Questions And Answers: Quinoa, Stamina, Breakfast, and “Barefoot Shoes”

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When I’m not writing kick-butt boot camp workouts and nutrition programs, I try to answer as many questions as I can.  I want to share some from this week.  (The answers are my actual replies, so please forgive all the grammar errors!)

Q: Quinoa, grain? I just read it is in the same family as spinach.

A: Yeah mang, it’s related to Spinach and Chard. Even though it’s not a grain, it’s still very carb-intensive and has proteins in it that act a lot like gluten.

I use it two ways:

a) As a fuel source for paleo-minded endurance athletes. Having… a tupperware of quinoa in your panniers isn’t as stylish as a power bar, but it’s a whole hell of a lot better for you.

b) As a “bridge food” for people adjusting to paleo-style eating. See, most people who want to cut out grains and processed foods severely under-eat. They don’t increase their meat and veggie intake enough to replace the calories from grains and dairy. So when they’ve cut out a thousand Calories they get hungry and tired and fall off the paleo wagon.

Adding some quinoa, lentils, or tubers in to the mix helps keep calories in satisfaction levels while eaters learn to adjust their intake of other foods to compensate for the lack of carbs.

But I recommend minimizing quinoa and going for veggies as soon as possible.

Q: Question right now is breakfast? That is when I’ve eaten whole wheat toast …. and coffee.

A: For breakfast I recommend eggs as a starting point. They are paleolithic foods, plus have plenty of fat and protein.

Studies have found that eggs for breakfast lead to greater weight loss than eating the same calories in oatmeal. And another study found women who eat eggs for breakfast have less body fat than women who don’t, even if they eat the same calories.

Eggs are a “base” like salad, you can add anything you want! I personally use eggs to mix in a whole lot of vegetables, starting my day with veggies keeps me on track the rest of the day.

Here are a few egg ideas from my blog:

And here’s a few reasons to avoid toast:

Q: right now i’m trying to work up to running 5 miles at a go, because i found a pretty good training program for runners who are at that level. any advice on how to increase my stamina?

A: I always promote the idea of diminishing rest interval training.

Basically, you set your goal time and figure out how fast you need to run to do it. Say you have a goal of 9 minutes a mile (about a 2 hour half marathon). You make all of your training runs at 9 minutes per mile or FASTER. So, 4:30 half mile, walk 2 min, 4:30 half mile, walk 2 min. Next time you do the workout, you do 4:30 half mile, walk 75 sec, 4:30 half mile, walk 75 sec, etc.

That way you are never training your body to run below your goal pace, and you don’t get the overuse injuries (knees, ankles, back) that you get when slogging along with bad form.

Here’s a post I wrote about the idea:

Also, read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. It made ME want to start running. Good motivation.

Q: what are your thoughts on the Paleo diet providing enough fuel for an active athlete to improve performance?

A: The problem most people have when switching to a paleo-style diet is that they dramatically cut calories because they don’t replace the grains, dairy, soy, etc with more meat, veggies and nuts.

It depends on the type of athlete what paleo diet to put them on. Strength and power do great on a straight paleo (no tubers, lentils, etc). There is an initial loss of strength and power the first 4-6 weeks, then it ramps back up to normal levels over the next month. From then on there is greater progress because they can use all of the nutrients for training and recovery, not for fighting off inflammation and allergies from the diet.

Hard-core endurance athletes are doing something that cave-dudes wouldn’t have done: going maximally for brutally long distances. So in their case I follow the paleo-diet base, with the addition of some higher carb as-much-paleo-as-possible foods: sweet potatoes, yams, some lentils, some quinoa. And a little more fruit.

Even with the extra “paleoish” carbs, there is an initial drop in endurance and speed, followed by a ramp up to normal levels, then better increases once the inflammation, allergens, extra weight, blah blah blah are removed.

The biggest thing I tell my athlete clients who switch to paleo is to make sure calories stay the same or even INCREASE, otherwise they’ll feel fatigued and start breaking down.

Q: What is your take on the Vibram 5 finger shoes…?

A: I think the Vibram 5 Fingers are just about the best thing ever!

You know my back got jacked up in a car accident, these are the only shoes that I can wear that don’t leave me crippled at the end of the day.

My clients who wear them swear by them. Cuts down on knee, back, and hip pain. (But when you first switch to them, be prepared for searing pain below the knees as your calves, shins, and feet muscles are forced to work) Actually, with all the beach volleyball you might have conditioned them already :)

Check out these blog posts for in-depth info:

I highly recommend getting a pair of Vibrams!


Ok, that’s it for today!  If you have any questions, the fastest and easiest way to get them answered is to post them as a comment on my facebook wall.  Here’s a link:

Talk soon!

~ Luke

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