There are two questions I get on my blog more than any others: “How do you stay hydrated?” and “What do you eat?” But before I answer these questions, I want everyone to know that I’m not a nutritionist. What I eat as an ostomate athlete are food and drink choices that personally work well for me. I’ve done a lot of experimenting to figure out what's best for my body, and I encourage you to do the same for yourselves (ostomy or no ostomy).
Here's what a typical day looks like on my food plan:
Breakfast (Part 1)
A standard cup of joe in the morning. Peet’s Coffee, in case anyone was wondering. Not that I have strong ties to a particular brand, this one just happens to meet my requirements for coffee: it's affordable, it tastes good enough to drink black, and it has caffeine. Simple guy, simple needs. This paired with my first liter of water and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Next, I’m out the door for a morning run!
Snacks and drinks to go
While running or doing any other non-stop exercise, I always bring along a snack containing carbohydrates to help keep me going. Since staying hydrated is such an important part of my routine, I like to use an electrolyte drink mix that both hydrates and energizes me. I also bring along a reusable bottle with just water in it.
NOTE: some important things I learned about hydration.
- The large intestine is responsible for absorbing water from the food that is passed through it. This accounts for up to 30% of your daily water intake. (via Wikipedia)
- The main electrolytes I need to look for are potassium, sodium, and magnesium. This site briefly explains how the small intestine absorbs water using these electrolytes, and why they are important.
- The average person should drink at least 2.5 liters of water per day (per Mayo Clinic).
It would make sense for the average ileostomate to drink at least 3.25 liters of water per day, which is a 30% increase from what's normally recommended. But if I’m going to be consuming more water, my electrolyte intake is also increased proportionally. Plus, if you are like me and sweat profusely while working out, you’ll want to consider drinking more hydrating fluids. I aim for six liters of water per day, of that, over half will have some amount of added electrolytes.
Breakfast (Part 2)
After I’ve finished my run, I’m already 2.5 liters of fluid in. My second meal is something more substantial. Time to scramble...
- Bell peppers
- 1 cup chopped spinach
- 3 slices of deli ham
- 4 eggs (substitute: use two eggs + egg whites)
- Mozzarella cheese (small amount)
I usually saute the vegetables along with the ham in a small amount of olive oil. Cooked veggies digest easier for me. It’s important to chew my food well to avoid any issues with blockages. I usually throw in a couple of pieces of whole-grain toast with apricot preserves too.
Daily vitamins and supplements
Normally after breakfast, I take my first round of supplements, which includes:
Fish oil (3000mg): I take fish oil to help with bone and joint health, and because having the extra omega-3’s are good for me. There are a TON of different things that fish oil helps with. Placebo may very well be the main benefit, and it seems to be working fine for me.
Gummy Multi-Vitamin: The multi-vitamin speaks for itself, especially good for me being without a colon. In gummy form, it’s delicious and reminds me to take the rest of my supplements, which are far less exciting.
B-Complex (w/ vitamin C + Folic Acid): B-complex and Iron are highly related because Vitamin B can help Iron absorption and may prevent anemia. Being an ostomate, I always take Iron in liquid form or slow-release capsules for maximal absorption. I alternate between 45mg and 90mg per day.
Slow Release Iron (45mg): I have a history of low ferritin levels (the protein that stores Iron), even before I was diagnosed with Colitis. Ferritin helps your body increase hemoglobin levels, which is the protein in your red blood cells that carry oxygen to your muscles. This article goes into far more depth explaining the role of Iron and hemoglobin levels in long-distance running. The main point is that if you have low ferritin or hemoglobin, you’re probably going to feel tired and should talk to your doctor about supplements.
- Greek yogurt (1 cup)
- Peanut butter (1 TBS)
- Raspberry preserves (1 TBS)
- KIND Granola (1/2 cup)
- Trail mix (1/4 cup)
- Mixed berries (1/2 cup)
I choose Greek yogurt daily because I was told that having probiotics was good for gut health. The trail mix, which has almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and an assortment of dried fruits tends to be the most difficult to digest. Again, as long as I take my time and chew it thoroughly I don’t have any issues with nuts and seeds affecting my stoma.
It's usually a bowl of trail mix and fruit. I think it’s important to mention again that I have been constantly sipping water throughout the day. By this mid-afternoon snack, I’m almost 4 liters and 3 electrolyte mixes in.
After finishing my second workout for the day (which is typically core conditioning in the weight room) I make myself dinner. This is probably my most simple meal of the day. I cook pasta, adding in one big handful of vegetables and the sauce — it's done! Sometimes I do eat meat at dinner (usually chicken or fish), but if my workout consists of mostly cardio, I make sure that I get enough carbohydrates. I cook the vegetables slightly to make them easier to digest.
Everyone’s body is different, so I urge you to try out different things, do your research, talk to a certified nutritionist, and find a meal plan that works best for you.