Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Experiment (I'm not calling this a diet!)

After completing several triathlons, including a half-iron distance race, and a couple of marathons, I am comfortable in calling myself an "endurance" athlete. As such, I have always believed that I need carbs, lots of carbs (Can you say Skittles?), in order to fuel my training and to get me through races. Last year I covered over 2,700 miles and burned over 190,000 calories... but my weight remained relatively unchanged. In fact, there was a slight increase when I got on a peanut butter and honey kick.

I would say that my diet is relatively healthy...lots of lean meats, vegetables, fruits, whole grain bread, quinoa, wild rice, non-fat dairy...yadda yadda yadda. I aim for around 1,800-2,000 calories a day (I do allow myself "cheat" days/weekends). Based on my diet and the amount of training I do, you would think that I would be stick thin...but I'm not. In fact, I'm still carrying an extra 10 lbs that I just can't seem to shake.

Recently, I have been bombarded with data from Facebook posts, magazine articles, and books (Fitness Confidential and Grain Brain...just to name two) about the detrimental effects of sugar and grains. Google would be amazed at the info out there, especially about the "inflammation" caused by sugar/bad carbs. I don't think the explosion in obesity and diabetes in this country is unrelated!

Just one of many recent Facebook posts about sugar

Personal Experience

All of this info has really gotten me thinking. I've done the Atkin's diet before and it was great for weight loss. For me, it was probably one of the most effective diets I have ever done.  However, I wasn't training like I do now...honestly, I think I was only doing the elliptical a few times a week. What would happen if I take Vinnie Tortorich's advice from Fitness Confidential and "STAY AWAY FROM SUGAR AND GRAINS"? Can I lose weight and still train? Will I "bonk" on my long runs?

No So Fun Facts About Me
  • I get really bad sugar hangovers (puffy eyes, headache, brain fog)
  • I cannot eat one piece of bread. It is a really soft, fluffy, delicious, slippery slope ;-)
  • I can gain 5 lbs overnight after a pasta dinner
My Experiment

From "Grain Brain"
I am about to embark on an experiment to see if I can cut out the bad carbs (sugar and grains) and still train effectively. I have a very simple list of things I am going to do and not do. The main difference I see between this plan and Atkin's is that I will still be getting some carbs in the form of fruits and veggies.

What I am Going to Do
  • I am going to weigh myself tomorrow morning (January 10) to get my starting weight. 
  • I am going to eliminate grains and sugars from my diet whenever possible.
  • I am going to exercise at least 3 times a weeks for a minimum of one hour.

What I am NOT Going to Do
  • I am NOT going to weigh myself again until Valentines Day.
  • I am not going to count calories.

Why I am Going to Do This
  • Lose weight
  • Increase energy & performance
Obviously, it is going to be very easy to tell if I lost weight or not. The reason I am not going to weigh myself during this experiment is because I have learned that numbers on the scale (good or bad) can derail my plans.
  • Weight goes up: "Screw this! I've starved myself for the past week so I can gain 2 lbs??? I'm eating!!!"
  • Weight goes down: "Yay!! I deserve a treat!! I'm eating!"
Judging increased energy and performance may be a bit more subjective. I will be tracking my workouts on my Garmin and will look for decreases in running/biking speeds or distances.

If you would like to join me in this experiment, let me know. Here is a link to Vinnie Tortorich's FAQ page about removing sugar and grains...