Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Adventures of Keto-Man

The end of 2012 found me contemplating my previous racing season.  It was a great year of ultra-marathons, with multiple PR’s, an AG win and almost a top-10.  I was left with the feeling though, that “this was it”, I just can’t get much faster or better and it will be all downhill from here.  I am 48, so that day is looming I’m sure.
But.  I still have one card yet to play.  My diet.  I've always just eaten anything and everything.  Why not when you run 70 mi/wk, right?  Well, after reading ZachBitter’s blog on low-carb performance, I thought that was well worth investigation.  My long race performance (> 50 mi) sure could use some improvement.  Too many bonks with too much central fatigue.
I went out and bought The Art & Science of Low-Carb Performance by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek.  I have now been officially keto-adapted for 8 weeks and I’m no longer looking back to my old diet.  I eat <50 g low-glycemic carbs/day, a set amount of protein, and enough healthy fat to manage my body weight.  Here are some of the results I've found in my short experiment:
Energy Level – I considered the spikes and lows of carb-based nutrition as just normal every-day life experience.  Not so as keto-man!  I feel awesome!  My energy levels are even all day long, with no afternoon slumps.  During long runs, I experience about an hour of slight soreness in my legs, and then no significant discomfort after.  Without fueling.  My longest run so far has been 4 hrs, so what happens beyond, we’ll see.

Recovery – Wow. This is the area where I am seeing the greatest improvement.  I used to really feel a 4 hr run for at least 48 hrs.  Now it is just a dull ache for about 12 hrs, and I am ready to go the next day.  This is good, because I want to be doing closer to 100 miles/week max in training for a 100 miler.
Explosive Power – I find that I might have a little less explosive power available.  I am still in my base training phase, and have not started speed-work yet, so this may not be the case.  But.  I do stair training every Tuesday morning, at the 250 ft Willow River falls stairs.  Last year, as a carb-fueled person, I would lunge every-other step for the first 125 ft, and then run each step of the remainder.  This year, the lunges seem to me a bit more difficult to maintain, and I’m dying more at the end.  We’ll see though.  It may be too early to tell.
Body Weight – I can’t keep it on!  My racing weight used to be around 150 lb at about 14% fat.  Training weight was about 155-160 lb.  Today, I am running about 50 mi/wk at 142 lb and 12% while dropping about 2 lb per week.  The real bummer is that I don’t seem to be adding lean muscle mass yet.  I’m not sure what is going on.  I do think that, for being in a training phase, I weigh too little and need to pack on a bit more to my 6 foot frame.  More fat I guess.
The Role of Carbs in Racing – I am convinced that I can run a race while maintaining the keto diet.  Supposedly the Vespa supplement could help me, but it is so dang expensive.  Others speak of using super-starch, like U-CAN, which slow-drips the carbs into your system.  Zach Bitter mixes his carb gels and Vespa while racing for optimal performance.
I am convinced that carbs will play a role in my races.  I will start experimenting with U-CAN after my long runs reach about 5 hours or so.  I’ll try some gels too, to gauge their effect.  From what I read, I’ll want to avoid the insulin response.  Hmmm.  At mile 90 I’m thinking the Expresso Express gel might be what the doctor ordered.  Or, I might drop from a coronary.  We’ll see.
Favorite Food – Steak, duh.  My second favorite is a shake though.  Add the following to a blender, in this order:
                1/4 cup blueberries
                1/2 cup Greek yogurt
                1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
                1/4 cup whey protein (peanut butter works too)
Blend to consistency.  Pour into glass.  Add the following to the glass (this will gunk up your blender, so add it here):
                Olive oil, or fish oil to taste
                1 TBSP chia seeds
There is a wonderful blog written by three (now four!) keto-adapted athletes called, where I have found some great info to aid in my diet adventure.  There are many links to other keto-friendly blogs there as well.
I know I am an experiment of one, but the results look promising!


SKA Runner said...

Awesome!!! Once you get that 'Keto High' you can't stop . . . even talking about it / preaching the Keto.

"I am 48, so that day is looming I’m sure." - Don't know how long you have been running, I have only been running for 2+ years, but according to Maffetone, 'people who start in their 40's can peak in their 60's.' YES!

stillwaterrunner said...

Thanks SKA Runner. I started running at around 39, so maybe there is hope to keep raising the bar!

martykc said...

I wish I could have stuck with it a bit longer. I crashed after about two weeks. A low energy eb- head ache lasted the whole two weeks. If I could have held out for a couple more I would have made it. Alas, I crashed during a week long conference in FL. I've been good about most carbs avoiding the wheat and simple refined. Ugh. Now I have to start all over again. Anyway, YES, I would love to run with you on the 30th. Not sure I will be able to keep up, but I'll give it a shot. email me at martykc (at) gmail (dot) com.

stillwaterrunner said...

Marty, some don't claim to be keto-adapted, but they see a gain from eliminating grains (bread. rice, pasta), especially wheat. Business trips can be a challenge!