January 2, 2015 will be the one year mark for me changing to a Low Carbohydrate life style. I say lifestyle rather than diet because I don’t just diet and exercise, I train and fuel my body. It is a different mindset. People who look at their food choice as a diet feel restricted and it implies a temporary condition until a goal is reached. For me, food choice is about making sure my body recovers and is able to put it all on the line the next day.
What does low carb mean? For me, it means I consume no more than 50 grams of carbohydrates in one day. I do not eat wheat at all. I don’t eat breads, noodles, rice, potatoes, or tortillas. I have to watch the sugar content of fruits. I do not drink soft drinks or sports drinks other than Nuun.
I do prepare my meals from scratch. I eat a lot of vegetables, nuts, dairy, eggs, lean meats, and berries. I actually do eat breads and tortillas but I make them from nut flours and flax seed meal.
Since I changed to the low carb lifestyle, I have noticed many differences in my training and in my daily life. First the daily life benefits, I don’t get tired in the afternoons. I feel alert and ready for just about anything during the day mentally and physically. My moods do not fluctuate throughout out the day. I don’t crave sweets. I don’t graze and snack all day long.
Training benefits: my moods don’t swing during my long runs. I recover much faster from day to day. I do not need to consume endless amounts of sugar while running to fuel my muscles and brain. I have increased my pace on my long runs by thirty seconds a mile. I don’t have GI issues during long runs and ultra races.
The other benefit that many people have noticed is I lost 15 pounds going from 130 lbs to 115 lbs. I didn’t switch to low carb to lose weight, it just happened. I know that many people choose to go low carb because of the weight loss benefit, but for me it was purely a training choice.
I will say the first two weeks on low carb were pretty miserable. I felt awful, weak, slow, and groggy. I was hungry all the time and had to eat every two hours to maintain my blood sugar and not get dizzy and nauseous. I didn’t reduce my training at all during this time, which probably contributed to how I felt, but I couldn’t lose two weeks of training.
After the two weeks, I started to feel better. It didn’t happen overnight it was a little each day. The research I’ve read says it takes anywhere from 4-12 weeks to feel great on low carb and everyone is different. The reason it takes so long is your body is changing from burning carbs for fuel to fats for fuel. It needs time to build up enough fat burning enzymes to fuel your body. You are not going to feel great until you have given your body enough time to build fat burning enzymes to burn enough calories to fuel your activity level.
Another thing that was hard initially, is that I would go to the store and see everything I couldn’t eat. It took about a month for me to reframe my thinking to see the things I could eat and look at the situation as an opportunity to learn to cook in a new way. Pinterest and Facebook have been lifesavers in finding low carb recipes that are quick and easy to make.
The final challenge of being low carb is I have a small kitchen in my home. All right, I admit it’s more like a hallway than a kitchen. There is very limited counter space for mixing and chopping vegetables. It is challenge with any food preparations, but particularly with low carb (Paleo would cause this problem form me too). I use a lot of fresh vegetable and make things from scratch so limited counter space is kind of an issue.
If you want more information on low carb athletic performance I suggest checking out the website. The art and science of low carb.
Happy New Year!