Last March I did a Whole30 and I have stayed pretty strict Paleo since then – only reintroducing honey and alcohol occasionally. I had such amazing results and felt so incredibly good, it just wasn’t worth it to me to reintroduce any of the foods I got rid of during the Whole30. One of the biggest results I’ve seen is how the Paleo-diet and lifestyle has impacted my running, training and recovery. I’ve run 4 50Ks, a 70 miler, a 100K, a 50 miler, multiple back-to-back races and long training runs, and most recently a 109 mile race, all on a strict Paleo-diet. If you are curious about the science behind all of this, I strongly recommend reading It Starts With Food, The Paleo Diet and Paleo for Athletes. I won’t go into the science here, but what I will share here is what my nutrition looked like for the Hot TWOT – a 109 mile race with 32,000 feet of climbing that took me 43 hours to complete – and how it worked for me. We are all an experiment of one. This is what works for me and I hope it helps others who may be struggling with the nutrition piece of training, like I was before going Paleo.
As I mentioned, my diet is already strict Paleo. This means I eat grass-fed, pastured meats, seafood, eggs, lots of veggies (organic as much as possible), some fruit (again, organic) and a good amount of healthy fats (avocado, olives, nuts, coconut). I do not eat any grains, legumes, dairy, sugar (I read labels very carefully – sugar is hiding everywhere), or processed foods. I occasionally eat honey and drink alcohol but I did another Whole 30 starting on Labor Day, so I didn’t have any alcohol in the month (actually 5 weeks) leading up to the race. The week before the race I made sure to eat a lot of carb dense vegetables and fruits like spaghetti squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, bananas and zucchini – Paleo “carb-loading” you could say. I had some of these veggies at every meal in the week before the race. The morning of the race, about 2 1/2 hours before race start, I ate spinach, mushrooms and chicken sausage stir fry, 2 poached eggs on an avocado half and I had a banana about 15 minutes before the race started. I carefully chose my race day food based on what foods I knew were good fuel to sustain my energy, tasted good, had no sugar/dairy/grains/legumes and were easily portable or stored in a cooler. Since this was an unsupported race, I had to plan food that could be in my drop bags, cooler and car. It really wasn’t that hard to do.
-sweet potato gu (my homemade concoction, stored in EZ Squeezees pouches, consisting of 1 cup sweet potato baby food, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup applesauce blended) (approx. 6 – 6 oz pouches)
-GoGo Squeeze fruit pouches (approx. 8)
-Ella’s Kitchen baby food (approx. 4)
-bananas (approx. 8)
-cashew butter (2 pouches)
-Applegate Farms chicken sausage (2 links)
-sweet potatoes (3)
-chicken broth (with no sugar – very hard to find – the Imagine brand is the only one I’ve found, small containers will keep in dropbag and you can drink without heating – ideally your own bone broth would be best, but I wanted some to keep in dropbags so the vacuum sealed containers worked well)
-Key West Pink steamed shrimp (cooked beforehand, packed carefully in ice packs in lunch box cooler to keep cold)
-sweet potato chips
-tomatoes/sweet peppers/cucumbers and Goddess dip
-V8 (really tasted good late in the race and has good sodium too)
-Epic meat bars (bison and turkey – 2)
-1 hamburger with an avocado (from Jack Brown’s in Harrisonburg, delivered warm by my mom – ahhhhmazing!)
-Kombucha (2 bottles)
-Tazo Awake iced tea (kept in my Hydro Flask bottle with ice)
I had strong, steady energy throughout the 43 hours of running and was hungry and able to eat easily. I stuck with the GoGoSqueeze, sweet potato gu and bananas/cashew butter for the first part of the race until about mile 27, and then added in other things as the race went on. I ate shrimp and olives at mile 93 and they were pure heaven – as was the hamburger after Loop 3 – and the Boulevard Wheat Beer – totally not Paleo – that I had at the finish! I didn’t have any nausea, stomach issues or other common intestinal issues that I’ve had before in a long run. This experience was similar to the other runs I’ve done fueling this way. As I’ve said before, we are all an experiment of one – and this is what truly works for me. In the days after the run I continued to eat carb dense veggies and plenty of protein. I ate when I was hungry (which was quite often in the days after the race!) and made sure to replenish my body. I felt almost 100% recovered body-wise by Tuesday – 3 days after the race finished at 3:30am Sunday – and was able to easily run 6 miles on trails. I was still really tired, but again, following a Paleo lifestyle has helped me see the value and importance of sleep. I took 2-3 hour naps for the five days after the race and went to bed early, making sure I had at least 8 hours of sleep. I listened to my body and gave it what it needed. As a result, my recovery was super fast and I felt completely recovered by the following weekend.
Paleo has worked for me in so many ways. It’s worth a try, especially if you’re struggling with nutrition in your running adventures. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried this and if you have any other real food ideas to add to the list of food to fuel with. Happy running…and eating!
I first posted about doing the Whole30 here. Since then, I finished my Whole 30 - which was actually a Whole 41 (days) – and have had over 3 weeks of life post-Whole 30. I’ve been trying to get this post out for a while and thanks to a little motivation from Ultrarunnergirl’s post about her experiences, I am finally doing it! Thanks, Kirstin!
Things are going great! I mindfully ended my 41 days on my birthday with a gluten-free beer and a paleo dessert of chocolate mousse made with honey. I’ve chosen not to reintroduce any of the non-Whole30 foods (sugar, grains, legumes, processed foods, dairy), with the exception of raw honey and a few gluten free beers occasionally. I’ve read a lot about Paleo eating and am choosing to follow a rather strict Paleo lifestyle. I can’t see myself going back to my old ways of eating. I feel so darn good and haven’t craved anything that I stopped eating. Even the gluten free beer was just kind of “meh” – it tasted ok but it gave me a stuffy nose and sore throat too, so now I choose to have beer in moderation. For me, feeling this good makes it just not worth it to eat something that I know will make me feel bad.
Here are the big changes I’ve noticed since starting the Whole30:
*Chronic pain in shoulders and tingling into fingers is gone. I’ve been able to start a regular weight training program again for the first time in over a year.
*Eczema on hands is gone. I’ve had this issue my whole life. Overall, my skin is brighter, clearer and more healthy looking.
*Spring allergies are gone – I didn’t have to take Claritin at all this season.
*Steady energy throughout the day – blood sugar is regulated and I don’t have the highs and lows I’ve experienced most of my life. This one is huge. I had no idea how bad this was impacting me and my moods until it was gone.
*Calm and even mood throughout the day – I feel in control and I have virtually no anxiety and stress issues. I am able to deal with challenges and things life throws at me in a much calmer, centered way. I have a much more positive outlook on life and am really, really happy.
*I sleep better than I have in many, many years. I fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night, often waking up just before the alarm goes off – awake and well rested. I am now getting 7 or so hours of sleep a night (try for 8)- the Whole30 helped me realize that my body needs way more than my “normal” 4-6 hours.
*Total pounds lost – 15. This was a very pleasant bonus. I didn’t go into this to lose weight. I never once counted calories or felt like I was being deprived. I ate amazing food and ate until I was full. The Whole30 has helped me be incredibly mindful about what I am eating. It was truly surprising to me how much my body changed effortlessly.
*A renewed love of cooking and discovering new foods. I’ve really enjoyed Paleo and Whole30 cooking and have had a lot of fun reading and learning about this new lifestyle. Grocery shopping and meal preparation are things I now look forward to. I’m also eating all the food I buy each week instead of throwing half of it away because I got carry-out instead of eating what was in my fridge. I plan out my meals and look forward to cooking and eating such great food that tastes incredible! The Well Fed and Practical Paleo cookbooks have been wonderful resources.
Running, Recovery and Fueling
My running and recovery have never been better! During the #Whole 30 I ran a 50K race two weeks into the #Whole30, had a 90 mile training week, ran a 50 miler (where I got a PR by an hour), and ran a 50K a week later (where I placed 3rd woman overall). I had virtually no soreness the days after the races, just a small amount of fatigue in my legs, but no muscle soreness. I have never felt stronger as a runner! Post #Whole30 I completed a 24 hour race (placing 3rd) and did a 50K the following weekend. I felt strong at both races.
I’ve had several people ask me about eating Whole30 during these long races. I’ve found several things that have worked quite well for me. I make a homemade “Gu” to put in gel flasks that includes sweet potato baby food, coconut milk and applesauce. These do need to be refrigerated so they work best if you have a dropbag or crew with a small cooler. Larabars, almond & cashew butter packets to eat on bananas (carry the packets and put on bananas at aid stations – Artisana is a good brand with only the organic nut as ingredients), Peter Rabbit Organic fruit pouches (these stay cold and are yummy if you freeze them first, then carry them in your pack), olives and the typical fruit (oranges, strawberries, melon) found at aid stations has worked for me on all of these long runs. During the 24 hour I found that I was craving and needed more protein and fat after mile 36. I ate the sweet potato Gu along with cashew butter and bananas during the first 32 miles or so, along with the fruit pouches and fruit at the aid station. I dipped into my post-race food cooler after mile 36 and ate steamed shrimp, olives, and hard boiled eggs. This worked quite well. As I plan my food for my next long race (Laurel Highlands 70.5 miler) I will make sure to have protein and fat available. I feel like I am eating way more on my long runs than pre-Whole 30 days, where I would eat Honey Stinger gels, Shot Blocks and Honey Stinger waffles, but it’s working quite well. I have no icky sugar stomach, no sloshy tummy, no highs and lows in energy and no nausea. Managing my nutrition during longs runs has always been a big issue so this is a HUGE added benefit of the Whole30!
The Whole30 provided a great starting point for me to reflect on my lifestyle, my health, my nutrition, my body and the importance of taking care of myself. As the book title says, It Starts With Food. I believe this. I love this feeling of empowerment and of taking care of myself. And I really love how good I feel. What started as a diet has really changed my life.
Any Whole30 or Paleo people out there who would like to share their results? I’d love to hear them!
Warning: This post is more about food than trail running…although I do think the two are inseparable. Without proper fuel, our bodies can’t perform at their best. And I’ve experienced this exact thing over the past several weeks. I just finished my first 90 mile training week and am truly amazed at how good I feel. I know a lot of my blog readers are interested in performance and doing well in running and in life, so I wanted to share a big life change that has made a huge difference in my running and my life.
On March 10, I woke up with an overwhelming urge to CHANGE SOMETHING. I had been reading about the #Whole30 on Twitter and a friend at work shared a blog post with me. I had read a lot about Paleo and this sounded similar. I was intrigued. I was extremely open to a restart or a detox or whatever you want to call it. I was excited to learn something new. That morning I read through the #Whole30 website, downloaded the book, It Starts With Food, and decided to venture into a #Whole30 eating commitment (I read this word somewhere – I like “commitment” instead of “diet”. It’s empowering and speaks to honoring and making a commitment to myself.). My refrigerator was full of “good” food I didn’t want to trash (homemade lentil soup, hummus, oatmeal, etc.), so I started that first week with no alcohol, no sugar and no dairy while I finished off the grains and legumes in my fridge. I officially started the #Whole30 eating commitment on Sunday, March 17. Today is Day 14 of eating mindfully and eliminating all alcohol, sugars, grains, legumes and dairy. It is Day 14 of eating wonderfully prepared meals full of vegetables, fruits, lean, grass-fed meats and lots of yummy fats like coconut oil, clarified butter, ghee and olive oil. It is a huge commitment, but as the book says, this is not hard. “Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard….It’s only for 30 days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in your lifetime.” So while it’s been challenging, it has not been hard. And it’s been a lot of fun!
Here are just a few of the changes I’ve experienced in only 14 days of eating whole, clean, good foods:
-I’ve had shoulder/arm pain for over a year. Acupuncture didn’t help and my regular doctor said it was tendonitis from the repetitive motion of running. (an arm injury from running…seriously?) I had pretty much resigned myself to pain getting in and out of my sports bra, pain while writing on an easel in my job as a kindergarten teacher, pain on long runs, and the inability to do push-ups or other arm weight workouts. I woke up last week and the pain was GONE. Completely gone. It hasn’t returned, despite a 50K and a 90 mile training week! I’m certain the pain was caused by inflammation due to a grain, dairy or sugar intolerance. Whatever the cause, I am just thrilled that I can do my push-ups again and am in NO pain.
-I’ve had eczema all of my life. It’s on my hands and can be a real problem, sometimes reaching the point where I would need a steroid IV to get it under control. It is now completely gone. My hands are in great shape and this alone is worth never having a cupcake again.
-I’ve had issues with blood sugar since I was a kid. I used to go through my day with lows and highs – intense food cravings an hour or two after that bowl of oatmeal for breakfast…NEEDING my sugar fix mid-afternoon, feeling shaky and like I was going to pass out frequently through long runs and everyday life. These feelings are GONE. I have a steady feeling of energy and have not experienced the lows and/or highs at all. This has been amazing in my long runs. The HAT 50K was one of my best runs with no dips in energy and no shakiness at all. I fueled that run on homemade gu (sweet potato baby food, coconut milk and applesauce), bananas, and Peter Rabbit Organic fruit packets.
I am also sleeping better and waking before the alarm clock. The #Whole30 plan asks you not to weigh yourself, but I do know my clothes are fitting a whole lot looser. I am cooking WAY more than ever before and trying new foods and recipes. An evening of playing around with food as I prepare dinner and lunch for the next day has pleasantly replaced an evening of having a beer or two on the couch. I am mindful of what I eat and am enjoying food so much more. My head is clearer, my body is stronger and I am overall a lot happier. I’m looking forward to the next two weeks on the #Whole30 and to a future of Paleo, healthy, whole & clean food eating!
I had a lot of questions about this before I started. Perhaps you do too. I would recommend reading over the website and searching the #Whole30 hashtag on Twitter. If you want the answers to “WHY no sugar/grains (but oatmeal is GOOD for you!)/legumes (peanut butter?!?!)/dairy????” then read the book, It Starts With Food. The authors do an excellent job explaining all of this. I can’t begin to explain it here. I can only share the remarkable results that I’ve had. And we’re all an experiment of one, yes? Happy eating!