Monday, October 22, 2012


I have received many questions regarding how my ultra running training is going during my nutrition experiment and I will note a few interesting facts in this short blog update.

The first is that I am up to 18 miles for my long run.  This was done on Sunday and an increase of 5 miles from seven days prior.  As a coach educator, I often like to explore the "why" behind common fallacies and one of them is the 10% "rule".  In short, it has been stated that volume should not be increased from one week to another more than 10%.  I, along with many other ultra runners (and triathletes) have disproved that "rule" quite often and with much success (defined as no injuries).  What allowed me to increase my mileage by about 39% in one week?  Smart training but even more important, intelligent recovery.

As I always say (and teach), "stress + recovery = adaptation".  Now, I am certainly not sitting on my butt in between long runs but I try to control my recovery opportunities with a careful eye.  Included in my personal recovery strategies are: river baths, compression clothing, foam rolling, self massage, sleep, proper nutrition (more on that in a bit), hydration and overall management of my life/work balance.  There are many opportunities that present themselves outside of the traditional rest day and I urge all athletes to explore these while listening to their bodies.

I must say that the 18 miles I put in this weekend went by quick.  Not once did my motivation falter nor did my energy level.  My low carbohydrate, high fat diet is definitely doing the trick with improving my satiety and maintaining consistent energy levels.  I haven't run that far since training for Leadville years ago and I was a bit surprised that while the legs were a bit fatigued upon finishing, there were no negative body signs that I had experienced pre-nutrition experiment.  I would normally be trashed after a run like this: grouchy, needing to sleep immediately, not fun to be around.  You get the picture.  But this weekend it was nothing of the sort!  Even better was the fact that my legs felt fully recovered by the next morning before team swim practice.

Am I controlling the inflammatory process more efficiently with this alteration in my nutrition?  How can that be with eating such a high fat diet?  It is impossible.  Or is it?  I do believe it is time that many endurance athletes begin to rethink what they are putting in their bodies and in what proportions.

I am so elated with my progress so far that I am constructing a webinar on the topic of "Carbohydrate Unloading".  Look for it in January.

Tomorrow is an aggressive 12 mile run with over 1500 feet of vertical gain in 2.5 miles.  Let's put this nutrition plan to the test, less than two days after my 18 mile run.

Stay tuned...I'm just getting warmed up!

Coach Bob

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3 weeks and a speedbump

Three weeks into my experiment and I finally found my first "speedbump" in this new dietary intervention.  Even though I have had nothing but amazing progress and extremely positive effects from this dietary manipulation, it was bound to happen I suppose.  It has not been my weekly travel as a derailment (actually, that is quite easy with a little planning and preparation).  Nor has it been my energy levels as those continue to be through the roof.  I find that I can easily run for 2-3 hours with very few calories and I can maintain swim intensity throughout a 1.5 hour masters swim practice. speedbump, while related to my training, is not affecting my performance but rather my body temperature!  As you recall, I have dropped 6 pounds from day 1 until now and with that has come changes in body composition.  Each time I have gotten into the pool to swim (about 3 times per week), I have noticed that my rest intervals must be more strategically timed to prevent my body getting too cold.  Yes, I have finally given in to wearing a swim cap in an attempt to maintain my body temperature somewhat.  Now, I am certainly not complaining as I see this as a very positive speed bump and one that I will accept with pride.  If you see me in the water, please don't stop me too long to chat as you will likely see my lips become discolored and my body begin to shake uncontrollably!  

On a similar note, I have been enjoying this nutrition plan and approach each new day as an experiment to determine what low carbohydrate meal I can put together while attempting to increase the fat significantly.  Tonight, I embarked on making pizza except there was no bread or wheat base.  My crust was made out of chopped/pulverized cauliflower mixed with spices, eggs and cheese.  I topped it with a few slices of Roma tomatoes and more cheese and voila!  It was such a great, low carbohydrate substitute to one of my most favorite foods in the world.  My wife and kids loved it and I do believe it will become a staple in this household for many years to come.  Next time, I'm going to load it with Genoa salami and crushed Italian sausage to add a little zest to it!

Training continues to progress nicely.  My travel puts a damper on some of my long runs but I will be putting this to the test tomorrow with a 15 mile run to determine how well I recover before the next morning's masters swim practice.  To date, my recovery from up to 2 1/4 hour runs has been phenomenal.  No muscle soreness.  No unnecessary mental fatigue.

I can't wait to get quantitative data on myself to justify the great feelings and experience I am having so far!

Until next go around...

Coach Bob

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ups and downs

Funny title because as I write this, it is day 13 of my nutrition experiment and I have had absolutely no "downs" during the first stage of morphing into a meat eater again.  In fact, as each day progresses, it more positives seem to appear!  I could not be happier to report that this experiment is going better than expected.  Of course, qualitative feedback is great and just the fact that my energy levels are through the roof and my recovery from training is excellent but numbers don't lie.  I am eager to peruse the quantitative feedback as I get more and more into this experiment.

My body weight is stable now, down about 6 pounds from when I first started.  I will perform another metabolic efficiency assessment in 2 weeks so I can compare day 1 to day 30 and I will perform another blood analysis at month 3.  

It took me the first week to really get a handle on carbohydrate counting.  I kept a detailed food log and counted carbohydrates religiously.  Now, I am off the food log as I know how to navigate this low carbohydrate/high fat diet much more effectively.  I know how to put the foods together, how to moderate my carbohydrate intake and I finally have a grasp on how to get enough fat in my diet to keep my calories up and satiety high.  It is still a slow introduction to animal products but I did buy chicken at the store this week and plan on delving into cooking it in the next few days.  My animal product consumption to date has included eggs, cheese, deli turkey, deli ham, turkey bacon (a lot of it!), and a teeny bit of plain Greek yogurt from time to time.

As for training, I am traveling a lot more than usual now so I am fitting in as many opportunities to run and swim as possible as I prepare for my pacing adventure for my athlete in January (I am training for a 100 mile run of which I will be running with my athlete...).  About every 3-4 days, I increase my long run by about 3 miles and am currently up to 13.5 miles.  I am cycling once as I coach our Elite Multisport Coaching age-group team and am doing a lot of functional strength with my body weight, explosive movements, TRX and traditional moving weights about 3-4 times per week.  I am also swimming 2-4 times per week (one with our Elite Multisport Coaching age-group team).

Prior to this experiment, I would crash and burn after my long runs.  I would literally have to take a nap immediately afterwards then my mood would crash the rest of the day and let's just say that I was not the most pleasant person to be around.  That's one reason my wife doesn't want me training for long endurance events anymore. However, since I began this nutrition experiment, I am not as fatigued after long runs and in fact, from a muscular standpoint, I have much faster recovery with far less soreness.  All bonus points in my book.

As I continue on this journey, I am re-discovering my love for animal products (I did grow up Italian thus meat products were always a staple) and getting more brave each week as I introduce new kinds of meats.  I have had nothing but positive results in the past couple of weeks and I look forward to continuing to note if this will alter my blood lipids and what it will do for performance as I approach longer runs of 20 miles and more.

The Colorado nights are getting a bit colder so I experimented a bit in the kitchen last night to come up with a killer cup of hot cocoa.  If you are interested, here are the ingredients:

Unsweetened coconut milk
Half and half (optional)
Dark cocoa baking powder
A few drops of alcohol free liquid Stevia
Coconut butter

If you know me, you know that I never measure anything.  Just combine these until you have the right taste for you and enjoy on a cool night.  My kids love it which says something!

Stay tuned...until my next update when I should have a few more miles of running under my belt to test my energy levels.  And even more exciting, I will be implementing this protocol with a couple of the athletes whom I coach (and my colleague Dina Griffin, Sport Dietitian at Fuel4mance will also be trying it as she begins her Ironman training) so I will be collecting some additional data on different ages, genders and types of endurance athletes!

Coach Bob

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 5 Update

Five days have progressed since I introduced my new daily nutrition plan to my body and I must say, there have been quite a few interesting things to note.

The first is that I am consistent in keeping my daily carbohydrate intake between 60-75 grams.  I really thought it would be more difficult but it is not.  I am getting a hang of what foods to put together (specifically meat products since those have not been part of my daily nutrition for the past 10 years) and the timing in which I should eat.  I am listening to my hunger signals and my satiety is greatly improved.  I am pleasantly surprised how much less I have to eat to sustain my hunger but also my performance.

Secondly, my energy levels have been through the roof!  Not surprising but I have no lulls throughout the day, I wake up not as ravenous and the big bonus is that I have no hunger issues after dinner any longer (there is about 3-4 hours between the time I finish dinner and the time I go to bed).

Third is that fact that my affinity (or cravings if you will) for sweet treats has markedly decreased.  Now, you should understand that I have quite the sweet tooth but my wife had some almond M&M’s out in a bowl the other day on the table and I walked right by them.  I mean I stopped briefly and assessed my biological need for them and it was not there.  What?  That never happens! Additionally, my emotional need for sweets is almost gone.  Amazing!  In fact, I haven’t had any chocolate or anything sweet since I started aside from a few dried cranberries in a nut based trail mix and my chocolate whey protein powder.  Strange but my taste buds seem to be more sensitive as I can really taste the sweetness in the small amount of nuts I eat (especially almonds and cashews).

Next up, my teeth.  Okay this may sound strange but I do not have that sugar film (I call it fuzzy teeth) on my teeth any longer and I am sure my dentist will be happy about this one!  

Lastly, I have been monitoring my body weight for trend analysis purposes and I am down 5-6 pounds in this short time.  Now, I can’t really afford to lose much and never actually want to lose weight but I am definitely leaner, less hungry, have no sugar cravings and am more mood stable throughout the day.

Can it get any better?  I sure hope so as I begin to explore how my body does on this plan as my running miles increase exponentially in the next few months.

Stay tuned...this is just getting fun!

Coach Bob

Monday, October 1, 2012

And so it begins...

My journey has begun!  Not only am I training my body to be able to run 100 miles in 3.5 months but more importantly, I have begun my completely revamped daily nutrition plan.  Revamped, in fact, is quite the understatement!

But first, let me describe my reasoning for this journey/experiment.  I have been described quite often as the salmon swimming upstream.  I always question the "why" of conventional wisdom in an effort to better understand mechanisms but more importantly, how I can be a better sport dietitian, coach and athlete.  This has worked in my favor as the concepts of Nutrition Periodization and Metabolic Efficiency were born out of not only my curiosity but also my desire to provide better and more useful information to athletes.

It is no wonder that I use myself as a guinea pig and this is by far the craziest of experiments I have done on myself.  I mean, I have trained my body for a 40 mile run in 4 weeks, have done an Ironman on 8 weeks of run training after breaking my foot and walked the last half of my first Leadville 100 due to a tibial stress fracture.  Sometimes, my judgement is not the best but this time around, I am eager and extremely excited to determine how this new experiment affects many aspects of my health and performance.

I have followed a mostly vegetarian (by mostly I mean I have included dairy and eggs) for about the past 10 years.  I am asked "why?" quite a bit about that and I must say that my response is based more on how my body felt.  It felt good, or at least what I thought was good.  However, after 2 days of my experiment, I am already redefining what my "good" really is.

Get ready for this and grab a seat because if you know me, you will need to be sitting down...I am disembarking from my vegetarian lifestyle for 3-4 months as I prepare my body as an ultra-runner again.  Yep.  Full on meat products.  I'm talking chicken, fish, beef, turkey and sausage!  Back to my Italian roots and similar to how I grew up.  Why?  Well, very simply put, I am trying to improve my health (improved blood lipids) and performance (improved metabolic efficiency) and I will document my entire journey as I progress.

I have my baseline blood lipids and my metabolic efficiency results.  My metabolic efficiency has never been textbook (because many of the protein food sources I ate were ridden with carbohydrates) so I expect to see a robust change in my fat burning capacity (which suits ultra-running perfect!).  It will be interesting to see what my eating plan will do to my blood lipids because, well, I am following a low carbohydrate, high fat diet.  Yes, I said it!

Here's the plan:

  • Week 1-2: eat less than 100 grams of carbohydrate per day, 25-35 grams of protein per meal and as much fat as I can
  • Week 3-4: same plan but eat less than 75 grams of carbohydrate per day
  • Week 5 and beyond: same as above but eat less than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day
  • No starches at all (nada, grains, wheat, etc.)
  • Run 4-5 times per week (one sprint session, 1-2 very aerobic based on my metabolic efficiency results and the rest hitting the trails in the mountains)
I thought this would be extremely difficult but the first two days of implementation have been super easy aside from figuring out some meal ideas.  As you can imagine, not eating meat for years makes it challenging to construct meals and cook with meat.  Nonetheless, it is becoming easier.  But even better is the fact that even though I am restricting my carbohydrate intake to less than 100 grams per day, I have consumed 59 and 72 grams on day 1 and 2, respectively.  Much, much easier than I thought it would be!

Here's a snapshot of my daily nutrition for those who are interested:

Day 1, 59 grams of carbohydrate:
  • Smoothie with water, heavy cream, chia seeds, kale, spinach, carrots, bananas, olive oil, peanut butter, whey protein powder, chocolate Generation UCAN plus 1 fried egg (fried in butter)
  • 1 egg white
    • 8 mile run
  • 2 scoops chocolate whey protein powder (3 grams of carbohydrate per scoop) with heavy whipping cream
  • 1 nectarine
  • 2 string cheeses
  • 1 ounce turkey
  • 1/2 ounce cheese
  • 1/2 cucumber with 3 ounces cheese and 3 ounces turkey
  • 1 ounce cashews
  • 1 piece romaine lettuce with 6 ounces of tuna with mustard and mayo, 2 ounces of cheddar cheese and 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 10 black olives
Day 2, 72 grams of carbohydrate:
  • Same smoothie as Day 1 plus one egg white
  • 1 scoop of Lifetime Fitness FastFuel with water and heavy whipping cream consumed before and after swim practice
    • 1'15" masters swim
  • 1 nectarine
  • 8 slices cucumber with 3 ounces of cheese and turkey with mayo on each slice
  • 10 black olives
  • 2 ounces cashews and almonds
  • 2 slices cheese
    • 15 mile bike ride with Teens that TRI
  • 1 Italian sausage, 3/4 cup mashed cauliflower, 3 celery sticks with cream cheese, 1 ounce cheese, 3 ounces tuna with mustard and mayo

There you have it.  I'm a bit surprised at how little food I am eating and more importantly, how satiated I am.  To be expected from a scientific point of view but feeling it is true validation.

My biggest challenge so far is finding enough fat.  I know it sounds strange but I'm working on it.  I spent more than an hour in the grocery store this weekend searching for full fat products.  Harder than it seems.

My energy level is extremely consistent.  I am able to train on very minimal carbohydrates (I normally consumed a minimum of 200+ grams per day).  My mood is consistent and good and I will say that I actually enjoy eating meat once again.

This is going to be a truly epic journey.  Stay tuned for my next blog post.  They will be much more frequent so I can share my progress as it is happening.

Coach Bob