Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nutrition: It's the booze, man...

Cycling is a weird subculture, especially the male side of the community. Just look at how we shave our legs and obsess about our weight. I'm guilty of both things. I'm more fixated on my weight than a ninth-grade girl. I've got to be like this because I usually ride a steel frame in a peloton of carbon geeks. I can't afford to be carrying any unnecessary weight.

When surfing the net or flipping through magazines, I've never skipped over an article about diets or weight loss. The other day, the MSN portal, which somehow became my default browser at work, had a story about the best slimming foods to eat (almonds, cinnamon, berries, yams and a few others according to recent dubious studies). Then there was this one on the Bike Radar site.

I usually find that the Bike Radar articles promise a lot but deliver little. Often, the zippy headline leads you into a story that gets bogged down in scientific jargon or just poor writing. But this article was OK, though a bit thin. It confirmed something I've recently learned about myself. I'm like Bradley Wiggins. Cutting alcohol from my diet is essential. I've never been a big drinker. Maybe a beer after work one or two nights during the weekday, and perhaps a glass or two of wine at dinner the rest of the week. On the weekends, I'd drink moderately because I usually need to get up early for a ride.

I never thought the drinking had much of an effect on my weight. But in the past couple months, I've pretty much stopped drinking. The most I'll do is have a Belgian beer as a sundowner on Sunday (A Duvel really knocks me out now!). The rest of the week, I won't imbibe a drop. Oh man, what a difference it has made! I've dropped from 78 to 75 kilos (actually, I think I'm in the 73-74 kilo range). For so long, I was stuck at 78 kilos on my 1.83 meter frame, but knocking out the alcohol really helped me break that barrier. It's all about empty calories, and alcoholic drinks are full of them. A fellow rider with a scientific bent recently gave me a long, technical explanation about how alcohol slows down your metabolism. Maybe, possible, I guess.

Cutting out the alcohol wasn't the only change. I also stopped eating desert, which again wasn't a huge amount of calories in my household (maybe a few cookies, a chunk of chocolate or a small bowl of ice cream) but it adds up. I also stopped eating seconds at dinner (back to Bike Radar article: Lance Armstrong on calories). I used to do this because I'd come home from work ravenously hungry. I'd snarf down the first plate of food in minutes and wander into the kitchen like a bear looking for more. What I do now is take a snack break at 3 or 4 p.m. at work. I'll cut up a couple apples or eat a handful of nuts and that will take the edge off my hunger. So when I get home, I'm less likely to pig out.

The other day, I was digging through my files and found a copy of the medical exam I needed to take to get my visa when I arrived in Guangzhou 2.5 years ago. My weight was 83 kilos! To be fair, that was after a month of home leave in the U.S., where I binged on Tex-Mex food, drank beer every night and didn't exercise much (a daily morning run of 30 minutes). But losing about 10 kilos is absolutely huge for a bike rider, though it seems the hills are really killing me lately.

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