Friday, June 13, 2014

Cheat Days and Why They May Not Work

I am not a big fan of planned cheat meals or cheat days and I will tell you why.  First of all, the word “cheat” implies you are doing something wrong.  Our foods choices are just that - choices.  There is no right or wrong per se; it is about what is best for us individually.  For me, I do not eat meat, so do I go and eat meat on cheat days????  In my case - never!  However, if I choose to eat a piece of cake on my birthday is that cheating?  For me the answer is “no,” because I am not cheating. I am choosing to eat something I normally wouldn't eat every day because it is a special occasion.

I think it is much better to focus on high quality foods every day and limit or move away from foods we decide are not in our best interest.  When we live for cheat days then we are saying these foods are ok to eat once a week.  We then begin to look forward to cheat days vs. focusing on what is best for us on a regular basis. 

How do we define a cheat day?  Do we eat a full day of food that is total garbage and then spend the next three days regretting it and waiting 2-3 days for the food to be eliminated from our bodies?  By then we are only days away from the next cheat day (if we set them up as once a week).

I think the intention of a cheat day is honorable, but I just don’t know how effective they really are at changing our long term view of food.  My goal is to only eat the best foods for my body and as I continue on this journey my diet has got cleaner and cleaner.  One day there will not be any cheat foods.  Food I once wanted will no longer appeal to me.  Sugary sweets and other unhealthy food will be totally replaced by healthy alternatives so there will be no need to cheat. 

I understand it is a journey and we all need our tricks, but please be careful with this one.  The best option may be one that gives you the opportunity to enjoy the unhealthy meal or occasional sweet on special occasions and avoid making it too complicated or timing days filled with foods that do not support our long term health.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Training in the heat and what to do

As we approach the heat of the summer I wanted to share my thoughts on training in the heat.

First of all the biggest challenge you will face is taking the time to adapt!  Spring in Texas has been fairly mild so it seems for 2014 we went from mild temps to HOT!  Adaptation takes a few weeks to occur, and this will only happen if you are training at least 2-3 days a week outside.  Keep in mind your workouts should be about “effort” and not “pace.”  If your normally run a 9 min per mile pace in 50 degree weather or less, your pace may drop to 10 ½ minutes or more if it is 95 degrees!  It doesn’t mean your overall pace is dropping or your running will suffer, it just means the same effort will produce a slower pace. 

What is the best way to measure effort?  A heart rate monitor is the best tool.  If you train in zone 2 for example (180-age, plus 5 if you are very active, minus 5 if you are not active at all) then you can track your progress over the summer.  You will be amazed at how much you can still improve your performance once the cooler temperatures return in the fall.

Over training in the heat can be very detrimental.  If you train at your regular pace in the heat, it would be equivalent to doing speed work during every work out.  This will result in fatigue and possible injury.  Remember that even if it is just warm, the humidity will make it tougher for the body to cool itself, so even if it is 80 degree early in the am, if it is also humid then it will be just as tough as running in hot weather.

Things to make the heat more bearable: first, try to run or work out in the shade, this will help keep you cooler (it is all relative right).  Second, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, not just during your workout, but before and after.  

Finally, make sure you replace lost electrolytes in your body.  If you train for more than an hour, it is a good idea to take in products like “salt sticks” or “s-caps”.  While Gatorade and similar products tout electrolyte replacement, they also come with excess products like sugar (or worse, fake sugar) and other chemicals which will hamper your performance.

Keep it clean, stay focused and enjoy the experience.  All your workouts in the “dog days” of summer will pay off once the cooler temps return.