Ketogenic Diet - Part Three
Last month I started documenting my experiences of experimenting with the ketogenic diet while training for my Ironman. I shared details on the food I ate, what my training consisted of, changes in my energy, and the other pros and cons I experienced while following the diet. If you missed the chance to read what the first two weeks were like you can go back and catch up by clicking here.
I had originally intended to get this update out last month but time has been a luxury I haven't had much of lately between my training hitting the heaviest weeks and my coaching business has fortunately seen some new athletes join the squad. Between triathlon life and my personal life any free time has basically been going to my wife or is spent running errands and being an adult. Fun times.
So since it's been awhile let's recap why I started doing this experiment in the first place. Again if you haven't read the first two blogs on the topic I recommend you go take a quick read to get the full scoop. Long story short I started following the keto diet because in 2016 while training for Ironman Texas I followed what most would consider a low-carb, high-fat diet leading up into the race, which I felt ultimately served me well on race day. I decided that I would take it to the next level in preparation for my next Ironman by following the keto diet for approximately four weeks and then slowly start integrating carbs back into the picture as I got closer and closer to race day.
During the first two weeks I'd say the results were mixed. I enjoyed the diet itself in terms of the food I was able to eat and generally speaking I had very little complaints there. While my energy levels during training were nowhere near comparable to when I'm eating carbs, the second week on the diet showed a noticeable improvement compared to the first week in terms of how I was feeling during the actual workouts. You also read of people claiming benefits such as increased energy throughout the day and the ability to focus better as well, neither of which I can say I experienced during the first two weeks. One noticeable benefit I noticed was less GI issues. I'm typically someone who struggles doing long runs in the afternoon or evening times following a full day of eating. My stomach just generally doesn't handle more than 30-45 minutes of running very well later in the day. However that problem seemed to diminish and there were a few afternoon runs that I was able to get through with no problems.
Now that we are somewhat caught up let's talk about week number three. And before I get into the details, the format of this update is going to be different from the previous two. In the prior blogs I basically broke out each blog and provided updates on specific topics: my diet/food intake, my training plan, my energy levels, and other observations. The reason this one will be different is because during week three I decided to call an end to the experiment.
I remember the day vividly when it happened. It was the middle of the week and I had left my house in the morning to do a 60 minute moderate intensity run. I got no more than a half mile into my run and I stopped. I can't begin to quantify the lack of energy and the lack of motivation I was experiencing in that moment. All I can say is I felt so physically drained that I knew I had gotten to the point where this was not sustainable any longer and that I needed to get back to incorporating carbohydrates into my diet. I knew that if I pushed through and continued to follow the diet I was going to get very little value from the training I was doing and/or it would eventually lead to an injury.
I took two days off after that to give my body a chance to recover and get back to normal. And of course I started eating carbs again. And let me tell you, once I did, I noticed a general improvement in my mood and an immediate difference in my energy levels.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I'm now back to a "normal" diet which fundamentally I don't think I would be able to handle the volume of training I'm at currently if I wasn't. Looking back on things here is my perspective on the diet: I definitely think there is a place for it in triathlon but I'd but a few parameters around that. For starters, if someone was going to start following the diet while training I would highly recommend doing it during the offseason when workouts are at a low intensity and volume is also on the lower end of the spectrum. With that said, I'm not convinced the diet is for just any type of triathlete as well. I lean towards saying it would be better suited for the less competitive triathlete, or someone who incorporates the sport into their life to facilitate a healthy lifestyle. I say this because these types of athletes are typically not pushing their body through the levels of demand that the more competitive groups are, and I don't believe that performing at a consistently high level while following the keto diet is sustainable or safe.
So with that said this will be my last blog on keto for quite some time. I may try giving it another go some time in the future but like I mentioned above it will definitely be during the offseason. I fundamentally believe in the numerous benefits that the diet can provide to people, and while I do think it can be something that triathletes follow I also think that there are more exceptions to that statement than not. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or as always you can reach out to be via the "Contact" tab on my website.