Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Juice Fast: Day 1

So yesterday I started this 5 day juice fast (read the entry before this one if you need to catch up). I declared it a 5-day fast in the morning, when I was well nourished and clear headed. By the afternoon I wanted to punch somebody in the face and I thought I'd be lucky to make it 3 days. Then I thought I'd be lucky to make it just through the afternoon.

The juice itself is pretty good. I described it yesterday as "clean". I'll clarify that and call it "earthy". If you've ever stood in the middle of a vegetable garden, it tastes like that. Which, if that sounds gross, it's not - it's a good thing. But nothing is really sweet - even the fruit juices. There's just kind of...more earthy, and a little less earthy. I've been storing my produce at room temperature, too, and I think if they were colder it might make a difference.

Anyway, the juice. I've had all kinds of concoctions to this point: A tomato, some carrots, a potato and some broccoli was for lunch yesterday. An orange, some carrots, some spinach. This morning was all fruit. Last night I tossed in a rhubarb stalk - man, are they sour. In the morning and evening I made fruitier stuff, and in the afternoon-dinnertime I made more vegetable stuff.

Nothing tastes bad -which is a surprise. Like, juicing up a potato and some carrots and broccoli, I might expect that to not go down so well, but it's really just fine. Not, like, my beverage of choice or anything, but I expected much worse.

You can also really taste the lack of bullshit like sugars and sweeteners and preservatives sodium and whatever. Which is why maybe things taste good, when I expect them to taste bad. Because my expectations are based on experience, and that experience is limited to manufactured foods. That's kind of a crazy deep rabbit hole if you think about it.

I found myself consistently finishing my juice, and then looking around for a handful for crackers or gorp or something. It was an automatic response - I wasn't necessarily hungry. That was useful, and made me really aware of how conditioned I am to eat for reasons other than nutrition. Which - is okay. When not in the middle of a juice fast, I do well to eat mostly healthy, and mostly for the purpose of training, but I also think life is short, and sometimes a fat cheeseburger and fries are just the thing, and I have no self loathing about that. Still, it's good to mentally engage in that process - am I really hungry? Or just feel like eating? Or is my definition of "hunger" jacked up on an American diet of too much junk? Am I addicted to that junk? Etceteras. However I end up answering those questions, it's useful just to have stopped to ask them.

Anyway, I did break stride, on purpose, at dinnertime. I had planned my potato-juice concoction, but as I was preparing it my daughter said, "It's dinnertime Daddy, come eat with us." At which time my priorities of stringent rules about a juice fast seemed really silly, so I said, "You're right, and I will." Dinner consisted of two pancakes and a ton of fruit. So, still pretty raw, and in fact I think it works better for my lifestyle, and for my family, if I limit the fast to the daytime, when I'm alone, but then have a small, "raw" meal with the family at dinner. So be it.

Last night I felt pretty great, and this morning as well. Amy said I had an odor ("that was pretty bad") coming from me last night - which is a little weird - and in the book the author said you might expect that, as your pores clear out of "toxins". Could be, or maybe I'm just repulsive. If true, though, that's an interesting phenomenon.

I felt okay - just okay - on my 3 mile run yesterday, and this morning I rode 20 miles and felt right on the edge of bonking the last 10 miles. This isn't discouraging to me - I expect it, and consider it part of the fast. On my ride this morning, though, I was really aware of how necessary my big dinner the night before and 2 bowls of oatmeal for breakfast are before a morning ride.

So - that's the update from Day 1. In the middle of Day 2 now, and about to go make my mid-morning juice. I wonder if I can squeeze a cupcake in that thing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Juice! Fast!

I was intrigued by an article in last month's Triathlete magazine about the author going through a juice fast. (Not the swimsuit issue, the one before that. And sidenote, I thought the swimsuit issue was pretty good this year. Not the swimsuits part - I think that's stupid and I've written about it here before - search if you're super curious - but the rest of the mag was useful. The shoe review in particular.)

The idea of the juice fast was to sort of "detoxify" from whatever "toxins" are harboring ill will within one's body. I put everything in "quotes" because some of the popular "detoxify" stuff feels a little new-agey to me, and much as I consider myself a spiritual person, I can't help but open one eye and look around the room when I'm supposed to be meditating on my inner child or whatever. That said, I'm a firm believer that most of what's presented to us for purchase to eat is crap, with little nutritional value, and if you scan the ingredients it seems most food now isn't really food at all but some kind of engineered substitute. But I digress. So the idea of trying something interesting and dramatic, such as a juice fast, has some appeal to me. Particularly right now, when my season is in a place where I don't require carbohydrate stores yet to be on my bike for 3 hours, I think it's a good time to give it a shot.

In the Triathlete magazine, the author used the book Toxic Relief by Dr. Don Colbert. There are myriad resources, books, articles, etc. to try the juice fast, but as the author seemed to have a mostly positive experience, I purchased the same book. Let me talk about the book a little bit:

I bought the book on Kindle for my iPad for less than $5, and I'm glad I didn't shell out $15 or something at Borders. Like a lot of these kinds of books - the kind where the objective is to eat differently - it is mostly crap. The writing is mostly crap - with constant repetition of something dude said three pages ago. The organization of the book is mostly crap - with something in this chapter that really should go in that chapter. It also spends a great deal of time wanting to scare the bajezus out of you. It spends page after page after page talking about how modern pesticides are killing us, and modern agriculture is killing us, and restaurants are killing us, and if we don't all stop what we're doing and drink juice right now we'll likely implode within the hour. I skimmed through huge chunks of this thing before finally just going to the table of contents and trying to zero in on what I wanted - some facts, some advice, some recipes.

It's useful to note that the book is apparently written for people who are in really bad shape, who are drinking soda and smoking cigarettes and eating nachos as the appetizer for every meal, which will then consist of buffalo wings and fried cheese curds. So that's part of the scare tactics, and for that audience I imagine it has its place. The book suggests a 2-week "pre-fast" program that basically involves eating the kind of sensible stuff I eat all the time. So, the book isn't geared towards endurance athletes, or athletes at all. I had to filter through a lot of that common-denominator talk to get to the parts that were useful.

It also spends a lot of time with a very God-centered philosophy, which was unexpected. Fasting is of course an important tradition in a lot of religions, and Dr. Don Colbert is a Christian who applies a lot of the physical benefits of the juice fast to its spiritual benefits. I'm not applying those parts, but thought I'd mention it in case it bears relevance to anybody.

Okay, so with that long list of criticisms ended, here's the point of Colbert's writing, which if you sift through the fear-mongering I mostly agree with - the things we eat are over-processed, come from factories, are imported from a zillion miles away, and largely lack meaningful nutrition. This is true not just of junk food, but of a lot of breads, crackers, pastas, etc. I do what I can to make good decisions, particularly in context of training/recovery, etc., but coming out of my offseason, it seems like a sensible time for me to hit reset a little bit. I don't know what, if any, "detoxifying" will be going on in my juice fast, but I'm mostly interested in seeing what it's like to eat (well, drink) only raw, natural fruits and vegetables.

Today is a Tuesday, and I plan to continue my fast through the weekend - ending on Sunday night. I bought a juicer, and this morning I had my first beverage, which consisted of 4 carrots, some spinach, and an apple. The orange elixir pumped out of the juicer - I was surprised how much juice comes out of carrots, who knew? - and I held it to my mouth, ready for a kind of strong V8-ish taste - but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The first word that came to mind was clean. It was a new experience, so that's a good start.

I'll be drinking lots of water for the next 5 days, and otherwise having only juice. All fresh juice, and there's lots of stuff going in - apples, blueberries, grabs, raspberries, spinach, cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsley, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges. I have no idea how things will taste. I have no idea, really, what to expect.

Dr. Conrad promises "increased energy!", but again - if his target market are fatso's who put down the Doritos only long enough to pick up a cigarette, then any change from that will likely create "increased energy!", so we'll see. I'm concerned about my workouts, but I'll allow myself these concessions if necessary: my usual chocolate milk as a recovery drink, my usual Infinit mix if I'm on the bike for more than an hour, and my Powerbar Gels as needed. Otherwise, I'm giving the juice fast my solid attention. I'll report here each day to let you know how it's going.

Can you juice burritos and cheeseburgers though? Hope so.