The Whole-30: A Tough Food Challenge!

WOOT member Beth Greer recently completed a 30-day food challenge which required her to eliminate certain food groups from her diet. While WOOT does not endorse or discourage any type of food restrictions or recommendations, we are open to hearing the views of those who have experimented with dietary modifications in order to improve their health and fitness. We enjoyed reading Beth’s account of her “Whole-30″ Food Challenge:

By Beth Greer

After a friend (ultrarunner, ironman, and trail race director) and his wife (swimming coach and iron(wo)man) proclaimed, via social media, their successes following The Whole 30, I was thoroughly intrigued. This diet, as in food consumed on a regular basis, challenges you to eat only meats, vegetables (minus corn and white potatoes), fruits, healthy oils, coconut milk, some nuts and seeds, and oddly enough, ghee. That means for 30 days, you cannot eat legumes, gluten, dairy, sugar in any form (cane, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave), grains, or alcohol. All of which can cause inflammation and other possible negative responses within the body. The scientist and athlete in me had to conduct this experiment.

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I will tell you right now that the first week was not fun since you are basically going through sugar and complex carbohydrate-withdraw. My energy levels were painfully low. So much so that I had to take naps between work and dinner. I was also fighting a barrage of nearly constant and all-consuming (pun intended) cravings. One minute I HAD to have garlic bread in order to go on living, and the next minute the twix in the vending machine was yelling my name from across the building. And then there was running. I couldn’t even make it two miles during this transitional period. All of these are normal according to the website and testimonials; however, I felt anything but normal.

By the time the second week rolled around, the cravings had slowed and then vanished and my energy levels increased. And throughout the 30 days, I began sleeping better, I no longer felt those familiar mid afternoon energy slumps, waking up was easy, my skin cleared, and I felt… good… mentally and physically. And while I was not doing this with the intention of losing weight, I lost about five pounds. During week three, I did have a bad day where I felt nauseous every time I thought about healthy food. All I wanted was pizza or tacos. But I fought through it, and it passed.  By the end of the 30 days, the only thing I truly missed in a non-craving sort of way was dark chocolate.

But how about the most important part you ask?!

During week two, I ran my fastest PFT in 5 years. Up until that point I was running once a week with WOOT averaging 12-15 minute/mile and riding the road bike 20-30 miles once a week. I had done no tempo runs and no speed work. As I crossed the start line, my legs felt like they had been fill with half-dried concrete as everyone sprinted by me. I accepted my fate to be one of the last ones to finish with an embarrassingly slow time. But before I even hit a quarter of a mile, I began passing people, and I continued passing people at a steady rate. At the halfway point, the monitor shouted out the time elapsed; I was beyond shocked but excited.  During the second half of the 3 mile run, my legs never felt lighter, but I continued to hold my pace.

This was a turning point in this diet. All following runs and rides reflected my new found speed and energy and by week 3, my legs no longer felt heavy during feats of athleticism. They only time my energy waned was if I did not eat enough the day before. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin became my good friends in the absence of those complex carbohydrates that we athletes tend to love for endurance energy. I also never hit the wall or felt the need to replenish calories during a run or ride and did not lust after every McDonalds, CoCos, and Soba shop on the way home as I normally do.

After day 30, I began adding things back one at a time, but I didn’t notice a difference until the day after adding gluten. I woke up feeling groggy, bloated and horrible, and I ran incredibly slow for the first half of my run as was the norm prior to the Whole 30. And now, two weeks later, my running has returned to pre-Whole 30 state.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. I learned quite a lot about how what I eat affects my body, and I intend to continue to experiment, especially with gluten. I also find myself less interested in highly processed and fast foods. I feel that if I am going to consume the less healthy foods, they are going to be of good quality (I mostly mean the expensive chocolate, homemade baked goods, preservative free breads, fancy cheeses, etc). And if nothing else, I came away with some great, healthy recipes that I would be happy to share!

http://whole9life.com/category/whole-30/

 

“Healthier and Delicious” Crunchy Chocolate Rice Crispie Bars

If you enjoyed rice crispie treats as a child (or still do enjoy them), then you might enjoy this home-made, healthier version. This is one of my favorite little sweet indulgences; I enjoy eating them right out of the freezer with a cup of green tea (or other slightly bitter tea – to offset the sweetness). They also make for a great after-school treat or quick-energy treat.Try them – you might be pleasantly surprised.

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Ingredients:

1 cup Envirokidz Chocolate Crisp Rice Cereal; 3/4 cup rolled oats (gluten-free if you prefer); 1/2 cup finely shredded, unsweetened coconut; 1/4 cup cocoa powder; 1/4 cup ground flax; 1/4 cup sunflowerr seeds; 2 packets stevia; 1/3 cup reduced-fat peanut butter; 1/3 cup creamy clover honey; 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Stir the first 7 ingredients together, until well blended. In a separate microwaveable bowl, add the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla. Melt for 1 minute and stir completely. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well. Line an 8×8 baking dish with baking paper and spray. Pour mixture into dish and refrigerate until well-cooled. Break into chunks and store in the freezer – eat directly from the freezer. Enjoy!

Heat Training – Take Advantage of the Hot Summer Months

Anna Boom

Anyone besides me notice it’s hot and humid outside lately? Have you also noticed how much harder it is to run and how slow it feels?  How drenched you are after just less than a mile?

Welcome to summer running in Okinawa!! It’s hard, hot, humid and can help you perform better as an athlete. Yes!

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At the Duluth marathon, I chatted with a fellow runner and he mentioned that ultra marathon champ, Scott Jurek had been asked about running in the heat. Scott compared heat training to altitude training, which many athletes do to improve performance. This got me reading a couple of articles, one from Runners World:

http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/heat-stress-plasma-volume-and-the-benefits-of-dehydration

From this, we learn one of the biggest benefits is increasing the volume of blood plasma and this results in higher V02. As we begin to adapt to the heat training, our bodies start sweating earlier and there is a lot more of it, too (you’ve probably noticed on your own runs). Our heart is busy cooling the body by pumping blood to the skin, our largest organ, which makes it feel harder to run with less blood for your running muscles. So that is why it’s so hard?!

To begin training, use acclimation. When you run in the heat, your body adapts but as Dr. Lorenzo, who headed the University of Oregon study and where much of the recent articles are based upon, suggests starting with “multiple slow, easy sessions. Don’t rush or overdo the acclimation process. Overheating can be dangerous (which is why heat acclimation exists, of course). If you begin to feel ill during any of the acclimation sessions, slow down or stop. Consult your doctor. “

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/03/phys-ed-will-training-in-the-heat-improve-your-performance/

The running should not be hard and you can take walk breaks to cool off a bit (or to realize just how much you’re sweating). Make sure you have sunblock on or long sleeve, and hats to protect from the sun. Be prepared to sweat a lot and have sports drink or some water with electrolytes on hand.

And why exactly am I suggesting you put yourself through this? In the heat training study, the athletes who trained in 104F closed room, performed anywhere from 4 to 8 % better than before they began the heat training.

So get out there and improve your late summer or fall race times and take advantage of the free heat training. Come out and run with WOOT on our lunchtime runs!

Nutty Chia Seed Banana Muffins

These are another of my older daughter’s favorite muffins – she likes the combination of banana, walnuts, and chia seeds, as well as the subtle peanut butter flavor. This recipe can also be used to make a loaf, or squares in an 8′ baking dish.

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Ingredients

1 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt, 3 tbsps chia seeds, a few dashes cinnamon, 3 ripe mashed bananas, 1 tbsp canola oil, 2 tbsps creamy peanut butter, 1/2 cup rice milk, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup agave nectar, 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease muffin pan
  3. Combine peanut butter, rice milk, water, baking soda, baking powder, agave nectar, oil, cinnamon, banana, chia seeds, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir until the banana and peanut butter blend into the liquid.
  4. Add in the flour. Fold in the nuts, and apple cider vinegar.
  5. Pour into muffin pan.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for approx. 24 minutes – or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Cool and serve warm, or store in fridge and serve chilled.

 

Tight Muscles – Not Necessarily A Bad Thing For Runners

Jannine Myers

Every few weeks (or every other week if I’m in a heavy training cycle), I go and get a deep-tissue massage. My massage therapist has the same complaint every time I see her – my muscles are too tight, she says, and I should start doing yoga and taking regular saunas.

I’m that person who can’t touch the ground when bending over, or actually even get close to touching the ground.

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And if I were sitting on the floor with my legs crossed or spread out in front of me, and tried to move my torso towards the ground, I’d be lucky if my upper body moved forwards by more than ten degrees! That’s why I was so pleased to read the following information in an article sent to me by a good friend:

Flexibility is generally thought of as a good thing, and therefore the loss of flexibility that results from running has generally been thought of as a bad thing. But think about it: Why would running cause a physiological adaptation that was bad for running? We know that every other physiological adaptation to running is good for running. Increased bone density, increased muscle glycogen storage, increased muscle mitochondria density, reduced body fat stores—all good.

Why would all of these helpful adaptations be accompanied by one—reduced flexibility—that is not?The answer, of course, is that the effect of running on flexibility is not hurtful but is in fact helpful like all of the others. The natural tightening of the lower leg joints and connective tissues that occurs in response to run training allows the muscles to function as stiffer springs that are better able to capture energy from ground impact and reuse it to propel forward motion than untrained legs. This improves running economy by allowing the runner to use less energy to sustain any given pace. Boing, boing, boing.

Finally, a little bit of hope that my overly tight muscles are not as worrisome as my massage therapist seems to think they are. If you’re as inflexible as I am, then you might enjoy reading the full article, written by Matt Fitzgerald and published here on Runningcompetitor.com.

 

Healthy Flaxseed Muffins

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup gluten-free flour, 1/2 cup flaxseed meal, 1/2 cup self-raising flour, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 6 dates, 3 eggs, 2 tbsps olive oil, 1/4 cup water, 1/8 cup sesame seeds, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup dried cherries, 2 ripe bananas, 1/8 to 1/4 cup agave nectar

  1. In a large bowl, combine flours and salt.
  2. In a food processor or vita-mix, blend dates, eggs, olive oil, agave nectar, and water on high speed until very smooth.
  3. Mix wet ingredients into dry, then stir in seeds and fruits.
  4. Spoon batter into lined muffin tins.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 mins.
  6. Cool and serve.

Note: If you want to make these gluten-free, then omit the self-raising flour and add 1 tsp baking soda, and use other dried fruits instead of bananas so the mixture won’t be too moist.