So I’ve been experimenting with something for the past month. Quietly, haven’t shared it with many people (until very recently) because I didn’t want it to be a *thing*. I don’t do things because they are popular, I’m not jumping on some bandwagon, I was just genuinely curious.
I’ve been following a Keto diet.
Super controversial right now, especially since Jillian Michaels recently lost her shit about it. I didn’t want to talk about it or draw attention to it. I’m not going to proselytize or loudly complain about things I “can’t” have (it’s ridiculous…I can have whatever I want, I’m making a conscious choice. Why would I complain?). But I’ve heard some compelling things in documentaries and podcasts that made me curious. This isn’t just a diet or quick fix to drop a few pounds (though if that happens, I’m never going to complain). As someone embarking on serious endurance training, I’ve heard about the potential benefits for endurance athletes and it made too much sense to me not to at least try it out and see.
The basic gist of why I tried it, why it makes sense to me: the human body can only store so much glycogen–after a couple of intense hours of exercise, this is used up, and it becomes harder to replace it as you continue to go on–if you can’t stay on top of it (and very few can), you bonk (also known as the dreaded “wall” in a marathon). Even if you do manage to keep up on it, the amounts of sugar and fast-acting carbs you need to ingest, particularly over the course of an ultramarathon, will wreak havoc with most people’s digestive systems (runner’s trots). If you’re fat adapted (which is what happens when you’re consistently in ketosis), you’ll still require some outside fuel (especially in ultra scenarios) but the human body–even the leanest athletes–have enough stored fat to work through to avoid the dreaded bonk. So even if you can’t or don’t fuel at exactly the perfect intervals you can continue moving.
So I’ve been playing with this since the beginning of the year. I’ve managed to stay between 20-50 grams of carbs a day most of the time (I tend to go slightly over around my long runs, but haven’t noticed any negative impact from that). I’ve noticed that I can go longer and farther during my runs without fueling, or with significantly less than before. I used to take a gel about every 5 miles (about 1 hour), for any runs over 6 miles (I might take it earlier than 5, but you get the idea). I’ve gone 10 miles without any additional fuel without a performance drop. My last 15 miler, instead of the full 3-chew serving twice during the run, I took 2 chews at a time twice during the run. I’ve done training runs with just a few sips of gatorade in the middle miles and nothing else but water. And I feel good. It’s not perfect, I’m still working out the kinks and figuring it out, but by and large I plan to stick with it and see how it goes. I’ve lost about 10 pounds (again, not my main reason for doing it, but as someone chasing racing weight I will never complain), and honestly, despite how much I love carbs (and I do…) I don’t really miss them. It’s not like I’m saying “never again” to carbs. I had a beer during the hockey game the other day. I will eventually have real pizza again, though I’ve perfected my cauliflower crust and I’m digging it. And on race days anything goes–whatever sounds good I’ll go for. But as long as my training is going smoothly, and I feel good, and it seems to be having the desired effects, I might as well keep this up.
I never imagined this would be something that I would try and like. The idea of “giving up carbs” was foreign to me. I don’t miss them though–I made stroganoff with zucchini noodles last week, and it was amazing. I preferred the zucchini noodles, they gave it a richer flavor. Like I said, my cauliflower pizza crust is pretty near perfect at this point, and while I miss the convenience of having someone else make my post-run pizza, I don’t feel deprived. It’s a little more work (okay, a LOT more work) but I’m not coming home and crashing after my long runs (like I used to) so I don’t even mind it.
Again, I’m not proselytizing, you do what works for you. But this has been working for me and I wanted to share it since I’m a month in. Long run tomorrow–my longest in over a year and I’m really looking forward to it. Training recap on Monday. Happy weekend, friends! More soon