Variety: The Trouble with the Raw Food Diet

I recently “went raw,” cutting cooked foods almost entirely from my diet.

In part, this change was driven by the possibility that raw foods are healthier for our bodies.  After all, we haven’t been cooking food for very much of our long evolutionary history, and our bodies may not have had time to adapt to the change.  Because cooking food tends to destroy nutrients, our bodies, receiving less nutrients from a given food than it would get had it consumed that food raw, seems to make us eat more in order to finally obtain the same amount of nutrients.  This can lead to weight gain.

Go Raw Granola

A great source of truly-raw calories when I need to refuel.

And hence the second reason I went raw: I tend to exercise in seasonal clusters, running excessively while training for a half marathon, marathon or Tough Mudder-like race, and then tamping down severely while I’m not in training.  Part of this is to give my body rest (particularly since running heavy mileage can tend to strain the knees and other leg/food bones) and part of it is a matter of motivation: if I have an upcoming race I’m heavily motivated to hit the pavement several times a week, but when I don’t it’s much easier to skip the workout–especially if I’m busy with other commitments.

So, during my latest tamp-down, I gained some weight.  Going raw quickly cut these pounds; I estimate that I’m about 7 to 10 pounds lighter on any given day if I’ve been eating exclusively raw than if I’m eating a “healthy” cooked-food diet of vegetables, grains and even meats and cheeses.

I figure that not only does this make me a tad more slender (and this shows up in my face); but it’s probably also healthier.  It virtually forces pure veganism on me; gets me to drink wine rather than beer or liquor; and makes me feel more resistant to long-term maladies like cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.

But something’s changed recently: I’ve started training for another marathon.  This time, I’m going all in: having set a new personal record in the half marathon in Hartford last fall, I’m taking on the full marathon this year, most likely in Savannah, GA.  And I’m gunning no only for a personal record, but to cut a full forty minutes from my prior marathon time: I want to run a 3:30 marathon.

This would be a herculean feat (for me).  Even my best half marathon, from last fall, saw me chugging along at nearly 8 minute miles.  And yet 8 minute miles is almost exactly what I’ll have to run to make 3:30 in the marathon.  Sounds easy, given that I’ve already done that for the half marathon, until you realize that the marathon is twice as long.  A half-marathon split comparable to what I want to run in the marathon would be a 7:27 split–exactly half a minute less per mile than my personal best.

I’m not sure that I’ll make it.  But I’m going to give it a shot.  And, in addition to adding a few weeks of base training before my official marathon training schedule starts, the only way I know of to improve my time that sharply is to add mileage: both total weekly mileage and, perhaps more importantly, more mileage to my weekly “long runs.”

And, to get back to the point of this blogpost, this increased mileage means increased caloric requirements.  For someone of my height and body weight, the 40+ miles a week I’m already averaging (this will ramp up to over 50 miles per week once I get into my actual training schedule) means 5200+ calories per week, or over extra 750 calories burned per day.  Unless I’m to lose weight dramatically, I have to make those up somehow.

And, if my diet consists primarily of apples, bananas, oranges and peaches, it’s tough to eat my normal recommended caloric intake, let alone an extra 750 calories per day.  At some point, I look at a banana and, rather than eat it, I dream of throwing it up.

High-calorie items like avocados help, but again, how many of them can I eat?  I’ve posted before about Go Raw’s wonderful, and relatively-high-caloric, raw food products (called “cookies” and “granolas,” though they’re 100% raw, 100% vegan, and with no added sugars, even in the form of agave nectar or maple syrup), but even those get old when you rely on them for the bulk of your daily calories.

So I’m in a bit of a bind.  I look ever out for new raw food products, or new fruits and vegetables I can get myself to eat, but they’re tough to find: by this point, I’ve pretty thoroughly scoured my local Whole Foods, and the local independent natural grocer seems to keep pretty limited hours.  And I’m not finding anything new.

So I’ve started relying more heavily again on cooked foods, and even animal products (which I’ve generally sworn off unless I’m dining out and with others).  Chipotle’s back in my diet lately, to my vegan wannabe chagrin.  (Yes, I know you can eat vegan at Chipotle, but you know what guacamole’s made of, and you know what fruits I’m tired of.)

For now, it’s the lesser of evils.  (Cooked food versus starvation.)  But if you know of some truly raw foods that don’t contain sweeteners like agave nectar (which I’m extremely skeptical of), I’d love to hear it.

Note: supposedly “raw” foods like cashews and almonds are apparently usually “cooked” even when labeled “raw” (either to get the shells off or to pasteurize them) and even Go Raw’s sunflower seeds seem to put weight on me and puff up my face, maybe due to the added salt.  But if you know of other raw options, please share!

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5 Responses to Variety: The Trouble with the Raw Food Diet

  1. I really enjoyed this post! I am on board with you in terms of being motivated and trim and slaking off and gaining weight when not training for a race. I am vegan, but I have been toying with the idea of adding in some “clean and whole” animal products! I have yet to bring myself to do it, but during a family trip to Scotland in the fall I plan on eating real cheese, real salmon, and maybe even some local animal dishes. I do enjoy eating raw, especially in the summer. But, I would find it quite hard and even a greater commitment. I enjoy cooking and meal planning, but at this time in my life, I cannot commit to a total raw diet. I look forward to following you on this journey!

  2. Pingback: My First Chipotle Experience Since Going Raw | Organaholic! Organic Food Blog

  3. Pingback: Organic Product Review: Go Raw Banana Bread Flax Bar | Organaholic! Organic Food Blog

  4. Pingback: Eating Cooked Food After Starting the Raw Diet | Organaholic! Organic Food Blog

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