My motivation for changing my eating habits are always high directly after the New Years. But changing habits takes a lot of effort and needs great motivation. We more or less all know what healthy foods are, but still we all tend to have certain cravings. I know for example that my running should sometimes benefit from me eating oats in the morning for breakfast, but my unbreakable habit (ritual) is to drink a cup of coffee together with my two bread slices topped with creamy butter, cheese, and cucumber. I had this morning ritual for at least six years. Very seldom do I eat something else even though I am educated enough to know the fact that my food choices are sometimes too monotone. So, I need motivation to change them.
Perfect in timing I received an e-mail from a friend in Poland about “Your 50 Days of Green Happiness” that motivated me to try the vegan way of eating. I prepared a yummy stew from black beluga lentils, carrots and herbs (similar to a Bolognese) and stuffed this into tortilla wraps. The taste was delicious, however both my husband and I had the feeling that a meal consisting of a wrap full of lentils tended to be a bit too carbo-loaded. And this is my problem with eating vegan. My experience is that if I train hard and do not eat enough protein in a week, it tends to weaken my immune system and I become much more prone to illness. So, to fulfill the amounts of protein that I need in a week with vegan protein-rich foods, I need to consume a lot. But these plant-based foods, such as beans, lentils, and peas are just not only rich in protein but also contains approximately the same amount of carbohydrates. With too much carbohydrates in my diet I tend to gain a bit of weight, and gaining weight is not what a runner wants (in another post I will write more about my experiments with finding my ideal running weight). Thus, to keep me motivated in trying this vegan path I asked my vegan and ultra-marathon running friend Fredrika Gullfot about her eating habits.
Meet the Queen of Algae Fredrika Gullfot
Fredrika Gullfot is just not an ultra-marathon runner, she also holds a doctor of science in biotechnology, is the founder, and the CEO of Simris Alg – a Swedish biotech-startup company that produces omega-3 supplements from green algae (more details about fats and omega-3 supplements in a new article to be published soon on the blog under #Science of Exercise&Nutrition). Recently, Fredrika was one of the thirteen WIRED2015 Innovation Fellows who spoke at WIRED2015 in London. WIRED showcases innovators changing the world, promotes disruptive thinking, and radical ideas with Fredrika taking part in the session, ”Startups with impact”. At the moment Fredrika is not only working to expand her company to full industrial scale, she is also preparing the company for an IPO on the NASDAQ OMX First North exchange, and herself for a long distance hike/run adventure – either the 272 miles Long Trail in Vermont, or trails in the Mount Olympus region in Greece. There is no doubt that Fredrika is a successful woman with drive, but what about her eating habits? Does she have time to think about “healthy”-eating?
Fredrika and I are research colleagues from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. During the autumn 2006, me and Fredrika spent two weeks in the Belgian city Ghent doing kinetic experiments in glycoscience that ended in a co-authorship for a scientific article. I am proud to say that I had a positive influence on Fredrika’s choice to start a running career. When I just brought my running shoes to Ghent, and easily went out for my daily morning runs, Fredrika was hunting for a gym. When she finally found one, on a day when we did not spend too many hours in the lab, she ended up on the treadmill only to share the air with a pair of smokers sitting in the gym bar. At the same time, Fredrika has inspired me into the thinking that nothing is impossible. She is also the woman who taught me the 1-Hour rule. Whenever you have a difficult task or a project in front of you that worries you, the only thing you have to do at that moment is to sit down and give the task your full attention for one hour. After one hour of focused worked you are started and the rest will just follow.
In 2007, Fredrika started her running career and she soon realized she preferred the longer distances, especially the ultra-long races. Her best season (so far) is 2009 when she was top 20 on “Lidingö Ultra 50 km” (5:24:36) and the first lady to cross the finish line after 80.2 km of running the trails in “The Gax 50 miles” race. (12:28:36). Fredrika says on her training blog (http://www.intothewild.se/) that running for her is less about sports and overall fitness, and more about the adventure and the pure nature experience you receive by running in the nature for a day. She also never got this whole thing about being “high” on Endorphins after exercise, instead she trains to expand her limits, challenging herself for new and even more exciting adventures. As Fredrika says it herself: “A strong, fit and healthy body just simply means that I can enjoy more of the things life has to offer”.
Being a CEO for a startup company and at the same time trying to train for ultra-distance events is a puzzle which needs a certain skill, a skill that Fredrika now starts to master after years of no exercise at all. How to combine and balance a time-consuming job with time-consuming trainings is something Fredrika has given much thought and she is keen on getting to know how other CEOs do to combine their stressful jobs with successful sports achivements.
So, that is enough for an introduction to this interesting woman. Here are Fredrika’s answers to my questions about her way of eating – her choices and her habits.
1) How does a typical eating day for Fredrika looks like? What do you eat for a) breakfast, b) lunch, and c) dinner?
- Breakfast: Brown rice with sunflower seeds and honey, or buckwheat (soaked overnight) with apple, walnuts and cinnamon
- Lunch: Some kind of pulses – lentil stew, or perhaps just a ”tetra” of black beans or kidney beans with avocado and balsamico vinegar if at a rush at work. Since a couple of months, I often eat bean pasta, with some avocado and spirulina (sounds weird but is great).
- Dinner: Weekdays, I often eat the same thing twice a day, i.e. like lunch. Steamed broccoli and tofu quite often. Baked vegetables (like Brüssel sprouts, cauliflower).
2) What do you drink during a day? Water and tea (green tea or herbal teas)
3) What do you snack on? Apples, oranges, and vegetables. Funnily enough, I do not eat salads with my lunch/dinner that often, but prefer to eat tomatoes as fruit and lettuce mixes right out of the bag, like candy. Often a daily protein shake if I’m training weights (brown rice, pea or hemp – mixed with water and raspberries).
4) How do you balance your own intake of protein and carbohydrates? Usually, I do not put too much thought on this at all. But in periods, I have carefully logged my diet, for example when I recently took up a weight training program. I avoid all kinds of ”empty calories” and make sure I get a lot of nutrients for my energy intake. I am very much into whole foods and avoid factory food. Also I have celiac disease so I cannot have gluten – meaning no bread or ordinary pasta, which typically provide a lot of carbs but not so much protein. I prefer vegetables to starchy carbs.
5) Do you have eating habits that you know is not so “healthy” in the long run, but that you seems not to be able to change? Absolutely! Sometimes I ”pig out” in the evenings on oven made fries and soy meat like oumph* with veg mayonnaise, this often happens in stressful periods. In such periods, I also often buy ice-cream, so it seems to be connected to cravings for sugar/starchy carbs and fat. It seems I take out stress by eating crap in the evenings, which I find is a very destructive habit. Other than that, I think I eat fairly well and healthy.
Fredrika’s answers about her habits when under too much stress proves to me that we humans are quite the same – we tend to crave for fats, salts and sugars. We can partly blame this behavior on our brain. When the brain is over-worked it needs energy and it prefers sugar. So, how can we come around this problem? I believe the answer is PLANNING. Planning our time – our hours, days, weeks, and years – so that we can be fair to ourselves. When we know how much we have on our agenda, and when we fairly also put this into a schedule, we see how much time we really have for preparing healthy foods or care for ourselves.
“Your 50 Days of Green Happiness”. See more information on http://thegreenhappiness.com.
”Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek. Fredrika’s recommendation to readers who are interested in how to keep a vegan diet and combining it with long distance running. Scott Jurek is vegan since several years and is a world class Ultra-Marathon runner.
*OUMPH is meat from beans. See more information on http://oumph.se/en.