I have to say this journey was not at all what I expected it to be. But that is how science goes. You make a hypothesis, do unbiased experimentation, and report the results (regardless of whether or not your findings support your hypothesis). Unfortunately I did not support my hypothesis. With that being said, I am able to say that I have learned so much from my journey about my personal food sensitivities and how my body reacts to the low carb effect.
My Initial hypothesis was: If I adapt to a ketogenic state through low-carb dieting, then my performance as an endurance athlete will improve in terms of faster times.
Perhaps I should have included a more specific goal that included actual time trails. Overall however, my running workouts did not improve drastically enough to prove that ketosis / fueling through fat improves my own running performance. Although my workout times improved slightly over the months, this could have been due to physiological / mitochondrial adaptations from my training alone.
Overall, from a health aspect I began to feel very inflamed. I will enjoy eating leaner and lighter foods again such as high-carb fruits and vegetables while still staying away from low-nutrient carbs such as breads and white starches. I am interested to see how my training will be impacted from the switch off of low carb!
I’ve decided to post about my progress since I’ve been on the low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat diet in January. I wanted to give a run down of my personal experience with low-carb and specifically the effects it had on my performance.
The specifics of my macronutrient restrictions included:
< 25 g of carbs / day
< 80 g of protein/ day
and unlimited fat intake depending on my training rigor
I did not change my training intensity nor volume so I could have a consistent comparison of the effects of my diet on my training.
Excerpts from my training journal :
"I can definitely feel a difference in my morning runs. After being on this diet for 4 days, I feel extremely sluggish and dazed during the first 2 miles of my easy runs. After 2 miles however I feel pretty normal and steady again. My workout days are pretty rough as well. I did an 8 x 1K workout that was miserable! My times were awful. Hopefully I will be adjusting soon.
“I am still a bit hungry on my morning runs when I first begin but I am getting used to it. On my interval training days (3x /week) I feel oddly stronger after my warmups than I did before low carb. I actually feel like I have more energy during the lasts repeats especially on mile repeats and longer intervals. I started hill sprints again and those have suffered a lot. After the first 20 seconds of the sprint I start to tank. It’s really crazy thinking about the text book pictures of the ATP-PC system during my workout and experiencing it crash. Since I have depleted my glucose supply glycolysis is lagging which is why the last 25 seconds of my hill sprints feel like I’m dying. Even though it is difficult for training, I am really enjoying applying/experimenting with all the science I have learned in my training.”
I believe I have pretty much leveled off with my low-carb tolerance. My training has both seen improvements and detriments. My longer runs (12+) are so much more enjoyable now! I don’t tank or hit that glycogen depletion feeling after 90 minutes any more! The only workouts that are still suffering are my shorter/anaerobic workouts. All workouts with hill repeats/ sprints under 1 minute still feel like death. It definitely makes sense coming from a scientific view of it. Being that I am training for aerobic races of 5k distance or greater, this really is only a detriment during my final kick of the race. All other endurance workouts have greatly improved! I don’t know if I will stay low carb indefinitely. There are still many other aspects to be looked at such as if it is healthful long term apart from running /performance. And I do miss my bananas and oatmeal!