I’m putting this out there for those who are on keto or low carb and feel something might be a little off with strength. I have been keto/low carb for some time. Maybe 3 years? I lost a LOT on regular dieting first, like 70 pounds, and then lost another 105 or so with keto.
My goals were WEIGHT driven. I wanted to be LESS WEIGHT.
I got down to 197. I did a triathlon a few months before I hit 197 and was around 206-208 at the time of the triathlon. At the time of this writing, I’m around 243 or so. Maybe 245. I don’t weight myself nearly as much anymore.
During COVID, at the onset, I had gotten up to around 225. I think my high was 255-260 at end of July. I had recently lost my mother and lots of stress had entered my life. I wasn’t eating terrible, but I can tell you my level of exercise went down greatly, and while I was still low carb, the amount of fruits I was eating increased, and so were the calories.
Remember – my goal was WEIGHT-driven. This had a net effect of taking muscle with it. And…muscle burns a LOT more calories than fat.
I had explicitly told my trainer that strength was not a major goal of mine, that I didn’t need to lift up toyotas. When I was 24-250ish I was able to bench 225 3 times. Nothing major, but in my early 40s and not really caring, it was decent. When I hit 197, I was struggling with 95 pounds on the bench. Really…struggled with it. I’m now back up to 3 sets of 135 13-15 times, but given what I’m doing now, I should be back into the 185 range 10x inside of 4-6 months.
While I was not concerned at the time, this also explains a lot of my rapid weight increase when I wasn’t burning 1000 calories a day through running and biking. I had sacrificed a LOT of muscle for those last 50 pounds. I ran the scale down through a lot of means – and a lot was severe caloric deprivation to create those deficits. One thing of interest though is I wasn’t overly hungry. I’d play games with how long I could go at times without eating. This wasn’t an eating disorder – it was a way of eating that actually didn’t make you very hungry.
To me, it was a testament with how well keto worked with suppressing appetite. To me – this was indeed freeing, as I had been a slave to deep and ravenous hunger my whole life brought on by years of carb overload. I was hungry all the time. To have that removed from my life was a change that many in shape people can really never understand. They think fat people are just “weak”. Well, I ask them to go all day without eating and tell me what you feel at 5PM. Then, imagine you have that feeling at 7AM, 11AM, 4PM, 8PM every day, all the time, and you needed large volumes of food for that to go away. THAT was what keto did for me. It’s not magic beans where you can eat 10,000 calories per day. It changes how your body hormones demand food.
From February until August – I had ZERO weight training. I had bouts here or there of running at times, but had some minor back issues. I was eating pretty well with smoothies and big salads, but I had also added some lunches in with my wife being home.
In early August, I did a re-commit to the weight loss – but this time I was going with the original plan. My “weight loss” would be “fat loss”. I did my triathlon and loved it. But I sacrificed sooooo much strength to get lighter, that the second I stopped running 15-20 miles a week, I gained a lot of weight. The previous summer I was biking close to 80 miles a week, and now was zero. So my re-commitment was to continue to weight train, and boost the protein.
With more protein, I’ve been finding the below:
- I have been able to do 2x per week good weight training sessions with heavier weights. I’m getting stronger and putting on muscle mass.
- I have been doing pre-workout daily, and the creatine holds 5-7 pounds of water at all times on me. This helps with recycling the ATP from what I’ve been told. Helps with better workouts and recovery.
- Stronger running sessions. I have continued slow zone 2 trainings for 3 months now, but I have zero real back, knee, or foot issues. I believe the higher levels of protein are repairing things much better, allowing for less injury.
- Better recovery overall. I am taking some stuff for this, but I also believe I’m getting good repair between workouts.
- Clothing are fitting better but scale hasn’t gone down a lot. This is what usually happened to me with weight training regimens my whole life. Train for months and scale doesn’t really move, but you feel a lot stronger and clothing fit a little better.
- Feeling a little more “puffy” at times. I think with all of the training I do, I do hold some extra water. I’m ok with this.
So what am I doing?
I found Myfitnesspal had a “net carb” option this time around, and sunk my money into a year-long subscription. Where KETO was my preferred method 2-3 years ago for WEIGHT loss, I believe a low net carb is better for me for FAT loss. While I may have a little more hunger than on pure keto, it’s manageable.
With keto, it’s very high fat, moderate protein, and low carb. They don’t really tell you what, but perhaps 20g of total carbs per day…all the way up to maybe 50. Fats are a good portion of your food – and these fats should be good quality fats, not deep fried stuff. Protein is the red-headed step child in this formula. They say, “too much protein, it could break down into sugars using gluconeogenesis”. While it is indeed true, studies are all over the place with this because of how inefficient it is to convert proteins to glucose.
What I typically TRY for with Myfitnesspal is:
- 10% net carbs. Most of this for me are things like raspberries, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, avocado, carrots, cabbage, etc. Some higher than normal things are “sugar free” candies and the like I have from time to time. Some sweet things with erithrytol, but low “net” carbs. You see items on here have carbs, but usually the fiber content is not digested like regular carbs and thus is subtracted.
- 60% fats. Eggs, bacon, grass fed butter, avocado, olive oils, cheeses, sour cream, fatty cuts of meat, heavy whipping cream in coffee.
- 30% proteins. Chicken, beef, ham (lower in fats), turkey, etc. Two Good yogurt is 12g of protein each, and I’ll have 2 of these.
This often has me at close to 200g of protein per day. I can tell you this – doing keto, I was told most diets have .6-.8 g per pound of LEAN body mass. Meaning, I was looking at somewhere around 100-120g per day. Often, I was having 1800 calories per day. I believe this helped me get to my WEIGHT goals, but at the sacrifice of a lot of strength I spent years building up. I believe the combination of the low protein/low calories did EXACTLY what I wanted it to do – get me lower in weight.
But this time, I think I’m going to continue my long distance items, but increase the protein and keep up with the strength training. Go from 240ish to 180ish over the course of 12-24 months, but do it with continued strength training, high levels of calories, high levels of proteins. For example I believe today my maintenance calories are around 2400-2500. When I workout/run, etc, I might burn a total of 3500 on those days. If I’m having 2700-2900 calories, I’m creating a deficit of maybe 500-700 calories a day. Or, about 1 pound of FAT per week. Not weight. FAT.
I was so eager last time to fit into a 34 or something that I was obsessed with WEIGHT. And – I think if my goal was to be 180 pounds and “soft”, that might have been ok for me in the long run. I did “fit” into a 34, but they were a little tight.
This time, I’m really not even looking at the scale. I will jump on once every 1-2 weeks just to ensure I’m on the right glide path, but I’m not obsessed as I was with this number. It’s all about the training and feeling healthy. And THAT? Well, that number will sort itself out. I LOVE to train, and if I’m on point with my calories to an extent and keep my training up, that number will find its happy place in 1-2 years.
With weight training though, something that is a wild card. If I increase my muscle mass as I feel I’m doing, that BMR could be moving north from 2400-2500 to maybe 2700-2800. That might not seem like a massive difference, but it is over time. It’s almost another pound per week of fat burned. So right now I might be burning 1 pound of fat per week, but increasing the muscle mass maybe takes this to 1.5 pounds per week. Meaning – it’s possible inside a year I’m at 180 and 12-15% bodyfat.
What changed for me????
I’ve been watching some of his videos for years. He did a lot of weight training and was in the military. 220 pounds and running a 6 minute mile. He was MASSIVE. Former ranger. While I applauded his career and life – it was obvious to me at 220 pounds and jacked that he must weight train 2 hours a day and eat 5,000 calories per day.
But the picture you see above is him at 192 and after he had done an ironman. He went from 220 and jacked to 192 and jacked/lean/cut. You see, most schools of thought tell you that if you want to be an endurance athlete, you cannot hold muscle. You must be lean and a string bean. He breaks that mold. Or, does he? Could anyone be like that??
And this is the look I’m going for, perhaps between 176-186. Maybe I won’t get there 100%, but all evidence of what I had seen and been told was that if you want to be an endurance athlete, you must be lean and cannot build muscle. Well, either he is one of a kind, or he found a happy medium.
To me, I believe his secret is higher levels of calories and protein to build all of this muscle. When he does his endurance runs, he’s also not creating massive calorie deficits which would eat away the muscle. He went from 220 to 192 in a few months intentionally – and for him, it was about living a healthier life.
For me – I want the muscle not to lift cars, but to power me on these adventures. I want to do olympic triathlons and half ironmans. I LOVED the sprint triathlon, but my zen is hours of cardio and feel longer distance races will be my happy place. That’s the place in my life I can be me and quiet everything. Running for 90 mins. Biking for 3-4 hours. Swimming for an hour. Hiking for 4 hours. Working out for an hour. That is what I want to do with my life. It’s the most at peace I ever have been with myself, and where I thrive. And – this guy showed me how to get there.
To do this…I’m not worried about creating massive calorie deficits. THIS is the difference between fat loss/muscle building/training and WEIGHT loss, which aims at larger deficits which may also take muscle with it.
Here’s how I’ve been training and eating for 3 months now.
Daily calories: shoot for 500-1000 calorie deficit from eating and training. My “at rest” calories I will take in would be 2600. I assume my two long dog walks a day and minor other activities takes me to 3100. That’s 500 calories per day, or 3500 per week for 1 pound per week. On a heavy training day, I may calculate I burn another 800 or so on top of that. Maybe on those days I’m taking in 2900-3200 calories. This might create a caloric difference of 500-750 per day. I may dial this back to 2400 soon, but I wanted to get a solid few months of training in first. My GOAL is 1-1.25 pounds of FAT per week. Not 2 pounds of “weight”.
Ratio: 60% fat, 10% net carbs, 30% protein. I DO have a half cup of raspberries and my pre-workout shake about 1-2 hours before my runs/bikes/workouts. For ME, I find that works best. Right before runs/bikes, I will have two pieces of dried apricots. For ME, that little bit of carbs gives me a good jump start for 20 mins until the ketones really kick in.
Calories: Shoot for 500-1000 deficit per day, based on total calories burned. A sedentary day may be 3000 calories burned. A high volume day might be 4000-4500 calories (think 2 hours running or 45 miles biked). Note – I may dial my calories back maybe 100-200 soon as I adjust a little here and there.
Workout: I used to think “I need to go to the gym every day”. That was a failure on many parts. And, anyone reading this far probably has made this mistake. You only need to work out body parts 1-2 times a week to make progress. Those that go every day probably do splits like legs on day, chest and tri another, biceps and back another. OR – you can do two, one hour workouts that are full body workouts. I’d get all messed up if I missed a day or two here and there. It became impossible to get to the gym as much as I wanted. So – I also built one in my basement.
Weight training – Sunday and Thursday. Full body workout. Bench, arm raises, triceps, biceps, shoulders, back, lunges with weight.
Run – Mon/Wed – average run. Sat – long run. Repeat for 3 weeks. Take one week off. There’s a lot of variations here. As you get closer to races, you would increase intensity try and “get faster”. I’m currently doing almost all zone two runs to increase my endurance again and build out capacity. I do not have any races on the calendar, so I run for ME now. Yesterday, I did a mostly zone 3-4 run for 3 miles after 3 months of zone two. What I would do in each 3 week cycle might be increase my TIME running 10% per week, day over day. So Monday in week 1 might be 30 minutes. Monday in week 2 might be 33, and Monday in week 3 might be 36. Take a week off. Monday in week 1 might be 33, then week 2 36, then week 3 39. And so on. Building too much, too quickly can lead to injury. You take a week off to let things “bake in” and let your body heal up between cycles. Once I have a race on my schedule, about 3 months out my training would be different to speed up.
Bike – Tue/Thur – avg ride. Sun – long ride. I didn’t do a lot of biking this year. With a newborn I couldn’t disappear for 3 hours at a time. I believe strongly my bike portion of my training with the 20+ miles at a time were a key calorie burner for 3 years, and my body misses that.
Walking – I walk my dog mostly twice a day for 1.2-2 miles at a time. This is a nice “slow burn” that takes some fat off of you.
Hiking – I also really haven’t been hiking in a year. Same deal with biking. Can’t get away for 3-4 hours at a time. With it getting colder and the bike going away, I plan on hiking more. I hike with elevation and some speed to get a nice cardio workout. Lots of music.
So – while I might not get to full Nick Bare status, I have found a modern day renaissance man who I look up to and would like to model. Business owner, former military, ironman competitor, and lives his life his way. Strong discipline. Challenges himself. While you may not be able to BE the people you admire, you can strive for the same excellence they hold themselves to. As he always says, “embrace the suck”. A lot of my training I enjoy, but some days you have to go really hard. As I also heard, “it doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster”.
As I celebrate my 45th birthday in a few weeks, I also enjoy the idea of improving myself year over year. This past year I spent learning a lot about investment and doing extremely well. I have a lot of items in play to take care of my family and put my children through college. Time now to get back to improving me. Maybe someday my children look up to me and want to strive for the same excellence I want for myself?