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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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Hydration Bottle Reviews

I bought these bottles and was not compensated in any way by the manufacturers.

10419406_835520959799507_1758108178761869361_nUltimate Direction Fastdraw 2010665919_835520936466176_282894039378198914_n oz.
The best thing about this bottle is it doesn’t leak. Even when you leave the bite valve in the “up” position, not a drip! Two other good thing are the larger zipper pocket that can hold more items from the previous holster (phone, gels, keys…I’ve stuffed it full!) and the thin, chafe-free hand strap. Unfortunately two glaring deficiencies about the bottle and holster need to be addressed.

First, the pull-strap is very thin and twists easily when adjusting on-the-go. With this holster you’ll find yourself having to constantly adjust because the strap doesn’t hold in place and constantly loses tension. The loose strap is very annoying and I found myself having to grip the bottle tighter than I would have liked to (which lead to hand/grip fatigue during my 50k race).

Second, the bottle itself is very firm and hard to squeeze when you need to have a strong flow of liquid. Personally, I had a hard time squeezing out a consistent flow as I bit on the valve, even harder during my early morning runs in the cold when my hand is numb from the cold.

Recommendations:
A wider and calloused pull-strap may help with keeping the holster snug to the hand. Softening the plastic a bit to allow a better squeeze.

10629623_835521703132766_2209032509370364899_nSimple Hydration Bottle – 13 oz.
This is an innovative approach to carrying liquids. Simple deserves credit in trying to design a bottle that is easy to carry in the hand and also stuff in your shorts. I think they saw pictures of ultra-runners stuffing bottles into their tights and were inspired to make something for the masses that would like to have a hands free experience without the need for belts or packs.

After using the bottle on four runs ranging from 4 miles to 14, I found the bottle to be more of a nuisance than a relief. Three things stand out the most.

First off, the bottle cap is hard to pull up. I found myself having to bite down hard and jerk the cap up to start the flow of water. It also doesn’t go back down very easily. In fact, when you push down on the cap you’ll find it doesn’t go back down completely. When I squeeze the bottle while the cap is down a small drip starts. Not what you’d want if you were holding the bottle during a run. (The bottle is a softer plastic and easy to squeeze, which is good for a consistent flow of water.)

Second, the bottle lid doesn’t form a tight seal. When the water sloshes around the bottle, a consistent drip appears. Only when the water level is half full does the leak slow. Very annoying for me during my long run because I can feel the water soak my shorts early on the run.

Third, the bottle will weigh down your shorts! I first wore the bottle with my regular run shorts. While the bottle did fit comfortably on my back, I noticed the weight of the bottle start pulling my shorts down. After running half a block I had to pull the bottle up from my shorts and hold it in my hand because my shorts were well on their way to being around my ankles. The hook on the bottle that is supposed to hang on the shorts slipped from the waistline and the bottle went down my shorts. Only when I wore my running short tights did the bottle manage to relatively stay in place (as it continued to leak). As I ran downhill, the bottle moved around a lot and I found myself having to reach back and realign the bottle vertically while sliding it back to a comfortable position around my waist.

Recommendations:
Smaller bottle size (maybe 10 oz.?) will lessen the tendency for the bottle to weigh down shorts. Lengthening the “hook” while narrowing the gap may help with keeping the bottle on the shorts. Rubber bite valve similar to the Ultimate Direction bottle or adding a rubber gasket to the plastic cap while loosening it may help with the leaking. Softer plastic lid may help fill in gaps around the contours of the bottle where the lid screws onto.


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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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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?


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July 2013 Recap

Bowerman and ChoyMiles: 255.19
Time on feet: 37:20:02 h:m:s
Max time: 2:46:03
Long run mileage: 16.34
Number of activities: 30

July was a very inconsistent month for me. I modified a lot of my workouts by either cutting miles or skipping them altogether. I completed all of my “hard” workouts (intervals and tempos), but was less strict with my recovery and “easy” run days.

My favorite workouts are long intervals. This past month I ran 3x2miles, 8x1000m, 4x1mile, and 6x1200m. Each interval was run progressively faster, where the last one was at lung busting pace. I feel the leg turnover and aerobic toll during longer intervals more closely simulates and prepares the runner for the half-marathon “fast pace” rather than running 200m-400m sprints, which I will never be fast enough to utilize in a race.

Like my running, I’ve been inconsistent with my nutrition. Some weeks I eat really well; densely caloric and nutritionally healthy foods and other weeks I over-indulge in calorically unhealthy foods and beverages. My guilty pleasure remains anything from the McDonald’s dollar menu. Some days I end the day with a caloric debt, spending more than what I took in. Those days are followed by fatigue and my body craving “bad” carbs (usually satisfied by donuts, bacon, and chocolate milk).

The Kauai Half Marathon (AND WEDDING DAY!!!) is a month away and I feel like all I can do is execute the quality workouts and not get injured — I won’t get any faster or stronger. I’ve modified my goal based on how my pace training have gone. Instead of a sub 1:19:00, my new goal is 1:21:00.