Ketoinued – Running at Midnight is Madness

So last month we went madder than the hatter and ran a 20-mile race starting at midnight.  Then last night we ran our first back-to-back morning then midnight 15k’s. As Trex has already given you his Race report, I suppose I should give my take since it was a tad bit different.

Having been on a Keto diet for month it was a preparing for races and long runs are different in many ways.

First no carb loading the days before the race and long runs. I have to say, while I am honestly not really craving carbs I did miss our pre-race ritual meals, Thai or Indian for dinner two nights before the race, and Honeynut Cheerios and bananas for breakfast (dinner in this case). Instead I eat more veggies,  avocados, fatty meats and fat bombs, drink lots of water and electrolyte drinks (Propel so far is my favorite from a flavor standpoint).

My vest isn’t laden with gels and treats, instead I bring Lyteshow, salt sticks, hammer electrolyte extreme endurance, Nuun Energy tablets, run gum and Rx Nut Butter,  Ucan and Propel server drink pouches.

Fueling for long runs is a bit different as we can’t depend on carbs. So I did some reading and found a few recipes for alternative fuels for Keto running. I bought some reusable squeeze pouches on Amazon and made up a few batches. One of pb,  ghee, avocado oil and salt. The other was pb, Lilly chocolate chips, and coconut oil. Lastly I fill a pouch or small water bottle with Gut Shot garlic and dill. Since I started Keto I crave pickle juice. This has really been a life saver and has helped with leg cramps, which I experienced around mile 13 during the Midnight Madness.  I also made lemon keto fat bombs (made with Coconut butter, which I don’t’ recommend) and usually have a couple in my ice chest.  Other snacks I pack for pit stops now usually include pickles, pickled okra, Moon cheese, Parmesan crisps, macadamia nuts and pork-rinds for crunchy salty.

With our race routes and long runs being on the same city trails we normally run, we park our vehicles to serve as our own aid stations. For Midnight Madness we parked right next to the race aid station, in the lower lot of Turkey Mountain, which stocked foods and drinks we can’t consume on this diet, so no aid there for us really.  It has worked out perfect and has ensured we have the right fuel and plenty of cold water at critical times during our runs.  Like most trail races I will grazed a bit when we stop, taking in little bit of the variety of goodies. And so far, by the time I do feel a bit tired and low on energy we are able to refuel and go.

Midnight Madness, being my first really long run on Keto I would still give it high praise for sustainable energy. During my 10-mile run through the Santa Cruz mountains and yesterday’s back-to-back 15k’s I didn’t bonk out. I feel like Keto has been way more of a help than a hindrance, at least for that distance/pace. On the other hand I have definitely noticed an impact to my HIIT runs and distances. My HR runs higher and I still find it harder to catch my breath, this is also impart due to the heat of the summer but I encountered this in San Jose so I am confident it is the greater amount of blood oxygen it takes to burn fat that is the cause of this particular issue.  Overall in terms of running condition I have felt really good for my long distance runs having started Keto and plan to continue to stick with this at least through our fall races, unless something drastically changes between now and then.

Keto is Neato! (5 days and counting)

So today marks our 5th day on the Keto diet. I started it Saturday, with a 6 mile run during which I burned off my last delicious meal of carbs that I had enjoyed the previous night at our local Thai Buffet. It was my way of saying one last goodbye to curried chickens and rice, sweet coconut milk rice dessert, delicious Pad Thai.  There was a tear in my eye as I left stuffed to the gills.

I have been using MyfitnessPal (MFP) on my iphone linked to Garmin Connect and my (formerly Trex’s) Garmin Fenix 3HR to track my calories, macro nutrient percentages, and my runs (+ general movement).  I set MFP goals to 1lb per week which put me on a roughly 1600 daily calorie limit to reach my goal weight loss of 10lbs. I set my daily macro percentages for fat (70%), protein (20%) and carbs to (5%).  Then using the app I scan barcodes and input amounts consumed and track my food down to the macro level. A trick to doing this is to preload foods to see how they will affect your numbers. That way there are no surprises or oopsie overages.

As of this morning I am 7lbs lighter than what I weighed after my run on Saturday which has been my average weight since about this time last year. That’s way more than I had expected to lose so if the trend holds I will increase my calories. I am only looking to cut 10lbs of fat and no more simply to allow for muscle gain over the course of our ultra training and to offset the gear we carry on trails. Mostly the same reason as Trex. But I also am undiagnosed as a pre-diabetic. Since I have started running again and eating a much less calorie rich diet on the regular I have seen vast improvements, but I am(was) still affected by the blood sugar crashes and spikes and based on reading the ‘internet’, Keto can help treat issues such as these. I make no claims as to whether there is real science to back this, but it’s worth observing whether it has benefits, and so far in just a few short days I am going to give a resounding YES. Here are some observations I have made about how it is working and affecting me thus far and why I would say its been beneficial, although this could change come Sunday after my first serious long run on the diet.

TL:DR Summary of my experiences:

Rapid weight loss with no significant issues with energy, sugar highs/lows, or cravings throughout the day. A slight notable energy decline in the first two days, but nothing like what I was counting on. I tend to want a sweet flavor following the fatty more salty foods, but that’s kinda normal so that doesn’t really count as a craving for carbs. I am able to stave this off by chewing sugarless gum or saving room in the calorie budget for a fat bomb. So far I like the diet, enjoying fattier foods like cheese and peanut butter has actually been a relief mentally as I feel guilty for eating those on a normal calorie diet.  It feels decadent and cheese, PB, avocados, salami, etc are just delicious!

Heart Rate seems to be a bit high during runs but that could just be the heat. Feel like run energy is higher than normal on a work day, but the biggest improvement is that I am not totally wiped out after my runs/work day when I get home. Tonight is a prime example. It’s 9pm and I am still fully energized even on the computer and I haven’t had caffeine since my morning cup.

A slightly more detailed account of my experiences thus far:

Day & Evening 1:  I didn’t really notice much energy loss during the run I think because I was still burning off residual sugars from the prior days meals. I ate on plan through the day but did have a little more caffine after my run as I was feeling a tad run down. Ha!

Day 2: (Massively sunburned after lounging by the pool on day one, Banana Boat Simply Kids Spray totally failed even with multiple reapplications) I chose not to do a long run, both to recover fully from the Marathon from the previous weekend, and primarily because it was Father’s Day and I gave my DH a dad day off.  So I caffeinated a tad more throughout the day.  It’s notable that I felt a tab peckish throughout the day but was satisfied with on-diet snacks and didn’t feel deprived or hungry, just that I had a slightly higher craving to eat.  Normal tired by evening, not a major crash as I was expecting

Day 3: I was a tad sluggish and drank far more caffeinated coffee drinks both to add “Fat” using real cream, and to keep me perky.  Being that it was also a Monday, that is a general contributor to the sluggishness of the day. But I didn’t feel hungry between meals and ate quite well on plan. Late evening, after kids are asleep I did a tad bit of exercise, my PT leg exercises with the elastic bands; afterwards I had a headache and crashed immediately in bed. The headache was probably on account of slightly more caffeine than normal and well my sunburn.

Day 4 (Yesterday. Here’s where it gets a little more interesting?):  Technically I ran my first real run without carbs to fuel it. Unfortunately my Wahoo HR monitor(also formerly Trex’s) was deplete of battery juice, so my HR data is inaccurate as it came from the Fenix, which is just not reliable. I was way over into z4 in several segments in the run and was a steady z3 for the rest and we were doing a moderate to slow pace.  I felt out of breath for most of the run at our normal pace so there was probably some validity to the higher HR, just not clear if it was the heat or the diet or both.

During the run, aside from feeling out of breath, I actually felt pretty good. I didn’t feel sluggish, or tired, I actually felt like I had sustained energy, much like how the eGels make me feel; not supercharged like on caffeine but just right.

After my run was a MAJOR improvement. Normally by the time I reach the house after my drive in the car I am run down and sluggish after a long day at work followed by hot sweaty run in the Oklahoma heat. I typically reach for a Yerba Mate Revel Berry to perk up so I can wrangle kids into tubs, and help with dinner and bedtime etc.  But I can’t drink those on Keto as they have too much sugar; but I didn’t need it. I felt like I had drank one and was able to last all night without feeling like a total zombie. HUGE PLUS!

That brings us to today, Day 5:   Much the same as yesterday, during the day I felt pretty good. I actually didn’t drink any extra caffeinated drinks today, just my normal cup of freshly roasted, and ground French Pressed delicious Papa New Guinea with coconut oil, heavy cream and xylitol to go with my egg fried in a tablespoon of butter. The best part of waking up! I recall that yesterday I did have a 20 calorie High Brew mid-day, but I can say I could have lived without it. But today nada extra. We picked up some keto friendly Tru Lemon drink mixes at the nearby supercenter and I can say they will do for now as something better than water when you just want flavor. I ate well, hitting my target fats for the first time really, and didn’t feel hungry. I did snack a bit after lunch but I think that was less hunger and more boredom driven.   During our run today I was feeling pretty good. We did Fartleks, which I am hence forth calling ‘Running Roulette’ as we take turns picking when to start the intervals so you don’t quite know when your next sprint is coming or how far/long.  My HR was through the roof during the sprints but I wasn’t as out of breath today as yesterday.  I feel like the run was slightly easier than I expected.  Same story as yesterday when I left the trail and came home. Plenty of energy left to finish this article after the nightly routine; no crashes, sustained energy. Liking this very much so far. Oh and I weighed myself when I got home just before my shower  and after tanking up on water to rehydrate and I am actually down another lb.  That may fluctuate but I will keep a close eye and adjust calories as needed.  Stay tuned for more observations/experiences on the Keto Diet. Or don’t, IANTBOY

Make Weight (common phrase heard in a wrestling room)

Bunny and I, mostly me because she can’t afford to lose much, are going ‘keto’.   I’ve done this before back when it was called Atkin’s Diet.   I had good success with weight loss during the 10-11 months I did it, then my twins were born, I started having a heart arrhythmia and it fell by the wayside.   Plus, no offense or fault for all the restrictive diet folks but cutting out a significant sized source of calories isn’t enjoyable to me.   I like all foods, I like bread, cake, veggies, fruits, meat of every source that runs on legs (no seafood) and trying to come up with half assed “almost as good as” substitutes sucks for me.  Life’s too short to try to pretend that cauliflower makes a great substitute for mashed potatoes or pizza crust or that jack fruit makes for great pulled pork sandwiches.  That’s not to denigrate anyone’s choices, I’ll support your choices to the bitter end, just that those choices aren’t permanently for me.

We’ll be trying for the TKD or Traditional Keto Diet of shooting for 80% calories from Fats, 15% from proteins and 5% from carbs while keeping total carbs below 50g.

80% calories from fats is tough if you actually like food.  I don’t know about you but I don’t eat a stick of butter or a box of cream cheese as a normal diet, nor do I sip heavy cream blended with coconut oil as a beverage.  So it’s tough if you actually enjoy all kinds of foods like myself.

With our first 50K, Dead Horse Ultra, looming ever closer, okay it’s roughly 5 months out at this point, I’ve decided, not so much that I want to ‘run keto’ but I do want to drop a fair percentage of my body fat to make that run more enjoyable.

It’s a race that I want to have the mental and physical energy to enjoy the route, the people, the desert, the views, everything involved with it as I won’t have too many of these fairly pricey ‘destination races’ in what’s left of my lifespan.

It’s not so I can burn out a awesome PR because at the end of the day I just want to finish the race and a) not be DFL and b) not be DNF.   I shoot on the low side of goals in running.  🙂

Keto has it’s downsides other than food options of course for ultra running.   Increased oxygen demands in an already potentially oxygen deficit function impacts ability.   Very little in the way to look forward to at an aid station, no chips, gels, pizza, pbj sandwiches, drink mixes, pretzels, etc and so on.  Just give me more water, let me take this yummy salt tablet and head back out.

I’ve read up enough on it that to me the biggest performance boost is from weight loss for a Keto runner.   Other than that running efficiency seems to go down on Keto at least for middle and back of hte packers like myself.  It really can’t not if nothing else from the oxygen costs to turn fat into fuel but additionally the energy increase to do the conversion compared to burning carbs, these increase work loads on the body without any performance boosting benefits.

So long story short, we’re going LCHF solely for weight loss benefits.  If I can replicate the success I had 15 years ago when I did it the first time then I’ll be in much better shape to handle our first 50K.

Today was my first longer run after reducing carbs to under 50g a day; it was roughly 10 miles and I was out of energy hard around mile 6 and have been feeling wiped all day afterwards.   My average pace ended up close to 2 minutes slower than normal.

We were going to hold off a bit for personal reasons on starting our Keto roadmap but we’re doing a 20 Mile Midnight Madness run in 2 weeks and I thought that would make a great test case.   It takes, let’s make up a generic time frame, 2 weeks to start getting fat adapted and, another generic time frame, 4 weeks to get fully comfortable.   That’s a snide comment on how time units are always so nice and neat when they apply to the ‘average’ person.   Why 2 weeks?  Why isn’t it 13 days?  Or 16 days?   2 weeks is just too neat and tidy of a time unit which makes me question is there any science behind it or it did folks just round it to a basic unit that everyone will be comfortable with.

I digress, but I do that.

So last weekend we ran our second marathon, in 90 degree heat no less, on trails.   Saturday I tested my legs with a 3 mile ‘normal’ pace for me and it wasn’t too bad, I hit my usual casual run pace of 10’s without feeling too bad.  But I still had stored carbs for fuel.    Today I decided to stretch it out a bit to see how much damage I was looking at and muscle/tendon wise I wasn’t bad.  Quads were slightly ‘bouncy’ when I was walking but nothing serious.   But oh my goodness, energy levels dropped like a stone during the run.

But it’s only been two days of no carbs and based on my basil metabolism and my exertion levels and just how many calories it costs me to move my not insignificant mass forward, I would have been running out of glucogen about half way through the 10 mile run and that’s about where it went sideways on me.

This week we’ll take it easier with some Z2 5K’s and next Sunday we’ll try another 10 mile run and see where we are.   Because we have a 20 mile run a week after that and I don’t want to be a back of the packer because the race director deliberately oversold the race so there’s a lack of medals for every finisher I’m not going to try to burn things out and see where we are.

Anyway that’s our going Keto story.   We’ll post updates if there’s anything of interest that pops up.