Our idea of what constitutes "food" in American culture has become so skewed that it is almost unrecognizable. Our supermarkets are packed with products whose ingredients include unpronounceable chemicals, dyes, bacteria, and growth hormones. They are irradiated without our consent and contain GMOs.It's time to bring back FOOD. Pure unadulterated organic RAW food.This blog is a documentation of my continuing journey on a plant-based lifestyle.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Cane Juice Chronicles:Improving Your Fitness Naturally!

Time for a cane juice update!

Bananas + Cane Juice = Heavenly!

Running for me has always been somewhat of a leisure activity. It was simply something that I enjoyed doing, however, I was never actively trying to improve nor was I tracking my progress. Most of my running took place on a treadmill as a warm up before a spin class or when I wanted to take a day off from Bikram.

When I moved from NYC to California, where the weather is simply too beautiful to NOT run outside, I decided I wanted to devote more time to running and work on improving my pace and overall endurance.

This meant figuring out how to properly fuel these runs as most of them (at least initially) would be taking place after my morning Bikram class. I needed to figure out a way to restore my reserves and then some so that I would have enough fuel to power me through the run.

Pre-July, all of my runs were either fueled by watermelon, banana smoothies, or dateorade. And I've had varying success with all three of these:
  •  Watermelon being the least effective because I personally found that despite it's hydrating qualities it would give me melon belly before the run and then I would get very sharp cramps in my left arm/chest and sometimes burning between my shoulder blades.
  •  Banana smoothies (10+ bananas + water) I found to be very effective with minimal cramping because of the high amount of potassium and electrolytes. Though with smoothies as pre-running meals I think you always have to be careful to not drink too much or else you will find yourself feeling like you have a belly full of smoothie which is muy uncomfortable when you're trying to run, especially speed-wise. There were a few times when I made the mistake of drinking too much and I found myself experiencing some reflux. It's important to listen to your body and take those inner cues - you're body will tell you when it has had enough. 
  • And lastly, dateorade -- or as I like to refer to it now, "the poor man's cane juice!" Dateorade I would say is my preferred pre-meal before a run if I can't get cane juice. If you have never heard of or tried this delicious drink I would highly suggest you get on it right away! Datorade is just simply dates + water, blended. Dates in and of themselves are a popular running fuel for plant-based athletes because they are full of efficiently-burning simple sugars (carbs!), minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, and vitamins like vitamin K. They are also a great source of iron! I'm a big fan of dates and I eat them pretty much every day. If you have trouble controlling your "sweet tooth" and by that I mean you consistently crave sugary processed foods like cakes, cookies, candy- try switching to dates as a more nutritious way to satisfy those cravings. You will find that once your carbohydrate quotas have been reached you won't have the desire to reach for sugary or overtly fatty processed foods! With dateorade I have experienced no cramping as long as I am properly hydrated after Bikram, which I think is a given anyway. (With watermelon and banana smoothies, even if I drink water 30 mins before, I still get cramping or the burning sensation.) Dateorade's simple carbs + fibre allow me to re-fuel post-yoga and give me enough long-lasting energy to sustain a hard run. 
 In July I happened to come across the Raw Cane SuperJuice Bar at the Hollywood Farmers Market. They are always giving away samples of all of their delicious blends and even make a variety of cane juice smoothies there as well! I tried some and was hooked! At the time, and mostly because of it's name "cane sugar juice" I felt like it was really nothing more than very tasty sugary water. Ding! Ding! Ding! I remember leaving thinking to myself, "wow, this would be really great for running because it is a juice so my cells would soak up the sugar really fast and it would nice and light on the tum which would allow me to avoid cramping."
After that, I began going on Sunday's to the store to pick up cane juice and I would drink it after Bikram and before my runs.

In the past, my legs always felt heavy during at least the very first mile of my run and it wasn't until after that where I would be able to pick up my pace and find my stride. And I think that is perhaps the most noticeable difference for me between when I drink cane juice before my runs and when I don't. If I drink the cane juice I can go out with a bang and sustain that powerful energy during the whole run and my legs feel strong. Honestly, it feels like I am gliding or even flying. I feel this deep energy from within and I am able to push harder than I normally do, but without as much effort.

As I said before, I was under the impression that it was only the poly-saccharides from the cane juice that were the reason behind the increase in my performance. However, after talking to Rey from Raw Cane SuperJuice Bar and doing a bit of research, I found out some very interesting info about cane juice and why it is so effective for improving athletic performance.

Sugar cane juice is actually a grass and only about 15% sugar despite it's sweet taste! (And still low glycemic; only about a 30-40 whereas refined sugar is around a 60!)  Think wheatgrass or barely grass, but actually palatable and with slightly less chlorophyll.  And as you know, freshly pressed grass juices are some of the most nourishing juices we can consume as they are plentiful in live enzymes, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and even complete chains of amino acids, which allow our bodies to build and convert usable protein. That's right, you heard me, protein!

When I discussed with Rey how I felt my performance had improved and how my body felt overall during a run (and even post-run) she asked me why I thought this might be. And I told her that I always focus on how I can get the most sugar with my pre-workout meals aka glucose that my body will convert and use for energy. And she told me that was correct in that fruit and things like dateorade are rich in poly-saccharides that the body uses as energy, but that cane juice was unique in that it contains a whole host of specific minerals, much like you would find in wheat grass. And that's what makes cane juice so powerful! Not only are you getting the boost in energy from the sugars, but you are also flooding your body with all these minerals etc. that you might not otherwise get with dateorade, bananas, or watermelon.

The key ingredient here is chlorophyll. "Chlorophyll delivers a continuous energy transfusion into our bloodstream, replenishing and increasing red blood cell count. And since hemoglobin carries oxygen to our cells, increasing hemoglobin thereby increases the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen and delivers us increased levels of oxygen..." (More benefits about chlorophyll/)

Increased oxygen = more efficient running.

So, let's take a look at my stats for some good hard evidence. Click the individual photos to zoom.

Break in graph due to hip injury

If you look at my runs pre-July (focusing mostly on June) you can see that I am in the high 8's/9's as far as pace goes and that there is a lack of consistency in my pace overall. If you wish to examine further, you can check out my Runtastic online where it shows my mile splits. From looking over them myself, it seemed that I had a tendency to go out too fast in the beginning because I was trying to gain more power in my legs by pushing hard, I would lag in the middle, and then have to go all out at the end to try to finish within my time goals. If you take notice of the notes I made, many of the non-cane juice runs express my frustration with my legs feeling like lead. I can say for certain, that when I drink cane juice before a work out I do not experience this at all. My legs feel light, and as I mentioned, sometimes it feels like I am just flying!

Now, my runs after beginning to incorporate cane juice into my routine, you can see a steady improvement. Whereas before I am hovering in the high 8's/9's I am slowly making progress and my speed is increasing therefore my pace per mile is moving into the low 8's/ high 7's and for some post-Bikram runs I made sure to document my first mile time. For me, 7:14 for the first mile feeling rather effortless is a HUGE accomplishment.

As far as recovery goes, I think cane juice far surpasses any commercial sports drinks or supplements. I noticed an incredible difference in my recovery time as far as sore muscles and fighting inflammation. Much like wheatgrass, cane juice increases alkalinity in the body which is very important for muscle repair and regeneration. An athlete with an acidic constitution is more prone to injuries. Many supplements and sports protein drinks on the market are extremely acid-forming and actually may decrease performance overall.

According to Brandon Brazier, triathlete and owner of Vega, "Athletes in peak training are the most affected by acidosis...for recovery to be expedited, alkalizing foods, such as those rich in chlorophyll, need to be consumed soon after exercise. Protein must also be consumed to help repair broken down muscle tissue. As with processed energy bars, numerous sport supplements touted as post-workout recovery agents contain highly processed, manufactured proteins usually in the form of denatured isolates, which are acid-forming. Suggestion they be consumed soon after a workout will fulfill the body's need for protein, but completely neglect its need for pH balancing." (Excerpt from The AAA Diet by Paul Fanny Ph.D.)

As discussed earlier, sugar cane juice contains the amino acids, chlorophyll, and sugars necessary to facilitate not only a successful workout, but it's alkalizing effect on the body is a much better choice recovery-wise over your typical energy products.

Overall, I would say incorporating sugar cane juice has been hugely beneficial, not just for my running but, for my overall health. And I believe this experiment just goes to show that animal products, sugary energy drinks, and depleting protein powders are not necessary for improving athletic performance!

There is serious power in adhering to a mainly plant-based diet and incorporating nutrient-rich, delicious, sugar cane juice can only enhance those benefits.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Exotic Eats!

Happy Thursday everyone! Time for a small update!

"Open heart, open mind."

Getting my stretch on before Bikram. I'm on Day #3 of my 100 day Bikram yoga challenge. (I will be talking more about this next week after my Friday update on The Cane Juice Chronicles)

Still drinking cane juice like it's my job. It's been so beneficial for alleviating sore muscles. I can't wait to share my findings with you guys as far as my running goes!

I've also been eating ginormous quantities of jackfruit lately. We've been going up to San Gabriel Valley to hit up 99 Ranch at least once a week and we've been getting 2 15-20 lb. jackfruits at a time...which I polish off all by myself by the end of the week.

Sweet and juicy! So much yum!

If you've never had jackfruit it kind of tastes like pineapple and bubblegum. In fact, it is rumored that Juicy Fruit Gum was supposed to mimic the flavor of this exotic fruit.

I wasn't really into jackfruit like this until recently when I went to a Fruitluck and had the most bombing fresh jackfruit! After that, I was hooked. There is such a clear difference in taste and texture in fresh jack vs. frozen jack. I find frozen jackfruit to be very chewy and almost gummy. It's decent, but if you really want to experience everything this fruit has to offer I would suggest biting the bullet and picking up a fresh one.

It should be soft and fragrant when ripe; I've read that it should smell a bit over-ripe and that's a good sign that you've got a delicious jackfruit on your hands.

Durian! King of fruits!

Also, this happened today. Everyone's favorite stinky fruit, mmmm DURIAN! I, personally, do not find it's smell that offensive, but I know lots of people do. To the extent that in Asian countries where this fruit originated, Thailand, for example- this fruit is banned in hotels, buses, trains, most public venues. Poor Durian, but that's ok because what it lacks in appealing smell it makes up for with the most amazingly creamy, sweet, almond-y vanilla custard!

A lovely treat for a beautiful, sunny Thursday in California!

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday and don't forget to keep it Postively Plant-Powered! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hollywood 10K; The Cane Juice Chronicles

Last week I posted on my Facebook page (Positively Plant-Powered; like, follow, and share if you haven't already!) some very exciting news:

This coming April I will be running the Hollywood 10k and one of my absolute favorite local LA businesses, Raw Cane SuperJuice Bar, will not only be sponsoring me, BUT -- they will also be providing me with sugar cane juice as my fuel for training and race day!

 I feel extremely grateful for this opportunity because let's be real here, me + cane juice = match made in heaveeennn! If you follow my instagram (you must! I post lots of yummy food pics! RawFoodNerd, yes, do it!) I am continually professing my love of this liquid gold elixir and seek it out often. (And you should too, as you will not be sorry - they frequent several farmers markets throughout the week in the LA area.) I am so far from being one of those head in the cosmos 'feel the life-force, mannn'-types, but seriously, when I drink sugar cane juice I can feel it pulsing through my veins; pure energy, simple and sweet! Robby & Rey, owners of Raw Cane SuperJuice Bar, are definitely onto something here!

Cane juice 4 daysss!

While training with cane juice, I intend to document this entire process on the blog so that I can share this experiment with all of you! My intentions are not only to show the amazing benefits that can be achieved athletically while incorporating this super-charged green juice, but to further prove that animal products, crazy energy drinks, and protein powders are not necessary when it comes to training/reaching your fitness goals.

Ever had wheatgrass juice? Didn't really enjoy the taste? Well, sugar cane plus the chlorophyll here is like taking all the amazing properties of wheatgrass juice (minus the unpalatability) and combining them with sugar cane to make an incredibly powerful SUPER juice! 

As I document this process I plan to take a closer look as to why cane juice works so well as training fuel and compare it to my other pre/post training 'meals' (mostly smoothies or organic fruit juices). I want to look at the nutritional profiles of cane juice vs. other sports drinks outside the raw/vegan realm. And furthermore, I intend to put together a little PDF book of my favorite cane juice recipes that I will be able to share with you all!

In order to be completely transparent here, I will be uploading my Runtastic stats onto the blog and you can also find me on Strava (Alysha Maiorelli-Wyrauch).

I leave you will this -- an awesome compilation of sugar cane juice factoids!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Learning to Love, Happy Valentine's Day!

I am going to get a bit unconventional here today and choose to acknowledge Valentine's Day as a way we can ALL celebrate not just loving others, but loving ourselves as well! 

Carob-Date Caramel Covered Strawberries!
For an easy sweet treat, that's healthy and delicious, try dipping strawberries in Carob-Date Caramel Sauce (Equal parts pitted dates of your choosing + coconut water + 1-2 tablespoons of carob powder, blend!) and popping it in the freezer for an hour. So much yum!

Learning to love yourself, for who you are AT THIS MOMENT, is so important as you embark on your journey towards a healthier lifestyle. 

Without getting too cliche here, it really is true that your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you will ever have. If you don't take care of yourself-- your body and mind, what good are you to other people? 

For the longest time I looked at food and exercise as a rewards/punishment system. Even though I was eating a 100% plant-based, vegan, low fat raw diet! My exercise correlated to what I could and couldn't eat; if I did Bikram and then ran at the gym then I deserved to eat two durian, but if I didn't then I was lazy and I wasn't worthy of indulging in my favorite food. This would then correlate to how I perceived my body overall; my abs weren't visible enough, my stomach wasn't completely flat, my jeans felt a bit tighter. Even when it came to normal food consumption, I had rules that I had set for myself in regards to eating and often this translated to this feeling of constantly needing to be moving, expending energy -- earning my food. I couldn't just sit back and relax. I felt manic and stressed. 

In essence, just because I changed the way I was eating, didn't mean that my negative view of myself or my body dis-morphia, that manifested in high school when I began dieting, magically went away as I thought it would. I was still ALWAYS THINKING ABOUT FOOD. And granted, I love food, and I love making food, but the way I was always thinking about food wasn't healthy. 

Food and exercise should never be used in a rewards system situation no matter how healthy you are eating. Food and exercise are about nourishing your body and soul, end of story. 

It wasn't until I got some disappointing blood tests back that I finally was able to take a step back and say, "Woah, what am I doing to myself here?" and "Is this really all worth it?" (Let me be clear in saying that I was never restricting calories- I still ate huge portions and never counted calories.) I realized that this obsessive routine I had created around food and exercise was interfering with what I wanted to do in my life. And I began to look at the larger picture in that, when I look back, twenty years from now, am I going to be happy? Ultimately, the answer was, "no." 

Somewhere along that way I had begun to equate the way I looked, how my clothes fit, etc. with how much I valued myself and in turn, how much the people in my life loved me. I felt like if I looked a certain way then they would love me more. It is a common way of thinking, but extremely deluded, especially since no one in my life EVER gave me a reason to feel that way. I allowed myself to be consumed with negative thoughts, anger, and simply never feeling worthy. 

It took time and a lot of dedication to change 10+ years of thinking, but learning to love who I am, right now, was key. Allowing myself to relax a little and not put so much pressure on myself to be perfect and always in control was another big step. And I think just learning to trust my overall natural instinct again was very important. 

So, on this day of love, if you are feeling unworthy, self-conscious, angry, sad, alone - just take a minute, breathe in deep, and allow yourself to feel all these things. Then exhale them all out, let them go. Really, just let it all go. Tell yourself that you are worth it. Whatever body you are in right now, LOVE IT. 

Once you accept that you are perfect as you are right now then achieving all the other goals you have set for yourself, will be that much more possible. 

Hope you all have a sweet, positive, self-LOVING day! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I Eat Wedesday, Raw Vegan Persimmon Pudding & Soft-Serve!

What to do when you've got 40 + pounds of ooey gooey sweet ripe end of the season persimmons left? Well, you make persimmon pudding of course! ...And then you top it with double vanilla soft-serve and mulberry-graham... Boom! The ultimately guilt-free, dairy-free, nut-free power bowl! 

Persimmon Pudding w. Double Vanilla Soft-Serve topped with Mulberry-Graham

Part of living this lifestyle is buying fruit in bulk. And if you are like me, you tend to kind of over do it sometimes when your favorite fruit comes into season! Other than durian, persimmons are my favorite fruit. As you can tell, I am very pro-versility here and I like fruit that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. (Check out my previous post here for my Butter Lettuce/Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles) w. Tomato-Persimmon Ginger Dressing and here for my Festive Persimmon Salad w. Spicy Persimmon & Sun-dried Tomato Dressing)

This is the ultimate twist on your standard sundae, without the habitual guilty conscious that typically follows. You should never feel guilty about eating nourishing bowls of delicious goodness like this. Fruit is fuel. Not just for your body, but for your brain. Recent studies have shown that fruit raises serotonin levels in the brain and serotonin is a lovely little chemical that keeps us feeling happy; who doesn't want more of that? 

Here is what you will need: 

  • 10 ripe, peeled, frozen bananas 
  • 5-6 ripe (soft and squishy) persimmons 
  • 10 dates 
  • 1.5 cups of dried mulberries (Hunza is my favorite brand) 
  • 1 cup coconut sugar (optional) 
  • a vitamix or food processor 
In a food processor or vitamix, pulse your mulberries + coconut sugar until you have a crumbly, flour like consistency. Sometimes, if I am craving a bit more texture I will reserve some mulberries and add them in afterwards, only pulsing a couple of times so I still get some lovely chewy bits mixed throughout. 
Put your mulberry-graham to the side in a separate container. 

Next, let's make the double vanilla soft serve! 
I use a vitamin here so it is a bit easier for me because I can throw the bananas in whole and get a great arm workout while using the tamper to push the bananas into the blade. However, if you are using a blender or a food processor, this will be a bit more of a time consuming task. 
For the blender you are going to want to make sure your bananas are a bit thawed and cut into smaller chunks that way it will be easier for the blade to chop them up. I would add 1-2 T of coconut water first to assist in the blending. I would also recommend doing this in advance that way you can throw your soft serve back in the freezer if it gets too melty. 
If you are using a food processor I would suggest also cutting your bananas into chucks and only blending half of the bananas straight through. Then pulse in the rest so that it helps maintain the soft-serve like consistency that we are going for here. 
For the double vanilla kick, I use Vanilla Powder + 1-3 drops Sweetleaf Vanilla Stevia. However, you can feel free to use alcohol-free vanilla extract, whole vanilla bean, or Vanilla-infused Coconut Sugar!  
For the persimmon pudding I throw all my persimmons into the vitamix or blender with my 10 dates and puree until super smooth. 

Now comes the fun part, assembling & eating! 

In nice big bowlI pour in my persimmon pudding. Then I layer on my double vanilla soft-serve. And lastly, I top it with a whole lot of mulberry-graham! Feel free to assemble or add your own little twist to this sundae!

This is a less artfully layered version where I did persimmon pudding, double vanilla soft-serve,  more persimmon pudding and topped it with date caramel and mulberry-graham. 

For more of my daily eats, tips, and recipes check out my Facebook page, Postively Plant-Powered or my instagram: RawFoodNerd.