Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Balance

Balance

It's a term thrown a lot / not done a lot

* A well balanced meal / have you seen society's wasteline lately?
* Balance a checkbook (whats a checkbook anymore?) / Hello I.O.U.S.A.!

Balance is a huge part of my life, for reasons unknown and known. I could write an entire post on my (lack of?) experience with it (but will spare you). Hell, I have even thought about creating another blog to get my thoughts and experiences out (but obviously haven't).

Recently, I really enjoyed two recent blog posts by Trevor. In his most recent one, he talks about taking time off from his passion/profession (triathlon) due to injury, and takes an outside view of the sport, the people in it, and how narrow minded they are - the lack of balance they have. You see, Trevor gets it. He gets that you need balance in life, which he has.

Like Trevor, James gets it too. It seems like every blog post he has talks about the same thing - winning some race somewhere in the state of california, and how about how good the beer he drank afterwards is. He works hard, he plays hard, and has been known to keep it mellow. He has balance.

I am almost finished with a book called egonomics. Most of (the two of) you that read this weblog are into endurance sports, where there is certainly no lack of ego's. Although the book is written for working professionals, there are a lot ways that it can be applied to real life (and I'm not talking about "reality" tv here). For example, the chapter on humility starts out with the following quote:

"True humility is intelligent self-respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be". (Ralph Sockman).

I love that second sentence.

Then there's a couple pages before it dives into a really good section called "I'm brilliant, but I'm not". These are just two examples of what the book is all about - balancing your ego.

My roommate Graham, who despite being a CFO and winning a 100 mile hundred endurance run (in addition to being a family man), has got to be one of most modest, down to earth people I have ever met. There is no doubt that his ego got him to the top of the corporate and athletic worlds, yet he is balanced out by modesty, and the desire to always do better.

I could go on and on, but really, Chuckie summed it up best months ago with his yin/yang piece (Apparently, I am quite transparent b/c no one has ever "known" me so well after such little time):

"to laugh at ourselves while taking ourselves seriously, to congratulate ourselves while berating ourselves, to work and play at the same instance, to live and yet know that at the very same moment we are dying. Get busy living and get busy dying."

ps- After publishing this, I came across this from AC. Awesome.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boring update on training not being boring

Nothing extravagant lately, just a lot of solid, consistent training.

Things have been pretty good since I got back on it in early October, and progressing nicely. When I first got back on the bike, the power numbers were ... well ... not powerful (as expected). What didn't help is that the same week I started training (consistently) again, I decided to give blood that Monday. Giving blood is something that always left me feeling good mentally and physically (except for when I am actually working out for the next week or so), so I figured that the numbers could only go up, right? So far, so good. I have been knocking out some near 2 hour trainer sessions, and the kicker is I have really enjoyed them! (CV, if you're reading this, that is not a typo).

On that note, those trainer workouts have been done using a bit of spontaneity (As an aside, whats kind of interesting [because a 2 hour trainer ride is anything but] is that the spontaneity was not influenced by, but just happened to coincide with this little gem). A lot of my training for the past month or so has been by feel. Those trainer workouts, I really had plans to do an hour and change. But, somewhere along the way, I was feelin good, like real good, and just continued on pedaling. Next thing you know, I am creeping up on the 120 minute mark, and I could keep going! WTF! The same thing happened in the pool last week. I had one early ass meeting at work, and jumped in the pool after the meeting. I had plans to do about 2400ish yards. Well, scratch that - I knocked out over 3200 (I actually lost count) - which is the most I have done since ... IMLP back in '08. I got out of the pool feeling like a million bucks (except for my stomach, which I might have actually heard growl underwater).

Not to neglect the run (because in a triathlon, if you neglect the run, the run neglects you), that one BAMF Graham Cooper I wrote about a few months back - is now one of my roommates. We went for a "little run" last night after work. If I could sum up the run, I would quote him when I say "Wow, we could probably do a pretty good job of beating the shit out of each other training for St. George". In between the panting, I was able to muster out a "Yeah", although it probably sounded more like a grunt. Seeing as though he isn't training for WS100 this year, he has targeted IMSG to be his "A" race. Not that I am on a level to compete with someone who can brag about this (although, he is way too humble to ever brag), it will certainly stoke the competitive fire that resides at our place of residence.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy Hal.... Big Bear Camping

Michelle and I passed on the local halloween party circuit for a weekend of camping up at Big Bear Lake (training at elevation just happened to be a perk). It was a solid weekend! Below is how it went down, up there (at 6,800 ft)

As we crested at the top of the climb, this was what we were greeted with. Big Bear Lake looks so small from afar...

Once we got to the lake, and looked towards where we just were, the views just kept getting better...


Everyone told us it was gonna be cold up there. The frost on my car Saturday morning confirmed...


However, things did warm up down at the lake...


As we ate breakfast, we were greeted by a number of the locals, begging for our food


Don't do it!

Got it!


I called this picture "being watched"


Bike Ride

Since I rode to onyx summit last year during ride around the bear, I decided it would great doing it again, sans the 6000 ft of climbing (in less than 35 miles!) leading up to it (although it was missed, in only a way that an endurance athlete can miss climbing)

Here's Michelle wearing her "holiday" appropriate gear, on the "flat"


I'm sorry, did I mention "Flat"? Looks can be deceiving...


At the summit...


Ok, nerd memory here. This year, I rocked yellow/black gear, with a blue/silver/black bike.

Last year at bear century, I had a yellow/black bike, sporting blue/silver/black gear.

Did I really publish that on the internet?

After that, it was back to the site for some dinner. But before, the obligatory sunset picture over the lake...


The obligatory campfire picture (it was as warm as it looks)...


Sunday Hike


We had to cut this one a little short, but a solid 3.5 hour hike nonetheless. Undocumented was hiking up to about 8200 ft, which you can't see in this picture, but trust me, its there!

PCT


Yes, that's snow


The obligatory "doesn't do the justice" picture...


Summit!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fun

Training has been a lot of fun lately. Here's what I have been up to:

Rosarito to Ensenada 50 mile fun ride


El Diablo


Fully supported - with beer!

Don't like the race provides for "nutrition", bring your own!


Single leg drills up a hill? Who brought this guy?


Fully supported - with women!


Me trying to portray that I did RAAM to people that can't understand english (or maybe they were just pretending they didn't want to understand some gringo)


Barely Legal Half Iron

I played swim buddy for Michelle, did my own bike ride, and then was grill master for the afternoon. Good times, and was glad she got to do her first Half Iron distance race (even if it was barely legal...)!

Rain Runs

I was up in San Francisco (Market St/Union Square) for a week, which led to a run heavy week (unfortunately, all on concrete). One of the fun runs was doing 6 miles around the embarcadero - in some nasty ass weather. It made IMLP look dry (kinda). You can't totally tell the wet conditions from this pic, but with the flag being parallel to the ground - it was pretty windy!


It was stuff I hadn't seen a while. Some think I was crazy for running. But, the people that were crazy were the ones trying to stay dry, but were as wet as I was (while giving me weird looks)! Suckers!

Adventure Racing

Actually, this wasn't fun. I described it as borderline miserable.

My buddy Greg and I did an adventure race last Saturday. The 7ish mile run was hilly and hot. I forgot my visor, so it was hotter than it needed to be - but actually fun! The bike around San Elijo Hills was much hillier, and much hotter. Mountain biking ALWAYS kicks my ass, and this was no exception. Mountain biking for me is basically one long ass interval workout, with each interval approaching max HR. Sometimes climbing hills just isn't manageable! Greg and I bailed after getting the first 6 bike checkpoints (out of 10) after running out of water, but we weren't the only ones. People were dropping like flies. After describing the climb to B6 to a married couple, the woman asked if they would still be married by the time they got to the top! I told her to ask the guy sitting on the side of the trail trying to cool off. When I got back to my car, it was in the high 90's. Um, is this San Diego...?

Mining Iron at Iron Mountain

This past sunday, a solid crew


made the trip up Iron Mountain ... the long, 10.5 mile, way.

It was plenty warm, with plenty of hills. About 3000ft of climbing all said!


Once I get some more run base & fitness, I am definitely looking forward (I think anyways...) to making this a hike/run!

Unfortunately, the stop button was pressed prematurely on accident, but whatever.

Just solid consistency, and having a good time. I love fall weather!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Some thoughts on Running

Even though this 2009 race season for me was centered around a bike race across the country, I definitely learned a few things about running (but have plenty more to learn!).

Jogging.

This year, I did some jogging. Most people have no idea what a jog is. Easy run? Hardly - I'll get into that.

These jogs I was told to do had one rule - keep the HR under 130.

You: "130!?"
Me: "Yes"
You: "So, what kind of pace is that?"
Me: "Somewhere between 11 and 13 minutes miles"
You: "Sounds painful"
Me: "You have no idea"

The irony was that it was supposed to be an easy jog, yet it was painfully slow.

I was assured that Coach has some of his professional triathletes do it, so I figured it's time to shut up (although, I didn't shut up for long, as he can attest to) and ship out.

These easy jogs were hard (as hell) at first (with "at first" being apx. two [freakin] months). There were many 60 minute jogs that were really warm up-jog-walk-jog-walk, etc because I just couldn't keep the HR down - in cold (by San Diego standards) conditions no less. Talk about frustrating. There were some cursing, without a doubt, and I knew it would all be worth it. "Build the aerobic engine" would come to mind. "This sucks" would follow shortly thereafter.

But, it added up.

Time of Day

I did quite a few jogs early in the morning before work, mainly to fit in another workout. As Deborah Schulman, PhD points out, doing a workout early in the morning when your BGL is low will help turn one into a fat burning machine. So, before work, I'd ship out, and do some easy (hard) 30-60 minute sessions. Nothing extravagant, or even blog worthy.

But, it added up.

Frequency vs. Volume

I didn't put in massive run volume - period - especially given my work/school schedule. I think my highest run week was about 5 hours. But one thing I did do is get out there often. More often than not, it was a short, easy 30 minute jog (seeing a pattern here?) before and/or after work. Because running is probably the hardest on the body (compared to swimming and biking), being able to withstand the constant pounding coupled with fatigued muscles is an absolute necessity - especially after having swam or biked earlier in the day.

Given my schedule, I could get more fit through frequency (with shorter recovery time) or distance (it has its place, but extends recovery time). In my little word - frequency ruled. Even these little jaunts helped in the long run (pun intended of course) because let's face it - jogging for 30 minutes is better than not jogging for 30 minutes.

It adds up.

And in the end, it all added up to the bottom line - the finish line, and taking 21 minutes off my previous half marathon PR (at WF, specifically).



ps- I gave blood last Monday, which was good for the mind and soul, but not good for doing hilly, tempo runs. Ouch.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A little time off

I started "training" again in early August (training goes in "quotes" because it really wasn't training, it was just getting on something a little more consistent, and off the couch), but that was quickly derailed by a knee "issue", and some sickness. After a little time off, I am back on it, and it feels fanfreakintastic!

Using the ageless adage "lemonade out of lemons", I decided to pick up my dSLR to revisit another hobby of mine that has been neglected ever since I found out about all this triathlon stuff. I have always enjoyed photography, so I shook some rust off, and got to taking some pictures.

Michelle @ track



Sunrise


Sunset


There also was a dog surfing contest right down the street from me, and it hilarious was being there. Taking pictures, laughing at the dogs, laughing at dogs get competitive with each other, the chaos of about 150 dogs running around, and every human eating it up. Here are a couple of the good ones:

What you lookin at?


This guy is so good, he doesn't even need to look ahead!


Get it!


Woof!


Cool Action Shot


Human shreddage...





The real shredder...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Endurance Athletes Guide to Nutrition Part 6: Thoughts & Perspectives

I am sure that you find some of the things I write about to be a little debatable like grains being bad, and saturated fat being good - all I asked is that you read it with an open mind. Ideally, you completely agree, switch your diet, and run (and swim and bike!) with it. Otherwise, I hope it at least gives you a different perspective and something to consider for your diet and nutrition needs. Honestly, when I first started reading up on the concepts of the Mark’s Primal Blueprint, it took me a little while to really “get it”. Some of the theory went against everything I had been told, so I don’t expect you to get it immediately either.

Since writing these articles, I have picked up a copy of “The Paleo Diet for Athletes”, which I talked about very briefly in Part 1, which I will do a book review on. There is a lot of overlap between the Paleo Diet and Primal Blueprint, but they aren’t the same. I will talk about similarities (to back up my position), and differences for you to think about.

Some of you may also wonder if I am the only person who believes that a higher fat diet is healthy, or even optimal, for endurance athletes. I can assure you that I am not. Here are a few others that believe in a high fat diet, and their associated successes:

James Walsh: Writer for amateurendurance.com, 1st amateur at Xterra World Championship 2008,
Chuckie V: former Olympic cyclist, and Ironman Canada Champion
Joel Filliol: Current Head Coach for British Triathlon, was the Head Coach for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. All of the athletes he coaches adhere to a high fat diet
Simon Q. Whitfield (as if this guys needs an introduction): 2000 Olympics gold medal winner in triathlon, 2002 Commonwealth games in Manchester, Silver medalist at 2008 Olympics

On a personal note, I recently did Wildflower Long Course (Half Iron distance), and took 50 minutes off of my time compared to the previous year (2009: 4:51:06). Although I made a lot of changes this year to my training (with the main thing hiring a very good coach), James and I discussed how diet and nutrition must have certainly had an effect on my performance.

In terms of where I get my information, I get it from 3 main sites, in addition to other research I do:

• www.marksdailyapple.com
• www.lifespotlight.com
• http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com

Another great article on endurance nutrition and physiological processes is here.

The reason why I believe this works is not because it works for me, but because it just makes intuitive, innate sense. From an evolutionary standpoint – our ancestors’ diet consisted of a high protein, high fat diet. When they ate, they ate the entire animal, including all the organs, which are typically higher in fat than the pieces we eat these days. Back then, although cavemen had their own stresses and health issues to worry about because they weren’t afforded the modern healthcare and awareness we have, they didn’t have diabetes, heart disease, or other societal-inflicted plagues we are causing ourselves.

Summary

• Eat real foods that are naturally occurring. Minimize or completely eliminate processed foods (except for race fuels during races, or race type efforts in training)
• Eat a lot of good fat (monounsaturated and saturated fat are good for you, all others like polyunsaturated and trans aren’t)
• Carbs when necessary
• Eat when hungry, not when you aren’t – there is a difference between hunger (needing to eat) and appetite (wanting to eat)!
• Supplement with anti-oxidants and Omega 3’s

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear them.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Also, thanks to those friends who reviewed and provided input while writing this!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Endurance Athletes Guide to Nutrition Part 5: Sample Daily Diet

Have you asked yourself how many calories should I eat or how many calories of each fuel source should I eat? Well, you won’t find an answer in this article since every body is different and you will need to experiment for with what works best for you. For CHO intake specifically, I would start with a minimum baseline of 150g of CHO per day, and increase as necessary, not at will.

The items listed below represents my daily diet about 2-3 weeks prior to Wildflower (Long Course), when I was training for about 1.5-2 hours a day – sometimes twice a day during the week (early morning swim, mid afternoon run). I generally try to get 50-60% of my calories consumed by 12-1pm.

Breakfast

• 3 potatoes and olive oil with salt pepper and spices; slice and dice 3 medium size potatoes, drench in olive oil and spices, and mix thoroughly. Bake at 350 degrees until desired crispiness
• 1/8 pound of vegetarian fed ham steak
• 1 slice of whole grain bread
• 3 tbsp of cashew, almond or sunflower seed butter
• 1/3 – ½ cantaloupe or melon
• 1 cup regular or decaf coffee
• 1 multi-vitamin (every other day)
• 1 lipoic acid supplement
• 1 fish oil supplement

Mid Morning Snack

• 3 Handfuls of Trail Mix (peanuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins)
• Apple

Late Morning/Early Lunch (Stir Fry, or equivalent)

• 1/3 cup of brown or wild rice
• 2-3 oz of chicken or turkey
• 1 bag of frozen vegetables
• All sautéed with 4 tbsp of Olive Oil and/or Butter

Early Afternoon

• Gigantic Salad: lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, purple onion, 1/2 of an avocado, squeeze of lime juice
• 5 tbsp olive oil
• 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• Couple dashes of salt and pepper

Mid Afternoon


• 3-4 medium size oranges (helps with the mid afternoon slump!)
• Cup of tea (decaf)

Dinner

• Depending on hunger (not appetite), but generally much smaller than your average American style dinner - a berry shake with some whey protein.

Below is a graphic from www.fitday.com that shows the breakdown of calories from energy sources for me on a day-to-basis.


The above daily diet represents an ideal day, and is something I can usually make happen about 4-5 days a week (For all you booze hounds out there, this is the "G" rated / ideal graphic). But, I am human, and have weaknesses for certain items like everything bagels, donuts, potato chips, dark chocolate, beer and wine. Dark chocolate, I’d argue, is not that bad for you since it contains plenty of antioxidants, can really satisfy a sweet craving, and is much closer to its natural state than milk chocolate. Wine is also a fairly natural product and also contains anti-oxidants. (Some might say that I am trying to justify the consumption of such indulgences, and to that, I challenge them to abstain from consuming them when your significant other is indulging right next to you!)

You will also notice that I don’t have eggs in my diet. The main reason is that I simply don’t like them (although I wish I did!). I think eggs are very healthy as they are packed with good protein. If I ate eggs, I would eat the yolk.

As for protein, I don’t eat the recommend 1g/1 lb bodyweight as its “recommended”. The main reason why is because I have a tendency to put on mass easily, and 120g/day keeps me where I need to be. This is something I experimented with over time, as will you. I have considered purchasing some Bragg’s amino acids for a combo food flavoring/recovery supplement since amino acids are really what your body is after in protein for recovery.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Endurance Athletes Guide to Nutrition Part 4: When to Consume What

As I mentioned in part 2, a high fat, high protein diet is the basis for the “normal person” diet (based on evolution). However, we need to modify it to fit our needs as endurance athletes by:

• Providing high quality, sustainable energy levels needed for training, while not throwing our physiological systems out of whack
• Providing ample protein for recovery, but not too much such that we gain mass & weight

Also mentioned in Part 2, most of us work, rather than race, for a living. Because of this, our energy needs during the week are not that extensive, depending on the type of training we’re doing. If you have a co-worker who shovels down a keg of cereal every morning, claiming that he needs “to eat through the pain” to make sure he is getting enough CHO, he is in for one mean crash afterwards, not to mention feeling like crap for at least the next few hours. Those CHO calories will eventually be stored as fat, and because he continues to eat a high CHO diet, he goes through an endless cycle of never burning or losing fat.

When To Consume What
Macro Cycle (phase-to-phase basis)

Some of you may be familiar with Joe Friel’s Periodization concepts, or Base-Build-Peak phases.

If you are in early season “base building,” then the majority of your calories should come from fat since you are either just starting to get your motor going after some time off, or are preparing the body for longer distance training. During these periods, you will be training at lower intensities, so the energy demands on your system are not that heavy (in the sense of immediate energy). However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fuel yourself appropriately, it’s just that you won’t need that much CHO relative to another phase like build or peak. Remember, one of the main objectives during endurance training is to increase our body’s propensity to burn fat as a primary fuel source.

During the “build” phase, you are probably getting closer to your “A” race and accordingly, the intensity of your training is probably increasing towards some race pace efforts. This will require more CHO to help fuel workouts and recovery. Physiologically speaking, it’s also a good idea to teach your body to start shifting more to burning CHO as more of a primary fuel since you will probably consume nothing but CHO during the race.

During the “peak” phase (which is essentially your taper), you will probably want to cut back on CHO specifically (until about 2 days before the race), and maybe calories in general. This will help prevent you from gaining weight right before your race.

Micro Cycle (day-to-day basis)

We can take the above guidelines for phases, and start applying that on a day-to-day basis.

The main purpose of carbohydrates is to provide IMMEDIATE fuel for a physical task because they can be broken down so easily. The secondary purpose is to help replenish glycogen stores. The best times to consume CHO are in the morning, and before/during/after a workout. Consuming CHO in the morning helps top off glycogen after coming from a fasting state (sleeping), and to prepare your muscles for a workout at some point later in the day. Also, while exercising, consuming CHO does not spike your BGL to any appreciable level.

Now the types of CHO that you should consume are dependent on the workouts that you have done within the past 24 hours, and what you have later in the day.

If you like to get up early, and knock out a tempo run or hard bike session, I would recommend low/no-fiber, high glycemic foods such as a fruit or juice (non-processed kind) before/during/after. My best recommendation would be to consume some berries, since they have a moderate GI, and are absolutely loaded with anti-oxidants. As for how much – that you will have to experiment. If you finish your workout and are light headed, you probably needed more fuel. If you put down a smoothie afterwards, and can actually feel like you have consumed too much sugar – then alter it for next time.

If you are doing a longer, easier paced workout (long, easy/moderate bike ride), then I would recommend bringing real foods with you such as trail mix, an almond butter and banana sandwich, Larabars, etc. During long workouts where we stay predominately aerobic, it is better to be consuming lots of fat calories from real foods. An added bonus is that real foods are typically less expensive than “race fuels” (powder, gels, etc).

Post Workout Nutrition

The general rule is your % of Fat/Protein to CHO per “meal” should be reversed as time goes on from when you finished your training session. Directly after a workout, you should be consuming lots of CHO, and minimal fat & protein. But, as times goes on, reverse these %’s such that the CHO% decreases, and fat & protein % increases.

"Grazing" helps (as I am sure you have already realized, you finely-tuned machine, you). Remember, it still takes time to process food, which is why grazing (eating many, smaller meals) is better for endurance athletes. Grazing helps keep a steady stream of fuel and anti-oxidants running through your system for proper recovery. It also keeps your from having too low of energy levels, and then eating too much in one sitting (which we all have a tendency to do at times).

For the rest of the day, you can get back onto a higher fat, moderate protein, and low-moderate CHO intake. The key to eating CHO during the day is to consume CHO that has a low glycemic index, and to consume CHO with other fats and proteins as part of a balanced meal. When CHO is consumed with other fats & proteins, your BSL will not spike as much since your body is trying to process other items at the same time. That doesn’t mean you get a free pass to eat a ton of CHO. Your body is an efficient machine, but it’s also innately lazy – it will try and process the easy stuff (CHO) first.

Please note that all of the above is depending on how many calories you have consumed prior to the workout. If you had a big meal, or plenty of calories, then you may not need to consume hundreds of calories right after. Go on feel, but above all, make sure you consume something.

Note about Big Day Training

Have you ever had a really big day of training, only to be absurdly hungry for the next 48 hours? There is a good reason for this. When you shock your system with big day training, no matter how much you fuel during training, your metabolism will spike for up to 48 hours after you finish your workout. This is why nutrition is so important before, during and after. If you do a really long bike on Sunday, and don’t fuel properly, don’t expect to “be feeling it” if you have to bike again on Tuesday.

Hunger vs. Appetite

A lot of endurance athletes think that because they train a lot, that they can eat anything, anytime (I certainly did). Yes, your engine might be burning pretty hot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to eat all the time (unless the size of your stomach rivals that of a field mouse). You may think you are hungry, but that is not always the case. Below are the definitions of “Hunger” and “Appetite” – there is a difference.

Hunger: A need to eat

Appetite: A desire to eat

So often athletes will just eat and eat and eat – sometimes because they need to, sometimes because they want to. But, be careful of gaining weight – especially as an “A” race comes up. If you think you are hungry, maybe try giving yourself what I call "the 30 minute test". If you feel hungry, but you shouldn’t be because of meals you have consumed earlier in the day – have a glass of water and wait 30 minutes. If you are still hungry, then eat. If you aren’t, then you were never hungry.

Summary

When you eat is just as important as what you eat
• CHO before/during/after training and only when necessary otherwise
• Remember, through training, we need to increase our bodies propensity to burn fat as a fuel source

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Endurance Athletes Guide to Nutrition – Part 3: Physiological Processes

Blood Glucose Levels (BGL)

Because fat and protein generally take a long time by your body to breakdown into usable energy, and because they don’t trigger an insulin spike, your BGL is kept steady while digesting and processing these types of food.

Carbohydrates on the other hand, are broken down much faster which will raise your BGL. When your blood sugar level is raised, you release insulin and cortisol to help regulate the spike in BGL. Cortisol is actually a stress hormone, and insulin, or lack of, is partly responsible for adult onset diabetes.

Now as for effects of specific carbohydrates on your BGL, this is documented in the Glycemic Index, and Glycemic Load. Sugar, as you can imagine, ranks near the top. For a full list, check out this or that to find out what carbohydrates will reduce the spiking in your BGL.

It should also be noted that your BGL (and resulting physiological processes) are what’s responsible for “the crash.” The crash is from fueling your body up with all this energy, and then doing nothing with it. Remember back when everyone thought they got tired after eating a huge thanksgiving dinner because of the tryptophan in turkey? Well, it was from gorging themselves with everything under the sun and our bodies were basically saying “NO MORE!” and shutting us down to prevent us from eating anymore.

Oxidative Damage

I wrote another article a while back on anti-oxidants, which seems to get a lot of attention these days from the media - and for good reason.

When we exercise, a lot of things happen. For starters, the oxygen we inhale reacts with chemicals in our body, some of which are used to produce the energy we use to train. Oxygen, as vital as it is to life, is a very reactive molecule, and is partly responsible for creating free radicals in your blood stream. Free radicals are responsible for a number of things - including causing cell damage, stress, and pre-mature aging.

When we train and race, especially long distances, we are inhaling about 10 times more oxygen than what we do at rest, so there are A LOT of things happen at the cellular level. With the huge increase in oxygen, comes a huge increase in free radicals. As I will cover in the next part, anti-oxidants should play a key role in your endurance training to help minimize the damage done by training. The simple rule of thumb is to eat an absurd amount of anti-oxidants (on the order of 10,000-20,000 ORAC units per day). For a listing of ORAC amounts in foods, check out this link.

Anti-oxidant supplements

Although supplements could be an entirely new subject or article, it is worth touching upon supplements, specifically in the form of anti-oxidants.

Personally, I don’t believe most people need supplements - regardless of how much marketing there is, and how much supposed performance gains may be achieved. However, as endurance athletes who continuously push our bodies’ limits, taking a multi-vitamin, or anti-oxidant supplement is probably worthwhile. There are a number of things you could take – from the standard multi-vitamin or anti-oxidant pill, to nano-greens to lipoic acid to damage control master formula. You really have to decide what price range you are comfortable with. However, I will note that buying vitamins that have 1000% or other really high % of RDA is hardly necessary. The good thing is that there are quite a few vitamins that are considered anti-oxidants, such as C, E and parts of A - and these you always get in a multi-vitamin.

Summary

• Keep your BGL steady for the best short and long term health
• BGL is primarily governed by the foods you eat
• Endurance training increases free radicals the body, which can lead to premature aging, stress and cellular stress.
• Eat a diet rich in anti-oxidants
• Supplements as necessary

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Endurance Athletes Guide to Nutrition Part 2: Energy Sources

In Part 2 of this 6 part series I want to share with you some helpful information about energy sources that may help you adjust your diet to enhance your athletic endurance during training and racing.

Fat

If you know me, you know I like fat. Personally, I think Sisson said it best when he said "Animal fat makes everything better".

Awhile back I wrote an article called “Pass the Fat!” To quickly summarize:

• “Good fat” is good for you (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, animal fat)
• Carbohydrates have their place in our diets, but not as much as you think
• We need to train our bodies to burn fat as a primary fuel source, which can be done through training and nutrition

Regardless of whether one is involved in endurance athletics or not, the bulk of calories consumed should be in form of good qualities fats. I am sure you are thinking that’s hard to swallow (no pun intended), but it’s the truth. I realize that this goes against everything you have been told, but bear with me and consider the following information.

When you are sitting at your desk, walking down the hallway to the printer, reading amateurendurance.com, this blog – or whatever it is that you do when you aren’t training (when you should really be training) - fat and protein are your primary fuel sources (ketosis). Your body and brain actually prefer these fuel sources since that’s what the body becomes accustomed to doing for the past 100,000 years. Since there aren’t a lot of energy demands on your system, your body has the time to break down fat and protein into forms of fuel. What you also may not know is that as a part of this process it also turns some of the fat and protein into glycogen (stored carbohydrate) for storage in your liver and muscles when you need it. Yes, you read that correctly - your body is able to create glycogen from fat and protein. It’s certainly a slower process than ingesting CHO, but it does happen.

Types of Fats – Essential Fatty Acids

They are termed “essential” because we can’t produce them ourselves, and that they are essential to our physical well being. Essential fatty acids are basically Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s. Evolutionary speaking, our ancestors typically consumed around a 1:4 Omega3-6 ratio. In modern times however, the western diet is disproportionately high in Omega-6’s because of the high amount of processed oils and grain-fed (as opposed to grass fed) meats we consume. Although they are essential, the imbalance of the 2 can cause havoc on us internally, mainly in the form of inflammation.

Omega-3’s come from healthy sources like fish, grass fed meats, avocado, fish, and certain types of nuts (e.g., macadamia, walnut). Ideally, you would strive for a 1:2-4 ratio of Omega-3/6. Some of the biggest benefits of Omega-3 are that:

• It is anti-inflammatory
• It is good for the immune system
• It helps with brain function (generally a good thing)

This is one of the few things that scientific studies agree on – that Omega-3’s are really good for you. Personally, I would argue that taking an Omega-3 fish oil supplement is one of the best things you could take.

Types of Fats – Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, Saturated and Trans Fats

Monounsaturated fat is generally considered a healthy fat and makes up about half of our cell membrane structure. Unfortunately, these fats can break down into free radicals – the very thing that endurance athletes have too much of, and the thing that anti-oxidants neutralize!

Polyunsaturated Fat is considered more “healthy” by the media (although I disagree). This fat can be very unstable during cooking thus forming free radicals – the very thing we are trying to get rid of with antioxidants (to be covered in Part 3)! It also has been proven to be immunosuppressive (i.e. detrimental to our immune system). It’s common for processed oils (safflower, corn, vegetable, soybean) to have high polyunsaturated fats, and high Omega-6’s. Coincidence? It’s also worth saying that with all the training that endurance athletes do, training actually weaken our immune systems (ever wonder why so many people get sick right before a race?), so these types of fats should be avoided.

Saturated Fat – I am going to open a can of worms here and say saturated fat can be GOOD for you (or at least not as bad as the media makes it out to be). I know you are thinking, “But I have always been told that fats, especially saturated fats, are bad for me!” To which I ask, “Who always told you? The US government?” Please refer to their food pyramid where they say fats should be used sparingly and Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta should be consumed 6-11 times a day! Then, look at the diet issues in our country. “

Although my rebuttal does hold merit, it doesn’t cover saturated fats being good. They are instrumental to hormonal balance. They are necessary to properly process and absorb vitamins. They enhance immune function and if you look at the membrane structure of a human cell, it’s 50% saturated fat!

Saturated fat doesn’t just come from animals either. There are plenty of healthy oils that are mostly saturated fat: palm kernel oil and coconut oil. Because coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid, it is immediately available to the body for energy. It requires little to no processing by your carnitine or lymphatic systems. Believe it or not, there are studies out there that show that higher intakes of saturated fat can actually prevent skin cancer.

Further, saturated fats are great cooking oils since they have much higher boiling temperatures, and don’t break down into cell damaging free radicals as easily, or under high heats as much as mono and polyunsaturated fats do.

Trans Fat – Regardless of how much of an aerobic base you have - just swim, bike or run away from these as fast and as far as possible!

Cholesterol - While reading this part on saturated fat, I am sure cholesterol has crossed your mind. Cholesterol is not a fat, but the American public tends to associate the two, so it’s worth touching upon.

Cholesterol is essential to life. In fact, it’s so essential that your liver produces it based on the body’s needs. Your body, being the evolutionary marvel that it is, is smart enough to know that if there is an increase in cholesterol through diet, and then the liver simply doesn’t produce as much. This is why vegans can survive without eating animal products, which are primarily the body’s only way of getting cholesterol from an outside source (even though plants do contain small amounts of it).

I don’t want to lose you with the explanation on why cholesterol gets a bad rap, but the layman’s version is eating a diet high in trans fats and CHO (especially simple sugars) will cause a number of issues, one of them being inflammation. Inflammation is now the widely accepted cause of heart disease, NOT cholesterol (as it was thought to be back in the 1950’s.). The problem is that cholesterol is guilty in the court of public opinion and that may not ever change. If people would really like me to, I could do a write up on saturated fat and cholesterol specifically, but that’s beyond the purpose of this article!

Carbohydrates

As for carbohydrates, let’s be clear: the main purpose of carbohydrates is to provide IMMEDIATE fuel for a strenuous physical task because they can be broken down so easily into fuel. What your body doesn’t use for immediate energy gets stored as fat, especially if consumed at night. This will be covered in Part 3.

Protein

Protein is found in nearly everything, but people typically associate protein and meat together - for good reason. Animal protein (including fish) is a complete protein in that it contains all, or nearly all, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s). BCAA’s are really the building blocks for muscle regeneration, which helps our muscles recover faster (always a good thing for any type of athlete). Protein doesn’t really provide that much “energy.” A gram of protein contains 4 calories, and it takes your body almost 4 calories of energy to completely digest a gram of protein.

Animal protein should be your primary source of protein, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be meat. Whey protein can be a healthy substitute (especially for vegetarians), and one of the main benefits is that it can be absorbed into the body faster since it is in much more granular form, and is typically consumed as part of a liquid drink (e.g., shake, smoothie).

Ideally, if you can afford it, purchasing meat that is any combination of organic, grass fed, vegetarian fed, antibiotic & hormone free, free range is, simply put, best for you. These types of meats are typically a bit more expensive, but in my opinion, taste better, and are better for you. The grass fed types are typical leaner, and have higher omega-3 content since animals eat what they are supposed to eat – grass – rather than grains. This link helps describe the differences between them all. These types of meats are much more in line with what our ancestors ate.

Summary

• Healthy fats such as mono-unsaturated (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and saturated fats (Butter, Coconut Oil) are good for you
• Polyunsaturated (ie. Industrial Processed Oils) and trans fat are bad for you
• Strongly consider taking an Omega-3 fish oil supplement
• Carbohydrates should be used primarily for immediate fuel and glycogen replenishment
• Clean animal protein is best for recovery and well being

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Endurance Athletes Guide to Nutrition Part 1: Evolution of Diet & Food

This is part 1 of a series on the diet for the endurance athlete. In this section we will take a look at some historical background about the evolution of man’s (the species, not the diet, even though men and women could definitely be their own species) diet and the changes that have occurred over the centuries.

Perhaps you have heard of the books Paleo Diet for Athletes, by Loren Cordain or Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. In each of these two books lies the same basic philosophy: modern humans should eat the same types of food that our ancestors ate. The theory is that if modern humans ate as our ancestors did, then we would be in a greater state of health. Cordain and Sisson also claim that from an evolutionary standpoint, humans have been around for around a 100,000 years. Around 10,000 years ago, civilizations started developing agriculture to sustain population growth.It makes one wonder if the processed and refined foods commonly ingested today are at the center of many health problems today.

Both Cordain and Sisson believe we should get back to the simple eating approaches used by earlier generations. That means simply eating real foods. Humans evolved for hundreds of thousands of years by eating naturally occurring foods, so perhaps we should ask ourselves if we shouldn’t continue with that tradition.

The foundation of the eating approaches proposed by Cordain and Sisson, independently, is to simply eat real foods. Mankind evolved by successfully eating the same type of naturally occurring foods, so we as modern humans should continue that way of eating. However, as endurance athletes, we need to make a few modifications to accommodate our energy needs in training and racing. I took Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint approach and modified it to meet the endurance athletes’ needs. The PB approach, in a nutshell, assumes that early human calories came primarily from fat, then protein, then CHO (Carbohydrates). I believe that we should still maintain a high fat diet with moderate protein (for muscle recovery), and consume only as much naturally occurring CHO as we need to keep our hormones and blood sugar levels (discussed in part 3) at healthy levels throughout the day, and to help fuel our workouts.

Real Foods

By real foods, I mean foods that are naturally occurring. These are foods that would probably spoil if you left them on a counter for a few days. This would include meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and (occasionally) legumes. Grains are also naturally occurring, but more often than not, the “grains” (even the whole ones) are processed in some manner. When grains are processed they are stripped of their key nutrients (e.g., bran, germ) and replaced with much smaller amounts of nutrients, along with other chemicals. This includes things like whole grain or whole wheat bread.

It should be noted that our bodies do not easily digest grains. Once ingested, what isn’t digested is either eliminated through our system or turned into fat. People have been eating grain for only a few hundred years, which is miniscule to the hundreds of thousand of years our digestive systems have evolved without eating them. It would appear that humans aren’t evolving fast enough to process grain, which may be one of the main reasons why obesity has become such a problem in this country. Have you ever eaten a granola or kashi bar, or maybe some pasta, and had GI issues like cramping, gas, bloating or general abdominal discomfort? That could be because your body is trying to digest too much of something it can’t. Our body’s propensity to store excess carbohydrates is covered briefly in Part 2 and more extensively in Part 3 of this series.

Processed Foods

Typically, processed foods contain preservatives and chemicals that our bodies can’t process. Both Cordain and Sisson believe the reason is because our systems haven’t evolved enough to be able to process these chemicals and preservatives effectively.

Processed foods don’t contain much real nutritional value, despite what the “nutrition” label might say. Have you ever stopped and looked at the ingredients list found on a package of processed food? Often times we are challenged to pronounce the words let alone understand what they are. Many sound like ingredients in high school chemistry experiment rather something you would want to put in your body. Regardless of what the FDA deems safe, you need to determine if you really want that stuff in your body.

Let’s take a look at four types of oil: olive, vegetable, corn, and Canola. Olive oil is simply oil that was squeezed from olives. Vegetable oil is not oil squeezed out of vegetables. When you think of vegetables, you probably don’t think of very fatty or oily foods (olives and avocados being the exception), and because of this, making vegetable oil requires a tremendous amount of processing to extract the oil. Corn is actually a grain (not a vegetable), and like vegetable oil, contains chemicals that are by-products of the processing. As for Canola oil, there are arguments that it is good for you because of the Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio (covered in Part 2), but because it is a processed oil originating from a genetically engineered seed, you might want to avoid it. However, it is my opinion and that of others that it is a better option than the vegetable and corn oils.

Last year the corn industry created commercials on how High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is not bad for you when compared to sugar. Their argument was that it contained the same amount of calories as sugar, so HFCS is a very sensible substitute. What they don’t mention are all the chemicals inherited through enzymatic processing that is contained in each gram of HFCS. Enzymatic processing is not only unappetizing, but it isn’t good for you either.

Organic vs. Non-Organic

Generally speaking, organic foods will be better for you than their non-organic equivalent. The reason isn’t necessarily because of nutrients because both organic and non-organic foods generally contain the same amount of nutrients.

However, organic foods don’t contain pesticides and other chemicals used on them. On a personal note, I think organic fruits and vegetables just taste better. Have you ever purchased those double size monster strawberries on sale, only to take a bite and feel like half the flavor is missing? Next time, trying buying some organic strawberries, and realize how good they really are!

A general rule of thumb is if you are going to eat the entire product (e.g., most vegetables and some fruits), buy organic. If I don’t eat the entire product (e.g., banana, avocado), then you may not want to buy organic - mainly for cost reasons.

Another thing to touch on are things like organic cracker or similar organic processed foods. Just because it says organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you!

Dairy: The Gray Area

Dairy is in a gray area because you can’t go out into nature and just pick up some butter. Dairy is a bi-product of animals; some are minimally processed, and there are some health benefits with dairy products. A perfect example is using butter versus margarine or other processed substitute. Butter contains 2 ingredients: cream and salt. Margarine contains many processed ingredients.

It should also be noted that humans are the only species on earth that consume milk (or milk derived products) after infancy.

Summary

• Eat real, naturally occurring foods such as meat, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables
• Avoid processed foods like breads, pastas and industrial processed oils such as vegetable, corn, soybean and canola
• Eat grains only when necessary

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fat Burning Machine - Part 2

continued from Part 1

A few years ago (let’s say, pre-MDA), I didn’t really eat all that "well" – my diet consisted of too many carbs and other crap – both processed and unprocessed. I thought - “I do triathlons, I can’t eat whatever I want, whenever I want!” (typical noob mentality). After my first season, I weighed as much as I ever did - 160 lbs of non-mean and non-lean non-machine.

As any endurance athlete knows, the hunger pangs that can come on during training can get pretty bad. Back then, I couldn’t imagine going 3 hours without eating. Sometimes if I got too low on calories, I would get into a really cranky and irritable. It didn’t matter if I was in the middle of training, or just at work – I was a different person if I was hungry (Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde), and it would come on strong and fast. Not fun - for myself, or others. I taught my body how to burn CHO as a main fuel source, and since it was very finite and quick to burn - this led to some of these "mood swings".

Since adopting a high fat diet, where at least 55% of calories coming from fat, I have noticed a number of things. Mainly:

* Those hunger pangs don’t really come around as much.
* I have done some pretty hard, and/or long workouts, where I have taken in little to no calories. I'm talking a 2-2.5 hammerfest ride where I took in 0 (zero) calories, and a 5 hour ride where I took in a measly 700 calories - in the middle of winter no less. On the latter ride, my friend Paul took in over 2500, and still bonked hard at the end. (Granted, fueling in the 24-48 hours prior to each workout has an effect, but still - there is something to be said).

The reason is because I have taught my body to burn fat as a primary fuel source - whether I am training or not training. How is this beneficial? Aside from not having mood swings and possibly eating my, or other people's heads off, there are a multitude of them, which I will talk about in below, and in future posts (primarily around the body's response to CHO consumption).

One of the main benefits is that your body doesn't crave CHO, and hence, burn it as much, leaving you feeling like crap when you need more. Secondly, you don't have to rely on them as much - especially while racing. Three, it's a nearly endless energy source in your body.

Why are these beneficial? From a racing standpoint, would you want your engine tuned to running on a fast burning, very finite fuel, or a slower burning, not as finite energy source? While the previous reasons and examples may not spell it out clearly, Alan does a much better job comparing a corvette, accord and prius (albeit, in much more detail) on his blog (and if you don't read his blog, you definitely are not in "the know" - learn it). He also has 2 morsels of information on becoming more of a fat-burning machine here.

Now, I want to be clear about 2 things (unrelated to the 2 morsels above):

• When I mention fat, I mean GOOD fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts & seeds, clean animal fat (it does make nearly everything better), and coconut oil (high in Medium Chain Triglycerides [thanks James]). NOT processed industrial oils (corn, vegetable, canola, etc) and crap like that

• I am not anti-carb. I just don’t think we need as much as we think we do. We only need as much as we need. (kinda like the hunger [needing to eat] vs. appetite [wanting to eat] thing - which I will get into)

These last 2 posts will lead into the next 6 blog posts will be a series of articles I wrote called “The Endurance Athletes Guide to Nutrition”, where I will basically write about everything I learned over the past 8 months or so. I hope you enjoy!

Fat Burning Machine - Part 1

About a month ago, Angela Naeth, an athlete of Chuckie's, and probable dominant force in the 70.3 circuit in a year or so, wrote a blog post about caloric needs. This served up quite a bit of motivation for this post, and for probably the next 6 or 7 posts ("uh oh", I am sure you are probably thinking).

Towards the end of her post, she mentioned that she wants to be a fat-burning machine. Now, please don't confuse her with some tv-ad, or aerobics instructor circa '92. For athletes that like to go long, I think this should be a primary objective in their training - right up there with actually putting in the training time.

For those of you that know me, you know that I am big into nutrition, and that I am a proponent of Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint (specifically, the eating portion, because, well, I like to eat, and eat well). He argues that fat should our primary fuel source in just about all of our daily activities, and that the consumption of good fats “promote the burning of both dietary and stored (adipose) fat as fuel” (did he just say eating fat helps burn fat? whoa...). Although he specifically doesn’t doesn't talk about endurance athletics being part of the PB, I would argue that the same approach should be taken for endurance athletes, especially for those that go long (not to be confused with being long) - we need to train our bodies to burn fat as a primary fuel source. (As an aside, Mark does talk about a fat in an endurance athletes diet here, which I think is one of the few very good articles on the internet regarding endurance nutrition). Let's face it, to endure anything, requires a number of things, including stamina. Stamina requires energy, and the body can store a very finite amount of energy.

Chuckie is also a proponent of a high fat diet, and even during his “hey-day” of being a professional stud, he consumed a lot of fat calories, despite what “others” told him (you don’t even wanna know what he puts down these days). He and I spoke about diet at length (again, not to be confusing with anything here) when I was up for a visit a few months ago, and he believes that training is the main driver (“98%” as he said) for making the body burn fat as fuel. I mostly, but not completely, agree with him (although the exact percentage is still unknown).

Mark talks a lot about gene expression, and basically argues that what we eat and do will modify our genes and actually change our genetic makeup (nothing too drastic here, but he is definitely onto something).

Part 2 will be a little personal story in why I believe in this stuff...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Alive!

Yes, I am alive!

July was pretty much a month off of training (and blogging), save for a few bike rides here and there. It was a great month really to take some time off from everything and do some other things…

Eating…

Michelle killed it one (of many) night with dinner! The menu consisted of a whole bunch of good stuff. The picture says it all.


Locale wasn't too bad either (wait, is that another gray sky in Diego?! You don't say... seriously - enough!)


Drinking...

matching!

Hiking…

We drove out to Idyllwild one day, and did a gnarly hike up (with an emphasis on up) San Jacinto mountain. Could this be considered elevation training?








I don't know about you, but I had never been to an official "wilderness" before, where I had to be responsible for knowing a bunch of stuff (uh, like walk on the trail).


Michelle won the dirty feet contest!


VEGAS… (ie. The official ‘meet the family trip’!)





… and a few other ‘extra-curricular’ activities. Let’s just say I stopped at Bev-mo more in the month of July, than I had since … ever

But, starting the second of August, I started getting back into some training (read: swimming and/or running everyday) – a little ahead of schedule. I love it when you think you have everything all planned out, and then something happens where the plan gets thrown out the window.

My original plan was to take July and August completely off to focus on work and school (which finishes the day before Labor day weekend – how appropriate!). I really wanted to do a race with all the fitness I had after RAAM, but I didn’t think it was in the cards (or my wallet, for that matter).

However, July actually ended up being a rather stressful month, and I realized that without training as an outlet, the stress was unmanageable. This was a far cry from years past when I always looked forward to an off-season to re-charge – mentally and physically.This year , I was chomping at the bit. I definitely missed running, and even swimming (in some weird way). Hell, I even missed blogging. I have a lot of stuff to say (there’s a surprise!) in some future posts so stay tuned. I am stoked to start writing again it for the world to (not) read!