Very Low Carb / High Fat / Moderate Protein Diet for Endurance Athletes and Maffetone Training

I know that it’s been a while since I have written, but I wanted to provide an update on my change in diet as well as the progress that I have made while doing my Maffetone base build.

First, I started no sugar and no grains (#NSNG) the second week of February.  For the most part, I’ve been very strict and have been able to keep my cravings at bay.  I have, however, put a little life into living and had 4 days in which I did consume excessive carbs. Unfortunately on those days and for a couple of days after, I felt terrible and it took me a while to recover.  Anyway, even though I didn’t eat any sugar or any grains, I still was not able to hit dietary ketosis.

What is dietary ketosis you ask?  A ketogenic diet is high-fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet.  The diet forces the body to burn fats as a fuel rather than carbohydrate.  Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fueling brain function. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies.  The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source.

In a nutshell, I’m trying to make my body fat adapted.  Why you may ask?  Well, the body can only store about 2000 calories of glycogen.  If your body burns glycogen stores as a primary source of fuel and you are doing endurance sports, such a half marathons, marathons, ultras, triathlons, etc. then you constantly need to refill those stores.  A lot of people do that by eating products such as GU.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people these products cause a lot of GI issues.  I for one am one of those … Products like that cause my stomach to feel upset. So I decided to take advantage of a fuel source that I have plenty of in my body.  Which is fat!

Even though I managed to eliminate sugars and grains in my diet, I was still consuming too many carbs.  I would have a snack at night of 2 cups of frozen cherries blended with 1 cup of heavy cream.  That alone is 44 grams of carbs!!  And I wanted to keep my carbs low?  That’s not the way to do it.  I still have that as a snack at night, but I’ve cut it in half.  I’m also trying to keep my carbs to right around 50 grams total.  So if I’m running high for a day, then I just cut out my snack.

So my diet is around 2400 calories a day, and the breakdown is as follows:  50 grams of carbs, 200 grams of fat, and 100 grams of protein.  These “round” numbers make it much easier for me to track.  I do use myfitnesspal as the app to track what I eat.  I do wish that it had the ability to put in specific numbers instead of percentage that are in increments of 5% points.  But I was able to get pretty close, and then just look at the specific numbers to see where I sit on a daily basis.

So far, I’ve been able to, since I started eating #NSNG, to complete 4 half marathons and 1 10K.  I’ve managed to do these using only water as hydration and nothing else.  Granted my times have not been fast but that is because I’m working on building my aerobic base by focusing on using the Maffetone method.

I really started focusing hard on the Maffetone method after reading the book “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing”.  I did my initial MAF test (16 March), and my range was 15:47 – 17:43 per mile by keeping my heart rate in the range of 120 – 130.  Your range is determined by 180 – age = max HR.  The range is 10 beats below that number to that number.  My second MAF test (18 April) resulted in the following ranges: 13:08 – 13:45.  So we are talking that I was able to knock about 2:30 off my initial tests in about 4 weeks.  I do have another one that I will do next weekend, and I will make sure that I post those times.  But as you can see, it works.  I’m building my aerobic base and I’m becoming more efficient.  So this just proves that you can become more efficient and faster as you get older.

I’m getting ready to start an 8 week build for a race in July because I want to see how far I’ve been able to come since my knee surgery about 18 months ago.  So I will begin working in other HR zones, and will also add in some intervals.  I’m looking forward to this, and then after the race in July I will jump back into the Maffetone phase for another 8 weeks.  Then I will start another 8 week build for one more race before the end of the year.

Now, I can see you are scratching your head … But aren’t you doing more races?  Yes, I’m doing a lot of races, but I only have two races a year that I consider my “A” race.  Other than that, all the rest of my races are training races.  I don’t care about the time.  I’m out there to have fun, socialize and meet new people.  It’s hard to do when you’re as competitive as I am, but I know that I need to go slow in order to get fast.  So I’m OK with it.

If you have any questions about my diet or my training, please leave me a comment and I will address your questions in a future blog.


~ by Greg Vick on May 15, 2013.

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