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Vegetables And Stuff

gym-diet

We tried this whole clean eating thing for a week, well, five days…OK 4.5 days. It was hard as heck. The goal was to not consume any refined sugars, simple carbohydrates, alcohol, meat, and dairy. Two reasons why we wanted to do this: 1) To inspire healthier than usual eating habits (we eat vegetarian during the week, but the food choices aren’t always healthy. 2) Force us to try new recipes and be more creative with staples we have around the house.

I wouldn’t say we noticed any significant changes. We didn’t all of sudden start running faster and our skin didn’t turn Jay Lo-esque, but there was a feeling that eating this diet made us more superior than most people…j/k! It was guilt free eating.  What we were ingesting was actually good for our body. We felt good. My farts didn’t smell and I know that has to be a good thing.

Unless you’re rich and can afford to constantly buy prepared food from Whole Foods or M Cafe, then you have to cook the stuff yourself. I will say that eating a strict vegetarian diet is less costly than eating animals and processed foods. For a week’s worth of produce and fruits we spent about $35 at Super King. This was for three meals a day with snacks! Although organic would be ideal we can’t all the time because rent and financial aid payments.

If you decide to do this clean eating thing you’ll also notice that the recipes will be very simple and more emphasis is on combing ingredients to create certain tastes. Garlic is magical and chili peppers don’t always have to taste spicy. Spices are key. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

So, big takeaways: 1) Cheaper to eat fruits and vegetables specially if you eat with the seasons. 2) Planning and effort. You have to plan your meals and make time to prepare them. 3) Farts won’t smell. Junk in. Junk out.

Here are some recipes of food we ate during the 4.5 days:

Kale and Quinoa Fry
Cook 1 cup quinoa in 1 3/4 cup water for 15 minutes. Fluff and set aside.
Mince 3 garlic cloves and half an onion. Chop as much kale as you’d like. If you don’t like it as much, 2 cups is good. f you love it then 6-8 cups is plenty.

Saute the garlic and onions in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the garlic is close to browning. Add 1/4 tsp. chili flakes then add kale. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water and cover until kale is a bit wilted. Add quinoa and turn up the heat a bit. Continue to stir and make sure most of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wheat Berry Waldorf Salad
Soak 1 cup hard wheat berry overnight in the refrigerator. Boil wheat berry in 5 cups of water for 40 minutes. Strain while runnign cold water over wheat berry. Set aside.

Dice 1 apple (Fuji or Gala), medium onion, 3-4 stalks celery. Add 1 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

Whisk 1/3 cup safflower oil, 1/4 cup apple juice, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, pinch salt and pepper.

Combine apple mixture with wheat berries. Toss with oil mixture. Refrigerate for an hour. Eat.

Breakfast Smoothie
Blend 1/2 cup oatmeal until it’s a powder. Add 1 1/2 cup coconut milk (we use the drinking kind from Trader Joe’s), 1 banana, 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup frozen pineapple, and 1 tablespoon honey. Blend until smooth. Drink.

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Post Run Calorie Consumption

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Image from Runner’s World

I wrote a post about caloric debt and it’s effect on better racing times (Caloric Debt, 2011). I should have followed that post with my thoughts about caloric consumption during training since it relates to weight, efficiency, and performance. The belief “I can eat whatever I like because I’m a runner” is not only false, but unhealthy. The average person burns about 100-105 calories per mile ran (based on a slow pace). A lighter person burns about 93-99 calories. Of course, the faster you run the more calories are burned. Also, the more you weigh increases the amount of calories you burn. What does this mean? This means you don’t need to eat that double-double with fries and shake after a long run! While it may taste good and feed your hunger cravings it’s adding to a positive caloric balance. If you’re looking to lose some pounds or maintain a good racing weight that 1,760 calories you just ate just sabotaged your plans. Of course, if you ran 17+ miles then your In-N-Out meal was justified. Keep in mind we also consume gels and other calorie dense snacks on our long runs which lessens post run caloric needs. In short, keep post-run meals and snacks calorie sensible if your mileage is on the lower end. Do the math and don’t go overboard with ingesting too many calories for what your body really needs. It’s about replacement and not storage. Unless you’re going back-to-back long mileage sessions, there’s no need to “load up.” As always, aim for whole food alternatives and remember to drink water to help in energy conversion and to aid in filling you up during meals.


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Nii Bar Product Review

IMG_2089This is an unsolicited product review. I did not receive this product directly from the manufacturer or any PR firm. In fact, I snagged these from the volunteer goodie bags at the race.

I managed to get a few bars that were provided as samples at the Hansen Dam Triathlon: Berry Cashew, Peanut Butter, Cherry Coconut, and Almond Chocolate Chip. I had mixed reviews among the four I tasted, preferring the Berry Cashew and Cherry Coconut. Listed below are my remarks regarding the flavor and digestibility of each flavor:

IMG_2072Berry Cashew – The bar has a distinct cashew and walnut taste. (Note that walnuts are used in all of their bars, but for some reason is most evident in this flavor pairing.) The berry flavor is subtle and is masked by the stronger nut flavor (cashew butter and walnuts), which I actually like. The package I ate was stored inside a backpack I normally use during my bike commutes to and from work. The bar itself was very limp and oily from the heat that had built up inside the bag, which made it undesirable to look at, but tasted good. It had been squished by some of the stuff I keep inside the bag, so it didn’t hold its shape well and made for a challenge in handling it while on the move. I liked this flavor best because of its distinct nuttiness and mild berry flavor.

Cherry Coconut – This is my second favorite. I love coconuts and cherries, so this all made sense to me. There’s a definite coconut flavor which is derived from coconut nectar (whatever that is) and shredded coconuts in the bar. There are little bits and pieces of dried cherries with every bite, which gives just enough tartness to counter the sweetness from the dates and what I’m guessing to be the coconut nectar. This bar, along with the Peanut Butter and Almond Chocolate chip was stored in a refrigerator (I learned after my first experience to do this to avoid an oily and misshapen bar). Take note new food developers: Cherries and Coconut IN EVERYTHING!

Peanut Butter – By far the most intriguing bar of the bunch and not in a good way. It says peanut butter on the package, but taste more like unsweetened raw coffee. I’m not a coffee fan, so this could be a reason I didn’t enjoy this bar at all. There is no peanut butter flavor whatsoever and the bar tasted bitter, which made it hard to swallow. Only with some water was I able to finish the entire thing. The sprouted quinoa and walnuts (found in every flavor bar) made for a good contrast of texture, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about this particular bar.

Almond Chocolate Chip – Again, not the kind of flavor profile you would expect from a bar called Almond Chocolate Chip. Neither the almond (or any kind of nut flavor) and chocolate flavor can be picked up. Even the chocolate chips weren’t visible and not detectable during the chew. There are definitely chunks of nuts in the bar, but it’s hard to pick up whether they are almonds or walnuts. They taste more like raw peanuts to me. On the back-end of the flavor profile is a bitterness. The bitterness of dark chocolate bars I’ve tasted is usually up front which smooths out to a sweetness. The opposite is true for this flavor. I wasn’t able to finish this bar since I took a while to go through the first half that the heat made it oily and became unpalatable.

Overall Impressions
All bars are either 220 or 240 calories and 7-9 grams of protein. Total carbs. ranges from 20-23g with saturated fat from 11-14g. There is a low sodium profile, the Peanut Butter and Almond Chocolate Chip actually have no sodium. So, these bars definitely make good in-between-meals snacks and not snacks during a long run.

I’d stick to the two fruit flavored bars and leave your chocolate and peanut butter cravings to other bars that use peanut butter and more conventional forms of chocolate ingredients. The bars are oily because of the oil in the organic butter that are used. While providing some flavor and binding properties, the oils break down with some heat and the bars become limp and oily.

While I enjoyed the two fruit flavored bars, I personally would wait until a lower price point to purchase the bars. I understand the cost of producing new food items isn’t just about the cost of quality ingredients, but also in other overhead and variable costs associated with not only the bar, but with getting the product to market. Start-ups specially have higher costs of entry in the competitive organic whole food nutrition market with added higher expenses for marketing and PR. In the end a great tasting product will always lead me to choose one over another.

This is a commendable attempt at using new organic ingredients for people looking for an alternative to more established brands. I believe there is a growing niche market among endurance athletes looking for something that not only aligns with their athletic lifestyles, but with their environmental and social beliefs also. Kudos to Nii for recognizing that and attempting to fill that void.

Get their story and visit them at www.niibar.com.


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Pocket Fuel Product Review

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I noticed a person tweeting about Pocket Fuel and I was intrigued. I love the idea of whole food nutrition in a small pouch. Usually, I use Clif Shot gels for runs longer than an hour. I was excited to try something different from my traditional gel.

Pocket Fuel uses nut butters as a base with the addition of various fruits, seeds, and natural sugar. It doesn’t have the typical gel consistency. It’s thicker and the consistency is textured and sometimes grainy.

I bought three pouches from REI: Banana Blueberry and Chia Goji Honey (both almond butter based) and the hazelnut butter based Chocolate Haze.

The first one I tried was the Chocolate Haze. I’m a sucker for anything chocolate. I took it out on an easy 12 miler. I followed the website instruction to squish and squeeze vigorously to make the consistency gooey and easier to consume on the run. After about 5 minutes of kneading the mixture, I left for my run. I held the packet in one hand and after seven miles I opened the cap to eat some. When I squeezed the pouch I first got a taste of oil before the hazelnut butter. I needed to squish the contents some more to mix everything up. I did this and it came out mixed, but in globs. It was cold outside and I was probably better off taking something that would not freeze over so easily, but I was excited to try something new! I sucked as much of the mixture out of the pouch as I could and resealed the with the cap. There was a good bit of the mixture left inside that I couldn’t squeeze out, so I took the rest home.

After this experience, I figured Pocket Fuel would best be used as a pre/post run snack. The package being bulky, the mixture thick, and the work you have to do to consume the content doesn’t make Pocket Fuel an “on the move” food source.

What I did for the other flavors was to spread it over toast before and after my run. I ran the pouch under hot water while massaging the mixture for a couple of minutes to get it to a spreadable consistency. The flavors I tasted were very good and satisfying. I can probably eat more than two packets after a hard run!

You have to give the folks over at Pocket Fuel a lot of credit for coming up with something that is so unique. I don’t think there is any other product out there that has the hunger satisfying properties of a fuel bar in an easy-to-digest consistency. Bravo!

Some challenges Pocket Fuel will have to address are the packaging, the ingredients and how they react to temperature change, and easing the user experience.

The hard plastic cap Pocket Fuel uses makes stuffing the pouch in small areas hard and uncomfortable. Also, while trying to get as much of the content out of the pouch, theres is always some that remain because you can’t squeeze past the plastic tubing tip. Sucking, as the website suggest, doesn’t work (partly because the contents have to be in liquid form for this to work).

I kept the pouches of Pocket Fuel on my dining room table for a couple of days. My house is kept at a constant 68 degrees. At this temperature, the nut butter base remained separate from the liquids in the pouch and hard. With the air temperature at 34 degrees during the one run I took Pocket Fuel with me, the contents separated and the bottom where the hazelnut butter settled into felt like a piece of stone. It took some effort to get it to a consistency I could squeeze through the pouch.

Understandably, using whole food ingredients will present some problems. We all know about oils separating from natural nut butters, and clumping of some fruits and seeds when mixed in liquid, but when something is marketed as “ready when you are” I don’t want to do much work when I’m ready for some food.

I hope they’re working on some changes because it’s a great tasting product with some unique nutritional benefits that are not often found in other fuel “gels.”

Some minor things I want to address:

-I don’t think the whole reusable pouch thing adds any value to the product. It takes too much effort to get the contents out and clean it. After that, what are we suppose to use it for? Gel consumers buy fuel gels for convenience, ease of use, and the ability to just throw them away. Perhaps recyclable rather than reusable.

-Not sure if this is a common occurrence, but I noticed every package of Pocket Duel sold at the REI location I went to was oily. Being sealed with a twist off cap it was easy for contents to leak out.


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2013 Christmas Wish List

I like to think I have a very simple taste in running gear. I don’t necessarily fancy the newest and best gear. I gravitate towards things that give me the greatest value for the type of activities I enjoy.

socksSmartwool PHD Nordic Socks – These merino wool blend socks will keep your feet dry and warm during snowy runs. A bonus is they don’t stink after runs and can be worn multiple times without washing! I own a pair and they’ve become my go to for long trail runs in cold weather conditions.

 

clif-energy-gel_thumb Clif Shot Energy Gel – I’ve tried a lot of gels and Clif has by far been the best tasting. The consistency of the gel is not thick like other brands and it isn’t loaded with too much things (protein, vitamins, supplements, etc). My favorites are Chocolate Cherry and Strawberry if I need a little pick me up and Raspberry for sustained energy with the caffeine buzz. When racing I mix the shots with water in a bottle for easy consumption on the go.

mountainHW

Mountain Hardwear Integral Pro Mid-Layer – Mountain Hardwear is known for making durable, high-quality outdoor apparel. This mid-layer has a great fit, comfortable feel, and does a really good job at maintaining body temperature. I’m a fan of merino wool blends for their ability to wick moisture and keep you warm while maintaining a light profile. Versatility is what makes this piece a good value. It can be worn on it’s own (flat-lock stitching eliminates chafing) or with a shell for really cold runs.

PETZL-NAOI’ve never owned a Petzl, not because I didn’t think their headlamps weren’t any good, on the contrary, I think they make the best, but the kind I’ve wanted were too expensive. Since this is a wish list, the NAO has to be included on the list! This headlamp has everything you would want while running hard in the dark. It has a sensor that will automatically adjust brightness, a beam setting that is more like a theater spotlight, operate in extreme weather, and fit and comfort! I hate having to go through light settings while running. I’d prefer my arm to be free to help with my balance. This headlamp has programmable light settings and the sensor allows for hands-free use!


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November Recipes

As a runner I eat plenty of bananas, but sometimes I buy too many and they become overripe. This is a recipe I messed around with that actually turned out pretty good.

Banana Cream Cheese Cupcakes
8 oz softened cream cheeseIMG_1122
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 overripe bananas, smashed
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix eggs, sugar, oil, cream cheese, vanilla, and bananas together until well blended. In separate bowl mix flower, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Slowly incorporate dry mix into wet mix. Pour into muffin cups. Bake for 20 mins. or golden brown.

Risotto is actually easier to make and very versatle than what some people think. The only hard thing about making risotto is the amount of attention you have to give to build a creamy rice. You can add whatever you want to add flavor and texture to the rice. Personal favorites include bacon, edamame, peppers and sausage.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto
2 cups squashIMG_1182
1 cup white mushroom
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2  onion, diced
1-1/2 cup Arborio rice
6 cups (approximately) vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1 tsp. fresh rosemary (1/2 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. fresh thyme (1/2 tsp. dried)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Heat broth in a separate pan. In large deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil.  Add squash and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until squash is semi-soft, but not mushy. It will continue to cook when you set it aside.

After plating the squash mixture to cool, add remaining butter to pan and saute onions until translucent. Add rice. Season with chili powder, turmeric, and herbs. Mix for a couple of minutes to make sure rice is covered with butter. Add about 2 cups of heated broth to rice and stir. Cook down liquid before adding more broth a cup at a time. Continue this until all the broth is used. Cook rice down until soft, but not mushy. Before serving, season with salt and pepper. Add cream and cheese to the rice and mix well. Mix in squash mixture and fold into rice mixture gently.
IMG_1177    IMG_1179


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My Dietary Needs – Pill Me!

My diet is hit or miss. I like to think most days I eat healthy, but there are days in the week when I indulge a little too much on the bad stuff: McDonald’s, Long’s donuts, beer, anything deep-fried, most things from The Sinking Ship. To cover my bases nutritionally and support my active lifestyle I supplement with a number of pills: spirulina, fish oil, BioAstin (astaxanthin), iron, and B-12.

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My morning cocktail. Spirulina, BioAstin, and a fish oil capsule.

The supplements I take are specific in helping me stay healthy as a runner. They help reduce and prevent inflammation; create and maintain energy; form and maintain red blood cells; prevent muscle damage; prevent sun damage; support urinary and digestive health; support skeletal  and muscular systems; and strengthen cardiovascular health.

I believe every serious athlete needs to supplement with something they feel is lacking. For me, those are usually the vitamins, minerals, and proteins vegetarians lack in their diet (80% of my diet is vegetarian). Ideally whole food sources should be targeted as primary sources for our daily vitamin needs, but as athletes our nutritional needs are more demanding which require us to eat more food to meet those needs; not ideal for an athlete with time demands and looking to maintain a competitive weight. Supplementation, then, becomes necessary.

What I’m sharing below is specific to my needs and what I have found to work for me. I’m no expert, yo!

I usually add iron in the weeks leading up to a race, and only in limited doses, usually 1 pill every other day. I don’t eat much red meat or fish, if any, and have found that cycling iron doses helps stave off fatigue during hard races.

I pop a B-12 lozenge 2 hours before a hard run to help keep my energy level up. It also helps maintain red blood cells as our body processes blood at a higher rate for energy production during intense exercise.

I take two doses of fish oil pills to help with reducing inflammation that occurs after exercise. By keeping this daily regimen I feel that I’ve been able to train hard on consecutive days with little aches and pains. Recovery from long runs have been shortened.

BioAstin is a name brand astaxanthin product produced by Nutrex-Hawaii. I started taking this supplement in 2008 when I first started training for marathons on the Big Island of Hawaii. I remember watching a commercial featuring Tim Marr and was intrigued enough to try it for myself.  Five years later I’m still supplementing with BioAstin, although it’s become harder to find in the midwest and have resorted to stock-piling during my trips to Hawaii and California.

Astaxanthin helps with joint and muscle health, but where it helps most is during the summer while training under the hot sun. It helps to repair tissue damage caused by heat and UV rays. I often up my dosage during this time to prevent fatigue and the ill effects on my skin due to sun damage. It’s helped me stave off cramping when taken after my pre-race breakfast.

I started taking spirulina while living in Hilo. Back then I ingested it in powder form, usually in smoothies. I took it because a runner friend recommended it and said it was a super food that can provide all the nutrients I would need as a runner and paddler. It got too expensive and when I moved back to California I stopped taking it. A few months back I started taking it again, this time in pill form. It’s really a kind of multi-vitamin, but with a complete protein compound! — Thanks to Nutrex-Hawaii (and my brother from another mother, Eddie O!) for providing me with more spirulina supplements to support my running addiction.

Lastly, I add whey protein to my post run smoothies. Whey is easily absorbed and doesn’t upset my stomach. Running breaks down muscle, so we have to take in more protein to repair damaged cells. I know my diet provides me certain types of proteins that may not be efficiently processed by my body (soy and dairy), so supplementing makes sure I round out my protein needs to provide long-term relief from muscle soreness and aid in cell regeneration.

If you get anything out of this post it should be to look beyond the nutritional recommended needs. By pushing our bodies to our limits, we abuse and demand things from our body the normal sedentary person doesn’t. We have to at least be aware of what those things are that are keeping us from progressing, then looking at how nutrition and supplementation may be able to help.

Do you take any supplements? What are they? Have they helped with performance?