24 May 2014

Food and Nutrition Notes

18 November 2015:
Well lots of things happened in the meanwhile so many of the ideas I presented in this original post are now contradicting what I believe and practice with my current eating habits...
I am a whole plant based vegan since Christmas 2014 and I have no plans or reasons to change this soon. This means that I should write a new blog entry about my new eating habits...

For the record here is the unchanged original blog entry from two years ago:

As most runners, since I've got "infected" with the running virus I also started to pay more attention to the food I eat. I read quite a few articles and watched quite a few presentations about nutrition and sports nutrition. As I got more informed about this subject, I came to some conclusions that I believe make sense. Applying them seem to give me optimal performance and quick recovery time after strenuous runs.

So here are my nutrition principles:

Food Quality is much more important than Quantity!

I think that a lot of talking about carbohydrates, proteins and fats is plain bullshit! Very often these discussions shift the attention from the most important aspect of the nutrition: Food Quality!

There are no super foods or magic supplements!

No food or supplement can replace a good healthy diet and good training. However, supplements have their use. I drink isotonic drinks when I sweat a lot, especially during competitions or during runs on hot days. From time to time I also take magnesium pills to prevent or easy tense muscles.

I avoid processed, fried and refined foods as much as I can

Many studies carried all around the word concluded that populations that eat natural diets, based on locally grown food are protected from most modern degenerative and metabolic diseases. So I try to avoid and limit the intake industrially processed, refined or fried foods. 

Here is my foods black list:
  • Most processed foods that come in colorful packages in the supermarket.
  • White flour, white bread, white pasta. I prefer whole-grain (integral) bread and pasta. I often bake my own bread using a mixture of whole-grain oat and wheat flour. We also use only whole-grain flour for any food that we prepare at home. 
  • Refined vegetable oils. These seem to be better suited for running diesel engines. For eating I prefer good quality cold pressed oils. They are expensive but the high price prevents me from wasting and eating too much oils.
  • Hydrogenated and Trans fats. Yuck! I would better use them for greasing door hinges...
  • I avoid fried foods. Yes, they might be tasty but nobody thinks that they are healthy. I never fry at home. In fact I almost never add oils in the food during cooking.
  • Last, but by no means the least: Sugar! Especially refined sugar. Believe me, this stuff is really addictive and harmful! It took me a while to reduce it to a minimum. When I use sugar I try to make sure it is unrefined. When making cookies or deserts I use less than half of the quantity in the recipe.
  • Any kind of sodas, 'sport' drinks or bottled juices. 99% of them have added sugar - lots of sugar and often all sort of dubious ingredients. Just check the labels!

Plants should be the base of any diet

A good diet should be varied and contain both animal and plant origin food. However, the plants should form the basis. A good diet should be rich in all types of vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds etc. Always fresh - frozen is also OK. I try to eat lots of fresh greens and fruit every day. I tend to avoid the fruit varieties that are very sweet. I eat the fruits raw. I avoid making smoothies or worse to juice the fruits. Although I have a city life, I grow a few vegetables on  a small garden patch - there is nothing tastier than a fresh vegetable straight from the garden!

Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products - with moderation

Meat is an easy source of proteins but should be seen more as something that adds flavor to foods, like a condiment. I eat no more than 100g of meat per week. I also eat fish, a couple of times per week, mostly the oily kinds: sardines, mackerel, trout and salmon. I also eat a few eggs a week. Both fish and eggs are a good source of healthy animal fat and proteins.
I probably eat too many dairy products... cheese is highly addictive! Every day I have a bit of home-made Greek yogurt, a bit of fresh butter and some cheese. I try to eat mostly the fresh, unprocessed varieties of cheese, made from cow, sheep or goat milk.

Many studies concluded that the best quality animal products come from free-range animals fed with fresh grass, not with cereals. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to find such products in the shops in Romania. This is one more reason to limit the quantity of animal products in my diet. 

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