My 80/10/10 Journey

A bit of a different WIAW post for today…

Those of you who just recently started following me know that I eat a plant-based, whole foods diet. Those who have been following for a while know that I have been experimenting with 80/10/10 (the macronutrient breakdown, NOT the exact diet proposed in the book “80/10/10”). Well, my little “experiment” has been going on long enough that it’s not really an experiment anymore, so it’s time for an update.

What is 80/10/10 to me?

To me, 80/10/10 is exactly what it sounds like – a macronutrient breakdown that means I get 80% of my calories from carbs, 10% from protein, and 10% from fat, roughly speaking. To others, 80/10/10 may mean something different, largely due to the book which founded the diet idea that promotes eating only raw fruits and vegetables and no cooked food. So, keep in mind here that I am not referring to a fully raw diet, just the macronutrient breakdown.

What is Raw Til 4?

Raw Til 4 is a diet made popular by Freelee the Banana Girl. The idea is that you eat nothing but raw fruits and vegetables until 4pm. It is promoted as an alternative to eating a fully raw diet, which can be very difficult to maintain in non-tropical areas where there is not GOOD ripe fruit year round and difficult to maintain in social situations eating out with friends. This is how I choose to eat, although there may be some days when I eat cooked food before 4pm. The point is not to strictly implement the 4pm rule, but to start your day with as many raw fruits and vegetables as you can eat before moving to high carb low fat vegan cooked foods.

Freelee

What’s are the benefits of Raw Til 4?

The diet touts many benefits including but not limited to:

How does Raw Til 4 work?

The main idea behind the diet is that the body runs on carbs. Every cell in your body runs on glucose. Eating carbs releases seratonin in the brain, causing us to feel happy, which is why so many people say they are “craving carbs” but try to resist it because carbs have been villified in the diet and fitness industry. Instead of avoiding carbs, 80/10/10 promotes eating as much carbohydrates as you want, as long as they are coming from whole, plant-based foods.

The key to success on this diet is keeping the fat low. Although it can vary from person to person, the general rule of thumb is to keep the fat at 10% of less of your daily calorie intake. That being said, if you are eating some very large number of calories, such as 5,000, you may want to keep the percentage of fat a bit lower.

What’s so special about Raw Til 4?

What’s so revolutionary about this is that it eliminates the focus on calories. Many people believe whole heartedly in the POWER OF THE CALORIE. Calories in, calories out. It’s how weight loss is thought to work. For the record, I haven’t been into calories for years. Long before I ever started eating a high carb low fat vegan diet, I found that calories were almost meaningless for me. As soon as I started lifting, I found that I could vary my calories from 1,400-3,000 with no fluctuation in weight, and I’m not talking about one day here or there. I mean eating on either end of that spectrum on a consistent basis. What mattered MUCH more than calories was where the calories were coming from.

ALL CALORIES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. If you ate 3,500 calories of broccoli and bananas today and every day for the foreseeable future, you wouldn’t get fat. If you eat 3,500 calories of doughnuts, you will get fat. Heck, let’s choose even “healthier” foods. If you eat 3,500 calories of steak and peanut butter, you will likely put on some serious weight. I think everyone intuitively knows that, but still wants to believe in calories because they are easy to count, and it’s been engrained in our heads that they are the key to weight loss.

One of the best parts about 80/10/10 is freedom from calorie counting forever. According to people who have been living this lifestyle for years and according to my experience, you can eat as many calories as you want and not gain any weight. Now, there are definitely people out there who disagree with this premise, and it may have limits, but generally speaking, people agree that you can eat far more calories on this lifestyle without gaining weight.

Why did I decide to try Raw Til 4?

I had already been vegetarian for 4 years + vegan for 1.5 years. I loved the idea of a plant-based diet: what it means for my body’s health, the environment, and the animals. It’s tough to find a reason not to do it (other than “MUST HAVE BACON”). I also knew that the more whole plant foods I ate, the better I felt. I never felt good eating a lot of processed food, faux meat products, or things like that. Lastly, I knew that, even with an intense workout routine, I had always felt the need to watch my food intake pretty carefully. Now, I wasn’t crazy about it, and I definitely enjoyed myself plenty, but I guess I never truly felt like I could eat until I was full or completely satisfied. I constantly ate meals that tided me over to the next one, but never felt super satisfied with my food and always felt that I could only lose weight or get more in shape by eating less or cutting back.

When did I start Raw Til 4?

In January 2014. I am now coming up on 2 years vegan. After spending a week in Nicaragua on vacation, I ate a diet largely based on fruit because not much other vegan food was available. I already had a pretty great deal of knowledge about a high carb or raw diet, but really took note of how good my body felt during this time. Upon arriving home, I decided to give it a go. I stocked up on fruit, veggies, and rice and began my journey.

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What do I usually eat on Raw Til 4?

Breakfast: I generally start my day with water-rich fruits like melon or citrus. A meal for me is usually an entire cantaloupe, a whole pineapple, five grapefruits, or 7-8 oranges. If I’m in the mood for a smoothie, I often blend tropical fruit with orange juice. If I am eating breakfast, I may also include a scoop of raw vanilla protein powder. This is not necessary, but I find that it helps with my recovery, tastes delicious, and I am still within my ratio for the day.

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Lunch: whenever I’m hungry again, I usually go to many 80/10/10ers favorite, the banana smoothie. I typically blend 5-10 bananas (depending how hungry I am) with 5-10 dates and a bunch of water. It makes a deliciously sweet smoothie. If I’m not at home with my blender, I will just eat 5-8 bananas (sometimes dipped in coconut sugar) or perhaps 3-5 mangos.

Bananas + dates + water = smoothie

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Dinner: I usually always fit in a green salad along with a high carb dinner of potatoes, rice, or gluten free pasta with a low-sodium sauce (when you are eating a lot of carbs and you eat a lot of sodium, your body will retain a lot of water, which can leave you feeling bloated, so I try to keep the salt to a minimum). I often eat rice with beans/salsa, nori wraps filled with rice/cucumber/bell pepper/a bit of avocado/low sodium soy sauce or chili sauce, or brown rice pasta with no salt added tomato sauce.

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How has my experience been on 80/10/10?

FABULOUS.

I cannot say enough good things. The best parts are hard to explain. I feel light and clean all the time, like my digestion is good and my body is happy. TMI warning: my bowel movements are super regular. I have tons of energy. I never have to go hungry. I can eat as much as I want whenever I want. My meals are easy – I never have to think about “what am I going to eat now?” It’s so easy. I just grab a bunch of bananas. I never even think about calories, except to make sure that I’m getting enough. I love it.

How strict do you have to be on Raw Til 4?

The part I love most is that it really is FLEXIBLE. I think a lot of people think that this diet is very restrictive, but I have found that it is very forgiving.

First, 80/10/10 is a ratio to be aimed for over time. It is not a ratio you have to hit every meal or even every day. You may have a higher fat day one day and a lower fat day the next, and that’s fine.

Second, you don’t have to always just eat banans. The Raw Til 4 lifestyle still allows flexibility for eating out. Some of my favorite things to eat out are Mexican, Indian, Asian (especially sushi!), and gluten free pizza. Although some of these meals may be a bit higher fat and definitely higher salt than I would eat at home, I (and many others) have found that incorporating them, even fairly regularly, does not lead to any weight gain or many adverse effects. You may not feel at your best eating this way, but you will still feel GOOD.

Korean BBQ bown of rice, veggies, tofu, kimchi, and chili sauce

Korean BBQ bown of rice, veggies, tofu, kimchi, and chili sauce

Vegan gluten free ramen

Vegan gluten free ramen

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Is a high carb low fat vegan diet the BEST diet?

I think the best diet for YOU is what WORKS FOR YOU. This might not be for everyone, but I encourage you not to be closed off to the idea of it even if it sounds crazy to you now, and I think everyone can benefit from a more plant-based diet.

In terms of lifelong sustainability, I think this is one of the best, if not the best, diet. Having experimented with MANY diets for months at a time, I have found no diet that is as sustainable as this one. I also think it is one of the healthiest diets on the planet in terms of weight loss, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, and the like. Again, check out the science.

That being said, I will admit that it might not be the ultimate diet for 1) losing those last 10-15 pounds fast or 2) packing on muscle in the gym fast.

Let me explain.

I do believe, as the diet promotes, that maintaining this lifestyle brings about healing in your body and can significantly raise your metabolism. As you feed your body tons of whole foods, your body gets more and more efficient at processing more calories. This means that you will continue to get leaner and leaner over time, but it may take months or years, depending on the person. Look at anyone who as been on this lifestyle for several years, and you’ll see what I mean (e.g. Harlee & Freelee, Evan Rock, Doug Gram, Kristina Bucaram, Megan Elizabeth, Rawvana, Dr. McDougall, etc.).

BUT…

If you don’t have a ton of weight to lose, when you switch to this lifestyle, you will likely not see a huge weight drop because it takes your body time to adjust to eating this way. Also, if you come from a past of calorie restriction and you start eating a LOT of calories on this lifestyle (3,000+), you may very well see a weight gain, although it should not be permanent.

In addition, if your immediate goal is to gain a lot of muscle, this might not be the best diet. There is no denying that protein does play some role in muscle gain, and you can gain muscle fast by eating a higher protein (and potentially higher fat, as it aids in muscle recovery) diet. BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT! That doesn’t mean you can’t gain muscle as a high carb low fat vegan! You definitely can.

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It may take more time. I know that when I first switched to 80/10/10, I felt a bit weaker when I was lifting in the gym, although this may have been for a lot of different reasons. Recently,however, I’ve been lifting heavy and seeing similar to identical progress as when I was eating much higher protein and fat, even though I’ve been strict 80/10/10. I think it just depends on the person, but the primary consideration is that you are feeding your body enough. If you eat primarily whole foods and workout and lift really hard, you are really going to have to pack the food in.

All that being said, I think that finding true health in a sustainable fashion is far more important than those last 10 lbs. or packing on a lot of muscle fast (especially because excess protein intake puts your body in an acidic and therefore disease promoting state, but more on that later).

Have I lost weight on Raw Til 4?

No, not really. First of all, when I began, I made sure I was eating at least 3,000 calories per day, as many experts recommend, because it ensures that you are always full and don’t have cravings for high fat or junk foods. I also work out a lot. Second, I haven’t been very consistent with 80/10/10 in the past few months. Because I am a summer associate at a law firm, I often have to eat lunch and/or dinner out, and I don’t always have control over the food that is served to me. Although I always make sure it is vegan and gluten free, sometimes it is quite high fat. Even eating this way and consuming around 3,000 calories per day, I have not gained any weight, which is why I say the diet really is flexible!

In the past 2 weeks, I have not had to eat very many meals out, so I’ve gotten back to eating only raw fruits and veggies until dinner time and a low fat, low sodium cooked dinner. I have immediately felt my body start to lean out. I am confident that if I stuck with this, I would see some weight loss, but that is not really a primary goal of mine right now.

Am I officially an 80/10/10er?

I suppose so! I don’t love the idea of labels, but it is a good way to describe how I eat, and there’s no point in avoiding labels just for the sake of avoiding labels. I don’t feel at all constrained by that label, and I may regularly eat things that don’t “fit” into the 80/10/10 construct, but I think that’s the beauty of the diet – you can mold it to fit your individual needs and desires while using it as a framework for healthy choices.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Concerns? Have you ever tried a “diet” you never thought you would try? Do you think a diet like this is “crazy” or too restrictive? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Cheers,

Avocado Athlete

Why Girls Should Lift Weights

Note: this post contains content and images that may be triggering for those struggling with body image or eating disorders.

This one has been brewing in my mind for a while. Today I want to share with you guys why I think ALL women can benefit from weight lifting! Here are my top reasons:

1) You’ll get a better body.

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Jenni Boynton Instagram (Vitality by Jenni)

Need I say more?

As many of you know, these ladies all lift weights like nobody’s business – squats, deadlifts, and yes, even bench press like the boys.

It will never cease to baffle me why girls starve themselves and spend hours and hours running or on the elliptical doing steady state cardio in order achieve some kind of dream body that we say the media has impressed upon us. Take a look at one of today’s hottest celebs as an example: 

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Notice that she’s not really stick thin. She’s quite famous for her athletic build.

Jessica Biel did not get that booty from spending 45 minutes at resistance 1-5 on the elliptical, ladies. She got it by squatting.

Check out this post written by a trainer whose clients are always asking for Jessica Biel’s body:

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If it’s true that girls want the type of body that people awe at in the media, then why aren’t they hitting the lifting floor?! Ok, I know this isn’t the whole story. Some women do really strive for a much thinner supermodel look, and models are notoriously anorexic or chronic undereaters. But when you really sit down and think about which girls the men in our society think are the hottest, I think we can all agree they look more like Jessica Biel. Do me a solid and try googling “Best Celeb Booties” right now. You’ll see what I mean.

So ladies, if it’s that dream body you want, get in the gym and start picking up some weights!

(I am NOT advocating that women do whatever pleases men. I am simply pointing out the flaw in the logic. If you want a “dream” body, the answer is not starving yourself!)

Now, some of you may think I’m being insensitive here. I don’t mean to take body image struggles or eating disorders lightly. Having recovered from pretty severe bulimia and many body image issues myself, I do not take those things lightly.

BUT.

[There’s always a butt.] Sorry, I had to.

I think that lifting can actually be a road to healing in and of itself, which leads me to my second point…

2) You’ll transform your mind.

Sorry kids, but this one has to have an a) and a b).

a) Something magical happens on that gym floor, and I know I’m not the only girl who has experienced it. You start lifting weights. You suddenly feel very sore. For days. So, for days, you are reminded how hard you pushed in the gym and still feel like you got a good workout days later. This can help end the endless cycle of working out every single day, which is a huge struggle for many women dealing with body image or eating disorders. When you still feel sore 2-3 days later, you feel like you’ve earned that rest day and don’t want to punish yourself for not going to the gym every day. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with going to the gym every day. If you love it, do it. I just know so many girls who force themselves to go to the gym every day so they can burn a certain number of calories to maintain a certain weight, and they don’t really enjoy it. They force themselves to go, and if they don’t, they feel guilty. Lifting can help provide a cure for that guilt that plagues so many women.

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b) You start to feel strong. Your body starts to feel actually strong. You start to feel invincible. You start to look forward to walking into that gym everyday because you know that you’re going to get to pick up a bigger and heavier weight than last time you were there. Unlike cardio, with lifting, you can see progress pretty quickly, especially if you are new to it. Not only do you commonly see physical changes faster, but you also see actual progress in terms of strength. It might take you months to increase the speed of your mile on the treadmill, but only one week to increase the weight you use on your shoulder press.

When you start to feel strong like this, you start to love and appreciate your body for what it can do. You start to see yourself as something worthwhile – something that is becoming better every day. I know when I was in the throes of my eating disorder, I felt so bad about myself and my body all the time. In order to feel better, I wanted to beat my body into submission by starving myself, throwing up after eating, or working out as long as I could to burn as many calories as I could. That was the only thing that would make me feel better about myself. With lifting, I no longer had the compulsive need to restrict food or do cardio for hours to get a specific calorie burn in order to punish myself for whatever I had eaten. Rather, I started to appreciate my body for what it could do because I saw it getting stronger every day. You start to realize that your body is strong, capable, phenomenal. On top of that, you don’t want to do restrict food anyway, because you start to see your food as fuel. If you do restrict, you start to really feel the lack of energy in the gym, and it makes you feel weak.

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3) You’ll empower yourself.

We are fickle humans, ever focused on the physical, the present, the here and now. There is something so much more real to us about things that are tangible, even though they may not actually be any more real than emotional or spiritual things. When you start to see physical progress in the gym, you suddenly feel so strong, and it’s not just a physical strength. That physical strength translates to mental, emotional, and spiritual strength. You start to feel like you can do anything, whether it be read a book, climb a mountain, get an A, start going to bed earlier, actually follow through on your meal prep, or talk to that guy you’ve been crushing on for 2 months. You suddenly feel like you might actually be able to do things you didn’t think you could do, because you are witnessing your body in the gym doing things that you didn’t think it could do.

4) You’ll learn a new skill.

The thing that keeps lifting so interesting for me is that there is always more to learn. From the basics likes squatting to more complicated moves like a Turkish get up to olympic style lifting like power cleans and snatches, there is always more to learn and perfect. Even when you perfect form, you can try to go heavier, and then you have to reperfect form all over again. The entire workout is as much a mental exercise as a physical one.

I know so many girls who do everything they can to just check out and distract themselves through their workouts – headphones, television, and a magazine to get through that dreadful 30-45 minutes on the treadmill. Instead, why don’t you find something more engaging!

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5) You’ll raise your metabolism.

Everyone knows that muscle burns more calories than fat. Each strength gain = muscle gain = higher metabolism = you can eat more! And you’ll worry much less about how much you are eating. This does not mean it’s a free for all on the cookies. Just like with any exercise, lifting progress depends on a “clean” diet, but for those who already eat a moderately clean diet while depending on cardio to burn calories to maintain a certain weight, this one is for you. You’ll be able to eat more, and I have found that my weight stabilized much more, meaning that when I had some junk food or a night out on the town, I did not see a quick 5lb. weight gain the way I used to. It was as though my body could just handle change much better and still look the same.

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Bonus: you’ll get guys’ attention!

You know, if you’re into that sort of thing ;) There are few things most guys love more than seeing a girl who knows her way around the lifting floor.

If you’re intimidated about the prospect of getting started, check out some beginner’s weight training guides online like this one:

Why Women Should Lift

A Lifting Plan for Beginners

If you can’t afford to have a trainer every week, see if you can afford to get one to work with you for just 1-5 sessions, and tell them you want to learn the basic lifts and come up with a routine you can follow on your own.

One last note: I hope none of you read this post to mean that I think you shouldn’t be doing cardio, or that there aren’t workouts that are just plain tough to get through. Of course! I do cardio, hop on the treadmill and stairclimber just like the next person (granted, it’s most often to do intervals, but I incorporate steady state cardio here and there too). My point is to those who are doing that day in and day out, suffering through it just to maintain a certain weight. No more! 

Cheers to lifting,

Avocado Athlete

(ps) Be sure to check out some other great fitness related posts at Fitness Friday!

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