What I've Learned From The LCHF Approach
As you & I both know! Nutrition is a bit of a minefield & especially endurance nutrition!
When I finished running the 24 Marathons 24 Days back in July 2017 - I began to think to myself. And anyone here who know’s me - I do that a lot - in a good way. I seek new ways of doing things, new ways to improve & new ways to try and become just a little bit better!
In July of 2017 I began to think about my general health. I had visited my doctor on numerous occasions and had always gotten the thumbs up for the blood tests and the all clear with any cardio vascular tests too. I looked healthy I guess. I began to look at both my food & nutrition. I followed what was a “standard” endurance athletes diet. I ate porridge for breakfast, bagels for lunch & potatoes with my dinner.
While training or exercising for longer periods of times I consumed energy gels, I drank the energy or carb concoctions while out cycling & consumed the recovery shakes that evening too. I remember writing down my nutritional intake for one whole week, something I would encourage anyone to do! That really opened my eyes. A large of my weekly food intake was taken up by carbohydrates & sugars. I began to think about two things.
1) You are in your mid twenties - is this sustainable or actually healthy long term?
2) You look healthy on the outside, you passed the doctors tests - but was their anything else under the “hood” we couldn’t see?
You see the thing is with me - I get asked a lot - what are you doing next, when are you doing this, when are you going to do that. I am still in my twenties, currently I am planning and working towards a long & healthy life and I want to be able to run a marathon when I am 70 with my grandkids………..and beat them!
I am playing the long game when it comes to my training & my nutrition. General health is really important to me & I felt post 24 Marathons 24 Days I was veering off course with that principle slightly.
Then enters Barry Murray. A competitive ultra marathon runner himself, a very well educated human being & one of Irelands top sports nutritionists. About a month before meeting Barry, I had started to do some research myself and maybe I had opened my mind to thinking there might be another way. Barry accelerated that process for me and got me thinking for myself and to take a step back from the "normal” or at least what I thought was normal. I liked how Barry wasn’t pushy with his approach or beliefs - he simply spoke to me and got me thinking for myself.
This was my start into training & living a LCHF style life. (LCHF = Low Carbohydrate High Fat)
I started small & slow. Morning sessions on empty or “fasted”. This started with short 30 min runs and gradually built up over time. Bike sessions around Slea Head that were previously fuel on a gel and a bar were now being done on two bottles of water. I will admit that early on I had the worry of running out of “energy” - I now know that this will never happen - as the fat stores in our body have huge amounts of calories to burn for “energy”
Instead of starting my day with a huge bowl of porridge, I was now starting my day with a coffee, a training session & then a hearty breakfast of eggs, avocado, some bacon & black pudding. Big difference there! Having spent 6 years in the previous “system” this was new territory & I was enjoying exploring it!
I knew that any major change was going to take time & I was willing to be patient with it! I knew about 12 months in that future Shane will thank me for making these changes and also making my health a priority.
Some of the main changes I have seen in the last two years are as follows;
Less of a reliance on sugar in training and in general. I no longer seek gels or energy drinks as I train. I have tapped into another energy source & that is the fat engine. The “energy” availability in the fat engine is far superior to that of the sugar engine. Far more sustainable & a lot more efficient!
I am not Zero Carb! I think this important to mention & also perhaps discuss too! I do still consume carbohydrates - just not as much! Also when I consume carbohydrates now, its after I train or exercise for an extended period of time. I understand now that a big carb hit pre training or exercise can cause a insulin spike or response - that can actually interrupt fat burning. I know I have enough energy in my body to fuel a 2 hour run or bike session & I can eat my carbohydrates afterwards to help myself recover properly. I still enjoy my pizza every so often! Yes 100% I am eating less carbohydrates but enjoying fresh food every day! Local eggs & bacon, fresh fish, fresh meat & in season vegetables.
I have leaned out. I haven’t lost a huge amount of weight or anything but I have leaned out a bit. I lost that few pounds in the first 3 months or so of making the changes. I have also noticed that my daily energy levels have stabilised hugely. No more dips at 1pm or 3pm - my energy levels seem to be pretty steady all day!
They are just some of the things I have seen personally. Nobody brainwashed me into thinking these things either I went at this with a very open mind & I was eager to learn as much as I could!
And as the old saying goes - “the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know”
So I hope to be still learning new things in this specific are of my own life for many more years to come.
It is also worth mentioning that I have picked up and been educated on a lot of this stuff from the likes of Barry Murray , Prof Tim Noakes, Dr Steve Phinney, Dan Plews & Jeff Volek! You will notice that those names are highly respected athletes, doctors, professors & professionals in their respected fields. I am not taking this information from someone on Instagram or YouTube thats being paid to say or do something that they don’t actually do!
So I encourage you to take it upon yourself to look into these things! Look at the bigger picture & ask yourself will any positive changes help you down the road? These are simply my views and its my feedback from a 2 year “experiment” I guess you could call it!
When you look at the research - a lot (not all) of the studies done on LCHF for endurance are done over 1-3 weeks - it takes far longer than that for any changes like this to occur and for you to see the benefits! It has taken me two years! The problem now is Insta & Social Media has promised us we can have everything instantly & you can change your life in 21 days. That short term crap does not work, it never has & it never will!
I am excited to come to this article in 10 years time and see what I think or where I am! Always be learning!
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Thanks for reading!