Two weeks ago, I started my Paleo Challenge. My goal? Determine if Paleo-style eating could fuel my running, at a moderate amount of mileage (50-60 miles per week). Many readers had wonderful tips and tricks and others expressed curiousity. The challenge was actually really fun and made me eat a lot more vegetables and a lot less sugar. I ate fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, meat, eggs, coffee and tea. I tried a few new recipes and ate more mindfully.
I noticed an improvement in my energy levels by day four but battled some insatiable hunger and a near-bonk on an 8 mile run by day six. Ultimately, I learned a lot about a little in a short amount of time. No earth-shattering revelations; rather common-sense solutions that had fallen by the wayside. Here are some lessons and tips from my Paleo experiment.
Lessons from my Paleo Experiment:
Eat clean food and your body will thank you.
As I mentioned above, I noticed a big difference in my energy levels throughout the day pretty quickly. I slept like a rock and woke up feeling rested after 7-9 hours (my typical night of sleep is about 8 hours). I was even able to get back into my morning-run routine a few days a week, something I hadn’t been able to to for about a month. Even on the day I had a carb-depleted aura on my run, I still had extraordinary energy throughout the day. And wonderful GI health all week. And when I started eating mindlessly again (Halloween candy, chips, french fries), I woke up the next day feeling like a sinusy, sluggish zombie.
Variety is key
By day 5-6, I had a problem. I was hungry but I was tired of eating the food I had available. What’s wrong with an after dinner snack of celery and peanut butter? “Sure beats a bowl of ice cream,” says my GI system. Maybe I would have enjoyed it, if I hadn’t eaten celery and peanut butter as my afternoon snack. I got a little creative and made a delicious chocolate-coconut mousse*, but still the hunger raged. So I did what any sane person would do. I made an exception. Sure, rice is not part of the Paleo philosophy, but I know rice is wholesome and my body likes it and it’s CARBS, so I gave rice the green light.
What’s the plan from here? Honestly, I don’t do well with loosey goosey ideas like “try to eat more vegetables.” I need a framework. So I plan to revert to what I know works for me, primarily Paleo+gluten free grains. Limit gluten grains to 1-2 or less a day with minimal to no processed foods. Oreos, I will miss you. I’m toying with the idea of setting a 2013 resolution to cut out processed foods for ONE YEAR. Again with the Oreos…
And if you are considering Paleo, here are some tips and a few recipes you might like to try.
1. You must like potatoes
Since hard-core Paleo’s don’t allow for rice, any runner of moderate or greater mileage had better have a strong affection for potatoes. You need complex carbs to fuel those miles, especially those long runs. If you tired of baked potatoes, try these recipes for Rosemary Potatoes, Crash Hot Sweet Potatoes (Sub olive oil and honey for the butter and sugar), or a Potato Crusted Quiche!
2. Learn to bake
Does anyone eat vegetables for breakfast? Or have time to make eggs on a Tuesday morning? No. So buy some almond and/or coconut flour and plan to do some baking at least once a week. You can bake a batch of muffins or some pancakes and freeze them for later in the week. Here are a few of my favorites.
Almond Flour Muffins– mix in fruit like berries and apples as well as spices like cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg for a delicious morning meal that goes with coffee better than a donut.
Coconut Flour Muffins– add some lemon zest for a fun treat
3. Make substitutions
You can easily make substitutions to still enjoy food you love. Coconut milk for dairy milk. Olive oil for butter. Honey or maple syrup for sugar. Potatoes for floury crust. The possibilities are endless if you think outside the box. I made two treats during my experiment to satisfy my chocolate-tooth.
*Chocolate Coconut Mousse
Put a can off full-fat coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. Skim off the top 1/3 and use a hand mixer to whip the coconut milk with 1 TBSP cocoa and 1 tsp honey or maple syrup. Eat it all. It won’t be hard
Chocolate Nut Butter Bark
Melt 1/3 cup nut butter with 1 TBSP cocoa and 2 TBSP maple syrup or honey. Stir in 1 cup of nuts. Press into a pan or cute little mini muffin papers. Cool, then eat. Or just eat.
Do you follow a nutrition plan to fuel your running? Do you have any Paleo or other recipes to share?