Will be doing a half marathon Labor Day weekend in Tupelo Ms.
I had a great success nutritionally (I’ll detail it out below) but trail conditions with mud, rain, hail, lightning made me choose to cut the race short after being out there 9.5 hours. I felt wonderful but while hanging on to branches sliding down mountains I decided I was too smart to come back this way ever again lol.
I was very ketoadapted going in to the race. 5 months of being fairly strict with the diet. No alcohol the last month. Pre-race week, lots of kale in bacon grease, etc. No carb loading to speak of.
On race day, 3.5 hours before the race, I had calf liver cooked in bacon grease, and eggs cooked in bacon grease. About 15 min before the race started, I had a hand full of peanuts.
To be clear on my strategy, everything up to the race was ‘Keto Friendly’ with the only variation to that being on race day. The theory behind this is you need more carbs but are primed to use them. I know… blah blah supposed to be able to run on fat forever blah blah. But if you don’t have a lot of body fat, I don’t think you can run optimally for 30+ hours without carbs. Even phinney says we can only burn up to about 60% fat while running. But I know this is very individual and opinions will vary. Research of N=1 continues.
About every hour I would eat something, usually nuts and/or dried fruit. I did try some gummy bears and peanut m&ms but when I did, my breathing became labored and I felt worse. But after a few minutes it would go away. My best feeling came from eating Apricots, raisins, peanuts, cashews, macadamia. From time to time I had some trail mix which had a few plain m&ms and I felt ok doing that. I ate pemmican and biltong that I made myself and that kept my hunger at bay but didn’t give me tons of energy. But keeping hunger at bay is important. I’m a forager so I ate dandilyons along the way as well.
During the whole 9.5 hours I felt great. Never before had such a smooth experience. The important thing for me is that if I am going to eat carbs on race day, that I never eat too many at once. I know from experience I can get an insulin response if I do.
I’m 53 and I finished this particular race 10 years ago and I know for a fact I felt worse then in the same sections than I did this time. So even though I was in better shape back then, I suffered less because of this diet strategy.
PS… my friend is also Keto and her strategy was the same as mine but she took 1 gel per hour(VFuel) and a few coffee drinks (with sugar) during the 33 hours she was out there… Best race of her life in spite of the horrid conditions. Guess this supports the ‘train low run medium’ approach. n=2.
With all this water I’m drinking now that I’m in keto I do hourly races to the bathroom every day. Does that count?
What an amazing experience. I am in awe of you and your friend!! I am really interested in your experience in the train low run medium thing. Do you think this is still valid for shorter races (let’s say the 10k to HM) or is this only valid for ultras?
Very many congrats on your efforts. Amazing!
Thank you Alec. For shorter races, I think the strategy would be a bit different. You’ll have to experiment with what works best for your body. But if I were trying to do my very best in a 10k, I personally would eat some liver, eggs, and probably 50g of sweet potato the night before. Then race morning I wouldn’t eat a thing. I think eating anything would hurt me more than help. If you are super fat adapted, then your glycogen levels will be half-topped off when you wake up just from fat. Even without the sweet potato. But I only mention adding that if you are doing an all out, going for a PR type of situation. Just a normal fun run 10k you should be fine. If you are worried, just have a single gel with you in case you need it. It my help more psychologically than anything but I like to have various forms of insurance ‘just in casel’. When i mention using these carbs like sweet potatoes, I in no way think we should be doing that often. In fact I would never do it while training. I like to push my body to burn ketones as much as possible. It’s race-day I’m talking about. The once in 1-3 months sort of situation.
I personally think I am going to start trying to get faster at shorter races (shorter than 100 miles) before attempting another 100. So as I start doing more 10k to 50m Ill post if I notice anything else with those experiences.
I forgot to mention that I did have a bite of sweet potato during my race as well. Just one bite at an aide station. It tasted awesome and didn’t seem to hurt me at all. I was hoping for a bit of potassium from it.
I second @Alecmcq question. I’m doing a half marathon in August. I’m thinking of just packing some macadamia nuts in case I need it. I don’t think I’ll need more for that distance, but I’d like to know at what points you refuled.
Hi LeeAnn. My experience with Macadamia nuts were more about quelling hunger than giving me a feeling of getting fuel for the run. I love them but I think they do take a bit of energy to digest so I personally look at it like that. If you feel hungry and depleted then eat a few to solve that problem. If you feel you just don’t have any energy after you have ran for an hour or so, try some dried apricots or a single bite of sweet potato. Or like 5 or 10 peanuts. I would try all of this during training though and keep a diary of how you feel. Even what you ate the night before and at what time. It is all related.
I do like the idea of doing my training runs on no food at all to see how far I can go. Even when you feel the first hunger pains or weakness(during training), try watching that feeling and see how long it lasts. Sometimes, it is gone within 3-4 min. If it goes away then comes back in 15 min, I know I probably do need something. so try one of those foods at that point to see what works and what doesn’t.
Based on my experience in this race, I don’t think I’ll ever try adding gummy bears or sugar again. I’ll stick to trying fruit or real foods when I do feel I need something. But who knows what I’ll do next
I have done this, and I have found I can go long (that’s 2.5hrs for me!) 36hr fasted and no food at all with no dramas at all. I wasn’t racing, and I think that makes a difference. Hence I am thinking of experimenting a bit with some small amount of carbs.
Have you found that any combo works or does not work? It’s interestnig to hear about your more sugary things not working too well. And sweet potato… interesting. I assume cold? I have never done sweet potato cold before, but I think that could work!
yes just bake the sweet potato in skin (or microwave in wet paper towel, then just pull the skin off when you want to take a bite. Just a single bite seemed to be all that I needed. I also experimented by buying some empty popcycle tubes, then using a cake icing decorating gun (like the plastic $4 kind) to inject sweet potato OR avacado with lemon into the unused popcycle tubes. Worked great as well and they don’t leak.
Combos of things that don’t work for me? coconut oil in any form while running. Causes me indigestion. I love it when not running though.
I’ve seen a lot of people try low carb and running and the biggest mistakes I see are
(1) living low carb and also trying to race no carb.
(2) living low carb then eating too many carbs at once while running.
Both can cause problems. If you think about it, a carb burner eats 300 to 500 calories per hour of carb(because they can’t utilize fat) and they get stomach upset. If we can eat a maximum of 100 calories of carb per hour and burn the rest as fat, we can do a lot better!
I do enjoy going out to train and see just how long I can go without eating anything. I must admit it took me 8 weeks on strict keto to really go out and feel like I could run (even slowly) for 2 hours without feeling weak or hungry. But when that happens, you know you have made good progress. I say that to stress not jumping to any conclusions about what works and what doesn’t too soon. And experiment always.
Just a funny story…while training for the 100 miler, I would do a 30 mile run almost every weekend and after stopping for coffee with cream a few times, I realized I felt good for a while after consuming this. So…the next time I stopped and bought a small carton of cream and drank it, thinking it would be my new super fuel. That, mixed with the hot Texas summer humidity, had me walking for the next 15 miles to get home. So sometimes, if a little is good, a lot isn’t better.
I keep thinking of things… One thing I found that didn’t work well was to eat anything at all and then go straight out and run. Either the food caused an insulin response or was taking blood to digest. The only good experience I had with eating before a race was the liver and scrambled eggs with bacon grease then waiting 3.5 hours to run. I find just frying eggs in bacon grease isn’t enough. I need to have some bacon grease on the pan then scramble them so they soak it all up.
Ok I look forward to hearing the experiments you guys do. We are all learning together.
My daughter (4yr) and I do the Angel One 5k (for the local children’s hospital flight for life) This will be our third year doing it. We started because it was a day before her surgery and it was easier to look forward to the race than her surgery. That’s oct12, 2018
Then she has a kids 1mile pumpkin run mid Nov.
Then I start training (in Sept) for my first full marathon. Little Rock Marathon -Mar 5, 2019. I started with the 5k in 2016, 10k in 2017, Half 2018, and full to round out my collection.
Since I stay at home with my daughter, I train all year but only race 2-3 times a year.
Thanks for all of your advice. I’ve been inhaling all the archives.
I’ve been working on getting into keto for a couple of months now. Sometimes i’m in sometimes I’m out. Still learning what boots me out. I’m training for a FM this fall and planning on trying for a PR. I got into some poison Ivy a while back so I’m on Prednisone for that and it is just messing everything up. I have been running fasted for most of my runs with no problems and I don’t get hungry for a while after the runs. My longest runs right now are 11 miles or so. So My question is for a 1/2 Marathon would you think that I would need to eat some carbs or not? And also for a full Marathon would I need carbs, and if so how much would you recommend and how can I practice that?
Outstanding, well done. Hope your training goes well!
You are asking the classic million dollar questions!
The answers are always personal, and you have to work out what works for your body right now. The key question you have to answer is whether you are well fat adapted or not. From what you’ve said, I reckon you are. If so, I would say you should be able to do a HM with no carbs, and rely on previously ingested food and bodyfat.
For a FM, I think the equation is different. You could try going no carb, but if I was lining up a FM in the near future I think I would be planning to train low carb, and race medium carb, meaning I would take some carbs in during the race itself. I think it is important to test this in training, and you could use your long runs to figure out what carbs are ok for you and which aren’t.
An alternative strategy would be to stick to fats, but make sure you have some fat to eat on the run. I think it would be very important to take in some energy on the run, and not to rely on bodyfat alone.
No particular science to this, just my experience and opinions.
In that I am new to Keto, how would you define well fat adapted? And if I eat carbs when I’m running will I put myself out of ketosis and run out of fuel?
How long have you been doing Keto? It typically takes 6-8 weeks to become fat adapted. That doesn’t mean you can’t run before that or that you should use carbs to fuel your runs. It does mean that there’s a good chance you will see a performance dip for at least a portion of that time if not all of it. If you use carbs to give yourself extra energy running, you will lengthen the overall time it takes to become adapted. My susgestion would be to take your training easy until you have full energy back and don’t go for the carbs.
Most of us prefer to run fasted. For me at least 8-10 hours fasted if I can help it. Even before I was fat adapted, eating anything high in fat too soon before a run would mess up my digestive system while running. It’s a lot different experience than grabbing a banana an hour before a run. I have to plan my run days out in advance to make sure I’m giving myself plenty of time to run on an empty stomach.
There maybe a reason to fuel longer runs, but I’m up to 9 miles and I still don’t feel the need to fuel at all.
Hope this helps.
I agree with the above advice. Train fasted. Then on race day, if you are trying to PR, take 80 to 100 calories per hour of some carb if it makes you run faster. If it doesn’t help , adjust up or down the next hour. Fat is great to satiate hunger but if you are running hard, it will be of little help to provide a lot of energy. Case in point… When I was running a 100 a few years ago, the last half I was eating a whole avacado every hour or two at times. I was going slow enough that it really helped. When I tried the same strategy in a marathon when I was trying to run fast, my stomach hurt so bad I had to stop and walk. So effort level matters too.
As far as which carbs… I’ve had better luck with sweet potato or some fruit when really trying to push hard. I have keto friends who use vfuel drink and gels (80 to 100 cal per hour) but be careful not to take too much. You can still get an insulin response if you do.
how can you tell if you are taking too many carbs when your doing a training run? I am planning on doing a full marathon this fall and I have several long runs scheduled to practice on. So can I check my ketones level as I run while taking carbs to see what it does to my levels? If I do that how low can I let them go before I’ve taken too much?
Honestly, I would do it without carbs. There are many Keto marathoners and at least one ultra that I know of who run without carbing up, and many of them do it fasted. It would depend on how fat adapted you are.