It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

March 06, 2014

Maybe That Was a Bad Idea - Race Nutrition

First, apparently this is my 300th post...who knew...thanks Blogger for keeping track.

Now, on to my race day nutrition for the Little Rock Half.  Several people said they'd be interested to know what I was eating now that I am trying a Ketogenic Diet (low carb/high fat).

Switching to a Ketogenic Diet just 13 days prior to a race might not have been the best idea.  Yes, I'm going to go ahead and say it really wasn't a good idea.

I had been trying to aim for around 25 to 30 net carbs per day since starting.  And for the first week or so I was really good about tracking.  I was making sure I was getting in enough fat, the right amount of carbs and a moderate amount of protein - but not too much.  Then of course after just 8 or 9 days I had it down right?

I had read that it takes the average person about 2 to 3 weeks to "keto adapt" and be able to start using fat for fuel.  I figured I would be right on the brink of this for my race.  I knew I might struggle, but was hoping for the best.

I can't tell you how hard it is to travel while trying to eat this way.  I'm sure with more practice it would be easier, but this first trip was tough.  I knew it would be difficult so I brought a lot of food with me.  I even brought a cooler full of some snacks.  I just "assumed" we'd have a microwave and mini fridge in our hotel room....we had neither.  My own fault. I should have checked.  I just travel so much and always have these things, that I've just come to expect them.  So that eliminated a lot of my plans.

It is really difficult to get in fats.  I brought some coconut butter with me to help supplement...but you can't have too much because it does have more carbs than coconut oil.  I had been trying to eat a pretty clean version of low carb, but unfortunately this weekend was more of a "dirty" version.

Friday on the drive to Little Rock, I decided I wanted steak for dinner.  Jim thought that sounded good too.  I thought it would be a good way to get in some fat and some iron before the race.  Jim and I stopped at a chain steak place and I ordered a Rib Eye.  I have NEVER ordered rib eye - ever.  I don't generally like the fat...but thought it would be the best option for me.  I had rib eye and a side salad for dinner.  Still doing ok.  I also had some peanuts, though I quickly remembered they are a bean and not a nut and probably had too many carbs.  I looked them up, yep too many carbs...luckily I didn't have too many.

Saturday morning we just had breakfast at the hotel.  They had a great breakfast buffet.  I was limited to scrambled eggs, bacon, a few berries and coffee with half a half.  I try to stay away from bacon/pork because it seems to have more issues with bacteria, but I didn't have a lot of choice. 

For lunch, I already mentioned this in my past blog, but I had a "chicken" salad at a local bar.  It was AWFUL.  Processed, pressed meat chicken.  It was barely edible.  I also didn't get a lot of fat here.

Dinner was pan fried chicken breast, asparagus and a side salad. 

Throughout the day I snacked on a few nuts and some coconut butter for additional fat. 

I also picked up a Cliff Bar at the expo and had one bite of it on Saturday night before I went to bed.  I decided that maybe I should have a few more carbs than normal....but again I wasn't tracking, but I thought maybe I was closer to 30 or 40 grams.

Race morning - So I wanted to have a "few" more carbs...but not go crazy.  Before we left I went to the grocery store and looked for a moderate carb bar.  I literally just flipped the packages over and looked for something that didn't have 50 carbs in it.  I found a bar - I don't even remember what it was - that had 12 grams of carbs and I bought that.  So I had that bar, a half cup of coffee with half and half and a spoonful of coconut butter.  That was it.

During the race I took with me water and NUUN (a calorie free/carb free electrolyte drink).  I also took the Cliff Bar with me for "emergency use".  During the race I only drank the water or NUUN.  I did not take any Gatorade.  After about mile 6 or 7 I could feel the muscles in my legs burning like never before.  I could tell my body wanted carbs!  So over the course of miles 7-11 I took a few bites of the Cliff Bar, but literally just a few bites.  Over the course of the two days I had over half of it left after the end of the race.  I also took a bite of an orange at some point during the race and had 1 salt tab about an hour into the race.

So there you have it.  That was my race weekend/day nutrition.  I also ate a Quest Protein Bar after the race.  Oh and a bacon cheeseburger for lunch.  I normally treat myself after every race with a big fattening meal, a coke and some kind of sweet dessert.  My reward was a bunless was hard not to go crazy.  The burger was good, but the other cravings were there.

The other thing I did was drink one NUUN each day starting on Friday.  With this diet you lose a ton of water in the first two weeks and therefore also electrolytes so I knew I would probably want to replace them.  I had stopped using NUUN because it contains sorbitol and I wanted to avoid artificial sweeteners...but I made an exception for the weekend.  I actually had some that were sweetened with stevia but I was out of those. 

So traveling made it difficult to eat the way I need to and get in enough fat.  My body wasn't really in fat burning mode yet.  I have now read that while it takes the average person two to three weeks to adapt - that's more for just "living" not extensive exercise.  It actually can take months to really get your body adapted to burning fat for fuel during long/intense exercise. 

I actually felt pretty good during the race and didn't get super tired until the end -but that happens in most races.  I just could feel the muscle burn a lot more. And the race really took it out of me.  I was so sore for 3 days after which was highly unusual and my energy levels have been in the tank.  I woke up this morning with a cold.  I just think I've done a lot at once to my body.  Changed my diet, ran a half marathon, traveling, ice storm, stress at work. 

So, anyway...I'm still giving this thing a try. I've read about doing a "targeted" keto diet where you fuel up prior to exercise of more than 60 minutes.  They suggest you have 25-50 grams of carb.  I'm not sure this will put me into a matter of fact I think it will keep me from getting there.  But, I tried this on Tues before my cycle class and I had so much more energy.  So I don't know what to do.  There is a lot of conflicting information out there.

As far as weight loss.  Before the race I was down a total of 9 pounds.  During the weekend I gained one I'm 2 1/2 weeks in and I've netted about 8 pounds.  The weight loss seems to have stalled at this point, which does make it a bit more difficult to stick to.  It's much easier when you are seeing results and not feeling like crap.

Well that's probably enough for now. 


  1. You are WAY stronger than I am, bc I couldn't have stuck with that diet on a race weekend. I'm glad it didn't seem to affect you too badly during the race, but the longer recovery stinks. Do you think you're getting enough calories? I think sometimes when you lop a big chunk away from your diet it can be hard to get enough.

    Anyway, good luck figuring out how to make this work for you, or if it's for you. And 8 pounds is nothing to sneeze at! Nice job!

  2. The weight gain over the weekend might only be a temporary aberration because of microtears in your muscles from all that exercise. Microtears make your body retain fluid (n the muscles) and as the muscles repair the fluid is lost again.

  3. I have kind of quit Nuun too because of the sorbitol, really trying to be more all natural. That is a hard diet, when I tried Paleo I felt like my runs just lost their zing, I didn't stay on it long enough to really adapt though I admit.

  4. 8 pounds is great. I hope you keep letting us know how it is going.

  5. Gl. I love my carbs. I have given up caffeine and artificial,sweeteners which is hard enough.

  6. You did great! tough to follow plans like that when you are traveling... I follow a similar plan but more carbs (around 100 a day). Some of my friends that are doing lower carbs like you use UCAN for racing. Be warned, it is an acquired taste but maybe it would help with the racing. If you are thinking about it, get a sample first before you buy a tub as it isn't for everyone. (I can't choke it down but there are those who swear by it)

    1. Thanks Karen. A couple of the books I have read on low carb recently recommended UCAN. I've looked into it but haven't tried it. I actually had a sample I brought with me to the race, but didn't want to try something new race day...though I learned after I actually have the recovery protein sample not the regular one.