One of my many, annoying traits is curiosity. I am intensely, incessantly curious about almost everything. Fortunately, I am also on the shy side -- a characteristic that spares the rest of the world from what would otherwise be my natural tendency to behave like an overgrown three year old, tugging their sleeves and insisting on knowing, "Why? Why? Why?"
The downside of inquisitiveness is that there will never be enough time for me to cover all the material that interests me. The upside is that I can still cover quite a bit and put it to good use. Nutrition and fitness, perennials in my self-guided researches, offer myriad opportunity for testing theories on my favorite guinea pig -- myself. Over the past few years, I've intensified my focus on these issues and made discoveries that led to dietary changes that most of society considers fringe at best -- and often downright barmy.
Well. Call me crazy if you like, but there's no question that I'm leaner, stronger, and fitter today, at thirty-one, than I've been since the day I was born. Good thing, since I believe that as an endurance rider, I'm honor-bound to be every bit the athlete I ask my equine partner to be.
I've already shared three of the significant, dietary shifts I've implemented, in the form of three rules for eating clean. These are the non-negotiables:
all barcoded (that is, processed) "foods" from your diet, and you'll be left with the fuels your body was designed to ingest: Vegetables, fruits, meats, grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and plant oils. If 95% or more of your daily intake comprises these foods, you'll be better off than 95% of Western civilization.
However, for those who are really serious about eating clean and getting lean, there are many issues among these non-barcoded foods that merit discussion. I'll touch the surface of the most prominent here, then hook you up with sources for additional research. Let's start with dairy:
Now, I just included dairy in a list of foods our bodies are designed to ingest, and so they are...or at least, they were. But when was the last time you saw a yearling foal nurse? A three-month old kitten? A six-month-old lamb?
Hmm. Seems they grow out of it. In fact, a little research reveals that their bodies -- and ours -- are clearly meant to grow out of it. Lactase, the enzyme that enables digestion of lactose, ceases to be produced in animals over weaning age. Continued consumption of milk, formerly the perfect food for Junior, thereafter results in gastrointestinal distress ranging from bloating to diarrhea.
Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about; those who don't are the lucky (?) recipients of a mutant gene that permits continued lactase production. Being one-quarter Swedish, a heritage that predisposes me to said mutant gene (and perhaps a few others as well), I am not lactose intolerant -- unlike about 25% of the U.S. population and 75% of people whose heritage is African, Asian, or American Indian.
But, I still avoid dairy.
Why? Well, let's go back to our fellow mammals: How often do you see a rat drinking hamster milk, a bear cub nursing from a cougar, or a goat suckling a fawn? Yes, photos of such anomalies make their way around the web periodically. The last one I saw involved a mama dachshund and a litter of piglets. (Or was it the other way around?) Regardless, the only reason photos like that are so popular is that cross-species nursing is downright weird!
Surely I'm not the only one who finds it bizarre that we humans habitually consume large quantities of a substance custom-made to transform an 80-pound calf into a 1,800-pound bull. (And we're supposed to believe that drinking milk will make us lose weight? Excuse me?)
Besides that, the vast majority of the dairy products in your local grocery store are highly processed remnants of what might once have been a marginally acceptable food. Factory farms don't squeeze milk right out of the cow and into a carton, you know. Not by a long shot. First, they heat the milk to kill off bacteria (including the beneficial kind), a process which also reduces its vitamin A, C, D, and E content and destroys B6 and B12 outright. Then, they force it through a strainer with tiny holes, breaking up the fat molecules to prevent separation -- and bastardizing the natural hormonal delivery system of the milk, whose steroids and proteins are now able enter the bloodstream in a manner that nature never intended, triggering unnatural growth the body is unable to control.
Sounds to me like a recipe for cancer.
Those are just a few of the crazy reasons I rarely consume dairy. Feel free to pop a couple Lactaid pills, fetch a bowl of (barcoded, sugar-laden) ice cream, and take potshots at them at your leisure. When you're finished, I dare you to go read this series over at Fitness Spotlight. Allergens, antibiotics, and osteoporosis, oh my! (If you're horrified at the prospect of sacrificing dairy, be sure to check out the section on raw milk, wherein you may find some consolation. The nuances of aged dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese may interest you, as well.)
Okay. Take a moment to digest the truth about milk -- which, thanks to the Dairymen's Counsel and its well-funded friends in government, may be even more difficult than digesting the milk itself -- and in the next post, we'll move on to meat and eggs. (Don't worry. I promise not to advocate giving them up.)
Fit to Ride, Part One: Going for the Goal
Fit to Ride, Part Two: Vice and Advice
Fit to Ride, Part Three: Eating Clean
Fit to Ride, Part Four: Sweet Surrender
Fit to Ride, Part Five: Eating Green
Straight Sailing: Thoughts on Fitness for Endurance Riders
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