Monday, January 17, 2011

THE Cleanse wrapup. Lessons learned

This will be my last post on the THE cleanse, a 2 week crash diet to make you learn of your bad eating habits and to show you that eating clean is not a bad thing, even when you are an endurance athlete. I did this for 12 of the 14 days and lost over 7 pounds.

Lesson #1: Your body has a LOT more energy than your brain thinks it does
You know those love handles you have? Do you know how much energy is stored in those suckers? A LOT! By day 8 or 9 of this diet, I had fully shed any morsel of refined carb in my body and was going solely on veggies and meat and fruit. That day I had to run for 90 mins. I woke up, and hit the pavement. No pre run fuel. No during run fuel. Either I was going off of the glycogen from previous days veggies, or I was digging deep into my fat stores. I had sustained energy during that run. No pep, but just sustained energy. I finished the run and still didn't feel hungry. I had a few other workouts where the same thing happened. I just had this slow burning energy and hunger wasn't an issue.

Lesson #2: Refined carbs wreck havoc on your blood sugar
Ever notice that when you eat some white bread that it makes you feel full, but only an hour later or so you are crashing? And that trend continues through the day? Even with some protein you still feel those violent ups and downs. I noticed that when using veggies and salad for carb sources, that those ups and downs (yeah, they still happened!) were not as violent. The height of the waves were much shallower.

Lesson #3: Protein is cool, but veggies are cooler with protein
One day I had this genius idea of eating steak and three scrambled eggs. Basically protein and some saturated fat. It didn't fill me up and gave me ZERO energy for a later workout. I had similar meals, but had loads of steamed broccoli or asparagus or green beans with it. The veggies and protein working together filled me up, kept my filled, AND provided energy for later workouts.

Lesson #4: Refined carbs are not a bad thing
I can eat a flour tortilla, some peanut butter and banana and be ready to rock ANY workout within 60 mins. Refined carbs are convenient and fit into a lifestyle where you need quick energy. Yeah, you need to watch it with the types of foods, but they work with me and I notice that I really only NEED to eat them when there is a workout coming up. I hate eating slower absorbing foods and waiting 3-4 hours for them to kick in.

Lesson #5: Refined carbs can be a bad thing
One thing I noticed while off refined carbs was that I wasn't getting sleepy during the day. I was less tired. Yes, I had zero pep during my workouts, but I had sustained energy, especially at work. I wasn't falling asleep in any meetings! The refined carbs that I normally eat I notice give me jet fuel like energy, but like jet fuel, it burns much quicker, meaning I tire out quicker after a workout is done.

Lesson #6: good fats are good things
So eating grilled lean meats and lots of steamed veggies is a really healthy thing, but the flavor just isn't there. Eating like that is also missing out on a macronutrient: FAT. Nuts, avocado, olives are forms of healthy UNsaturated fats. Those foods I noticed helped keep me full and were less gross to consume than saturated fats like bacon. Oh how I love almonds, avocado and olives!

Lesson #7: salads can fill you up
I would always eat salads as just lettuce, cucumber, some carrot, and a dressing. THAT never filled me up. I learned that by loading it with olives, avocado, peppers, chickpeas, spinach, snap peas, AND especially lean grilled meat with an olive oil and vinegar based dressings with some pepper can keep me full for a LONG time. And this isn't some small salad. This is a BIG salad! Now finding variety in these salads is the trick.

Lesson #8: Paleo is too restrictive
I get the paleo diet (no grains or dairy or beans). The diet totally makes sense but I find it too restrictive for my food pallet. I LIKE the taste of bread. I am not a pro triathlete. I am an amateur and this is my hobby. Yes, I always want to get better and leaner, but I still gotta live! Booze is not a bad thing. I LIKE the taste of alcohol. I am not going to become a monk and deny myself these wonderful things in the world. Just don't go too crazy with it, right?

Lesson #9: Water is a cool trick
Water was my saving grace. I had to drink 100 oz a day. The first few days I was running to the bathroom every 15 mins. By day 5 I wasn't sure if I was drinking enough. Sure enough I was, but not peeing as often and still felt thirsty. Truest me, it still left my body, but drinking 100 oz a day is not a hard thing and does wonders for your energy levels. It kept me balanced! Drinking water during meals, and especially after meals "finished" off my stomach. It tricked my stomach into thinking it was fuller than it really was. This helped turn down the hunger monsters and allow me to eat less.

Lesson #10: salt turns you into a sponge
Can't remember which day it was, but I was adding salt to everything. And I was drinking 100 oz of water. Let's just say I kept drinking but I wasn't peeing like I should have. I felt so bloated! The extra salt that I had made my body retain all of that water.

Foods that really got me through this diet:
  • apples and peanut butter (#1 snack!)
  • grapefruit and oranges (can't get enough of em!)
  • berries....blueberries, blackberries, and ESPECIALLY cherries!
  • almonds and peanut butter
  • roasted asparagus and roasted green beans
  • olives (oh how I LOVE thee!)
  • avocado
  • grilled sirloin steak

I would recommend this cleanse. I would say 10 days is probably enough. 14 and you are not only going crazy but also eating out with others can be a bit restrictive. I learned that I need to drink more water and to limit my refined carbs to pre workout fuel only. This will satiate my appetite for this food group. Eating grilled lean meat and roasted or steamed veggies will become my usual dinner. This does provide enough energy for the next morning, just not that night. Takes a bit longer for green beans to make it to the muscles @ glycogen.

This was a great jump start to the season.


  1. Great recap.

    I have never, ever said yucky and bacon in the same sentence before.

  2. Be careful what you do with #10 salt. One of my friends that has run marathons for 20 years decided one year that he would cut back on his sodium. Well long story short, he dehydrated during his marathon. Very scary when your HR stays at 150-160 and you are no longer moving. The even more unfortunate thing was he didn't realize it was related to his sodium intake for months and he was out of the training/racing scene for nearly a year.
    Food for thought.

  3. great recap of THE cleanse. lots of good tips!

  4. great recap!

    where do you see slow digesting grains fitting into this equation?

  5. Thanks Jon. I guess that since I moved to a plant based diet I have been doing the cleanse without knowing it. I am not sure I was getting 100oz of water in but that is all that I drink along with coffe. I must be close.

    I too have felt a lift in energy and am definitely leaner. I also feel stronger and faster.

    Those foods you listed I consume on a daily basis and find new ways to introduce other vegetables as well.

    As always great post.

  6. So how much of this are you going to incorporate into your day to day life?

  7. Ooh sign me up - I've got two large "gas tanks" on my sides that definitely need to be "burned up"!

  8. Nice recap!! I have been getting there slowly!

  9. Great summary! It sounds like it was a good learning experience.

  10. Nice recap. It was fun we were cleansing at the same time, though our approaches were very different. I'm still not eating meat, I've only had nibbles since breaking the cleanse. I also have only had a handful of coffees! I have been drinking lots and lots of wine though :)

  11. Hey Jon - Where did you find this cleanse (the rules and such)? I'm interested in trying one. Probably not for this year, but I'll keep it in my files.

    Also, were there any other cleanses that you thought about before you chose this one? Why?

    Lastly, has your weight come back up? And well done btw.


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