So in this article I wanted to strip it back to basics and talk little bit about what life is like as a bilateral above knee amputee and why it’s so important to lead a healthy lifestyle and fuel your body properly.
Now one of the biggest things that most people don’t realise about being a double above knee amputee is that it takes between 300 and 500% more energy to do anything than it would for an able-bodied person which is why nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are so important. If you woke up in the morning and spent the entire day jogging around from one place to the next instead of walking, if while you were stood still you were jogging on the spot, and if you wore a weighted vest when you were doing things like get up off the floor or standing up from a chair that’s pretty much the same level of energy that it takes for me to get through a normal day as a full-time prosthetic user. As a bilateral amputee I effectively have to live every day of my life like an athlete if I want to get the very most out of it and achieve all of the things and I want to achieve. The day that I realised this was the day that my life started to change for the better.
Before I was injured I used to eat pretty much whatever I wanted whenever I wanted because I knew I could just go & run it off or work it off in the gym. After I was injured my mentality remained the same with respect to my diet and it had a hugely detrimental effect on my initial recovery & caused me to gain a lot of unwanted weight. After meeting lots of other amputees & discovering the facts and figures about energy consumption, how hard it was going to be to become a full time prosthetic user and after getting tired of always being tired I decided to make a change and started proactively looking into ways to change my diet to suit my needs & the needs of my body.
The first thing I had to do was lose the weight I had put on because of a bad diet and being confined to a wheelchair so I quite simply reduced the amount of junk food I ate, cut my carb intake and eliminated alcohol. I did what I could in the gym from my wheelchair and as the weeks and months past the weight dropped off. As I trimmed down it also took less energy for me to walk because I wasn’t carrying around so much excess weight. After about a year of going backwards and forwards I reached a weight which I found to be optimal to my lifestyle. Now that I had reached a good weight and things were getting easier I had to find a way to tweak my diet to maintain what I had achieved whilst also trying to move forward.
The main changes I made were to eat 5 to 6 meals a day and to eat little and often rather than three large meals as I found through research & trial and error that eating big meals took a lot of energy for my body to digest and I needed all the energy I could get. Eating little & often also helped to maintain my metabolism & give me a steady energy release throughout the day. I also found it extremely beneficial to take the rights types of supplements. Even though I was eating well because of the constant demands on my body there was still a short fall in certain areas (like there is in all of us) & so I did my research & started to plug that gap so my body was getting everything that it needed.
After quite some time in rehab & recovery I got to a point where I was fully independent & happy with where I was & so it came time to start re-introducing things into my life that I did pre-injury which to this point I had only dabbled with. The main thing I re-introduced was training within a gym environment (something that I’ve loved to do from an early age). Now adapting my training, figuring out how to target muscles areas & trying to understand how to get results is a whole other story on its own which I will save for another time but one of the main challenges of getting back into some sort of training routine was that now my body was screaming out for even more nutrition so I had to take another look at my diet & nutritional intake & figure out how I could train & see results but still have enough energy to handle that 300-500% more energy demand my body had just to get around after the training was over.
Now I’m not an expert, I’m not a nutritionist, I did seek advice but only really minimal advice & I just started listening to my body to see what it needed. I’ll be honest and say that for quite sometime I got it wrong, I looked at various plans, programs & advice & every time I decided on one I went at it full steam ahead & was strict to the letter. A lot of the time it didn’t work, in fact sometimes it had a negative affect which for me was extremely frustrating but it was because I was forgetting that my body doesn’t work like everyone else’s & its not really ever resting (except while I’m sleeping) and so I started to ease up a bit & listen to my body, I mean after all I’m not a professional body builder who’s lively hood depends on being in top shape all year round, yes this was about trying to look good but it was really about functionality as an amputee.
After lots of trial & error I think I’ve now found a happy medium. I do have a good routine like I said where I eat 5-6 (and sometimes 7) times a day (of nutritious food) so I’m not ever really hungry, I don’t count calories, I always try to stay hydrated & take on board BCAA’s whenever I can, I like to have a high protein diet but carbs are not my enemy & on Fridays me & my family enjoy what we’ve dubbed ‘Fat Boy Friday’ which is effectively a cheat day where in the evening its game on with whatever we really want (my favourite has to be Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice-Cream).
It has taken me sometime & some discipline to get to this point in fact I’ve probably spent about 2 years trying to figure this all out but the benefits have been worth the struggle. I can now get around all day with enough energy to get by, I enjoy each day by not being overly strict with too much, I am back in the gym training & enjoying that feeling that comes with a good workout & I’ve learnt a lot not only about nutrition but also about my body & how to get it to perform at its best.
The key thing to take way from this is that everybody is different not only in how their bodies work but also how they live their life. If your job involves you being sat at a desk all day your going to want to eat & train differently than if your job involves you being active & working outside where you’ll be burning more calories. Do your research & look into eating habits & workouts that will work for you, implement it into your life & don’t be afraid to tweak it a little. Listen to your body & see what its telling you, make small changes & see what happens, when the small changes work stick with them, when they don’t then ditch them & slowly develop routines & habits which are most effective not only to your physical wellbeing but also to your metal wellbeing. There’s not much point in having a killer body that looks good if your constantly miserable trying to maintain it & everyday feels like a struggle, believe me when I say that because I’ve been through that process several times myself.
Oh & lastly don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve recently asked for guidance from a friend who is an international fitness model because he knows what it takes to be in top shape. If you have no idea where to start then look at getting a customised meal plan/workout plan created for you & when you do don’t look at it & say “I’m not spending that much on a meal/workout plan” because your not ‘spending’ anything, you’re investing in your health & in yourself….
And on that note I’m off to the gym for a leg workout! Yes I do train them and yes I will be blogging soon about why.
Have a great week
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