Thursday, February 27, 2014

Finally Some Agility Practice

Of course I pick the hottest day of the year to get some agility practice.  It looks dreary in the video but in reality the sun was shining and it was nearly 60 degrees.  We had to cut practice short because poor Strummer's tongue was down to his knees after just 2 exercises.

2014-2-27-Practice from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I was pleased considering that I can't remember the last time we trained.  I tweaked my 'good' knee, which is not so very good but not as bad as my bad knee, last week doing hill repeats in the freezing cold and it's not quite 100% so I practiced rear crosses since the fronts were making the knee complain.  Plus we need practice with the rears.  I've been taking TRX classes through a Groupon type deal and my quads are in a constant state of jello from these classes which is why I think I tweaked my knee on the hills.  So I've cut back on other training this week, only swimming and going to TRX and being careful with the squats and lunges.  I realized I have a 3 day agility trial next week so I need to make sure it heals completely by then.

So far the lowering of the carbs in my diet has been almost a non-issue.  The one thing I need to work out is how much food to eat.  Previously I've always eaten when I was hungry, stopped when I was full and that's worked out well.  When I sat down and actually worked out the calories I was eating it was freaky how close they were to what I needed without ever planning it out or thinking about it.  But now I'm not hungry and last night I had what felt like a very filling dinner but in hindsight was probably only around 250 calories.  I wasn't hungry when I woke up and didn't want to eat before TRX class at 7:00 a.m. and about 40 minutes into class I started getting dizzy.  Though I wasn't the only one so it could also have been the toughness of the workout.  Anyway, I may have to start planning meals and thinking about calories since I can't rely on hunger anymore.  Once the keto-adaptation takes place in a couple few weeks it should be a non-issue for but now I'm kind of in limbo.  So far an interesting and fun experiment.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ketogenic Diet for Athletes/Agility?

Wow, where did that come from?  I've been down some rabbit holes the past 2 weeks, mostly doing research for my weight loss clients.  I mostly don't give out dietary advice.  People come to me with their own plans for weight loss and I help them with the behavioral changes they need to make for their plan to succeed.  I urge them in the direction of eating healthy portions of healthy, whole foods and I leave it up to them to decide what that means.  Because there are a lot of voices out there having a big old food fight over what is a healthy diet and I'm not about to start throwing plates of spaghetti around in that mess.

Nonetheless I've had some clients who claimed to be eating a healthy diet, calorie restricted (some so much so that I wondered how they were still standing by the end of the day), getting regular exercise.  For some reason eat less/exercise more/healthy whole foods (whatever that means) wasn't working for them.  And I wanted to know why.  Were they deceiving themselves?  Underestimating how much they were eating, overestimating their exercise, overeating to make up for their exercise?  Or was something else going on?  I didn't feel comfortable just brushing them off, after seeing enough of them, hearing their stories, I felt like I was missing something and I felt I needed to find out what I was missing.  No point helping people change their behaviors if they succeed in making those changes yet still don't reach their goals.

So many voices out there, so many opinions, so much bad science and politics and bad studies and even worse science and politics and ranting and raving.  This journey is not for the faint of heart.  In the end the conclusion I came to, and have been coming to for about 5 years now, is that insulin is largely at the heart of it all for many people who struggle with their weight.  And this means restriction of carbohydrates, even whole grains.  It's taken me a while to fully understand this because I could think of so many exceptions, so many people for whom 'eat less, exercise more' works.  But the idea that's emerged this time down the rabbit hole is the notion that insulin sensitivity is different in different people.  And that there are people out there who are 'insulin resistant' and these folks can't tolerate carbs.  They can cut calories down to ridiculous levels, exercise 2 hour a day and still not lose weight if they're following a high carb/low fat diet.

Case in point, Dr. Peter Attia.  He has a great blog called The Eating Academy, very technical, maybe you need a degree in biochemistry, but still very interesting.  Below he describes how he lost a bunch of weight and turned around his metabolic disease and improved his cholesterol numbers by following a ketogenic diet consisting of 80% of calories from fat.  Yeah, you heard that right.  All I can say is watch the video.  And be prepared for charts and graphs.  Lots of charts and graphs.

This led me to start looking into low carb/high fat diets.  Of course these are nothing new, Atkins back in the 70's and in fact these diets were used to treat kids with seizures as far back as the 1920's.  And here's where the politics comes in and the conspiracy theories that are maybe not so wacky and Nixon and the Farm Bill and suddenly fat is bad and carbs are good and now 40 years later we have a worldwide obesity epidemic to beat the band.  Probably some of the best voices here are Dr. Robert Lustig and Gary Taubes.

Do not mess with Robert Lustig, he is on a mission from Sugar.  I think he is kind of my hero.

Gary Taubes (the intro is 6 minutes  if you want to skip to the lecture though the intro is interesting)

Yeah, I know, it's a lot of material but very worth it if health and nutrition are important to you.  I found a lot of my ideas about 'healthy' turned upside down, inside out and scrambled around.  Like someone declared it Nutrition Opposite Day.  And I became even more surprised when I decided to track my own diet for a few days and found that I naturally eat more fats than carbs (average of 47% fat, 33% carbs, 20% protein).  And I found that with a few minor tweaks (eg, no more toast with my eggs) I was able to bring it to 58% fat, 22% carbs, 20% protein.  A ketogenic diet would call for something like 70-80% fat, 15% protein, 5-15% carbs (usually 20-50g of carbs depending on insulin resistance but some high volume athletes can maybe go to 100 g), depending how insulin sensitive you are among other things.

There are a lot of voices out there.  Very loud and shouty voices, very sure they know the answers.  I'm not saying these guys and only these guys know all the answers.  If this subject interests you you should investigate it for yourself and most importantly experiment with your own diet and decide what works for you.

And in that spirit I've become interested in the potential advantages of a ketogenic diet for triathlon and agility.  Over the years I've become less and less able to tolerate sugar and processed carbs (especially pasta and bread, even the whole wheat versions).  I cut breakfast cereal out many years ago.  I can eat these things but they cause bloating and a even a mildly ill sort of feeling sometimes.  I eat them but rarely and usually on the weekend when I've got a big training day planned.

Further I discovered that carbs and all that I knew about timing of meals pre and post workout might not only be wrong but actually might be having a detrimental effect to my triathlon training.  For the first time I was unable to tolerate the sugary gel packets in my last 2 races last year and in fact they made things worse for me.  My theory is that I've finally become unable to tolerate sugar even during races.  One of the reasons I switched to racing Xterra's is that they're shorter and require less energy bars and gels both in training and races (plus the added benefit of they are so much more fun).  But they still require some fueling.  Or do they?

Nutritional ketosis is difficult to explain and requires diagrams and chemical equations and maybe even a biochemistry degree.  Hands up who remembers the Krebs cycle?  Well I remember learning about it somewhere at some point a long long time ago.  But in short the idea is that you limit carbs and keep protein low so that the body burns fat rather than glycogen.  Because we can only store about 2000 cals of glycogen but fat stores are endless, even in a scrawny triathlete.  Plus the claims that the brain stays more alert when running on ketones.  Imagine feeling mentally sharp for that Snooker run at the end of a long agility day.  I've been entering half days of agility these days because after about 3-4 hours I'm tired and crabby and mentally drained and don't want to be there anymore.  Would a ketogenic diet allow me to handle a full day?

Some ultrarunners and endurance athletes are adopting these diets and I'm intrigued.  I've bought a $6 e-book from Amazon called 'The Art and Science of Low Carb Performance' and it's fascinating stuff.  One of the authors discusses the concepts and recent research findings below.

Jeff Volek

I'm interested enough to consider giving it a try.  I have the added challenge of being a vegetarian so I'm not entirely sure how this will work but I think I can find some hacks for it and I know Peter Attia has said that's it's possible.  I'm not completely sold but I love a good experiment.  I'm going to start gradually, not going to shoot for ketosis right away but I'm already a good way of the way there so I'm not anticipating too many problems at first.  The biggest challenge is the world at large, eating out or at other people's houses.  And Jonny who does most of the cooking and still likes him his grains.  He was not happy with me picking out 2/3 of the sweet potatoes from dinner the other night.  But I think if I leave my carb allotment for dinner we should be able to live in peace.  My grocery cart is getting weirder that's for sure. And if there are any athletes out there who have given this a try please feel free to offer up experiences.  For those who are interested, the Paleorunner blog has loads and loads of podcasts offering up all manner of opinions about diet and training.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sedona - Hiking Boyton Canyon

Are you channeling your energy vortex chakras yet?  Sedona cracks me up.

So many great pictures from my hike in Boyton Canyon, it's hard to choose which ones to post.  The hike was short, a bit over an hour or so because that was as far as my aunt wanted to go.

This is my third time hiking Boyton Canyon which is one of Sedona's famous energy vortexes.  Don't ask me what an energy vortex is, I have no clue.  But the red rocks are fantabulous and the clouds and lighting in the canyon at that time of morning provided for some dramatic shots.

Towards the end of the hike somebody started playing a flute somewhere in the canyon and it was impossible not to hear it.  It was incredibly annoying but also kind of funny in a selfish new age hippy cliche sort of way.

I went for a bike ride after the hike and have even more photos and video but I'll leave that for another day so all the pictures of red rocks don't blend together.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Grand Canyon

I'm a bit behind with blogging and will catch up as time and energy permit.  I went to Arizona last week and missed the subzero cold snap in Colorado.  Aside from barely making my plane because the bus was late due to some icy roads my travel was not impacted thankfully.  I hate traveling enough as it is, I don't need complications.  However my aunt who I was meeting was not so lucky and her plane arrived some 4-5 hours late which meant I had to amuse myself in Phoenix while waiting for her because we were driving to Sedona in the same rental car.  There is not a lot to do in Phoenix, at least not that I could find.  Drove around downtown for ages and couldn't even find a place to eat.  And if I could there was nowhere to park anyway.  But it was cool seeing palm trees and cacti in February.  I'm not a winter getaway person, this is the first time ever that I've been somewhere warm-ish during the winter and this was due to my aunt wanting to escape Michigan's Polar Vortex Freeze-o-Rama.  It stayed mostly in the 50's in Sedona which was fine for me but maybe not what she was hoping for.  Still, so much better than the -14 degrees in Boulder and probably worse in Michigan.  Jonny said it was so cold the back door froze shut and he had to shovel a path to the front door in the subzero temps.  Can't say I was sorry to miss that.

We went to the Grand Canyon which is very cool in winter.

My aunt had never been to the Grand Canyon and she was excited to see it.  I've only been once before.  I think we're the only 2 in our family who have been there.  We didn't get to do any hiking.  Maybe at some point I'll go when I can actually hike but it's not top of my list.

Flagstaff was fun too, we had breakfast there on the way up.  Jonny and I are looking for places to possibly move to sometime in the future and Flagstaff is a maybe.  Will have to go back and spend more time there.

More photos from the rest of my trip coming soon.