by Julie Cornelius, MS
From Potential Energy Training athlete Regina:
One medium iced mocha and a chocolate croissant. That’s how my mornings used to start. I mean, as an adult who can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, who wouldn’t start their morning this way?
I’ve been practicing law for the last 10 years and got into this habit to motivate myself to slay stressful 12-hour days. Except the “motivation” didn’t end with that first morning coffee and croissant. I found myself craving more sugary coffee by 10am and would typically indulge in at least one or two more drinks throughout the day. That was to get me through the afternoon crash where all I wanted to do was crawl under my desk and power nap.
When I began cycling, the sugar was even easier to rationalize. I’m working out a bunch, so it’s not like I’m going to gain weight…. Plus, nothing compares to the taste of a Coke when you’re at the bottom of Skull Valley, about to ride 25 miles back up to the Prescott Courthouse. And when you finish, nothing compares to salted caramel gelato. Oh and when you get home, you should obviously also make homemade pie crust and drench it in sugar and cinnamon. And before bed, a bag of dried pineapple is super-healthy.
I’d tried to moderate things, promising to only have one coffee drink, or not to buy ice cream or cookies, but that would only last about 3 hours. I’d start thinking about cookie dough and break down. Even writing this is making me crave chocolate. I am not good at moderation.
That all changed in October when Julie and I had the opportunity to head up to Santa Cruz to ride mountain bikes with friends from Norco and Mtbr.com. As I ordered my steady-stream of sugar coffee and ice cream, I watched her silently take stock of my out of control diet. I mean, I wasn’t shy about admitting how much I love sugar and how it helps me get through stressful and emotional times. I’m an addict. So when she told me that she could help me quit, I accepted the challenge fully thinking that I’d last maybe 5 days. Maybe. Especially since Halloween and Thanksgiving and pretty much the entire holiday season was just ahead. There’s no way I could stick with a no added sugar diet for more than a few days. (And honestly, why would I want to?)
When I got back to Phoenix, Julie sent me an e-mail with a bunch of questions about my schedule, workouts, and food likes/dislikes to gauge how to structure my quit sugar plan (and how bad a client I’d actually be). That’s when she told me I’d have to quit cold turkey. And that’s when I thought, I’m so screwed. The day before I quit added sugar, I ate ice cream and chocolate all day. I ate so much sugar that I felt sick to my stomach going to bed.
The first week was a nightmare. I felt horrible. Tired, grumpy, and straight-up craving anything with added sugar. I wanted to put my face in buttercream icing. Except all I could eat was dried fruit (with no added sugar – you’re pretty much limited to apricots) and a maximum of 2 tablespoons of honey per day. FML. I went through so many $9 bags of dried, unsweetened pineapple in the first week that my mouth actually started getting cuts from eating the sharp bits. At this rate, I wouldn’t be able to afford to quit. All I could think about was sugar and I constantly ate other foods because I just could not satisfy my cravings. I was pretty sure I would gain at least 10 pounds this way.
After the first week, nothing got easier. And, nutrition on the bike was incredibly hard. I couldn’t eat my Salted Caramel Gu (my kitchen is still full of unopened boxes) or really any bars/gels/blocks. So, I ate nothing for a while and that was horrible. Julie told me to eat dried fruit and gave me other options, but I am still having to re-train my body to fuel off of something other than straight sugar and caffeine.
Now, it’s been almost 2 months and I’ve only had one slip-up. It was on Flight of the Pigs, the day after Thanksgiving. FOTP is a 75-mile mountain bike ride that traverses the entire National Trail from one end of South Mountain to the other, then heads up to Phoenix Mountain Preserve to ride all of Trail 100, then heads down to Papago Park to ride those trails, then back to where we started. It’s a long day. I ate and ate dried fruit, rice cakes, chips, sandwiches, iced tea (unsweetened) and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on. But, by the 11th hour of the ride, I was bonking hard. Nothing I ate was helping anymore. When I finished, I slammed a Coke and don’t even remember how it tasted. I may have eaten the can.
Long story short, I don’t have afternoon crashes anymore and I feel like I have more energy. I don’t feel that I’m under a constant sugar haze and am not thinking about where I’m going to get my next fix. And when my co-workers at Rage Cycles try to harass me into eat Dutch waffles and soda, it’s so much easier to ignore them. I’ve lost weight, gotten leaner, and generally feel stronger (both physically and mentally). I’ll be racing my first full season as a pro enduro racer in 2016 and can’t wait to see how things turn out.
I told Julie in October that if I can quit added sugar, anyone could quit. I never thought I’d be in my second month of quitting writing a blog about how other people should do this. So stop thinking about quitting and just quit.
Julie Cornelius, MS is Co-founder of Potential Energy Training & Nutrition. She has an extensive background in nutrition and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition. She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Julie helps individuals to meet their nutrition goals, whether it is eating to win an endurance mountain bike race, losing weight, or just eating to be healthier. Connect with Julie: email@example.com.