The raw food diet is something that I always thought was pretty intense. It’s essentially vegan to an entirely different level, where no food or beverage can be heated to anything higher than 118 degrees. I always thought that the “science” behind this diet was hokum, but I’m also a little intrigued too and since I’m now in my off-season this would be the perfect time to test out whether raw foodism could work for a bodybuilder.
Let’s get into the science behind this diet first. The idea here is that food in its natural state is the most nutrient dense and that heating anything above 118 degrees will destroy its enzymes and in turn its nutritional value. The emphasis here is obviously lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with some raw whole grains that can be soaked and eaten uncooked like oats or raw buckwheat along with raw (unroasted) nuts, nut butters and some cold pressed oils. A lot of recipes involve using a dehydrator, especially to try a create things like crackers, flatbreads or wraps and many also include a lot of nuts and therefore fats, especially with dessert recipes. The really hardcore version of this involves taking it up a notch by not using any dehydrator, food processor or blender (as the belief is that the machine will heat up the food to a certain extent and destroy the enzymes) also grains are avoided (even ones that are raw), but there’s lots of sea vegetables consumed and fats are a minimal part of your diet. So in this case you’re eating a ton of fresh produce; notice I said fresh here as freezing is also believed to damage nutrients. A few things that are also avoided in general with this diet is coffee, as the beans are roasted, and soy proteins such as tofu and tempeh, since the soy beans are cooked in the processing. So yeah it’s pretty restrictive, but I was willing to give it a shot.
I decided to embark on a temporary raw food diet for at least a day. I made sure that it was a rest day as I figured that my carb and protein intake might be slightly off making weight training a big challenge. I didn’t go hardcore version here so I did include some grains and dehydrated snack foods to keep it interesting. I tried out all kinds of fun stuff like buckwheat porridge where I combine ground buckwheat with almond milk, hemp seeds, fresh peach slices and macadamia nuts. I also treated myself to the most amazing kale chips (I swear they were awesome) store bought of course, and cocoa almond energy bites, along with the standard salads, fresh veg and fruit. What I was very pleased to discover was that raw nuts and nut butters have a nice sweet taste to them that we actually don’t get from the roasted versions. I definitely prefer raw here and will probably incorporate more of this into my diet as it was super good. I did notice that my eating was pretty sporadic during the day though; I wasn’t really paying attention to how long I was waiting between meals and snacks, but I was also not eating the entire portions of food in each sitting either. I stopped when I felt like I had had enough, but I still wound up overeating at times…needless to say, intuitive eating is not for me. I also noticed that I was not getting a big amount of protein here but that my fat content was higher than usual. The truth about protein is that the average person eats double the amount of protein that they actually need and then some, so protein deficiencies are non-existent. In my case though, as a bodybuilder with significant muscle mass, I could feel it and the added fats definitely felt pretty heavy even though it was delicious. Everything I ate was really good, but when I got home I was ready for some solid and warm food.
That was Part 1 of my raw food adventure. Part 2 was a whole other story. I decided to embark on a 1 day juice fast. Yup, that’s right, no solid food only cold pressed juices for one day. I did my research ahead of time to see how to best prep for this and what to expect. In the days leading up to it I had cut out caffeine altogether started eating more raw fresh produce and slowly switched to cold meals like rice salads and overnight oats and also drinking lots of water. Obviously this juice cleanse would take place on a rest day over the weekend since I found that many claimed to have low energy levels while juicing. So I ordered my juices from a local shop and had them delivered to my home which was super convenient. Bare in mind that these cold pressed juices have all the pulp removed so they aren’t thick like a smoother and don’t have any fiber either. The thought behind a juice cleanse is that it’s easy to digest, it gives your body a break from trying to breakdown all of the foods that we eat, helps to remove and flush out toxins and hydrates you in the process. I’ve always been a bit weary of this because you’re body naturally detoxes itself via the liver (which is your body’s filter) and through excrement and sweating, so an actual detox isn’t really necessary. But I still wanted to give it a try. It actually was pretty good. The juices tasted really nice, I wasn’t starving or exhausted at all, I didn’t spend most of my day in the bathroom (as many people reported they had) and by the next day I had gotten rid of my post-contest bloat. I think the main benefit to this is to shed excess water weight and bloat but that’s pretty much it.
So there you have it, my raw food diet experiment was a semi-success. It was fun trying out new recipes and finding alternative treats at the grocery store, but long term I don’t think this will be a fulltime thing for me, especially during winter months. The thought of eating pineapple and raw almonds during a snow storm sounds pretty unappealing to me. During the warmer months I say bring it on! It is a great time to try out the local and seasonal produce and eating raw is very refreshing on a hot summer day. One thing we all know for sure is that we all need to eat more plants and less animal (whether dairy, fish, eggs or meat). Everyone needs more fiber, more micronutrients and less protein and dietary cholesterol which is only found in animal foods. This is the absolute truth, I guarantee you that no doctor will ever tell you to cut back on the veg, but they will tell you to cut back on the animal food, especially if you have an underlying health issue. So give raw food a chance, maybe not fulltime, but definitely through in some snacks like crudité or fruit and nuts, and have some raw meals too like overnight oats and all kinds of fun salads. Your abs, your digestive tract and your body will love you for it.
Start Strong, Finish Strong
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