Hi - I don't have experience but have been reading a great deal from a sports doctor, Tim Noakes, who has recently switched to no carb and stated that for him that is best. It is interesting as essentially he says everyone is different and therefore his previous carbo loading advice is not right for all athletes - and particularly not for him as he is carbo resistant. There is a great deal on the net about his experiences so if you google his name you should find some of it.
THATHOTRUNRGRL , thanks for your explanation. I was still writing while you posted, I think I may indeed have to do only one of those for now. Typically my warmup on the treadmill is uphill walking with increasing incline every minute. The tricky part for me is to figure out what my pulse range should be when I'm doing the in-between speeds (above easy pace, but below sprints). For my easy pace I stay under 135 bpm.
Thanks for the link. I read the article and found that what it covers is essentially consistent with what I read elsewhere about the use of ketones being useful fuel during times of starvation and when on low-carbohydrate diets, whether natural, like the Inuit or Massai, or intentionally planned, as in Atkins or Paleo/Primal. The article that I found very helpful on the issue is this one: eatingacademy.com/nutrition/ketosis-advant aged-or-misunderstood-state-part-i This is only part one of a series with part 2 to follow soon. It seems like there is enough anecdotal evidence and some short-term studies indicating benefits for many athletes that a lot more research will be done soon if sufficient financing can be secured (this is not one that pharmaceutical companies have much to gain from). In the meantime I will continue my experiment along with many others, many of whom have had some special challenges in the area of getting fit and healthy, giving extra motivation to find new answers. Here is one of the well-known ones: livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/n1
As far as my own training plan, I have to take into consideration that my body is working with less than half of a thyroid with somewhat elevated TSH levels (that have come down a little since going low-carb from about 8-9 to around 5-6, no idea why yet). This means an additional challenge in addition to some remaining insulin resistance. The most immediate effect of thyroid levels being less than ideal in my case is less than perfect sleep patterns/getting enough high-quality sleep and the necessity to manage stress levels better than other people. There is also less margin as far as toxic ingredients in the diet, hence the all-organic diet. All of these problems, of course, are extremely common for people in the overweight and obese category as well. So while my weight, currently 132 at 5'7", puts me squarely in the normal range, my body fat percentage has been stubbornly sitting at 23%, not bad, but definitely not an athletic amount. I have shared all of this because it affects my training. I try to keep my stress level (physical) just a little lower than some people might. I also am very aware of the danger of doing any strength training (especially without a coach next to me) without proper alignment. For this reason I separate my strength training workouts from my cardio and do very little circuits/HIIT. My cardio is a mix of running, a little elliptical for glutes and swimming. My focus is to improve my primary sport, horseback riding, where core strength, correct alignment and balance as well as overall muscle balance are important. So my strength training is focused mostly on upper body (especially arms, shoulders and chest, my weakness) and core muscle groups, usually doing 3 reps of 10-12 with slowly increasing weights as I get stronger. I tend to alternate cardio and strength training days with typically one day off completely (other than walking).
I don't have anything to add regarding your low-carb diet plan. But in response to the question of how many days a week you should do speedwork, you are correct 1 day a week is enough. But you may need to adjust your definition of speedwork. Straight speed workouts are usually anything from 100 m repeats up to a mile and can be even splits, ladders, reverse ladders, etc. depending on your goals. But then you should also include 1 workout a week to improve either your VO2max or lactate threshold. These workouts can be tempo runs, hill repeats (sprints), or runs on hilly courses. They will be slightly harder than your normal steady run but not done as fast as the speed run. You should also never do these workouts on back-to-back days.
I don't know where you're starting out, but you may want to just do one of these workouts per week until you build up, then when you're ready add the second one but keep them both short.
My next question is how much and what kind of strength training are you doing? All of the runners I have ever coach have had a well developed strength training programme and most of the class runners I have known have all had a strength training programme. I have completed two marathons in the 4.5 hour range at a body weight of 215 muscular pounds.
Some information from the dudes in white coats who have a fetish for rats.
In reviewing the juried research I have not found any direct relationship to increases in energy, most of the research deals with moderation in insulin production and various therapeutic benefits with chronic diseases. In conclusion without a longitudinal research study on the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet I will reserve my endorsement of them as a benefit to endurance athletes.
SEARGEANTMAJOR, your input is still very interesting for me to read, even if it does not address the question specifically, so I appreciate your taking the time to respond. I guess I should have clarified that my chage from low fat to high fat was indeed very gradual over a number of years, with something like an all organic version of the Zone diet in the middle. This did indeed work much better than the low-fat diet I had eaten previously and got me within 15 lbs. of goal weight. I was just not very successful on it to lose the last 10 lbs. of belly fat, get rid of insulin resistance and/or improve my running time from a very slow 2 hrs. 43 min. for my first half-marathon. And yes, this contradicts conventional wisdom about carb-loading for endurance events. The concept of going low-carb for endurance is still pretty new, but rapidly spreading concept. The idea of excluding large food groups from the diet might best be described as a therapeutic diet that corrects a diseased state, in this case insulin resistance, but one that may affect the majority of the population. This is indeed almost the same as the Atkins diet, at least as far as macro nutrients are concerned. I'll have to pass on the idea of eating wooly mammoth to people I know eating Paleo-style. I think both Atkins and Paleo are really low-carb diets with slightly different emphasis, paleo often excluding dairy because so many people have sensitivities to dairy. While my carb levels are extremely low at the moment (under 20 grams/day) I think I have a good chance of increasing my insulin sensitivity over time and being able to include a few more carbs from dairy and fruit soon then I currently am, making this a very balanced diet. Even now I am eating a wide variety of meats, dairy, nuts, seeds, veggies, oils, herbs and fish, it really does not feel very restrictive once you get over the carb withdrawal. There are no nutrients in grains that you can't get from other types of food and carbohydrates are not even essential to get from diet as our body can manufacture them in the small quantities that are needed for keto-adpated people. Both the brain and muscles can utilize ketones as fuel instead of glucose once the body is given time to adapt to this type of energy. It may be amazing to hear but the number of people who run long-distance (marathons and ultras) on low-carb is growing because they can do so without bonking as their glycogen stores don't run empty. One good example is the winner of the Western States 100 Ultra in 2012, Tim Olsen, who at age 28 set a new course record beating the existing record by more than 30 minutes in a keto-adapted state and with far less fueling that what is considered normal. www.flickr.com/photos/encouragement/587371 5938/ I'm not sure I will ever run an ultra, but running a marathon is something that I would consider now, time will tell depending on how my running continues on low-carb.
I find it interesting that you have gone from a low fat diet to a low carbohydrate diet or it seems that way from reading your posts here. The concept espoused in a way contradicts the research done on carbohydrate loading for endurance events. It in a way mimics the Atkins approach to diet. Over the years as a health care professional (now retired) I have seen a variety of "exclude or limit this" diets come and go. The Pritikin Diet relied on a low fat and lots of low glycemic carbohydrates, The Paleo diet is into eating lots of wooly mammoth or equivalent, there are even the Rice Diet promoted by Duke University and the Grapefruit Diet once enjoying a certain cult following.
The perhaps misnamed Zone Diet is not as much a diet plan as a way of balancing macro nutrients. Developed to treat Type II diabetics by Barry Sears, PhD, an endocrinologist it proved to also cause weight loss and increased energy. It has been adopted by many world class athletes and is one of the training tables at the United States Olympic Training centres. Based on a eating ratio of 40% low glycemic carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% good fats it is designed to balance the macro nutrients needed by the diet. Fats a re necessary in every diet to appease the appetite and provide the precursors for hormones, proteins build and maintain muscle and carbohydrates are converted to blood sugars which supply the body and especially the brain with fuel. Diminishing any below the needed threshold can upset the metabolism over time and cause a variety of problems.
Personally in my many years of coaching ranging from female distance runners, to road runners and high activity level team sports such as soccer and basketball I have found that my athletes did best on a diet balanced in macro nutrients combined with a quality training programme.
As an aside, my running training programmes are based on a three day cycle of hard, easy and medium workouts. With a rest day between cycles or at the completion of two three day cycles. Hard days are speed work, easy days are long slow distance and medium days are moderate distance mixed with some fartlek, moderate hill work and various forms of running play such as prancing, running backward, doing cariocas or anything the imagination comes up with to change the pace.
Rambling thoughts from my experience which do not address the question as such.
My energy levels are great now that my diet is low-carb, they were lousy when I was eating a lower-fat diet. I'm just starting to train for my next Half marathon. I'm curious, how often do you do speedwork? Once a week is what is recommended by a lot of running programs I've looked at to train for endurance events and is what I have started with. My assumption has been that the stress on the body from more frequent speedwork can have a lot of negative effects both hormonally and for the muscles. I'm basing this among other things on my reading of Mark Sisson's "The Primal Blueprint".
I'm not meaning to diss low carb at all - it has a LOT of merit.
But my point is that the 'sporadic speed work' (your words) is exactly the problem. Long, slow steady state running only goes so far in build cardio fitness.
Oxygen is the limiting factor in converting fat to energy, and VO2 Max is the measure of how efficient your body is in delivering it. If you can increase the amount of oxygen delivered to your body, you can increase the conversion of fat to energy. If you feel you "don't have enough energy", maybe this is the problem?
M@L, increasing my cardio fitness much is exactly what I was unable to do even after regular running for over a year. I've never had my V02 Max tested but judging by my heart rate at different speeds it looks like cutting the carbs was the only thing that worked for me and using the Maffetone method (running with heart rate cap of 180-age) with only sporadic speed work about once a week once a good aerobic base is built seems to work best. I'll have to say that I was insulin resistant , with my HA1c just now coming down under 5.8, so a low-carb diet is the only thing that works for me from that perspective. I'm sure HIIT does work to increase V02 Max, but many people like me, don't have enough energy on a low-fat diet to see improvement through HIIT until their body gets better at burning fat. This is what keto-adaptation is all about. So it's a matter of what needs to come first for each person to be successful. The energy shortfall that you talk about that frequently happens when people start a low-carb diet is only a problem for a few weeks as the body adjusts to burning ketones. After that energy levels are often higher and performance frequently improves, allowing people to set new PR's. Take a look at the book and see what you think after that.
One thing to think about for this is your fundamental cardio vascular fitness. In particular, increasing your VO2 Max can allow your body to convert fat to energy faster, rather than using stored carbs for fuel.
While most endurance runners are focussed on distance, you should definitely be including some speed work (High Intensity Interval Training is ideal) to increase your VO2 Max as part of your overall program.
Low carb AND not working on your VO2 Max is likely to lead to energy shortfalls. But many low carb proponents are such passionate advocates of their cause that they omit to mention some of the downsides. Or perhaps they are just focussed on the diet side of the equation.
I have been experimenting with a ketogenic (very low carb) diet to improve my endurance and prepare for a half-marathon and also improve my upper body strength. I'm interested if anyone else is experimenting with this. I am basing this experiment on the book "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance" by Volek and Phinney. I wrote a short review about the book if anyone wants to know what it's about here: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_ individual.asp?blog_id=5174435
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