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a journey into the stuff we stuff our faces with


Teamon Race Stuff


a journey into the stuff we stuff our faces with

When I was younger I remember getting my mind blown when my mother told me that chocolate cookies is junk food. It did not make sense to me at that time scoring a bag of these cookies was a rarity because we weren’t that exposed to western snacks, I grew up having healthful meals a staple on our dinner table; but getting the opportunity to score that bag of snacks was a once a month (a lucky month) affair. So I asked my self, why something that tastes awesome and we rarely have, is thought of as bad for you.This is my first recollection of my interest with food and nutrition. 
Now that I’ve taken up the sport of triathlon, I’ve decided to go in deeper into this journey into nutrition and its impact on performance, these series of write-ups or blogs (not entirely sure what they should be called) will tell the story as I learn from scratch what goes into our bodies translates to our performance on race day.
Please note that I currently have no formal education or training on nutrition nor sports, but at the moment  taking a course on Sports Nutrition; in a way I will be learning with you along with input from my coach who has  encouraged me to pursue this course and share what I have learned. You are free to ask any questions and we will try to answer them and we will learn together.
For the main set of my first blog, I’d like to go back 4 years back into my fitness journey and try to fit in what knowledge I have now with what I tried and somehow worked in my achieving weight loss, which was my first concern at that time.
In 2017 my body weight topped at 88 kilograms, this was a product of me downing three 500 ml cans of strong beer and half a pack of cigarettes daily. I didn’t gorge on fast food and was aware enough that sugar kills so I avoided sugary drinks (but wait what about the beer?). Web basically stuck with what was on the dining table which is an average Asian diet that always had white rice, but we always paired it with a meat and vegetable dish. At the time I really felt that our diet wasn’t that bad so I did’t really pay any attention to what we were preparing and didn’t feel any guilt (but wait, what about the beer again?)
I actually had no problem with my weight, but I did have a problem with my 13 year old son’s weight. He was between 80-90 kilos but was as tall as I was, typical teen-ager and was into the PlayStation 3 at that time. I told him that we needed to make changes to our sedentary lifestyle so I said we would try to loose weight together. So I enrolled him in a basketball training camp and I started running early in the morning at the Mamzar open beach every Friday morning, I would run early (200 meters was the best I could do at that time) and drove my son to basketball camp, this is of course stopping by McDonald’s for a big breakfast and a sausage muffin.   
Aside from my increasing distance to what I ever felt like increasing it to, I also know that we had to make dietary changes. We started at the obvious by banning all soft drinks, fruit juices (except for the ones that said sugar free, how ignorant I was then) and other sugary drinks. I would take my wife to the cold section at the supermarket and taught her to read the nutrition labels on drinks and told her to avoid anything that had the word sugar on it. Though there was an exception, if dinner was deep fried belly of the title character of the movie “Babe” then we are permitted to an ice cold can of classic Coke.
I also started looking at our consumption of rice, we had 5 people living in our flat and we had one of those two liter rice cookers, I switched it with a rice cooker with half the capacity. The rest of the tribe was upset with the downgrade but sacrifices had to be made to reduce these waist lines. I also chanced upon one of those healthy living reality TV shows where the dietary expert asked to throw away anything in the pantry that was white, stuff like white sugar, white bread and other refined goods were eliminated. I had followed the same but there was an exception for Sinigang Nights were the only acceptable starch to go along with the dish was fragrant white rice. I also started trying other alternatives to rice such as quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat and brown rice.
I also managed to quit my drinking habit and smoking habit (after 5 years of trying) by putting focus on my new found hobby, short distance running (I had thought that 5 km is enough for me and doing more would be ludicrous and bad for my body). 
The plan worked, I proudly showed that my pants were starting to fall of my waist and my son also lost a significant number of kilos, gained better physique and fitness level.
So looking at all the simple dietary changes that I’ve done, I will try to put some sense into them by taking those changes above and applying what I have learned so far, I see two major changes in my dietary habits.
  1. Avoiding white carbohydrate sources – Above we replaced our white jasmine rice with brown rice, quinoa, bulgur and buckwheat, so is it the color of the carbohydrate source that defines the healthier carbohydrate source? If so can I just douse my white rice with Kikoman to make it brown rice? The key term here is glycemic index. The glycemic index is a system of assigning a number to carbohydrate-containing foods according to how much each food increases blood sugar. Consuming food that have a low glycemic index is one of the many diets that can aid in the loss of weight and prevention of chronic diseases related to obesity such as diabetes.
Below is basic information on glycemic levels of certain foods:
 *Low GI – 1 to 10: Green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and bran breakfast cereal
* Medium GI – 11 to 19: Sweet corn, bananas, raw pineapple, raisins, oat breakfast cereals, and multi-grain, oat bran or rye bread
           * High GI – 20 or more : White rice, white bread and potatoes
Another thing to note is that brown rice (whole) has more nutrients and fiber than white rice (refined). They may be the same grain but polishing the grain removes certain nutrients and is now a source of “empty” calories.
  1. Eliminating sugary drinks –  The topic of sugar is no stranger to me as the majority of mother’s side of the family had diabetes, I am fortunate that I had not developed this disease. What’s with the sugar in these drinks anyway? 

Without going through much technicalities on the types of sugars in these drinks, we will simply call them simple carbohydrates at this time; the common sugars used is sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. Simple carbohydrates are easily processed by the body compared to complex carbohydrates, so it doesn’t take much for your body to process these sugars into glucose, and what does the body do with the excess unused glucose? The body goes into storage mode and converts the glucose into body fat, insulin is also involved in this process but this will be another topic for another day. Also I know some of you will be asking the role of these simple sugars during races and intense training sessions, again this will be another topic in the future.

As for my copious drinking and smoking habit, we already know the detrimental effects of these two in our body. No cold can of beer is good with out a deep fried or salt riddled snack, you intentionally gorge yourself with these and wash it down with the refreshing beverage. I have not eliminated alcohol completely but I limit my self now to a couple of drinks once a week.

Quitting smoking is a no-brainer, we all know this and will not go into further details.

So this is where I end my first blog, currently I have made major changes with my dietary habits and have taken the sport of triathlon seriously. I am happy to say that from my 88 kilogram body weight 4 years back and now at around 68 kilos, I have done a handful of races but my last achievement was finishing my first 70.3 distance Ironman under six hours, the stories, experiences and knowledge gained though this journey of mine will be shared in the next upcoming blogs.


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