Sunday, November 25, 2012

Training Adaptations

I have been emphasizing my nutritional changes throughout my nutrition experiment (with good reason) but I have had many comments and questions pertaining to my training and the adaptations taking place.  Since I am fresh off my long run, I thought I would review what has been happening in the last four weeks in terms of my training.

First off, I have been sick for the last 10 days (which led to laryngitis for 4 days).  I am just getting over this now and combined with my crazy travel schedule as of late, I admit that finding the time to run, swim and strength training (I'm not cycling too much) has been challenging.  The illness put a damper on my long runs but my basic goal the past five weeks was to try to hit the pool 2-3 times per week and run 3-4 times per week, even if the runs were short on a hotel treadmill.  Doing an ultra is all about time on feet and I'm not new to this type of training regimen.  Any opportunity I have to walk around or be on my feet has been beneficial.  Thus, all of my presentations and walking endless miles through airports and parking lots have actually been a blessing in disguise!

Let me get to my long runs and provide you the progression that has happened in the last five weeks:

  • Week of October 15: long run of 18 miles, felt great, average pace of 8:27 min/mile, 751 vertical feet gained; weekly TSS of 268 (a measure of training stress score that I monitor in Training Peaks)

  • Week of October 22: long run of 14 miles, felt great, average pace of 8:15 min/mile, 794 vertical feet gained; weekly TSS of 287

  • Week of October 29: Metabolic efficiency testing week; long run consisted of 7 miles during my test; weekly TSS of 108

  • Week of November 5: long run split due to time, treadmill runs of 2x8 miles separated by 4 hours, average pace of each 7:38 min/mile; weekly TSS of 87

  • Week of November 12: long run of 13 miles, felt great, average pace of 8:15 min/mile, 741 vertical feet gained; weekly TSS of 136

  • Week of November 19: long run of 22 miles, felt great, no calories on this run and only 20 ounces of water that took just over 3 hours, average pace of 8:15 min/mile, 1470 vertical feet gained; weekly TSS of 306

It appears that my physical training adaptations are progressing, even in spite of not putting in many miles (or as many as I should with the ultra 7 weeks away!).  This further supports the fact that exercise, while a very important part of the metabolic efficiency improvement equation, only accounts for up to 25%.  The most robust changes come from altering the nutrition.

This high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate nutrition plan has been nothing short of spectacular for my body and I hope you can see by the distances, vertical feet gained and paces, that my body is adapting from the physical side as well.

Just a small tidbit (because I know I will get asked) about today's 22 mile run:

  • 7:30: breakfast of 3 eggs fried in coconut oil, 4 sausage links, 16 ounces of smoothie (pineapple, banana, coconut, coconut milk, half and half, olive oil, chia seed gel, whey protein powder, ice); roughly 35 grams of carbohydrate

  • 9:45: pre-run snack of 1 tbsp natural peanut butter with 1 tbsp homemade chocolate coconut butter; roughly 8 grams of carbohydrate

  • Long run: 20 ounces of water, no calories, energy level was fine

  • Post-long run: not too hungry but dehydrated, had 3 ounces of pineapple juice with water, 10 almonds and iced tea (caffeine free); roughly 8 grams of carbohydrate

I am off to enjoy my recovery by putting on my 110 Play Harder compression tights.  Tomorrow morning is masters swim practice with Coach Susan from Elite Multisport Coaching, which always promises to be challenging!

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chocoholic no more!

It's no secret that I love my chocolate (at least I didn't think it was!).  Always have and up until the last few weeks, I thought I always would.  My nutrition experiment has had many profound changes as you have read about in my previous blog posts but none more shocking than my recent response to chocolate that I had.

After initially beginning my high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate experiment on October 1, 2012, I immediately noticed that my cravings for anything with sugar in it subsided.  I have to admit that it was a bit odd but I listened to my body and did not feed it anything that it did not want.  About a week ago, I decided (even though I wasn't "attracted" to it) to try chocolate again to test the waters out a bit.

I chose my favorite of course, dark chocolate, and begin with one small morsel that I allowed to melt in my mouth.  I like to enjoy these pleasures slowly because, as I always tell others, your taste buds are on your tongue, not in your stomach.  There is no rush to get the food down the hatch, especially when it comes to something as delicious as chocolate!  So, my chocolate experiment went something like this:

  • Old self: "oh boy, I can't wait, this is going to be SO good!"
  • Eat chocolate, let it dissolve in my mouth...
  • New self (adapted to low carb, high fat diet): "Hmmm...that doesn't taste like I remember it.  Should I try another?"
Okay, so when I ask myself if I should try more chocolate, there is something going on.  In the past, I would shovel in my mouth without question but now, now I am questioning it?  What's going on?

Well, of course, I know exactly what is going on.  This nutrition experiment is such a robust way of controlling blood sugar (and improving metabolic efficiency by the way), that my sugar cravings have disappeared.  I'm not sure how I feel about this based on my past relationship with chocolate just yet but I will tell you that living life without cravings now is liberating.  I no longer begin my days wondering when the cravings will rear their ugly heads.  I now have control over my body more because of optimizing my blood sugar and I am able to listen to my hunger and satiety cues much better now that my sugar cravings have been put to rest.

This is more support of the intense relationship between nutrients and hormones as it relates to eating.  No matter how you do it, be sure to put controlling your blood sugar as top priority in your life as you enter this holiday season.

Oh, and if you are wondering, for the first time in a VERY long time, my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of turkey (white and dark meat) with mayonnaise on top, a small serving (like 6-7 pieces) of green bean casserole, 5 of my cauliflower/bacon/cheese "biscuits" and my choice of beverage was half and half/coconut milk mixed with one scoop of Life Time Fitness chocolate whey protein powder (yes, I brought it to Thanksgiving dinner because I knew I needed some fat!).  My normal gorge of dessert was replaced with having one bite (yes, I was able to stop quite easily) of my wife's homemade pumpkin/cream cheese roll.

There you have up is another Metabolic Efficiency test in a couple of weeks followed by a very comprehensive blood work panel that will explore many other health markers, thanks to my friends at Life Time Fitness.  Results coming...

Coach Bob

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