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.

This is what passes for an exciting recipe that I can make at home.

This is what passes for an exciting recipe that I can make at home.

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

Afternoon snacks:

Homemade chia almond milk pudding with a tiny bit of coconut sugar

Some almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds

Lentil poppadum crackers

Green tea


Miso soup

Smoked sable

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)


Ester-C, turmeric, and liquid iron  for a diagnosed  iron deficiency

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!