Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It's Working -- But, what is it?

I have not eaten wheat in three and a half weeks. Over the first 10-14 days I noticed no physical changes - only cravings.  But then, last week I had some of my best workouts ever. I had speeds on the bike that have been elusive before. I set PRs in my running.  In fact, my base pace for running has improved by :30 - :45 per mile.  So, what's working? Is it the wheat free diet? Is it that my fitness has has hit a new level of strength? Is it because I've started pre-fueling my long workouts differently? How will I ever really know?

I've only gone wheat-free, but not grain free. I've still eaten some oats, rice and corn; just not every day. I chose to drop wheat because it is indicated as a cause of joint inflammation and pH acidity - two things that are counter productive to health and fitness. Overexposure to wheat can also create irritation in the digestive tract, which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients and other undesirable affects.

My diet was already free of most highly processed foods -- we keep a whole food kitchen rather than stocking packaged, manufactured items. Dropping the wheat meant eliminating things like pasta and homemade bread, not convenience foods (cereal, crackers, croutons, cookies, etc).  We dropped the convenience items a long time ago for various other reasons. So, I wonder if the last remnants of wheat in my diet are what is making the big difference in my athletic performance.

My fitness routine is a fairly recent discipline. I've only been regularly exercising for about eighteen months. It is possible that I've hit a new level of strength based solely on the consistent physical work I've done every week for a year and a half. I don't have a prior experience to compare this to. I've never been as active in my entire life as I am right now. I'm forty-five years old, and I know I could out-perform my 20 year old self! But, is a solid base alone the facet to credit for this sudden improvement in pace and strength?

Recently, I've been reading more about proper fueling pre-workout. I started experimenting. I already fuel strategically before my long runs by eating some light, but quick energy, choices like dates and nuts, or a small glass of carrot juice. Last week I decided to switch things up by including my usual post-workout dose of Emergen-C with my standard pre-fuel. It was on a riding workout day. I set a personal record for my favorite 15 mile course and records on several segments within the course. I was impressed - but not sure what had made the difference. Next day I included the Emergen-C again, this time before a run workout. Again I set personal records -- my fastest mile ever. Maybe it was still a fluke. But I do think I've been placing such heavy demands on my body this year and my nutrition had not necessarily been keeping pace with the output. I'm still tweaking my diet and focusing on the proper intake before the workouts and in the recovery period following the workouts.  It's a work in progress.

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