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!! ✔🏃♀️😃
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?
With my first ever marathon coming up in one week’s time (6th May) some have been asking about my latest preparations.
In many ways I have been preparing for this event since I started my low-carb / ketogenic diet back in April 2016. Since then I lost a lot of weight and as I became energised, I became interested to learn how far I could push myself in this new found state.
First of all – thank you so much to everyone who has helped me raise money for Marie Curie by sponsoring me on my marathon run on 6th May. With your generosity I have now raised a whopping £685. This will go to helping families in their greatest time of need, providing nursing support at home to those with terminal illness – a highly valuable and essential service. I am overwhelmed by the support and kind words – and the very generous anonymous donations too – thank you – whoever you are!!
On 18th April I ran 32km – my longest distance so
far – a new record. I am also pleased to
say that the fundraising goal of £500 is smashed! Thank you to everyone who has made that
First of all – thank you
so much to everyone who has helped me raise money for Marie Curie by sponsoring
me on my marathon run on 6th May.
I am overwhelmed by the support and kind words – and the very generous anonymous
donations too – thank you – whoever you are!!
I had mixed feelings about my training run on 29th
April. I managed to run 23km (14 miles) in
unexpectedly warm weather (about 18°C, that felt like 30!). I tried hard not to neglect the fact I had
run over half a marathon in the warmest temperature I had ever ran in, whilst
part of me went on about how I had “only” made 23km of my 35km (22 miles) target!
I am very pleased that I smashed my previous longest distance of 23km by completing 30km yesterday. It was also my longest continual exercise at 3 ½ hours (just over 33,000 steps!). Of course, I did this without sugar or carbs as usual.
Especially given the challenges that arose, I was very happy
with this time. This distance is about
71% of a full marathon distance (42km) so whilst it will be challenging, I feel
I might be on track to meeting my target of a 4 ½ hour marathon. We will see!
I am in training now for my first marathon – the Rightmove MK Marathon Weekend in Milton Keynes – on 5th and 6th May 2019. On the 5th is a 5km (3 miles) run, and on the 6th is the marathon (42km / 26 miles) – a total of 47km / 29 miles in one weekend.
My main marathon goal is to reach the finish line. My secondary is to complete it in less than 4.5 hours. I also hope to use my “Sugar Drop” protocol as an experiment – running without sugar – subject to prior tests, precautions and medical clearance! (learn more).
I am going to run this marathon in memory of my late mother- and father-in law Fred & Joan Shanks. I am raising funds for Marie Curie.
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.
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:
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.)
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!
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
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%.