I Quit Sugar. I don’t think so!

sugar

Sugar, please!

I thought about quitting eating red meat. I did it. I thought about quitting eating chicken and fish. I did it. I thought about quitting eating animal products and byproducts. I did it for two years. I thought about quitting caffeine. I did it for three days.

I never thought about quitting sugar, but I have reduced its consumption. I became more curirous when I listened to audiobook Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover, where he mentions about the difficulty his athletes had in cutting off and/or diminishing sugar from their diet. He knew exactly if his athletes were cheating or not.

So when I saw Lindsey’s posting on Instagram about her quitting sugar for one-week and inviting followers to join in, I was intrigued about the calling. I wanted to know if I could do it and I wanted to know how my body would feel without this substance that some label as “drug”. With good luck wishes from my husband, after he had baked two dozens of gluten-free cookies, I went on a journey of one-week sugar free and minimum added sugar food challenge.

DAY 1

It’s a Monday and four hours into this challenge, I found myself starring at my cup of coffee in shock of its bittersweet taste with a slight feel of dizziness. It was not the sugar-free challenge I was scared of at this point. It was the “don’t take my coffee away from me” possibility that I was fearful of. I had to be creative with this, and on the first day of the challenge, I was grateful to borrow a co-worker’s tiny packet of stevia. I had totally forgotten to bring my container of honey from home.

I pushed through the morning, afternoon and evening. I realized how much sugar is present in just about every food we eat, especially in processed food, which I try my best to stay away from it. Anything with high corn fructose or fructose is a NO in our home. The occasional dizziness feel continued throughout the day, but nothing that I felt I should be concerned about.

DAY 2

It’s Tuesday and this time around I remembered that my husband had got us a sweetener derived from sugar cane called erythritol. Erythritol is known as a sugar alcohol. It occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods, but the kind you see added to low-sugar and sugar-free items that is man-made. It has definitely helped with the bitterness of the coffee and worked well with the placebo effect that I added “sugar” to my coffee, although I used only half teaspoon of erythritol.

IMG_7796.jpg

My energy was certainly low in the morning and I could not do my morning workout. This part I certainly didn’t like it because I’ve been on a quest to fix this problem and not add more to it. For an afternoon pick me up, I’ve been drinking unsweet ice tea that I make a home with a combination of mint tea, citrus sunset and blood orange rooibos tea. It’s delicious! I was adding a splash of non-dairy Silk caramel coffee creamer, but this time I had to add plain almond milk. As the day went on, I noticed my body and mind feeling somewhat confused. My body was going through a no-sugar reaction for sure.

DAY 3

Wednesday morning I felt a lot more energized and I was up at 4:45 a.m. to get my workout done. I noticed waking up very hungry and I immediately sipped on my bottle of BCAA’s workout mix along with GenerationUcan to help me keep going. I was feeling a lot more focus today and more energetic. Although I also noticed episodes of energy crash. The feel of being always hungry not matter how much carbs I was adding to my diet was starting to get out of control. My sleep had felt more steady, but not this night. I was tossing-and-tossing around and it was difficult to fall sleep and wake up early for my workouts.

DAY 4

It was crash day! I had zero energy to get up and had a horrible headache. Besides the lack of energy and headache, I had symptoms of the flu and body ache throughout. It wasn’t a great feeling at all. After getting up at 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., then 7:00 and 8:00 trying to get something going, it was clearly a no-go. I had to call in sick. I went back to bed and didn’t get up until noon. It is possible it could have been a compilation of stress or busy life, but I can’t disregard that perhaps the no-sugar week challenge had something to do with it. As the day went on, I felt irritated. At 7:00 p.m., I had to go to the grocery store for some sugar free cookies. Ahhhh, I was then satisfied.

CAN-SF-Chocolate-chip-1024x576

DAY 5

Two more days to the end…, hang in there! I was already vested in this challenge, I wasn’t going to give up now. I got to get up at 5:00 a.m. for my workout, felt energized and ready to tackle the day. I was excited and focused. Today I didn’t feel much of an energy crash, but I had more difficulty falling sleep.

DAY 6

When I finally get to sleep, I usually sleep well. But this time wasn’t the case. I didn’t wake up rested for my long run with Beata. At 4:50 a.m. as I settled in to eat my pre-long run meal, I noticed a text from Beata. She was not running due to a migraine. And that was my out to sleep in. It was cool, I wasn’t fully rested, so I went back to bed. I woke up at 9:00 a.m.  Going to my 7-miler LR, it was already late (10:30 a.m.) and getting hot by the minute. Because of a silly mistake of pushing the “save button” as I removed my top at mile .99, I went on for 8 miles. I could not just run .99 and 6.01. It doesn’t look good on Training Peak, hehe. My energy and focus to get these miles done was motivated by the reward I was going to give myself: pizza and wine for dinner. I am sure these food contains added sugar, but I had already avoided all the added sugar food all week. 8 miles in and I was absolutely done on the last mile. I felt hungry all day even though I had a good meal and I was snacking throughout the day.

DAY 7

Yes, the final day until midnight! I truly felt well throughout the day. Perhaps because it was Sunday and didn’t have to wake up early for a workout. I woke up hungry and had to eat a piece of bread before proceeding with my workout. Throughout the day I felt energized and focused on the tasks that needed done. But again, I was feeling hungry constantly. Trying to get everything set for the next day, got me to bed at 11:00 p.m., super late for someone who needed to wake up at 4:30 a.m. Again, I was tossing-and-tossing around without being able to fall sleep. I was STARVING! At 12:22 a.m., I could not take it anymore. I had to get up and eat a bowl of cheerios with cinnamon, blueberry and a squirt of blue agave. I finally fall sleep, but I didn’t wake up rested for my workout. That was a bummer.

CONCLUSION

I tolerated the challenge and I’m grateful for the experience for now I have a lot more awareness that sugar is about in every food we consume; the worst are the high corn fructose. I am already aware of what I eat, so I believe that all I need is to continue being mindful. The pros don’t make up for the cons, at not least not for my body. I’m not looking to lose weight, so a few extra calories for me is important, especially because I am a runner and only weight 108 lbs. The amount of sugar I already eat, I don’t believe it causes me any harm. I don’t feel the sugar-high and then the crash like some other people might feel due to overdoing on the sugar intake and extra consumption of added sugar food. The energy derived from the sugar amount I consume feels consistent with the level and intensity of sports activity I perform on a daily basis. I don’t feel a high or crash due to sugar intake or lack thereof. To normalize my hunger perhaps I should had add even more carbohydrates, protein and fat (the healthy ones like from avocado) to my diet while on the challenge.

But make no mistake, I don’t consume the usual white table sugar guys! Remember, I’m a vegetarian and I was vegan for two years! I only use organic unbleached sugar cane. Why? Because the popular white sugar is the most processed type of sugar you’ll see. It’s white because it has been bleached using cow bones. And let’s not even mention about the further processing of stripping all the natural goodies from the product and using GMO.

As a result of this experience, I stopped adding sugar to my coffee. Instead, I’m just using the non-dairy Silk coffee creamer and it’s really good just like this! I also stopped adding sugar to smoothies and to super food juice I make every Sunday as part of my meal prep.

But to say that I am happy to practice a less restricted sugar free diet routine is an understatement.

Be mindful!

IMG_7795.jpg

Best Damn Race: Yes and No, but Yes

img_6871.jpg

“When falling short on a race goal, peace is found knowing and feeling you never gave up, not matter what the odds, and by giving your all.”

~Celia Westbrook

February was a hard month of training and a hard month dealing with health issues. My mom was here visiting us from Brazil, and although I (we) made it work, it was hard to balance out family time and training. Had not been for health issues, I think I’d had done a better job at that.

Despite losing one week of training, I did the best I could to control what I could control. I’d say that for this race I nailed on nutrition because I was already prepping to race without my husband’s assistance carrying my fuel and meeting me at a certain mile marker. I also nailed mental toughness. Hours of mental strength training listening to audiobooks – my last one before this race was Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover, a MUST listen/read to anyone – watching marathons and Kenyans running documentaries, all paid off.

IMG_7102

This race has taught me how to best deal with race technicalities and to really consider the challenges that the course brings. I knew there would be cobblestone/brick roads, I just didn’t think that while running it would feel THIS overwhelming. I ran OUC last year which includes a similar route to Best Damn Race, but this was the worse. OUC counts for 2 miles of cobblestone/brick roads, this one is probably 4 miles worth of it. I PR’ed at OUC (1:50:54) and I ran on the course the whole race. Hence, I was out of running for two weeks after the race due to a horrible case of tendinitis on my left foot that had signs of stress reaction. Yeah, that’s horrible. Whereas at BDR, I minimized this terrain, but it cost me time AND no injury!

It took me a while to see the good things about this race’s performance. Gratitude is everything to me and it enriches my perspective. I could not be happier than knowing that my mom was there waiting for me to cross the finish line and that she would be wearing my medal. That was the best gift of all and I will be forever grateful. Without further ado, let’s run with me in this recap!

MILE 1-5 = 8:57 / 8:50 / 8:37 / 8:41 / 8:43

The weather was a nice 53 degrees; my mom could not believe I was removing my jacket and singlet. I finished my GU mix of water, did a last-minute potty stop to empty the bladder (I’d only pee in my pants if a BQ was at stake), grabbed my mix of GenUcan 10oz disposable bottle, and an overcrowded starting got me in the back of the pack. Hence, dodging through runners and running on the sidewalk trying to minimize running on brick/cobblestone road for the first .50 mi of the race already! More bricks and more sidewalk to come plus getting stuck behind a pack at the entrance of Lake Underhill Park. I tried to keep my cool and a lot of the negative thoughts shut. It was a hard.

MILE 6-10 = 8:25 / 8:21 / 8:21 / 8:15 / 8:20

From mile 6 forward it felt like I saw green pasture. I tried my best to stay below 8:25 pace, but the tough route with more cobblestone road in sight made tough. By mile 10 I had already finished my mix of GenUcan and I felt a steady flow of energy but my legs were definitely about to get tired.

MILE 11-13.1 = 8:30 / 8:31 / 7:53 / .10 @  7:24

Yup, my legs were getting tired and for some reason it felt that I was running a 8:10 pace to only realize it was 8:30/8:31 ughh. From the get go of this race, it felt out of my control and playing catch up in doing the best I could to adjust to where I wanted to be and feel. I’m still trying to figure out why miles 10-12 are the hardest for me. I didn’t feel a crash; otherwise I’d not had ran a 7:53 for mile 13.  At mile 11 I knew my chances to PR was non-existent, but I guess denial or persistence won because I never gave up giving my all.

IMG_7104

I am thrilled and grateful!

IMG_7105

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” 

Mahatma Gandhi

Dear Unloving February…

IMG_6539

“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

~Oprah Winfrey

Such a runner’s high ending January with 150 miles for the month only to get slammed on the face with the reality of a lower month mileage. Not everything is lovely, and although roses are ridiculous beautiful, it has thorns too.

Unfortunately February was not an easy month to navigate through life and training. From the get go, something totally out of my control derailed my progress and shook my physical and mental being. All of the sudden, my focus turned primarily to my health and getting back on track to being healthy again. My training schedule on a day-by-day and so it was everything else to the extent that I could make it on day-by-day. I was made and I was angry that I was harm was inflicted upon me. Sadly to this day, I still cannot publicly share. But I look forward to the day and opportunity to share to many of you.

I lost one week worth of training. From 32, 36, to 27 miles week, I was lucky that I got 7 miles in for that week. The mental and physical stress I went through was something I had never experienced. Being a runner and working on mental strength was what helped me during those dark days. I did my best to separate the problem and work on a solution. However, no matter how much you work on the solution and staying positive, time is the only component that can help. It really gets worse before it gets better. And it is in those days, hours, minutes and moment that you truly put toughness, hope and action into play. You realize then what you are made of.

IMG_6224

Eleven days later, I slowly started to resume to training again. My fitness was still there, but a lot of work was needed to restart and find rhythm. I was extremely low on energy in the mornings to get my runs and strength training workouts done. I had to really drag myself to get some miles in the bank after work. By then, everything that needed to get done – dinner, shower, taking care of our fur babies, and rest was all behind schedule.

My mom was here visiting me from Brazil and she helped as much as she could. But at the same time, it was hard for me as I needed to make sure she was well and comfortable. I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, but at the same time, it was hard to find time for myself as work takes just about 90% of your time from family.

IMG_6489

My mantra for February became “Beat yesterday”; just beat yesterday every day, push a little more and you will almost there. Beat yesterday helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

IMG_5887

I was now left with only two week of training before my half marathon race – the Best Damn Race scheduled for the first Saturday of March. I believe in taper week to feel and be confident going to a race. My time was running short and I let go of a six mile run on the week before a race because my legs were just tired. I was feeling mentally burnt out and physically tired. I just wanted this training cycle to be over and race. What got me through was the anticipation of racing the best I could on that day and a good two weeks break from mandatory running.

IMG_6355

As the last week of February and taper week comes all at the same time, February month miles was what it was. 82 Miles of hard fought miles and I was still wondering how in the world I was even able to get these miles. It was the hardest month and hardest miles I logged in. These miles are not just number. There is no number to compare and analyze the struggle it was to get these miles in. It was pure grit that it is dug deep and you have no idea that it is there until a situation comes that asks you to dig deep.

So, take that February!

IMG_6612

“Beat Yesterday”