Thursday, 31 January 2013

A Paradigm Shift: Nutritional Choices

After a lackluster cyclocross season and virtually no motivation to get on my bike after it was over, I decided to throw down a lukewarm New Years Resolution. Lukewarm for the fact that all resolutions get broken, and changing things up wholesale can come back to bite oneself as we will lose interest and revert back to our our old ways.

What better than to change up my diet nutritional choices* for 2013? Or at least for a few days of it at the beginning...

(*I hate the term "diet". Diets are meant to end so that a person can go back to eating what they normally ate once they are finished with their diet, and blow themselves back up so that they have to diet again. Such a dumb word.)

What I have been doing over the last 36 years has benefited my taste-buds. However, each year I have slowly added a bit more weight to my body. At this stage in my life, I feel like my metabolism is going to begin to slow down, and my weight any day now will begin to head north. I fear that at the current rate of consuming a high carbohydrate food, I do not want to let my health slip out of control. I do not want to continue to keep on competing at a high level and taxing my body with maximum efforts in races, yet my body is not burning the proper clean fuels to run efficiently--working in the most efficient way it can.

I think of Ted Matson who changed his diet last year, and went on a 95 km TT to win the BC provincial masters road racing championship. He has gone paleo--carb and sugar free. The guy is a beast, and is stronger for it. Plus he lost the carb and sugar fat-weight he was carrying. Lean and stronger, the man is a force on the bike. Talking to him about his experiences with his nutritional choices have confirmed that it works. Solana Klassen's blog has also been inspiring to read as she commits to a paleo diet.

For running, I have been curious what carb weight I am carrying around. Since 2009, I have gone from 173 to 185. Perhaps some is muscle, but post MYM50 I managed to balloon to 197--the most I have weighed ever. To look at myself, I would think that nothing is wrong, and that I look the same. But I do not feel the same.

Enter 2013. A concerted effort and focus on what I am eating. Just what am I putting into my body? How much sugar from smoothies, pasta, breads, fruits, candy, beer, soft drinks, etc, etc. The last three weeks have been all about more greens, more salads and veggies, and more meat and fat. Essentially an LCHF diet.

The last post I made had a now famous quote from David Brailsford of British Cycling and the DS of Team Sky. It suggests that athletes who push themselves in each training effort will experience the aggregation of marginal gains. This pertains to all aspects of of your discipline--technical, physical, metabolic, nutritional, physiologic, even equipment.

In December, I attempted the 10km a day for 30 days. Looking back I remember feeling tired, sore, nearing exhaustion around day 20. I managed to run the most kilometers of any month I have ever run. However, I did not feel really good until after I took a week off beginning on New Years Day.

I resumed my training on January 8th, one full week after my first run of the year. With that restart of training, I decided it was time to make a few changes to my nutrition. For the goals I have for 2013, I needed to change up my training outputs, and my diet. Not that I am on a diet of curbing the amount of food I am eating, but changing the type of food I have typically eaten for the last number of years.

Both my wife and I decided to begin a new approach for us, to what we put in our bodies. Thanks to her, she took on the 17 day challenge which is quite simply a version of a paleo diet: No refined sugars or refined carbs, and no alcohol. What was left to eat was mainly whole foods, fruits and vegetables, meats and fats. No eating any processed food.

I was not so strict. There were some left over Toblerone's from Christmas, and beer. But what I did was eat way less of those processed things, and all the crap sugars that I was putting into my body was no longer going in. I cut out my morning smoothie, and replaced it with oatmeal or an omelette only for breakfast. I stopped drinking french vanilla's and changed up to earl gray tea with a teaspoon of honey.

For lunches I have eaten nothing but a salad with a protein (turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, tuna), avocado, romaine or spinach, sometimes quinoa, and a variety of other vegetables. Post lunch snack is where I get some sugar in the form of a grapefruit, banana, or apple. Dinners follow the same formula, with a vegetable based entree. I have started to use coconut butter, and straight-up salted butter in all of my cooking, rather than olive oil margarine.

After 3 and a half weeks of this, here are some of my observations:

--I am less sleepy at work after lunch.

--My chronic Achilles tendinitis that I have had since 2009 is all but gone.

--I seem to be functioning better on the same amount of sleep.

--I have less gas/farts.

--I do not wake up tired.

--I don't feel a surge or spike then crash over the course of the day, and then need an afternoon coffee.

--I am not ravenously hungry when lunch time hits.

--I do not need to fuel as much on my runs. Long runs, like the 40k run I did last Saturday, had me take nothing before for breakfast, and then only two small bites of a clif bar, two clif shot bloks, and three bottles of water over 3 hour and 45 minutes.

--I can run a double day AM and PM (I have done 3 double run days in the last 3 weeks) and not feel that I need to have a snack or small meal after lunch, before the run. I ran twice yesterday (Jan. 30) and I was not experiencing a low for second the run.

I started three weeks ago with a weight of 186. I fluctuate between 178 lbs and 180 lbs right now, three weeks later. For the record, I weighed 174 lbs in 2009, and topped out at 197 lbs after the Meet Your Maker in September 2012.

What I have been reading has changed my perspective. A paradigm shift is happening in our house. My wife's father has followed a pseudo-paleo/Adkins diet for the last 10 years. I have seen how effective it has been for him.

Some things I have been consuming, for my brain, after combing the interwebs, are the following:

Is Sugar Toxic from the New York Times

Dr Phil Maffetone's interview on Trail Runner Nation

The Skinny on Obesity from University of California TV: this series is really interesting.

The blogsite of Sweden's Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt on low carb-high fat diets

I do not believe that a calorie is just a calorie.

What the human body does with that calorie is very different between a calorie of refined sugar or starch (carbohydrate), fat, or protein. The notion that if a person burns more calories than one takes will result in weight loss is proving to be a misnomer for me. It is, and always has been the type and quality of food a person eats that will determine their overall health. If a calorie was just a calorie, then why would professional athletes make be concerned about their nutritional choices and what they are eating. They could just jam back a bag of doritos and a big gulp, and have the same amount of energy that they would need for a 10km running race. What we do with the food that we put in our body and how we digest and metabolize it is where the real importance lies.

The saying that "my body is a temple" is one that I have thought of often while on this little experiment. Before this, I feel like my body was the inside of a movie theatre, similar to Silver City, only one that serves beer, perogies, more beer, pasta, smoothies, bread, bread, and more bread, stoned wheat things, clif bars and gels and shots. Lots of gatorade. Many of those types of food I have broken up with. Except for beer. You can stay for a while longer.

We have access to a lot of shitty food. That is just wrong.

Less sugar. Less refined carbohydrates.

More vegetable. More meat and protein. More fatty foods.

A paradigm shift has begun. All this to be the best I can, and get the most out of my body, and to get really old while being very healthy.

It's on.