raw foods – first experiences

I have been on 100% raw foods for a little over 2 weeks now. I’m roughly following Doug Graham’s 80-10-10 program. The short version of how 80-10-10 breaks down is: eat macronutrients in the ratio: 80% (or more) carbs, 10% (or less) protein, 10% (or less) fat; all raw & vegan; and plenty of exercise, sleep, and sunshine. It translates into: eat a lot of raw fruit, particularly tropical fruits which are more voluminous and calorically dense, and a lot of raw vegetables, particularly green leafies. A small amount of avocado or a handful of nuts/seeds a day is all that’s allowed to stay under 10% fat.

For the moment, I’m following the strict version (no overt fats), except that I am supplementing vitamin B12 (if you’re considering not supplementing b12, please consider this article first!).

Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far.

Subjective things

Digestion is much better. This surprised me, because I didn’t think I had problems until I changed and discovered how much better it could be. With fruit monomeals as typical now, my digestive system does not struggle. Even if I overeat — which I used to fear because of the consequences — my system struggles a little but catches up in less than an hour. As a general rule, it finishes digesting a meal in minutes, not hours, freeing up all that digestive energy for me to use as I please.

My cardiovascular system feels much happier. Sure, it’s just subjective, but my heart feels like it never has to work very hard, even when exercising. I would not be surprised to find that my blood pressure is lower (unfortunately, I don’t have data on that from before the change either..).

On about the second or third night on the strict raw regimen, I noticed I was up all night peeing — what felt like about once an hour. When I woke up in the morning, I had lost 7 or 8 pounds. The only explanation I can find is this was a salt detox — the salt had been causing water retention in my tissues.

Within a couple of days on the diet, my energy took off like a rocket. I was unstoppable, running twice as far as I have in years, cycling much faster, doing more pullups, yoga felt much freer and easier — with more energy, almost everything was easier. In fact, I had so much energy that I found myself wanting to clean the kitchen in the middle of the night, go out with friends more, and just generally do stuff all the time, because life is so much easier with lots of energy. I attribute the increase in energy to a major shift towards high net gain foods, as well as simply getting sufficient carbohydrate to fuel my activities for the first time in years.

It’s not all wine and roses however. After the first couple of days, I started feeling spacey. I’m still spacey much of the time, excepting just after lots of strenuous exercise, and first thing in the morning. I’m particularly spacey after eating a lot of carbs. Could it just be lack of sufficient sleep? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s all the sugar. I do seem to notice it is more pointed just after a large sweet fruit meal.

Having all this energy, I was using it like crazy. And I wasn’t getting sufficient sleep, because I was too energized to stay in one place. And so I started to run out of fuel, both calorically and rest-ly. I hit a wall. By July 10th dinnertime, I felt lightheaded and like I was going to pass out. Luckily, I had a clue as to why:

I’m an active person. I ride my bike almost everywhere, and walk everywhere else. On top of that, I do 1-2 hours of yoga every day and almost every day I go out for some form of focused cardio exercise. On some days I add weight training. All this adds up to a need for quite a few calories. With fruit as the primary source of calories, I was caught off guard by just how much fruit is necessary to get to an adequate level of calories. As you can see in the graph above, when I started tracking things I quickly learned that I wasn’t getting even close to enough calories at first.

A typical day’s food

That is: about a half a watermelon for breakfast, some 10 bananas and half a head of lettuce for lunch, munching on fava beans and lettuce throughout the afternoon, and 5 bananas plus 4 mangos and 2 large kale/carrot/cucumber salads for dinner.

Analysis

The macronutrient ratio is 88-8-4. You may be surprised to find that with almost no “protein” foods (except a few fava beans), I’m already at 8% or 68g, which is over the CDC’s recommendation of 56 grams and sufficient, even for athletes, by a healthy margin according to all the research I’ve seen. Naturally, my glycemic load is high, but that’s to be expected on a high-carb diet. The theory goes that on a low fat diet this is not an issue.

It appears that the minerals I may need to watch are selenium and zinc, and the vitamins to watch are D, E, and B12. Everything else is off the charts.

Here’s an interesting one.. my omega 3/6 fat ratio is 1:2, when the theory goes that I want it to be close to 1:1. I wonder what a teaspoon of ground flax seeds would do to this number..

Again we can see that Zinc and Selenium are possibly on the low side. Calcium is also not super high. Sodium at 516mg is more than enough — research shows that around 200mg is sufficient. The RDAs are crazy high simply because you probably won’t die as long as you stay under 2000, not because you need that much.

Vitamins are where fruit works its magic. Check out all the loads of vitamin A goodnesses, and the vitamin C and K through the roof. Again, need to watch vitamin D (get lots of sunshine, supplement in the winter), b12 (supplement), and E (maybe a handful of the right kind of nuts?).

Challenges

Cost

All this fruit can cost a lot! Especially when organic. It’s been a learning experience, but I think soon I will have my cost down in the vicinity of $20/day or less. The day above cost about $25 (rough estimate). Buying some non-organic produce helps (using the dirty dozen/clean 15 helps here), as does choosing the right kinds of fruit. Bananas are cost effective, watermelon are pretty good, mangos, oranges decent. On the other hand, getting my primary calories from blackberries or even peaches would break the bank in a day.

Ripening

Just the other day I was caught with no calorie-dense, ripe fruit. I had to scour the town until I managed to find a bunch of ripe, organic bananas. And today, it seems all my bananas are ripe at once! It’s going to take some practice to have enough, but not too much, ripe fruit every day.

Calories

Eating large volumes of food is a new habit, and it continues to challenge me to get enough calories, particularly when I’m highly active.

Focus

While physically I feel better than I have in years, mentally I’m struggling to be as focused as before. Perhaps that’s because I have so much more energy and I haven’t figured out how to direct/channel it yet. Or it could be all the sugar.. or it could have to do with not getting enough sleep.

Balance

Right now, I get rocketship energy and so I go flying around the neighborhood at 1000 miles an hour, and then come crashing down. I want to learn to balance this energy so that I have smooth, vibrant energy almost all the time.

Anxieties

With a new diet come a new set of worries — will my teeth rot out of my head or will something else horrible happen to me? Oh well, I guess there’s always something to worry about.

Cravings!

Every fatty or salty food I see looks so delicious! My mouth waters! Perhaps this will abate, at least the fatty one, once I add more overt fats back in. Withdrawal, or natural survival instinct? Who knows?