You may be aware that I have been on a Low-Carb, High Fat (LCHF) eating plan since last September and although I have not been very public with my results, I feel that this is the best way-of-eating for me. What is LCHF? It is where you get most of your calories from fats and the least from carbs. Typically your total calories are from 75% fats and saturated fats, 15% protein and 10% carbs. On this plan I have maintained my weight at the lower end (about 144 lb.) of the last 15-years range (140 -160) without spending all my time running or riding. In fact, I took the fall and winter off from training, only doing small workouts and some weights. Those of you that ride with me on Tuesday night know that I am not as strong climbing, but my overall average speeds are not bad for not training, and I have good endurance. Since I am now training for the Army 10-mile run race in October, I have been even more interested in how well I can perform on a LCHF diet.
I recently read a book on this subject — “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Volek and Phinney, two doctors who have evaluated the performance of LCHF athletes. In this book they discuss that once an athlete becomes keto-adapted, that is where their primary source of energy comes from fat, their endurance levels will increase dramatically. We have about 2 hours of stored carbohydrate that can be used for energy in our bodies, but even the leanest person has more than twice that amount stored in fat. But that fat is not available unless you are keto-adapted.
I came across a blog post from Sami Inkinen, an elite triathlete that sparked my interest. It is an experiment of 1, but quite controlled and he has very interesting results. He has measured the type and amount of energy used during controlled tests using the same equipment 3 time while going from a high carb diet to a LCHF diet. On the first test, he was eating a high-carb diet and guess what…. he has about 2 hours of carbs available and even though he had done hours of training in his “fat burning zone” he could not exceed 200 calories per hour from fat-burning at race efforts. Hence he would run out of energy once his carb stores were gone. A year later he did a second test on a moderate-carb/moderate-fat diet and his fat-burning numbers increased significantly, to 400 calories per hour at the same race effort. Finally, he performed a third test on a LCHF diet with the same parameters and increased his fat burning ability to 600- 750 calories per hour. The chart says it all. At 300W his bonk-time went from 2 hours to 5 hours! Interested? I am. I would love to see what happens with elite athletes such as marathoners and pro-cyclist if they were to go low-carb. I’ll let you know how my “experiment of 1″ goes…
It is generally known that athletic performance when switching from a high-carbohydrate diet to a carbohydrate-restricted (CR) diet will suffer while the body adapts to the ketogenic state. Low Carb is typically less than 30-50 grams of carbs per day. In their book, “The Art and Science of Low Carb Performance, Volek and Phinney have found that it takes usually 3 weeks for performance to recover to the pre-CR state. Here is another article on the Calories Proper website entitled: “New study: high intensity exercise on a low carb diet.,” that discusses this affect and contradicts the 3 week results. These athletes maintained strength even during the adaptation period. Worth the read for anyone who is considering going low-carb.
A bonus is that the article includes a list of links to references on athletic performance on CR diets at the end. Check it out.
Other than the reference to those over 45 being “older” people, this is a great article with encouraging news for adults who’d rather stick with their favorite impact exercises and save the silver sneakers for – well, someone else!
Thanks for sharing the link Dawn! (Key parts of blog captured below).
Is there any scientific study to substantiate the claim that older people (over 45) should limit high impact exercises such as jogging, sprinting, etc.?
…There is also little evidence to support the widespread belief that high-impact exercise speeds the onset of arthritis. In a 2013 study, adult runners, including many aged 45 or older, had a lower incidence of knee osteoarthritis and hip replacement than age-matched walkers, with the adults who accumulated the most mileage over the course of seven years having the lowest risk, possibly, the study’s author speculated, because running improved the health of joint cartilage and kept them lean as they aged. Similarly, a 2006 review of studies about jogging and joints concluded that “long-distance running does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people who have no other counter-indications for this kind of physical activity,” and “might even have a protective effect against joint degeneration.”
Running and similar high-impact activities likewise have a salutary effect on bone density, said Dr. Michael Joyner, an exercise physiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and an expert on aging athletes, of whom he is one. Over all, he continued, he is “skeptical” of the idea that older people should avoid high-impact activities. “A lot of concerns about age-appropriate exercise modalities have turned out to be more speculative than real over the years,” he said, adding that during his research and personal workouts, he’s seen many seasoned adults pounding the pavement without ill effects.
It’s January 4. Which means every other advertisement you’ve been exposed to since Christmas has been related to weight loss. We all know the number one New Year’s resolution is to shed some pounds and eat better. And so the cycle of enticement begins. Gyms wave joining fees. Pre-packaged “healthy” food can be delivered to your house at deep discounts. Work out clothes, dumbbells, step counters and yoga mats simultaneously go on sale. And of course, we buy in.
Why do we think THIS year will be different? Clearly if losing weight tops the resolution list year after year, people are failing to meet their goal. And why is that? Think about it. What immediately comes to mind when you see the words “Lose Weight”?
Sacrifice. Deprivation. Cravings. Hunger. Cheating. How about… Sweating. Repetitive. Soreness. Scale. Expense.
Oh. And let’s not forget past failure.
But this year CAN be different. All you need to do is make a simple switch. Replace weight LOSS with activity GAIN!
This simple substitution allows you to focus on fun, interesting and positive ADDITIONS you can make to your life rather than what you need to give up.
We’ve said it many times before in previous blogs – the body is meant to move, yet our lives are increasingly sedentary. So choose to be a little more active in 2014. Depending upon your starting point, this might mean taking Spot to the local dog park 3 days a week instead of one. Resolving to get outside and do more gardening this year. Hiking the trails of your local National Parks. Or walking to the Post Office everyday. If regular activity is already part of your routine, keep it interesting and challenging by selecting a fun event to train for and participate in like a Dance-a-Thon, Color Run or Warrior Dash. And if gadgets are your thing, try the new Polar Loop Activity Monitor. Trackers such as this not only record your activity but motive you to keep on moving.
Oh yeah. And that whole weight loss thing… if you increase your activity this year and leave the other side of the equation the same (food intake), chances are good the pounds will start to fade away too.
The USDA “Food Pyramid” has been around for 21 years, based on the dietary recommendations of the late 1950’s and official recommendations from the USDA in 1977. But data shows that the population of the world is the most obese that it has ever been. Seems that the low fat diet plan is not working (see the chart below), doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered why our grandparents ate all the bad stuff but weren’t obese? I did. As it turns out, there is a lot of new research that says they were right and that the low-fat, low cholesterol, and no saturated fat diet is actually causing the obesity epidemic along with several other modern problems.
My grandmother was a great cook, not a five-star restaurant chef, but she made foods that we all enjoyed and were better than you can find in any restaurant these days. Why? Because she used what she had, all natural foods including fish and game meats that my grandfather hunted, cooked in butter and lard. Lard? Yep. She made the best fried (in-lard) fish with corn-meal batter that I have ever had. Hands down! When her freezer got too full of fish, she would have a fish-fry and invite all the family and friends.
One of my favorite memories of her is the Thanksgiving dinners, where she would make each person’s favorite dish. All at the same time and all excellent. Sometimes for 11+ family members who came for the dinner. You would have thought that our family would be all overweight and in bad health from all that tasty, high-fat food. But that was not the case. My best description of my family’s diet philosophy was “everything is ok, just in moderation.” It was high in everything, low in nothing and all made from scratch. We hadn’t yet heard of the food pyramid. As it turns out, there is now a lot of good scientific research to say that the food pyramid is upside down. In this and later blog posts, I’ll explain.
I’ve been a follower of Dr. Tim Noake’s (University of Cape Town professor of exercise and sports physiology) books and writings for a couple of years now. Dr. Noakes is the author of several books that challenge the general notions and commercialized hype that rules the sports world. See the “Lore of Running” and “Waterlogged” which I have discussed before. His research into human performance and physiology is very well respected. He has debunked several widely-accepted ideas including the idea that you must drink to excess (promoted by the sports-drink industry) to be able to perform well in endurance events.
His latest research push is into the impact and efficacy of the low-fat dietary recommendations that were introduced in 1977 which promoted the following (from www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines): Increase carbohydrate intake to 55 to 60 percent of calories while decreasing dietary fat intake to no more than 30 percent of calories, with a reduction in intake of saturated fat, and recommended approximately equivalent distributions among saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats to meet the 30 percent target. They also recommended to decrease cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day, sugar intake to 15 percent of calories, and to decrease salt intake to 3 g per day.
In 1992 the USDA published the now famous “Food Pyramid” seen to the left. These recommendations have been adopted around the world and the words “low-fat” are on everything in the grocery store from cookies to yogurt to salad dressings. The result was the demonizing of several common foods including butter, lard, eggs, and full-fat dairy products. The push was towards grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Butter and lard were replaced with margarine (read: trans-fat), vegetable oils and polyunsaturated fats. Eggs and bacon were out. Lean turkey was in. Much of our food supply became wheat and corn-based because grains were subsidized by the USDA and therefore cheap and plentiful. Even the livestock are fed corn. Every product on the store shelf became labeled as low-fat and grain-based. Try to buy a non-low fat yogurt in your grocery store, there are one or two containers among the 100’s of low fat yogurts (which all have added sugar, by the way). Most low-fat products have added sugar to make them palatable, often in the form of the very cheap but very bad High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).
Dr. Noakes became interested in the low fat vs low-carbohydrate diet issue when his own weight and pre-diabetic condition became a problem. Although he has run more than 70 marathons, as he aged he was unable to control his weight. In this article he explains his justification for moving to a Low-Carbohydrate High Fat (LCHF) diet. He is carbohydrate-resistant which makes him unable to tolerate high carbohydrate diet. It is ironice that LCHF was the recommended method of losing weight (called “Banting” after William Banting) from the 1860’s to 1959, when it was replaced by the Low-Fat High Carbohydrate (LFHC), so called “Heart Healthy” diet (due to Ancel Keys’ flawed analysis that led to the claim that cholesterol causes heart disease).
So how have the low-fat, low cholesterol, high carbohydrate recommendations worked out? A very compelling article summarizes the correlation and reasons why the “Low Fat War” was a mistake. The correlation is uncanny, but that is not proof. Recent scientific studies have shown that the Low-Fat guidelines are indeed wrong. In addition, many health problems that are epidemic these days are being attributed to the HCLF lifestyle.
I have never had a big problem with weight, but have always been annoyed that my weight would fluctuate 10 lbs (a lot on my small frame) when I stepped back from intensive training. The other issue is that no matter how many miles I would ride or run, I never seemed to lose that last bit of fat around my middle. In mid-September I decided to try reducing carbs in my diet and to keep track of the results. Studies have shown that weight can be easily maintained on 100-150 g/day and reduced on 50-100 g/day without restricting calories drastically. Going less than 50 g/day will make losing weight easy. Check out authoritynutrition.com‘s articles for good advice on this subject. In the US, many individuals get 40% of their calories from sugar, and eat more than 600 g/day of carbs. No wonder we are an obese society. Studies have shown low-carb diets are better at reducing fat than low-fat diets.
Initially I just lowered the overall carb total, then after a couple of weeks I went to less than 150g/day. Initially, I was craving carbs, but then when I realized that I was having more motivation, less 10:00 AM sugar lows and cravings for cinnamon raisin bread I decided to get down to under 100 g/day of carbs. I have eliminated almost all breads, potatoes, pastas and other grain-based foods. Added sugar, honey and other forms of sugar are totally out. After a couple of weeks, the carb cravings went away and I actually was less hungry. Although this is not a scientific result, I have lost 5-6 lbs (~4% of starting weight) while eating more meats, eggs, cheese and generally higher fat foods. This is while at the same time not riding or running significantly since the end of September (my usual fall hiatus from training). In past years my weight would have been 7 to 8 lbs. higher during this time of year. So this year I am essentially 11-14 lbs lighter than last year when I took time off. I think that is very significant!
In future posts, I will talk about what my research into the literature on the LCHF lifestyle has found including the health benefits. I will cover sugar, grains, eating fat to lose fat and why a “calorie is not a calorie” among other topics. I think you will find it interesting and eye-opening. It has been for me.
I have learned over the years that our performance in events like 5K races will decline as we age. It’s a sad fact that once in our 50’s we will never be able to run the speeds we did a decade earlier (That’s me running a 10K while at the University of Illinois in 1984 in the photo at the left). So to compensate (I have always felt that I should be able to run the same speed I did when I was 30!) I would use the age-grading calculators to try to make my ego feel better. It only partially works, see the 2006 photo below. My best 5K performance dropped by more than 2 minutes in 22 years.
But why do we get slower as we age? My last post talked about muscle loss due to aging (fallacy), which is really muscle loss due to disuse. Is the performance loss as we age also a fallacy? It’s not clear.
What causes us to slow down as we age? Coach Joe Friel lists the following as possibilities in his blog article on declining performance as we age: declining VO2max, reduced maximal heart rate, decreased volume of blood pumped with each heart beat, lowered lactate threshold, less economical movement resulting in wasted energy, decrease in muscle fibers and strength, less effective and less abundant aerobic enzymes, reduced blood volume and Loss of muscle mass. There is a lot of research looking at the subject of athletic performance as we age. Coach Joe Friel summarizes the reseach here.
Interestingly, one key component of performance loss appears to the intensity of exercise. A research project at the University of Illinois (Go Illini!) followed 24 masters track runners aged 40 to 72 years old and then tested them 10 years later. It was found that the runners who reduced intensity of training lost 12% of the aerobic capacity even though they were still training. The ones who maintained competitive training intensities saw no significant loss in aerobic capacity. I’m not running races as much as I used to, but have moved to cycling with the same intensity as I used to put in my 5K road races. And I feel that I have the endurance and strength that I had 7 years ago. See the Gran Fondo NY photo below (Climbing that huge hill).
The conclusion is clear — exercise intensity is important. We can’t maintain aerobic ability by going slow all the time. We must have high-intensity effort as part of your training/exercise plan to maintain aerobic ability. There are other factors in performance, of course, but this is one key part of the puzzle.
The general public consensus is that we lose muscle mass (size and strength, too) as we age. But there are notable exceptions to the rule — athletes who have performed exceptionally well into their 70’s and even 80’s. See the World master’s rankings. For example, in the 2012 10K rankings list there are 38 runners age 60 to 85 that ran the 10K in less than 40 minutes, including the US runner, Nolan Shaheed (35:26 10K, 60-65 age group) who has age group records at several distances.
Well known triathlete coach Joe Friel just posted in his blog an article about maintaining muscle mass and the notion that we are destined to lose muscle. He reviews the latest studies that actually show little or no muscle mass loss is due to aging. What, you say? There are athletes that maintain muscle mass well into their 70’s, the key is that they work at it. See the photo from coach Joe Friel’s blog at the right. The middle muscle scan photo is a stark reminder that we are too sedentary in our lives. From sitting at our desks for 8-10 hours all day then watching TV for 3-4 hours at night. How many of us do 1-2 hours of strenuous activity each day, or even 30 minutes as recommended? Less than 3% of the US population according to some studies I have seen.
There’s a second aging/sedentary lifestyle issue here, not only does a sedentary lifestyle cause you to lose muscle mass, it also causes the loss of nerve control of the muscles. Older, sedentary people have less nerve connections to their muscles, thus can’t recruit the muscles they have.
Just another brick in the wall of information that says that we must keep moving, keep exercising, keep the intensity up, and just don’t sit around. Guess I’ve been right to keep that big commercial walk-behind mower for the last 20 years. I’ve always joked that it was my exercise program — 2-3 hours a week of walking at 3 MPH in tight circles.
Just Keep moving!
Questions for all the cyclists out there as the season winds down:
- How has your cycling year been?
- Did you have a great year?
- Did you meet your goals?
- What would you change?
I, like everyone sets goals for my cycling in the early season. Usually I get excited in January about the upcoming season and the thought of getting back out on the roads, racing and riding with the local groups as the weather improves. It also comes from the fact that I have rolled my workout intensity back in the fall and in January I’m looking to get back into serious workout mode again.
This year has been very good for me and I have ridden some very strong rides, Battenkill, Trooper Brinkerhoff races, the Harlem Valley Rail Ride and finally the latest 50-miler: the “Bike for Cancer Care” group ride in Kingston NY last Sunday. It is a group ride with no timing and not a race, but the course is good with what I would call moderate climbs, only one is categorized (cat-4, but short).
I started out with no warm-up and just sat in with the second group of riders that were working fairly well together and pace-lining on Hurley Mountain Rd., waiting for my cold leg muscles to warm up and my attitude to improve. Somewhere near the left turn at the south end onto Tongore Rd., I started feeling better and stronger, so decided to work at it a bit, instead of just riding. Time to check the ol’ legs out and see if they were ready. Who knows, maybe they are actually working? After the turn on Mill Dam Road the course gets more hilly and the pack broke up. Another rider (Bill) and I, broke away on the climb and descent to Rosendale. We eventually rode together, trading pulls with each other for the rest of the ride (about 40 miles), averaging in the low 20’s for most of the rest of the ride. Eventually we picked up two more riders that were dropped from the lead group and finished strong, averaging 20 MPH for the entire ride. A nice effort and really a surprise for me, since I was not motivated and had no plan to ride that hard at the start.
The net of this long discussion is that this year’s training has been quite good and the results show it, even though I have ridden less total miles this year than last year at this time. About 500 miles less and riding 3-4 days a week. I’m also stronger than at this time last year. How did I do it? Through focused, high intensity training for strength and speed, with longer rides for endurance. This is the training that the Big Ring Riding group has been doing all season with excellent results. We have done all types of intervals: high-intensity, short, long, sprint, tempo, threshold, VO2Max, hills and more hills. In addition, we also worked on pace-lines, criteriums, and time-trials, just for the fun of it.
Here’s my offer to cyclists in the area. There are a couple more weeks of Big Ring Riding evening training sessions left this season and I am opening up the rest of the season for free to anyone who wants to try it out, no strings attached. Come out and train with us on Monday and Wednesday nights at 5:30 pm starting tomorrow, 9/18. Sessions last 1 to 1-1/2 hours, typically. Send me a message on our contact page or via FB to reserve your spot and get the details.