Saturday, February 13, 2010

Post Ironman Sickness and The Paleo Diet

During those 4 and 5 hour bike over the course of my Ironman training; I would think of a lot of things to write about. However, most of those great ideas have been forgotten along with the many other random thoughts that go through one's head being on the bike that long. I always plan on being "stupid" during heavy training as it's hard for me to focus on a particular task or concentrate on something that requires me to stay still for very long. I had until recently attributed these "traits" of mine from working out a lot in general. An over abundance or exercise if you will. Now, I believe it was due largely to my diet.

In July, I went home to visit my family and like every time I go, it ends up being Tour De Gorge. I allow myself to eat all the crap that I normally try only to consume in extreme moderation. After feeling glutinous and lethargic by the end of the week, I decided to try the Paleo Diet. This is a program developed by CSU Professor Loren Cordain. I have known about it for years and even tried it a couple times but I just was never in the in the right place to be consistent and make the nutrition program work for me.

The basis of the diet is simple yet extremely complicated at the same time. Here are the basics:

  • No grains, dairy, legumes, and refined or processed foods. Alcohol and caffeine in moderation or not at all.
  • Try to consume grass-fed meat when possible.
  • Eat lots of fruits vegetables
  • Eat nuts, seeds in moderation
  • Eat eggs, lean meat, fish, and poultry

While a very restrictive diet, there are some exceptions for times of heavy exercise. This includes higher glycemic carbs before, during, and after exercise. Good Post exercise foods are sweet potatoes, dates, and fruit juice-whey based smoothies.

Overall, this diet has allowed me to lean down somewhat, increase my energy levels, and I believe it has aided me in better race performance. However, if you do not time your eating well before during, and after exercise it can leave you with just the opposite results causing low energy and fatigue. This is due to the low to medium carbohydrate amount in the bulk of the diet.

Now that the race is over, I have tried to become creative with the diet because there is much less demand for those "better tasting" sugary drinks, and high GI carbs like sweet potatoes, dried fruit, etc. I was able to have more cheat meals training 20 plus hours a week and never had to worry about cravings which I must say have decreased a lot having a grain free diet. So, this absence of training and need for high caloric intake (as well as more time) has led me to my new hobby or experimenting with alternative "paleo friendly" flours. The two that I am currently working with are almond flour and coconut four. My inspiration solely came from stumbling across the blog Elana's Pantry. All of her recipes use almond flour in place of the typical wheat flour. While almond four is more expensive and a bit harder to find, it has many nutritive qualities that make it advantages for even the non-wheatard. For one, the glycemic load is moderate causing a small response in the amount of insulin that is released in our bloodstream. Also, it is a good source of protein. That is all I will say about that for now. My goal is to adopt and create new recipes using almond flour that can be craved and enjoyed by all.

The second flour I have tried is coconut flour. The best source on learning about and using this high fiber, low fat flour is The Coconut Flour Cookbook. It has everything from cakes to meatloaf all using coconut flour at the wheat flour replacement.

If I still have your attention after that long bout, then what I am basically trying to say is that this entry is my segway to what this blog is about. My desire to educate and introduce healthy, nutrient foods and recipes to be enjoyed by athletes and non-athletes alike. All of which are striving for optimal health!

Those wondering about the Post Ironman sickness part of the title... Well, my consolation prize for a big race was catching the worst case of the flu (perhaps swine??) and then having it turn into bronchitis. Maybe it was a blessing in disguse because it forced me not to train. Let me tell you though; it was awful to get through!!

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