I feel like I have been working on my daily nutrition for about 5 years now. It is a constant work in progress, and I have a feeling that it will always be. Lately, though, I have really been trying to dial it in even tighter for several reasons.
1. I am trying to become a fat-burning machine. Most of my training right now all aerobic-based, and, quite frankly, most of all my training this season will be since I am training for an aerobic, endurance event. Based on quite a bit of research I believe that what I put in my body can certainly help aid this process of teaching the body to burn fat instead of sugars and carbs.
2. I really want to be faster, and there are many studies that quantify a reduction in body weight to faster running speed. So, yes, I am trying to lose a few pounds. (Looking really great in my new Rev3 shimmer swimsuit is not a bad motivator either!)
So, since my training with Sonja has been Maffetone-based, I thought I would start there for hints at where I should be with my nutrition. Enter the Two-Week Test. Basically, the Maffetone Two-Week Test is a period where you deplete your body of all carbs. The purpose is to kick-start the fat-burning engine of your body (because if there are no carbs that body has to burn fat for energy) as well as to find out what level of carbohydrates your body can handle. This "test" is not easy. Let me be clear that my primary purpose for even doing this was not to lose weight. I did not go into the test thinking that it was going to be some sort of quick weight loss thing. I have a family history of type 2 diabetes and high-blood pressure, both of which can be controlled through diet. I really want to have a handle on what is the best kind of food I can be putting in my mouth for long-term health.
Anyway, for two weeks, I ate no sugar, no grains of any kind, no fruit (this was the hardest for me), no yogurt, and no milk. I ate a lot of lean, organic meat, organic eggs, avocados, vegetables like kale, broccoli, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes...I ate a lot of veggies. The only time I used sugar of any kind was during training, but only after I had begun as the body does not have an insulin response to sugar during exercise. I did not limit my food intake, and I drank a whole lot of coffee with heavy cream, which really got me through the cravings.
Overall, I really didn't feel too bad. My workouts were sluggish especially towards the end of the two weeks. I rarely felt hungry, and I enjoyed everything that I ate. I did not have horrible cravings, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I don't eat a lot of sugar or grains to begin with. I did miss my fruit and yogurt which I have most days for breakfast.
When the two-week test gets really interesting is during the two weeks AFTER the two week test. That is the time period where you slowly reintroduce carbs back into your diet and see how your body reacts. I added fruit and yogurt immediately with no negative effects. On Thursday of the first week I went to a wedding and had a piece of wedding cake. After I ate that I felt shaky and totally buzzed from the sugar. The next few days were a bit of a nutrition break down as I went totally carb crazy. I started craving cereal and sweets and I did indulge a bit. Over the course of 3 days I gained 4 pounds! Now, you have to trust me when I say I was not eating enough to gain four pounds, so that was my body telling me something! As soon as I started to add in wheat and sugar, BAM!, my body said no thanks!!
The second week after the test I went back to getting my carbs primarily from fruits and yogurt and the four pounds disappeared again. I have continued eating quite a bit of healthy fats from avocados, nuts, and coconut products as well as organic meat and eggs. I am trying to eat a lot of veggies, but that is a constant battle. I could always use more.
For now, my take-away from this little experiment is that I will be avoiding sugar and most grains, especially wheat, except for a little treat now and then. I will not be afraid to eat good fats because they are delicious and help keep me full and are fuel for my aerobic system. For those of you who are curious, in the 4 weeks (including the 2 week test and the 2 weeks following) I have lost a total of 5 pounds, which includes the four pound surprise.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in dialing in their nutrition to try the two week test or something similar to see what is the right combination of macronutrients for their body. Just like training, nutrition is very individual and I firmly believe that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.