I have been very conscious of the source and quality of the food that I prepare for Diane and I, especially over the last year, having switched to a Low-Carb way-of-eating. I find the health benefits of this approach far outweigh the cost of better quality foods and the breaking of old eating habits. I have become a fat-burning athlete that doesn’t need continuous high-carb supplements to perform. I’m not hungry all the time, and I get to eat all those great-tasting foods like eggs, bacon, sausage, steaks and green vegetables. It is a great transition from hunger cravings at 10 am, crashing in the afternoon and always wanting more to eating when I am hungry, controlling my weight without extreme effort, and better overall attitude and motivation.
One of the key ideas of this low-carb approach is that you restrict all carbs (sugars, grains, starches) and focus on getting enough quality protein to support your lean-body mass (LBM). Once you have enough protein, you then eat good fats to satisfy your hunger and provide the remaining calories. Notice that the only limitation is on the amount of carbs in my diet (<30g / day). Everything else is not restricted (including total calories). For me (LBM ~60 Kg) I should get at least 120g of protein in my diet per day to support my bodies needs, going over is ok, but less than 120g is bad. Eating less proteins means that my body must take protein from existing tissues to provide the needed amount (i.e. lose muscle). The amount of fat can vary also… if you don’t eat enough fat to provide enough calories to support your daily calorie expenditure, you will lose weight as you get the required calories from body fat. If you eat more, you will get the calories from your diet and maintain your weight. See Volek and Phinney “The Art and Science of Low-Carb Performance” and others. From Volek and Phinney:
How Much Fat
As you adjust your body weight and training intensity, your consumption of carbohydrates and protein will remain fairly stable despite changes in goals and activity levels, whereas how much fat you consume will
be dictated by your energy demands, body weight and composition goals, and satiety.
If you want to lose weight, the total amount of fat consumed will be reduced. If weight loss is not a goal, your dietary fat
needs to be maintained at a level that matches your energy expenditure, thus holding your body weight stable.
The only thing that stands between you and full access to your body fat stores is a brief period of adaptation to a low carbohydrate
diet. We hope it is apparent that a low carbohydrate diet that allows you to optimally access your fat stores and increases mitochondrial fat
oxidation is rational ( AND optimal )
Think about it – if about 20% of your daily energy comes from protein and 5% from carbs, where’s the other 75% of your energy going to come from? The answer, of course, is ‘fat’. ( AND ) Yes, when you are losing weight (i.e., shrinking body fat stores), some of what you burn does not need to be supplied by your diet.
There are plenty of great protein sources out there: grassfed meats such as beef, pork, chicken, bison, etc.; eggs (nature’s perfect food); and the occasional snack of nuts (almonds, pistachios). But how do you get quick and easy protein into your diet? One way is a protein shake sometimes referred to as meal-replacment shakes. There are several products available that make protein shakes— but be careful. The ingredients list on these products doesn’t fit the “real food, healthy food and no diets or quick fixes” requirement as noted in Dani Stout’s blog “Ancestral-nutrition.com.” Dani Strong has evaluated several of the more popular protein products. She describes Herbalife as:
the diet recommended by Herbalife is not only unhealthy, but also promotes disease. I mean really, I can’t even count the ingredients in the junk above. Among them are hydrogenated soy, canola and cottonseed oils, margarine, autolyzed yeast extract (also known as MSG), artificial flavors, wheat protein and corn syrup.
Looking at the ingredients in Isagenix, Dani Stout notes:
Below are common ingredients found in Isagenix products:
- rancid vegetable oils
- agave syrup
- isolated fructose additives
- fractionated palm kernel oil corn
- synthetic vitamins and minerals that are not bioavailable
Heard enough? Maybe not, another popular meal replacement product is from Advocare, Dani Stout notes that there is not much difference between Advocare and the other two. Advocare products contain soy, fructose, sugar, corn syrup, beet syrup, sucralose, inositol, palm kernel oil, vannillin, maltodextrin and the catchall “natural and artificial flavor.” What is that?! Per Dani Stout:
According to the FDA,
The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter.
This means that MSG, GMOs and a ton of other sketchy ingredients can be listed as “natural and artificial” flavors.
After reading these reviews, I think you’ll choose better. But what is better?
I find for a simple high-protein snack a hard-boiled egg does nicely — easy to bring with you, keeps well and is individually wrapped. Has 6g of protein, 5g of fat and very low carb (.6g) per large egg. Hammer Nutrition’s Whey powder is also good and free of bad ingredients. There are other whey powders both flavored and unflavored that are good. Look at the ingredients list.
Another good choice is to make your own protein shake. This recipe is easy to make, no artificial anything, no GMO, no processed sugars and less carbs than the commercial products (From Dani Stout, with my changes):
2 Egg yolks (farm raised, antibiotic free) (we raise our own!)
1 Cup whole milk
1 scoop whey isolate powder (such as Hammer Nutrition’s Whey)
2 Tbs Great Lakes Gelatin
Nutrition Facts: Makes 2 ~1/2 cup servings, per serving: 192 calories, 8.7g Fat, 21.1g Protein, 7g Carb.
I will often make a protein coffee in the morning — 8oz coffee, 1 TBS MCT Oil, 1 Scoop of Hammer Whey, 2 TBS Great Lakes Beef Gelating and a TBS of heavy whipping cream. Mix it all together and you have 244 calories, 20.5g fat, 1.0g Carbs, and 23g protein. Kind of like a tasty and healthy latte with a kick (but no sugar)! Satisfying and easy to do when you want something quickly.
Here’s to your health!
You may be aware that I have been on a Low-Carb, High Fat (LCHF) eating plan since last September and although I have not been very public with my results, I feel that this is the best way-of-eating for me. What is LCHF? It is where you get most of your calories from fats and the least from carbs. Typically your total calories are from 75% fats and saturated fats, 15% protein and 10% carbs. On this plan I have maintained my weight at the lower end (about 144 lb.) of the last 15-years range (140 -160) without spending all my time running or riding. In fact, I took the fall and winter off from training, only doing small workouts and some weights. Those of you that ride with me on Tuesday night know that I am not as strong climbing, but my overall average speeds are not bad for not training, and I have good endurance. Since I am now training for the Army 10-mile run race in October, I have been even more interested in how well I can perform on a LCHF diet.
I recently read a book on this subject — “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Volek and Phinney, two doctors who have evaluated the performance of LCHF athletes. In this book they discuss that once an athlete becomes keto-adapted, that is where their primary source of energy comes from fat, their endurance levels will increase dramatically. We have about 2 hours of stored carbohydrate that can be used for energy in our bodies, but even the leanest person has more than twice that amount stored in fat. But that fat is not available unless you are keto-adapted.
I came across a blog post from Sami Inkinen, an elite triathlete that sparked my interest. It is an experiment of 1, but quite controlled and he has very interesting results. He has measured the type and amount of energy used during controlled tests using the same equipment 3 time while going from a high carb diet to a LCHF diet. On the first test, he was eating a high-carb diet and guess what…. he has about 2 hours of carbs available and even though he had done hours of training in his “fat burning zone” he could not exceed 200 calories per hour from fat-burning at race efforts. Hence he would run out of energy once his carb stores were gone. A year later he did a second test on a moderate-carb/moderate-fat diet and his fat-burning numbers increased significantly, to 400 calories per hour at the same race effort. Finally, he performed a third test on a LCHF diet with the same parameters and increased his fat burning ability to 600- 750 calories per hour. The chart says it all. At 300W his bonk-time went from 2 hours to 5 hours! Interested? I am. I would love to see what happens with elite athletes such as marathoners and pro-cyclist if they were to go low-carb. I’ll let you know how my “experiment of 1” goes…
There are probably more than seven, but I’ll go with what I Just found in this great post from strengthrunning.com. I know the post is from 2011 but it still has some great advice for all you runners out there.
One of the more important comments is that it takes a long time for runners to achieve their peak performance. I would agree… he says 2 years or more. I would think that if you are in your 40’s or 50’s you should expect even LONGER to achieve your peak. Most of us are very impatient and want to see results immediately. Unfortunately, the first results most of us see are the wrong kind…. pain, injuries, and lack of improvement. All because we humans as a species are too impatient.
Second most important comment, in my view, is that “runners don’t just run.” That is, if you want to be a good runner you need to do more than just run. Do those plyo’s, the core work, the weight lifting for strength and the dynamic stretching for flexibility. I, as most runners will do, discovered the hard way when my inflexibility and lack of muscular balance caused lower back spasms. Several years and lots of P.T. later it is gone and I am doing all the above to keep it gone.
By the way, the picture is me running the mile indoors on the banked track at the NYC Armory a few years back. They run open adult-only races in the winter and it is a great venue. Go try it sometime!