Nuggets from the LCHF 2015 conference – Part 4
Have you ever wondered what actually happens to your body when you “hit the wall” during a long sporting event? Have you just started eating low carb, and cannot figure out why you feel so tired, headachy and irritable? Trying to lose weight but nothing is happening? Keep reading for the answers to these questions and more.
Dr Stephen Phinney, a true pioneer in low carb diets for sports performance, gave a great explanation for the term “hitting the wall“. Typically after 1 to 3 hours of intensive endurance exercise, without adequate ongoing carb intake – the following things happen:
- the person can start having fantasies about food and eating,
- they can get the chills or shakes,
- they have a dramatic loss of performance, and
- they can often experience a profoundly low (depressive) mood.
Their muscles have basically run out of fuel, and the brain starts shutting down the body as a means of survival (to protect the brain). He put it another way too: An athlete “hitting the wall” is like a petrol tanker, which has run out of diesel on the highway. It has all this stored fuel on board, but cannot use it.
So athletes who rely on carbs to fuel their bodies can quickly run out of this energy source if they don’t refuel appropriately and frequently enough, and they will not be able to access their stored fat reserves to keep going. This is why so many endurance athletes are now turning to a ketogenic LCHF diet for sports performance. Once you are fat-adapted and are no longer relying on carbs and stored glycogen for fuel, your body can literally tap into thousands and thousands of calories worth of stored fat for energy. Even a very lean athlete can go for hours without the need to refuel.
An athlete following a ketogenic diet will also experience far less inflammation and a quicker recovery, due to the fact that there is less accumulation of lactate when keto-adapted. If you are wondering what to eat and drink during an event when you are fat-adapted, Dr Phinney states that water (with a little salt added), is the perfect sports drink…… and then if you get hungry, just eat regular LCHF food. Please note, this doesn’t mean that you can suddenly decide today to go “ketogenic” for the Two Oceans marathon this Saturday. It can take up to 4 weeks for your body to fully transition from being a carb-burner to being a fat-fuelled machine.
He went on to say that the more insulin resistant or inflamed you are, the more you can benefit from nutritional ketosis – it is not just for endurance athletes. To achieve ketosis one needs to include lots of animal fats, olive oil, coconut oil and butter. You need to restrict carbs, and you MUST include salt. This is very important. If you don’t consume enough salt, then you might experience headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, cramps, constipation and nausea. Bone broth is also great for avoiding these ailments.
You can test for ketosis using urine test strips (Ketostix) or a blood metre (Freestyle Optium from Abbot). Ketosis basically means that your body is burning fat for fuel. If using the pin-prick blood metre, then you need to aim for a reading of between 1.5 and 3 to achieve a state of optimal ketosis. Please be aware that the urine sticks stop being accurate after a while, and could indicate that you aren’t in ketosis, even when you are. This is because it measures a particular type of ketone, which your body only produces in the early stages of ketosis. The blood metres are therefore better, but the strips are expensive unfortunately. There is a new breath metre device (Ketonix), which has become available. Even though the device might be more expensive than the blood metre device, there is no need for test strips, and this accurate device can be used over and over again.
For more information on low-carb, high-fat athletic performance, I can highly recommend that you read Steve Phinney’s book, which he co-wrote with Jeff Volek called, The Art and Science of Low-Carboydrate Performance.
For the past 15 years, Dr Eric Westman has been using the ketogenic diet as a therapeutic tool to help his patients lose weight. His explanation was simple: you cannot lose weight when you are burning sugar for fuel. We burn what we eat. If you want to burn fat, then you need to eat fat. This involves restricting carbs to less than 25 grams per day, eating a moderate amount of protein, and a lot of healthy fat. To put it into perspective, 1 apple contains 20 grams of carbs. That is why fruit is not recommended. It is better to use your carb allocation more wisely, and get your vitamins and minerals from veggies, which contain less sugar. Fruit is not called “nature’s candy” for nothing.
A ketogenic diet needs to be followed strictly, and this isn’t difficult to do. You feel satiated, you get to eat very delicious food, and it is easy to still be social. This is in stark comparison to a low-calorie, low-fat diet, which leaves one permanently hungry and often irritable. It is important to know however, that a binge on carbs can switch off fat burning for 3 days (and if you are diabetic it could be as long as 2 weeks).
Here is a basic prescription:
- 2 cups of leafy greens per day
- 1 cup of low carb veg per day
- Keep protein to a moderate level at each meal (size and thickness of your palm – no fingers)
- Include a good amount of healthy fats (butter, lard, coconut oil, olive oil, duck fat etc.)
- Have cream instead of milk
- Don’t snack
- Avoid all alcohol until you are at your goal
- Combine diet with activity and stress management for maximum weight loss success
For more information you can read the following two books that Dr Westman has co-authored, Keto Clarity and The New Atkins for a New You.
Posted on April 1, 2015, in LCHF 2015 conference and tagged hitting the wall, ketogenic diet for sporting performance, ketogenic diet for weightloss, LCHF2015 conference, nutritional ketosis. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
Thanks for this post. I see you stress the use of salt as important but some people worry about salt and heart pressure?! Our friend, Alfred who we are following as he trains for Comrades on a LCHF diet has also found broth and salt water to be helpful though.