I couldn’t handle the control that carbs were having on my life any longer. Coca-cola, chocolates, breads were my everyday desire. Luckily, my active lifestyle helped me avoid obesity; however, insulin resistance did develop. I was pretty desperate when I decided to try a ketogenic diet. I wanted to weigh less in order to be a faster runner. And beyond everything else, I wanted to stop thinking about sugars.
I had no clue that it was going to be that difficult. Keto flu smashed me so hard that I had to take a few days off from work. I felt miserable and stank badly. I finally realized how addictive the sugars actually are and decided to try my best to live with as few carbs as possible.
That awful feeling called the keto flu was just a normal reaction of my body to such a big stress of no carbs. Interestingly, in my case, the keto flu was there for weeks. The worst feeling ever. During that period I lost 10kg and almost all friends, due to my obsession with this diet. All the stories about girls, football, or history ended up with my monologue about healthy fats.
My running ability was gone. It took me about 3 months to be able to run a slow half marathon. During all that time I was reading books, listening the podcasts and watching videos on the low carb high fat topic. All the scientists, doctors and ketogenic diet lovers, no matter what they were talking about I was there to listen.
Getting Back on Track
I realized that I am finally a normal ME again when the keto flu was over, I was back to a decent running shape again, and I cheated on my diet for the first time.
This is just an intro, but I’m not even close to describing all the numerous benefits on my life with this nutritional approach.
Just a short throw back to my keto flu:
Cravings were disappearing slowly. I had lack of sleep. A huge struggle with cramping due to mineral deficiency, constipation for a week, diarrhea for a week, one after another for (I have no idea) how long. But after about 12 weeks, it was all set and I was a happy, normal, old me, just not as funny anymore. With all the glycogen from my liver and muscles, my sense of humor disappeared as well. I didn’t really care about that.
What I cared about was a significant change in focus, productivity, and desire to learn about high fat nutritional approach and explore the reactions of my body and mind while adapting better each day to a no carb living. What a revolution it was!
Running After Keto Flu
My endurance went sky high. I thought I was able to run non stop with no food for hours. It made me endlessly happy. My speed was far from my speed prior to my new lifestyle though. That was the main topic of my upcoming studies. This became the most exciting period of my life. It was a new me, as a person, as a student, as an athlete.
My ability to run non stop turned to a quick decision- I am done with the half marathons, even marathons. I will become an ultra-marathoner right now!
I ate significantly less, enjoyed each one of my meals, ran more than ever. Also, I had almost no inflammation even after my toughest workouts, my mind was clear and thoughts were bright. But reading more and more on the topics of performance improvement made me all the more confused.
Facts About the Ketogenic Approach
I started this whole process following the basic rules of the ketogenic diet, obsessed with counting calories, macronutrient-ratios, trying to fit each one of the figures perfectly.
75-80% fat, about 15% protein, 5% or less carbs, and about 2000 calories daily intake. All by the books on ketogenic diet. I tried to keep it simple: eggs, bacon, fatty cheese, lots of green vegetables, avocados, fatty meats. Coconut oil, MCT oil, more butter than ever before. Sometimes a little bit of the darkest possible chocolate and some nuts. I supplemented omega 3, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C.
Reading a lot about fat adaptation, I didn’t know what to expect, like something big was about to happen. I was checking on the keto sticks every hour waiting to see that dark purple colour and to start celebrating my highest levels of ketone bodies ever seen. It’s so funny from this perspective. I spent a fortune on buying the blood ketone monitoring stuff.
New Ketogenic Lifestyle
Slowly but surely, I was getting to the point of enjoying my new lifestyle, which was important. I started understanding it. The new reference points were how long and how well I slept, how fast I recovered and how productive I was. The level of my focus was immeasurable.
Ok, it’s already clear and obvious that ketogenic lifestyle improved my life significantly.
Back to Running. Back to Reality
At the beginning it was all about ketones and fats, and related to that I was able to run long but my speed wasn’t there yet.
I was soon about to put my work to the test. Marathon in Ljubljana, the race I’ve worked my butt off for. During this whole process I’ve improved as an athlete a lot, I started understanding training better, and respected each one of my workouts..
I’ve just started reading about metabolic flexibility and implementing carbs strategically back into my life and my race was around the corner. The most important race of my life. I wanted the highest possible performance. I was not the fastest yet and I just started reading about the power of carbs while on a LCHF. And I decided to give it a try in my upcoming race.
Unfortunately, the day before the marathon I ate plenty of sweet potatoes. I brought gels in order to have some extra power during the race. It’d be a waste of time to start explaining that my race was over before it started. My fat adaptation was excellent, but my body forgot that carbs had ever existed. The inflammation process was so fast that after 7 miles my legs felt like iron. I knew I was wrong, I knew what was wrong, I learned my lesson and I was not disappointed at all. I couldn’t wait to come back to my new training block and implement those carbs in the right way. And so I did.
Reading and learning more, it was all clear, there was actually nothing to do wrong – developing metabolic flexibility is just a matter of time. But stressing the body once again – now with carbs, was hard to handle.
Introducing Carbs to My Diet
I started playing with carbs around my speed workouts. Some sweet potatoes in a lot of fat or even some bad carbs the evening before and a gel or two during the workout in the morning. I didn’t feel well after having carbs, and gels forced me to hit the bushes almost every workout. It took time to adapt to this stress, but once adapted, it was a brand new level of endurance. Endurance increased because of the efficiency in utilizing fat for fuel and then the carbs became that final rocket fuel after the metabolic flexibility occurred.
I had a big success in coming races, let’s say that the dreams came true – an easy Boston Qualifying race in Los Angeles. The best is yet to come, according to my current feelings, knowledge, experience and ability to push the limits heavily.
There will be more stories to write, I am just about to start a new chapter in my running life. I can’t wait to put many new ideas to the test.
Health-wise, I don’t need any carbs in my life. Performance-wise I am almost certain that without carbs I would’ve been far from my potentials.
So where is the key?
Well, as with everything along the fitness journey – there’s no one size that fits all. But being brave and open to experiment with our bodies can bring unpredictable improvement on our performance and quality of our overall life.