Ketogenic Diet - Part Two

Last week I shared with you the beginning of my experiment with the ketogenic diet.  This week I'll be sharing updates from the second week of following the diet during my ironman build. 

Let's start by framing the picture of what my training week looked like.  I briefly touched on this last week, but my current four week training block has a specific focus during each of the different weeks.  Week one was heavily focused on running and week two had a heavy emphasis on the swim.  The first week was extremely challenging to get through considering the physiological demands I was placing on my body with this dietary change on top of the high physical demands of the run focused training week.  My expectation going into week two was that my body would be able to handle things better compared to last considering it had become acquainted with this new diet, as well as the fact that the heavy focus on swimming wouldn't be as physically demanding on my body compared to all the running I had the week prior. 

When all was said and done it ended up being a 18.5 hour training week for me.  My bigger sessions included 4k and 5k swims, a 6 hour ride on Saturday, and my normal 2 hour run on Sunday.  The daily breakdown looked like this:

-Monday: Double Swim and Strength

-Tuesday: Bike and Swim

-Wednesday: Swim and Strength

-Thursday: Bike and Run

-Friday: Swim and Run

-Saturday: Long Bike

-Sunday: Long run and Strength

As I expected, my energy levels during training weren't as low as the week prior but not anywhere near what I normally have following my normal diet.  But in general I felt as if I had a bit more in tank during each of the workouts, so good news there.  On top of that, and to my surprise, I was able to get through Saturday's 6 hour ride on about 600-700 calories.  Also good news.  On the downside of things though, there were two times during this week where I felt as if I was in a pretty bad place either during or after my training.  Following one of my bigger swims I started feeling extremely sick on the drive home.  From my perspective, this was caused by a lack of calories being consumed throughout the day which had a negative after effect following my swim.  The lack of calories was not purposeful, however a byproduct of being on this new diet and just not having as much of an appetite throughout the day.  The only other time I felt something relatable was after Ironman Texas in 2016 when I got caught waiting at the finish line for the thunderstorm to pass and my blood sugar was so low I could barely move.  The sensation was pretty much the same this time.  I couldn't even force myself to eat, and all I could manage to do was lay down and get some sleep.  The second time I got into a bad place was during Sunday's long run.  Everything was pretty standard for the first 70-80 minutes but after that my body wouldn't give me much.  I was forced to find some shade under a tree 90 minutes in and sit down and rest for a good five minutes.  Even after that the most I could manage was running one to two minutes at a time before my heart rate would spike up to a level that was not sustainable by any means.  Looking back at my training log, all other sessions I marked down as feeling "normal/average" so there wasn't a huge impact as far as the rest of my training was concerned.

In terms of my diet, things pretty much stayed the same as last week.  A basic day looked like this:

-Coffee with coconut oil and/or cream first thing in the morning

-Breakfast:Two eggs and two pieces of bacon for breakfast

-Snacks: pecans, avocados, cheese sticks, celery sticks with almond butter, more eggs and bacon

-Lunch/Dinner: fatty meats (ex: pork ribs, ribeye steak, chicken thighs, hamburger)

The one thing I like about this diet is I feel that it is something that is pretty sustainable, generally speaking.  The verdict is still out on whether this is something I would consider sustainable while training for triathlon, but if I was an average person looking to make a lifestyle change I could very easily see myself staying with this diet and not feel like I'm sacrificing all that much.  I mentioned in this blog and the last that I'm getting fuller on smaller portions and not eating as much, although I did notice a slight increase in my appetite this week compared to last week, just depending on the training load for that particular day.  One thing that has not changed is I still found myself craving carbs at times, although I'm not sure this would ever change...I mean who doesn't love carbs?

Last week I also noted that I was having trouble falling asleep at night for whatever reason.  This is not something that carried over into week two.  For the most part I was able to fall asleep reasonably quickly at the end of the night, compared to week one where it would take me an hour or more to fall asleep at times.

Here are some other observations or things I've noticed up to this point as well:

-I reached a "high" level of ketones in my body after 12 days.  Also I noticed that my ketone levels would fluctuate on almost about a daily basis, some days higher than others and some days lower.  I have urinalysis sticks to measure these, although you will find these are not the most reliable when it comes to measuring ketone levels. 

-My heart rate is about 10 bpm higher (on average) for every session compared to what it normally sits at when I follow my normal diet.  For example, when doing the warmup portion of my run I usually start off running at about an 8:00-8:30min/mile pace and my normal heart rate will typically be at 120 bpm or lower.  On keto, running at this pace I'll start off in the mid-to-high 120's and get into the 130's within several minutes.

-I've noticed an improvement in GI distress over the two weeks.  Typically if I have a run scheduled on a particular day I have to make a point to do it in the morning, otherwise doing it in the evening after a full day of eating never ends up well for me.  This has not been the case and I've been able to do a few runs in the evening with no issues.

In summary, energy levels showed improvement as did my physical performance during training, although relatively speaking they are still a good amount lower than what I'd like to see, but things are tracking in the right direction.  The plan is for two more weeks of strictly following the diet before starting to get back to incorporating carbs into my meals.  What I'm really interested to see is how my body will feel once I start doing this compared to the weeks I was following keto.  More to come soon.

Happy training.



Travis Vance