I love sugar. I wish I didn’t, but the only time I lose my taste for sweets is when I eat way too much of them and am forced to cut back, or after a gel-and-sports drink fueled race, when sugar is the last thing I need for a few days. But normally, I could eat chocolate for breakfast, followed by a post-run energy bar, a muffin and croissant for lunch, and cereal for dinner, with basic snacks of froyo and macarons in between. I must be genetically adapted to sugar, because I’ve never had a cavity.
However, I also have a sensitive gut. Or sensitive everything. Too many carbs make me sleepy right after eating, constipated the next day, and hangry in between. I often get the shakes from hunger, and low blood sugar gives me a depressed feeling that can be cured quickly with a prescription of a snack, preferably of the sugary variety. I’ve also had GI issues during many races, and something went very very wrong during Bryan Court and after the BUS Trail Mix-Up last month. I needed a reset, a cleanse, a fresh start, and maybe an opportunity to figure out how to improve my fat metabolism for running so that I can consume less during races and suffer less GI troubles. Running slowly is one part of the equation, weaning myself off of heavy carbohydrate consumption could be another.
A friend of mine had a good experience last year with this fairly simple 10-day plan that involved cutting all sugar, grains and starchy vegetables. While I have previously tried diets free of refined carbohydrates, I had never entirely cut out the fruit, grains and potatoes. This seemed impossibly hard to do until early January—after the holiday indulgence period has passed and before I start the next training cycle. While I’m at it, why not take a break from the coffee and diet sodas too? It’s only ten days, after all.
Seven days in, I can say that apart from feeling shitty in the first couple of days it’s been very good for me. I practice caffeine withdrawal a week before major goal races, and it sucks every time. Couple that with sugar withdrawal and I just felt very weird for a couple of days. But other than that, my energy levels have stabilized and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my response to hunger. No shakes, no low blood sugar induced depression, no hangriness. I could run hungry and it didn’t feel like the end of the world. A few almonds or a spoonful of almond butter work magic.
The big drawback is that the diet can become really boring and tedious. I’m only managing it for a short while because I spoil myself with fancy fish from the appetizing counter at Zabar’s, aged balsamic vinegar, halibut, olives and raw organic nuts and produce. I ate a lot of eggs, avocadoes, tofu, and Simply Bars (recommended by Michele Yates). I bought expensive crackers made entirely from flax seeds. I wouldn’t have madei it without decaf coffee and green tea .
Today was a fairly typical day and this is what I ate:
Decaf with a little whole milk
2/3 of a Simply Bar
A teaspoon of almond butter
Then I went out to run and exercise for a couple of hours
Lunch (at Peacefood Café):
Half a bowl of lima bean and spinach soup
Half a piece of raw lasagna and some vegan Caesar salad (minus the croutons)
Steamed or roasted zucchini and eggplant
Ginger soymilk decaf latte
Homemade chia almond milk pudding with a tiny bit of coconut sugar
Some almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds
Lentil poppadum crackers
Flackers and baby carrots with hummus
Some almonds and almond butter
Most of a bag of Trader Joe’s crispy crunchy broccoli florets (the best thing I had all day!)
Digestive tea (mint, chamomile and anise)
I am so looking forward to eating a banana and some oatmeal.
Ultimately, I’m going to eat carbs, especially right after big runs. I have zero desire to consume a truly high fat diet with over 90% of calories coming from fat (especially since the performance benefits are questionable) and diet of more than 50% fat diet seems like a stretch, even with the potential benefits for ultrarunning. I may try to adopt Pam Smith’s “carb back-loading” approach, eating more carbs when they count the most to get a bigger bang for the buck. (She’s a doctor and a champion so she should know!) I’ll do my best to stay away from sugar, other refined carbs, junk food and even beer (gasp!) over the next few months until I can sense whether it has any impact on my performance and recovery. I am usually a big proponent of enjoying life all the time and eating whatever’s appealing at the moment, but now I have something that I’m willing to make sacrifices for to see how good I can get.
Week in Review 1/5
Monday: 5 miles easy
Tuesday: 6 miles easy to moderate on the treadmill with some hills
Wednesday: 3-mile easy walk
Thursday: 3-mile easy treadmill run, 1 hour MELT class
Friday: AM: 45-minute MELT class. PM: 3 miles easy getting to and from 45-minute pool running class
Saturday: 9 miles moderate-easy
Sunday: 9 miles easy, 1-hour Ironstrength class, 3 miles easy
That’s it for the easy weeks of low miles. The new training plan begins tomorrow!