Good & Bad

standard August 11, 2013 Leave a response

The past two weeks have given me a slight obsession about fat. Is it good or is it bad? Should I eat a lot or a little? What is the real nutrient value?

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I’ve always been a big advocate for not cutting out any macronutrients. Our bodies need carbohydrates, fats, and protein in order to function. If we do not get the right amounts of these, our incredible bodily systems will pull from other internal resources to keep functioning, leading to illness and disease if this quick fix isn’t corrected.

Everyone loves protein. It’s easy to get enough of it in an average, plant-based diet. It’s in grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Most people eat more protein than they need to everyday, especially with the constant focus on getting enough through food marketing initiatives.

Carbohydrates are good in moderation, and our food society has excess carbohydrates everywhere. Pizza, burgers, sandwiches, pasta. We cannot get away from it. So I am okay with the fact that the Thrive Diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and pseudo-grains as the main carbohydrate source.

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But fat has me stumped. Mostly, oil has me stumped. Fats are in many plant-based foods, with a high concentration in nuts and seeds. And many oils are produced from these: flax seed,  grape seed, hemp, walnut. Then we also have olive oil and coconut oil, which has its own debate. Thrive focuses on flax seed, hemp, and coconut oils. There’s at least 1 tablespoon in most recipes, and I eat about 1-2 tablespoons a day, which is well within normal daily limits. But I am also getting a few more tablespoons a day from nuts, nut butters, seeds, and avocados. At the end of the day, my food diary shows that I am 20-30 g over my daily needs of 40 g. That’s a lot of fat.

Proponents of no-added fat diets avoid oils because of their lack of nutrient density. 1 tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories, 14 g of fat, and trace amounts of iron, vitamin E, and vitamin K. By comparison, 1 tablespoon whole olives has 10 calories, less than 1 g of fat, and various amounts of most vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, calcium, sodium, and potassium (source). That’s a lot more food for nutrient value and the same calories. I get that issue – so why does my diet have so much oil?

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When olives and seeds are pressed to make oil, it is both concentrating nutrients into a smaller form and leaving out nutrients from the shell that is left after being pressed. By picking the right oils, such as flaxseed, hemp, and pumpkin oil, the nutrient value is comparable to eating a whole handful of raw seeds. Both the oil and the seeds are nutrient-dense foods, packing in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Olive oil, however, leaves a lot of nutrients behind in the crushed olives and does not provide a great ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids compared to the others. A lot of other common oils in our Western diet, including canola oil, vegetable oil, and safflower oil, are similar to olive oil in their lack of nutrient value when processed from whole foods to oil. And considering that all oil is technically a processed food, less is always better in my opinion.

However, since fat I am getting is from adequate nutrient-dense sources, for now I am okay leaving the oil in my diet. I am still on the fence with coconut oil and only use it to cook, since flax seed and hemp oils have too low a burning point for cooking, which would destroy the fatty acids and convert them to trans-fats. But since I also eat whole flax seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds, giving my body the nutrition from the whole food in addition to the concentrated oil, I will continue to include them in my diet, as given in the Thrive meal plan, within moderation. Studies have shown that runners actually need added dietary fat in order to perform at optimal speed and endurance. If we do not get enough fat, our bodies are forced to only use carbohydrates for energy, which can be depleted quickly, especially in endurance athletes. The right types of added fat provides additional fuel for longer use to supplement glycogen stores. As a runner who has heard enough stories about people losing too much weight (fat) and having training issues, I’m happy to keep drizzling oil on my salads and in my smoothies.

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Sources/More information (pro and con):

Seedy Goodness

Fuel on Fat for the Long Run

Eat Right for Resistance Training

There is No Such Thing as “Healthy Oil”

Coconut Oil: What is it All About?

Good Start

standard August 4, 2013 Leave a response

Week 1 of training on the thrive diet complete! It is amazing how quickly cravings disappear and energy increases. I have no desire for sugar or coffee or even an occasional glass of wine. Not only is my speed increasing with race training, but any post-run soreness doesn’t last long. My muscles are recovering faster and are getting stronger. And I also lost 5 lbs, which makes sense with all the carbs and coffee we ate on vacation!

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As strange as some of the recipes seemed at a glance, everything is surprisingly good. I am starting to get some new recipe ideas from the food combinations I’ve been eating. The only thing I really cannot handle is the heat. I do not know how people can handle cayenne in smoothies and juices. Way to much for me. Ginger, though, I’ve been able to handle, even though I have had issues with it in the past.

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The main thing I realized about this diet is that is essentially a Paleo diet with a different protein source. The foods I buy for the husband’s meals and mine are identical minus the meats and eggs. Both are low carb and high fat and protein. I’ve been putting my meals into myfitnesspal to see what the macro-nutrient breakdowns are and realized I am eating a LOT of fat every day. Mainly from whole foods – nuts and seeds – but also from hemp and coconut oils. It feels a little backwards, and I’m still a little wary about the oils, but so far my body is responding well. We’ll see how things change from week to week.

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This is definitely not a diet for newbie vegetarians or vegans, but I think this is the perfect time for me to do this. I was ready to detox the sugar, the alcohol, the caffeine. I finally have free time to put into chopping and prepping and cooking everything. It is a fairly time-consuming menu, especially if you don’t have a plan for prep each week. I’ve been a little over-excited about cooking and eating each day. Since food and being in the kitchen is a source of joy for me, its been fun for me to put the energy and time in to.

2013-08-02 12.42.37Looking forward to week #2!

Back to Normal

standard July 28, 2013 Leave a response

After two months of moving, traveling, working, relaxing and vacationing, it is time to get back into a normal routine. A new routine, as our lives have changed so much in the past few months, but a routine nonetheless. I am so looking forward to that. We still need some furniture so our place can get back in order. But in the meantime, the clutter everywhere is helping me minimize our stuff even more. I seriously do not understand why two people have so many things. It (should) all fit in our current space.

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As soon as we got home last week, I jumped right back into running, since I have an upcoming race I am completely unprepared for. And this coming week, I am supplementing my training with a new diet. More of a fixed meal plan, since it’s based all the foods in my normal diet. I’ve owned and read Thrive for a while, and have always wanted to try it out. Since official training for my third marathon is coming up soon, I thought it would be a good time to start.

(Yep, my swearing off of marathons lasted a whole month before a friend of mine convinced me to run another one with her. It’s not until January, so I have some time. And two more half marathons beforehand, which should help.)

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The Thrive plan, in addition to being vegan, also happens to be free of common allergens including wheat, soy, corn, and peanuts. It also is free of added sugars, caffeine, and alcohol. All good things to avoid when training and racing. And all things I have slowly started to avoid this past year, so again, no major changes to my diet. However, the meal plan combinations should help me balance my protein and carb intake as well as give me the right balance of vitamins and minerals I need to succeed on the road.

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I am going to chronicle how I am eating and feeling along the way and adding in a little training details so I can see the progress. Looking forward to a successful fall racing season!