain energy for my next training cycle.” I simply was given an “older” cookie and so I started to eat it, and finished it.


I then did it again the next day. And the next. I also had them for dessert after dinner.

Yup, two in one day, for three days in a row. (there were about 12 old cookies…yup, I’m surprised too haha)


I was scrolling through Twitter and thought it would be a great thing to post to the feed. Even though I didn’t think about it then as part of my “resting”, it fit in with the group’s vibe. I got a lot of likes and retweets on it, which made me feel awesome.

I simply ate the cookie. I didn’t think about it besides how good it was. I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t emotionally lacking anything that the cookie was giving me. It was there, so I ate it.

I enjoyed it. The end.

After about a week of my either 1 or 2 cookie per day habit (it’s now a habit that I’m trying to break only because since now I’m eating the new cookies I have to pay for them…sad!) I stepped on the scale.

To preface that, I bought a scale the day after getting my blood work to monitor progress in that area. Putting on a few pounds didn’t sound like a bad idea then (nor does it now) as I felt weak and broken. I had been weighing myself everyday, but forgot for about a week when life got busy.


Anyway, I got on the scale and had gained 6 pounds in the three weeks since I got blood work. 6 pounds!!! That’s amazing right?

Not only had I forgotten I was doing that (trying to put on some weight), but I was eating food normally without judgement or thinking too much about it. When I stepped on the scale, I was elated that I had gained weight while not thinking about it.

In those three weeks, I ate the same amount of food as when I was training. I never felt like I hadn’t eaten enough during the day and therefore tried to “make up” calories by eating more for dinner and dessert. I never felt uncomfortably full. I ate when I was hungry, when something was given to me or if I just felt like it.


A secret to gaining some weight: it’s easier to eat 4,000 calories spread out in the day and have tons of energy than like 1,000 before dinner and then stuff yourself with the rest.

That sucks.

I guess the lesson I’ve learned this month is that I have the ability to just let food be food. I have eaten great food, good food and food that was just “eh” and it all was enjoyed, but not thought about too much.

Nutrition is important, God I know that’s the truth. But sometimes, don’t think, just eat.

Inside Tracker Results

Last Thursday I had my blood drawn and sent to Inside Tracker. A few days later I received an email that my results were ready and a link that took me to my personal profile on their website.

Read about why I wanted to work with Inside Tracker here.


Another email also came with comprehensive results that I could bring to my GP or health care provider if I chose.

Before I received the results, I decided to take an off season from running. I was feeling run down and my Achilles soreness just needed time to heal. My head was not into running and I was more focused on my job. It’s silly to train through that and do races. I want to compete well in races, so I cleared my schedule (after Flower City, which I decided to do with friends) and am taking a nice break from training.


After the race on Monday my results came. I am going to break it down into three categories: at risk, moderate risk and optimal. I will provide levels where appropriate.

At Risk:

The test confirmed what my body was already telling me: I am overtrained from trying to be 110% at both running and work.

My testosterone to cortisol ratio was very high indicating high levels of stress and fatigue: 21 units


Vitamin D: 20ng/mL 


Testosterone: high

Cortisol: 20ug/dL

Moderate Risk:

B-12: 470pg/mL

DHEAS: 183ug/dL


Inflammation: high


Iron: low


Optimal:

Glucose: 79mg/dL

Liver Enzymes

Creatine Kinase: 69U/L

Sodium: 142mmol/L

Potassium: 4.2mmol/L

Magnesium: 2.2 mg/dL

Cholesterol: good

Lipid Profile: good

Calcium: 4.9mg/dL

Folate: 23.5ng/dL

Take Aways:

Overtrained, high stressed, not absorbing nutrients.

My bone health is at risk due to levels of Vitamin D.

I do not have much expendable energy due to low B-12.

I have compromised RBC function due to low levels of iron.

My sex hormones are at a slogging pace.

My body is in a state of chronic inflammation.

I take the three supplements I am deficient in. This means I am either not absorbing them or this is not enough. Likely, it is a combination of those two things. When the body is in a state of high cortisol, it is hard to use its energy to metabolize nutrients. This is why in the later stages of a marathon or ultra, runners find it hard to eat or throw up. The body in a state of stress does not metabolize food efficiently.

After reading the bloodwork, I completed the profile indicating my goals. As of right now because I am not training, that means optimal health. Then, the algorithm created a list of foods to help both with improving my deficiencies and achieving my goals.

So, this is where I am at. Since that time I have taken the recommendations, which I will discuss in a future post as I realize this is a lot of information.


I am encouraged that before I got the results I was able to correctly read my body and decide to take time off. This test could not have come at a better time as I can fix this now, get to optimal health and begin training again.

Thank you for reading.