Archive for the Nutrition Category

Follow up on Feb. 12th Half Marathon: Lessons Learned and Next Steps

Posted in Lessons Learned, Nutrition, Paleo Athlete, Training with tags on February 13, 2012 by Living Against the Grain

Today’s race was amazing. My finishing time wasn’t fantastic but the atmosphere was great, and the course was beautiful. It was rainy, but not too cold and the other competitors out there brought a great energy to the event.

I came across the finishing line in 1:26:08, a new PR in the half marathon by over 3 minutes, but admittedly, slower than I had set the cruise control for.

The goal time of 1:22 was a stretch but I really wanted to experiment with it.

Race strategy was two pronged:
1. Set a pace equivalent to 95% of my 10k PR and hammer it out for as long as I could until I couldn’t hold any longer.
– Reason: Test early season fitness identify weaknesses: Strength, speed,
mechanics, etc.
– Key take aways: Monitor when and where the pace became unsustainable and why.

2. – Drink only water and eat nothing
– Reason: Test body’s ability to metabolize fat during the race once glycogen stores had been depleted.
– Key take aways: Monitor when and where the shift from glycogen to fat occurred and test the efficiency of metabolizing
fat for energy.

Obviously you shouldn’t run two pronged experiment like this if its your A race of the season. By then, you should have everything figured out and dialled in. But today was a perfect opportunity.

I believe that self experimentation is a very important element to an athlete’s training plan. If you stay in your comfort zone, or always take down the same gels or sports drink its hard to see where your limiting factor is. Pushing out of your comfort zone allows you to see where your mechanics, strength, endurance or nutrition plan fails so sometimes, your best strategy is to just go for it and see what happens.

So I set my pace at roughly 3:50/km, fired up my POSE running technique, drank a little water at each aid station and stuck to my race plan.

Things were going well and I felt great for the first 15 km. I was right on pace, cruising along the Stanley Park sea wall and feeling fine. But the last 5-6 Km were a little slower than I had hoped.

Deciding to race without any high Glycemic Index gels or sports drinks may seem foolish to some, but my goal was to clearly indicate the point in the race in which my glycogen started to run out. I then wanted to gauge my body’s ability to efficiently metabolize fat for energy.

Why just read about this stuff in text books? I believe there’s some inherent value in going out and experimenting yourself!

To summarize my findings from today’s race: Things were cool and smooth until 15km.

– I average 3:49/km for this portion of the race and my energy levels were stable.

From Km 15-21 I was struggling to keep pace and my energy level dropped.

– I averaged only 4:05/km from KM 15 on.

The data I gathered today will now allow me to go back to the drawing board for my next 4-6 week training block.

– More stamina work, more strength work, and most importantly, GETTING THIS PALEO RACE DAY NUTRITION FIGURED OUT!

I think I’ll be experimenting with some of the stuff on this interesting blog post I just read:

If you have any insight for race day nutrition, please post in comments. Thanks!


Interview with

Posted in Nutrition, Paleo Athlete, Triathlon on September 13, 2011 by Living Against the Grain

Holistic Nutritionist Jennifer Trecartin of based in Vancouver, BC featured my ironman journey on her outstanding blog. She is an amazing friend and incredible nutritionist. Check it out. We spoke about my start in triathlon and my appreciation of the paleo diet.

A Paleo-Type Diet for Superior Athletic Performance

Posted in Nutrition, Paleo Athlete on August 16, 2011 by Living Against the Grain

I recently came across this article on a very interesting blog called SockDoc, Your Body, Your Health.

I feel this article presents a fair and un-biased perspective on the benefits of a Paleo style diet.

Enjoy the read!

Paleo-type diets have become increasingly popular over the recent years. For athletes, a Paleo diet can provide optimal use of the fatty acid metabolic pathways. As your body becomes more and more accustomed to a reduced carbohydrate intake, intra-muscular triglycerides stores will increase along with increased efficiency of stored fat breakdown. Liver, blood and muscle glucose stores will be more actively conserved. The net effect of all of these changes will be to keep your blood sugar levels within normal ranges during the day and during exercise; you’ll be a more efficient fat-burning animal.
Many foods are restricted on a Paleo diet for the reason that that they were not available to our prehistoric ancestors. These include all processed foods, sugar, salt, grains, legumes, dairy products, coffee and alcohol. Potatoes are also restricted because the varieties available now are genetically and nutritionally altered and are much higher in carbohydrates in comparison to those available in Stone Age period. Some suggest there is evidence that the diet of Stone Age humans (as early as 23,000 years ago and perhaps even as early as 200,000 years ago), did include, in some form, refined starches and grains that are excluded from the Paleolithic diet today. However, cereals and other grains are excluded from a true Paleo diet; Lucky Charms and Corn Flakes – sorry.
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, most vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, herbs and spices make up the majority of the diet. Insects too if you’re into that. Honey, dried fruit and natural oils are permitted in very small portions. Some say coffee is okay in small amounts too.
Some key points of a Paleo-type diet:
Higher intakes of protein reduce appetite and increase metabolism. High protein also prevents loss of lean muscle
Emphasizes fruit and vegetables
High intake of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6)
May be beneficial for dieters who have difficulty with carbohydrate cravings and blood glucose imbalances
Protein (19–35% energy); carbohydrates (22–40% energy); fat (28–58% energy)
56–65% of food energy from animal foods and 36–45% from plant foods
More than 70% of the total daily energy (calories) consumed by persons in the United States comes from dairy products, cereals, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, and alcohol.
Some sources advise eating only lean cuts of meat, free of food additives, preferably wild game meats and grass-fed beef since they contain higher levels of omega-3 fats compared with grain-produced domestic meats. Some Paleo proponents also allow canola oil as part of the diet, (even though this was not available during that era), due to its high level of monounsaturated fats comparable to olive oil. Many also say that since salt was not part of the hunter-gatherers’ diet, it should be omitted, as our metabolism cannot handle salt very well.

The SockDoc take on the Paleo Diet, which has been supported by advising patients on dietary changes for almost 15 years and more recently after a week-long strict Paleo diet at the MovNat retreat, is this:
A Paleo-type diet is a great dietary template to follow if you want to improve your health, fitness, and over-all well being, (as well as lose fat and gain muscle). Ideally I feel it should be the foundation to every person’s diet unless there are food allergy concerns.

Take it easy on the fish. Fish is not as healthy as it was back in Paleo times. There were no coal plants omitting mercury and other contaminants into our oceans, rivers, and lakes. Contaminants were much, much lower (perhaps non-existent?). Keep the fish, especially the large ones like tuna, to once a month. Smaller fish can be consumed by some individuals once a week. Check out the fish chart below.

Ditch the canola oil. It’s not the same as olive oil. More on that at DRG site here.
Dairy fats are needed, especially butter. The arachiodonic acid (AA) is necessary for neurological development and health (even in the elderly), as well as hormone production, and even necessary to properly deal with inflammation. Though you can get these fats from red meat, it’s much harder to do, especially if you’re getting the leaner, healthier grass-fed beef.
Salt, in the form of sea salt, should be considered, especially when sweat rates are higher – hot summer days and with prolonged exercise. Healthy diets, devoid of canned food and fast food (where most humans get their salt), can often be deficient in sodium chloride.

How about grains and other starches? That should depend on your exercise rate and how you feel eating them. Sweet potatoes and possibly even regular potatoes may be advised if you feel you metabolize them well. You can certainly be very healthy without these in your diet, and they should not be consumed every day. Corn, rice, and other non-gluten containing foods should be based off your individual need and preference. Though you can’t call yourself a true Caveman or Cavewoman, pay attention to how you feel when you eat a certain food.

Adjust the diet to your individual needs and habits. More calories should come from fats (avocadoes, eggs, nuts, seeds, coconut, butter) and less from carbohydrates (fruits, potatoes, honey) if your exercise levels are low. The opposite holds true if exercise is more intense and of long duration.

Racing or training at a high intensity or long duration? – Consider some carbohydrates.
During long or hard workouts and races you may want to consider high glycemic indexcarbohydrates mostly in the form of fluids such as sports drinks or gels like GU. Events lasting less than one hour, and perhaps up to two hours depending on your metabolism, don’t require any carbohydrate. Water should be all you need. A starting point for deciding how much carbohydrate to take in is 200 to 400 calories (50-100 grams) per hour modified according to body size, experience, and the nature of the exercise. For example, if you’re not aerobically fit and training/racing too anaerobically, then you’ll need more carbohydrates because you’re burning more sugar than fat for fuel.

In the first 30-60 minutes after long and/or highly intensity exercise or a race use a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and protein in a 4:1 ratio. 80-100 grams of carbs and 20-25 grams of protein is a good average starting point. This 30-60 minute window is critical for recovery and should be your highest priority after a hard workout or race. For the next few hours continue to focus your diet on carbohydrates, especially moderate to high glycemic load carbohydrates along with protein. Now is the time to perhaps eat “non-Paleo” foods such as rice, corn, and other foods rich in glucose as they contribute to the necessary carbohydrate recovery process. If you handle gluten well, then breads and pasta may benefit your recovery. Remember, it’s all very individualized so listen to your body and experiment with different foods. Don’t be an ignorant Caveman – also known as a Jackass in modern times.


Posted in Nutrition, Triathlon on August 8, 2011 by Living Against the Grain

Today’s post is all about SALT!  (and how its super effective).

Replace salts that you lose while sweating so that your neurological system can continue to operate effectively and your muscles continue to function correctly!

In my third race, (July 3rd, Vancouver Half Ironman) I got off the bike and could barely run.  My legs fully cramped and for a moment or two, it felt like I had to drop out of the race.

I learned a lot from this experience.  First off, my seat was too low on the bike which resulted in too much stress on my quads, hence the muscles fatigued and started to cramp up.

The second and most important thing I learned is that I had not taken in enough salt to replace the salt I lost while biking the 90 km.   Needless to say, I now know that it is absolutely critical to replace electrolytes (salts) that you lose through sweating during exercise.

I first heard about replacing electrolytes back in high school.  I thought it was far too complicated to figure out and it was sort of intimidating so I never really paid much attention to it.  I just assumed that drinking a sports drink or taking gels would be sufficient.  After cramping up and almost dropping out of the Vancouver Half Iron triathlon I realized I had better figure this out.

Without getting too in depth with the numbers, when we sweat we lose electrolytes (salts) mainly Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium.  On average a person will sweat 16oz, or 500ml per hour of exercise.

160z of sweat contains 220mg of Sodium, 63 mg of Potassium, 16 mg Calcium, 8mg Magnesium

The easiest way to replace these lost salts while practicing or racing is to pick up a bottle of ‘salt stick capsules‘ and simply take 1-2 an hour depending on how much you sweat.

From the label, Salt Tabs have 215mg of Sodium, 63 or Potassium, 22 of Calcium, 11 of magnesium, and a little vitamin D to help the body absorb the calcium.

So its really a no brainer.  Don’t be like me and neglect the importance of replacing these electrolytes.  Simply replace them as you lose them so that you can allow the muscles to continue to contract and release smoothly.


I mentioned that on average a person will sweat 16oz per hour.  To find out how much you sweat personally, follow the advice by Max Wunderle of TriMax Fitness.

He recommends you weigh yourself, then go out for a ride or run for 60 minutes at race intensity. Then come back in and weigh yourself again. The weight you have lost is water that you have sweat out.  Take this figure and apply the per 160z values of 220mg of Sodium, 63 mg of Potassium, 16 mg Calcium, 8mg Magnesium to determine how much you need to replace.

Salt, Get it in ya!