More plants. More sleep. Fewer cows. Less coffee.

(Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this post does not constitute medical advice of any kind whatsoever. The information presented here is only for recording my own diet and nutrition plans. Any application of this information for personal use should absolutely be verified with medical and scientific professionals.)

Eat more kale.

Eat more kale.

I’m giving a plant-centric diet a shot.

Plant-centric, not vegetarianism or vegan. Just lots and lots of plants throughout the day, every day.

Why more plants?

rich roll finding ultraRich Roll, an ultra-distance endurance athlete, is plant-based (completely vegan). I first learned about Rich from this James Altucher podcast interview, and I found his story highly relatable. Then a month ago, I listened to Rich’s book – “Finding Ultra.”  (Thanks Kim!)

I figure if this man can do all that he does on 100% plants, it’s possible. Other highly accomplished endurance athletes (i.e.  Scott Jurek) are vegan. In fact, I read Scott’s book, “Eat and Run,” two+ years ago which led me to my first effort in this direction with my diet.

scott jurek

I’m taking the view that the ideal diet for each of us is both deeply personal – mentally, physically, and psychologically – and this is why I’m not simply copying Rich or Scott by going 100% vegan. I want to do what feels right for me, while infusing science, pragmatism, and personal preference wherever I feel is appropriate.

All of this is foundation for my training for next summer’s California Challenge.

Early results

I’ve lost about 4-5 pounds in the last month. I’m down to 186 in the mornings and 183 after a heavy workout. The is surprising for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’ve been squarely at 190 lbs since my last Ironman in 2013, and I’ve maintained that weight for a couple of years since. I crept up briefly to 200 lbs last year after my knee surgery, and then lost that weight quickly once I started training again.
  2. I haven’t been trained particularly hard since last month’s Donner half-iron triathlon, so I dropped the weight without an accompanying training load.

A few lessons learned so far

  • Salad for breakfast, replacing yogurt and eggs as my morning mainstay. Kale, spinach, zucchini, carrots, flax seed, sunflower seeds, avocado, pumpkin seeds, almonds, apples, peaches, olive oil, vinegar. Then salad for lunch. Then salad for dinner.
  • Salad need not be only leafy green stuff. For example, last night I concocted a lovely crunchy salad of bell peppers, carrots, Persian cucumbers, and zucchini.
  • Mix fruit with traditional vegetables. Blueberries and strawberries added to kale is very yummy.
  • Prepare said salad the night before. Creating a salad takes significantly longer than scooping out a bowlful of yogurt.
  • Allocate more time to eat breakfast. Consuming carrots and almonds quickly is not recommended.
  • Work with the seasons. Fall is near, and yesterday I had my first butternut squash in a while. Yummy.
  • Deviate when necessary because of limited access to food or my palette’s desires i.e. the two pieces of yummy Peruvian chicken I demolished last night and the ham and cheese from the sandwiches offered at lunch last Wednesday.
  • I’m thinking about a Vitamix, though I have some reservations about how satisfying a smoothie can be, vs. chewing and swallowing whole food.

More changes

Alkalizing

This is not puddle water.

This is not puddle water.

  • I add apple vinegar to my water. The vinegar is an alkalizing agent to counteract acidic foods. I’ve taken to the taste too.
  • A lower alkaline body composition leads to fewer colds and reduces the risk of long-term chronic diseases such as cancer.
  • Here’s a useful food chart by Susan Brown on big and low acidic and alkaline foods.
  • Here’s a layman’s guide to pH levels from WedMD.
  • I’m sure that just pouring apple cider vinegar into my water isn’t enough on its own. It’s just a start. Reducing coffee intake also helps.
    (I learned this trick from Tim Ferriss.)

Coffee

  • My caffeine intake fluctuates, and I found that even on weekends, I was up to 3-4 large espressos daily. I’ve cut back to two cups now, and next I’ll see about pushing down to a single cup.
  • The goal is a more consistent energy level throughout the day, and to avoid dependency on a stimulant for productivity.
  • Note: I am not anti-coffee, and in fact, I’m very “pro” it’s antioxidant properties. Everything in moderation.
  • In fact, here are a few research studies on coffee: Coffee might aid in reducing dementia, and Antioxidants found in coffee.

Hydration

  • I also add sea salt to my water. With the reduction in meat consumption, I feel like my sodium levels have dropped and I need to maintain consistent hydration with my endurance training.
  • I did a quick experiment yesterday. It was about 11:30am and I started to drag ass. I guessed I was more dehydrated than tired. Instead of coffee (which I wanted dearly), I drank a bottle of water, which absolutely helped with my energy level for a couple of hours.
  • Based on the yellowish color of my urine even after the water, I feel I had to be dehydrated. Placebo or real? Dunno. I win either way.

Snacking

  • Carry a bag of partially salted seeds and nuts – cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, etc.
  • These are great for protein, oils, and good fats. Makes a dense paste in my stomach that carries me through the mid-morning and mid-afternoon hunger pangs.

My bag of nuts.

My bag of nuts… (okay people, grow up…)

Fewer energy bars (i.e. Larabars, Clif Bars, Quest Bars)

  • At one point, I was up to 4-5 per day with a busy schedule depending on travel and teaching schedules.
  • Lara Bars, which I particularly like because they’re gluten free, have about 20 grams of sugar per bar. Clif Bars are more than double that. Ugh.
  • Quest Bars are better on both fronts and I find them to be more satisfying, but they are at least 2x more expensive ($2.40/bar vs $0.99/bar)
  • I’m capping myself to no more than two per day on busy day, and 0-1 on most days. This is where carrying seeds and nuts is helpful.

Sleep

  • I was good for a while in getting 7-8 hours every night.
  • But… Benjamin is getting to bed a bit later now – 9pm+ (or later) instead of 7:30-8pm from a year ago, and I’m an early riser.
  • I went through a stretch recently in which I was only getting about six hours per night, and I know that’s unsustainable.
  • The early morning hours are my most productive time, so I really struggle with balancing enough sleep with the opportunity cost of my productive time.
  • If Jimmy Wales can find eight hours a day, so can I.
  • Read: “Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication
  • I definitely feel tired by midday most days, especially on the weekends when I have a heavy morning workout followed by a day keeping up with Benjamin. I need at least a 10-15 minute nap to recharge. As my schedule continues to evolve, I plan to work in real naps every day of the week.
  • I do sometimes purposely to train on short sleep from time to time. I feel like it conditions my body to handle tiredness.

I’ll post more as a I learn. Thanks for reading this far.

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6 responses to “More plants. More sleep. Fewer cows. Less coffee.

  1. Great read Scott! I too am on this journey. I have found the vinegar to be much more sustainable than the water ionizer we wasted $$$ on. Great suggestions. Can’t wait to read more. One thing that really has helped me was eschewing all alcohol 4 years ago. Occasional glass of wine …

    • Thanks for reading! Definitely a journey, and I like the pace I’m at right now. I’m down to very, very little alcohol. 3-4 beers/month. I had a a beer and a half on Friday and was a little fuzzy on Saturday AM. Looking to drop that out at some point.

  2. I stopped drinking coffee and it removed significantly the stomach issues that I had. Heard a couple of times of apple vinegar with water, going to try it out.

  3. Cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, etc. Is there any reason why you are taking these specifically? For example, benefits or taste or? I heard that cashews aren’t that recommended as they are so fatty and that Almonds are for example better.

  4. Pingback: 50-Mile Ultra Race Report: The North Face Endurance Challenge 2015 | Go Farther

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