Friday, July 19, 2013

Thoughts on a low carb diet

I started my experiment of a low carb diet mid-April following the MdS

During the MdS, on almost a pure carb diet, I bonked severely on nearly every day. After chatting with a few people, and reading a little, I thought I’d give the old low carb a go, primarily to see if it helped my endurance, particularly over the longer stuff/events that I’ve been doing. I didn’t do it to lose weight as I'm already skinny!

Prior to this, I considered myself to be eating a diet which wasn't as totally based on carbs as some, and was, I was sure, fairly low GI.

Here is what my standard diet looked like:

  • Brekkie - muesli/porridge, or wholemeal toast with any combination of jam, honey and peanut butter
  • Lunch - big salad with chicken/prawns etc and couscous as carbs, a low fat yoghurt and fruit.
  • Dinner - meat/fish, vegetables, baked potato or something with brown rice. Only occasional pasta. Fruit & low fat yoghurt for pudding
  • Snacks – fruit, muesli bar, peanut & jam on rice crackers.

So, more low fat rather than high carb.

So I ditched a lot of that and went low carb.

My first long run was after 4 days and I totally smashed into the wall, in fact I head-butted it! It was shocking. However, I stuck with it and by the end of the 2nd week I was running better than previously; longer before feeling hungry. I was also generally more sated after meals and not feeling the need to have sugary snacks.

My first big test was the Hardmoors 110. I did this with low carb build-up, and it went very well, thank you very much. At Saltburn, 58 miles I felt great. I was told I looked ‘sickeningly well’. I pretty much kept running until about 80 miles and then had a long walk. I was really pleased. I did have carbs during the event but, personally, I think it would be pretty hard to do a long ultra on no carbs.

Then I did Lakes 10 Peaks and I felt great; really strong. No real tiredness until about 11 hours in when I had a bit of a walk. However, I powered up the last peak (Skiddaw) and ran strongly to the finish. I have never finished an ultra so well, so strongly.

What I've found is that I need carbs on all-dayers - events or training. I’ll tend to stick to my favourite peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I’ve always liked 9Bars, and I’ve now discovered Bounce Bars. I’ll have some Pepperami, and Baby Belles with me.

And also splurge after a race. Haagen-Daas come on down! It would be rude not to.

I feel that my endurance is definitely improved, and I intend to continue. Plus, I really like my diet. I get to eat all the higher fat foods that I wasn’t allowing myself; Cheese, salami, chorizo, nuts, full-fat yoghurts and such like.

This is now an example of my diet:

  • Brekkie - nuts & full fat Greek yoghurt, or omelette/eggs & bacon
  • Lunch - salad as before but with cheese/salami/chorizo instead of couscous. Fruit
  • Dinner - meat/fish etc with a pile of veg. Occasional sweet potato. Fruit & full fat natural yoghurt
  • Snacks - peanut butter on celery (love it), biltong, salami etc

So still plenty of fruit, which I consider to be part of a healthy diet, but otherwise low carb.

I don't really miss the carbs at all. Bread, cereal, rice, pasta, potato – no problem and I have my treats after races and adventures.

Of course, all improvement is multi-factorial; I'm sure I am better conditioned, stronger and fitter, but I really feel that the diet has been beneficial to me.

So that's pretty much my experience. Hope that helps others a little.

Oh, I forgot, I always have my 2 squares of dark chocolate at bedtime!


Alistair Stewart said... [Reply to comment]

Interesting read, great that you added a before and after look at your meals; struggling to convince my Chinese wife there is life after rice! May give this a go when she and my daughter are away later in the year. Interestingly my before diet is almost identical to yours reading the after diet the change isn't as huge as you may assume, simply a case of swapping out carbs for meat. I take it you would heartily recommend for anyone heading out to the Sahara next April?

Madza Ali said... [Reply to comment]

Very informative. However all weight loss plan boils down to exercise and calories intake. The longer and/or the frequent you exercise and the lower your calories intake will surely lead to weight loss. And whenever you fell you are not getting complete nutrients with your diet there is always diet supplement products that you can avail with.

Rachel said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Richard,
Im a long time reader… first time poster. I felt that after reading and trying weight loss technics over the past couple years online and finally finding something that gave me some results. Although i wouldn't really say I was "obese" per say, I was still not happy with the way I looked. I felt being 5'4 , that 140 lbs a little unhealthy, having said that, I began almost every crazy diet and workout routine that I could find online. All they did was make me feel like a failure when I missed a day of working out or having a piece of cake at a friends wedding. I regularly fluctuated between 135-140 lbs, a far cry from the 105 i was in high school. To make a long story short, I began feeling I was stuck in a weight-loss hamster wheel until I saw this segment on Dr. Oz about a year ago (heres the actual segment on youtube ) about this green coffee bean extract. Initially it went in one ear and out the other, until one day i was browsing online and saw a site that was giving away a risk free trial ( 'ill list the site in my sig so i don't feel like a pill pusher lol) I though to myself after all the time and cash i invested in other diet programs what did i have to lose? Well I received the free trial about a week after I order it, one of the boasts was I didn't have to do any crazy workouts or live off raw veggies and water. The way it works is it speeds up your metabolism. At first it was slow, I lost about 2 lbs a week. After I lost about 10 lbs I downloaded a calorie counter on my iphone, and within 90 days, I was down to 120 lbs , and just last month I reached my goal of 115 yay me :) Anyway, sorry to ramble, but I hope that someone finds some inspiration in my journey the same way I have… Good luck everyone ;)
BTW the site that is giving out the free trial of the green coffee bean is

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