Tag Archives: exercise

The Vegan Athlete

Tuesday was a very exciting day because I met my idol, Brendan Brazier.  For those who don’t know him, he is a Ironman triathlete, a two-time Canadian 50k ultra-marathon champion, and **drum roll** practices 100% plant-based diet.  I signed up immediately once I found out he was hosting a seminar at the Whole Foods in Arlington.  As you can see in the picture, I was super stoked and of course I sat in the front with my googly eyes.

When I started a plant-based diet I discovered Brendan’s book, Thrive.  Although I felt better and had more energy, I struggled with my long runs.  I’m very adamant about this lifestyle, but I wanted to perform better and that’s when I found Brendan Brazier.  How can a professional triathlete be vegan and win championships?  He reveals his philosophy and secrets in Thrive.  Essentially, the seminar was a short summary of his book plus a lot of great tips not in the book.

Not to worry I took notes from the seminar, but I highly recommend his book to anyone – athlete or non-athlete, omnivore or herbivore, anyone who is interested in improving their sleep, energy, and overall lifestyle.

Stress – We all have different types of stress that effects the body.  Some are emotional, physical, and environmental.  These stress factors increases cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a hormone produced from your adrenal glands.  A small release of cortisol can be beneficial to increase your immunity and energy.  Your body is smart – it will trigger these hormones the moment it feels it needs to go in survival mode.  Too much of cortisol can decrease bone density and muscle.  It can eventually lower your immune system and cause blood sugar imbalances.  It can also led to abdominal fat and high blood pressure.  Wonder why there are people who workout everyday and don’t see results?  I use to over exercise with no breaks in the week.  I didn’t let my body heal or recover, so my body was freaking out and it created more cortisol hormones to protect myself.  Like Brendan’s experience, I started to feel weak and actually gained weight, so I did something really stupid – I lowered my calorie intake.  I damaged my body enough and now I’m depriving my body from nutrients.  I gained the weight even faster. The key is RECOVER.  My body was crying for this.  It’s so important to rest.  This will balance your stress levels, so you can perform better.

Balance – Remember in chemistry class when you had to test the pH (potential of hydrogen) with strips of paper – 1 being very acidic and 14 being very alkaline.  Our body is neutral with a pH around 7, so it’s important to maintain this balance.  I’m not saying to pull out a chemistry set to test everything you eat.  There are a few foods you should try to stay away from or take in moderation.  If the body is in a acidic state it prone to aliments.  Here’s a great diagram that summarizes acidic and alkaline foods.

Energy – Brendan talks about two types of energy – short term energy from stimulants and long term nourishment for your body.  Stimulants like coffee and sugars can give you a quick boost, but there’s a price to pay for this.  Your body works harder to digest stimulants, so it’s using a lot of energy and causing stress to your body.  Ever feel that afternoon crash?  This is what caused it.  Your body is working so hard it will result to fatigue, so you want more to get over that hump.  I like Brendan’s analogy – “think of it as a credit card”.  You can buy it now, but then .. you pay for it later.  This made me think about what I should put in my body.  Ever since I went on a plant-based diet I never get the afternoon crash.  If I feel hungry around 3 or 4, I eat a fruit and it gives me the energy I need because it is nourishing my body.

Brendan is my inspiration.  There was book signing after the seminar and I was able to speak to him for a couple minutes.  The cool thing about Brendan is that he doesn’t push you to buy his products.  He wants to help you.  Brendan is the creator of Vega products.  I will talk about Vega in another post because I actually use these before meeting Brendan.  I’m hoping to run a full marathon this year and need to know how I can improve my performance on a plant-based diet.  He gave me solid advice on what to eat and how to train.  Not once did he mention his products to me.   He is indeed a very classy and fit athlete.

I ended the night by picking up dinner from the Whole Foods salad bar, which by the way, is awesome.  I love the brown paper boxes you pack your salad in.  Here’s what I had:  chard, lettuce, wheat berries, corn, radish, balsamic tofu and mushrooms, red cabbage, chick peas, tomato, kidney beans.  I didn’t add any dressing because it’s already full of flavors.  There’s no need to hinder the freshness.  It was a delicious meal to end my evening.

Reference: Thrive by Brendan Brazier

Good Things Come in Small Packages

I’m 5’1 and petite.  Considering my height I have to be creative with my diet and exercise, but it builds character.  Being petite has plenty advantages:  We look younger.  We have more endurance.  Our curves are emphasized.  We are just as sexy as someone who is 5’7.

I recently came across The Petite Advantage Diet by Jim Karas.  Karas mentions, “They make clothes for petites so why not a specialized diet plan.” Good point. While it’s not noticeable gaining a pound or two for my tall friends, it definitely shows for me in my midsection and thighs.  There’s not a lot of room to go around.  Everything grows horizontally for me, so I work with what I’m blessed with.  I didn’t follow Karas book 100%, but took a couple pointers.

Based on my experience I have a few tips in addition to the book.  It applies to everyone, but as a petite I try to make this my daily routine:

  • Avoid eating out of the bag – Nibbling counts.  I remember reaching my hand to grab a couple chips and before you know it the bag was empty.  Ahh!!  Portioning is important for everyone, but especially for petites.  We don’t need as many calories as a tall person.  A small handful here or there counts at the end of the day.  A couple ideas on how to portion:  buy snack bags to fill a portion on what you want to eat and only eat what’s in it.  Another tip is to take your portion, put it on a plate, and eat at a table.  This reminds you what you are eating and how much you are eating.
  • Drink water – Water is essential.  It cleanses your system and boosts your metabolism.  If you are dehydrated it creates water retention.  Your body is holding on to water because it thinks it’s in survival mode.  Ironically to get rid of water weight you need to drink more water.  Drinking water also curbs your appetite. I drink a big glass of water before I eat.  I find that I’m dehydrated and not hungry most of the time.  I actually count the amount of water I have a day to make sure I have at least 8 glasses.
  • Yoga – Ok so yoga is not going to give you height, but it helps with your posture so you can look taller.  It also builds endurance and strength so you can prevent injury and perform better with other workouts.  I find that my legs get leaner with all the stretching and toning from yoga.
  • Eat half and save for later – My grandma use to tell me as a child that if I don’t finish my plate my husband will be ugly.  Obviously she was trying to get me to finish my meal because I just wanted to play.  Wasting in the household was unacceptable, but not if you eat half and save for later.  If you are full don’t force yourself to finish.  It’s better to spread your meals out than eating all at once.  I like to think I’m on an island – save half of my food so I can enjoy again later.  This way it helps build your metabolism and you won’t eat as much throughout the day.
  • Cardio – Karas talks about how cardio can be a factor to weight gain for petites.  I don’t agree with that.  I think we all should try different exercises to see if it works for you.  Cardio was the number one reason for my weight loss.  It’s good for your cardiovascular system (hence the word cardio) and endurance.  I can see what Karas means on how cardio can increase your appetite.  This is where balance comes in.  It’s important to incorporate cardio in your routine, but don’t overexert yourself like 2 hours of intense cardio on a daily basis because yes it can make you eat more and sometimes more than what you burned.  Cardio can be in any form of aerobic workout like zumba, kickboxing, dancing, or a competitive sport.  Sounds like fun.  To me the best workout is when you don’t feel it’s a workout.  My advice is to experiment and have fun, but don’t overdo it.

To my fellow petites – remember to listen to your body and do what’s right for you.  We can play in the big leagues.