The good news this month is that after a thorough examination I have been given the green light to start training again. The Op site is still a little tender so I’m keeping an eye on it. With two months of relative inactivity it’s been difficult getting back up to speed, with the thought of perhaps doing one of the Ultras I thought I’d have to pull out of. The tight glut/hamstring issue has re-surfaced, which makes training a little more difficult, so work will have to be done on that. I had also picked up an infection that was very hard to shift.
To keep myself amused, shift the infection and educate myself further I decided to go on my own detox programme. The plan being to cleanse my body as much as possible and give it a reboot before I got stuck into a decent training programme again.
I had another read through my nutritional books and surfed various websites. I had a chat with two of my sponsors; 9-Bar for general nutrition and cleansing, and Eladon on their immune boosting supplements. I could get most of the foods I needed from supermarkets and chemists, with more specific items from a local health food shop, who were also quite informative.
The plan is to carry this out for at least one month. I have just started the fourth week. Here are the details:
• Removing refined sugar (where possible), alcohol and caffeine
These are the main omissions. Obviously it’s difficult to remove all refined sugars but I’ve had a good go. I consider myself to have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I certainly felt the withdrawal from sugars more than anything else. It’s simple to cut out biscuits, chocolate & sweets, ice cream, cakes, etc. But you’d be surprised how many other food types contain decent amounts of sugar. I removed white bread (see below), white pasta and rice, pre-packed meals inc veg, most cheeses, sauces, dried fruit, and limited my citrus fruit intake.
My compromise was to take naturally occurring sugars, for instance almond or rice milk with my (high fibre) cereals and hot drinks. I’ve taken a liking to Alpro Almond and Rice Dream in particular.
The removal of refined sugars as an endurance athlete was an obvious problem. I was missing the immediate fuel from high GI (fast release) sugars. I had conditioned myself to train over the longer distances eating predominantly 9-bars and gels washed down with light electrolyte drinks (where available) to simulate what would happen in a race situation. My compromise here was Xylitol chocolate bars. Once again, naturally occurring sugar – if you check out the label you’ll find they contain as many carbohydrate calories as a normal chocolate bar but with “0” sugars. I didn’t mind the taste (similar to carob), but it didn’t have the same effect and I was still finding myself crashing within sub 1hr run sessions. However, after a very lethargic first 10 days (including a short fever) I felt much better. I not only found I could run without sports products, but I also required less calories/hour. It will be interesting to see how this affects any potential races in the next couple of months. Unfortunately I know that as I am now trying to do some quality sessions and some very long runs, I will need the back up of an occasional 9-bar and/or gel.
Alcohol generally wasn’t a problem. Although try drinking in a pub with your friends when you are trying to keep off sugars and caffeine! There are not a lot of options.
I’d say I have been about 90% successful off the caffeine. I have had 1-2 weak cups of coffee per week. I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, but it’s habit for me to have a decent coffee every morning to kick the day off. My substitute was Prewett’s Organic Chicory powder. It’s caffeine and gluten free and with half a cup of almond or rice milk it can taste very nice indeed. I’m now a big fan.
• Go Organic
Goes without saying and I think most of us would eat more organic produce if it was both cheaper and more readily available. We have always shopped for organic foods where possible, keeping away from pre-packed veg and fruit above all else. We generally buy our vegetables organic. I have been in the habit this year of having a ‘side dish’ with most meals consisting of chopped veg sticks (celery, carrot, spring onions, peppers) with an organic hummus dip. I also use hummus as a general sauce and spread.
• A healthy digestive system : Prebiotics and Probiotics
Most people are familiar with probiotics, which are the live bacteria in your digestive system. They keep the unhealthy bacteria in check, creating a better balance of good and bad bacteria. This helps the body to function better. Probiotics can be found in yogurts and supplements.
Prebiotics on the other hand are non-digestible carbohydrates which promote the growth of the probiotic bacteria in the gut. So to be more effective you need to take both probiotic and prebiotic at the same time. I took my probiotics from natural yogurt both as a dessert and a snack, and took Bimuno prebiotic powder alongside it (one month of sachets).
Apple Cider Vinegar (with the ‘Mother’ enzymes) is also good for the digestive system. I took a little with most cold drinks, adds a nice little kick.
• Boosting the immune system
I’ve read a fair bit over the years on the immune system and how we can strengthen it during times of physical stress. Obviously the two vitamins that can require boosting for endurance athletes are C and E. I have been on 1-2000mg and 250mg respectively which are not crazy amounts at this point in time. The Vit C was taken as a dissolvable tablet in a cold drink with the apple cider vinegar and prebiotic powder – a good wake up drink. I also took a regular 300mg of Garlic.
I was really pleased to get sponsorship from Eladon as they know a lot on the subject and have provided me with some great supplements over recent years. As I am still a few weeks away from heavy training periods and/or racing, I put aside my Elagen Sport and Beta Alanine pills. I replaced them for the supplements ; Olive Leaf extract (400mg), Eleutherococcus and Senticosus (2000mg), and Echinacea Purpurea (1000mg). Visit Elagen for more information. I only needed to take two of these at one time, but prefer to take them all.
I’ve always had an interest in supplements, but I try not to take too many at any one time. The body is quite capable of removing what it doesn’t require, but I’d rather not put any undue stress on the urinary system. The only other supplements I would consider taking at this time of year are for skin protection (see previous blog) eg green tea extract.
• Gluten and wheat-free, reduce starch
I’ve already restricted myself quite a lot, so trying to go gluten free, wheat free and reduce starch would make the plan even more challenging. Removing all bread, white pasta, white rice and potatoes was a start. Most of the meals have been based around organic gluten-free wholegrain rice and pasta. I have occasionally had a piece of wholemeal bread or used a wholemeal wrap(s) just to spread the diet out. Some other choice snacks were included.
• General foods
As mentioned, I have made an effort to buy more organic vegetables and eat raw with hummus dip as well as cooked. We do our frying with organic rapeseed oil (one of the more healthy oils) and try to include garlic and ginger where appropriate.
I’ve continued to eat the same amount of fruit, but focusing more on an increase in vegetables. Organic red meat is now seen as more of a luxury, I tend to favour venison or offal anyway. The focus of protein has shifted more on fish, eggs, natural yogurt, seeds and nuts. I snack mainly on Walnuts, Almonds and Hazelnuts (WAH), keeping away from peanuts. My one luxury in the evening may be a bag of corn chips. It’s certainly a great way of losing weight if you can stick with the plan, although I’m already on a minimal weight (low BF%).
At this point in time I have managed to stick to the plan, but with the opportunity to finally get back into training I need to compromise a little and include a few refined sugar snacks to help get through the longer training sessions without feeling flat. I have certainly gained a lot of knowledge and enjoyed this little ‘project’. I will continue to some extent in the future, which can only improve my general health. It will be interesting to see what impact it may have on future races.