Q&A on Thanksgiving Mind Games, Jan Ullrich Effect, and Food as Medicine

We gathered some of our favorite nutrition-themed questions on the psychology of food, the advantages of eating before or after a big meal for weight management, winter weight, and much more.

Thanksgiving dinner

American Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Eat-O-Rama season in the U.S., a nearly month-long eating binge from late November through the New Year, when all rules fly out the window. See a cookie. Eat it. See a pie. Eat it. See an entire turkey leg. Eat it!

We thought it would be a perfect time to talk nutrition with Trevor, a proponent of The Paleo Diet, and Ryan Kohler, who once said on this program that kids should just eat ice cream all the time… or something like that.

We gathered some of our favorite nutrition-themed questions for the occasion, so let’s dig in like it’s a bowl of mashed potatoes.

Thanksgiving mind games

This first question we’ve saved for this special occasion. Brenda Castile from Essex, Connecticut, writes:

“Thanksgiving! I love it. I love the food, I love the drinks, I love the desserts. I love being around family. All of which means I’m exposed to calories and germs, a cyclist’s worst nightmare. And, as usual, it comes just a couple of weeks before I want to be at my best for the finale of ‘cross season.

So, how can I have my cake and eat it too? How does someone who takes the sport seriously, as I do, but who also has the perspective on ‘normal’ life to know that I shouldn’t boycott a special gathering that I love for a chance at a dinky medal at ‘cross nationals this year.

Am I just playing mind games with myself? Can I splurge for a day, do my best to limit my exposure to germs and other creepy crawlies, and then get straight back on the wagon the next day, no worse for wear? How do I keep the mind games from making me feel guilty and exposed right when I want to be buckling down for a chance at amateur glory?”

Binge before or after?

This next question comes from Sid Merriman in Dover, Delaware. He writes:

“Simple question: before or after? Thanksgiving is a time for feasting and turkey trots, but do I feast first and then trot, or trot then feast?

My wife and I debate the topic of timing every year. I want to get my turkey trot in first, then binge like there’s no tomorrow—which means she’s pushing back the Thanksgiving meal until late afternoon to accommodate my schedule. She wants me to eat first, so that I get to the turkey trot later in the day to work off that ginormous plate of pecan pie—which means I’m pushing her to have the Thanksgiving meal at or before noon so I have time to digest 8,000 calories before running my brains out. Who’s right, me or my wife?”

Avoiding the Jan Ullrich effect

This question comes from Casey Hickock in Bend, Oregon. He writes:

“When I was first getting into cycling in the late 1990s, I remember watching the Tour de France on TV when Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich were battling. When it came to Jan, a topic of conversation that always seemed to pop up was about his weight, and how much he would put on in the off-season and how hard it would be for him to lose it the following season.

Well, I know how the man must have felt. Leaving everything else from that era aside, can you help me avoid the seemingly inevitable weight gain of winter—I slow down, the food and beer seem to get richer and more plentiful, and the weight gain speeds up. Every year it gets harder to shed the weight come spring. Surely, you’ve heard this before or even dealt with it yourself. I imagine discipline is key here… but besides that, what can I do to avoid this up and down cycle year after year?”

Food as medicine

This question comes from Brad With. He writes:

“I recently read an article by Trevor where he discusses health issues, inflammation, and sickness during his cycling training. I’ve raced bikes for about 18 years in Colorado. I have been plagued with frequent colds (8-10 a year), digestive issues, and Celiac disease. I have also had a bout of viral postural orthostatic tachycardia (POTS) syndrome. I also had a rare and serious pneumonia that almost took my life in 2012.

I always felt that there was possibly a major factor contributing to these problems. I am seriously considering whether it’s the food I’m eating. I’m trying to find some evidence that a drastic change in diet could contribute to improving my health. Paleo is one of the avenues I would like to try. I would like to find other (anecdotal) evidence that Paleo has improved the health of others.”

Winter ride food

This question comes from Sebastian Fleischman in Brunswick, Maine. He writes:

“Last year I moved from Georgia to Maine in the middle of winter. I didn’t ride all that much, but when I did I always had trouble finding foods that were easy to eat when it was 50 degrees colder than I was used to.

There’s the practical side of the foods—how to unwrap something with giant gloves on, and what won’t freeze in my pockets. But I’ve gotta think there are other caloric considerations, given that my body is working to ride and stay warm simultaneously.

What suggestions do you have for winter ride food that take into account all these things?”

References

  • Alicia, F., Kristine, B., Maud, M., Mélina, B., Graham, F., Valérie, J., … David, T. (2020). Does exercising before or after a meal affect energy balance in adolescents with obesity? Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 30(7), 1196–1200. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.numecd.2020.04.015
  • Chacko, E. (2016). Exercising Tactically for Taming Postmeal Glucose Surges. Scientifica, 2016, 4045717. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/4045717
  • Farah, N. M. F., & Gill, J. M. R. (2013). Effects of exercise before or after meal ingestion on fat balance and postprandial metabolism in overweight men. British Journal of Nutrition, 109(12), 2297–2307. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007114512004448

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