The Raw Food Diet
The Benefits Of The Raw Food Diet
From a nutritional standpoint, living by the principles of a raw food diet over the past months has been one great benefit. Both my life as an ultra athlete and areas in my private life have drastically improved.
Not that raw foods never existed before!
The difference is that I became increasingly more aware of what I would put into my body and what effects I could noticeably feel when I first started integrating more raw vegan foods into my diet last summer. Also, as a natural side effect of an increased training volume I wanted to simply try something different, too.
The interesting thing is that I used to be preoccupied towards raw foodism imagining that one only chews on salads leaves and carrot sticks. Luckily, there are so many people out there thriving on raw foods and they would never want to go back to a standard diet. These people have shaped this 'new' lifestyle reaching out to others to share the same enthusiasm to live on natural and raw foods only.
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By definition, raw foods are nutriments that are consumed in their natural, unprocessed state. Some can still be considered raw if they haven't been heated above 45 degrees Celsius or 115 Fahrenheit.
Yet, some foods are mistaken for being raw. These include:
- Agave nectar: has to be altered and heated to get the typical sweetness resembling the taste of honey
- Dried Fruit: dried at high temperatures and blanched
- Olives: usually canned, jarred and soaked in bad oils
- Almonds, ground almonds: originating in California most nuts have been pasteurized and ground almonds are blanched before putting them through a grinder
- Frozen vegetables: often boiled and blanched before being packaged even if the label reads "fresh frozen"
- Cashews: are considered fruits and are heated to shell and lose their toxins
- Tahini: sesame seeds are roasted at high temperatures; even if labeled unpasteurized double-check with manufacturer or make your own by grinding sesame seeds and adding olive oil
- Oats: are steamed in order to keep out worms before storage
- Wild rice: not considered raw or wild; being blanched after harvesting to prevent from bugs
- Miso: made from cooked ingredients even if you purchase the un-pasteurized version
Explore now what the first steps into a new direction were for me and how you might feel inclined to give your current diet an overhaul.
From one day to the next, I eliminated all dairy produce and added a variety of raw foods. An easy way of flushing the body with greens was to dilute them with fresh and frozen fruit and drink a smoothie every day.
It was a conscious decision that would either turn out to be worth it - or not.
But the overall outcome would be the same
either way of looking at it: By experimenting with raw foods and making changes to my diet I would find out more about myself and what foods my body can best deal with. Especially race nutrition that consists of raw foods is an area where I am constantly trying to improve, readjusting and become smarter!
One of the best dried fruits that prove to be excellent to eat during running are figs.
So, up until my first ultramarathon in the Sahara I lived a (standard) diet, only that I have never been a traditional meat eater.
The look of a piece of steak still doesn't do anything for me, yet a piece of fish or a salad topped with chicken strips were some of the dishes I would occasionally eat.
Naturally, I have always liked raw foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Just not the amounts I am eating these days. As for hard and soft cheeses I used to eat a handful maybe every day. Breads and wholegrain batches are foods I still like and consume occasionally to this day.
Nevertheless, weighing foods or counting calories is not something I would recommend when you're on a raw food diet or any other type of nutrition.
I tried it before because I was curious about the exact amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats I was consuming every day. I
think I gave up after a day. It was no fun and more strenuous than I had expected.
In principle, enjoying the (raw) foods you're eating is more important!
And worrying about your weight too much is not a
rule that applies to the ultrarunner anyway. When the body is conditioned enough and used to regular running and other
types of training (cycling, climbing, hiking, swimming for example) you'll already have your personal ideal weight which
might vary throughout the year.
Speaking from my experience and intense research I have done on the benefits of thriving on a raw food diet explore the facts here:
- In order to function properly and stay healthy all year around eliminating dairy products is the most obvious step to take; reap the benefits after a few days
- Significant changes in energy levels by consuming more raw foods result in better health, training and racing performances
- Mood swings may disappear, the skin will start to glow even more
- Hay fever symptoms reduce or even completely clear away
- An increased intake of raw foods allows for better nutrient absorption in the body
- By going just vegan you can still get a lot of junk food so keep packaged vegan foods and ready-meals at a minimum
But...I'm happy with my diet so why should I switch to raw foods?
I hear you ask that question. Rightly so.
The answer is simple, though.
Why not take it as a challenge to live a mainly raw food diet and see whether you can feel even better, stronger and happier. Become smarter for your own good and develop in this important area of life as an ultrarunner.
Share your experiences with others or invite friends and family over for a raw food meal!
By fueling your body with more natural, raw foods the impact that'll have on your training (volume), abilities and confidence will be amazing! Just like you constantly work on getting better or faster in your next ultra marathon by making changes to your training routine, the same goes for your diet.
Raw foods supply the body with all possible nutrients and vitamins.
It takes 28 days for something new to form into a habit. This may seem a long time but the long-term results are what matters. Change takes time so again, patience is the key!
How can I be sure that my body gets all the proteins on a raw food diet?
Just recently I was asked that question again and what do I say to people that show scepticism? -
I still feel great and wouldn't want to go back to my 'old' diet. And our body is incapable to split animal proteins. Except for the nice taste
of meat that some people claim it is no use to you in reality.
Honestly said, it is more or less a poor reflection of that person's own incapability to face a challenge and stand up to
it. Especially when discussing individual diets many, many people are eating their choice of foods out of habit and never really question what deeper effects their nutrition may have.
Remember that raw foods provide you all the essential carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and enzymes you need.
So here's another great tip:
Listen to your needs and go with your feeling. Some food combinations must be mentioned. I would have never thought that
depending on how you combine foods it can make you feel good or bad. I threw and tossed everything into a (fruit) salad or into a vegetable pan and only came to notice a better feeling after I integrated these tips on ideal food combining.
Feel free to take the shortcut...
- Avoid fat and sweet sugars together such as nuts and dates
- Bananas and acidic fruits such as pineapples and oranges cause cramping, bloatiness and indigestion
- Acidic fruits and fats should be consumed seperately
- Avoid different sources of fat in the same meal
- Eat watery foods first; melon before berries before bananas
- Tomatoes are considered acidic fruits and are best eaten with tahini, nuts or other sources of protein except for starches
- Leafy, dark greens go with everything
- Allow your body to absorb acidic fruits before sweet and starchy ones
- When consuming cooked vegetables and other foods allow 20-30 minutes for digestion
As usual, it's easier to keep meals simple rather than cooking twice a day!
A tip to save time at dinner, with or without kids: I tend to cut up all the fruits and veggies needed for the day around lunch time, including washing a head of lettuce. Tightly stored in plastic containers and put in the fridge, salads and veggies only need to be put on a big plate later on and freshly cut bread, for example. Dips and salad sauces only take two minutes to prepare in a blender.
Whether I strictly live by the principles of a raw food diet all the time?
No, I have found that living a mainly raw food diet definitely adds to my overall health and has helped me to up my training after only two weeks into it. I felt so great that I added more and more raw foods and only eat steamed vegetables three times a week.
My children do enjoy the refinements we've made to our evening meals offering everyone a great selection of raw vegan foods. We've all become somewhat addicted to avocados, a staple food in the raw food diet.
I probably eat about 70-80 % raw foods in their natural state and the rest of my daily intake includes vegan foods like sprouted buckwheat bread, sometimes a barley roll, vegan biscuits, home-made cakes and fudges, dark chocolate, honey, seldomly margarine and jam and often nut butters.
I skipped all dairy produce for substitutes like tofu and soy products months ago. I still don't crave pizzas and have had about five pasta dishes in one year since I started going vegan and soon after that eating mainly a raw food diet.
Substituting cow's milk for soy milk to use in cappuccinos (still can't do without it!) took getting used to but the various choices and flavors in soy milk are worth a try.
Personally, though, I stay away from chocolate, vanilla and
berry-flavoured soy milks and stick to the plain ones and only sometimes I mix calcium-enriched soy milk into coffees and mueslis.
Soy products are obviously not raw foods by definition. I do enjoy milk coffees a lot and wouldn't skip everything to transition and become a 100% raw foodist.
When meeting other people at parties or visiting friends I find that they're all very curious and interested in the raw food diet and what exactly I'm eating. I notice that most of the people I talk to admit to being addicted to refined sugars you'll find in wheat pastas, cakes, biscuits, rolls and most other processed foods. When I reply that I eat mainly fresh, unprocessed raw foods the question is answered.
Putting importance on yourself, staying real and choosing raw foods over the foods we're all used to is inspiring to you and your environment.
If eating is known to be a natural process, the raw food diet certainly complements this thesis.
Admittedly, I also crave sugars but choose sweet fruits over a pack of biscuits or a Snickers bar in the afternoon. I do eat dark chocolate every day and that's where the little snacks throughout the day make up the remaining percent of my diet that I can't call a 100% raw food diet.
Most amazingly, my body was as resiliant as ever last winter never catching any of the viruses that were going around. Not even a sign of a cold coming my way. At the same time I increased the running mileage literally craving more and more raw foods.
Last but not least the initial doubts of whether a raw food diet is actually healthy have long faded.
What Nutrition Lets You Thrive?
Have you already tried many different diets in order to help you improve your ultrarunning performance and found foods that you can't live without?
Which foods are a staple in your daily nutrition that you feel make a difference to your well-being, performance in training and racing as well as helping you recover faster?
Share your story here!
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