Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lillys First Professional Grooming

I have to hand it to the folks at Petco. They possess skills which I don't have.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coronary Heart Disease Studied in Framingham, Puerto Rico and Honolulu

I'm currently reading Anthony Colpo's "The Great Cholesterol Con" (TGCC), partly motivated by a recent "high" cholesterol test result. In chapter 6 Colpo references a 1981 article from the journal "Circulation" comparing coronary heart disease (CHD) studies from Framingham, Puerto Rico and Honolulu. Colpo writes:

"...all three populations showed an inverse relationship between total calories and CHD incidence. The more people ate, the less likely they were to suffer a heart attack."

I had to check this out for myself. Below is table 5 from that article (click on tables for larger view).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Diet Trilogy

Sometimes when I write a blog post, I have a stream of consciousness that starts where a previous post left off. These posts aren't planned to be a series, like parts I, II, III, etc. They don't follow sequentially. They aren't necessarily planned to follow each other at all. The titles change. The topics shift. But, there is a flow to the posts.

I recently noticed in hindsight three such posts on my blog: a trilogy. It's like Star Wars, episodes IV, V and VI. Or it's like the Star Wars prequels, episodes I, II and III. It's like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Harry P...nevermind. Well, maybe it's really nothing like those trilogies.

I'm talking about my Diet Trilogy.

Part I, September 4, 2011:
Body Weight Loss = Carb or Calorie Restriction?

I looked back at my attempts to lose weight following a low carb diet, including the guidelines I followed, when I succeeded, when I failed and a hypothesis for what worked and what didn't work.

Part II, September 25, 2011:
Transitioning My Macronutrients Via Fat Loss Bible

I presented the guidelines for changing my diet for macronutrient levels that provided enough carbohydrates for energy to exercise, enough protein for muscle recovery from exercise and enough fat to reach my total calorie deficit target.

Part III, November 13, 2011:
12 Weeks of Not Livin’ La Vida Low Carb

This post has by far been my most popular. My dieting experiences are compared between one with near 15% of calories from carbohydrates, and the other with near 50% of calories from carbohydrates. It also reviews the effects of exercise on diet and weight loss.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Commencing Logan's Last Year of Teenagehood

I've already been told that I will not blog about Logan's P90X experience.

Podrunner: Give Me a Beat

If you are looking for a source of free music to workout to, then try Podrunner at this URL/link:

As of this post date, DJ Steve Boyett has just over 100 hundred free downloads of techno music. Each download consists of about an hour of music. He has them categorized by speed: 130 to 180 bpm (beats per minute).

I found this website while searching for methods to improve running form. I don't make any claims that listening to this music will improve your form, but it may help with motivation to get moving.

Subscribe (for free) to Podrunner and you will get regular updates on new tracks in your news reader.

Listening to this music makes running seem like dancing. I like Runner Funker.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Getting Back On Track, Sorta, Via a Negative Split

I haven't run very much since reinjurying my groin in October, maybe 5 or 6 times in the last few weeks. The runs have been easy pace since sprint intervals caused the initial injury in January and the recurrence in October (for the barefoot curious, I was barefoot for the first injury and shod for the second time). My groin injury has improved, in part I believe to both restricting running and adding core exercises, but I still feel a twinge where I shouldn't every now and again.

Perhaps against my better judgement, I ran a 5K on Thanksgiving Day to "test it out". If anything, I felt I needed to justify those extra calories that I consumed on Thursday, and boy did I. And I've been anxious to get in a race mode because recent weight loss should produce faster times. But I also knew I shouldn't try to run a fast time for me, perhaps in the low 20s minutes would be alright.

I did make a different kind of time related goal, though, to run a negative split. For those not familiar with running jargon, a negative split is a description of running the second half of a race faster than the first half. I don't think I've ever run a negative split. It's not easy in the beginning of a race to hold back some juice for later. I recorded my pace data with my Garmin 305 (data charted in Excel).

My race time was just under 22 minutes, just about what I thought I would do. My pace was what I was pleased with (blue line on chart). The first half felt comfortable. Every so often, I would catch myself trying to catch runners ahead of me and have to back off the accelerator. It's curious that there were 4 pace spikes (noted with green markers on chart) in the first half at about equal distance intervals. It's as if I couldn't decide which pace to run, although there were a few small hills in the first half that slowed me down.

The 70 foot elevation climb at mile 2 (3200 meters) was a bit surprising and definitely affected my pace, both on the decline and incline. After that hill I had the juice to push it harder and get the negative split. The straight blue line on the chart shows the acceleration. My pace in the first half (2.5 Km) was 7:13/mile and in the second half was 6:56/mile. Nothing really bad happened in the race despite pushing it a little, so I think I passed "the groin test". But this race was my only run of the week and my groin was sore for about a day afterwards.

So what was the point of the negative split? Would the result be just as good if I ran a more even pace throughout the race? It's a difficult question to answer, really, but I can attest to the psychological boost from passing runners who are clearly hurting more than I am. Just maybe, the negative split is a synergistic effect and produces an improved performance otherwise.

Google Blogger's "Manage Blogs I Follow"

I've been pretty happy with Google's Blogger in terms of writing and editing posts, but there's one feature or lack there of that has me about ready to jump ship. It's the "Manage Blogs I Follow" function. The problem is that it's not functional. When I add or remove blogs that I want to follow in this function, it appears to refresh. But when I sign out and sign back in, the changes are lost. I've unsuccessfully tried three different PCs and three different browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome. I've tried clearing cookies. I've tried making the updates in both Google Reader and Google Profile. The problem first occurred for me on the older version of Blogger, which is why I updated to the newer version of Blogger. But none of these changes have fixed the updating problem. I have wasted a lot of time on this problem.

The result is that I'm not getting updates on the blogs that I want to follow. That's a problem for me. I'd like to think that my blogging habits evolve, but Google Blogger has me frozen in time. Some google searching brings up similar complaints from two years ago. Really Google engineers, you've known about this problem for years? Below is the link with the latest Google forum thread.

In the past two weeks, over 100 people have bothered to take the time to list the browser type, Blogger version and blog address that they can't follow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

12 Weeks of Not Livin’ La Vida Low Carb

This post has been months in the making. It was initiated by comments at Hank’s Journey (formerly My Low Carb Journey) about an interview with the blogster formerly known as “Castle Grok” (new moniker TBD). As a side note, this is why I don’t go by a moniker, I’m just Kelly. These interactions were followed by a smackdown from the inimitable Anthony Colpo, where he rightly suggested I was smoking something. I had a few private exchanges (and one public) with Anthony which then lead to reading his gifted book “Fat Loss Bible” and writing these two posts on my blog (formerly LoKarbKelly, just kidding):

Body Weight Loss: Carb or Calorie Restriction

Transitioning my Macronutrients via Fat Loss Bible

Long story short, I’ve gone from eating a low carb diet patterned after Sisson’s Carbohydrate Curve in the “Primal Blueprint” to a diet with enough carbs to adequately fuel endurance activities and provide nutrients for proper recovery as outlined in Colpo’s “Fat Loss Bible”. This is a point of distinction: Sisson advocates carb restriction, Colpo advocates calorie restriction.

Sisson acknowledges in his book that the chronic cardio crowd (his description) needs to eat more carbs than his recommended carbohydrate curve, but he also recommends against this lifestyle citing eventual weight gain from eating more than 150 grams of carbs daily (pg. 89, 92 in PB). In contrast Colpo recommends carbs as “jet fuel” (chapter 15) for endurance activities. He promotes the combination of exercise (both endurance and resistance) and calorie restriction (or deficit) as the recipe for fat loss.

I’ve experienced both diets during periods of running and non-running. I’ve lost similar amounts of weight on both diets, and the weight loss was proportional to my approximate activity level (running accelerated the weight loss for both diets). On average, the total calorie levels were a little lower for the low carb diet which I will address below. Given similar weight loss no matter the diet, I’m no longer carbophobic, as I experienced weight loss in the region of 250-300 grams of daily carbs, which is well into Sisson's warning and danger zone on his carbohydrate curve.

In fact I’m carbophilic as I’ve experienced more energy for performance during hard interval running sessions. My one regret during these experiments is that I did not track my body fat content until recent months, so I can’t say whether body weight loss on both diets was due to fat, muscle or some combination. In the last 12 weeks my body fat content dropped from about 20% to 16%.  If you want to know the nitty gritty of my experiences, then please read on.

Macronutrient Statistics

It was the last week of August when I decided to make a change in my diet. My previous diet was a ketogenic diet, or one targeting under 75 grams daily carbohydrates ala Mark Sisson's "Primal Blueprint". The targeted daily grams of fat and protein were around 130-150 grams each. The calories from this diet consisted of less than 15% carbohydrates and more than 50% fat, and the remainder is protein. It looked like this:

For the next twelve weeks my diet targets changed based on these calculations to 200-250 grams carbohydrates, about 144 grams proteins and 47-69 grams fat. To reduce the fat, there were three staples from my ketogenic diet that had to be cut: nuts, cheese and heavy whipping cream. A typical daily menu looked like:
  • breakfast: 2-3 hard boiled eggs
  • lunch: 2 bananas, 2 apples, carrots, grapes
  • dinner: meat, potatoes, veggies
The table below shows the average daily totals for macronutrients and my body weight. These numbers came from my food log.

The average daily calories and average daily grams of carbs for each week are plotted in the chart below.

Weeks 1-3 could best be described as a transition ramping up the carbs. It was difficult to figure out what and how much to eat since the proportion of the macronutrients changed so much. Week 1 resulted in eating too few calories and losing a few pounds. In week 2 and 3 I gained 4 pounds even though my total calories were relatively low and I was running moderately. I think this initial weight gain can be attributed to restoring glycogen and hydration levels in my muscles after eating a ketogenic diet for months. For someone who weighs 75 kilogram (close to my weight) there are about 450 grams (about 1 pound) of glycogen in the muscles (chapter 15, FLB). Each gram of glycogen is bound with 3-4 grams of water (chapter 1, FLB). So gaining about 1 pound of glycogen would be accompanied with a gain of about 3-4 pounds of water.

In weeks 4-7 I lost 7 pounds while eating 240-280 grams carbs daily. My activity level was still moderate, running about 25-35 miles per week including a few interval sessions per week. I ate more calories than I intended to as I found it difficult to restrict calories while running.

In weeks 8-12 all running stopped from the return of an old groin injury. I did about 30 minutes per day of core exercises for rehabilitation. Weight loss continued as I dropped total calories by about 15-20%. I lost 5 pounds.

The point of my experiment was to measure weight loss from a low carb diet compared to an isocaloric diet with enough carbs. The comparisons of both diets while running and non-running is shown in the table below:
  • during periods of non-running (minimal exercise), I lost 1 pound per week on both diets (14% vs. 50% carbs).
  • during periods of running (moderate exercise), I lost about 2 pounds per week on both diets (11% vs. 45% carbs). However, the diets were not precisely isocaloric. The higher carb diet had about 20% more calories and weight loss was about 10% less. I think the extra calories were partially offset by better running performance.

So what's the next step? Logan wants to get P90X. Apparently, he's experiencing the "freshman 15", although you couldn't tell from the pic below. I'm sticking to the same eating plan, intending to drop more pounds. I'm looking forward to dropping some time from races as well, if or when I get back to running. My groin injury is better, but it seems like a long road to recovery. If things go well, I'll sign up for a spring half and full marathon.

Me and Logan - November 2011

Can You Run With Ryan Hall for 60 Feet

Hat tip to Logan for

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Food Log = Accountability = Weight Control

Next week I'll post about an update on my nutritional self-experimentation. That sounds so much better than just saying I'll tell you how my diet is going.

Meanwhile, I'm sharing this video of one of my essential tools, a food log. I'll let the video speak for itself. If you can make it through all ten minutes, then you should get a prize. Have a great day!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wisdom From 80 Year Old Ed Whitlock

I was listening to an archived podcast of "Marathon Talk" when I heard something really honest. Tom Williams was interviewing 80 year old Ed Whitlock. It's no doubt that Ed is most notable for his longevity. He ran as a young lad, a rival of another famous English long distance runner, Gordon Pirie (by the way, if you are a runner and haven't read Gordon Pirie's book "Running Fast and Injury Free", then I recommend that you do).

Ed Whitlock took a long break from running (sounds familiar) and started back up in his 40s. He ran his personal best in the marathon at 48 in 2 hours 31 minutes and 23 seconds, but he didn't stop there. He holds the world record for men 70 to 74 in the marathon in 2 hours 54 minutes 48 seconds. He is the only person over 70 to run a sub 3 hour marathon. He holds the world record for men 75 to 79 in the marathon in 3 hours 4 minutes 54 seconds. He also holds the world record for men 80 to 84 in the marathon in 3 hours 15 minutes 54 seconds.


What I found so refreshingly honest was his answer to this question from Tom: "What is it that motivates you right now? What is it that you love so much about running that's keeping you fired up? Is it performance or just the act of running? What is it about running that gets you going?

Ed answered, "I guess it's performance, really. I don't think I would run for my health. I don't get a great deal of enjoyment from jogging around and around for three hours, really. I mean this is kind of a jrudge, really. I only do it because I want to perform well. It's results oriented."

On a more local note, 71 year old fellow Cookevillian Dallas Smith (who appears to get more enjoyment from running) has the Tennessee state marathon records from ages 63 to 70, all of them impressively run on the hilly Country Music marathon in Nashville.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Are You Drinking Antifreeze, Too?

If you have ever been bored enough with the taste of water that you added an “enhancer” to it, perhaps you should read on. There was a conversation at work today that went something like this:

Dan: What are you squirting into your water bottle, Kelly?

Me: It’s a water enhancer.

Dan: Let me see what’s in it.

Me: OK (as I hand over the bottle of purple stuff)

Dan: (after scanning the label) Look, the third ingredient is propylene glycol. That’s antifreeze!

Me: That can’t be. I’ll google it. (time passes after visiting Google machine) You’re right. Wikipedia says that antifreeze is made of either ethylene glycol or propylene glycol.

Dan: Ha, you are drinking anti-freeze.

Me: Ya, but it’s only the non-toxic kind, and it tastes good.

As of this post date Wikipedia lists many uses for propylene glycol, including food coloring/flavoring and nontoxic antifreeze. Brilliant!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Inspiration from Ben Davis

About a year ago "Marathon Talk" podcast did an interview with a kid named Ben Davis.

There may be an outside chance that you've heard of him, or perhaps seen his youtube video. As of this post, it's been viewed 1.3 million times. Go ahead and give it a watch, but beware, have a tissue handy:

In the interview Ben described why and how he wanted to change his life. He gave credit to his 180 degree lifestyle change to several things.

One, he had a support system. Ben started the journey with his brother. They trained together. They raced together. They raced with their dad.

Two, he made himself accountable, not only to the people in his life but also by recording the experience on his blog.

Three, he set personal goals.

Most importantly though he said that if you are really going to stick with it, you gotta find a way to make it fun, to make it your own. Running isn't always so fun, but if you do the things mentioned above, then it can be a bit of a game, something to look forward to.

Thanks Ben for the inspiration and for having a good time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

World Record Prediction

I suppose it's human nature that when something or someone in your life is gone, that's when your appreciation is really revealed. I can think of a few examples in my life.

Now that I stopped running, again, I'm thinking a lot about running. I'm planning a spring marathon, something to look forward to assuming my body is in a condition to run it. I'm listening to the podcast "Marathon Talk" obsessively. I'm currently up to episode number 41. This is THE SHOW for marathon news.

Speaking of marathon news, a new world record was set a few weeks ago at the Berlin marathon by Patrick Makau from Kenya in 2 hours 3 minutes 38 seconds. That's an average mile pace of 4 minutes 43 seconds. Putting this into perspective my 1 mile personal best was 4 minutes 39 seconds. It was on a flat track when I was 17 years old. This time wasn't anything special. In fact, I placed third in the race. But yet, it was my best effort and I only did it once for 1 mile. I can't imagine running that pace 25 more times in a row.

Last year I analyzed the history of world marathon records to predict when a sub 2 hour marathon would be achieved. I was curious. I did this by putting the record times and dates from Wikipedia in a spreadsheet and fitting the data to an algebraic function to extrapolate the trend curve into the future.

Source: Wikipedia 2010

The data and trend curve are shown in the graph below. It shows that a sub 2 hour marathon should be achieved by around 2060, perhaps a few years earlier. So mark your centennial calendars.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cookeville Middle School XC Region Championship 2011

Definition of Injuried Runner: One who spectates more races than runs.

Congrats to both the girls and boys of Cookeville Middle Schools for qualifying for the Tennessee State Championship Race in Knoxville in two weeks. Enjoy.

Ryan Burnett 5K

I'm a bit late editing and posting this vid of the Ryan Burnett Memorial 5K from last weekend. Most of it was shot from the aid station with Ben D. and Nathan N.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Runner Down

Last January, I felt an acute pain in my groin while running an interval sprint session hard. It was after doing a lot of core work and I was fatigued. It caused me to stop running from February to May. During that time, I saw my family physician because I was concerned that I might need a surgery to repair a hernia. But the doctor said it probably wasn't a hernia, rather a muscle strain.

By June the pain was gone so I went back to running. In the months following, the groin pain would come back, off and on, especially when I ran hard interval sessions. Last week after nine months of dealing with this injury I saw a physical therapist specializing in endurance athletes. His name is Mick Larrabee of Optimal Performance.

He listened to me talk, then had me bend my legs in all sorts of funny angels and make measurements. He then said he was pretty sure it wasn't sportsmen's hernia or Gilmore's groin. He said there were multiple problems. He thinks I have a torn muscle in my groin that wont heal because my right SI joint is rotated back and causing strain on the muscle. Curiously a lot of friends have also seen Mick and successfully fixed running pains related to misalignment of the SI joints.

He wasn't sure if the torn muscle caused the SI joint to be out of alignment or vice versa, but he said however it happened, the muscle wouldn't heal as long as the rotated SI joint was straining it. So he realigned my SI joints by resisting my left leg while I pulled up, then resisting on my right leg while I pushed down. He said this torqued the joint back to proper position, he made measurements again and said it was better. He said the torn muscle should heal now that there isn't constant strain on it. But he told me to stop running and gave me easy core exercises to do.

Ugh. Stop running. Words that runners don't want to hear. But I'm glad for the diagnosis (rather than blindly "dealing with it") and I'm glad Mick gave me a plan to make it better. So we'll see how it goes. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Podcast: Marathon Talk

Podcasts can be addictive. I just discovered this fact earlier this year, even though the format has been around for many years. This is simply because I'm not an Apple user of any kind, no offense to the late great Steve Jobs.

But for those of us, the few of us, who don't have an IMac or IPod or IPhone or IPad, podcasts can still be enjoyed by downloading the MP3 file to a PC and then sync to an MP3 player via Windows Media Player. This is how I do it. I was addicted to a podcast show called "Livin La Vida Low Carb" with Jimmy Moore. I listened to about 60-80 one hour shows from March to August.

Very recently, I discovered "Marathon Talk" with Tom Williams and Martin Yelling. I can't recall how I stumbled onto it, but it doesn't really matter. Of course, the central topic is marathon running. Apparently, this is a very deep topic as the two guys from Great Britian have made over 90 one hour shows to date. The weekly show format is consistent: recap of running in personal lives of Tom and Martin, recap of global running news, Tony's Trials (comedic reprieve), guest runner interview, winner of the week, look forward to next week's running events.

I suppose one of the attractive elements of the show is that the hosts are British. They speak proper English, brilliant, brilliant. I thought Great Britian was apart of Europe who we all know use the bloody metric system. But these blokes talk about running miles, not kilometers. And when the topic of bodyweight comes up (as it usually does among runners), they speak in stones, like "I dropped a stone and a half after 2 months of running". At first, I thought the guy had a kidney problem. I had to Google it. There are 14 pounds in a stone, just like there are 16 ounces in a pound. Brilliant. Fantastic.

And Martin and Tom know running. Their first guest was Liz Yelling, who is an olympic teammate of Paula Radcliffe, and oh yeah, Martin's wife. Another early guest was Hayley Yelling, two-time European Cross Country champion, and oh yeah, Martin's sister. It appears that Tom's family are slower runners, as their are no guests with the last name Williams. But there are plenty of guest who I easily recognized like: Jeff Galloway, Greg McMillan, Paula Radcliffe, Scott Jurek, Barefoot Ted McDonald, Bart Yasso, Ryan Hall, Tim Noakes and Dean Karnazes.

After listening to a few of these shows, I decided I wanted to go back to the beginning episodes in early 2010 and listen straight through. One of the early episodes was very interesting, about a documentary film maker who wanted to become an olympic marathoner. His name is Alex Vero.

Alex was an occassional overweight runner in college weighing 16 stones (about 224 pounds), and whose personal best marathon was 4 hours 21 minutes. That's almost 10 minutes per mile. To be an olympic marathoner, his time would have to drop to 2 hours 15 minutes at least. That's just over 5 minutes per mile.

before and after of Alex Vero from his website

Long story short, Alex didn't realize his olympic dream. He did however make impressive strides forward. In 2 months he lost 20 pounds and went from run/walking in 400 yard intervals to completing a half marathon in 1 hour 35 minutes. He joined a running club, ran a lot of interval sessions and in 18 months was able to improve his half marathon time to 1 hour 13 minutes. His fastest marathon time was 2 hours 57 minutes. Here's a trailer of Alex's documentary.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Transitioning My Macronutrients Via Fat Loss Bible

Not long ago, I gave a detailed post about how I changed my diet this year. The changes were mostly inspired by Mark Sisson's "Primal Blueprint". It drew the attention of folks from Australia and Hawaii. The internet can sometimes be cool.

There was a key contradiction in "Primal Blueprint" that bothered me which I finally decided to address thanks to Anthony Colpo's urging. As I already discussed in the earlier post a repeated message in "Primal Blueprint" was to keep carbs low to lose weight. And yet at the end of the book Sisson says that science is clear, you have to have a calorie deficit to lose fat. So I ask, if you are in a calorie deficit, then is it necessary to keep carbs low? This is what I aim to find out for myself.

Anthony Colpo's book, "The Fat Loss Bible" (FLB), rests on the premise that a calorie deficit is necessary to lose fat. One must consume fewer calories than one spends. There's no misunderstanding Colpo's message. Although I feel there's a lot of estimation in the calculations that Colpo presents, I think they are a good guideline for determining what and how much to eat. What follows is my altered macronurient plan based on FLB.

How Many Calories Should I Eat?

In FLB, daily energy expenditure (E) can be estimated by calculating resting metabolism (RM), then multiplied by a factor for physical activity (PA). The formula can be stated as:
E = RM x PA

where RM (male) = [10 x body weight (Kg)] + [6.25 x height (cm)] - [5 x age] +5

where PA = 1.2 for sedentary (little or no exercise)
or where PA = 1.375 for lightly active (exercise 1-3 days per week)
or where PA = 1.55 for moderately active (exercise 3-5 days per week)
or where PA = 1.725 for very active (exercise 6-7 days per week)
or where PA = 1.9 for extra active (train 2x daily or hard exercise + physical job)

My daily energy expenditure calculations given 176 lbs/2.2 = 80 Kg, 5'10" or 70 inches x 2.54 = 177.8 cm and moderately active, running about 5 days per week:

E = [(10 x 80) + (6.25 x 177.8) - (5 x 42) +5] x 1.55 = 2645 calories

Given that my goal is to lose fat, then I should strive to eat less than 2645 calories per day. FLB suggests around 400-1000 calories deficit, depending on the desired amount of fat loss. A 600 calorie deficit seems reasonable for me and would put my daily calorie consumption at 2000 calories, similar to the amount of calories that I consumed on a low carb diet.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

Protein is an essential macronutrient. It helps grow and repair muscle as well as bone and organs. My daily requirement (P) of protein in grams can be determined by:

P = lean body mass (Kg) x 2.2

Percent body fat (opposite of lean body mass) can be determined at home with calipers. I ordered a pair of Accumeasure calipers, but they haven't arrived yet. I had my percent body fat measured about 5 years ago. It was 16%. Based on my current body weight, I believe my percent body fat is around 18%, so my lean body mass is 82% and my daily requirement for protein is:

P = 82% x 80 Kg x 2.2 = 144 grams

How Much Carbohydrates Should I Eat?

Carbohydrates are the immediate fuel needed for intense physical activities. The more active you are, the more carbohydrates you should consume. FLB suggests a bare minimum of 75 grams of carbohydrates for sedentary activity. The purpose for this minimum is to avoid ketosis which occurs at carb consumption less than 50 grams. FLB says that ketosis impairs the uptake of branched chain amino acids (protein) from the bloodstream into muscle by suppressing insulin. Said another way, ketosis hinders the growth and repair of muscle tissue. A sufficient amount of carbs should also be consumed to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and liver for energy and maintain blood glucose. If there aren't sufficient carbs, then gluconeogenesis occurs, the process of breaking down muscles to convert protein to carbohydrates.

FLB suggests more carbs for healthy, trained athletes as compared to folks who are dieting and attempting to lose weight. Since I fit into the latter category, I'll only cover those requirements. Carb consumption recommendations (C) are based on lean body mass in Kg:

Light exercise or sedentary: 75-225 grams/day
Moderate exercise (1 hr/day): 3-5 grams/Kg lean body mass/day
Heavy exercise (1-3 hrs/day): 5-7 grams/ Kg lean body mass/day
Extreme exercise (4-6 hrs/day): 7-10 grams/ Kg lean body mass/day

On average, I fit these days into the moderate exercise category, so my daily carbohydrate consumption should be:

C = 82% x 80 Kg x 3 - 5 grams = 197 - 328 grams carbs daily

I narrowed down this range to 200 - 250 grams carbs daily since I believe my exercise levels are on the low side.

How Much Fat Should I Eat?

After protein and carbohyrate needs are determined, the remainder of caloric needs comes from fat. Protein and carbohydrate calories are calculated by multiplying the number of grams by four. For me, protein and carbohydrate calories are:

Calories from P + C = [144 g + 200 to 250 g] x 4 = 1376 to 1576 calories

To arrive at 2000 calories daily consumption, fat calories should range between 424 to 624 calories. Since 9 calories are provided by each fat gram, fat (F) is calculated by:

F = 424/9 to 624/9 = 47 to 69 grams fat


On a low carb/primal blueprint diet (described in this post), I was daily consuming on average:

P = 130 grams, C = 55 grams, F = 136 grams, Calories = 1960

I lost weight on this diet, but I wondered if this was the optimal diet for me as a long distance runner, so I'm changing it via Anthony Colpo's "Fat Loss Bible". At the same time, I want my diet to be isocaloric, or the same number of calories as the low carb diet, to see if I will lose weight even though carb consumption will be high. The new macronutrient plan looks like:

P = 144 grams, C = 200 - 250 grams, F = 47 - 69 grams

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Girl and Her Katt

Self-portrait of Victoria (aka Katt)

Victoria with her cat, Christmas

Maybe it's true what they say about owners looking like their pets.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Minimal, Meet my Friends, Style and Economical

In the seemingly never-ending quest to find the perfect shoe for me (running or otherwise), I came across an interesting candidate: Brooks Mach 13 Spikeless XC Racing Flat. They first came to my attention reading Runblogger's review of last year's model. He liked them. I was interested because the "minimal" shoe is an economical alternative from a mainstream shoe manufacturer. What's more, if you're a habitual barefoot runner that craves attention, then these shoes should feed your addiction as they are a bit flashy. The men's version features a snake (or dragon, not sure) skin print. The women's version features a leopard skin print. Minimal, meet Style.

Brooks Mach 13 Spikeless Men's XC Racing Flat (Photo credit

Brooks Mach 13 Spikeless Women's XC Racing Flat (Photo credit

The price is what motivated me to try them. They retail for $65, but sells them for $54, and will give you a 10% discount code. This means that I bought the "minimal" shoes for under $50. Minimal, meet Economical, my dear, dear friend, Economical.

Unfortunately, the friendship didn't last long. My review ends rather abruptly as these shoes didn't fit my feet very well. I tried a size 10.5 (typical for me) and a size 11. The former was too snug for width and length. The latter was still too snug for width. Perhaps I gave up on them too early. Amy bought the leopard print style 2 sizes larger than her typical size and she says they are a comfortable fit. She says she likes the shoe's lightweight, but I think it's more about the kitty print.

For me, I made another friendship, or rekindled an old friendship, that I'll post about in the near future. Nonetheless, the Brooks Mach 13 are proving to be popular. I saw a few pair of the spikes version at last weekend's cross country invitational in Knoxville. In fact, below is Cookeville's first place finisher. Nice shoes buddy!

Go Speed Racer! (Photo credit Brian Szymanski)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Body Weight Loss = Carb or Calorie Restriction?

For the last couple of years, I’ve been able to maintain my body weight between 170-180 lbs on my 5’10” frame, mainly by running regularly. In previous years, my weight has yo-yo'd much worse, and it seems to correlate with periods of nonrunning. For example:
  • In pre-college years I was a skinny kid. At 18 I weighed 140 lbs at my current height. I was a very active runner and had no thought about how I ate.

  • In my 20s I ran very little and my weight climbed up to 230 lbs. by the time I was 30. Again, I gave little thought to how I ate.

  • In my 30s I trained for marathons and was able to lower my weight to 170 lbs. Injuries occurred from time to time and my weight would peak above 200 lbs. I started to care more about how much I ate, but didn't make radical changes to the type of foods that I ate.

This year (early 40s), I had to stop running in January due to an injury. It was bad timing (is an injury ever good timing?) because I was attempting to lose the annual weight gain from the holidays. I weighed 180 lbs. The table below summarizes what happened since the injury. Read on if you care to know the nitty gritty and my evolving opinion on low carb v. low calorie.

With no physical activity and not changing my food consumption for about a month my weight crept up. Ugh. The weight gain motivated me to change my eating habits. has become a popular site for diet and lifestyle. The site is authored by the six-pack toting Mark Sisson, who is also the author of the book "Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy" (PB). Both the site and the book espouse paleolithic concepts.

To me the PB diet sounds similar to Atkins or South Beach via carb restriction: eating a lot of plant sources like vegetables and eating plenty of animal sources for fat and protein. The PB lifestyle part is about reducing stress, mainly by exercising less and sleeping more. PB exercise is relatively minimal: a few days doing 20-30 minutes of resistance exercise, a few days doing some low intensity cardio and a brief sprint once a week.

My first month of primal living wasn't very successful. I walked most days for 45 minutes (it was all I could do with the injury). Pasta casseroles were replaced with meats and veggies for dinner, and eating those leftovers for lunch. Sometimes for breakfast I ate eggs. I also ate my typical 3-4 servings of fruit per day, like 2 apples and 2 bananas. Despite these changes, my weight continued to creep up.

Comparing my flabby belly to Sisson's six-pack, I decided that I must not have been accurately following his PB program, so I bought his book to get more information. The PB weight loss plan was described in a nutshell on pg. 5:
"Driven by high fat/moderate protein/low carb diet, intuitive, sporadic meals, and exercise and Primal Exercise Laws. Don't worry about portion control, regimented meals, fanatical exercise or even family genetic disposition. Calorie restriction with extreme exercise leads inexorably to long-term failure. Bottom line: It's all about insulin to enjoy effortless lifelong weight control."
The low carb PB diet is defined throughout the book as a weight maintenance plan at 100-150 grams of daily carbs and weight loss plan below 100 grams of daily carbs (pgs. 66, 89, 90, 97, 105, 110, 223 and 227). Twice in PB, there is a chart called the "Carbohydrate Curve" (pgs. 90, 227) plotting daily carb consumption against weight gain. The curve repeats the message of weight loss below 100 grams carbs, weight maintenance between 100-150 grams carbs and weight gain above 150 grams carbs.

In my first month of primal eating, I don't know how many daily calories I consumed, but I'm positive my daily grams of carbs were higher than what Sisson recommended. I googled the nutritional data for apples and bananas (recall that I was eating approximately 2 of each daily). My consumption of fruit alone was about 124 grams of carbs, or 500 calories. More google searching showed why plentiful veggies are acceptable on this carbohydrate curve. Veggies have a low concentration of carbs, much lower than fruit.

The "Carbohydrate Curve" assumes that a person is getting adequate protein, fat and doing primal exercise (pg. 90). Recall that primal exercise is minimal, so for "heavy exercisers" or "the chronic cardio crowd" (high intensity endurance), Sisson recommends increasing carb intake to replace glycogen stores (pgs. 88, 110). The following recommendation is given on pg. 89:
"If you are insistent upon doing Chronic Cardio, you must increase carb intake to account for regular depletion of stored liver and muscle glycogen and an elevated metabolic rate. You can experiment with consuming perhaps 100 additional grams carbs per day for every extra hour of training and notice how your body responds. However, I'd prefer that you simply adjust your training program to conform to Primal Blueprint guidelines and thus reduce your need for dietary carbohydrate." (my emphasis)
It's curious to hear advise against long endurance activities from a former elite marathoner and triathlete. Sisson suggests that you are quite likely to fail at fat loss through high intensity cardio exercise. He recommends low intensity cardio and carb restriction (pgs. 174-5). It's suggested that eventual fat storage (weight gain) and/or metabolic problems are highly probable for the chronic cardio crowd who consume 150-300 grams daily carbs, and almost certain for those consuming more than 300 grams over an extended time (pg. 92). For an explanation why Mark recommends carb restriction, it can best be summed up by this quote on pg. 88:
"If you've forgotten everything you ever learned in biology, just remember this and own it: carbohydrate controls insulin; insulin controls fat storage." (his emphasis)
Carb restriction is a reoccurring message in PB, but the end of the book takes a twist. A sample calculation for losing weight is given where daily calorie intake is approximately 2000 calories and daily calorie expenditure is approximately 3000 calories (pg. 229). In chapter 8, "A Primal Approach To Weight Loss", the following is stated on pg. 223:
"Let's not mince words here. The science of reducing stored body fat requires you to burn more calories than you consume...losing one to two pounds of fat per week...means an average daily deficit of 500 to 1000 calories."
This seems contradictory. In the introduction of the book there was no need to worry about food portion control or restricting calories (pg. 5). If I want to lose weight I have to restrict carbs AND calories? A couple of paragraphs below the above quote, Sisson seems to suggest that carb restriction is the key to fat loss:
"Primal Blueprint-style eating allows you to eat more calories than a restrictive diet yet be far more successful losing body fat. This seemingly illogical claim has played out in numerous studies where control groups ate the same number of calories and had the same activity level but ate different kinds of foods. The disparate results achieved were attributed to what scientists call a metabolic advantage provided by eating certain foods (namely, those that moderate insulin production)."
Given my first primal experience not counting grams or calories, I proceeded to revise my diet by restricting both carbs and calories using a food log. I restricted grams of carbs to under 100 daily and restricted calories to 2000 daily. I also was targeting about 140 grams protein and about 120 grams fat. My physical activity still consisted of almost daily 45 minute walks. For about sixty days, I followed this plan. Macronutrient's statistics of my food log are given below.

On average, I met my daily target macronutrient goals and overall calories. In 2 months, I lost 8 lbs. The food log was a bit cumbersome. I created a spreadsheet to track macronutrients and servings. I commonly weighed my food in the beginning, but after some experience, I started to estimate serving size based on volume. The amount of standard deviation is probably based more on my estimation accuracy than actual daily variation in macronutrients.

After a couple of months (April and May), I became complacent and stopped logging food. I didn't change the types of foods that I was eating. I ate based more on hunger. It was also at this time that I started to run again, albeit at a very easy pace. It's difficult to say if I consumed more carbs and/or more overall calories over the next two months, but I gained some weight back despite being more active.

After a couple more months (June and July), I became frustrated with the weight gain and went back to food logging. It was also about this time that I started training with my son's cross country team in earnest, so my physical activity increased again including high intensity running. Macronutrient's statistics for August are given below. Within 1 standard deviation, my nutrition was the same as the previous food log.

In a month, I lost 8 pounds, or twice the weight loss rate as earlier. During both periods of time that I kept a food log, a typical week day for nutrition looked like this:

It seems that I have proven through my self-experimentation that the documented combination of low carb and low calorie is effective at weight loss, despite whether the activity level is low intensity walking or high intensity running, although the level of activity affects the rate of weight loss. It's important to also note that during the period of low carb high intensity running, there were times when I experienced fatigue. Specifically, there was a cross country interval workout where we sprinted 16x200s with 45 seconds rest in between. I was fine for the first 13x 200s, but in the last 3x 200s I was very tired and could only manage to jog behind the kids.

But I haven't proven if it's necessary to combine low carb and low calorie to lose fat. Could I continue to eat low carb below 100 grams, but double the calories to 4000 and still lose weight (thus testing the metabolic advantage, PB, pg. 224)? It's not unreasonable to suggest that the months that I intended to eat primally but didn't keep a food log could have been low carb-high calorie, and were not effective for weight loss. However, it's not conclusive because I didn't document my nutrition.

Or could I quadruple carbs to 200-250 grams but continue low calories at 2000 and still lose weight (carb intake where Sisson said chronic exercisers would eventually store fat, PB, pg. 92)? Since I'm still training at high intensity levels with the cross country team, I'm going to choose to change my diet to add more carbs, but continue to restrict calories to 2000.

A future post will be specifically how I'm changing my diet.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Do Intervals Require More Effort?

At our cross country practices I’ve noticed that we are running a lot more interval workouts than we did last year. An interval session includes (1) a warm up period at easy pace, (2) a series of short, fast runs with rests, and (3) a cool down period at easy pace.

The series of short, fast runs with rests, or intervals, can vary widely in repetition and distance (typically inversely proportional), but commonly are run at fast pace. Typical examples of interval sessions (in meters) are: 20x100s, 16x200s, 10x400s, 6x800s or 3x1600s. Paces of course depend on athletic ability, but typically easy pace at warm up/cool down is approximately 10 min/mile and interval paces range roughly from 5 min/mile to 7 min/mile, the shorter the interval distance the faster the pace. The rest periods in between intervals can range from complete rest to walking to very easy jog, about 12-16 min/mile.

In contrast to interval workouts, our distance runs are at typically easy pace throughout, say 9-10 min/mile. Both types of workouts last about the same amount of time, approximately 1 hour. Our coach believes as do I that once a base foundation of fitness has been established (through consistent distance runs), then workouts should focus more on interval training to adapt runners to faster paces.

Whatever the effect of interval training has on performance, they definitely feel harder to do than a slow, steady state distance run. Let’s see if the math supports this feeling, shall we. Energy rates (cal/kg/hr) are derived by Ainsworth et al (1). Effort will be based on my body weight, 79 Kg (175 lb). For those that care, I mean kilocalorie when I say cal. If this loses you, forget about it because it’s a relative comparison anyway.

Let’s compare my effort for a 6 mile distance run @ 9 min/mile pace (11 cal/kg/hr) versus the following 6 mile interval session:

• 2 mile warm up @ 10 min/mile (10 cal/kg/hr)

• 12x Quarter Mile Loop
Sprint 5.5 min/mile (18 cal/kg/hr) for ¾ loop
Walk/Jog 16 min/mile (6 cal/kg/hr) for ¼ loop

• 1 mile cool down @ 10 min/mile (10 cal/kg/hr)

Math for Distance Run, 6 Miles Total

Time = 6 miles x 9 min/mile = 54 minutes

Energy = 11 cal/Kg/hr x 79 Kg x 54 min x 1 hr/60 min = 782 cal

Math for Interval Run, 6 Miles Total

Warm Up Time = 2 miles x 10 min/mile = 20 minutes

Warm Up Energy = 10 cal/Kg/hr x 79 Kg x 20 min x 1 hr/60 min = 263.3 cal

Sprint Time = 12 x 0.1875 miles x 5.5 min/mile = 12.375 minutes

Sprint Energy = 18 cal/Kg/hr x 79 Kg x 12.375 min x 1 hr/60 min = 293.29 cal

Walk/Jog Time = 12 x 0.0625 miles x 16 min/mile = 12 minutes

Walk/Jog Energy = 6 cal/Kg/hr x 79 Kg x 12 min x 1 hr/60 min = 94.8 cal

Cool Down Time = 1 mile x 10 min/mile = 10 minutes

Cool Down Energy = 10 cal/Kg/hr x 79 Kg x 10 min x 1 hr/60 min = 131.67 cal

Total Time = 20 + 12.375 + 12 + 10 = 54.375 min

Total Energy = 263.3 + 293.29 + 94.8 + 131.67 = 783.06 cal


Comparing these two 6 mile runs, they both require the same amount of time within 1 minute and they both require the same amount of energy within 1 cal. From a time, distance and energy perspective, the distance run is the same as the interval run. But I agree with coach, interval running makes runners faster!

(1) Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Leon AS, Jacobs DR Jr, Montoye HJ, Sallis JF, Paffenbarger RS Jr. Compendium of Physical Activities: Classification of Energy Costs of Human Physical Activities. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1993: 25: 71-80.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Balance Minimus Trail

These are pretty good looking shoes, no? I picked them up Saturday afternoon on an impulsive buy. Amy and I were running errands at a strip mall. On a whim, we stopped in the local sporting goods store to see what kinds of running shoes they were selling. To my surprise, we found the New Balance Minimus Trail Shoes in the Fashion section. It's not your typical ubiquitous cushioned running shoe. Rather, it's a light weight, minimal cushion, minimal heal minimal shoe. And I knew it was truely a minimal shoe when I saw the nonminimal price tag, $100. And yet, I was smitten.

My typical shoe size is 10 1/2. This size felt a bit snug. The cliche that came to mind was "fit like a glove", well, maybe the kind of glove OJ Simpson would wear. So I tried a size 11, but it seemed too loose in the heel and there was a lot of "extra" sock lining in the toe box. And the tightness was still there. It was the black strap across the forefoot at the toe base that was causing the tightness across the width. The 10 1/2 felt better without the extra lining material. Maybe the shoe would break in. Maybe it was supposed to fit tightly. I rationalized it until I was ready to plop my debit card on the counter. I loved the look of these shoes so much that I wore them out of the store.

Later in the day I went for a run, about 5 miles. The run felt fine enough, but I was happy to kick off the shoes afterwards. And I wondered, if 5 miles in these shoes put 1 blister on a toe, what would a long run do? The shoes went back to the store. Maybe next year's model will fit better. Dang, will I ever get the hang of this product review/company affiliation thing?

Monday, August 15, 2011

VFF = Transition to Footwear

Lately, I've been questioning my motives.

Example 1:

I ran 13.1 miles a few weeks ago, my first longish run since last November. My barefeet handled it pretty well, but they were getting tender in those last few miles and my feet definitely didn't feel like putting in anymore miles. Would it have been better if I ran shod? Could I have run longer?

Rambling in my head:

A couple of years ago, I was excited to discover that shoes don't necessarily improve the running experience. Running barefoot is an option. It's an option. It's not necessary, though. Sounds weird to say that. Why would I even have to admit it? Some conditions, like distance, weather and surface, shod is better for me. I believe I would have hated the hills less at the Flying Monkey marathon if I wasn't so concerned about how rough the ground felt.

Example 2:

Last week at XC practice, one of the kids asked coach if they could run barefoot. Coach said no and for good reason. The state of Tennessee mandates that middle and high school XC runners have to compete with shoes on their feet. Coach wants kids to train with shoes since that's how they will race. I wish this rule didn't exist. It feels awesome to run skin to ground on the XC course. There's less weight on the foot and foot landings are more stable on the bumpy surface. I feel a bit guilty about having an unfair advantage.

Rambling in my head:

Frankly, I've always been more comfortable with ground feeling than the feeling of social angst in my head from being one of few not wearing shoes. I'm ready to try and conform to the group.

Before practice today I dug out my VFF shoes from under the bed and wiggled my toes into them. I ran in shoes for the first time since January. I'm transitioning to footwear. I'm not ready yet for those cushy wedges. I may never get there. The VFFs are a start.

Hello, I'm Kelly. I'm a recovering barefoot fanatic.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Public Apology to Anthony Colpo


I was surprised and kind of flattered in a weird way (you are the author of the ground breaking book “The Great Cholesterol Con” after all, which I now must read) that you wrote a long post in response to my comments to Castle Grok:

Reader Mail: Jimmy Moore, Michael Eades, Angry Dick, and Other Assorted Fat Loss Failures

I think I was among the “Other Assorted Fat Loss Failures”. I’m also flattered to be thrown in the same ring as Jimmy Moore, Dr. Eades and Richard Nikoley, but let’s overlook that for now.

My internet writing style has been described by others as polemic. I tried to objectively respond to Castle Grok, but perhaps it was polemic given your response to it. As you pointed out I didn’t fully read both parts of your post on low carb athletes. I lost interest after I didn’t agree with your account of how Phinney performed his first study.

However, now I’ve gone back and fully read both parts, and I think we can agree more than we disagree. I am sorry for characterizing your post as misrepresenting based on one oversight. Let’s be clear on the points where I think we agree, especially regarding my post that you referenced:

About Phinney’s first study, I said:
“It would seem that keto-adaption greatly improved endurance, but the results were confounded by the fact that the average test subject lost about 10 Kg of body weight. Despite wearing loaded backpacks to equal their weight loss, the subjects had greatly improved exercise efficiency as measured by oxygen consumption decrease.”

About the cyclist’s study, I said:
“Despite the apparent success of Dr. Phinney's studies, I am still nagged by the effect of exercise intensity on the bodies’ ability to burn fuel from fat. In the middle of the 2004 paper he states:

"...high carbohydrate diets might be more effective in short-term tests of high-intensity exercise..."

And Dr. Phinney's concluding statement includes a caveat:

"...anaerobic (ie, weight lifting or sprint) performance is limited by the low muscle glycogen levels induced by a ketogenic diet, and this would strongly discourage its use under most conditions of competitive athletics."”

About Jonas Colting, I said:
“ Jonas Colting is an example of a very competitive, professional triathlete who embraces low-carb-high-fat nutrition. He has been interviewed by Jimmy Moore and posted on Mark Sisson's site. It's clear though that he doesn't strictly follow low-carb-high-fat nutrition. As he said, all rules are thrown out on race day. He calls it "train low, race high", in reference I think to muscle glycogen. He even is sponsored by the sugary drink manufacturer "Red Bull". However, he does say that his carbohydrate consumption is "a far cry" from the typical amount recommended by Swedish nutritionists for athletes, about 10 grams per Kg of bodyweight, or about 800 grams per day.”

Finally, I think we have common ground in my conclusion. I said:
“So it seems that some low carb runners like Kent, Cynthia and David correlate well with Dr. Phinney's research, as long as intensity levels are low to moderate. And Dr. Phinney isn't the only researcher to clinically show fat-adaptation doesn't impair endurance. Scientists at the University of Cape Town have published similar results. But it also seems unavoidable that competitive endurance relies at least partially on carbohydrates as per Jonas and Mark. I expect there will be more to say as I do personal experimentation. Til then.”

Let me repeat my final conclusion: "...seems unavoidable that competitive endurance relies at least partially on carbohydrates...". Can we agree on that middle ground?

Best Regards,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Driving Traffic and Bad Karma

When I bothered to check out the stats on my new blog tonight, I was kinda surprised by how high the numbers jumped up. I was getting a lot of traffic from:

Interesting, I thought. If you don't know Anthony Colpo, he's the author of "The Fat Loss Bible" and "The Great Cholesterol Con". Personally, I haven't read either book, but I've seen recommentations by Paleo bloggers to read "The Great Cholesterol Con". Anthony Colpo was cited in the comments of the interview below.

I scanned through the cited post, reading some parts more carefully than others. I commented back. One of my observations was accurate, the other not so much. My bigger mistake was using some negative terms to describe parts of the post like falsely reports and misrepresents. I should have known better, negativity only breeds more negativity. This is one of my character flaws that I've recognized for many years, and my sarcasm easily displays itself in electronic form.

Anthony ripped me a new one. You can read it for yourself if you are curious, but if there are kids in the room, beware of some nudity. Somehow, he got the idea that I've been a low carber for years and poorly performed in the 2004 Chicago marathon (although 3:13 isn't all that bad for a recreational runner) due to a low carb diet. Actually, I just started eating low carb in March of 2011. For the record, Anthony could be spot on about athletes needing carbs for performance. I don't know. But I'm curious if conventional wisdom has it right or wrong, so I'll continue on a path of self experimentation and reading about others experiments.

I appreciate getting the traffic boost(I went from an Alexa global ranking of 14 million to 10 million, woohoo!), but I apoligize for spreading bad karma. Something else to work on.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Got Sugar?

How typical it is for a long distance runner to ask themselves this question, "Do I need more sugar?" I've never seen a major half or full marathon that didn't have frequent aid stations with a sugar drink like Gatorade, those sugar gells called Gu or even a natural sugar source like orange slices. But how much sugar does a long distance runner need? Is any sugar consumption necessary?

I've been trying to understand the answers to these questions since I recorded my blood sugar readings last weekend while running a half marathon distance. You can check out that post for the details, but here's the chart:

I fully expected blood sugar levels to drop throughout the run. In a keto-adapted state from a low carbohydrate diet, I assumed fat would be my primary fuel as muscle glycogen levels should have been relatively low. I don't know the ratio of fuels from fat vs. glucose, but I was surprised that blood glucose levels were consistently higher from the baseline inactive start. If I wasn't getting much glucose from dietary carbohydrates, then where was that glucose coming from that caused the higher readings? The search for an answer resulted in googling a lot of words starting with the letter "g".

It's probably safe to say, or even perhaps obvious to say that the increased blood glucose was a hormonal response. Running is an exercise that quickens the heart rate, causes heavy breathing and sweating. In short, it's stressful. Adrenal glands respond to stress by releasing epinephrine (adrenaline) into the bloodstream. This triggers the secretion of the hormone glucagon from the pancreas.

Glucagon is the opposite hormone of insulin. Insulin acts to lower blood sugar, glucagon acts to raise blood sugar. Glucagon works to raise blood sugar by two mechanisms. First, it converts stored glycogen in the liver into glucose and releases it into the bloodstream for fuel. This process is called glycogenolysis. Second, as glycogen stores are depleted in the liver, glucagon then synthesizes glucose from noncarbohydrates like lactate, glycerol (the backbone of fatty triglycerides) and amino acids (proteins). This process is called gluconeogenesis.

Besides glucagon, another hormone released from adrenal glands in response to stress is cortisol. Cortisol also increases blood sugar by gluconeogenesis. Research has shown that cortisol enhances glucagon stimulation of gluconeogenesis. I found one ultra running site that suggested that cortisol doesn't affect the body until about 15 miles of running. If this is accurate, then my increased blood sugar from 3 miles on would be only due to the effects of glucagon, and most likely from the gluconeogenesis mechanism as my store glycogen levels were relatively low.

I especially like Wikipedia's description of gluconeogenesis, describing it as a highly endergonic process. Dang, there's another new word I had to Google:

By thermodynamic standards, work, a form of energy, is defined as moving from the surroundings (the external region) to the system (the internal region). Thus, an endergonic process, as contrasted with an exergonic process, is one wherein the system absorbs energy from the surroundings. As a result, during an endergonic process, energy is put into the system.

Doesn't that sound like a smart, efficient way to fuel a run?

Leave it to Jimmy Moore to explain gluconeogenesis in his special way:

Getting back to the original question, got sugar? In the diet I don't think sugar is necessary. The liver makes sure our body has glucose. If body tissues are in a glycogen depleted state, then the mechanism is gluconeogenesis: converting fats and proteins to carbohydrates.

Asked a different way, should dietary sugar be avoided? I think so. Carbohydrates put glucose into our bloodstream and elevate hormonal insulin levels. If muscle tissues are insulin resistant, then that glucose is stored as fat. No runner wants to be fat, it slows em down.

But you might say, "Kelly, I eat plenty of carbs and don't get fat." God love ya for being glucose tolerant. However, I would still suggest that reducing the carbohydrates in the diet will adapt the body to fuel with fat instead of the limited storage of glycogen. Speaking for myself, I have plenty of fat storage to fuel a run.

But you might also say, "Kelly, I run a lot further distances than a half marathon, try 100 miles." I don't have a response to this, yet. I plan on conducting more running trials with blood sugar monitoring, and my goal is to discover what happens to my blood sugar at longer distances. But I have never run a distance longer than the marathon, and I'm not sure I plan to. I'll leave that experiment to some other guinea pig.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blood Glucose Testing During 13.1 Mile Run

Let me start by saying "No, I didn't run with a needle". But the thought crossed my mind, maybe next time. I'm not diabetic, so blood glucose testing is foreign to me. The idea to test blood glucose in response to certain stimuli came from guys like Jimmy Moore and Kent Altena. But rather than test my body's response to food, I was curious to see how it responded to exercise. I've posted before about keto-adaption and exercise. I thought I'd do my own experiment.

I've been following a low carb diet since March, defined by keeping my average carb intake under 100 grams. In the last month I started running again after a four month lay-off from an ab muscle pull in January. During those runs I have not experienced dizziness or excessive fatigue. I haven't drank Gatorade or ate Gu or Clif bars. Oh crap, so much for getting those companies to sponsor my blog. Anyway, it makes me wonder how far I can go on minimal outside fuel. Said another way, how far can I go on my internal body fat and glycogen fuel?

Last Saturday I ran my longest run since my last marathon in November 2010. I ran an approximate 1.5 mile loop around my neighborhood 8 times. I added a little extra on the end to make it a half marathon run, 13.1 miles. I chose a short loop in part because it gave me the opportunity to run by my house several times. I stopped at roughly 3.1 mile intervals to measure my blood glucose. Inspired by Moore and Altena, I was curious what the glucose fuel gauge needle looks like on a long run.

The chart below shows my nutrition leading up to the five days before a longish run, 13.1 miles.

I definitely followed a low carb diet in the previous week to the run, averaging less than 10% carb calories and over 60% fat calories. My diet for the last 5 months was similar, just not tracked consistently to show the stats. So I'd say I was keto-adapted as Dr. Stephen Phinney has described.

The run is charted below based on data collected on my Garmin 305. Total running time was just under 2.5 hours for an average pace of about 11 minutes/mile. It was a pedestrian pace, but hey, look at those hills in my neighborhood. My average heart rate was 136 bpm, or 70% maximum heart rate, so it was a decent effort for me.

So what about blood glucose you might ask? Well, here's the chart. The initial reading before the run was taken at 7 AM after an overnight fast. During the run, I only drank water, about 1.5 liters total. I suppose I expected ignorantly that sugar levels would drop throughout the run, but they didn't. They jumped up, rather consistently. About an hour after the run, my blood glucose returned to more normal levels, 91 mg/dL. A quick Google search suggests that these results could be explained by gluconeogenesis. I welcome comments from those folks that would like to explain what happened.

For those that are curious here's how I measured my blood sugar:

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is Insulin Resistance What Makes Me Fat?

According to Gary Taubes, the author of “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It”, the answer is yes. But understanding why insulin resistance makes me fat requires some deep thinking, at least for a lay person such as myself. In previous posts, I shared Taubes’ insight that most of us have the cause and effect of obesity reversed. We don’t get fat because we consume more calories than we burn, but rather we consume more calories than we burn because we get fat. Said another way, calories that are stored in fat are unavailable for burning for fuel, so we need to eat more calories and/or move less to offset those lost calories in the fat.

Ok, what is insulin resistance and how does it make me fat? Here’s my interpretation of Taubes’ hypothesis.

When I eat a meal, the carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and enter my bloodstream. Glucose, a form of sugar, causes my blood sugar to increase. Since high blood sugar is toxic, my body instantly responds. First, any fat in my meal isn't immediately used for energy. Rather, it is shuffled to fat storage, at least temporarily, until the high blood sugar is reduced. I temporarily get a little fatter. Second, my pancreas secretes the hormone insulin. The secretion of insulin is in direct response to the increase in blood sugar. Insulin's job is to tell my body's cells to take in this glucose from the blood stream to reduce my high blood sugar.

Muscle cells will take in this glucose and burn it for energy and store some for future fuel as glycogen. Liver cells store some as glycogen and convert some to fat. Fat cells convert the glucose to fat for storage. As the cells in my body use up the glucose in my blood, the blood sugar will drop, and so the insulin will also drop. As the process occurs, fat is released from my fat cells so that they can be burned for fuel in place of the reduced glucose levels. I temporarily get a little leaner. My fat cells are acting as a temporary buffer for energy until my body deals with the toxic sugars.

Understanding the mechanism for how insulin communicates with my body's different cells is the key to understanding how I get fat. Insulin works through two enzymes on the cell: lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and hormone sensitive lipase (HSL).

LPL is on the outside of cell membranes and pulls fat from the bloodstream through the cell membrane. In muscle cells, this fat is used for fuel. In fat cells, it is simple stored and makes the cell fatter. LPL does its job by breaking up the fat from a triglyceride form (glycerol + 3x fatty acids) into individual fatty acids. When insulin is secreted due to high blood sugar levels, it activates LPL on fat cells resulting in fat being diverted from the bloodstream to the fat cells. Conversely, insulin suppresses LPL on muscle cell, so these muscle cells cant burn fat for fuel, but rather the muscle cells will burn the gluclose from the bloodstream to lower my blood sugar level.

HSL breaks down triglyceride fat in the fat cells into their individual fatty acids. Unlike the large triglyceride fat, the fatty acids are small enough to go through the fat cell membranes to be liberated into the bloodstream and eventually used for fuel in muscles. Insulin suppresses HSL. When insulin is secreted due to high blood sugar, it doesn't allow the HSL to liberate fatty acids so muscle cells need glucose for energy. When the blood sugar levels drop and insulin drops, then HSL activates the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream to be used for fuel by the muscles.

The reason why some of us seem to fatten more easily is that our body's muscle cells are less sensitive to insulin. Said another way, some of us are insulin resistant. And the reason why some of us fatten as we grow older is that our muscle cells become less sensitive to insulin. When our muscle cells are less sensitive to insulin they do not adsorb glucose as readily from the bloodstream. This makes our blood sugar levels higher which makes us secrete more insulin. More insulin secretion activates more LPL on fat cells so that they accumulate more fat. More insulin secretion suppresses more LPL on muscle cells so that they will not burn more fat. More insulin secretion suppresses HSL in fat cells so that fatty acids are not released for fuel. With more insulin secretion more calories will be stored as fat, fewer calories will be available to fuel the rest of the body, the more we will eat to replace those lost calories in the fat (or become more sedentary) and the fatter we will get.

Insulin resistance leads to metabolic syndrome, which is a condition with several signs besides fattening, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL levels, glucose intolerance (trouble controlling blood sugar) and becoming sedentary (from caloric drain into fat tissues).

Taubes argues that there is a way to break this cycle. Reduce the quantity of carbohydrates and improve the quality of the carbohydrates in a meal. These two factors drive insulin secretion and the accumulation of body fat. Not all foods that contain carbohydrates are equally fattening. The most fattening carbohydrates are the ones that have greatest effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. The glycemic index is a measure of how our blood sugar responds to certain foods. If the glycemic index of food is minimized, then the secretion of insulin and fat stores is minimized. Foods with high glycemic index include refined flour (bread, cereals, pasta), liquid carbohydrates (beer, fruit juices, sodas) and starches (potato, rice, corn). Leafy green vegetables are an example of low glycemic index foods. They have more water and digestable fibers that make up their weight. They have low concentrations of carbohydrates.

My only criticism of Taubes' book is that it is easy to get lost in his argument against "calories in, calories out". He argues consistently that a positive caloric balance (eating more, moving less) is not the reason why we get fat. This seems illogical, and it is at face value. Taubes' argument is merely that a positive caloric balance is a side effect of getting fat, not a cause. The real cause for fattening is the loss of calories to fat cells caused by high insulin levels from too many carbohydrates in our food. An appreciation of this book requires an open mind and patience to follow a unique point of view.