From the end of 2014 and well into 2015, I followed a strict low-carb, high fat (LCHF) diet, in order to reduce my body mass.
At the very beginning of that period I had been somewhere around 125Kg (275lb) and by June 2015, I was around 98Kg (216lb) and still had a way to go to get to what I thought my ideal race weight might be. To some readers, it may be difficult to relate to these weights. I’m a big guy – I fill a doorway, so my weight may always seem high.
Suffice to say the shift in body mass had done wonders for both my cycling and running, with performance relative to my peers significantly improving. There had been a few issues in the early days, as I would bonk 50 miles into a ride when my body would be searching for glucose that just wasn’t available. Later of course, when I was fully in dietary ketosis, I experienced no such problems and actually felt stronger and stronger toward the end of a ride, as my ride buddies would begin to fade.
That in isolation, is a LCHF success story.
Those that know me personally, may remember that in June 2015, it all came crashing down – quite literally. In a cycling incident, that I can’t fully recollect but can only attribute to my own poor bike handling, I broke my hip (neck of femur), which resulted in surgery to pin my hip, a few days in hospital, three months using two crutches and a further three months on one crutch before I could again walk unaided.
To a person that had been experiencing ongoing success both in terms of performance and improved body composition, this was a huge psychological blow. I did however remain determined to get back to it. With a neck of femur fracture, the big risk is breaking blood flow to head of femur (the ball joint). If the head of femur is starved of oxygen, it will become necrotic and a hip replacement will be necessary. In order to avoid that outcome, I resolved to do everything I could to repair the bone.
Searching the internet revealed some interesting tips on bone growth and what it was going to take to get me well again. In the early days of repair, I was taking 11 different complex supplements of vitamins, minerals and enzymes to help my bone repair. In addition, I had found a rule of thumb that suggested that a person normally requiring 2000kCal per day, when suffering multiple fractures, would need as much as 6000kCal to provide the energy required for normal bodily function and bone repair. This may be why when people have broken bones, they feel unusually tired. The alternative is either some parts of the body’s function simply shutting down, or an extended period for the bone to heal, neither of which seemed to align with my goal.
So, for six months, largely immobile, I consumed huge amounts of energy, in addition to the self-prescribed cocktail of supplements. Sure enough, my strategy for repair of my hip actually worked. It’s now as strong as ever and still has three 6” long screws going through the neck, into my head of femur. With as much energy as I’d been consuming, there was an inevitable daily surplus of energy.
I had used dairy as a main source of energy when I needed to get up to 6000kCal. The thing about dairy, is its relatively high in carbohydrate (as well as fat and protein). You can probably imagine what happened to my body mass.
I happen to like dairy, butter, cheese, cream, milk. If your digestive system can handle lactose, what’s not to love?
Many people following a LCHF diet hit a plateau. While once the weight fell away, now it just stays the same. Dairy is often a contributor to this and in my case, I’m fairly sure of it. I never really cut back the dairy from my diet and consequently, my weight hasn’t come back down since I got off crutches.
I managed to complete two long distance races in 2016 but in 2017, I failed to finish an Ironman. Not finishing is a complex physiological and psychological issue, both at the time and post-event and I don’t propose to go into detail of that here. One undeniable contributory factor though, was my body mass. On race day, it was too high. Carrying a 20Kg weight for 140.6 miles is something the pros wouldn’t want to do, so why should I take on that challenge?
So, here we are. The real beginning of this blog. All that came before was just background.
In the time since I started LCHF, the Real Meal Revolution 2.0 was published. It combines the LCHF principles of diet for people who are carbohydrate resistant (as I believe I am) with intermittent fasting.
Fasting isn’t new of course, it’s been recommended from wide ranging of sources, from nutritionists, preachers, sports coaches, to business gurus. I have (like most things) tried it. Of course, my idea of fasting for one day, may have been slightly wrong and here’s why:
If you wake up, skip all your meals, go to bed, get up the following day and eat breakfast, you may have been fasting for 36 hours total. When you start your ‘day’ of fasting, it may already be 12 hours since you last ate. It’s a difficult day. The last time I tried it, I had a headache by the afternoon, threw in the towel at around 4pm and ate something. By 6pm I was fine and vowed to never fast again.
However, since coming back to Iraq on this trip, I have been particularly strict about my LCHF diet and right now, it’s just 2 hours from breaking by first 24-hour fast. Basically, I had lunch yesterday, skipped dinner. Felt pretty hungry last night but awoke feeling fine. Skipped breakfast and now, I’m good and ready for lunch. It’s not been too bad and I have again remembered what having an appetite feels like.
We will see whether 2018 can be a repeat of the 2015 body mass success story but for now and for the first time in a long time, I feel in control of how that story goes.
GI Tri Coach