Eating clean has been part of training for a while now and has made the difference between night and day as far as cycling goes. I remember my coach telling me that I must lose 10lbs or I was going to really suffer on the TNGA, not only did I lose 10, but I lost 30 and am still (safely) dropping weight. What did I do? I consulted two nutritionists, Namrita O’dea and Kelli Jennings of Apex Nutrition.
Namrita and I spoke over the telephone and she gave me some great tips on mitigating hunger pains as well as a general basis of what to consume over a period of time. A little later I interviewed and consulted Kelli Jennings on a regimented plan and she told me that eating clean was one thing she focused on. She gave me my nutritional plan and I have to admit, it really works.
Think of your body as a car complete with a gas tank. If you put the wrong types of fuel in your gas tank, your engine will cease to operate or will not operate well. It’s the same thing with your body, put the wrong things in it and you’re sluggish and not operating at tip-top level hence why eating clean is so important. This is bad if you’re trying to gain that competitive edge or log some serious time in the saddle.
So drop the sodas, high fructose corn syrup laden foods and sugar snacks and go for apples, berries, chicken and leafy greens. Sure, the taste can be “bleh” at first but when I finally convinced myself I was not eating for taste and comfort and eating clean for health, it made a definite difference.
On May 27th (my birthday) of this year, I decided to start “eating clean” and focus on the amounts of food I was consuming. I realized my intake of foods and drinks was seriously skewed and something that to be addressed. When I got the regimented diet plan from Kelli, I followed it meticulously making sure I was only taking in X amount of ounces of meat, fruits and vegetables. The result? Well I was really, really hungry all the time but the weight started dropping off immediately and has continued to drop.
I’ve just seen too many professional athletes – and especially cyclists – balloon up once they stop competing. Pro cyclists literally starve themselves. If you want to be the best, that’s what you do.
That’s what I did. I cannot tell you how many nights you just go to bed hungry.
I told both Namrita and Kelli I am constantly hungry and it drives me nuts. I, like anyone else, like to feel comfortable and full. It’s the best feeling ever to have eaten a hearty meal and be completely satisfied. Both nutritionists told me appetite suppressant things to do and they do help mitigate the hunger pains (keyword: mitigate, I’m still hungry…like a bunch…like right now…like the kids are turning into little cartoon roasted turkeys). I had to finally convince myself that I enjoyed fitting in a pair of small waisted jeans than to have that plate of cookies. You know, those sweet, delicious, hot cookies.
If there was one thing that was the biggest game changer in my riding abilities, it’s been the recovery shake. I’ve read in books, been told by other mountain bikers and told by nutritionists “put carbs back in your system 30 minutes after a training ride.” I never have really done this unless it was beer (it has carbs, right???) but with Kelli’s eating clean recovery shake – wow, it’s really a game changer.
So making a recovery shake for a training ride is cumbersome as the prep work is no fun when you just want to get on your bike and go. However the ability to put back those precious carbs you just burned is great for your body and your performance and using an eating clean method instead of a chemical mix is even better.
Kelli Jennings has transformed my body and the way I look at food by eating clean. The fact that I lost 30lbs without losing any muscle or power (in fact, my power increased) is golden to me. Her bubbly attitude and email check-ins to see if something needs tweaking or modifying was great. The recipes and foods she picks for you to use as fuel are tasty and not nasty at all. She also has two books she’s working on that are both fantastic reads.
I think the one thing Kelli said that really hit home is that cyclists will spend upwards of a thousand dollars to drop 3-4 grams of weight on their bike when you can drop 453 grams by losing a pound for much, much less. This worked for me losing 13,590 grams just by altering my diet and following her plan!
How about one that Namrita, Kelli and the internet all agree on which is hot cocoa. No, no not sugary hot chocolate, but just straight bitter cocoa. It has roughly 25 calories, 1.5 gram of fat and 3.6 gram of fiber. Not too shabby to shut down that appetite for a little bit when you’re sitting there and your stomach is growling immensely (and thinking about those cookies I mentioned earlier. By the way, the Barnes and Nobles big thick Reeses Buttercup cookies are my favorite. I could sit and consume them until I died…died of happiness). I have worked on a few concoctions and found one that suits me well (your mileage may vary):
Scott’s Hot Cocoa:
Mix all together, let it cool slightly and then sip. Okay, sure, it’s no mocha latte from Starbucks, I get it…but you also won’t dread getting on the scale the next day. Also some added bonuses is that cocoa may (keyword: may) provide antidepressant benefits by boosting endorphins. Cocoa also has antioxidants in fact more than red wine or tea. Cocoa has also been linked with lowering your cholesterol and it makes you unbelievably sexy (I mean, I want to kiss myself when I look in the mirror. I feel sorry for all you ladies out there).
I am adhering to the Paelo diet and I also would call it eating clean as well. Generally my chicken is baked with veggies and some kind of seasoning for dinner, the rest of my meals (I eat 5-6 times a day) are very regimented with leafy greens and fruits. Sounds caveman like enough to me! Just a eating clean caveman!
Last but not least, there’s cheating. I of course have cheat days and will sometimes binge eat like crazy with little or no remorse. I generally plan out the cheat days as best as possible to maximize the nastiest and most unhealthy food I can find. Then after I’ve consumed more beer, pretzels, bratwursts and fried pies that my body can handle – I weigh myself, feel terrible and climb back on the wagon eating clean. A few days later my weight regulates itself and I start to plot and plan my next cheat day.
While this form of eating works for me, it might not for you. I have some friends who are extremely fast riders, rail thin and their diet consist of pizza and any other forms of junk food that they can get down their throat. Others live and die by pastas, breads and other carbs to give them a boost. So eating clean may not be your ideal diet (but you’d find me hard pressed to believe it as I think whole foods are super important to your body’s ability to perform and have the right amount of vitamins and nutrients).