Get Fit | Eat Well | Have Fun
Drawing on the advice of my personal nutritionist (Jill), I recently completed a month-long period in which I attempted to totally cut my consumption of refined sugar. I was undertaking this task along with a somewhat less intense period of abstinence from alcohol, leading up to a scheduled kickboxing championship fight on April 26th. Due to a training injury (broken Fibula), my opponent was not able to compete and the match is being rescheduled. However, I can still report on some of my experiences training a bunch with a greatly reduced sugar intake.
Something to note here: I love sugar. I love baked goods. Chocolately, peanut-buttery stuff. Love it. I have gone through periods where I have eaten a peanut butter twix bar every day. And if I’m plugging sugary products, I should mention that I also love Liz Lovely’s Chocolate Peanut Butter gluten free cookies. Two per pack. Eat ’em with coffee.
Sooooo…this was tough. It was a particularly long month because I was simultaneously training for my fight while working full-time in an office setting and rehearsing music for a Rage Against the Machine cover act called Burning Monk (we rock, here’s proof). This
made these elimination projects particularly difficult, because eating sweets and drinking booze are well-known coping mechanisms for stress. That having been said, my greatest challenge in terms of the refined sugar was with Gatorade post-workout. My good friend and Thai Boxing trainer Paul Santiago had me working very hard to prepare for the fight, as my opponent was in Thailand, presumably training on the daily like Jean Claude Van Damme in Kickboxer. Sometimes after a hard workout, I’d find myself half-way through a bottle of Gatorade before I was even aware of my actions. Gatorade has got a pretty significant sucrose-dextrose content, and is a categorical deviation from any attempt to avoid processed sugar.
Beyond that, most lapses involved items containing maple syrup (which still counts, as it does undergo a refinement process) and a delicious shake that had agave in it (Pingala cafe, y’all, it’s called the pick me up). However, as Jill can corroborate, this is a massive down-tick from my usual sugar intake. And let me tell you, I had CRAVINGS. Every time I stopped at a gas station, Rite Aid, Shaws, P-Chopz, whatever, I wanted me some Twix. Every time I got a not-sugary sandwich or salad at a cafe that also had baked goods, I wanted me some cookies. Bad. This did not subside in the last month, though I did notice that sweet things tasted much sweeter upon allowing myself some wiggle-room since the fight date.
Biggest observations: increased exercise endurance and recovery time, reduced brain fog. Approaching the 26th, I was going straight from an 8 hr work day to the gym for 1-2hrs of pretty demanding work every weekday, and continuing the gym schedule on the weekends. I am not usually able to sustain such an aggressive training regiment, and this was a notable improvement for me. Additionally, I felt compelled to drink more water when not eating sugar, suggesting to me (I have no evidence to support this) that there might be some neurological confusion occurring where I am misinterpreting my own thirst for craving sugar.
Now that the period is complete, I am being lenient, but am adopting a policy of staying thoroughly hydrated as a method of warding off the intake of processed sugars. I figure hydration is always a good policy, and I would like to retain the workout stamina I was able to cultivate this month. I’ll let you know how it goes.