Showing posts with label nutrition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nutrition. Show all posts

Friday, January 9, 2015

Snow good reason to run outside

Pretty snow. Awful run.
Today's workout (run): 1.2 miles, (elliptical): 25 minutes

Just a snow flurry moving quickly through the area, nothing to worry about. That's what they were saying at 6:00 AM when I started planning my morning run. The news stations began reporting heavy snowfall had started in NYC around 6:30. I naively assumed it wouldn't reach Long Island for a while, nor did I think we'd have much accumulation. Wrong.

After a cup of coffee, I made my way upstairs to change into running gear. I saw that my wife was already on the elliptical. I also noticed that the snow was coming down pretty hard. No problem, I'd dress for bad weather and wear my Cascadias for traction. After all, running in snow is fun, right? I took one more look at the elliptical and considered that option before heading out into the winter wonderland.

This was to be my first run since New Years Day. I'd resisted the temptation to resume workouts once my sciatica pain began to lessen and targeted today to start. The soreness remains, but it's minor. I knew that the inch-plus of snow would slow me down and provide a softer surface than pavement. I hoped that both factors would help minimize the chance that I'd re-aggravate my injury.

The temperature was in the mid-20's with moderate wind. I made my way through the neighborhood, keeping to the sidewalk for safety. Between the spongy snow and uneven sections, that seemed equally risky. By the time I reached the top of the first road, my feet began to feel numb. The volumes of snow blowing around made it hard to see and I felt sinus pain where my freezing glasses touched my face.

I'd intended to run about three miles but the growing discomfort changed my mind. I redirected my route and returned to my house after covering 1.2 miles. By the time I returned home, it was almost white-out conditions. So much for a fun run in the snow. Even with my Opedix and under-layer, three top layers, a waterproof running jacket, headband and cold weather beanie, I was uncomfortably cold.

I quickly headed upstairs and shed most of those layers before jumping on the elliptical. Compared to the cold, slippery conditions I'd just left, the elliptical experience felt great. I completed a 25 minute session and capped it off with ten push ups. We had a nutritionist in the office yesterday and I talked to her about fat burning efficiency with aerobic, cardio and weight bearing exercise. The nutritionist told me that strength focused workouts are the most effective way to reduce body fat while maintaining muscle mass. Thus, the push ups.

Tomorrow should be free of snow but still still extremely cold. It warmed up into the 30's this afternoon so there's a chance the roads may be clear of snow. Last January there was so much snow that I was forced to use the treadmill for over 70% of my workouts. The current condition of our treadmill makes that an unappealing option. In the meantime, I'm back to running and that's the progress I've been hoping for.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Paleo and juicing may actually be a good idea

Caveman no like grain!
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

There's lots of talk these days about the Paleo or caveman diet. When I first heard about it, I dismissed it as a macho re-branding of Atkins or the South Beach diets. I've always felt that the best diet (in the sense of ongoing lifestyle, not a short term weight loss strategy) aligns with USDA guidelines. This means a balance of fruits, grains, vegetables and protein. Humans are omnivores and the idea of eliminating grains in favor of  much higher protein levels strikes me as a path toward unintended consequence.

I have a friend who adopted juicing (not steroids!) as a primary nutritional model. He and his wife would stock up on very healthy items like spinach, kale, beets and carrots that they'd put through a juicer and use in place of meals. My friend is smart and he recognized that juicing separates the fiber, so they'd spoon that back in to their smoothies. Soon after, they began to experiment with their solid diet and have also adopted the Paleo method.

As a runner, I'm interested in nutrition for both health and performance. At the same time, I have no patience for those who aggressively proselytize about Paleo, vegan-ism or any similarly restrictive lifestyle. I'll admit that I'm intrigued with Paleo and juicing because there is some rationale to their concepts.

Juicing, done right, seems to be a legitimate nutritional model. Fresh fruits and vegetables, free of process, have got to be good for you. That is, unless those ingredients are carrying salmonella or similar toxins that won't be eliminated by cooking. But most of us eat salad and that seems to be okay most of the time. The toughest part for me would be drinking a green frothy milkshake that tastes nothing like a milkshake.

The Paleo thing is interesting because of the primary concept. Unlike Atkins, that allows grains, artificial sweeteners and processed oils, Paleo sets the bar to how humans lived tens of thousands of years ago. In caveman days there was no way to create flour or to bake, so those products are excluded. In a similar way, all processed foods, meat or vegetable, are also left out. The diet is balanced between protein, fruit and vegetables, plus seeds or grasses like quinoa.

The science behind Paleo is that eliminating grains reduces the production of sugar in our body and that forces ketosis, a process that uses fat for energy, rather than glycogen. I am no expert on how this works, but it does make sense in theory. In terms of adopting the Paleo diet, I'll wait and see if my friend grows a unibrow and hair on his knuckles before I partake. But there's no harm in choosing less processed foods when possible. No one can argue that reducing sugar intake (via carbs or sweets) is a good idea.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gifted with home baked energy bars

Contents: taste and energy
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

When it comes to nutrition, I try to maintain the best possible diet that doesn't impose difficult requirements. By this I mean that most of my food choices are the right ones: vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, tofu, and reasonable portions. Unlike "foodies", I don't really care about what I eat as long as it has some taste. In terms of eating organic or avoiding any type of processed food, I can't be bothered. All in all, I think I do pretty well.

A colleague of mine at work, HB, is a true foodie with an interest in healthy baking. She experiments with food combinations and generously shares the results with her co-workers. I am always happy to provide feedback. She recently started a blog called Oven Notes that's worth a look.

Not long ago, HB asked me whether I used energy bars when I ran. I told her that I do use them and that there's a big difference between a bar you'd consume prior to a run, versus one that you'd eat for recovery. After quizzing me on the taste and ingredient profile, she baked up a batch. Each bar is 126 calories and has a good mix of carbs, protein and fat. The ingredients themselves include bing cherries, almonds, coconut and oats. Date syrup is used as a sweetener and whey powder for protein.

The results were impressive. Unlike Clif bars, which can be a little too sweet, these bars have a nice tart balance. They are packed with good stuff and, considering their low calorie count, are very filling. I haven't used them as a pre-run bar but they've been great with a cup of coffee in the morning. Perhaps tomorrow I'll put them to the test. I'll suggest to HB that she post the recipe on her blog. Otherwise I'll include it in one of my posts.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eleven miles at Bethpage, without fuel nor water

Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 11.2 miles

I had plans to run with my buddy Dave today, but he had a scheduling issue and needed to postpone. The plan was for Dave to accompany me on his bike while I ran. Last February, I wrote a post about Dave's racing nightmare when he suffered a heart attack during a 10 mile race. Since then he has responded well and has been cleared for runs in the 2-3 mile range. It shows that even if you suffer a heart attack, being otherwise fit will certainly accelerate your recovery.

The temperature was in the high 30's when I went out at at 8:30 AM, and I'd purposely under dressed knowing I'd be generating heat over my long run. I wasn't that uncomfortable, even at the beginning, and by mile two I was glad to be in running shorts.

I wore the Spiras thinking they would minimize the possibility of foot problems, but I detected the slight pain in my left foot that I'd assumed was specific to the Kinvara 3's. After a few miles the pain decreased and I thought I had it licked. Turned out it wasn't so simple. By the end my feet were very uncomfortable.

The only nutrition I took for the entirety of my run was a GU gel that I had prior to the start. I took along a GU Roctane for refueling later in the run, but I didn't feel as though I needed it. I also brought a water bottle but didn't take a sip during the run. I wasn't being macho by denying myself nutrition and hydration, I just wanted to test whether I needed it. Did my body use fat as an energy source after glycogen depletion?

After many weeks running the Bethpage bike trail, I've become familiar enough with the route that I know how far I've gone without looking at my Garmin. I also separate the course into stages, based on landmarks. That helps me psychologically, especially as I increase my distance each week. Today I ventured within a mile of the bottom of the trail, located in Massapequa Preserve. I may end up doing an end to end run next time.

On my way back I was happily surprised that my energy level never fell too far and when it dropped a little, I quickly rebounded. I saw many runners, walkers and cyclists today and one sap who was walking along the trail, smoking a cigarette. Why do something healthy like that and smoke?

I did experience a drop in energy with about 2 miles to go. I knew I was facing the toughest part of the route and resigned myself to the work. Running the penultimate hill was easier than I thought it would be, but the final hill was a bear. Still, I finished 11.2 miles feeling in better shape than I did when I ran 9 miles a few weeks ago.

I'm on vacation this week and next weekend is the Marcie Mazzola 5K (on Sunday). Due to that, I'll skip my base run as I taper. From now until then, speed will be my focus. I'm curious to see if all this base building will help me push the pace over a decidedly shorter distance.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why runners should be kookoo for Coco Puffs

Probably too processed to deliver epicatechin - but yummy!
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I know that they don't sell Count Chocula at Whole Foods but maybe they should. According to an article in yesterday's NY Times, epicatechin, cacao’s primary nutritional ingredient, has been identified as a factor to measurably improve athletic performance. In a study with mice who were tested using epicatechin against mice that didn't, "The fittest rodents...were those that had combined epicatechin and exercise. They covered about 50 percent more distance than the control animals."

Now mice and people obviously differ but the findings were that epicatechin facilitated the creation of new capillaries and new mitochondria. The study said that the combination of exercise and epicatechin yielded the clearest benefits. This morning I had a small piece of dark chocolate before my elliptical workout and I did well, although there are multiple reasons to explain that. The fact is, epicatechin is a flavonol, and, as the Times puts it, "a class of molecules that are thought to have widespread effects on the body." 

I don't believe in supplements but I do think it makes sense that better nutrition will lead to better performance. If that nutrition comes in the form of dark chocolate, who am I to complain?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The surprising power of raw clams

Given that I rise at 3:50 AM most weekdays my interest in late night business dinners is fairly low. I made an exception last night because the situation warranted it. My hosts were in a generous mood, their business is based in New Orleans and after attending the Superbowl on Sunday they were still in a celebratory mood. Before I knew it the waiters had constructed a large three-tiered serving platter covered with every kind of fresh seafood that you could imagine. It was indulgent but great and I ate more than I normally would. Many find raw cherrystone clams unappealing but to a New Englander who spent his summers on Cape Cod, it was a rare treat. Although the wine was well selected and ample I avoided alcohol and my head and body thanked me when I stepped on the treadmill at 4:00 AM this morning.

As I've been doing throughout my recovery, I began today's run at a fairly modest pace. I'm finding that a slower start really helps me later as I pick up speed. I expected my protein-rich dinner to bog me down but the effect was fully opposite. Even as I moved the speed control faster on the treadmill I felt like I still had a lot more in reserve. When I came to the end of my running time I felt great, no pain with some real gain. I felt so good that I kept going longer than I'd planned. The energy and strength I had this morning has made me wonder whether my diet that's high in vegetables and whole grains is not balanced with enough protein. It's hard to know how much last night's dinner really affects your morning performance. If fresh shellfish, mussels and clams give me a boost like that again I'm going to rethink my strategy for pre-race meals.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Newsflash: eating less calories helps weight loss

I was amused to see the article that the NY Times published last Wednesday confirming that reducing calories, regardless of source (fat, carbs, sugars, etc.) is the only way to reduce weight. Although this should be a very obvious point it's often missed and most diets center on the types of calories, not their overall reduction. Of course we also know the evil side of this revelation when people reduce calories using very unhealthy methods - anorexia and bulimia as examples. Eating less will cause you to lose weight. Eating less, concentrating on nutrition and running will make you lose weight and keep you healthy. Hey, if the NY Times can be that obvious then I can too.

I'm traveling up to Cambridge MA later today to visit the MIT Media Lab. I've served as my company's affiliate to MIT for the last ten years and I'm always excited by what I see and hear when I'm there. Since I've got back into running I have a deeper appreciation for some of the people I see there, like Joe Paradiso, who heads up the Responsive Environments Group at the Media Lab. This group developed most of the motion sensor technologies that are being used by companies like Nike in products like the Nike+ iPod and Sportband tracking systems. While I'm up there I'm hoping to do some running but the weather report is not encouraging: 8 to 12 inches of snow and ice expected for the northeast by midday on Monday. So it looks like indoor running for me. It's a good thing I like hotel treadmills.

This morning I ran 3.3 miles at about the same pace as yesterdays. It snowed a little overnight so I wore my Kutu’s, which felt a little snug. I also suspect the Kutus are slightly heavier than the Turbulence 13's which makes me tire a little sooner. I noticed today that when I end my long runs I'm almost never winded. It's more fatigue than lung capacity that makes me stop. I'm making progress with conditioning and I'd rather meet the challenge of fatigue than deal with aerobic energy limitations. I was happy with my run today but I admit I struggled more than Saturday when I ran a mile further.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bad advice and some that's good

This morning, while on the elliptical, I watched one of those celebrity entertainment programs (I think it was Extra) before the news came on. There was a lot of discussion about nutrition and they had a guest trainer to the stars who talked about a healthy diet that included five small meals a day.
I think that's a reasonable approach, in fact I've heard the term "grazing" to describe that type of diet. What bothered me about this diet were the meal-snacks themselves: egg whites, cheese and meat. The portion sizes were small but the balance was completely off. There were no vegetables or fruit or whole grains. I'm sure that following this diet and training would help a person lose weight but unless the person was taking supplements I can't imagine it's a healthy approach. During other parts of the show they featured diet snacks, all of which included Philadelphia cream cheese. This was clearly sponsored and cream cheese is probably a better choice than butter or lard but I think it's disingenuous to represent the main ingredient in cheesecake as particularly healthy.

I eat small portions in my four daily "meals" - pre-post exercise, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Total calorie intake is low and I am careful to balance to the food pyramid. Knock on wood this diet works since I rarely get sick and when I do it's usually a mild cold that leaves after a day. Yesterday, due to scheduling issues, I missed lunch and barely noticed. I had something small on the fly to remind my metabolism that I’m not starving so it should keep working. I remember a time six months ago when missing lunch would be much more noticeable.

I hope people recognize that just because a famous trainer on television promotes a diet that is disproportionately balanced toward protein it doesn’t mean it's a good choice.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Sedentary Man talks nutrition

In this week's column the Sedentary Man explains that the way he eats is likely due to the way his mother fed him growing up. Still, for a guy with an Ivy League degree you'd expect Sedentary Man to have more sense about nutrition. But I'm only saying that to get back at him for nodding off during our meetings. Read his column here...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nutrition, running and weight

I've written before about my observations related to workout effort and weight. The key point is that maintaining an ideal weight should not be viewed as a complex series of actions related to diets that force unnatural behavior and/or over-training to burn off calories. Simply put, if your focus on fitness and weight maintenance isn't sustainable your results won't be sustainable. Last August I decided that my diet and level of activity were unacceptable and chose to change my behavior. I never considered any changes related to quick weight loss because that wasn't the point. The point was more about managing cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure by introducing more activity, reducing portion sizes and making better choices for foods. Everyone has their own unique body chemistry and what has worked for me won't necessarily yield the same results for others. But I have been successful in meeting all my goals to date.

This morning I weighed in (I only check weight once a week, always in the morning before my run) and noted that I have largely stabilized at a weight that is 13% lower than my benchmarked weight from August '09. My BMI has gone from 27.2 to 23.6, and my cholesterol, triglyceride and other vitals have all moved well into the normal range. My average running distance has increased almost 30% since August and this is also key to getting to full equilibrium. As weight has come off the effort required to run an equivalent distance has decreased. Increasing distance while maintaining the same safe and satisfying diet has allowed me to reach a level that is both sustainable and healthy.

Now that I have reached this point I need to think about where I go from here. I do plan to keep increasing distance and I'll need to build more muscle to increase my performance. I may need to eat more to do that because without the right level of protein a runner can do damage to muscles when pushing hard. I suspect that may be why I experienced a hamstring pull doing tempo runs a few weeks ago. It's all about balance. This is my typical diet. You can compare it to Sedentary Man's:

90 calorie Special K bar (high complex carbs, low sugar, low protein)
Half cup coffee, .5 oz. non-fat milk

200 calorie Larabar (nut varieties, high protein)
6 0z. coffee with fat free milk

Stir fry with tofu, vegetables, brown rice and low sodium soy sauce
Whole fruit

Boca burger, whole wheat bread
Sun Chips
Trader Joe's Omega nut mix (1.6 oz.)
Whole fruit

I've been introducing small portions of chicken into my dinners, typically mixed with vegetables, to increase protein levels. I also add edamame to increase protein. As I've said before, it's really about listening to your body. At this point I believe I have the balance right. Compared to August I have significantly more energy and I am far less stressed. Good results are motivating and the level of effort required to maintain my balance is reasonable enough so that I look forward to my daily workouts.

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