Keto update week 4: same old, actually!

Four weeks in…. how do I feel? This morning I could have turned a corner, I had an awesome run. If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said: hard to say – actually the same as what I have the last couple of weeks really. My sleep has been better than ever, other than a couple of nights but I put that down to life events and not diet related. Interestingly, I feel that I’ve started letting myself relax more in some instances. For example, I will come to the end of the day and typically I’m doing client or AUT related work in the evening. However I’ve been better at being disciplined about just going to bed and not thinking that I must finish X, Y, Z before doing so. I don’t necessarily think this has been as a result of the change in eating directly. But I do think that when you’re forced to step out of normal routines and reflect on them, it is hard to isolate it to just one area. And it’s fair to say I’ve been doing a bit of reflection lately on a lot of things. Perhaps that is just a product of that.

My day to day energy has been up and down, but again, I think it’s just that I’ve got a lot going on and it’s the impact of feeling stretched in many different directions. My training has been interesting. I’ve noticed that I seem to feel awesome up until about an hour, therefore probably push it a bit on that hour, then I seem to all of a sudden die. I’m still only doing long runs of up to 90-95 minutes, with a lot of my sessions being 60 minutes or less. That’s a bit of a change too actually. Being an endurance girl, it’s hard to take a step back from that – and 15 years of being hardwired in thinking that ‘the longer the better’ particularly where both fitness and body weight is concerned, this could be the toughest nut of all to crack. It’s right up there with the ‘fat makes you fat’ thinking. And this n=1 experiment is certainly teaching me how absolutely wrong that last statement is. I will always train – my head requires it more than my body does and actually my head often does my body a disservice because of it. But the physical effects of this diet necessitates me to reduce the amount of time spent training. That, combined with other commitments, has meant that I’ve had to be okay with not doing as much. Surprisingly, this hasn’t been as difficult as I imagined.

What is my general diet over this ketogenic experiment?

Breakfast is a mix between a chia/coconut cream/cream pudding with a small piece of fruit (like feijoa), or it’s been eggs (mix of scrambled, omelette – ditching the whites, poached) with added avocado, cheese, some greens. The rhubarb crumble with cream has been a favourite.

Lunch has been salad greens, leftover meat with dressing, nuts, some cheese – watching my protein component carefully, and the overall volume of salad is a lot smaller than it would normally.

Dinner has been a mix of vegetables that have been roasted (i.e. swede chips), mashed (cauliflower), creamed (spinach with creme fraiche), and meat. I was staying with my Dad this week in Dunedin and he loved that I added cream and balsamic vinegar to the mushrooms and bacon we had at dinner. Not a ‘Mikki’ thing to do.

I’ve been snacking on macadamia nuts and cheese, adding cream to coffee. I thought I would be fancy and order a vienna, but I had to explain to a café what a ‘vienna’ coffee was.. FYI, a vienna is whipped cream and cinnamon. However, I suspect that ordering a vienna is akin to ordering a ‘cappuccino’ (i.e. not the choice of serious coffee drinkers) after getting mocked by my friend Ash. My friend Chris put me on to this sugar-free Well Naturally chocolate which I have to say is delicious. I’ve actually avoided products like this for the better part of 18 months, and am not sure why I feel the need for it now. But I do.

So that’s me in a nutshell. I am waiting for the feeling of amazing energy; that has yet to happen despite my ketones being around 1 mmol/L every time I’ve measured them, bar twice, after being hungry and eating too much twice in the evening. I suspect that it’s easy to go out of ketosis in that instance, and have read Peter Attia saying the same thing. On those days I recognised that teaching across two campuses on opposite sides of the city, combined with seeing clients, left me little time to prepare, and I suffered for it. I am measuring these less, though, as I become more confident in my choices to ensure a ketotic state (and more mindful of just how expensive those ketone strips are).

My friend Bee is also undertaking the ketogenic experiment. Bee is an amazing athlete who has seen considerable success in Ironman over the last few years, taking some time out right now to focus on her career. Out of the five friends that I hit up, she was the one that dived in boots and all. I asked her a few questions three weeks into it to see how she was feeling.

1.      I know I asked you to do this (keto) but what made you give it a go?

Firstly, I’ve been following the inspiring Bevan McKinnon’s Fatman Ironman campaign over the last couple of years (beginning with the disaster that occurred last year, to the turnaround performance at Ironman New Zealand 2014), and reading his blog on Fitter Facebook page sparked some interest. It makes sense to me, and I want to feel like that when I race again!

And I’m curious. I am a carb burner. I have a high carb diet and when training and racing I relied heavily on carbs, sweet yummy triple caffeinated chocolate bomb power gels (from the health food stores of course!). I almost believe I won’t be able to change energy sources and burn fat, it’s too different. So I am keen to see what can happen.

2.      What is a typical day’s food prior to keto?

When the news first started to trickle through that fat was now ‘ok’ I was stoked and I celebrated with the re-introduction of butter, cream and full fat meats into my diet… but I was the typical mainstream observer and didn’t really cut out many carbs or sugar treats, other than switching cereals to pumpkin / root vegetables for breakfast (yes weird), and from sandwiches to wraps for lunch. Dinners were typically meat/fish and vegetables.  I would eat frequent but smaller servings of chocolate and cakes or sweets each day, I have/ or more so I had a seemingly uncontrollable sweet tooth. When I was a kid I used to want to own a lolly shop when I grew up so that I could have endless supplies of sweet goodness.

3.      What is a typical day’s food now on keto?

Lots of good yummy foods. Breakfast is a variation of eggs, coconut cream, cheese and vegetables. I have them as omelettes, scrambled, or using mushroom or avocado instead of toast.

Lunch is a salad with leafy greens and salad vegetables, protein could be smoked salmon or smoked chicken, eggs or just macadamia nuts. All mixed with cheese and garlic infused oil, tahini or aioli.

Dinner meat and vegetables (dependent on carb allowance) and cheese and oils.

I’m loving the food choices and have not been eating any sugar or sweeteners, I haven’t wanted to.

4.      What have been the main challenges to changing to a keto diet? (energy, appetite, sleep, training …)

The diet itself is surprisingly really easy to follow, I’ve been weighing food where possible and while a little annoying, it’s not the end of the world.  When I’m out I just do the best I can with what’s available, I’m not going to take this so far that the diet prevents a meal out.

The biggest challenge has been in my running and I’m finding it pretty annoying. I have slowed down a lot, I’m missing the extra gear I used to have. I can’t keep up with my usual running pals, forcing them to do hill repeats so I can catch them up (good to see them suffer though). On many runs I’ve wanted to throw the towel in and just eat a damned sandwich. But this is just part of the experiment to see if this carb burner can change.

5.      What, if any, benefits have you seen in the three weeks since going keto?

I don’t eat sugar. I don’t think about sugar. I admit I still walk into a café and drool at the sweet goodness of cakes and cronuts, but I don’t finish a meal and think hmmm a bit of chocolate would go down well right now.  If you could only understand what a change this is for me, if I gain anything from this change in diet the shift from sugar is more than enough. Happy days.

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