You can’t outrun a bad diet. I see variations of that phrase everywhere and it’s so true. My diet is constantly an experiment, trying to determine what my body best responds to. I’ve tried Paleo, gluten-free, and If It Fits Your Macros. But, the focus of this post is the Ketogenic diet. I’ve been eating keto for four weeks now, so I’m still a newbie. Keto (or ketosis/ketogenic diet), for those who are unfamiliar, is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb diet. I wanted to run through Keto and see how it pairs with triathlon training. Plus, Keto is super-pro cheese, and I love me a good Gouda!
Keto essentially focuses on stabilizing blood sugar by eliminating the carbs that create blood sugar spikes, leaving you tired and hungry a few hours after your meal. By eliminating the glucose in your blood, your body will turn to ketones, produced by the liver via fat, to fuel your cells. The initial transition from a regular diet to minimal carbs is tough. A lot of people experience headaches, sometimes almost flu-like symptoms from detoxing of the carbs. Your body has been using glucose as fuel, which is readily available in a regular diet. When you starve your body of the amount of glucose it was used to, it will transition to using fat predominantly as fuel. I think most triathletes have experienced the dreaded bonk that happens when your glucose runs out during a race. That’s why we race with gels, Clif bars, chews, etc. Maintaining that glucose level in your blood is crucial for extended amounts of energy. But, fat, dietary and bodily, is a much more stable source of energy.
I believe that if triathletes can transition to a Ketogenic diet, they will minimize the potential of bonking during a race. By relying on their bodies fat stores for energy, they can continue to slow burn that energy, instead of rushing through the glucose in their system. Keto, once you’re adapted, is actually a pretty easy diet to follow. Think all kinds of meats, cheese, salads, and veggies.
Traditionally, Keto restricts the total net carbs per day to 20g. Those net grams don’t include fiber. So, if you’ve eaten 30g carbs, and 10g fiber, you’re sitting at 20g net carbs. I’ve been eating more of a lazy keto, fluctuating between 20-40g net carbs. It’s been working exceptionally well for me, besides some reduced energy. Carbs hit me a lot easier now too; I can physically feel when I eat carbs throughout the day. It feels like a really strong cup of coffee. I’ve changed my eating habits to stack some carbs before my workouts and it has helped with the lack of energy I feel sometimes.
I plan to cover the specifics of what I eat on a daily basis in my next post about the Ketogenic diet.