Thursday, January 26, 2017

Jamie's Diet Food: Almond Flour Pancakes

I've made protein/paleo pancakes before (back in the years when I was eating mostly paleo). They didn't come out well. They were basically a scoop of protein powder and an egg. That's a protein powder omelette. They tasted of chocolate and chalk (chalk-a-late?), and they had the texture of used coffee filters with bits of coffee grounds mixed in.

So when I was craving pancakes after cycle class this morning (IHOP advertises on CNN, yo, and CNN is always on at the gym), I didn't go back to those bad, bad pancakes. Instead, I used the magic of Pinterest to look for a recipe that wouldn't suck. And I found one!

I made a few modifications, which are included below, but this recipe was adapted from one by The Roasted Root. They are surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting much, but these are tasty and have a pleasant texture.

1 3/4 cup of almond flour
2 tbsp flax seed meal
2 tbsp vanilla protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla


  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make sure to mix everything together well; it's especially important that the baking powder is evenly distributed. Whisk eggs and vanilla into milk. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until combined.
  2. Heat a pan or a griddle to medium-low. Use less heat than you think you need. These are better when they're not burnt.
  3. Pour about 1/4 cup of mix into the pan and gently tilt the pan to create a thin, even pancake. It takes 3-4 minutes on the first side. You should see brown, crispy edges peaking out from the sides, and there should be a few bubbles on the surface of the pancake.
  4. Flip the pancake over very gently. They're fragile. Cook for another minute or two on the other side, just until the bottom looks golden brown.
  5. Repeat until you've used all the batter.
  • The batter is pretty thick. I used a spoon to scrape out the inside of my 1/4 cup scoop. It doesn't pour well, and half of it will stick to whatever vessel you're using to transfer mix from bowl to pan.
  • I used a crepe pan that I have for some reason (who has a crepe pan?), which has a non-stick, non-Teflon coating. I used about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil to grease the pan, but it wasn't really necessary. These didn't stick to my pan, really, and the coconut oil that wasn't soaked up by the first pancake burned and smoked.
  • These are gluten free, so they don't have the protein structure to hold together as well. That makes them fragile. Use the biggest spatula/flipper that you have and turn them over slowly. I didn't have any break, but go carefully. Think of it more as flipping an omelette than flipping a pancake.
  • Cooking takes longer than regular pancakes. Prepare to do a lot of standing around. If you have a griddle and can do a whole batch at once, lucky you. If you're doing them one at a time, prepare to devote 40 minutes to the cooking process.
  • Try them with apple butter. Om nom nom.
  • This recipe made 8 pancakes using 1/4 cup at a time. Nutrition info:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kit Review: Shebeest Petunia Bibs and Divine Jersey

My kit collection has gotten sad over the past couple of years. There are multiple pairs of bike shorts about which I've said, "I should really get rid of these." This year, I finally had to (because no one wants to see my bum in spin class or on team rides). My beloved Specs Racing cycling kit--which I've had since '08 or '09--has gotten a little too much use. I finally threw out my Specs bibs this year when the seams that held the pad in ripped out, leaving tiny windows into my crotch from front and back. The non-bib Specs shorts are still in the spin class/TrainerRoad session rotation, but they won't hold out much longer. Most of the jerseys have held out much better, but I lost one to a broken zipper this year. I have some nice, new Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. kits for racing, but the Mt. Borah padding doesn't play well with my privates during 3+ hour rides.

All of which means I've needed for a long time to invest in new cycling clothing. In spite of the fact that I have more money now and therefore shouldn't have so much trouble buying new stuff, I find that my tastes in cycling clothing have also gotten way more expensive. I finally learned while training for Ironman Mallorca that bibs in the $50-$60 range are not good enough for my bottom. I budget $100-$120 for a pair of bib shorts now, and look for sales to get the best value. I can't quite bring myself to pay $200-$300 for a pair of fancy boutique bibs, though. Sorry, but you probably won't be reading any reviews of Rapha or Velocio kit from me!

That brings me to the kit I finally bought from Shebeest: the Petunia bibs and Divine jersey in black and houndstooth.

I got a pair of shorts (not bibs) from Shebeest a couple of years ago for Ironman training. They were marked way down on Nashbar, which is how I initially found them. The ones I bought, which have since been discontinued, were labeled specifically for 5+ hours in the saddle. Even marked down, they were the most expensive shorts I'd ever bought, excluding team kit buys, at $99. But I loved them so much that I ended up wearing them for the cycling leg of my Ironman, even though they weren't bibs. They had the most comfortable pad I'd ever ridden, and that's including my Castelli tri suit.

So I went directly to Shebeest for this purchase. I don't love many of their colors and patterns; too girly for my taste. But I found these in black and houndstooth, which looks stealthy but still has a pop of flair.

My first ride in them was a TrainerRoad workout, because they were the only shorts that were clean at the time. But my second ride in them has a two-hour jaunt on my 'cross bike. I still ride the stock saddle that came on my Specialized, even though the faux-leather doesn't allow me to slide on when re-mounting, because I am cheap and I am lazy and I don't want to try out a bunch of saddles to find one that works with my pelvis (which is not at all shaped for perching on a bike seat). It is not a comfortable saddle for me. If I sit on it for more than an hour or so, my butt (and other things) start complaining.

The Shebeest shorts made that a little better. I don't know if I'm ready to ride that stock saddle all the way to Cumberland in the Shebeest shorts, but they made a noticeable difference in my comfort level riding.

The real breakthrough moment with these shorts came when I had to stop to use the toilet on my ride. It was about 40ยบ out that day, so I was fully kitted out with tights and a jacket. As I pulled over next to the port-a-loo, I was dreading the imminent disrobing--take off the jacket, take off the jersey, pull off the bib straps, pull down the tights, find a place to hand the jacket and jersey that isn't on the floor of the john . . . Then I remembered that these shorts don't have standard bib straps; they have a halter. So I unzipped my jersey and jacket about halfway, pulled the halter over my head, and dropped trou. It was a revelation! No more removing all clothing in order to pee!

My first pair of Shebeest shorts were mediums, and they were a little too big. This time, I went with the smalls, which are a little tight. They're not so tight that I can't wear them, but they are noticeably compressive. The bib part is a polka-dot fabric that comes over the head in a halter, and it's attached by fishnet-type webbing. The fishnet part isn't very stretchy, but the halter is so stretchy that it doesn't seem to matter (at least for me). I have some concern that the halter will put pressure on my neck and shoulders during a ride, which may cause trouble on longer rides in the form of extra stress in my neck and tension headaches. The grippers on the legs are silicone woven in with elastic, like Castelli uses on their grippers. I like the feel of it very much, although I do still get some sausage-leg effect on these size small shorts.

The Divine jersey is a summer jersey, so I feel like I can't evaluate all of its benefits yet. I really like the cut and fit, especially around the hips. These jerseys are designed to be more generous for women's bodies, so the hemline isn't as stretchy. Instead, the rear panel below the jersey pockets has a silicone/elastic hybrid fabric that has lots of stretch but still holds the jersey in place. I didn't have any problems with the rear of the jersey riding up. The cut is a little tight through my arms, but the fabric is stretchy enough that it's not uncomfortable. It just makes me look even more muscular.

The fabric of the jersey is shinier, more sateen than I'm used to. I wasn't sure about its breathability at first, but it seemed to do fine, and the feel of the fabric is growing on me. It's very stretchy, though, so I'm not sure how durable it will be.

All things considered, I really like this new kit. I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces on longer rides, and seeing how the bib pad meshes with my road bike saddle.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lesson Learned: Failure is Better than Success

I had a very rough ride on Sunday. It was the first time in a while I had been able to get out with a large group of my (female) teammates. The plan was to ride a very hilly 50 miles together in Potomac, Maryland. I was looking forward to riding with a group again, although I was apprehensive about things like holding my line and keeping a gap to the next wheel after a season of 'cross and not a lot of team rides.

The first 45 minutes or so felt tense, but then my body seemed to remember how to ride in a pack and it started to get easier. I took a gel about an hour in, and then a Clif bar after another 30 minutes or so. My Garmin told me we were about halfway through; my body told me that I was going to need to slow way down if I wanted to do the second half of the ride.

I communicated with my team that I would need to slow down, and somebody gave me some food (since I'd already eaten all of mine). For the rest of the ride, the team tried to keep me sandwiched so I wouldn't get dropped. I could smell a really strong scent of ammonia coming off of me. If you don't know much about exercise physiology, it's a bad sign when your body smells like cleaning products.

I was able to slow down enough to finish the ride, but the last several miles were really tough. We had brunch afterwards, I took a nap later that day, and I was totally back to normal by the end of the day! Here's what I think (I'm pretty sure) happened: I did a hard TrainerRoad workout on Saturday night. I had a protein shake with half a banana after that workout, but I don't think that was enough carbohydrate to replenish my glycogen stores. Our ride started at 8:30 the next morning, just over 12 hours. My glycogen stores were already pretty depleted, and I blew through any remaining stored sugar in the first hour of our ride by going too hard too soon. I couldn't eat enough sugar to keep up with the demands of that effort level, and the intensity was too high for me to rely on fat for fuel (I'm also pretty sugar adapted right now, compared to my post-Ironman metabolism). The ammonia smell was from my body desperately chewing through muscle and protein (amino acids metabolize into ammonia--not terrific for your liver, but something that your body can process) to meet the energy demands. The only option for my body was to slow down enough to allow for fat metabolism, which is why I had to finish the ride at a dawdle.

Two things, though:

One: in spite of how hard the ride was (mentally, physically, emotionally), it was one of my favorite rides ever. I have never felt so much part of a team--not in football, not on previous cycling teams, not in rugby. Everyone was there to help me through the ride, willing to slow down so that I could keep up. And our team communication felt pretty good, which was so cool! It's hard to communicate and talk when you're all strung out in a paceline! I drove home after our brunch practically floating, because I'm so excited to be on this team this year.

Two, and this gets to the crux of my post: nothing is more motivating to me than my own failure. Today, I taught my normal Monday morning spin class (took it very easy) and lifted weights after, and I have had to hold myself back from doing more training all day long. I can barely stand to sit still, I'm so excited to train more. I know Sunday's ride took a lot out of me, and I need to recover, but I want to go out and get stronger so that I can do better next time! I've experienced the same thing in racing; the races that motivate me the most aren't the ones in which I do well, but the ones where I don't--the pinch flats, the stupid mistakes, the poor fitness, those are the ones that leave me chomping at the bit for the next weekend.

That's how I feel after yesterday's ride. So yes, lesson learned on timing workouts and nutrients; recovering properly and bringing enough food on long, hard rides; properly pacing myself for the effort ahead . . . But my biggest takeaway from this weekend is that failures, big or small, drive me forward. I can't wait to get out and kill this week's training.