Monthly Archives: March 2012

MAF Test #3: More Progress and Race Time

This test came a little sooner, just three weeks after the last one. I want to test a little more frequently than Maffetone suggests so that I have more data and can catch problems faster. Plus, I really wanted a test close to my first race of the year on April 1. That way I can compare MAF data with racing heart rate and my subjective perception of the overall race experience.

Like the February test, I knew I was getting fitter and faster because my time for a typical training run had been improving, and my HRV (heart rate variability) score had been improving. When I tested, I was not disappointed.

MAF Test #2 03/06/12

avg mile pace 11:52

MAF Test #3 03/28/12

avg mile pace 11:31

That’s a twenty second improvement in just three weeks training at my low and comfortable MAF aerobic heart rate. This score should correspond to my fitness last August. But I do need more data from the real world, so if the weather will dry out, I will go do a MTB ride that I have recorded times from last summer. Then I will have very good data. But for now, I’m satisfied.

Green Leafy Moroccan Medley

I got my copy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Super Immunitfrom my mom, and so we decided to try a recipe that we both had our eyes on. In my ongoing quest to eat five bunches of greens a week for Lent, I needed another good recipe. I love North African spicing, but have not really tried those spices with a dish so heavy on leafy greens. I also rarely cook mustard greens, and this was a good opportunity to try those as well. In typical Fuhrman fashion, this recipe includes his favorite high nutrient foods: cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, the allium family, and mushrooms. We added cooked chickpeas to make a main dish out of it and served it over a Kashi pilaf.

Excellent dish! I was worried that either the mustard greens would be too strong or that the spices might be a but too much since it called for a full tablespoon of cinnamon, but they were fine when added to two huge bunches of greens, collards and mustard. I wanted more heat, but the other folks were content with the way it came out.

Next up for us to try from the book is his Creamy Cruciferous Curry.

MAF Test #2: Real Progress

Almost exactly one month later, I did another MAF test. I aimed for three weeks, a little ahead of Maffetone’s guidelines, but it worked the same anyway. I wanted some validation in data that I have been getting stronger, and I got it. I know I’ve become fitter, because I can feel it. I also have informal data from times posted on training routes that I use frequently. All good news, because the racing season starts in roughly one month with the XTERRA Real in Granite Beach.

MAF Test #1 2/06/12

Avg mile pace 13:27

MAF Test #2 3/06/12

Avg mile pace 11:52

Almost a minute and a half faster! And I lost some training time due to mid month vacation.

Even better than the relative improvement is how this number compares to last season. I didn’t start using the Maffetone method until April of last year, and I did not measure aerobic fitness with a MAF test until July 15, with a result of 11:56. So right now, I theoretically have better fitness than I did at midsummer last year. Yay, me! That first test came one week prior to racing the Leadville Qualifier Series race at Northstar, where I felt good. I want to chop off an hour or two from my time and move from the back of the pack to the middle, and this test gives me hope. I still have months to build aerobic fitness for that race.

Healthy Pizza? Damn Straight!

Thanks to my boy Soulveggie, pizza no longer needs to be the pariah that it deserves to be. Mark Sutton’s new book Heart Healthy Pizza  is out and it is slammin’! It’s no secret that pizza is one of America’s favorite junk foods, of the top three foods ordered in restaurants, it is just as you would imagine, burgers, fries, and pizza. Pizza is typically made with a ridiculous amount of artery clogging cheese, but does it have to be that way? If you can sidestep the addictive nature of the opiate like casomorphins, can you build a satisfying pie that won’t tighten up your chest?

The answer is a resounding yes!

I made this pizza using a garbanzo, oat, pimiento sauce that was fantastic. I topped it Greek style with spniach, red onion, kalamata olive, mushroom, and tofu feta from the Happy Herbivore. Bomb!

It was also fun to try out the pizza baking stone I got for Christmas. So give your heart a break and cook up some Heart Healthy Pizza.

To Supplement or Not?

Do you take dietary supplements?
Apparently most of us do, just over half of Americans take some kind of supplement, usually a multivitamin. Yet we are exhorted regularly to get our nutrients from foods, espucially from vegetables, since multivitamin use is not without risks. What to do? To supplement or not to supplement? That is the question, whether ’tis nobler for the body to go beyond the minimum, or to eat lots of vegetables and ignore them?

I have a love/hate relationship with supplements.

Love

I love the idea that the ease of swallowing a pill could solve a problem. I love the idea that the right combination of supplements could make me stronger, faster, or better in some way. So I have in the past made myself into a laboratory experiment turning myself into a case study of one. Some have seemed to work, but it was subjective perception possibly clouded by the placebo effect. Most were a waste of money.

Hate

We should not have to resort to supplements to get what we need. That really is the role of diet.

If we are deficient, we should tweak our diet, not pop a pill. Loking for better performance from chemistry might have unwanted consequences further down the road. Isolating certain nutrients from the their natural context may create imbalances that negate any other positive outcome in the end. Trying for a pharmacological effect from isolated nutrients really isn’t that far from relying on pharmaceutical drugs for health or even illegal doping. Indeed, some research suggests that even seemingly innocuous supplements like multivitamins may actually have long term negative effects.

Conclusion

Supplements can help if there is a true deficiency, but above and beyond that, it’s unclear whether there is a benefit. As for a performance boost, it’s mostly hype, but some supplements have that potential. It becomes a question of risk versus reward. And price. They can get expensive.

What do I do?

I supplement with vitamin D in the winter due to lack of sunshine. I have recently begun to supplement with vitamin B12 year round since I have not eaten meat in years. But as much as I want to believe that there are no performance benefits from supplements, I have often felt a positive difference when taking them. Can the placebo effect work if you don’t want to believe? I want to believe that my leafy greens are all that matters, but I have my doubts. This past week I restarted taking a simple multivitamin and separately added added chromium with my meals, and I feel a positive difference. The chromium especially did what was advertised in stabilizing my energy between meals. This is not the best experimental design, because I also tweaked my diet toward higher nutrient density by eating my five bunches of greens. So as I gear up for race season, I will continue to supplement. Then we’ll see.

Weekly Plan: Mar. 5-11

No plan last week, I had to wing it coming back from vacation. Plus with the beginning of Lent, and my other Lenten blog, things were a little hectic. But a relaxing weekend at home writing, training, cooking and shopping at my beloved farmer’s market brings things back to normal. So my Lent rules of all meals being based on rice and beans or rice and vegetables changes my menu planning a bit. Add in my challenge to eat five bunches of high nutrient greens every week, and some familiar dishes will change.

Monday

Bike commute 1 hour

Braised mixed greens with Brazilian black bean soup for dinner

Tuesday

Run 45 min.

Swim 30 min.

Chili

Large salad

Wednesday

Bike commute for 90 min.

Broccoli and mushrooms with rice

Large salad

Thursday

Run 45 min.

Orange Bok Choy and rice

Friday

Mountain bike 1-2 hrs.

Gumbo?

Saturday

Ski 2 hrs.

Walk 45 min.

DInner? Visiting the parents, so we’ll see

Sunday

Mountain bike 1-2 hrs.

Dinner will be whatever greens didn’t get used to meet my quota!

What does your week look like?