Friday, January 13, 2012

Checking in for 2012

In my first blog of 2010, I noted how I don’t believe in New Years resolutions. Nothing has changed on that front, but the biggest change for 2012 for me will be a continuation of  what I started last spring.

At some point over the last two years I really began to notice how badly a traditional USDA endorsed carb based diet was for me, and then many months of research and tweaking my own diet and lifestyle affirmed my hypothesis. Unfortunately this flies against conventional wisdom (or stupidity), so you feel like it can’t be right. That said, this isn’t some fad diet, but a real science based lifestyle change that centers around eating unprocessed foods high in fats. For those that need some sort of planogram to eat correctly, it's essentially a very loose variation of the Paleo diet. For me it's pretty satisfying and easy to stick to, provided I have access to the foods.

Over the last 18 months, while busting ass and generally being in good cardio and functional muscle fitness, I never really achieved my fitness goals. As a matter of fact, this spring, summer and fall, I was probably in the best shape I have been in over several years. Colvin and I were regularly doing hard 15-20 mile hikes, and I had the highest mileage hiking year I have had since 2008.  

During that time period, I did notice that while on a wheat/grain based carbohydrate diet, like that of our USDA food pyramid, I was unable to really drop weight no matter how hard I pushed myself. I was fitter, but I neither looked it nor felt that fitness. Being barely fit enough isn’t good enough, I want extra left in the tank after a hard day in the mountains. 

Bear in mind that weight isn’t necessarily evil. It is, in my opinion -and based on studies-, often better to be 15lbs over weight and fit, than at your ideal weight and BMI and be sedentary. However, weight isnt good for connective tissue and joints, nor is it good for an ailing spine. Not to mention that you need to work harder for the same performance results when hiking or climbing. I guesstimate that at moderately elevated BMI, every 10lbs of extra weight is worth 1 YDS scale grade on rock. Thus, if i weight 190 when i should weight 170, i am probably climbing 2 grades lower. 5.8 vs 5.10 is a big deal, at least to me.

Science shows that a high fat and protein diet, in connection with a reduction of wheat and grain based carbs, is the ideal diet for endurance athletes. A mountaineer is an endurance athlete and should train and eat like one.

After fiddling with what works, I actually eat an inverse of the food pyramid all day, which keeps my blood sugar at a constant level. Eating doesn’t mean a full meal, but it can be just a handful of raw almonds and pumpkin seeds.  I consume gobs of good fat and protein (in the form of nuts, eggs, seeds, avocado, meats, greek yogurt/kefir, beans, olives and olive oil, dark chocolate, and cheeses), My carbs are sources that are complex and fiber based, or require more calories to digest than they provide.  Fruits juices, grains, breads, rice and simple sugars are pretty much not part of this diet.

The key is having good fatty food available; at work, in the car, when i get home, and at bed time (and no, eating before bed if you need to, will NOT make you fat, on the other hand poor sleep patterns might cause you to gain weight). Eliminating blood sugar highs, and resultant lows, will almost entirely kill "cravings" and keep your body out of starvation mode. Basically, eat to lose weight.

So for 2012, we (my wife gets the benefit of this too) will mostly be working on staying lazy. Lazy by making sure my Squirrel mix (160 cal per ounce of unprocessed nuts and seeds, 75% of which are fat calories) is always in my laptop bag, so I don’t have to scramble for food. Lazy by bulk cooking of foods that are high in healthy fats and protein just a few times a month, thus only really cooking 10-15 days per month.

Sure, it cost more time, effort and money to eat good, unprocessed grain free food, but with a little planning you can cut cost and effort to assure that something satisfying is always readily available.

Like with anything in life, it’s not enough to have a good plan, it's all about execution of the plan. Time to execute. 

Best wishes in 2012 and best of luck with your own goals!