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Alisonlcarver

Low carb, lots of cardio--healthy?

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The more I read, the more it sounds like low carb, high fat, moderate protein is the healthiest way to eat.

Does anyone have any experience or advice on eating this way, while doing lots of cardio? I'm currently training for a marathon. Four runs plus one crosstrain day a week. Currently no additional strength, but I need to work on that.

Should I keep up my normal way of eating which is very healthy and still completely Whole 30, even though I'm on day 43 currently, or will low carb provide a benefit to me?

A typical day for me is

M1: 3 scrambled eggs in 1 tsp. ghee with either my fill of roasted butternut squash or 1 large sweet potato with 1/2 avocado and Tessemae's ketchup

Pre-WO: 1-2 HB eggs, sometimes with a gob of mayo

(If I run longer than 90 minutes, I eat an unsweetened applesauce pouch at the :50 mark and then again at the 1:30-2:00 mark if I am still going. If I run less than 8 miles, no during workout food.)

Post-WO: 1 (5 oz.) can of compliant tuna or salmon with either a piece of fruit or 1/2 baked sweet potato, plain

M2: usually something like homemade chicken salad using homemade mayo, salad with lots of veggies and olive oil/balsamic vinegar

M3: usually either chocolate chili with sides of grape tomatoes, black olives, 1/2 avocado and spicy mayonnaise, OR 6 oz. of baked fish with roasted broccoli and homemade tarter sauce with an ocassional piece of fruit and herbal tea

Usually 0-3 pieces of fruit per day, and usually 1-2 starchy carbs per day.

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Everybody is different, but in my experience as a runner who averages 40-45 miles per week plus cross-training, I feel and perform my best when I eat more carbohydrate and stick to the low end of the template when it comes to fat. I eat starchy vegetables at 2 or 3 meals every day, plus one or two servings of fruit. This is about 150-175g of total carbs and usually about 45% of my total calories - which is significantly lower than the 60% you often see recommended for endurance athletes. As far as fats go, I don't usually add extra if I am eating eggs (I count the yolk as my fat) or fatty meat, and I consider cooking fat to be included in my meal (I don't feel that I need to add extra).

 

If I go below 100g of carbs a day for too long, I rapidly lose too much weight, stop getting my period, and have a marked decrease in performance. Now, I am already pretty lean (~17% body fat) and don't have weight to lose, so your context may be different.

 

Also, for what it's worth, applesauce may not be the best fuel for a long run. Apples are a high fructose fruit. When I'm eating Whole30-style, I like the banana babyfood pouches better - more glucose, less fructose. When I'm racing or doing a hard workout and not on a strict Whole30, I use gels.

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Just to comment on your food intake Alison:

The protein you are taking as your preWO will only peak in your system somewhere between 2-4hrs after eating (the fat peaks a lot later) so I'm wondering if you need fuel prior to that in your runs as your body should be able to tap into it's fat stores by now. Do you feel you need those carbs? Or are you eating them out of habit, or a fear of hitting the proverbial wall?

Your postWO meal looks very protein heavy to  me - the recommendation in sports nutritional circles is for 25-50g protein, with double that of starchy carbs (and  in some cases a suggested ratio of 1:3) - You're eating double that so I wonder here if you might be better decreasing protein, and increasing the carbs.

I'd also leave the morning starchy carbs (& any fruit) until later in the day, even though they've been included in your postWO. By eating them in the morning they're having a bigger impact on your blood sugar, and the thinking around the carbs is that they're replacing muscle glycogen when actually in the morning your glycogen isn't yet depleted. I hate to enncourage you to think of food as a reward, but in sports nutrition circles the thinking is that you have to earn your carbs. 

Post run however endurance athletes can continue to replace glycogen stores for up to six hours later. And research suggests that unless sufficient carbs are consumed postWO that glycogen will not normalize on a daily basis and performance may then be effected.

I'm not for or against LCHF - I just listen to my body & do what works for ME and that varies with my training schedule - but bear in mind that for every book/research article you've read extolling the values of a LCHF lifestyle there will be one (or maybe even two!) to counter that argument. You're just not reading those ones.


 

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Just to comment on your food intake Alison:

The protein you are taking as your preWO will only peak in your system somewhere between the 2-4hr after eating (the fat peaks a lot later) so I'm wondering if you need fuel prior to that in your runs as your body should be able to tap into it's fat stores by now. Do you feel you need those carbs? Or are you eating them out of habit, or a fear of hitting the proverbial wall?

Your postWO meal looks very protein heavy to  me - the recommendation in sports nutritional circles is for 25-50g protein, with double that of starchy carbs (and  in some cases a suggested ratio of 1:3) - You're eating double that so I wonder here if you might be better decreasing protein, and increasing the carbs.

I'd also leave the morning starchy carbs (& any fruit) until later in the day, even though they've been included in your postWO. By eating them in the morning they're having a bigger impact on your blood sugar, and the thinking around the carbs is that they're replacing muscle glycogen when actually in the morning your glycogen isn't yet depleted. I hate to enncourage you to think of food as a reward, but in sports nutrition circles the thinking is that you have to earn your carbs. 

Post run however endurance athletes can continue to replace glycogen stores for up to six hours later. And research suggests that unless sufficient carbs are consumed postWO that glycogen will not normalize on a daily basis and performance may then be effected.

I'm not for or against LCHF - I just listen to my body & do what works for ME and that varies with my training schedule - but bear in mind that for every book/research article you've read extolling the values of a LCHF lifestyle there will be one (or maybe even two!) to counter that argument. You're just not reading those ones.

 

 

1. should be able to tap into it's fat stores by now--I am eating the pre-WO meal, still according to the template guidelines.  I haven't strayed too far from the guidelines, as this worked really well for me during my most recent Whole 30.  Since the template says to eat a protein pre-WO with some fat if desired, that's the only reason I eat it--because it seems to work.  But what you say about the protein and fat peaking 2-4 hours after I eat it makes me think that maybe I am not utilizing it during my runs at all.  Usually on the weekends if I eat M1 within 2 hours of my run I don't always have another pre-WO meal, but on long runs I am concerned that I will run out of steam and hit the wall, like you said.  I know that I am fat-adapted so I could try not eating immediately before my run and just see how my body responds to that.  It's like the Pavlovian principle, I think--pre-run I anticipate eating at least a little bit of food so I want it, and maybe even the thought of eating pre-WO has me secreting insulin which is making me hungrier for a pre-WO meal.  Only one way to find out...

 

2. Do you feel you need those carbs?--I do feel that I need them during my long runs (anything longer than 1 1/2 hour).  The longest run that I have attempted without a during-run carb is 8 miles.  I do tend to get hungry around the 90-minute mark, so in order to stave off hunger I eat around the :50-1:00 mark and then again around the 1:30-2:00 mark, depending on how I feel.  I don't know if I am interested in attempting a long run without during the run mini meals of glucose.  I'm no athlete, not even close, but I don't want my performance or stamina to suffer because I am not fueling (or re-filling my stores, I guess.)  I am not interested in eating the guu gels or whatever they are, but am thinking of using unsweetened applesauce or salted dates or even Larabars during my run.  However--I am learning A LOT about the detrimental effects of fructose though, and have been thinking about consuming less fructose and more glucose to maintain my glycogen stores during the long runs.  Any references you two would recommend on low-fructose fruits?  I'm thinking berries for fruits or butternut squash or sweet potato dices for veggies.  I tried carrots, but felt like I might choke on them mid-run and it ended up taking me 30 minutes to finish a snack-sized bag of carrots.  Not what I want to be focusing on during a long run.

 

3. the recommendation in sports nutritional circles is for 25-50g protein--I ran out of canned tuna and salmon recently and haven't replenished my cabinets.  Doh.  I am thinking a 5 oz. can of each fits within this range though.  I'll have to check the nutrition label the next time I get one.  As far as upping my post-WO starchy carb intake, I could totally do that.  I have no problem eating MORE starch! :D

 

4. leave the morning starchy carbs (& any fruit) until later in the day,--I have heard this before, to leave starchy carbs for later in the day.  This makes total sense.  Better blood sugar regulation is a huge bonus.  I don't suffer from blood sugar swings but have a history of a wicked sugar dragon, so any help here is appreciated.  Makes total sense to first deplete topped-up glycogen stores before replenishing them.  I can definitely do this.  I have also read that eating starchy carbs near the end of the day helps with sleep--true??

 

5. I just listen to my body & do what works for ME--this is definitely something that the Whole 30 has taught me to do.  I'm still working on it, but I have gained mindfulness and the ability to tweak what I eat based on how I perform and feel.  Some of the best, most memorable advice I was given early on during the start of my most recent Whole 30 was to "eat, assess, and tweak."  I can't remember who gave me this advice.  I need to look and thank whoever that was because I use that advice ALL THE TIME. 

 

6. for every book/research article you've read extolling the values of a LCHF lifestyle there will be one (or maybe even two!) to counter that argument.--Yes, the research can be confusing.  I try to follow the ones backed by science, not funded by big businesses and companies that have their best interest at stake.  Right now I am reading "Why we get fat" by Gary Taubes.  Genius.

 

Thanks so much for your help.  I really appreciate it.

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Hi Alison

 

I wasn't suggesting you forgo the preWO meal, but rather pointing out that with your meal one, and your preWO meal you should have adequate fuel on board without having to re-fuel again so soon mid-run, considering the time it will take for the macro nutrients in each meal to peak in your system, and your body's ability to also tap into fat stores.

Something to bear in mind when composing meals on your training days is that 100% of carbs are converted to energy but they peak in less than an hour, 50% of protein (peaking as I mentioned previously between 2-4hrs), and 10% of fat, with fat being the 'slow burner' ie. it gives a steady sustained flow for up to 8-10hours, so maybe up the fat content of the meal before your preWO. 

The anecdotal evidence is certainly there to support the benefits of leaving starches until late in the day for improved sleep quality - I certainly find it helps me, and I've paid a lot of attention to sleep hygiene as pre Whole30 mine was pretty poor.

Regarding low fructose fruits here's a really comprehensive list from Dr Loren Cordain which shows total metabolic fructose (fructose + sucrose) and was recommended to me by my tutor. You can download a pdf version for easier reading.

Hope this helps.

 

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Jmcbn--thanks again. I previously misunderstood you, thinking you were asking me to forgo the pre-WO meal. I understand now--thanks for the clarification. Today is a 14-mile run so I'm planning on having my pre-WO meal and *bringing* some during-run glucose but being mindful of how I feel mid-run. If I feel the need to eat, I will. But I will not eat because I think I have to. You are right--I should be able to tap into my fat stores.

Thanks for the low-fructose link. Very helpful.

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