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A marathon – just add sugar

I’m stoked to say that on May 6th 2019 I completed my first marathon!

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped me raise money for Marie Curie by sponsoring me on my marathon.  I am overwhelmed by the support and kind words – and the very generous anonymous donations too – thank you – whoever you are!! ✔🏃‍♀️😃

Learn more about the background of this marathon and its fundraising.

Marathon map, Milton Keynes
42km of Milton Keynes

Three years ago I started my ketogenic (low-carbohydrate) journey, lost a lot of weight, and much to my surprise went from “couch to runner” in early 2017.  Since then, I’ve continued to experiment to see what I can do with my newfound ketogenic energy.  I discovered I didn’t need sugars and carbohydrates to do the things I wanted to do from weightlifting, cycling, running, and more.  I could do them in a completely fasted state just fuelling with my body’s stored fat.  Of course, I wanted to find out how far I could go.  Could I run a marathon without any sugar?

Continue reading “A marathon – just add sugar”

Running on fat without sugar

The Sugar Drop protocol – a layman’s method of maintaining blood sugar without carbohydrates during long runs

May 2019: I’ll soon be adapting this method following further revelations, to become a personal protocol to naturally raise ketones and normalise blood sugar prior to long exercises to prevent hypoglycaemia (“hitting the wall”, or “bonking”) for as long as possible whilst consuming absolute minimal carbohydrates.

See also A marathon – just add sugar

Having met my target weight on a ketogenic diet back in 2016, and having discovered many health benefits of this lifestyle I had no desire to go back to my old ways. However, I continued to lose (too much) weight. After some research I discovered the solution was to start working out (particularly resistance / weight training). Having been sedentary for most of my life I found this quite daunting. But in 2017 I discovered that my new diet provided me with more energy than I had felt in decades. I started weight training which stabilised my weight, and later with my excess energy I started treadmill running. In September 2017 I headed to the gym before breakfast and randomly ran 21k over 2:12, stopping not because I could not continue but because I had to get to work. It was then I discovered the nature of “fat-adapted” energy delivery. Since then I have been studying, testing and experimenting to work out the optimal method to keep myself running – without carbs or sugar.

Conventional thinking (based on research going back to the 1970s) suggests that loading up on carbs before an endurance event, then “topping up” during and afterwards is a requirement. My feeling now is that this is a requirement – if your metabolism is “configured” to use dietary glucose [from carbohydrates] as a primary source. However, if you remove carbs for long enough, the body generates its own glucose “on demand” along with ketones, which are predominantly used to fuel the brain. This isn’t a new concept and numerous athletes, body builders have proven this. One of my favourite and most inspiring stories is that of Meredith Loring and Sami Inkinen who rowed 24 hours a day for 45 days over 2,765 miles on a 70% fat diet with less than 10% carbohydrates: Fat chance row

There is no end of further examples online. However, I cannot fool myself into believing I am a top athlete, at forty years old I have only just started exercising. So, the question is:

How far can I go with this?

Continue reading “Running on fat without sugar”

23km run in a fasted, low-carb state

Today I ran 22.65k in the most atrocious weather conditions (not my best pace with the wind and rain against me, and having a mild hypothermia at the end 😳). This is my furthest distance yet using my “sugar drop protocol” to generate blood sugar without consuming any sugar or carbohydrates, just salt! Read more about that here

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Half marathon in a fasted, low-carb state

Running on fat without sugar

My dietary goals

My primary goal on my diet is to keep my insulin levels low.  I’ll explain more about why later.  To achieve this, I predominantly consume foods with a low-GI (Glycaemic Index) – probably lower than most would consider low.  I thus avoid all sugars, carbohydrates (especially refined or processed), most fruits, and starches.  I favour natural fats and proteins.

My secondary aim is to maintain a low level of body inflammation, which I will also explain more later.  To achieve this, I avoid inflammatory foods.  Rather conveniently, there is quite a cross over between high-GI and inflammatory foods (which I do not believe to be a coincidence).  I avoid sugars, vegetable / seed oils, processed foods, fake fats (esp. trans fats), refined carbohydrates, and alcohol.  I favour whole foods rich in nutritious and well formed, natural fats that are dominant in saturated and monounsaturated fats, whilst avoiding polyunsaturated fats.  These foods also happen to include an appropriate amount of natural proteins.

My macronutrient goals that work for me, having been refined over years of experimentation are 10% carbohydrate, 20% protein and 70% fat.  (My average over 2017 came to 12%/34%/54% respectively however).

Roughly speaking I observe the micronutrient guidelines, but I take them with a pinch of salt (literally) for reasons I will explain later.  I like to eat a variety of foods that I believe will give me everything I need.

Overall, I want my diet to support me in:

  • Never feeling hungry
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating when I want to, rather than because I feel I must
  • Having as much energy as I need, when I need it
  • Achieving a healthy lipid panel (cholesterol, etc.)
  • Blood sugar and insulin control
  • Having low body inflammation
  • Feeling happy and healthy

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What the keto?

What do I eat?

Everything I ate in 2017

What do I eat?

I am a big fan of quality meats and dairy products of all kinds.  (By the way, it is possible to achieve all the above as a vegetarian, if meat is not your thing.)  I try to buy organic wherever possible, because what animals eat and are exposed to really does make a difference to its nutritional properties.  Whilst not a huge fan of “greens” I do eat cabbage, spinach, green beans and other leafy “above ground” produce.  I eat a lot of eggs, which I believe are probably amongst the most nutritious thing we can eat (eaten whole, preferably organic).  I enjoy high fat (low sugar) yoghurt and berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), and 90-100% dark chocolate in moderation.  I like eating nuts.  I eat too many salted peanuts, but otherwise walnuts.  I cook in real butter or olive oil, favouring frying as there is less loss of nutritious fat in the process.  My wife kindly makes a whole host of amazing recipes and we thus enjoy a great variety of meals.  Probably the worst thing I ever eat is KFC – my vice.  I only ever eat the chicken and very rarely the “sides”.  KFC is not the highest carb take-away, but it is highly processed and contains numerous inflammatory ingredients.  It doesn’t happen too often, so I do not worry!

Unbelievably, I managed to record everything I ate and drank in 2017: Everything I ate in 2017

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What the keto?

My dietary goals

Everything I ate in 2017

Everything I ate in 2017

The spreadsheet below details everything I ate in 2017 (yes really).  It was a very arduous process, especially given this diet doesn’t include a lot of things out of packets – meaning every new recipe had to be weighed and analysed at ingredient level.  I used MyFitnessPal.  Sometimes things had to be reasonably estimated, sometimes I had to make reasonable data substitutions where no data was available, so this is a rough guide.  All this could have ended in divorce, had my wife not the patience of a saint.

Some interesting takeaways (ha – takeaway) were that I consumed approximately:

  • 831 creamed coffees
  • 257 cups of tea (nearly all with full fat milk)
  • 255 Eggsnogs – a weird breakfast drink I blended myself, recipe coming soon
  • 114 low carb buns (homemade)
  • 160 rashers of bacon
  • 30 kg of butter
  • 120 eggs (probably a lot more in other recipes)
  • 12 kg of cheese
  • 179 lattes – mostly full fat milk
  • Quite a lot of dark chocolate (>90% cocoa) and too many peanuts

Very dark chocolate 90-100% cocoa
Amazing how formerly bitter became the new sweet on a low carb diet

In addition I consumed a lot of great homemade meals too so whilst these numbers are interesting they do not reflect my diet as a whole.  My diet has also changed a fair bit since 2017.

In all I consumed approximately 16 kg of carbohydrates, 46 kg of protein and 75 kg of fat.  That’s 12%, 34% and 54% respectively.  This is a more protein than is generally recommended for an LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet.  This works OK for me generally, but when I am aiming for performance I target a more ketogenic 10% / 20% / 70% or even 5% / 15% / 80%.

After all that fat all year – how much weight did I put on??
Continue reading “Everything I ate in 2017”