This is a continuation from part one.
So the newly adopted pooch is eating raw and I’m thinking about food.
I had read a bit on the Paleo diet, then read “The Paleo Diet for Athletes” by Joe Friel and Loren Cordain. I am quite a skeptic about pretty much everything, so I continued to do a lot of research. Slowly my initial thoughts on Paleo being a knock-off of The Atkins Diet melted away. Matter of fact, the more I read, the more I started to understand that it wasn’t so much the Atkins Diet that was completely out to lunch, but the way that the adherents during its popularity applied the principles. In other words, fair concept, poor execution.
Sorry, but you aren’t going to lose weight AND stay healthy by eliminating all carbs but sucking down a Low-Carb Double Whopper at Burger King.
Coinciding with this recreational reading, I was doing research for a school paper covering the rise of childhood obesity, focusing specifically on the rapid decline of physical education and physical activity in general in our youth. Things started really clicking then. Especially when I started noticing that obesity rates started rising sharply soon after the publication of the “Food Pyramid” (right) in 1992. That was the first time that such an emphasis was placed on breads, cereals, pastas, etc., for the entire population, although carbs had been the focus for athletes for quite a while.
So the concepts of the Paleo Diet made quite a bit of sense to me. I didn’t buy into it whole-hog (pardon the pun), but decided to give it a try. The timing was perfect, since I was deploying to Iraq. I could try it without impacting the family and decide for myself. Matter of fact, Goddess didn’t even know I had changed how I was eating until about four months into my deployment. By then I had already experienced some pretty impressive changes. I didn’t have a reliable way to measure my weight and no way to measure body-fat, but I could easily see the results in the mirror.
As I read and ingested more on the Paleo Diet, there were still some foods deemed “off-limits” for unexplained reasons (that I could find). Which led me to do even more research (hey, I needed something to fill my time in Iraq when I wasn’t working or running). Slowly I began to understand more, which also led me into reading up on things such as glycemic indices and ketosis.
But all of this didn’t dissuade me from enjoying an occasional chocolate chip cookie or slice of carrot cake.
Then one day I stumbled across this post on Mark’s Daily Apple, the blog of Mark Sisson. It opened my eyes to Primal. Mark, way back when, raced marathons and long-course triathlons. In other words, not much different than you or I. So I spent a lot of time reading through the archives, where I saw a huge overlap between Paleo and Primal. There were differences, especially Mark’s insistence that physical activity should be anaerobic for short periods of time, completely eschewing the endurance sports that he participated in earlier. But he acknowledges that there are those of us that do. And Friel’s work with Cordain acknowledges the unique needs of endurance athletes, especially during and immediately post training/race.
In response to part one of this post, Tea made a very good comment – “Although, I really don’t like to tag foods as good or bad because it sets alot of people of for failure.” That is one thing that both Paleo and Primal camps do is tag certain foods as good or bad. One thing I do like about both is that they give the medical and chemical reasons as to why a certain food is on the list. Turns out that many of the foods on the “bad” list have a tendency to block the absorption of critical components of food, specifically proteins, glycogen, vitamins and minerals. As I researched this more and more, it all started making even more sense.
As I spent the summer in Iraq eating (OK, I did just a bit more than that), I started really paying attention to what everyone was eating. I wasn’t sneering at anyone, just observing. I noticed that, as a whole, we were eating beige. Everything was either fried or battered. There was very little color. Now Goddess and I had always strived to eat colorful meals, but there was always a pile of pasta or something similar on the plate. No more.
So sticking with the concepts of Paleo and Primal while training last year, I was comfortably able to complete my 40-miler. Fueling was key during the run, but in my mind, the more important fueling occurred during my training of the previous months, especially the post-run recovery meals. But the real proof was in the pudding:
1 May 2008: 204lb / 26.2% BF / Waist 35” ———————-> 20 Nov 2008: 182lb / 18.2% BF / Waist 31”.
Those results really aren’t too amazing. Over the years I’ve watched plenty of folks come back from a deployment 20-30 and sometimes even 50 lbs lighter than when they left. It’s not too hard to do while deployed. The trick is to keep it off; most don’t. I’ve been home five months now and while I’ve had little fluctuations, I’m still right around 183lb/18.5%/31”. My daily caloric intake hasn’t changed over the past few years, since I’ve been tracking it very closely. Matter of fact, my average daily caloric intake is the same now as it was last year as it was in 2007 when I was training for my IM-distance race. But I am 15lbs lighter than race day for the IM-distance race. The key has been the elimination of processed carbs.
Goddess can attest to the fact that I’ve got definition in places where I’ve never had definition, even when I was 15lbs lighter during my high school track/cross-country days than I am now.
The first few months of eating Paleo/Primal were interesting, especially during training. I didn’t feel either sluggish or overly energetic, as some have reported. Over the course of a few weeks my body started adapting to using more fat as a fuel source, instead of the steady stream of processed carbs that I had fed it before. I tracked my intake closely and made sure that I did not put my body into ketosis, which is one of the health concerns of the Atkins Diet. But I did notice that during and after particularly long and/or hard workouts, my sweat started smelling like ammonia. It was odd, but not worrisome as I learned that the smell was a result of my body switching fuel sources from glycogen to amino acids. So I made sure I upped the amount of fruits and vegetables I ate before such workouts. The smell went away.
I did notice that my daily energy levels started to level out. Gone were the daily post-lunch crashes after a carb-heavy meal. Now I may occasionally want a nap in the afternoon, but typically only after a long, hard training run or after a night of less than optimal sleep. Goddess keeps me up late most nights, you know. ;^)
Now I am far from being dogmatic about this. There’s nothing wrong with having a small serving of pasta once in a while, or a bit of rice with that sushi that I love. And the other night we were at a neighbor kid’s 18th birthday party, where I had a few Oreo’s and a piece of sheet cake. I just chose to move from having that as a significant part of my diet and I firmly believe that it’s made quite a difference in my health and performance.
And recently I read another book that all but confirmed my decisions – The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. While following the industrial food chain, centered around grains, Pollan points out many of the significant health issues related to our over-consumption of corn and the myriad corn by-products. I highly recommend giving it a read.
Anyway, instead of turning this into a diatribe, I’ll close here. I’ve got some resting up to do before this weekend’s marathon.
And some carb loading, mainly with fruits and vegetables, but I’m sure a plate of spaghetti will slide in front of me Friday when my mom and sister are in town.
P.S. Goddess found that she had to drop the cooking time of the Flourless Chocolate Muffins to 25 minutes. They came out great, especially with a glass of cold milk.