Sunday, November 4, 2012

The results are in...

Survey says...well, I'm not quite sure there are words to describe the results that I have discovered in the past 4 weeks of my nutrition experiment.  Before I divulge the quantitative data which, to be honest, was the icing on the cake for me, let me recap what I have been up to these last 4 weeks.

I have completely overhauled my daily nutrition from being vegetarian to consuming animal products.  This has proven quite enjoyable in taste, blood sugar control, energy levels and recovery from training. Many have asked what my daily nutrition looks like now versus then so here's a snapshot to help understand:


  • Vegetarian based diet consisted of fruit based protein smoothies, copious amounts of trail mix with dried fruit, beans, nut butters, tofu and other soy products (ie-fake meat) and at least 4-5 servings of fruit per day.  Dark chocolate was a huge craving that I tried to fight off daily.
  • Animal based diet consists of vegetable based, high fat smoothies, very little nuts (but when eaten, I choose almonds and peanuts for their lower carbohydrate content), cheese (like it is going out of style), deli meat, ground turkey/beef, turkey bacon (transitioning to the real stuff this week), coconut butter (favorite snack), coconut milk, half and half, peanut butter in small quantities, 5-6 servings of vegetables per day, only 1 serving of fruit per day (if that), steak (love it!), chicken and of course, I can't leave out mayonnaise, of which I can eat by the spoonful!

I have been running and swimming about 3 times per week each and strength training 2-3 times per week.  All of my long runs average between 8:00-8:30 minute/mile pace and I am up to 18 miles as my longest.

As I have reported in the past, my body weight decreased by six pounds (and is still stable at the new weight), and while I did not measure my body fat, I am noticeably leaner (specifically in my mid-section).  This has also equated into better training for ultra-running and my swimming speed is the same, even though I am not doing much speed work in the pool.

All of this qualitative feedback is great and I am at the point of wanting to continue just based on what I have felt.  However, my quantitative mind has had unanswered questions and unproven theories thus I wanted to be sure that my metabolic efficiency and lab blood results supported this new nutrition program.  

One thing to understand before I share the results is that I, like many individuals, have had some genetic cards that have been dealt to me that are not too favorable.  I have family history of cardiovascular disease and have not traditionally had good blood lipids (specifically, triglycerides and HDL).  As you can imagine, any elevations of these markers (since they are risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome) would make me immediately think twice about continuing my experiment.

Luckily, I do not have to make that decision.  I performed a metabolic efficiency test and had blood work (cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) before I began and have just repeated the tests last week at the first month interval.  Wait for it...wait for it...BAM!

Pre-metabolic efficiency test: 9/28/2012

One-month into nutrition experiment: November 3, 2012:

As you can see, my body's ability to use fat as energy is tremendous.  More importantly to note is that I could not achieve a Metabolic Efficiency Point (MEP) due to physical fatigue, not metabolic fatigue.  I had to extend one stage further than my test on 9/28/2012 but still could not achieve a MEP (I haven't been doing any run speed work so it is of no surprise that my legs wouldn't go faster!).  Regardless, I saw the trend developing and could hypothesize that my MEP would likely happen at around 9.5-9.8 miles per hour, which by the way is closer to my lactate threshold but more about that in a future blog post.

As an interesting aside, most scientific research reports that the MEP (where fat and carbohydrate crossover due to the body needing more carbohydrate) happens between 63-65% of VO2max.  While I did not have a MEP, the last stage (where I was still using 61% of my energy from fat) was 89% of my VO2max.  Interesting, isn't it?  As I continue to educate others about, when researchers were looking into this concept decades ago, they only looked at the physical exercise manipulation of enhanced fat oxidation.  They did not look at the manipulation of daily nutrition and the impact that it has on the body's ability to use internal fat stores.  

Even more importantly were my blood results.  As I mentioned, I have family history of chronic diseases and my blood lipid profile is of extreme concern to me. 

Be sure you are sitting down before you read this next part.  On my low carbohydrate diet (about 10% or less of total calories), a moderate protein diet (20-25%) and a high fat diet (>60-70%), I feared the obvious (as many of us have been led to believe in the past from a variety of "credible" sources).  Much to my surprise, it was the exact opposite!!!  

Here are my blood lipid results from 9/28 to 11/3:
  • Total cholesterol decreased by 4%
  • LDL cholesterol decreased by 6%
  • HDL cholesterol INcreased by 13%
  • VLDL cholesterol decreased by 55%
  • Triglycerides decreased by 41%
Keep in mind that the fat that I am eating is not all unsaturated.  In fact, saturated fats are a large part of my diet now.  My next blood test will be a bit more in depth to determine particle sizes to get a better picture of lipid composition but for now, I am extremely pleased with the positive results of my blood lipid panel.

Well, well, well.  I now have quantitative data to support my qualitative assessments and to be honest, it was a bit shocking at first.  To be able to combine both is powerful and I am eager to move forward with my experiment with even more excitement!

Stay next blog will detail my feelings of eating chocolate again (haven't had the urge to in the last 4 weeks so I want to test the emotional connection to one of my favorite foods).  Should be interesting!

Until next time...

Coach Bob


  1. Fascinating Bob! I love it. I've always enjoyed reading about your experiments. I'm tempted to start one of my own, in part because I can't seem to lose these feisty 6 lbs and as I'm moving forward with a marathon in my future. Thanks for the reading. I hope all is well!

  2. This is awesome. But one question: do you feel 'fat' or sloth-like?

    1. Actually, quite the opposite. My energy levels are high and consistent throughout the days.

  3. Interesting work. I've been following a very similar approach myself for reasons I'll not bore you with though unfortunately I don't have access to whatever metabolic fitness testing equipment you are using. I'm intrigued why you came to the conclusion that in test 2 you felt that you were not able to reach a "MEP" because of "not having done any speed work", prior to test 1 had you been doing speed work, what had changed about your training between the 2 tests? If there had been a training change then surely this is relevant to the study? I'm just wondering why the failure to reach an MEP in test 2 couldn't simply be the result of not eating much in the way or carbohydrates. I'm just wondering how the curves could cross if there was no carbohydrate/glycogen available to actually be used for energy production, which would stop the blue curve rising? I'm sure the approach will allow you to go on running for a long time but would an approach that included carbohydrates, and therefore prevented them running out, not allow you to go on just as long but faster, that's what current research seems to point to.

    1. Be sure to read the string of blogs that I have posted throughout my experiment. That will give you a good idea of how my training has changed. Training is surely a factor in improving metabolic efficiency but a small portion, roughly 25%, thus nutrition is the main factor in the equation. I have shown that when only manipulating the diet of athletes and holding exercise consistent, there is a profound positive effect on improving metabolic efficiency.

      We have about 2-3 hours worth of glycogen stores in our body to fuel moderate intense exercise. Most athletes will always have carbohydrate stores, even in a fasted state. I am seeking to prove that this type of eating pattern will not only sustain ultra distance running but also short course triathlon success (which I will be testing throughout 2013 so stay tuned!).

    2. I read all the articles before posting, I enjoyed them but I was left with my questions! I'm sure you have considered this but would it not be interesting, following a period of dietary manipulation, to return to carbohydrate feeding and then run your test to see whether the body is then using fats to a greater extent after the period of modification, even when carbohydrates are readily available. That would be more convincing I'd have thought. I'm just not clear how metabolic efficiency having improved is unequivocally demonstrated when the subject under test does not have carbohydrate available, or as readily available. Essentially the body would appear in those circumstances to be left with no choice but to use fat, and for the athlete to probably go slower.

    3. i think the idea concerns the bodies ability to utilise fat stores - you cant "just" switch your metabolism to sustain yourself with fat metab if your body is not primed for it.

    4. Yes, that's my understanding. What I don't understand is how the study as it stands really shows a switch to primarily body fat use for energy as would normally apply to "in competition" nutritional status. If comparisons are made when someone is eating carbs and when someone isn't there will inevitably be a switch to fat metabolism/ketosis as there is simply very little CHO available, the body under those circumstances has no option. What interests me is whether, after a period of CHO deprivation, the body will still use a higher % of fat at a given intensity when CHO is again made available. I'd like to know whether we are seeing here a genuine change in the body CHOOSING to use more fat or a change purely because the body has no option. If a genuine change is taking place whereby even when CHO is available the body will still continue to use a higher % of fat this would spare the very limited glycogen stores and be beneficial in terms of performance. If the body only uses fat when it has no option because CHO is withdrawn I believe that overall performance may well be -vely impacted, particularly at higher intensities, when carbohydrate is restricted.

    5. I may not have fully explained my nutrition experiment in that 1) I am consuming carbohydrates on a daily basis, and 2) the quantity is not low enough to induce traditional, clinical ketosis. The metabolic efficiency testing that I am doing provides hard, quantitative data to support the metabolic changes and remember that the body almost always utilizes both fat and carbohydrate throughout a myriad of exercise intensities (except maximal levels).

  4. Very interesting read Bob. I'm wondering whether you are planning to carload 3 days prior your ultra? I've switched from being a carb mad and now doing something more like a 40% carbs 40% good fats 20% protein for over a month now with positive experiences like yourself. On the 1st Dec I will be running my first 100k ultra and wondering whether I should carbload as I do for marathons ie 10g carbs per kg bodyweight for 3 days?
    My family has a history of type 2 diabetes and despite being skinny, exercise a lot and being healthy I'm currently borderline at 33 years of age. I'm curious about having a blood test done since changing my diet.

  5. Hi Rodrigo. I have no interest in do any type of carbo loading before the ultra. Once you develop efficiency, I do not feel that it is appropriate to revert back to old processes again. There should be no issue of maintaining my current nutrition going into the ultra.



  6. Bob, This is what I do in my practice in Maine. I look for those people and athletes who have the prediabetic and diabetic metabolism - it's around 40% of people. We don't need snacks around exertion and we only need to eat 3 times per day...maximum. We're good storers as it is, so extra carbs are just too much. Welcome to the 40%.
    Thanks for your great work over the years. I suspect I will be at one of your upcoming trainings soon. - Dr Richard Maurer

  7. Thanks for the reply. I'm hoping the ME concept helps me delay the onset of diabetes and also keep my teeth in good shape. Thank you.

  8. Bob, what did you do for nutrition (if any) on your long run?

  9. It'd be interesting to see your actual changes nutritionally. Do you keep a food log or anything? Crono-meter is a pretty good one for seeing what your actually carb/fat/protein ratios are.
    It sounds like you were on a pretty high fat/high processed diet when eating vegetarian(nuts/soy junk/etc.). So I'm curious as to what has really changed?

  10. also curious as to what kind of protein you were putting in your "vegetarian" smoothies?
    Thanks, keep the info coming!

  11. Bob,

    One, thank you for the great presentations at the level 1 clinic is San Antonio.

    Those are some "interesting" results. Do you think there would be much a difference in results if this were utilized by a female athlete?


  12. Bob,

    Glad I'm not the only one who lives life as a science experiment, learning and living to be the best coach possible!

    Based on your previous studies and data that is available on Metabolic Efficiency, I am not at all surprised by the results you are experiencing!

    Thank you for being such a great contributor to the field of Exercise Science and Nutrition.

    For that I am grateful!

    Zoe Nance

  13. Bob-

    Interesting study in that I have recently adapted to a similar plan. I don't necessarily have access to the cool tools you have but the timing was good in that I had my annual physical this week. I am 48, 20+ years regular exercise via trail run, MTB, & Road Bike. Although gluten free, still a long time carb junkie and continually fighting bonk/afternoon hypoglycemia. I am less than 3 months into a moderate fat, mostly zero processed carbs diet and have completely ditched the hypoglycemia. I regularly run fasted in the morning up to 2 hours with no bonk, and have not consumed a gel while exercising in almost 3 months. Though I was not overweight, I have lost 8+ pounds and am almost at my low weight of the last 26 years, while feeling much better in all aspects of daily health. And... the numbers from the physical:
    Total cholesterol increased by 3%
    LDL cholesterol decreased by 6%
    HDL cholesterol INcreased by 25%
    VLDL cholesterol decreased by 25%
    Triglycerides decreased by 31%
    **For the first time, my HDL put me well into the NEGATIVE risk factor for CHD!

    I am excited to see what the next annual physical shows after a whole year of adaptation! Keep up the great work!
    Steve S

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