Results tagged “Nutrition”

Interview with Dr. Jeff Volek on EP (Part 3)

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I was fortunate to be able to get on the line with Tawnee Prazek,host of Endurance Planet, and Dr. Jeff Volek to discuss the findings of the FASTER Study. We recorded a three part series that will be released one week at a time. We broke down the science as well as our speculations about using fat as fuel in endurance.

Interview with Dr. Jeff Volek on EP (part 1)

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I was fortunate to be able to get on the line with Tawnee Prazek,host of Endurance Planet, and Dr. Jeff Volek to discuss the findings of the FASTER Study. We recorded a three part series that will be released one week at a time. We broke down the science as well as our speculations about using fat as fuel in endurance.

Interview: Part One

This episode includes...

Gauging Recovery and Strategizing Pre-Race Nutrition

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With 2014 quickly winding down, I have two races left on the schedule. These races are the World 100k Championship in Doha, Qatar, on November 21, and the Desert Solstice Track Invitational on December 13, in which I plan to run the 12 Hour timed event. With Desert Solstice only three weeks after World 100k, I will have to be completely dialed into recovery in hopes to arrive in Phoenix strong and ready to race.

My plan rests on sound nutrition and smart training during the three weeks between the two events. After World 100k, I will dial back my carbohydrate consumption to a ketogenic level. This will mean cutting carbohydrate intake down to approximately 5% of total macro-nutrient intake. Doing this will assist my body in eliminating any lingering inflammation, which is a key component to a speedy recovery.

Lots and Lots of Saturated Fat

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Just shy of three years ago I embarked on a totally new nutritional approach. I used to eat a "traditional" high-carbohydrate diet full of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. I didn't obsessively avoid fat, but consciously did try to eat much more carbohydrate than fat. My switch was quite polar in nature: I not only flipped the macronutrient profile on its head, but I focused on making the primary source of fat what many in the past few decades have considered the most villainous kind of fat. That is, saturated fat.

After a year of this nutritional protocol I was thrilled with the differences I saw in my recovery, training, and racing, and also in my daily life. When I got my lipids measured, I was thrilled to see that my numbers had improved after the dietary switch. Of course, it was still met with skepticism by some. After all, saturated fat has been shunned for decades; I didn't expect most people to run to the store and stockpile butter and coconut oil based on my example. Still, I thought it would be valuable to share my results for other people who struggle to find a healthy alternative to a more traditional nutrition protocol.

The Problem with Primal

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I have had a number of people ask me about primal diets, and whether my diet is "primal." Here's my answer: I am a huge advocate for people looking into the scientific studies themselves, experimenting with different things, and ultimately discovering what works best for them. We're all different. In fact, this is a cornerstone of the Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM) diet. Sure, if the diet is based on anything, it's at the very least high(er) fat intake, but ultimately its main goal is to individualize a program for someone based on their frequency and intensity of activity, genetic tolerance to certain foods, and other such factors. My diet, rich in whole foods and usually absent of concentrated sources of carbohydrate, has many people lumping me into the "primal" or "high fat" realm. It is true that if you look at my food choices you will find a plethora of foods that would fall into the primal approach. However, if you look outside the dietary aspects of the primal approach, you will see I present a stark contrast. Here is why:

Primal, in it's truest form, advocates humans to not partake in what they would term "chronic cardio." The thought process here is that extensive amounts of cardio often result in sky-high levels of cortisol, low testosterone—and in the worst of cases, full-on adrenal fatigue. The primal way would argue that an approach utilizing high intensity interval training (HIIT), minimal amounts of cardio, and lots of walking/standing time is the optimal state for the human body. The general, or at least stereotypical, explanation to this is that early man did lots of walking (scavenging), moving heavy objects occasionally, and at times extreme anaerobic activities, such as running from a lion or other large predator. Hmmmm... sounds less than ideal. I would argue against this. As far as I'm concerned, if a lion in the wild wanted to make a meal of even the fastest human alive, it could do so easily. We weren't designed to flee from lions. Another comparison: Take the strongest man alive and match him up against an average gorilla. My money is on the gorilla, every time. Of course, it's not much of a stretch; have you seen how massive they are?

What am I getting at? Just as lions are really fast, gorillas are really strong. We, on the other hand, are comparatively slow and weak. But we must be good at something, right? What physical advantages do we have? What can we do that other creatures, superior in other ways, cannot do?

Endurance. Man has the combined abilities to sweat, run incredibly long distances (albeit relatively slowly), and convert stored fat to energy (even when already incredibly lean), for very long periods of time. We are the ultimate self-sustaining road trip. What other land animal can travel the distance, pace, and through the various environmental extremes that humans can? I'd be willing to bet there is no land-dwelling creature on this planet that could beat a well-trained human across diverse geography on foot across substantial distance. Especially if the climate is warm, which was the situation for our earliest ancestors.

And now I'll get to the point. Humans are meant to travel long and slow. We aren't meant to fight off or catch other creatures by sprinting. Our strength is adapting to diverse environments, which we navigate with long, slow distance. So why are all these previously mentioned "issues" given as results of "chronic cardio"? If my theory is correct, shouldn't we thrive on it?

The problem, in my humble opinion, is how we currently fuel and study ourselves. Most, if not all, of studies that I have seen that show the detrimental effects of "chronic cardio" have been performed on individuals following a diet that I would argue is more at fault than the actual activity of running (processed foods void of any real nutrients or, just as bad, "fake" foods pumped with synthetic nutrients). I agree that training at levels as high as I do is probably above that of what would be considered necessary for general survival in our early existence, and that I am fighting an uphill battle in terms of recovery. However, I think it can be a battle that is ultimately won if nutrition is a key aspect of the training program. I also believe that doing what you truely love is equally as important as trying to live as long as your body will physically let you. Personally, I'd rather live to be 70 and enjoy every minute of it doing what I am passionate about, than live to be 90 having led a life that didn't allow me to realize my passions. What about you?

Intermittent Fasting: Feast or Famine for Endurance Athletes?

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One of the trends among the high fat community is intermittent fasting. If you haven't heard of it, check out this great overview from Precision Nutrition.

Quite a few people have asked me if I use intermittent fasting as a way of improving my fat metabolism. Now, I don't want to debate its effectiveness or whether it should be used—there are countless arguments on both sides, and there are too many individual nuances to make generalizations. However, I'd like to discuss my personal experience and why I'm cautious with fasting in my own training.

The length and the regularity in which people use intermittent fasting varies. Some people do shorter lengths with more regularity (e.g., five days a week for 12-16 hour fasts), while others do longer in length with less regularity (e.g., once every two weeks for 24 hours). Whichever way you look at it, the goal is to give the body the opportunity to utilize fat as a fuel for prolonged periods of time in order to become more efficient at it. Personally, I would agree that, in a healthy person who is not underweight, is fat adapted, and does not partake in high volume training, this could be a good tool. But I don't think it's for me. Here's why:

Let's say that I decided to subscribe to fasting 12-16 hours, five days a week. Of course, sleeping at night (8 hours) would take up the bulk of the fast. Let's see how this would pan out:
  • Stop eating at 5pm
  • Go to bed at 9pm
  • Wake up at 5am
  • Run 15 miles fasted at 6am
  • Break fast at 8am

Normally, this 15-hour block of time would be a great window to train the body to utilize fat as fuel. The biggest problem I have found with this is the amount of calories I would burn during a 15-mile run (approx. 1500-1800) would translate to at least 20 hours worth of "sedentary activity." When this is put into the equation, I would be looking at the equivalent of 35+ hours of "fasted calorie expenditure." The margin of diminishing returns on fasted calorie expenditure of 35+ hours compounded five times a week seems to be an issue here. I would imagine there would eventually be some adrenal or other health issues caused by this.

To avoid undue stress, I typically break my overnight fast before my morning run on the days I do one. I don't eat a full meal, but I do aim to send a signal to my body saying that calories are not scarce. This usually takes place in the form of drinking my morning coffee or tea along with some combination of coconut milk, heavy whipping cream, Xendurance Xecute and/or 3Fuel, and taking a Vespa Ultra Concentrate. I do use raw honey from time to time, but this is becoming more rare and is heavily dependent on where I am at in my training cycle. All in all, the coffee/tea usually amounts to between 100 and 300 calories (this again depends on the workout time and intensity). During really heavy training blocks, I will also shorten the fast by eating a small snack before bed, or pushing dinner later. These meals are nearly always high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb (unless I happen to have just done a workout beforehand—then a few more carbs may appear in this meal/snack depending on what my next day's workout will look like).

Big Fat Theory

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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the ratio of fat and carbohydrate expenditure while running at varying paces.

Drs. Jeff Volek and Steve Phinney are currently working on a study through the University of Connecticut Department of Kinesiology (dubbed the FASTER Study), which is comparing the rate of fat and carbohydrate metabolization at various paces in ultramarathon runners. One of my coaching clients, Kevin Grabowski, just returned from the study. Kevin is incredibly fat-adapted. The man consumes 3+ quarts of heavy whipping cream a week! I won't spill the beans on his results, but it's safe to say he burns pure fat at his "easy pace," which is often the same as race pace on longer distance ultras. This knowledge has a lot of implications for racing something like a 24-hour event.

I am up to participate in the FASTER Study in March, so until then I can only speculate. However, this doesn't mean I can't experiment.

My theory is that I metabolize fat exclusively beginning around 7:10-7:40/mi (on flat terrain, that is). If this is true, it means I could deplete my carbs and still expect to maintain 7:20/mi pace without trouble. I set out on a run Saturday morning to test this out. My goal was to try to deplete my glycogen stores with an aggressive, fasted workout so that I could then, during the cool-down, identify what pace I could still maintain comfortably without the help of glycogen. Here's the protocol I followed:
  • Overnight fast
  • Pre-workout nutrition (coffee, Vespa Ultra Concentrate)
  • 11 miles at 6:40-6:50/mi
  • 5 mile progression (5:51, 5:46, 5:42, 5:29, 5:35)
  • 4 miles at what felt comfortable (average about 7:30/mi)
Anecdotally I am pretty certain that the workout depleted my carbohydrate stores: When I finished the progression run, I was drained. I went into the 4 mile cool-down without a break. I quickly noticed that I could push my pace down close to 7:00/mi with a bit of effort, but if I just ran to comfort—my "run forever" speed—it was closer to 7:30/mi. Assuming I was successful at depleting my carbohydrate stores, I believe this was a good indicator of what pace I can currently maintain, while burning fat as my sole fuel source. (Again, terrain and other conditions play a role.)

My performance at my past few ultra races seems to support this. In my recent 50 milers (Tussey Mountainback and the Chicago Lakefront 50), my pace was well under 7:00/mi. According to my little experiment, I would have required some carbohydrate intake to maintain those speeds; my fueling of roughly 1,000 calories during each of those events makes sense.

One might argue, however, that I should still have had enough glycogen stored up to adequately meet the demand placed on me even at the quicker pace. With that thought in mind, I would argue that I did not do a "carb load" in any traditional sense leading into each of those efforts. Maybe this is something to play around with in the future. Ultimately, I think it will come down to whether I would rather take in a few more carbs during the race, or would it be easier to stock up a bit the 1-2 days prior to racing. 

Speed and Recovery

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Here in Wisconsin we have gotten hit by yet another super cold spell. I am fortunate enough to live near a 200-meter indoor track, so I look at cold days (recently we've had a few that dropped below -30F with windchill) as opportunities to log some fast miles on the track. As I add more speedwork, I become even more conscious about what I eat in order to optimally recover.

Here is an example of one of my speed/strength sessions and what I ate before and after it.

Pre-Workout Fuel

Since I follow an OFM (optimized fat metabolization) protocol, I don't eat much before workouts. My body is trained to burn fat efficiently most of the time, reserving stored glycogen for quicker pace stuff. Before this workout, I had a Vespa Ultra Concentrate, a cup of coffee and a concoction containing almond milk, raw honey, 2 Tbsp organic butter, coconut flakes, chia seeds, cocoa nibs and Himalayan sea salt. Just before I started the progression run, I had a Vespa Junior.

Workout


Warm-Up
I warmed up outside by running to the track. It was interesting, given that we had about 4 inches of really powdery snow that had not been shoveled yet. The warm-up was five miles in all.

SSJC
This stands for sprint straights, jog corners, and it's a workout I learned at Stevens Point running track and field. It is a really good way to get some turnover in your legs before getting into the real workout. 

Progression Run
I did a short progression run of three miles. I kept it short so I would have something left in my legs for some 200-meter repeats afterward. My progressive mile times were: 5:30, 5:22 and 5:09.

Active Recovery
I wanted to get enough of the lactic acid out of my legs before starting the 200-meter repeats, but without standing around, which would cause my legs to tighten up. I did a two-mile recovery jog. 

Intervals
My goal here was simply to get some over-speed training. This trains me to maintain proper form at high speeds, making it less likely that my form will break down during a long ultra. Sometime I do this type of workout in the form of a 20/40s (20 second sprints, 40 second jogs). Today, it was 200-meter repeats. I didn't need to do a ton of them, so my plan was to keep going until I couldn't do a low 35. Each 200 was separated by an easy 200-meter jog around the track. I ended up with seven repetitions (35, 34, 34, 33, 34, 34 and 35 high).

Recovery
I still had leg strength training to do, so I ran another 1/2 mile just to let my legs catch back up.

Strength Training (Legs)
This isn't what I do every time I do leg work, but it is a sample of one of the circuits I use when doing leg strength.

  • Walking Lunges with two 10 lb plates for 1/8 mile
  • Squat (machine) 3 x 15
  • Hamstring plank 2 x 20 both legs; 2 x 10 single leg (each leg)
  • Russian-Dead-Lift 3 x 15
  • Box Steps 2 x 10 (each leg)

Cool-Down
I did a 3-mile jog outside back home

Post-Workout Fuel

After the workout, It is all about recovery. Since I did quite a bit of intensity between the running and strength training, I strategically included some carbohydrates in my post-workout meal. However, it was still much less than what most people would have after a workout.

  • 4 oz fresh calf liver
  • 4 strips of thick bacon
  • 2 oz wild caught Alaskan salmon
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 sweet potato
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 3 Tbsp of sour cream
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt

Recovery Protocol

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After the Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile, I received quite a few requests to write a post on recovery techniques I used in the twelve days between the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile and the Lakefront 50. To be honest, a lot of what I did was similar to what I have been doing for some time now, so I will link to a few previous blog posts that may be helpful. With that said, I do have some concrete reasons that I believe my recovery was faster than normal.

Those of you who follow my blog closely know that I have been practicing a diet that can most simply be described as high fat, low carb, and moderate protein. This type of protocol is known as Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM). Here are a few places you can learn more about this:

When I started this protocol, I noticed benefits nearly right away. Things like better sleep, less inflammation, faster recovery, more consistent energy levels (no midday crash). However, if you research becoming “fat adapted,” you will find that individuals who lived a high carbohydrate diet for many years will likely take upwards to two years to fully “fat adapt.” Because I began OFM protocol in early 2011, I am just shy of my two-year anniversary, and I believe my body is now beginning to be fully adapted. And not only because of my recovery: I've also felt a lot more consistent during 50-mile races, even when I consume carbohydrates as fuel during the race itself.

My personalized OFM approach can be characterized as macronutrient cycling. While my protein intake fluctuates little (typically 100 to 150 grams per day), my carbohydrate intake can be anywhere from 5 percent of my total calories to 50 percent, depending on where I am in my training cycle. When I am in full recovery mode after a race, I drop my carbohydrate intake as low as possible. On the other hand, my carbohydrate intake is around 20-30 percent of my total calories when my training is ramping up in volume and intensity, and in the final 36 hours before a race I allow it to climb to 50 percent at most.

All carbohydrates are not created equal. I don’t eat grains; I think the way grains have been engineered in the past several decades has made them hard on digestion and the likely cause of many of our broken guts. I also stay away from lactose, simply because my body doesn't seem to digest it very well. Commercial dairy producers have removed the enzymes in dairy that help our bodies break down lactose. Since our bodies cannot produce these enzymes on their own, this results in bloating and indigestion. I will drink raw milk if it's available, but I don't go out of my way to get it.

My primary source of carbohydrates is vegetables. I usually opt for non-starchy vegetables, but when I am looking to raise my carbohydrate intake I do eat carbohydrates from starchy sources, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, or rice. Another source of carbohydrates I use is fruit. I try to focus on melons and berries, as they are less apt to spike insulin, but I do eat things like apples, pears, and peaches from time to time.

After protein and carbohydrates, the rest of my calories, of course, come from fat—often more than half my daily calories. Just as with protein and carbohydrates, I pay close attention to the types of fats I consume. I take in approximately 50 percent of my fat as saturated fat. In recent decades, saturated fat has gotten a bad rap—but it is shameful science that has led to that. I don’t feel the need to defend saturated fat here, because many respected scientists who are much wiser than I have debunked this myth many times. If you're interested in learning from them, check out the resources list at the end of this post. The remaining 50 percent I try to make mostly monounsaturated fat, with very little coming from polyunsaturated fat sources. The polyunsaturated fat sources are a recipe for inflammation, especially when a diet is low in omega-3 fatty acids, so I avoid them for the exception of the occasional snack of mixed nuts or nut butters. A few go-to fat sources I enjoy include: coconut milk, coconut oil, butter, animal fat, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and cheeses (full fat, to avoid lactose).

One of my favorite dishes to eat is a mix of vegetables (mostly greens) with fresh calf liver, bacon, and sour cream. I sprinkle Himalayan sea salt, pepper, turmeric, and macca root powder on top. This dish provides a perfect blend of animal fat, animal protein, and organ meat, a combination that has shown promising benefits in recovery. I definitely ate my fair share of this dish during recovery between Tussey and Lakefront.

My diet, along with strategic use of NOW Foods, Xendurance, and Vespa Power Products, has allowed me to better recoup after a really hard effort at the ultra distance.

NOW Foods is a nutritional supplement company with countless offerings. My favorites include: spirulina, Fruit and Green PhytoFoods mix, CoQ10, yucca root, and vitamin D3/K2. These help with things like an improved micronutrient profile in my diet, sharper brain function, reduced inflammation, and better bone health. I believe a healthy lifestyle allows you to get the nutrition you need from your diet, but with training volumes exceeding 25 hours a week at times, supplementation allows me to better meet the demands I put on my body—and help with recovery.

Xendurance is a supplement that buffers lactic acid up to 15 percent (supported in double-blind, third-party studies). Vespa helps force my body to more efficiently utilize fat as fuel, sparing muscle damage. It does this with unique blend of wasp extract and amino acids (visit Vespa's website to explore science behind this). I take three Xendurance tablets every morning and every evening, and I usually take a few extra on the nights leading into a race, as well as the morning of. Also on the morning of a race, I take a Vespa Concentrate when I wake up, and then a Vespa Junior at the start line. During the race, I usually take a Vespa Junior every 90 minutes or a Vespa Concentrate every two hours. Typically, I use more Vespa Junior if the race is quicker in pace.

When I have my diet dialed in really close, supplement intelligently, and get adequate sleep, my recovery pretty much takes care of itself. I just listen to my body for muscle soreness and tendon tightness, and when the soreness and tightness is gone, I get back to training.

Resources

Yeo WK, Carey AL, Burke L, Spriet LL, Hawley JA. Fat adaptation in well-trained athletes: effects on cell metabolism. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011 Feb; 36(1):12-22.

Volek, J, Phinney S. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. Beyond Obesity LLC. 2012 April.

Masterjohn, Christopher. "Beyond Good and Evil - Weston A Price Foundation." Beyond Good and Evil - Weston A Price Foundation. The Western A. Price Foundation, 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

Attia, Peter. "My Personal Nutrition Journey." The Eating Academy. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

Trumping Tendonitis

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After completing the Kettle 100k, I had a pretty nasty flare-up of tendonitis on the back of my right knee. Like most runners, I have had experience with tendonitis in the past. In fact, when I was a sophomore at UW–Stevens Point, I had a particularly bad case of tendonitis that sidelined me for all of both indoor and outdoor track and field (15 weeks total of no running). The case of tendonitis that I carried into Kettle 100k and that really flared up the days after the race was probably as bad as, if not worse than, the case I had back in college (judging by pain level and joint mobility around the affected area), but this time I only had to give up running for eight days. This got me really thinking.

What made my tendonitis heal so much faster this time? I know tendonitis is very case by case—sometimes it just needs some stretching, other times a day or two off, and at worst multiple weeks off from running. But 8 days versus 15 weeks for a similar injury is no small difference. This time around, I realized, I was armed with a much better rehabilitation protocol than I had back in college. And because tendonitis is such a common ailment for runners, I thought it'd be valuable to document exactly what I do to get back on the road when I encounter tendonitis.

What finally helped shake the tendonitis I got back in college was the yucca root supplement from NOW Foods. Since then, I have always kept a bottle of yucca root on hand in case of any minor flare-ups or general inflammation.

Before the Kettle 100k, I had a few flare-ups my knee, but I was able to manage them with a few days of rest and a lot of yucca root. Afterwards, though, the yucca and rest alone were not working quite as fast as I would have liked. (Possibly something to do with running 100 kilometers in one day?) Bent on getting back to training, I pulled out all the stops, which included four main procedures:

First, the most obvious remedies were stretching and rest. Research showed that lots of times tendonitis behind the knee can be fixed much quicker by stretching out some of the major muscle groups in the legs. With this in mind, I stopped running and began stretching out my quads, hamstrings, gluts, and calves. I used a series of both dynamic and static stretches, as well as some foam rolling.

Second, I attacked the inflammation with vegetation. I continued with the yucca root supplement from NOW Foods that has helped me in the past. I like yucca root because it is one of nature's most potent anti-inflammatory, and it differs from ibuprofen in that it does not block the inflammatory properties that help with the healing of the injury. It also does not mask the pain, so there's no risk of a false sense of healing. I upped my typical routine of yucca capsules and bought a liquid concentrate of curcumin extract. Curcumin is the part of turmeric that also has the similar anti-inflammatory properties of yucca root. The stuff tastes horrific, but as my tendon began to heal, I couldn’t argue with it.

Third, I focused on the micronutrient magnesium. This was yet another way to help with the inflammation that was lingering in my right leg. The route I took was a warm epsom salt bath nightly (thanks Peter Defty for this piece of advice), as well as a topical magnesium spray (before bed and in the morning). I think the epsom salt bath was probably the thing that provided the biggest improvement. In the days after Kettle 100k, my right leg was so inflamed that, when looking at both legs in the mirror, it didn’t even look like they belonged to the same person. The inflammation was gradually reducing, but on the first morning after the first epsom salt bath was the most noticeable amount of reduction in inflammation.

Fourth, I upped my typical intake of bone broth. I like making my own bone broth at home. I do this mainly for all the awesome micronutrients that can be extracted from bones if slow cooked for 20+ hours. I started taking this once or twice a day. If you slow cook the bones along with the connective tissue still intact, you can get some of the gelatin included in your mixture. The gelatin is what I was after, as it is valuable in healing and strengthening tendons (you can buy gelatin or collagen too, but I buy enough meat with the bones that it makes more sense for me to make my own).

With all said and done, I took eight complete days off from running, which was nowhere near to the 15 weeks I had to take off last time. What a relief! I will definitely keep the procedure of stretch, yucca, turmeric (or curcumin extract), magnesium, and bone broth in mind next time I battle with inflammation.

Evolving Diet and Sample Day

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I have made it no secret on my blog that I prefer a diet rich in fat. As an athlete who has done a fair amount of "guinea pigging" myself, I have found that I feel better when my diet is comprised of at least 50 percent fats. I have known for over a year now that I prefer this method of nutrition, but what I have been experimenting with lately is what types of fats do the best job.

I like to think of my high fat diet as continually evolving as I put into practice new things. A while back, I posted a snapshot of what I ate one day. After an interview with Ben Greenfield (will be posted later on the Ben Greenfield Fitness website), I would like to do that again, but with a few tweaks I have been trying.

First, when eating nuts (almonds, say) I now look for raw almonds. Second, when buying meat, I take a trip to the farmer's market. I have found that things like liver are actually cheaper at the farmer's market. I pay a bit more for grass-fed beef, but I feel the tradeoff is worth it. I am more concerned with the fact I am putting money into the pocket of a hard working farmer, who takes pride in the quality of his or her product, rather than a big company who values dollars over consumer health. Third, I have been trying to reduce the amount of dairy I consume on a daily basis. When I do eat dairy, I try to find a raw version (something that has not been pasteurized or homogenized). If I can get it for a reasonable price, I like to get goat milk products. I was listening to a podcast a while back, and an argument was made that goat milk products are better received by the human digestive system, because the size of an adult goat mother is close to that of a human, the theory being that the milk she produces is designed for a human-sized creature (baby goats weigh about the same as human infants).

Below is a sample day of exercise and food consumption that I recorded. Like last time, keep in mind this is a one-day snapshot, and in no way are these the only foods I will or do eat. I have a large group of foods I eat routinely, and these are the ones that got picked on this particular day.

Thanks for reading!

Sample High-Volume Day


Workouts

  • AM: 15 miles
    • 3 mile warm-up
    • 5x 1 mile repeats (5:30/mi) with 1 mile recovery jog between
    • 3 mile cool-down
  • PM: 7 miles easy, 30 minute stretch/circuit routine

Food

AM Pre-Workout
  • Coffee w/ Tbsp butter, Tbsp coconut oil, tsp raw honey
  • Vespa concentrate
Breakfast
  • avocado
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • cup wild-caught salmon
  • 1 medium carrot
  • Small bowl of spinach
  • Unrefined sea salt (liberal amount)
  • 1 oz sharp cheddar (preferably raw)
  • 4 Extreme Endurance, 1 Extreme Omega, 1 Extreme Joint, 3 Extreme Immune, Extreme Gut (probiotic), 1 NOW K2+D3, 1 NOW CoQ10, 1 NOW Magnesium, 1 NOW kelp, 1 NOW blue green algae
Lunch
  • cup flax seeds
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz sausage
  • 1 oz sharp cheddar (preferably raw)
PM Pre-Workout
  • cup raw almonds
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Unrefined sea salt (liberal amount)
Dinner
  • cantaloupe w/ cinnamon
  • 4 oz fresh calf liver
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 cups cabbage
  • 3 Tbsp sour cream
  • Turmeric (liberal amount)
  • Oregano
  • Unrefined sea salt (liberal amount)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Herbal tea with coconut milk, Tbsp honey
  • 4 Extreme Endurance, 1 Extreme Omega, 1 Extreme Joint, 3 Extreme Immune, Extreme Gut (probiotic), 1 NOW K2+D3, 1 NOW CoQ10, 3 NOW Magnesium, 1 NOW kelp, 1 NOW blue green algae

High Carb vs. High Fat

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Earlier this summer I heard that bacon is the number one food that causes vegetarians to break out of their diet. I am not sure if this is statistically true or not, but it certainly got me thinking about bacon.

Mainstream health shakes its finger at bacon, saying it's the reason people are gaining weight, cholesterol is rising, and heart problems plague an increasing number of people. How could a food in its natural state (bacon, being a single-ingredient food item found in nature) be so bad for our health? In my opinion, it isn't. I am by no means a doctor or dietitian, but I can offer some personal experience that might be intriguing to those of you who also wonder why a society that trumpets a high-carbohydrate diet in the form of whole grains, fruits, and veggies would have such a rise in obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

At this time last year, my diet could have been described as high carbohydrate, low fat, and moderate protein. When I got my health assessment in Fall 2011, there was no cause for alarm. I was considered in great shape by all medical definitions (see results of blood work done in September 2011 below). However, I wanted more. I had just come off what I considered a pretty heavy racing block of three 50-milers in nine weeks. I wasn’t feeling exhausted or burnt out, but I couldn’t help but think that there was a way to speed up recovery. It was then that I decided to try switching up my diet. After speaking in detail with Peter Defty about the effectiveness of Vespa, he told me that its effects, which I already believed in, would be more prominent if I supplemented it with a high fat diet. This was a bit of shock at first. I had to wrap my head around a total overhaul of what I had been eating the past few years. Nevertheless, I love experimenting, so I thought I would give it a try.

I shifted gradually, but ultimately I settled on a diet that is rich in fat (a minimum of half my caloric intake). It can simply be described as high fat, low carbohydrate, and moderate protein. Moreover, most of my carbohydrates are consumed during or around workouts. The majority of them come from non-starchy vegetables. I do not eat a lot of fruit, but when I’m looking for a quickly digestible carb source, I usually turn to fruit or starchy carbs like potatoes or sweet potatoes.

The most interesting thing of all is the type of fat I consume. I aim to consume half of my fats from saturated sources (butter, meat, cheeses, yogurts, coconut oil, milk, etc.). When I tell people this, they often ask about my cholesterol levels or make comments about high blood pressure and heart attacks. The problem with this assumption is that they don’t take into consideration that I am not mixing these saturated fats with excessive amounts of carbohydrates. My body is using the saturated fat to feed my brain and heart—not to curtail their functions.

As the results seen below clearly demonstrate, my overall health in terms of cholesterol has improved with a switch from a high-carbohydrate to a high-fat diet. My overall cholesterol increased, but you have to look at why: My HDL (good cholesterol) went up from 53 mg/dl to 81 mg/dl. My LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) went from 96 mg/dl to N/A. I asked the nurse why she wrote N/A for my LDL and she said it was because it was so low the machine didn’t register a number. In terms of cholesterol, the high fat diet has improved my health.

Health Assessment Results 2011

Health Assessment Results 2012

Recovery and Preparing for Western States 100

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The best part about ultrarunning is how much you learn about yourself along the way. Not necessarily throughout the course of a race, but over the course of weeks, months, and years.

After last fall's race season I felt I had asked quite a bit from my body by racing three 50 milers in nine weeks. However, I couldn't help but take note of other ultrarunners who seem to never break down. Some even posted ultra-length race results at clips of over ten per year! Crazier yet, there is Michael Wardian, who posts top-ranked ultra times on a weekly basis. And then there was me.

I'll never forget the moment at the JFK 50 Mile when I realized I didn't have the same snap in my step that I had four weeks earlier. Were there only a select few who had superhuman genes for speedy recovery? Was the secret a decade or more of injury-free base miles averaging well over 100 miles a week? Sure, both play a role in recovery, but since you can't help your genes, I decided to focus on a continuation of building base—and nutrition.

By focusing on training and nutrition, I believe I have made huge strides in speeding up my recovery. I tested this on three separate occasions: After the John Dick Memorial 50k, I was able to run 10 miles the following morning. After the Mad City 50k, I was able to run 20 miles the following morning. I didn't taper for either of these events, so the quicker recovery may have partly been due to less shock to my muscles on race day. The real test to me was after the Ice Age 50 Mile. In all of my previous 50-mile races I was physically incapable of running for at least three days following the event. In addition, the first week to ten days that I did run, I could notice a definite lack of turnover and snap in my legs. After IA50, on the other hand, I could have run the next morning. I took off two days anyhow, but that was for other reasons. In addition, my legs lacked that sharp pain that makes running feel impossible. After two days off, I went for a 7.5-mile run. It was a new feeling. Not only did my legs feel fresh, but I even had to force myself to not increase my pace near the end of the run. It was an experience you'd almost need to have for yourself to truly understand. I was certainly surprised... and excited.

So, what did I do differently that allowed me to bounce back so quickly? As mentioned earlier, I did have an extra winter and spring worth of base miles. Certainly this helped a bit. However, it's unlikely it accounted entirely for the speedier recovery. Instead, I believe my nutrition played a big part. I have been doing two major things differently compared to last fall: a high-fat diet and supplementation with Extreme Endurance.

I flipped my diet on its head. Rather than consuming the majority of my calories from carbohydrate sources, I based my diet on fats. My daily fat intake increased to 50-60 percent of my caloric intake. If you want to learn some facts about fat you can listen to the podcast Why Fat is Good by Ben Greenfield. If you are the deep thinking or reading type, check out the book Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Both are very eye-opening. However, what I heard and read was just theory. I needed to try it out for myself. I have been following the high fat diet for about two months now, supplementing it with Vespa, and I have noticed a few changes. One, quicker recovery. Two, better mental focus. Three, no energy spikes and dips throughout the course of the day. Four, much deeper sleep. As far as I am concerned, all these benefits were extremely worth altering my diet.

The second dietary change I made was supplementing with Extreme Endurance. Just like in the case of dietary fat, I looked into the science behind this product, and I really liked what I saw and heard. However, once again, I needed to try it for myself before buying in 100 percent. You can read my four-week review of Extreme Endurance here. I loved it from the beginning. In fact, I noticed changes within 48 hours of beginning taking the product. The snap in my legs during afternoon runs following morning runs was great. I used to have to do my speedwork or otherwise intense sessions in the morning because I knew my legs were not going to be as responsive in the afternoon of a two-run day. With Extreme Endurance, this no longer is the case.

After winning IA50, I qualified for an entry slot into the Western States 100 (WS100). But I didn't enter IA50 with a goal to qualify for WS100. I actually had somewhat hoped to run WS100 next summer. However, having the opportunity in front of me, and some awesome support from Vespa, I will be running my first 100-mile race on June 23 at WS100. To be honest, I have no idea what to expect. The terrain is certainly different from anything I have trained on here in Wisconsin. I'm looking forward to a great learning experience—and to fall in love with the 100-mile distance.

Food For Thought: A Daily Sample and More!

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Lately I have been doing quite a bit of blogging about my training: how it is going, what I am doing, why I am doing it, etc. Although I have touched on basic nutritional strategy, a few of my readers have requested that I give a more detailed description of what a typical day of feeding looks like. Below I will detail a random day in my week so the readers can see what I eat and why. Keep in mind this is one sample day, and it does not imply that I eat these exact foods every day. However, the ratio of fats, proteins and carbohydrates that I eat stays pretty consistent from day to day.

So let’s get started! Generally speaking, my diet is kind of like an upside-down food pyramid. All the real scientifically backed research points to diets with a foundation on healthy fats as being conducive to better overall health.

Think I’m mixed up? Here is the real kicker. Saturated fats are good. Do not avoid them. I’m not going to get into the science behind it because I’m not a scientist, but if you want to know more, follow Ben Greenfield and read some of the information on the Vespa website. Basically, the heart and body rely on saturated fats to run efficiently. The problem is when people mix poor fats, like vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils with highly refined cabs that are full of gluten. This is where people end up running into health problems.

Also, you cannot go hog wild (no pun intended) on eating fat, as it is higher in calories by mass than proteins or carbohydrates. You still have to find out your caloric needs and follow them accordingly.

So am I saying to go completely ketogenic and avoid carbs altogether? No! Carbohydrate is still a fast-acting energy source and, when timed properly, it can do wonders for your performance. If you do not flood your insulin receptors with constant carb feedings, they will become very sensitive and that gel you take mid-race will feel like rocket fuel.

 I typically take in the most carbohydrates after workouts and on the two days leading up to an important race. My carb sources are typically fruit and vegetables. I avoid gluten and wheat almost entirely. Gluten is like the gum of urban legend: it can clog up the digestive track and wreck the good digestive flora in your gut. And our modern wheat has been altered so much over the past several decades that it can no longer properly digested. When looking for a more calorie-dense carbohydrate, I turn to starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes. (Quick side note: Sweet potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and some salt is to die for!)

Okay, enough of the reasoning... Let’s get to the sample day!

Pre morning workoutCup of coffee with whole milk and honey, glass of water, and Vespa Junior
6:45 am2 eggs, sour cream, pinto beans, corn, 1 carrot, peanut butter mixed with extra virgin olive oil, full fat yogurt with a small amount of protein powder
7:00 amExtreme Endurance (3 tabs), Multi Vitamin (2 tabs) fish oil (1 softgel), Joint support (2 caps), Yucca Root (1 tab), and kelp (1 tab)
Throughout workday2 24oz bottles of water, almonds as snacks
12:00 pm3 carrots, sharp cheddar cheese, almonds
Pre afternoon workout (3pm)Green Tea (decaf) full fat milk with honey
6:00pmGlass of water, 4 servings of broccoli, green leafy lettuce, 1 onion, olive oil, sour cream, lots of salt, pinto beans, and corn
8:00pmDecaf green tea with whole milk and honey, peanut butter mixed with extra virgin olive oil, and full fat yogurt with a small amount of protein powder
8:00pmExtreme Endurance (3 tabs), Multi Vitamin (2 tabs) fish oil (1 soft gel), Joint support (2 caps), Yucca Root (1 tab), and Iodine (1 tab)


Like I said above, this is just one sample day. Below are other foods I typically eat that didn’t appear in this sample day.
  • Avocado, raw
  • Coconut oil
  • Sweet potato
  • Russet potato
  • Spinach
  • Almond milk
  • Cream cheese
  • Butter (real, not margarine!)
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Peas
  • Cornmeal
  • Oatmeal
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cottage cheese (highest fat content available)
  • Mixed nuts
  • Blue green algae, acai berry powder, CoQ10, Digestive enzymes (supplements)

Training Recap: April 1-7 and Healthy Fats

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This week was full of recovery-pace runs after the Mad City 50k capped off last week with a great workout. I wanted to make sure my muscles bounced back while also taking advantage of the waning time I have to do quality work before Ice Age 50 Mile. Since I did not taper for Mad City, I was able to get a nice 20-mile long run in on the day after the race. My legs were a little sore, but I was not hurting to the extent that I needed a day off. Plus, chasing a 50k workout with a 20-mile long run is great ultramarathon training. It gave me another opportunity to develop the mental focus and physical toughness to run for a few hours on fatigued legs. With only five weeks to Ice Age, I won't have too many more opportunities for these types of workouts. I made sure to follow the intensity of this weekend with a couple of easier days to draw in the benefits from the work. I also have an intense week coming up, which will focus on hills.

Another aspect of my training I have been focusing on more closely has been nutrition. I have been utilizing Vespa for a while now, but I recently began a diet that will amplify its effects. I have been gradually trying to replace some of my carbohydrate intake with healthy fats. The reason for this is simply to improve my body's usage of fat as fuel and to keep my insulin receptors sharp. It's amazing how much bigger a boost you get from a gel or simple sugar when your body is not dulled by copious amounts of refined sugar all the time. The reason I have gone this route is basically because it is where the science points. Personally, I love listening to Ben Greenfield's podcasts and reading his blogs. He gives great tips on using fat for fuel for speedier recovery, and benefiting from the great nutrients available in healthy fats. Last year when I ran three 50-milers in a nine-week timeframe, I was not completely recovered for my final 50 miler at JFK—but I did not realize that until during and after the race. It was a big load for me to do on a high-carb diet, and very little ultra-racing experience. This year as Fall approaches I plan to bring a bit more experience, and a better recovery plan through nutrition, to a similar schedule of three ultras in autumn (God willing, I'll stay healthy and injury-free).

Sunday20 mile long run
Monday10 mile easy run
TuesdayAM: 10 mile easy run
PM: 10 mile easy run
WednesdayAM: 10 mile easy run
PM: 10 mile easy run
ThursdayAM: 10 mile easy run
PM: 10 mile easy run
FridayAM: 10 mile easy run
PM: 9 mile easy run
Saturday20 mile long run
Total128 miles


April 2012 Training

Fueling Philosophy

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Most people look at me bewildered when I explain to them my fueling strategy during ultramarathon training. It seems backwards at first, until the reasoning is explained.

When I do a morning run, which I do almost every day, ranging from 5 to 35 miles, I take full advantage of my low muscle glucose levels. I usually leave the house with no more than some diluted coffee, water, and a serving of honey in my stomach. This sounds silly at first but—trust me—it is very crucial to the success of an ultramarathon. I'm not a sports nutritionist, but I do know that the human body can store about 2,000 calories of glucose (ready-to-burn fuel in your body) in its muscles. At the onset of any activity that burns calories, the body tends to burn this fuel because it is the simplest to burn. As physical exertion continues, the body starts burning fat as well in attempt to avoid depleting its glucose, which is vital for other functions such as mental sharpness. God designed the human body to do amazing things. One of these things includes adaptation. If you constantly force the body to chose fat as fuel, it will become more efficient at using fat as a fuel. This is where the ultramarathon fueling strategy comes into play. In a 50-mile race, if I consume 1,000 calories and exhaust my glucose stores of approximately 2,000 calories, that leaves me well short of the energy requirements to run all 50 miles. (Probably over 2,000 calories short.) In order to avoid numerous highs and lows during a race, it is ideal to keep the body glucose levels as high as possible. If they are depleted too early, a death march to the finish line will surely ensue.

By not fueling up before my morning runs, I train my body to burn fat early and often during my morning workouts. After a while the body gets really good at turning to fat as a fuel source. In the long run (No pun intended... Oh, who am I kidding? Pun fully intended.) this helps the body preserve and stabilize its vital glucose levels. This means fewer highs and lows while on the course. I prepared like this for the Fall 50, and if you read my race report you will see I only had one low while on the course. Those of you who have run an ultra—or even a marathon—can vouch for me that only one low over the course of 50 miles makes for a much more pleasant experience than average. I really believe in this training philosophy because last year at TNF Madison I did not train like this and, although I felt like I ran a solid race, I had multiple highs and lows over the course of the race.

One thing I did not mention that needs to be recognized is when I take on really long runs of 25 plus miles I do take in some fuel and water along the way. I want my body to adapt, but I don't want to pass out on the side of the road. A quick example will help: If I am going for a 30-mile run, I would probably consumer 200 calories before I start, and take in 100 calories per hour and 40-60 ounces of water over the course of the run.

Two major challenges need to be recognized before anyone tries a plan like this one. First, you have to make sure you are taking in enough calories over the course of the rest of the days to adequately replenish and heal your body. Too many bouts like this with inadequate recovery fuel will certainly end badly. Second, it does take some getting use to. Running on empty, which is what is happening during this type of plan, is much harder. This is why I don't do it for all of my runs. If I am doing an intense speed workout I tend to fuel a little more. After all, if your training is suffering from this plan, then it's not doing its job. Also, race fueling can do funny things to the body. It is wise to “practice” fueling with the product you plan on consuming during a race. If you plan on drinking gatorade and GU, then you should incorporate these products into a couple of runs in order to test how your body will react.