The First (Unexpected) Lesson from the Liquid Cleanse

A day and a half into my experiment with an all-liquid, water and green-vegetable juice cleanse, I’ve already learned something huge.

It has nothing to do with alkalinity or raw food or how all I want to do right now is eat something (solid, for the love of god).

It’s just this: Real food is so damn comforting.  Far more than physical hunger, not being able to eat is leaving me with a feeling of—wait for it—sadness.

Food as a Crutch

Before I started this cleanse, I was listening to a recording of a live Tony Robbins seminar where he said something resembling the following (I’m paraphrasing here).

A few days into the cleanse, you’ll think about food and realize that you’re not really hungry for it.  You’re used to eating all the time as a way of dealing with stress, and when you can’t do that anymore, you have to face that stress, and you have an opportunity to grow emotionally.

Ok Tony, I thought.  Sure.  Sounds applicable to someone with a weight problem who uses food as a crutch.  But come on dude, I run all the time.  If I don’t always eat mindfully, it’s because I think of food as fuel.  But it has nothing to do with emotions for me.

Apparently, I also give myself too much credit.

Until yesterday, I didn’t realize that when I finish an hour of work and take a break, the first place I head is to the kitchen.  When the day is wearing on and I’m stressed and thinking about the reprieve when it’s all done, cooking and sitting down to dinner is what signals that reprieve.  And when I think about how nice it’ll be to sit down and watch a rerun of The Office later, that thought revolves partially around eating a snack or drinking a beer while I relax.

This is all stuff I didn’t notice until yesterday, when the food part was no more.  When the food is taken away from all these situations, so is the deep, wonderful comfort that I associate with the routines.  And what’s left is an emptiness like I had never imagined.

Even though I hate to admit it, I could have told you this about coffee, and about that drink at the end of the night that I probably enjoy a little too often.  Much as I’d like to say it’s the taste, I kn0w that it’s the distraction.

But I’d have never said this about healthy, nourishing food.

Yet now I can say without a doubt that I use food to relieve stress and (temporarily) deal with problems.  And I am the absolute last person I would have ever suspected of that.

How’s it Going, Otherwise?

It’s okay.  (My pee is turning the test strips a darker color than it did at the beginning, so I’ve got that going for me!)

Yesterday was fine, minus the aforementioned general suckiness of life without real food.  No major hunger pangs, as the pureed soup made from avocados and other vegetables does a decent job of filling me up.

Today, the headaches started.  So did the fatigue.

They say it gets better after this part.  I don’t know if I’ll make it there.

36 Comments

 

The Endurance Ninja Guide to Drop-Kicking Your Fears

Post by Susan Lacke.

Fear is probably the thing that limits performance more than anything – the fear of not doing well, of what people will say. You’ve got to acknowledge those fears, then release them.

-Mark Allen, six-time Ironman champion

iStock 000011568214XSmall 200x300Almost every morning, on my rides or runs, I pass a couple of movie theatres. Most of them are touting the scary movie du jour, promising a fright fest of epic proportions.

I laugh. I’ve got something ten times scarier than any chainsaw-wielding masked terrorist: I’ve got a 140.6-mile date with an Ironman triathlon, and it frightens the crap out of me.

Most of us have set some sort of goal for ourselves: finishing a half-marathon, taking on that first triathlon, losing 20 pounds, or making the leap from a sometimes-carnivore to a full-on veg-head. You take on the challenge with enthusiasm and vigor…until one day, out of the blue, a voice in the back of your head whispers, “What the hell are you doing?”

The brakes squeal and everything comes to a halt. What the hell ARE you doing?

Self Doubt: The Enemy

Have you bitten off more than you can chew? That whisper amplifies into a roar, those fears have multiplied, and that enthusiasm and vigor you once had for your goal gets pushed onto very shaky ground. Self-doubt can be a powerful thing, and the root cause of that self-doubt is often fear.

The amazing thing about fear is that we all fall victim to it, yet we’re so reluctant to talk about it. We push down the dread, trying to stuff it into some corner of our brain where we hope it’ll dissolve. But fear doesn’t like being put in a corner. It greedily demands your attention until it’s nearly impossible to focus clearly on your goal. If it has its way, you’ll give in to the fear and give up on your goal.

People, it’s time to karate-chop your fear into submission.

Mark Allen is on to something here. By acknowledging and releasing those fears, you’d be showing them who’s boss. Maybe you have some of the same fears I do. Maybe not. Either way, we need to be taking charge.

I’d like to invite you to join my stealth ninja squad of fear-busters. Get mad – no, get LIVID! How dare these fears intrude on our goals? It’s time to kick those fears right where it counts:

Open water, you suck.

It’s not so much the water as what’s IN it. This trepidation has two components: Frenetic people and…ahem…zombies. The mass swim start of triathlons, with up to 2,000 people scrambling for position in the lake or ocean…that’s theoretically 4,000 legs to kick you in the face, 4,000 arms to bump with yours, and 4,000 hands to pull at your ankles. It can be disconcerting. As for the zombies, it goes back to a recurring nightmare I had as a child involving lake zombies. Don’t ask…just go ahead and laugh now.

Done yet? Okay, good.

I’m aware of how nonsensical this is, yet I can’t shake the dread. The energy I expel trying to cope with the byproducts of this fear – rapid pulse, shallow breathing – takes away from the energy I should be putting toward form, stroke efficiency, and sighting in the water.

Even the most unflappable athletes fall victim to an overactive imagination. If you’re like most people, you probably put on a front and avoid admitting you’re scared of something ridiculous. I kept my “lake zombie” fear to myself because I didn’t want people to laugh at me. One day, at a recent open-water swim, a fellow triathlete confessed to me that she was always scared of a shark attack.

We race in a lake.

A man-made one.

In the Arizona desert.

Suddenly, my lake-zombie fear didn’t seem so crazy. I shared it with her. We laughed. Though it didn’t eliminate the fear entirely, it did put both of us slightly at ease. Now, she watches out for zombies while I have her back in case of shark attack.

Even if it’s irrational, try sharing your fear with someone else.  Whether you get a good chuckle out of it or a “ME TOO! OHMYGOSH, I thought I was the only one,” you’ll find telling someone will probably help you.

Peanut gallery, kiss my ass.

It’s human nature to care about what other people think. It’s why our fourteen-year-old selves begged Mom and Dad to buy those expensive name-brand sneakers…because if we didn’t, the cool kids would make fun of us, and we would just, like, totally DIE if that happened.

Whenever I wear my No Meat Athlete shirt during a race, I always have a lingering fear in the back of my mind that I will bonk mid-way through the race. I can already hear the Peanut Gallery in my head: They’ll thump their chests, wave their corn dogs, and leave me in the dust, crying. I’ll have failed myself as a racer and as a representative for awesome and strong vegetarian endurance athletes everywhere. I also fear that in my weak bonk state, I won’t have the resolve to think up or deliver the sharp-tongued lashing they deserve for making fun of me. If you’ve followed any of my writing on this site, you should know by now I love a snarky comeback.

We don’t like to be judged unfavorably by others. That fear of criticism can hold us back.

The good news: Not everyone’s a critic. Find people who will cheer you on during your first race, eat healthy meals with you, or promise to be there when you finally fit into those size 6 jeans at the Gap. When you accomplish your goal, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the Peanut Gallery will shut it. That, in and of itself, should serve as motivation enough! When it happens, you can smile graciously, or you can do the “I told you so” dance. You’ve earned the right to rub it in.

Injury – go pick on someone else.

Most people have employed logic which lists the following statements.

I don’t like pain. This could cause me pain. Therefore, I won’t do it.

Pain and injury are two things a lot of people fear, and many of us will go to great lengths to avoid such discomfort.

Overtraining is a huge source of apprehension for a lot of athletes. Most of us know someone who has trained diligently, only to fall victim to a stress fracture or other overuse injury. It’s a fine line between pushing yourself to improve and overexerting yourself. Newbies, especially, don’t quite know where that line is drawn. We don’t know what happens once that line gets crossed, and frankly, we don’t want to know. So we stay in our safe bubble, going at the same pace for the same distance.

I sometimes don’t give a training session my all because I’m terrified of injuring myself. Even when attempting speeds or distances I’ve easily covered before, at the slightest twinge of pain I’ll find myself backing off. I second-guess myself constantly.

Physically, I’m in the best shape of my life. Mentally, I’m still that overweight girl who couldn’t run a mile even if her life depended on it. Sometimes, my fear inhibits me from pushing myself just one small step farther – even though rationally I know it’s the very thing that will make me better.

It’s time for us to put on our big-kid pants and deal with it. We’ll never get better if we don’t push it. This week, identify something that takes you just one step beyond what you’ve done before. When you do it, I dare you to not smile and feel like a bad-ass.

Ironman Wisconsin: I’m gonna make you beg for mercy.

I’ve said throughout this whole endeavor that my goal for Ironman Wisconsin is not to do anything impressive. It’s just to finish. Competitors have 16 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds to do so.

There are so many factors on race day that could prohibit finishing before that cutoff time. These factors could cause me to take a DNF. It also could mean a race official could cruise up beside me and strip my timing chip off my ankle because there’s no way I would make it to the finish before the cutoff time. I would hate to come within grasp of my goal and not make it.

My friends and family will be there, cheering me on, and I don’t want to let them down. I’ve shared this journey with thousands of you on this website, and having to admit in a very public forum that I failed compounds my fear. Most importantly, there are certain people I love tremendously and have given me so much in this journey. If I didn’t make it to the finish, I would have to look them in the eye and say “I didn’t do it.” Just thinking about that is enough to make my heart sink into my stomach.

So all I can do is train. I train, I put forth the effort required of me, and I trust that on race day, it’ll all come together. Is it a leap of faith? Certainly. Is it foolish? I don’t really care. If I don’t try, the regret I’d have would be ten times worse than any fear. If I do fail, well…I guess I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it.

Whatever your goal, whether you’re doing your first 5K or gearing up for your tenth ultramarathon, I know you’re willing to take that leap of faith, too.

It’s time to show your fear who’s really in charge.

NMAs: During last week’s ass-cream extravaganza, I asked you for ideas for NMA testing — products, foods, training plans, workouts, races, etc. Y’all have some good ideas! Keep them coming…comment on that post with your suggestions, and you might just win a prize! Winners will be announced next week.

18 Comments

 

7 Days of Water, Green Vegetable Juice, and Urine Testing: Does It Get Any Better?

Call it post-race blues if you like.  It happened after qualifying for Boston, and now it’s happening after running my first 50-mile ultramarathon.

The story is the same: A planned week off of running turns into two (or three) weeks. And then I get into watching television shows, like the important Bachelorette. This all opens the door to some crummy eating.

iStock 000006306683XSmall 300x199More junk food, fewer salads.   More coffee, fewer smoothies. More beer, more beer.

Last time I broke that funk with a challenge: Run every single day for a month.  This time the challenge is nutrition-related, and a little bit weird.

Consume only fluids for seven days.

Why Would Anyone Want to Do This?

Because I like experimenting, and giving things a fair shake.  Because I’m obsessed with the idea of maximizing my energy, so that I can run better, sleep less and live more.  And because everywhere I turn for answers about how to have more energy, people are pointing me towards an alkaline diet (more on this below).

And an alkaline diet, it seems, starts with a cleanse.  Not a Super Colon Blow-type cleanse, but a way of giving your body a break from difficult digestion, to free it up to flush acids, yeasts, and toxins out of the bloodstream.

The Details of the Cleanse

The specifics of the cleanse are pretty simple: Drink at least four liters of fluid per day, mostly water with lemon or lime, plus six to twelve glasses of freshly-juiced green vegetables.  Raw, liquid soups made from pureed green vegetables plus a few tablespoons of oil are allowed too, as are occasional carrot and beet juice.  Depending on how much running I do over the next week, I may allow fruit juices in moderation as well.

The cleanse isn’t required to last for seven days; that’s an average.  If I decide I want to stop after three or four, I’ll stop.  And if I start losing a lot of weight—my biggest concern—I’ll curtail the cleanse at that point.

This isn’t supposed to kill me or be some religious test of mental strength.  It’s supposed to be a jump-start toward a cleaner diet and increased energy.  If there’s any sign that it’s doing the opposite, I’ll jump ship faster than that bad guy in Titanic who goes ahead of the women and children (i.e., fast).

Isn’t This Alkaline Diet Thing Just Pseudo-Science?

Maybe.  But I like to try things before I decide whether or not they work for me.

The alkaline diet is certainly “alternative,” and I don’t know that there’s a lot of evidence to support it (yet?).  I do know that several people whom I trust and who have incredible energy levels—Brendan Brazier, Stu Mittleman (the guy who ran 1000 miles in 11 days), and Tony Robbins (not an athlete, but one of the most energetic and passionate guys you’ll ever see)—all endorse paying attention to the acid/alkaline balance.

On the downside, Wikipedia tells me that the guy whose book I’ve been reading, Robert Young, has been under scrutiny by the National Council Against Health Fraud.  And as a commenter pointed out, his website sure feels kinda creepy.

But the way I see it, there’s not much risk in giving it a whirl.  If you look at a chart of the acid and alkaline foods, you’ll see that the alkaline foods and neutral foods are pretty much what we know to be good anyway—vegetables (the greener the better), certain seeds, nuts and grains, and some fruits.  And the bad stuff is what most vegetarians and vegans agree is unhealthy—meats, dairy, sugars.  (There does seem to be some variation across different charts, another red flag.)

As I do more research about the alkaline diet, I’ll write a post summarizing what I see as the major tenets, and that research along with my results will help me judge its validity. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here drinking a whole lot of water and vegetable juice, as the cleanse starts tomorrow.

I’m interested to hear what you, the NMA readers of the world, think of the alkaline diet—I know it’s a polarizing topic. What do you think, is there something to it?  Or is it just an ingenious ploy to get me to waste my money on greens powders and pH strips to test my urine?

54 Comments

 

What the New Food Pyramid Means for Vegetarians

Post by Christine Frazier.

This month the USDA released the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and it’s out with the rigid 1992 food pyramid and in with a snazzy new vegetarian-friendly version.  Yep, vegetarian-friendly, and ready to hit America with what’s been called a Michael Pollan-approach to eating better.

food pyramid 1992 photo 300x233

Remember this? The Food Pyramid, circa 1992

The new guidelines call for Americans to be conscious eaters.  After all, the top five sources of energy for Americans are yeast breads, mixed chicken dishes, soda/energy/sports drinks, and pizza.  Any of those sound like leafy greens?

Land of the Free, Home of the Couch Potato

The pyramid works on three important assumptions: the food categories must be filled with a variety of foods, those foods should be nutrient dense (without added sugars, saturated fats, and salt), and the caloric intake should not exceed energy needs.

Sedentary individuals, and thus most Americans, should lower their intakes of refined carbohydrates, greatly reducing intakes of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages and refined grains that are high in calories, but relatively low in certain nutrients.”

Ouch— obesity is obviously a problem, but is the country really that definitely inactive?  It’s a scary thought to grasp.

Can a New Food Pyramid Really Make a Difference?

food pyramid 2010 photo 300x232The USDA admits that the American diet in no way resembles the last set of recommendations from 2005.  So what changes this time around?  Well, for one, the pyramid is a little more relatable.  Instead of listing vague servings, the food amounts are specified with cups and ounces.  They also ask for half the grains you eat to be whole grains, and even lowered the daily allowance of sodium by a third— from 2300mg per day to 1500mg.

There are new vegetable sub-categories now too, so you can’t just count  your MickeyD’s hashbrown and tomato ketchup as a day’s worth of veggies.  Nope, you need to check off the dark green and orange veggie categories to meet the goal.

And see that little guy walking up the stairs?  The new pyramid has exercise right on it!  Not that this will make marathoners out of segway-riders, but still it drives the point home that diet and activity are directly related.

Is Low-Fat Where It’s At?

One of the biggest criticisms of the food pyramid is that it is based on a low fat diet.  Food Renegade argues that the obesity problem and diabetes crisis came on as people switched from whole foods like eggs and full-fat dairy to refined carbs and vegetable oils.

When I do eat dairy, I actually do prefer the full fat product because I feel that it is less processed, and less likely to be amped up with sugars for flavor.  However, I understand in a society that deep-fries everything, switching people over to low-fat dairy and lean meats can be a logical first step in “conscious” eating.

Who Can You Trust?

The other criticism of the guidelines is the idea that the government has a financial interest in “promoting the products of commodity agriculture“, which goes hand in hand with promoting processed foods.  I feel the focus on nutrient-dense foods and call against added sugars and salt show otherwise.

Another side of the government’s financial interest involves the pharmaceutical companies.  Healthy Eating Politics argues that cholesterol-lowering drugs are such big business that drug companies are able to influence the government into keeping the public focused on lowering their cholesterol levels, whether or not it’s the healthiest choice.

It comes down to listening to your body and trusting your gut.  I know I feel sluggish and bloated after eating dairy, and I know I feel good eating carbs after a work-out.  For me, recognizing these kinds of needs will never be trumped by somebody else’s guidelines.

Veggies at Work

The food pyramid has two large chunks devoted to animal-based foods, but the guidelines recognize many benefits of the vegetarian diet, including a lower body-mass index, lower levels of obesity, lower blood pressure. and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

There is a section devoted to seeing how the daily recommendations work for vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and people with plant based diets (basically flexitarians).  And guess what?  The vegetarian patterns meet almost all goals for nutrient adequacy, including protein and essential amino acids!

However, they mention that the requirements are only met by including fortified foods like cereals and soy products in order to get enough vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.   Vegetarians also need to make an effort to get enough iron and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Our Own Slice of The Pyramid

The guidelines promise to provide some sample menus for vegetarian options at some mysterious future date…get on it USDA!  Still, it seems a lot of thought was put into balancing the veggie substitutions suggested; for example, tofu and fake meats were moved out of the veggie section and into the meat category, since the processing leaves them with less fiber than a straight up vegetable.

And to compensate for the extra calories to get the recommended amount of protein from beans, nuts, and seeds, the guidelines reduce the amount of oils in other areas.  (They are still stuck on the .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight though, and getting a quarter of protein from soy sources as they suggest is a little much for me.)

Vegetarian diets that include complementary mixtures of plant proteins can provide the same quality of protein as that from animal protein. Education is needed for those designing diets containing complementary proteins for consumers switching to a more plant-based diet. Additionally, individuals consuming vegetarian, particularly vegan, diets should ensure adequate intake of all nutrients.

The idea of education before switching to a plant based diet is carefully stressed. The most exciting part for new vegetarians is the interactive menu planner at MyPyramid.gov. There you can list the foods you eat, and it plops them into the correct sections of the pyramid.  Then it analyzes results by day or by week based on your personal stats and activity level and offers tips on where to improve.

I did it myself, and though the master list of foods lacks choices like arugula and quinoa, I still found listings for staples like flaxseed and bulgur.  Try it out and see how your diet stacks up!

So what do you think?  Will a “conscious” food pyramid make a difference on America’s health?  Is it worth trusting a possibly-influenced USDA for diet advice?  Is the pyramid an adequate resource for vegetarian nutrition?

The information about the guidelines and food pyramid is from the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which includes Part B. Section 2: The Total Diet: Combining Nutrients, Consuming Food, Appendix E-3.3
Vegetarian Food Patterns: Food Pattern Modeling Analysis
, and Part D. Section 4: Protein.

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Warning: 8 Common Foods You Thought Were Vegetarian

When you’re a new vegetarian, it’s easy to make mistakes.  Chances are, you’ve already messed up by eating something you thought was safe, only to realize later that it contained, say, chicken broth.  Or in my case—yum—stomach enzymes and fish bladders.

If so, shake it off.  Consider it a lesson learned and give yourself a pat on the back for caring enough to even think twice about what you eat.  And know that by reading this list, you’ll have avoided a bunch more potential mistakes, every single one of which I’ve made during my first year as a vegetarian.

Soups

0005100001021 215X215Many, many soups, especially in restaurants, are made with chicken stock, beef stock, or fish stock.  And you’ll find ham stock in most split pea soups.  Even Campbell’s Vegatable soup isn’t so mmm-mmm-chicken-friendly; look for their Vegetarian Vegetable instead.

French onion soup is one that seems so obvious now, but when we were fresh new vegetarians, my wife and I most definitely chowed down on some. Thankfully, 1000 Vegan Recipes (affiliate link) has a good animal-free version of this classic.

Salad Dressings

Lots of restaurant salad dressings (often the best tasting ones, sad to say) start with bacon fat, even when the menu doesn’t mention bacon.  Caesar dressing, of course, contains anchovies, if you’re being served the real thing (but here’s a vegan one from Post-Punk Kitchen).

There are going to be times when you eat out and salad is the only decent vegetarian choice for lunch or even dinner. Just make sure it actually is vegetarian.

Cheese

iStock 000000311101XSmall 300x225Yep, now I’m going to be that jerk who tells you not all cheese is vegetarian.  I was traumatized to learn that Parmigiano-Reggiano, the nuttiest, most flavorful, most classic cheese in the world (in my opinion, anyway) is made with rennet.  And rennet, for the unenlightened, is a nice way of saying “enzymes from animals’ stomachs.”  And guess how they get those enzymes out?

Parmigiano-Reggiano is actually required by law to be made with rennet, and you’ll find rennet in many other authentic imported cheeses (Pecorino Romano is another one).  While some domestic cheeses list rennet as an ingredient, others simply say “enzymes,” leaving the buyer unsure whether or not any stomachs are being ripped open to get those goodies.

Your best bet, if you’re unsure, is to choose “vegan parmesan,” a combination of nutritional yeast and, sometimes, nuts that actually does a pretty good job of pretending.

Worcestershire Sauce

2043 AnniesNaturals P 300x300Standard Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies.  Annie’s Naturals makes a vegan Worcestershire sauce that tastes exactly the same, and in most vegetarian recipes you can probably substitute soy sauce and some spices.

And that’s about all there is to say about Worcestershire Sauce.

Tortillas

Remember that elementary school story that kids liked to pass around at lunch about the middle of Oreo cookies being pure lard?  Well, it’s not true; Oreos don’t contain lard anymore, if they ever did.

But guess what does?  If you said “tortillas,” I say si! Fortunately, many brands have removed the animal fat from their tortillas, but it’s still worth a check.  And if you’re eating out at a Mexican restaurant, it’s probably more likely that the tortillas are made with lard.

Now, if you’re talking really classy Mexican restaurants, rest assured that Taco Bell’s tortillas (andrefried beans, another seemingly-vegetarian food to look out for) do NOT contain lard, according to Vegetarian-Restaurants.net.  Neither does anything at Baja Fresh, but I can’t tell for sure about Chipotle.  Proceed con cuidado.

[Update: Chipotle tweeted to me that their tortillas are lard-free.  Their pinto beans, however, are not veggie-friendly.]

Gummy Bears

800px Gummy bears 300x225

Image via Wikipedia

Sorry, vegetarian marathoners—those gummy bears the nice people hand out at mile 20 are not for you.  Most likely, they contain gelatin, which comes from animal bones, connective tissue, and organs.  Sweet.

According to Wikipedia, some gummy bears are made with pectin or starch instead of gelatin, so these are veggie-friendly.

Of course, a no-gelatin rule means you also need to look at the ingredient lists of any gummy sports chews that you eat.  Sharkies and Clif Shot Bloks are both gelatin-free.  I’m not sure about GU Chomps.

Marshmallows, Jelly, and Jello

Lots more gelatin here.  Since most No Meat Athlete readers probably don’t eat much of the sugary stuff, I’ve grouped these sweets together.  For marshmallows, jelly, and Jello-type desserts, your best bet is to check the ingredient list.  Most of them, unfortunately, do contain gelatin.

So at your next all-night rager, skip the Jello shots and drink a beer.  Err, wait a minute…

Beer

guinness 172x300Yes, sadly, even some beer isn’t strictly vegetarian.  You can get much more info in this guest post on vegan beer by Billy from BillyBrew.com, but the least you need to be aware of is that many beers are clarified with isinglass—that’s fish bladders to you and me.  Most isinglass probably doesn’t end up in the finished product, however.  (Gelatin is also occasionally used.)

One of the world’s most popular beers, Guinness Draught, is off limits to strict vegetarians, since the beer is treated with isinglass.  But all is not lost, Guinness-lovers: Guinness Extra Stout is one product that’s thought to be vegan.

What’s missing?

Surely there are lots more common seem-vegetarian-but-aren’t foods.  Which ones have tripped you up in the past? (I hope I’m not still eating them!)  Let me and everyone else know with a comment.

This post is a part of a series of posts to help new vegetarians Subscribe to No Meat Athlete so you never miss a new post!

325 Comments

 

Real Asses Test Out Chamois Creams

Post by Susan Lacke.

Send the NMA kidlets out of the room, folks. We’re about to talk about some PG-13, borderline NC-17 stuff. Actually, to my Mom and Dad: if you want to skip reading this article, too, that might be a good idea. I’m about to talk about my nether regions.

Yes. THOSE nether regions. The lady flower. The pink taco and muffaletta. The junk in my trunk. My humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps (Mom, Dad, SERIOUSLY. STOP READING).

The Joys of Chafing in Places You Never Knew You Had

As athletes, we’ve all had our share of awkward and embarrassing events where our activities have caused discomfort in awkward and embarrassing places. Walk through the food tent at the finish of a marathon – chances are good you’ll see more than one shirtless man with “X” tape marking his nipples. It’s not because he’s kinky…it’s because bloody nipples are really quite painful (okay, it might ALSO be because he’s kinky…but that’s a different website for you to visit). I had one newbie runner recently confide in me that she was scared to wear “real” running shorts because her thighs rubbed together to the point of red and bleeding chafing.

For Triathletes, It’s Even Worse

Triathletes encounter those issues, of course, but the bike leg of the sport also introduces a whole ‘nother set of awkward and embarrassing afflictions in the most awkward and embarrassing of places. Think about it – when cycling, your crotch and your butt spend hours in direct contact with an awkwardly-shaped contraption. As if that weren’t insulting enough to those parts, it’s doing it while wearing skin-tight padded shorts and pedaling furiously.

Sweaty? Yup. Icky? Totally. Gross? You got it.

No wonder triathletes and cyclists are prone to numbness, pain, chafing and saddle sores – a catchall term which refers to hot spots, abrasions, blisters, pimples, and/or abscesses that result in the inner thighs, crotch and rear end.  To prevent such afflictions, many riders turn to chamois cream – used in conjunction with a chamois, the area of the crotch in the bike short that was historically made from skin of the antelope, goat, or lamb.

Never fear, NMAs: animals are rarely skinned for the sake of lubing up your cycling-lovin’ ass. Though some riders still use a leather, the chamois of most bike shorts today are made of synthetic materials. Chamois creams themselves are topical applications that are gooped on (and that’s the technical term for it) to reduce the friction that occurs in those areas. These products aren’t limited to just biking – many runners also use such products to eliminate chafing.

Putting Asses on the Line to Test 5 Chamois Creams

Because I wouldn’t let you try just any old chamois cream, I’ve donated the use of my most intimate areas to test out some products for NMA. Yes, I expect a very nice Christmas present from you this year, thankyouverymuch. Don’t worry, men…I haven’t forgotten you.  In the interest of gender equality for this little experiment, I’ve recruited a dude, too.

My male test subject is happy to loan his kibbles ‘n’ bits to scientific inquiry on No Meat Athlete, though only under the cloak of anonymity. Apparently, he has a reputation as a red-meat-eating American to uphold, and the mean kids on the triathlon playground will beat him up if they discover his presence on a veggie-lovin’ site.  That said, we’ll refer to him as C – short for “Carnivore.” C is a 13-time Ironman who rides between 50 to 200 miles per week on his bike.

C is also my go-to guy for all things Ironman, and I love him because he’s extremely patient with me and my endless newbie gaffes. Case in point: While discussing this experiment, C asked me, “So how do you apply the cream to the chamois?”

I responded honestly: I slap it on the chamois, rub some on my thighs, and shimmy into the shorts.

He looked at me like I had just peed on a statue of the Virgin Mary. Apparently, there’s a “method,” and my lack of knowledge about this “method” only made my newbie stank that much more pungent. But C, being C, agreed to teach me more about this essential habit for cycling.

That said, I’m not the best person to conduct a how-to workshop on chamois cream application – I just lube my ass, get on my bike, and pray that I can make it through that day’s ride without dying. ‘Kay? ‘Kay.

One thing I will do, however, is give you some ideas as to what kind of chamois creams might work for you. I say ‘might,’ because let’s face it – everyone has different priorities when it comes to this type of product. I’m simply outlining observations made about each product. Four manufacturers sent samples, and C and I reviewed these in a double-blind test.

Chamois Butt’r (Paceline)

CB8ozLowres 152x300One of the most famous chamois creams out there, Chamois Butt’r is really one of the standards for this product. It’s easily obtained at most cycling and triathlon outlets, is relatively affordable ($14.99 for 8 ounces), and easy to apply without much mess.

Of all the creams sampled in this experiment, this one takes the cake on longevity. It lasted the longest in a crotch test during rides in a hot Phoenix summer, so that’s saying a lot. The components which contribute to Chamois Butt’r’s longevity might also be the same components which make it a bit sticky and messy to apply with your fingers – but Chamois Butt’r comes in a squeezable tube, making application a cinch.

If you’re a vegan who wishes to extend your food philosophy to chamois cream, skip this one: It contains lanolin, which is derived from sheep’s wool. If this isn’t a concern for you, by all means check this one out on your next ride.

Chamois Butt’r Eurostyle (Paceline)

main IG2126176526Living up to its name, this one, when dispensed, actually looks like butter. Of all the creams, this one had the creamiest consistency, and really almost had a luxurious feel to it.

Perhaps that’s what makes it ‘Eurostyle’ – European folks are, of course, known for appreciating the finer things in life. In my mind, I see a snooty French man with a curlicue mustache expertly applying Chamois Butt’r Eurostyle to his designer shorts between puffs of his long cigarettes and sips of Bordeaux.

Though it has such a consistency, it applies nicely, spreads easily, and is easy to clean off your hands after application. It performed excellently for both C and me on long rides – in fact, C stated he almost forgot he was even using any cream in the first place.

Just like its famous big brother, Eurostyle contains lanolin. It’s not as easy to find as the original formula, you can get it for $19.99 per 8 ounce jar on Paceline’s website.

Anti-Chafe Cream (Blue Steel Sports)

anti chafe tube 134x300If you’re a triathlete, chances are you remove your body hair. All your body hair. Don’t ask me why – it’s just something triathletes do.

At any rate, nasty and uncomfortable things such as shaving and waxing can lead to other nasty and uncomfortable things such as ingrown hairs. It can also lead to an increase in chafing and saddle sores, as there is no hair to serve as a “buffer” between skin and chamois. These afflictions can sometimes be linked back to bacteria growing in the warm, moist environments created by cycling. The benefit of Blue Steel Sports’ Anti-Chafe Cream is that it contains many natural antibacterial ingredients, including tea tree oil, that are also very soothing.

The downside? It doesn’t smell all that dandy. It’s not bad, necessarily, it’s just a bit medicinal. I thought it smelled like Band-Aids, while C said it evoked memories of an old-school hair cream his dad used many years ago.

It’s a good product, though, and if it isn’t used as your primary chamois cream, I would highly recommend this as an after-ride cream…so long as you don’t mind the Band-Aid smell. Note: This, too contains lanolin. It’ll run you $11.95 for 3.4 ounces.

Friction Freedom

IMG 5240 2cropped 300x300Of all the creams tested, Friction Freedom the most likely to make you yelp “WHOOOOO-EE!” Many chamois creams include some sort of mentholated or “tingle” effect. To say Friction Freedom tingles would be an understatement.

It is potent stuff, and it’s effects are quite long-lasting. C couldn’t shake the hot spots caused by this cream, even after multiple attempts to reposition himself in the saddle during a 2.5 hour ride.  For me, even after a two-hour ride and a shower, I still felt the buzz in my naughty bits. If you bike to work and still want a smile on your face during a board meeting, this cream’s for you.

The odor, though, was the big turn-off for this cream. I couldn’t quite describe it until I got C’s description: “A combination of rancid wine with minty mouthwash.” Don’t ask how we know what that combination smells like – but trust us when we say that’s exactly what it smells like. It was hard to wash the smell off your hands after application, so when I went to wipe my brow during my ride, I wasn’t too pleased. And yes, there was a tingly sensation on my brow after I wiped, too. Told you this stuff was potent.

Friction Freedom sells their chamois cream for $29.99 for 8 ounces. Again, this isn’t vegan-friendly, as it contains Lanolin as well.

Hoo Ha Ride Glide (Reflect Sports)

New Image2 300x225I was really excited to receive this product from Reflect Sports, mainly because I was curious to see if there was anything special about a chamois cream created by women, for women.

I wasn’t disappointed. This product appealed to the girly side of me, with its light lavender scent and moisturizing abilities. Even C liked the smell of this, saying that he almost wanted to taste it.

Yes, you read that right – I made a man test a “girly” cream. And you know what? He liked it, too.

If Eurostyle was the snooty French man, Hoo Ha Ride Glide was his sophisticated wife, pedaling through the Tour de France course effortlessly, exclaiming, C’est un beau beurre d’extrémité arrière! (This is a lovely ass butter!) This French lady never crashes. She never gets chain oil under her fingernails. And she certainly doesn’t get helmet hair.

That’s what this cream was for me. It was light, clean, and fresh-smelling, and really got my ride started off on the right note. Granted, after a 4-hour ride this past weekend, I still came home with oil-stained fingernails, helmet hair, and road rash that day…but I’ll be darned if my ass didn’t feel just dandy. C’est un beau beurre d’extrémité arrière, indeed.

There’s no animal product in Reflect Sports’ products, and they strive to be as natural as possible, using barley extract, lavender, eucalyptus leaf, tea tree and peppermint oils. You can get an 8-ounce tube for $21.95 at their website.  Use the special code NMA1015 when you check out, and you’ll get 15 percent off.

You Too Can Have a Slick Ass!

Thanks to C for allowing me to use his butt for this experiment, and thanks to the above-mentioned manufacturers for providing samples to use in this process. They’re so cool, many of them actually gave full-sized product samples for a giveaway!

Because we here at No Meat Athlete are dedicated to the quest for knowledge, let us know – what would you like to see us test out on this site? Perhaps there’s something – a food, a training event, a race, a product – that you’ve always wondered about, but were afraid to try. If I’m willing to donate my nether regions (and hey, so is C – and Matt subjected his for a review of compression running shorts, too!), it should be obvious that we are willing (or is it “foolish enough?”) to test things out on your behalf.

Make your suggestions below! We’ll randomly select 5 commenters to receive full-size products from one of the above manufacturers!

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Back to the Track: A New Workout & A New Sports Drink

As most of you know, two weeks ago I ran my first 50-mile race.  Recovery took a little longer than planned when I got sick for almost a week afterward.  I hadn’t been sick in years, but given the exertion (and the heat) of that day, I guess it’s not all that surprising that my immune system was weakened.

g natural small 210x300I eased back into training with a relaxed week, the most difficult workout of which was a new one at the track that I did for the first time.  I also tried out  new product, Gatorade G2 Natural (yep, high-fructose-free Gatorade).

Here’s all you need to know about each.

A Speed Workout Built for Marathoners

I’ve written about track workouts before, and this one isn’t too different from the mile repeats I explained in that post.  But while that focused on speed—only three mile-repeats at a very fast pace—this one feels more appropriate for endurance training.

It’s simple: Run a mile at your 5K pace.  Rest for two laps (jogging recommended, walking okay).  Repeat.

Shoot for four of them at first, and work your way up to six (or eight, which is what this guy who I ran with did.  He was featured in Runner’s World this month!)

It doesn’t sound terribly exciting or fun, but the stuff that works never is.  Two laps of rest seems like a lot, but these miles will wear you down.  After four of these at 6:20 pace, I was finished.  I’ll blame the 50 and the illness and try again next week.

New Gatorade G/G2 Natural

Don’t deny it.  You kind of snicker (like I do) when you see runners drinking Gatorade.

I like Gatorade.  It tastes good.  But until recently, it has been a convenience store treat or a hangover-killer, not a sports drink.

But then Gatorade came out with the G Series.  Designed for optimal performance, not for pairing with beef jerky and Doritos.  Specifically targeted for pre-workout, during-workout, or recovery.  And no more high-fructose corn syrup.

Now Gatorade has gone one step farther (presumably to please the all the whack-jobs like us who really pay attention to ingredient lists!).  The new G Natural and G2 Natural boast all-natural ingredients.

G2 Natural: Water, sucrose, dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor, sea salts (sodium chloride, potassium chloride), sodium citrate, beta carotene.

G2 Natural Low-Calorie: Water, sucrose, erythritol, citric acid, natural flavor, sea salts (sodium chloride, potassium chloride), sodium citrate, vegetable juice, Reb A (PureVia).

Sure, it’s not Vega Sport, but come on, this is pretty good for Gatorade.  Those -oses are just sugars, nothing to be afraid of if you’re working out hard.  The G2 Natural has a few ingredients that might raise red flags: erythiritol, which is a sugar alcohol, and Reb A, a stevia-derived sweetener.  Both are used to replace sugar in the G2, which is the low-calorie version.  (I still don’t really get the idea behind low-calorie sports drinks anyway, unless the sole purpose is to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes.  When I drink a sports drink, I do it for the sugar and calories.)

Gatorade sent me one bottle of each to try out and review.  I really enjoyed the G Natural, which tasted only slightly more medicinal than regular Gatorade.  I drank it during my track workout and it certainly did the job of satisfying the thirst (Gatorade’s still “for that deep down body thirst,” right?)

The G2 Natural tasted sort of like regular Gatorade, but it had that easily-identifiable stevia aftertaste, so I didn’t like it nearly as much.  But I suppose if low-cal is your thing, then this would be a pretty good one.  (If that’s the case though, you might want to consider reading a different blog.)

If you’re interested in trying G/G2 Natural, they’re only available at select Whole Foods stores right now; you can see which ones on Gatorade’s website.

So that’s it!  New workout.  New sports drink.  Not sick anymore.  Registered for the Vermont 50-miler in September and the Marine Corps Marathon in October (more on that in another post).

Life is good.

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Two New (Sweet!) Ways to Enjoy Summer Corn and Cucumbers

Hi everybody!  This is Christine here with not one but two vegan recipes to get your summer started right!  Fresh corn in ice cream?  Savory herbs in a cocktail?  You betcha!  These unusual flavor combinations breathe new life into classic summer veggies.

The Sweetness of Corn, Minus the Corn Syrup

vegan sweet corn ice cream photo 300x254Ever eaten at a eco-friendly restaurant?  I was lucky enough to dine at Square 1682 in Philadelphia last weekend, and was really impressed by their environmental policies.  But what I really couldn’t stop gushing about was the Sweet Corn Ice Cream.  Imagine your childhood excitement surrounding a big bowl of frosted flakes or corn pops.  Now take that processed corn taste and transform it into fresh, buttery ice cream.  Amazing.

Most sweet corn ice cream recipes I discovered are fairly simple combinations of fresh-corn infused cream, egg yolks, and sugar.   I used coconut milk for the fattiness of the cream and cashew butter for the richness of egg yolks.  A touch of maple syrup, salt and vanilla lent a buttery taste to the animal-free substitutions.

Vegan Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (about 2 cups) coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy, almond, or rice milk
  • 2 cups fresh sweet corn, shucked from about 3 ears
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cashew butter
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, soy milk, sugar, and corn.  Gently heat to boiling.  Turn off heat and let for about an hour to let the flavors combine.  Puree the corn into the mixture until smooth, and strain out any chunks.
In a small bowl, mix together the flaxseed and water and let sit until thickened slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cashew butter, vanilla, maple syrup, and flax mixture.  Slowly pour in the warm corn mixture and whisk to combine.
Return to saucepan, and heat on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes or until thickened.  Add a pinch of salt to taste.  Let the mixture come to room temperature, then chill for 2 hours.  I am usually pretty loose with chill times, but here it is important that it is as cold as possible before putting into the ice cream maker.  Follow the directions in your ice cream maker, then freeze again before serving.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try following the directions here.

Move Over, Bloody Mary

cucumber thyme cocktail 300x225There’s a new veggie cocktail in town.  I was inspired by the delicious “Hendricks and Honeydew” I had at James on 8th in Philadelphia, not to be confused with Jim’s Cheesesteaks, where our cab driver first took us!

At James, the drink was made with candied thyme as a garnish.  Since Hendrick’s gin is traditionally served with cucumber, my version includes a whole fresh cucumber pureed with honeydew, lime and thyme-infused simple syrup.  With a shot of liquor and a splash of soda water, you’ve got yourself a spa-worthy summer cocktail.

Cucumber-Thyme Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6-8 fresh thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup honeydew melon
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 12 oz liquor of your choice, preferably gin or rum
  • 24 oz club soda or seltzer

In a saucepan on medium heat, combine water and sugar until dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Add the sprigs of thyme and simmer for 7 more minutes, or until the syrup reduces to about 1/4 cup.  Remove the thyme sprigs.
In a blender, combine the thyme-syrup, cucumber, melon, and lime.  Puree until smooth.
For each glass, add 1.5 oz (1 shot) of liquor, 1.5 oz puree, and 3 oz soda.  Top with ice and fresh thyme sprigs to garnish. Makes 8 cocktails.  I only actually served 4 drinks, so I froze the remaining puree in an ice cube tray to use for smoothies.

New Harvest Omega-3 Supplement Giveaway Winner

The winner of last week’s New Harvest contest is Heather!  She is a new vegetarian herself, so hopefully a new vegetarian source of EPA omega-3’s will start her off on the right foot!  Don’t fret if you didn’t win, because you can still use this secret coupon for $2.00 off the supplement at GNC stores.

You know you had a great trip when two weeks later you’re still talking about the food!  Thanks again to New Harvest for the Omega-3 Supplement Giveaway and delicious weekend.

xoxo Christine

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