*Raw* Vegan Challenge – Week 2
I just finished up week 2 of my *raw* challenge and I still enjoy being a raw foodie. There were a few days last week where the thought of having another salad didn’t seem that appealing but once I put it all together, the colorfulness of the fruits and veggies sparked my interest and it ended up being quite tasty. I’ve gotten back into my avocado phase so it’s become a staple in my diet again. With the warm weather here, it’s a lot easier to go raw, not sure I’d survive in the winter considering I’m always freezing and wanting something warm to get rid of the chill in my bones. The change in seasons is inviting because it brings along new foods to explore, fresh fruits such as berries, watermelon, etc.
This week I wanted to try a few different things, first up was a raw nut burger. I couldn’t decide which recipe to do so I ended up kinda mixing it up a bit. I took some almonds, walnuts and hempseeds, tossed those in the food processor and added some spices such as basil and oregano. The recipe called for coconut oil, hemp oil or a special blend oil that Brazier suggested, all I had on hand was the coconut oil so that’s what it was gonna be. I turned it on until it was a firm yet mushy texture that could be formed into patties although I didn’t actually make a patty, haha. Anyways, the texture was fine but the flavor was off. The coconut oil totally dominated, I thought it might have sort of an Italian flavor from the spices but the coconut just kicked those herbs to the side and took over. I was somewhat disappointed; I ate it but will most certainly try a different combination the next time around.
I also experimented with a raw sweet potato burger; this was based off a ginger lime squash recipe that’s in the Thrive book. The original recipe calls for cooked squash but to make it raw, you could substitute an uncooked sweet potato. I love sweet potatoes; they are one of my favorite foods so I was somewhat disappointed about having to give them up for a while even though I don’t eat them as often when it’s warm out. This recipe definitely caught my attention. I grabbed some chopped fresh ginger and garlic, the garlic was so strong I could smell it the entire car ride home and my house reeked of garlic too, geesh! This was another recipe, where you just toss everything into a food processor and grind it up. It was sweet potato, lime juice, ginger, garlic and I went for the coconut oil again, figured its flavor might mingle better with ginger and lime as opposed to basil and oregano, and also added a bit of raw honey. I fired that sucker up and what came out was quite strong! The ground sweet potato was awesome but the ginger and garlic were potent, the ginger made it spicy and the garlic was enough to ward off a horde of vampires for several weeks. But again, it was a success in its own way since it was letting me explore new ways to eat foods that I enjoy so much and it was letting me figure out what flavors I liked. I snagged the idea from a friend to make a sweet potato and black bean burger, although I’d adapt it to be raw. I’m a huge fan of sweet potato and black bean enchiladas or chili so this had to be good. I tried the combo last night. Just chopped up a raw sweet potato and tossed in some organic black beans with kombu seaweed mixed in. Topped that with some mushrooms, assorted bell peppers, organic summer salsa, yummers, it was awesome! One of my new favorite raw meals!
For mother’s day, my family came over to my house. My brother was in charge of the meat, they brought shrimp wrapped in bacon, yuck. At least my sister in law is thoughtful and brought her own pan to catch the bacon grease in, haha. I made a colorful salad and she asked for the recipe. I told her no recipe, just tossed a bunch of stuff together and made the dressing on the fly. Mango orange juice and apple cider vinegar, that’s it :) the salad had plenty of colors, the baby power greens were the base, added mushrooms, avocado, red/yellow/orange bell peppers, pineapple, mango, strawberries, kiwi, cucumber, squash, walnuts, etc. just so light and fresh.
I also made some banana ice cream; this is one of my absolute favorite things to make!!! I was on the treadmill during a dreadful mountain workout last year and I tend to watch food network so one of the chefs said she was gonna do a banana ice cream, using nothing but frozen bananas. I had to stick around for this, my run was nearing the end but I kept on going. All she did was slice up bananas, freeze them then stick them in the food processor and surprisingly they develop the texture of ice cream!! Wow, I have got to try this. She said you could add other flavors such as cinnamon, honey, peanut butter, and cocoa powder. I was definitely excited. Since then, I’ve made plenty of banana ice cream and I’ve added in all of the above, also tossed in chopped nuts for some crunch and it is amazing!! You have got to make it. Since then, I got the Yonana which is a crazy banana ice cream making machine, awesome, I totally recommend it. I made my ice cream in it the other day, fabulous, the texture is right on. And it gives you a recipe book; you can make all sorts of combos with other fruits. For father’s day my dad requested one with blackberries and pistachios, bananas are always the base. Not only is it delicious, its super nutritious since it’s really just frozen bananas and whatever flare you might add.
Speaking of bananas, another delightful combination is banana with avocado. Might seem strange but try it, I dare you. This combo comes to me from Jeff Dinkin (ie stair climb lunatic), it’s a great one! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Let’s talk about the power of greens (my favorites are spinach, kale and chard). Here’s what Brendan Brazier has to say:
Because of their chlorophyll content, leafy green vegetables are an excellent way to help alkalize the body, which, as I mentioned before, reduces inflammation and helps maintain bone health.
Chlorophyll also cleanses and oxygenates the blood, making it a true performance enhancer. More available oxygen in the blood translates into better endurance and an overall reduction in fatigue. In their raw state, chlorophyll-containing plants also possess an abundance of live enzymes that promote the quick rejuvenation of our cells. The consumption of green foods after exercise has been shown to help speed cellular regeneration. The consumption of chlorophyll-rich leafy green vegetables combined with moderate exercise is the best way to create a biologically younger body. Ounce for ounce, dark greens are also an excellent source of iron and calcium.
All leafy greens are nutrient-dense and an excellent conduit for minerals in the soil; here are some of the more readily available ones:
Beet greens, Butter lettuce, Collards, Dandelion greens, dinosaur kale, Mustard greens, Red leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, Spinach, and Swiss chard.
My first experience with kale was a year or so ago, I saw a recipe for some kale chips in vegetarian times so was eager to try them. I chopped up several leaves, sprinkled some sea salt on them and tossed em in the oven. I think I ate the entire pan, almost instantly; I got sharp shooting pains in my stomach. Darn kale!! The stuff is so rough and hard to digest, the next morning I woke up and still felt horrible. That is the only time; I’ve ever left work because I didn’t feel good. I didn’t wanna eat anything. Since then, I’ve been kinda scared of it and have avoided it but the past couple of months I’ve been putting it back in, in tiny quantities so I don’t have the same outcome. So just beware if you decide to eat kale, don’t go chomping on large handfuls of kale chips the first go around, might not feel so pleasant. The nutritional aspects of it are through the roof though so munch away, in moderate amounts!
Seed of the Week – FLAXSEED
I usually add ground flaxseed (in addition to chia and hemp seeds) to my smoothies; sprinkle it on my salad or on fruit. Here’s what’s so cool about this little seed:
Grown mostly in the Canadian prairies, the seed of the blue-flowering flax plant is prized for its lignans and high omega-3 fatty acid content. The regular inclusion of lignans in the diet has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. Flaxseed is also rich in fiber. However, it is its omega-3 essential fat content that makes flaxseed most valuable to athletes. As I noted earlier, aside from its ability to help reduce inflammation caused by movement, omega-3 plays an integral role in the metabolism of fat. A diet with a daily dose of 1 tablespoon of whole flaxseed will allow the body to more efficiently burn body fat as fuel. This is obviously a benefit to anyone wanting to shed body fat, but it is of major importance to athletes, who need to spare the energy stored in the muscles. As the body becomes proficient at burning fat as fuel (through training and proper diet), endurance significantly improves.
Whole flaxseed is high in potassium, an electrolyte responsible in part for smooth muscle contractions. Potassium is lost in sweat, so it must be replaced regularly to keep the body's levels adequately stocked. Potassium also helps to maintain fluid balance, assisting with the hydration process. Flaxseed is a whole food and a complete protein, and it retains its enzymes, allowing it to be absorbed and utilized by the body with ease, improving immune function.
Fit and Focused
My workouts over the past week were solid too, well let me rephrase that some of them were solid. I had a few where my legs felt totally thrashed and I suffered through a couple of runs. The extreme volume from the week before was leaving me feeling a bit worn down, which is to be expected. I recently decided that I’m doing the Taipei 101 Run-Up on June 10th. The intensity must return, so much for starting my base building phase, so long 15 hour weeks. It was time to get back into the stairwell and crank the intensity. I hit a few solid mountain snake runs, forgot how incredibly brutal those things are especially after a stair workout or biking for an hour. My plan was to start hitting the stairs a few times a week; Wednesday was my first chance to get back in there. My legs felt horrible, I could tell 2 floors in that a real workout wasn’t gonna happen. They were feeling it from all the volume, the mountains, the incline, everything. Maybe spinning for several hours doesn’t seem like it’s all that challenging but dang, it still wears your legs out and you can feel that in the stairwell. I cut the workout short, figured I didn’t need to pound through it and would give my legs a little rest then get back in there.
Saturday was a different story; I hit some decent times but was still feeling a bit worn down. The last one was rough and then we decided to add some sprints on top of that. Sometimes the 5 or 10 floor sprints seem less daunting than another 21 floor climb. They definitely hurt more but are over quicker! I’m guessing that since they suck so much and we dread them that they gotta be good for me. Sunday I did a hilly trail run which was amazing, so nice to get out there and experience something new, plus there were some outdoor stairs so can’t complain about that. Nothing compared to culver though, haha.
I was back in the stairwell on Monday; it was blasted hot and humid in there. It was like training in an altitude chamber, the higher I got, the harder it was to catch my breath and my heart rate would skyrocket. Not really ideal training conditions but had to get it done. I wanted to push myself to see what I could get for a 5 climb average; I wanted to be close to my best times so I could use that as encouragement. Stair races need incredible mental focus so I need any boost I can get, I need to find that inner beast again, figure out how to push myself to the limits and give it everything. I know she’s in there.
I’ve been focused on this quote by Melissa Moon:
"The thing about stair racing is that physical fitness only takes you so far," says Moon. "It is your mind alone that will get you to the end. Usually by the 10th floor, your heart is pumping at 180 beats per minute.
"Your body is hurting and you have got to be together mentally-you can either give up or keep going. Sport is always about the mind but stair climbing seems to take that to another level.“
On the surface, it is a bizarrely brutal sport. The confined stairwells are often dusty and sometimes dark. Apart from your own breathing, all you can hear are the sounds of pain and physical exertion below you, echoing through the chambers. The constant vertical hops also mean an instant, intense accumulation of lactic acid, with no flat periods that allow it to dissipate.
"It seems like 13 minutes of hell," Moon, 42, says of this year's Empire State Building race. "But you have to lock yourself into a zone and concentrate on technique-that is the only way to get through it."
I kept thinking about that during my climb, how I needed the mental focus and tenacity to get through it. I was pushing myself in there, all alone in the confined stairwell. All I could hear was my own breathing, I tried to focus on technique and rope the rail. My first 4 climbs were good, I was on pace to hit a great average and I told myself I’d pick it up and give it all I had on the last one. Well that didn’t happen, I wanted to start off a bit conservative instead of burning my legs in the first few floors. By floor 11, I was dizzy and seeing spots. I backed it off a bit, came in 13 seconds from where I wanted to be. Darn hot, dusty stairwell. I’m still super encouraged by this workout; I was hitting good times and my rest was shorter than usual so that’s cool. I’m still determined to hit that best average before Taipei or maybe go for an all-out time trial to see how I’m doing.
Anyways, I think the raw diet is complementing my insane workouts. I still feel like I have plenty of energy and am always ready to go after it. I don’t think I’m compromising what I’m doing or losing strength or anything. It seems to be going well. My body still feels great too, its liking what I’m feeding it and I don’t really want the things I’ve given up which is a wonderful feeling. Not sure where this journey will take me or what I’ll do when this challenge is up but for now, I’m continuing on the raw path! I’m also making an effort to drink more water during the day and am using coconut water for my pre and post workout drink of choice.
New favorite – raw sweet potato with salsa and veggies, toss in beans for added protein, superb!