Pistachios are only one part of this diet, but I chose the name because pistachios have in them all of the major components of the foods that I will be recommending.
Pistachios have one of the highest dietary fiber counts of any nut. Pistachios are stacked with protein, specifically the amino acid arginine, a pre-curser to nitric oxide, a vasodilator which may mean better blood flow during exercise. Pistachios are loaded with heart-healthy unsaturated fat which has been proven to reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.
Pistachios also have about half the calories of other nuts. Perhaps most importantly to this particular diet, they are extremely low on the glycemix index. Finally, pistachios usually come with the shell on so which discourages you from eating too many and the empty shells serve as a visual reminder of how much you have eaten. To top it all off, you even burn some calories in the process of un-shelling!
And did I mention they taste really good?
When Did These Pounds Get Here?
For those of you who have been reading my articles the last 7 years, you might have noticed that diet is not a subject I have approached. Up until a few years ago, diet was not much of a concern to me. No matter what I ate, how much I ate or when I ate it, I noticed little or no effect on my weight or energy level. Since I never like to write on a subject unless I can add at least some small unique personal perspective to what is commonly known, I have since abstained.
Then around age 30, I experienced a sudden shift in body chemistry. I gained 10 pounds seemingly overnight, and no matter what I ate or how few calories I consumed, the dial on the scale would not budge. Still extremely lean by civilian standards, the excess weight pretty much took me out of the running for pro-level racing.
After two full seasons of struggle, trying different types of diets with no success, I figured out the big mystery. I changed my diet and lost the weight in a matter of two weeks. It was amazing. I had perhaps discovered the perfect cyclist's diet!
I did not significantly reduce my caloric intake. I did not lose significant muscle mass. I had improved energy levels and endurance. Perfect right? A great diet for weight loss but also effective for anyone striving to improve their cycling performance.
And yet I was still reluctant to write about it. Without the credentials to back me up, I knew the physician portion of my readership with the red pens would be after me with a vengeance for anything I said that flew in the face of established scientific data. So I had to do something that I absolutely hate to do. Research!
I quickly found that there is some science to back up my concepts. Other diets such as Atkins, Sugar Busters and even the diet recommended for diabetics have a lot of the tenants of the program that had worked so well for me. What I will do now is take the elements of these diets that would work for a cyclist and create one master plan that would be simple and easy for you to follow. Hence, the Pistachio Diet.
Here we go. Doctors, get out your red pens!
The Pistachio Diet
The idea that cutting out 500 calories a day for one week will result in the loss of one pound does not work for a serious athlete like a cyclist.
I looked for data to back me up on this statement, but to tell the truth there is none except for what most of my clients and probably many of you reading can attest to. Ask any doctor, dietitian or nutritionist around the world and they will tell you that this formula is hard scientific fact.
There are 3,500 calories in a pound and 500 calories times seven days equals one pound. However, many of you have discovered that weight loss, especially while training seriously, is not always that easy.
The Pistachio Diet is not so much about how much you consume but about how your body reacts to the types of food you eat. A finely tuned cyclist's body has a very different ways of processing 500 calories of sugar than 500 calories of protein. If you were to consume 500 calories of table sugar or a simple carbohydrate such as white rice, white potato or white bread, the insulin response is triggered. Any sugar that is not immediately used will be stored as fat.
However, foods like pistachios which are high in fiber, protein and fat trigger almost no insulin response, therefore excess calories are less likely to be converted into fat. In addition, cyclists' bodies are finely tuned and tend to adjust quickly to adjustments in caloric intake. Reduce calories by 500 and the body slows down its metabolism and burns 550 less calories. A pre-historic safety valve for preventing starvation.