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Strong start to the year!

January 2, 2012

I was planning to write a post about my New Year’s resolutions. And I’ll get to that in a moment. But first I need to share a fantastic first workout of the year. Tonight I was doing 8 x 500 meters on the erg, with 2:00 rest between. The same workout I’ve been doing on Mondays the last several weeks, with a little less rest time. I was hoping to just hold the same average speed as last week. But tonight my average was .8 seconds faster than last week! I don’t know where that extra power came from, but I hope I can hang on to it!

And on to the resolutions. My main resolution is to try a paleo diet, or as close to it as a I can get, for the month of January. The idea behind the diet is to eat the same as paleolithic man did: vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, eggs. Nothing processed. No grains, legumes (beans), or dairy. Strict paleo also means no starchy vegetables, but a lot of endurance athletes who do paleo include sweet potatoes and even an occasional regular potato. Paleo can be low carb, but it doesn’t have to be. Endurance athletes do need carbs!

Why eat paleo? Some people think it’s how we evolved to eat. I don’t really care what paleolithic man ate though. But there is a lot of science for some of the basic tenets of paleo. Processed carbs in particular do all sorts of nasty things to our bodies, and are probably responsible for a lot of the obesity today. But even “healthy” (e.g., whole wheat) grain carbs in large quantities might not be so good for us. Too many carbs causes sugar spikes and crashes in our bodies. And processed foods include all sort of synthetic ingredients. We know many of those ingredients are not so good for us. And we just don’t know what others do.

Paleo is very popular in crossfit communities. At my gym, some people are paleo enthusiasts, although certainly many do not eat paleo. I’m not entirely convinced about all the evidence and benefits people cite for paleo — especially for athletes! Our bodies burn carbs when we workout. But I’ve slowly begun to eat closer to paleo. I still cheat on rare occasions when I go out to eat or something. But in general, I’ve got rid of most of the simple carbs in my diet. No more white potatoes, no sweets, no white bread / pasta / rice; and even very limited whole grain bread / pasta.

But I didn’t go all the way to paleo. My typical breakfast was oatmeal with peanut butter (yes, Jiffy), but no other sweetener, and fruit and nuts. I still had things like quinoa, brown rice, and lentils. I still had whole wheat pasta on occasion. And definitely still had dairy and beans. I got rid of most of my processed foods, but still had store bought veggie burgers (which often have wheat in them), Jiffy peanut butter, honey, and other things like that.

I already have seen a lot of the benefits people cite for paleo. My energy levels are pretty consistent through the day. Few spikes or slumps. I’m really awake within minutes of getting out of bed. I still have my morning coffee, but I might not even need it. I don’t have many energy slumps mid-day. I feel tired by bed-time (like I should!), but even then not exhausted. My digestion is pretty regular, no real issues with bloating or anything. And I know my body appreciates the far lower sugar diet. When I do cheat (e.g., eat a piece of cake), my stomach gurgles, I get a headache, and feel a little off the next day. I workout a lot, and I walk a lot in my day-to-day life, so I probably can handle a little more carbs.

So why am I trying paleo now? I don’t really think cutting out oatmeal and quinoa is going to make any substantial difference in how I feel, how strong I am, etc. But I don’t know. And so I decided to try it, instead of just assuming I’m already “close enough.” Being vegetarian, it would be near impossible for me to do complete strict paleo. Even if it was theoretically possible, I would fail from trying to meet that burden. I want to set myself up for success. So I’m making some modifications, common with a lot of vegetarians from what I’ve read on various blogs. I’m including regular (not non-fat!) greek yogurt and cheese, but trying to limit it. I’m including beans. I’m eating more fruit and nuts than some paleo diets call for. But I’m cutting out the oatmeal, quinoa, and other grains. And no more Jiffy peanut butter or Nutella.

Assuming I make it through January, my best guess is I’ll go back to where my diet has been. I’ll probably reintroduce oatmeal, quinoa, store bought peanut butter, and other conveniences. My best guess is that any benefit I see will not be enough to outweigh the added cost and convenience of these things.

But, by doing this, I’ll know what the tradeoffs are. I’ll be able to make more informed decisions about my diet. And hopefully, I’ll also get better about not cheating — about planning ahead to avoid caving in and having pizza because it’s all that is home, or having a big piece of cake, because someone gave it to me at a party. I’ll also get better at planning meals ahead. I spent three hours cooking on Sunday, and have a large pot of squash soup, a large pot of black beans with veggies, and several tupperware containers with cleaned and chopped veggies ready for quick cooking, all in the fridge. And if I don’t make it through January, then I’ll also know that the benefits of being paleo are probably not worth the costs to me. I’m not willing to give up being vegetarian to become paleo. So I’ll see what I can do.

My other resolution is to have fun with my training! This means chatting with people at the gym. Going to races with friends, both from my gym and other friends. Reminding myself to enjoy it all. And a corollary to this, I resolve to continue working on that all important life-training balance, making sure I’m making enough “we” time with my partner.

And a racing goal for the year. I want to add at least one more state to my marathon list. (I’m trying to get a marathon in all fifty.) I’ll probably be running at least one or two marathons in training for the Ironman, so this is just a matter of planning strategically.

321 days till Ironman Arizona.

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From → diet, motivation

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  1. Paleo so far | Jeff's Journey to Ironman Arizona 2012

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