[Apologies to my fibery friends - this post contains precisely 0% knitting content. Whole30 and health nuts, read on!]
As part of My Clean Year (#mycleanyear), going hand in hand with taking a break from alcohol, I've wanted to break my sugar habit. Doing several rounds of Whole30 (and non-strict, Whole30-inspired 'resets' afterwards) went a long way, but I kept finding myself sliding quickly back into a near-daily relationship with chocolate, sugar, baked goods...
And then our friend Dr. B was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and has been fighting the wee beasties with a ketogenic diet: super-low carbohydrates (around 50g/day), moderate protein, and lots of healthy fats. He's feeling so much better, and wow has he leaned up! As someone who's hovered at the Overweight/Obese line of body fat percentages, that leaning up sure caught my attention.
Then come to find out my stepdaughter and her husband have been going keto as well, and feeling and looking great too. That non-scientific cohort of 3 was enough to convince me to try it. (I had already committed to the month of June sans sugar altogether, so keto was a logical extension.)
But wait - what about that half-marathon goal coming up? (I'm doing the Pie High Trail Run in July.) Can I switch to running in ketosis while keeping up my training runs? Googling the question got me some anecdotal information from a few (über-geeky) (male) ultrarunners, but not a lot of real-life, I-did-this feedback from my fellow women half runners. So I thought I'd put myself into the mix! [Note: I'm not affiliated with Leanne (yet!) - all opinions are my own, and I don't make any $ from any links here.]
I'm working from the plan outlined by Leanne Vogel in her book, The Keto Diet. I've appreciated her focus on whole foods, especially the open door to vegetables! Old-school ketogenic diets (like Atkins) have eschewed all carbohydrates, even those from plants -- and as a big fan of Michael Pollan and his reasoned approach ("Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much."), I like that we need fear no veg.
Step One: wholesale dive into 'keto-izing' my kitchen: a spiralizer (I like this one from OXO); bone broth, hemp milk, coconut creamer, various oils and nut butters, sea salt and mineral drops. (Many of which were based on Leanne's shopping list from the Healthful Pursuit website.)
Step Two: purge the kitchen. This wasn't a huge effort, considering that we were already pretty Paleo/Whole30 to begin with. Mostly, it was ditching the partial, opened and older boxes of mysterious pasta (pasta?!) on the upper shelves. But I did rearrange some things to put the oils close-by, and shift the less-used items (almond flour, etc.) to higher shelves. Oh, and putting my new food processor out on the counter, ready for action!
Step Three: Devour the book and plan for implementation. The first half of Leanne's book is background, information about how the eating plan works, and how to set yourself up (particularly appreciated is the 'roadblocks to keto' section, which includes some mindset resets that I found very reassuring during this first week of adjustment.)
As a planner geek (didja guess?), I knew I'd want to track my 'macros' - how many grams of the macronutrients fat, protein, and carbohydrate I was eating in a day - so I could know I was on-plan. I've loved using PaleoTrack so far; Marc, the creator of PaleoTrack, has done an amazing job to keep the UI streamlined yet supremely functional. It's rare for me to stick with a tracker so thoroughly, even ones I love initially, without losing focus or spacing out entering info. Marc's made it so intuitive and easy - I bit the bullet and subscribed for a full year. Since Boyhood & I aren't jumping on buying a ketone monitor (yet), I'm going to rely on how I feel and where my macros are to gauge when/whether I'm in ketosis.
Now for the interesting part: I'm in my second week of training for my half, so how is the shift to keto going to work with that? Shifting to burning mostly fats has a rough transition period, not unlike the first week to 10 days of Whole30. You may get the 'carb flu' in the first days, feeling grouchy and hungry and lower energy as your body shifts from its reliance on carbohydrates to burning fats. (I liken this to trying to start a fire with logs and no kindling - the carbohydrates were the fast-burn kindling in your system.)
I've found I can do quite well on 3 runs a week - that seems to give me the time on my legs that I need without risk of injury to my nearly-50-year-old joints. The past month, I've been cruising on 3-, 4-, and 5-mile runs, but this next week I up the ante to 4-, 5- and 7-. The ramp-up is beginning - right when I'm likely to be low-energy.
The good news is, I built in a buffer week to my training - when I laid out my run schedule, I had 11 weeks instead of 10 on the calendar. (Always a good move, in my experience - it lets you account for the vagaries of life and the strange weeks you get when you can't get quality runs in no matter how you try.)
I plot out my runs on my monthly pages in my planner with little sticky flags, so I can move them around if necessary without a lot of erasing or white-out.
So I shifted a few things around - mostly moving the long run stickies down a week - and did three runs per my slower regimen of the last few weeks. I started eating Keto officially on Thursday (June 1), so I've done two runs so far on the new eating plan!
Happy to report that, at least in these first few days, runs haven't been noticeably harder or more sluggish than before. Could be that I'm still digging through some stored glucose, of course, but so far so good.
Next run is tomorrow (Monday), and I'll see if I can't take on that 5 miler I have planned. Knowing the reason why I might bonk is keeping me calm - that, and a tablespoon of almond butter before I hit the road, that is.
My aim is to post here once a week to keep track of how this transition to keto during half-marathon training is working for me. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Also, FYI: I'm on Day 4 and already down 2 pounds. Consistently eating around 2,000 calories, with carbohydrates at or under 50g. On the days I don't run, Boyhood and I tackle the stairs from Downtown to Uptown - 130 short steps in the full flight, and we do 7 sets. Good HIIT training, we think!