Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I’ve become fairly interested in the nutritional qualities of Chia seeds lately after re-reading the Christopher McDougall book Born to Run. Chia seeds are an integral part of the Tarahumara diet. The Tarahumara, as you may recall, are a Native American tribe from the Copper Canyon area in Mexico who are renowned for their ability to run long distances.

Chia seeds have a justly deserved reputation as nutritional powerhouses. In pre-Columbian times they were a main component of the Aztec and Mayan diets and were the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors. The Aztecs also used chia medicinally to stimulate saliva flow and to relieve joint pain and sore skin. In a one ounce (28 g) sample, dried chia seeds contain 9% of the Daily Value for protein (4g), 13% fat (9g), a considerable amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, and 42% dietary fiber (11g), based on a daily intake of 2000 calories. The seeds also contain the essential minerals phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium and sodium in amounts comparable to other edible seeds, such as flax or sesame.

This morning I tried a recipe for pinole, that I found at the No Meat Athlete Blog. I combined Chia seeds with masa harina, honey, cinnamon and water and then baked the resulting dough into a soft cake. The taste was pretty neutral, but not unpleasant, and I’m already thinking of ways to add flavor and nutrients to make my own energy bars that aren’t full of synthetic ingredients.

As for the purported effects of chia seeds on running stamina…..I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2011

First Training Week

I started training for the ½ marathon last week and did my first long(ish) run of 7 miles. No serious issues presented themselves. I upped my carb intake to account for the increased exertion and have had no problem with my energy levels. Oddly enough I seem to have misplaced my Sauconys. I thought I left them at the gym but they didn’t have them in the lost and found, so I’ve been doing all my outside running in my Nike Frees, which has left my legs a little sore. I’ve been trying to transition to a forefoot strike after reading Born to Run a second time, but I don’t think I’m ready to do the whole minimalist shoe thing for all of my training. I might go pick up a pair of cheap Nikes later on this week and alternate between them and the Frees. Research has shown that the cheaper your running sneakers are, the less likely you are to get injured so my days of shelling out for $100 trainers are long gone. I also have a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers, but I haven’t mustered up the courage to run in them yet.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Philadelphia 1/2 Marathon 2011

This morning I was wasting time scurrying here and there on the interwebs and somewhat randomly found myself on the site of the Philadelphia Marathon. After a moment or two, I decided to sign up for the ½ marathon, which is run on the same day and tracks the marathon course for the first 13.1 miles. I’m not sure why I signed up. I have nothing to prove and I’ve spent the last year and a half trying to distance myself from goal-oriented running. Yet, here I am. I am kind of interested in the effect of my Primal diet on my performance over a longer distance, and whether I can handle a ½ marathon distance in minimal running shoes so it should be an interesting couple of months. Maybe this is also something I need to give my running a little more focus. At the very least it will be a pleasant run through Philadelphia on a Sunday morning. Here we go!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Time flies when you're busy. Last summer my son Ben was born and I've had very little time to dedicate to blogging-3 boys keeps you busy, let me tell you. Over the past year I've been doing mostly maintenance running at around 30 miles a week, but I've radically changed my diet to high fat/low carb with a resulting loss of around 15 pounds. This has made me much lighter on my feet but I am constantly tweaking my micronutrient ratios to ensure that I'm getting enough carbs. This is a fairly delicate balancing act and I'm still working on it. My weight loss has stalled at 175 but my body composition is incrementally changing. I'm going to redouble my efforts in the hope of getting down to a much leaner 165 by the end of the year. I have also been doing push-ups, pull-ups and squats to develop more muscle.

The impetus for all these changes was two books I read about six months ago that totally changed the way I look at nutrition and exercise. The first is Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. Taubes essentially debunks the idea that weight control is a matter of burning more calories than one consumes, and offers an alternative viewpoint: carbs are the principal driver of fat storage and weight gain. He presents compelling evidence that limiting carbohydrates in the diet is a healthier way of eating and regulating weight.

Taubes led me, perhaps inexorably, to the Primal/Paleo movement and their emphasis on adopting a diet that eschews processed food, grains and sugar, in favor of a diet rich in lean grass-fed meats, healthy fats and vegetables. Mark Sisson is one of the so-called "gurus" of the paleo movement and his book The Primal Blueprint really changed the way I look at the concept of fitness.

I recommend both books, although I have to disagree with Taubes and Sisson's view of how exercise fits into a healthy lifestyle. More on that later.