Sunday, May 13, 2012

Update after a long hiatus

It's been a while since I've had a chance to post. I was out of town several weekends, then I moved. But I've learned some important nutritional lessons in the past few weeks that I'd like to share.

Paleo and the BRAT Diet: The day I had to pack up all my stuff and move, I woke up with a nasty 24-hour stomach flu. I barely was able to pack up all my stuff into boxes, then I slept for 12 hours and luckily woke up the next day feeling fine.

With stomach viruses in the past, I have been told by doctors to stick to the BRAT diet: Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. These foods are easy for the stomach to digest, but unfortunately some aren't paleo. Paleo Hacks has a good post on this topic. Rice and potatoes are the lesser evils in paleo, so would be good choices. Sugarfree applesauce and bananas are also fine. Avoid toast, especially if your body responds well to being gluten-free.

Packaged Beets at Trader Joe's: My new apartment is down the street from a Trader Joe's, so I've been going more often. Although their organic section is measly, and too many things are prepackaged (like lettuce, kale, and most other veggies), I've found a couple gems. The most significant is their package of pre-cooked beets. I can keep them in the fridge and slice up one per day for my salad at lunch. This is so much better than spending an hour on Sunday cutting, boiling, simmering, cooling and peeling beets for the week -- an activity I had sadly given up due to the time commitment.

Another important find is their balsamic vinaigrette, which is made with canola oil. All other balsamics I've found use soybean oil or vegetable oil. Olive oil can get boring, and the huge amount of greens I eat these days requires a huge amount of dressing. The Omega 3 advantage of TJ's canola-based vinaigrette matters. Lastly, I've found some inexpensive wild-caught seafood in their frozen food section.

As I look for ways to cut my time in the kitchen while keeping my diet clean and largely unprocessed, I'm excited for what other brilliant items I'll find at Trader Joe's.

Growers' Co-Ops: Something I've had on my list for a while, but never got around to, was signing up to be part of a growers' co-op. I always figured it would be too much of a commitment and too much food for just one person. Well, shame on me for not exploring it sooner. I got a LivingSocial coupon to Skarsgard Farms here in Albuquerque, and it was amazing. You basically can sign up in advance to receive a "share of the bounty," and get a box of local produce delivered to your door, once per week or bi-weekly. You get to choose the size of the box (small, medium and large). With my high-veg diet, I consumed the medium box within a week, easily. If you don't want to deal with scheduling deliveries, you can come to their storefront and pick your produce yourself. The cost is on par with or cheaper than the equivalent organic produce at the supermarket. I'm excited to be a new member of the Co-Op.

Adventures in Intermittent Fasting: So far so good. To get back up to my old weight but stay as lean as I have become on paleo, I've been trying to eat, eat, eat for the past couple weeks, and have gained about a pound while keeping my body fat constant. I'm experimenting with different non-paleo starch sources for post-workout recovery, because they're cheap, easy and calorie dense. Some of the lesser evils in paleo are rice, lentils, quinoa and potato. (I'll explain why in my next post). Well, lo and behold, rice makes me feel bloated and lentils make me gassy. (Beans, beans, the magical fruit...) Maybe there's something to this whole paleo thing after all. I have not experimented with quinoa yet, but have actually done well with corn. A couple vegetarian corn tamales with chicken or salmon after a workout are easy on my stomach, and relatively healthy (maybe not as neutral as rice, but also not as catastrophic as wheat). I will continue to experiment and post about this.

I have fasted from 9 pm-ish until around 11 am every other day this past week. It is surprisingly easy. As John Berardi discusses in his ebook, the hunger gets intense in a wave and peaks, but then dissipates. I was surprised by how non-painful the peak was, and how quickly it dissipated. I eat two meals in the five or so hours before working out, and try to get the majority of my calories (60%+) post workout in a huge carb- and protein-heavy dinner meal. When breaking the fast around mid-day, I actually have to remind myself to eat, because I'm not particularly hungry. For me, who usually gets hungry and needs to eat every three hours, the ease of the transition has been astounding. Any reader who has dealt with me on Yom Kippur would never have guessed it would go so smoothly.

I worked out semi-fasted (just a small whey protein and maltodextrin shake) this past Saturday and Sunday, and again was surprised by how well I did. And the post-workout meals were outrageously huge and awesome. 

Between my cycling commute and mountain biking routine, and CrossFit's emphasis on both strength and metabolic conditioning (all of which I refuse to compromise on), I'm not fooling myself. It's likely I won't gain much mass regardless of how much I eat or my adherence to any wacky fasting routine. Still, though, intermittent fasting allows me to get up and go right to work. I have better focus because I'm not distracted by thoughts on when to eat and how much. It's actually...dare I say...nice.

I plan on doing my first full-day fast in the next week or two. This isn't part of the leangains protocol, and probably won't help me gain mass, but it has potentially positive effects on health and longevity -- a rest for the GI tract, and a care-and-maintenance regimen for cells. I'll make up the deficit in calories with a bulking day.

That's all I got, for now. I'm going to do another post on intermittent fasting soon, answering the typical questions and concerns to appease my friends and family, such as: your metabolism will be screwed up! Fat people are the ones who skip breakfast! Your body will go into starvation mode! And, in the end, I'll listen to what the data tells me.

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