Ketogenic Diets and Endurance Sports

In the spirit of full disclosure,  at EAS we have a Ketogenic Meal replacement product called Myoplex Ketogenic.  I love putting the cinnamon bun flavor in my morning coffee!

The number one searched diet term at the writing of this post is the Ketogenic Diet.  Hit Google,  hit Reddit, and our own Dave Scott,  and you can find a variety of opinions and thoughts on its effectiveness and multiple applications.

I have now been in the nutrition industry since 2003.  I have been an endurance athlete since HS,  so combine the 2 and I am the ultimate lab rat.  I will try anything to get faster, leaner and feel better while training and racing.  When you are in the industry you also get exposed to the latest ingredients,  science and its potential applications for sports performance.

What got me most excited was one study published in Cell Metabolism, by authors Pete J. Cox, Tom Kirk, Tom Ashmore, Richard L. Veech, Julian L. Griffin, Kieran Clark,  where there was “Improved Performance during cycling time trial suggests ketosis during exercise may be beneficial for some athletes.”

Basically,  a group of cyclist were given a ratio of carbohydrates and ketones compared to a carbohydrate only group which showed the ketone group road further than the carbohydrate only group in a time trial.  Ride further?

I was definitely intrigued and began to experiment on my own.

My journey began with our Myoplex Ketogenic powder mixed in coffee for breakfast (which became my staple),  lettuce wrapped sandwiches for lunch,  and meat,   cheese and veggies for dinner.  I also had a lot of mixed nuts for snacks.  I tracked my diet for 3 weeks using Myfitness Pal which made the tracking easy enough.

I did not change my exercise routine,  and stayed with my normal 6 – 8 hours of cycling per week via my coach.  I averaged 800 KJ’s of work per day on the bike.

Note,  for my longer rides,  I did stay with my normal routine of 270 calories an hour via sports drink and gels / chews.  I was not into eating sticks of butter while out on the road.

Over a 3 week period,  my body fat % went down from 12.8% to 10.5%.  However, my weight stayed the same around 175lbs, meaning I gained muscle while losing fat!  I did no strength training and nothing else changed in my workout procedure.

There were some things I liked about the diet:  I never felt hungry like I normally do on other diets,  and I ate a lot of meat!

Some things that were tough:  I know I did not stay under the 25g of carbs recommenced by most ketogenic stalwarts.  But I also know they are not burning 800 – 1500KJ a day training on their bike.  When I looked back,  I stayed under 80g per day on average.

This brings me to my point,  was the diet effective in helping me get leaner?  According to my Garmin scale it was.  Was I fully in Ketosis?  I cannot confirm that,  but drastically lowering my carbohydrates and eating more fat did something for sure.

My power remained steady on the bike and I did not feel my performance suffered.  However,  I also did a lot of “sweet spot” training and was not pushing maximum sugar burn with any V02 Max sets.

I am sure we are only scratching the surface on learning what Ketones can do for performance.  I also predict that the carb heavy diets of endurance common in endurance sports today will get modified to incorporate less carbs and more fat and protein.

I also predict that everyone will respond differently to different fuel sources.  I still believe carbohydrates are important to sports performance,  especially properly timed carbohydrates.  But the ketone as a compound and how it can help your body sustain longer term energy is an area we are only beginning to understand and study.

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Does Weight Matter?

Does weight matter? I ask myself this all the time. See I am a former chunky person (fat). It all seemed like it happened so fast. I was swimming in college, discovered beer, pizza, the original Chipolte, and golf. While I was still swimming, those things did not matter. I ate 3,000 – 5,000 calories a day, but swam 4 hours a day so no big deal.

Stop swimming, start working, golf in a cart becomes your exercise and before you know it 220 lbs on a 5′ 11″ frame. (Me above 1998).

When I started running back in 2000, I did not lose weight because I kept eating the same amount of food and probably more. I then figured out that if you eat less than you burn, you lose weight! This was real easy to achieve by eating a few slices of pizza and not the whole pie.
The first picture reminds me everyday of who I used to be.

It has been about 9 years to the day that I started to really focus on my weight. Not a lot has changed because I still watch the weight everyday.

As of now, my weight is 175. That seems to be the going average for me. I have seen as low as 166 and as high as 180 over the past 2 years. I do have a body fat scale and see 9 – 11 % on that whether I am 166 or 180 lbs.

I have posted good results at 169 lbs and qualified for Kona at 175 lbs. During the Houston Marathon, I actually gained weight during the race and they made me go to the med tent because I weighed 179 at the finish. (That brought back flashbacks of the old me from 1998).

So to answer my own question the answer is yes, it does matter. Not in lbs, but how I think about it. I will always watch my weight, but I will always look back at the first picture and realize that the race between myself and my weight is long over. I need to declare that race a victory and just enjoy how great I feel at 37 years of age.