As of this morning, I hit 206. Weight loss has been a little slower for me these days, but I’m also eating a ton of salads and crushing it with training. I can feel a ton stronger and my clothing are continuing to get looser, so I feel I’m on the right path with body re-composition. Keep water and muscle mass high, destroy fats. My proteins have been at least 125g per day, sometimes approaching 150-160. More on why this protein and low carb training is preserving my muscle, rather than consuming it, below….
Also, on another note – at the pool last week with my son, I held my breath for 1:36, and only stopped when my wife thought the lifeguard thought I was dead or dying and she shook me. I had another 10 seconds in the tank.
What does that mean? I am a HUGE advocate of zone 2 training. I’m converted. Yes, you have some slow running/biking efforts, comparatively. However, this training builds the oxygen tanks of aerobic activity in the mitochondria. I have noticed that on my recent hard speed efforts, I can go anaerobic for quite a long time and pretty hard – I don’t get out of breath, my legs cannot keep up with the amount of oxygen I have available. I’ve tried to get some of my friends involved with zone 2, and they just don’t comprehend why you would ever train so slowly.
Well, you’re looking at a lot of base building here. You gradually increase your distances over 2-3 weeks, then I take week off after 3. During your training, they say 80% of your training should be zone 2, the rest 4-5. Closer to race time, you can do some zone 3 efforts to dial in your pace, but you shouldn’t training like that. Apparently, it’s a “dead zone” where you don’t really get faster and you don’t build your aerobic engine.
All of this is a precursor to the below discussion on fat oxidation and fueling. My zone 2 training slowly has gotten faster without my HR increasing. for example, when I first did zone 2 training 6 months ago, to sustain a 128 bpm HR I was somewhere around 15:00+ minutes per mile. Yes…SLOW!! Today, to hold 128 bpm my times are about a 12:45. Still not fast. The point is, with tons of zone 2 training, you can get more efficient over time and do MORE WORK with less HR. The goal is to continue this zone 2 training…and keep going. And going. Eventually, my zone 2 training should be at like 8-10 minutes for a mile, with race efforts at 6:30-8 mins per mile maybe 1-2 years out and weighing 170-175ish. My 5k pace at Thanksgiving was 11:31 per mile during the race. Hoping to greatly improve that. I’m at 206 now, so maybe 1-2 years out I might be race pace at 7-8 mins? I can hit 10 minutes now in training and sustained that for over 2 miles. Hoping to hit maybe 9:50 pace for the 5k, but that might be dreaming.
Let me start out by saying this….
You do not have to be in keto 24/7. I spend a good amount of time in “low carb” and dial in to keto usually pretty strictly 1 week a month. Most of the other days I’m on the outskirts at 50-75, and maybe even 100-125 on really heavy training days. Keto is a GREAT cutting tool. You can also do tons of zone 1-2 training with it. Where it falls short is hard efforts. So – what you are seeing is a TON of high profile athletes in all sports on low carb/ketogenic diets, and when they need high efforts – they strategically have carbs before and during the events. This gives them the benefits of the carbs for performance, but not the 24/7 pounding of carbs that leads to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
In this video, Dr. Gary Fettke outlines the modern hypothesis on the main cause of cancer – sugars, complex carbs, and certain oils which create lots of inflammation which in turn causes damage to DNA via free radicals. My version of keto/low carb accentuates greens, vegetables, berries, and about 100-125g of protein through meats. I try to get the grass fed when possible. When I hit my target weight, I will probably slide mostly towards a paleo end of the spectrum and perhaps add more fruits and root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and some potatoes at times. I can then use keto 1 week a month to keep myself trim, or perhaps 3 weeks a year like Mark Sisson does. I also love my OMAD M-Th, Fasting Fridays, and 3 day fasts once every three months for autophagy and longevity purposes.
Does that mean I have zero carbs every day? No. It means I use carbs mostly strategically with training as I will be burning them up rapidly. The main problems with sugars and carbs comes from those eating 300, 400, even 500g of carbs per day and are sedentary. You can also find plenty of elite runners who had 400-600g per day while marathon training and gave themselves type 2 diabetes. Dr. Tim Noakes, the father of carb loading for running (and also wrote “The Lore of Running”) gave himself type 2 diabetes over 30 years constantly carb loading. He has since over the last decade apologized profusely for this and is now a low carb advocate. So – people – the father of carb loading for running is one of the leaders of this movement.
But I digress. What about a “reasonable” amount of carbs in lieu with race training/tri training?
For me, this is acceptable. Will it kick me out of ketosis? Yes, briefly.
Here’s the Sisson “life model” for low carb along with a visual of what keto/low carb is….
On the item on the left, you essentially see that Paleo is a subset of “low carb”. Keto is a more strict form of low carb, where participants generally have 50g or less of carbs. The carnivore is a step further and removes even plant based carbs found in items broccoli.
When you do keto long enough, you become “fat adapted”. This essentially means that your body can access fat stores easily. This becomes HUGE with sports.
Most sports science over the last 45 years or so just fueled with carbs in the forms of gels. People would carb load days before a race. They had to protect against “bonking”, which is when access to your available glycogen runs out and your body has to switch to burning fat. For most runners trained under the carb model – this can stop you in your tracks. What is happening?
Carbs are quickly available. Glucose is released into your blood by being secreted by your liver. Your muscles also hold glucose in the form of glycogen. This is instant rocket fuel. But, you can only hold a total of 2,000 in your glycogen stores – that is if you are 100% topped off. For most people running short races, walking, hiking a few miles, playing 45 mins of tennis – this doesn’t affect people so much. The problem is – what happens if you are doing a triathlon and you are pushing it hard and can blow through those 2,000 calories relatively quickly? What if you only had 1400 stored?
Also – when you become fat adapted, your body burns fats a lot better. The sugar trained people will burn fat at .5-.6g per minute, or about 4.5-5.5 calories it has access to when sugar runs out. A highly fat adapted athlete can burn 1.2, 1.5, or even close to 2.0 g of fat per minute. This then gives you access to 11-18 calories per minute. To put it into perspective, on my recent bike ride, I noticed I was hitting 13 calories per minute on a non-race effort. I noticed at 27 miles, at about 1500 calories in, I felt a minor bonk in my legs – but it was very mild. I had access to my fat easily and the feeling went away in 2-3 minutes.
But….these are training efforts, some intervals. Some hard efforts.
What I’m finding is this – on my long efforts where I stay zone 1-2, I can go all day. If some efforts in this I try to do hard, I start to not have the punch in the tank.
So – enter some carbs. What I usually do is have a smoothie beforehand with maybe 1 cup of strawberries and a pre-workout. That’s like 14 net carbs.
14 carbs for a 37 mile bike effort? Usually about halfway on my long rides I will eat some peanuts and maybe a protein bar with 4 net carbs – so I’m not carbing up, but caring for my electrolytes.
When you get fat adapted, your body doesn’t zap your glycogen stores straight up. It “sips” from the glycogen and allows access to fat – this, according to the Art and Science of Low Carb Performance by Phinney and Volek. But I’m finding that my bursts of sprint speed are limited. My hill climbing is limited. Triathlon Taren recently put out a post where he discusses how he does low carb training.
- 1 long effort per week he does zone 1-2 and doesn’t add carbs. He will fuel with things like the nut butters.
- 1 short intense effort per week he will train with no carbs. This is to train his body to try and up the g of fat per minute he has access to.
- Other training sessions he will use some carbs strategically, but doesn’t go over 150 per day.
- For his ironman race, he calculated that he would burn 10,000 calories for it. He used 500g of carbs for the race, and had access to 2,800 calories of fat stores. He didn’t bonk, and found he passed a ton of people on the end of the marathon – this is where people who are not low carb trained started bonking out.
Taren consulted Dr. Dan Plews, who is not only a PhD sports scientist – but ran his first ironman in Kona last year and did an 8:23 and won the amateur division. That time also beat a lot of pros. So – he’s not only got a ton of research to support his methods – he demonstrated how it is done.
For training long distance and slow – I don’t think I really need “exogenous” carbs. Like – “hey, I’m going on a 3 mile run. I need 500g of carbs per day”. No. What I will do is eat my zoodles the night before. I may have two pieces of fruit with breakfast, and I may have some Gatorade endurance before my 5k, and perhaps some on the ride during my sprint. This is to allow lots of anaerobic efforts which draw heavily from the glycogen stores.
But I’m now finding with my speed training that I am giving it everything at times and I’m not out of breath – my legs seem to be dealing with the lack of ability to continue moving at the speed I want them to go, but not because I’m oxygen starved. Really, it’s crazy. My whole life I’d get out of breath when running as fast as I could. Now, it’s not my oxygen, it’s my fueling.
So what am I doing?
I just bought some Gatorade endurance. I think a scoop of that is like 25g of carbs and they recommend one scoop per 8oz. Well…no. I’m going to try one scoop per 32oz of water so I can sip some carbs along the way. Slower efforts I saw deal with 20-30g of carbs per hour, but race efforts may be dealing with 60g of carbs per hour used. My triathlon will be probably 90 minutes for me, give or take how long it takes me in the hills of Lancaster for 15.8 miles. So I’m guessing my race effort will take up about 90 carbs.
I’m going to continue with my smoothie, except for this I might add a banana. I think I’m also going to put 2 scoops of Gatorade endurance in a 32oz bottle for my race day so I have 50g of carbs available during the bike. The run I feel I can come into with 20-30g of carbs if I conserve some of my Gatorade mix until later in the bike. I don’t think I’ll need much of anything for the run.
From what I’m reading, hard race efforts go through about 60g of carbs per hour for exogenous fueling. As I noted on the bike, the numbers there were showing I was burning 13 calories per minute, but the carbs are then brought in at 4 per minute. This then allows access to glycogen tanks and fat burning.
This is a sprint tri, so technically to complete the damn thing, I don’t need any extra fueling. That would be if I’m just going at a decent clip. But I’m planning on giving some serious efforts when biking and running, and I’d like to be able to dig deep for some carbs when running, especially the last mile. Unlike your ironman races, these races are very short in duration, relatively speaking, so your pace is a lot more burying the needle than tempo or threshold.
Also – the night before, I’m planning on having one of my zoodle meals with pasta sauce. Zoodles are on the higher end of carbs for me, and I often feel thirsty about an hour after eating them – this is a signal to me that it kicked me out of ketosis.
- Night before, I will do my zoodles to try and “top off” glycogen stores. I will burn through a lot of the liver glycogen overnight. Muscle glycogen should be good.
- The morning of, I will have my smoothie with strawberries and maybe a banana. I might add a complex carb like a piece of toast.
- Right before my 5k, about 30 minutes before, I plan on having a Gatorade endurance for 25g of carbs. This should get glucose in the bloodstream and have immediate access to full glycogen tanks.
For my 5k, if I carb correctly, for the day I might not go over 100. I probably won’t even get to my fat stores.
For my tri….
- My guess is it will be the same prep as before the 5k – with tweaks for during the race. Where with a 5k, I can theoretically do that in 30 mins, the tri will have a 15.8 mile bike portion where I might need to get some fuel during to keep the needle buried.
- During my tri, I’m planning on having 3 total scoops of Gatorade, most likely in a 32 ounce bottle. I might have a second water bottle with me just in case my stomach hurts or it’s too hot. It is August. This should get me 60-75 carbs over about an hour. This should keep my glycogen tanks pretty untouched until the 5k, and I can let her rip.
After my 2 races, I’ll write some more.