This week sees the release of a shoe that is designed to give you a 4% performance boost . To put that in context for my goal marathon time of 2hours 40 minutes, if I purchased the Nike VapourFlys, I would run over 6 minutes quicker. Surprisingly they are sold out instantly and I don’t expect to be able to get my hands on these bad boys for a few months minimum. I mean c’mon, Nike have designed the holy grail of running shoes, 4% performance boost for no extra effort, you would be mad NOT to buy these running weapons of mass destruction.
Some people may bulk at the price of $350 AUD but I just spent over $3000 on an Elliptigo so I wouldn’t lose too much fitness while injured. (Money well spent by the way, I love my Elliptigo) $350 for 6 minutes off my marathon time, a small price to pay, hell I’d paid 10 times that !
These shoes could put EPO suppliers out of production, why waste money and risk being DQ’d if now, legally, you can find 6 minutes, more if you are slower ! Of course there are rumours they are not IAAF accredited yet but I’m sure your local marathon club will turn a blind eye as long as you don’t show off and break a world record. They even look cool and will probably add a few inches to my height as well. My vertically challenged running buddies Jon and Bart’s will wet themselves when they realise they can be 6foot tall , run faster, look cool and all for $350, is there is a God he just delivered to runners , big time !
So to the title of this post. Are these shoes just cheating wrapped up in a pretty package with a nice swoosh logo on the side. Personally I don’t think so, as long as they are ratified by the athletic governing body. If they aren’t and I am allowed to wear them to my local races, which I think will happen, can I still take the moral high ground? . Hell yes, Triathletes have been doing this for years. I remember when I first did my half iron man in 2001 I completed the whole course in speedos (budgie smugglers as they are known in Oz. ) and my bike was less than $1000. No fancy triathlon bike with aerodynamic everything, silly helmets taking from the Death Star scenes in Star Wars (I mean seriously?) , Zipp wheels costing the same as a small house on the Florida Keys and coaches reinventing the ‘wheel’ so to speak making something that really is quite easy so difficult. (Again is it me or has every triathlete got a coach? Maybe they get confused with all the different events?) So for us runners we finally get the chance to get something for nothing , well not really nothing but in the scale of things $350 for 6 minutes in a marathon is ‘nothing‘.
Shoes are so often overlooked when it comes to getting better times. So many people train in their Asics Kayano’s , a shoe that weights about half the weight of the owner and is built for the mass market who know no better. (Oops , there goes my Asics sponsorship) I have nothing against Kayano’s and have more than 10 pairs in my garage from a by-gone age where I believed the hype that you must change your shoes every 400k and you need as much support as an alcoholic on his first visit to AA with a bottle of Gin in his coat pocket. I, personally, now use shoes with less heal drop and run them to the ground, literally, believing that a show moulds itself to your running style and is good for nearly four figures of distance if looked after. (This is my personal opinion and every runner is different so make your own call.) This is more of the barefoot running school of thought. ( http://www.chrismcdougall.com/born-to-run/ )
You need your training shoe and your racing shoe, there is a reason there is a marked difference and the reason is weight. Your racing show is lighter and, according to physics, will make moving forward easier due to less weight attached to the end of your legs. For me I race in racing flats choosing the Nike LunaRacer (now that was a great shoe!) or the Adidas takumi sen 3 . These shoes are expensive and don’t last as long as everyday trainers but they are a must have when you are chasing PB’s. I reckon these shoes are good for 2-3 minutes over a marathon compared to heavier alternatives. Of course the market for every race shoe is now completely destroyed and if I had shares in any shoe company advertising racing flats I would sell very quickly, they are now dinosaurs.
On the bright side I hear Adidas is throwing its hat in the ring and organising its own sub2hour attempt and I’m sure they won’t be wearing the Nike VapourFly 4%, I’m hoping it will be the Adidas <insert silly name> 5% (or more) which will mean I will be able to go even faster. If this keeps up in the near future I will finish before I start and that will be a sad day because the need for training will be obsolete, all us ‘runners‘ will need to do is put on the latest Nike <insert silly name> and be teleported to the finish in the wink of an eye. Maybe, as with most things, the future is not as bright as I first thought. I miss the world before the internet, mobile phones, TV’s the size of a wall and social media but will I miss the world without the Nike VapourFly 4%, I’ll let you know once I get my grubby paws on a pair!!!!
Lately I have been looking at new diets and training regimes while all the time ignoring my Stella 2016 season where I ran so many PB’s and achieved times I thought beyond me. Since my injury I have been mulling over all different types of training programs aimed at the older runner because I assumed what I was doing was wrong. Was my calf injury caused by over training or just old age catching up with me? Either way I needed to change the way I trained as old age wasn’t going away anytime soon and over training was a definite possibility.
Initially I turned to Joe Friel and read ‘Fast after Fifty”. ( http://joefriel.typepad.com/blog/ ) as the title resonated with me after turning 50 myself in February this year. His points was then mimicked by the book I’m currently reading written by Mark Sisson, ( http://www.marksdailyapple.com/blog/ ) another triathlete over 50 who has changed his diet and training due to the onset of father time. His book Primal Endurance is a virtual carbon copy of what Joe is preaching. Add in Phil Maffetone ( https://philmaffetone.com/ ) and it seems everything I’m doing, and have been doing, is wrong. All three of these authors are advocating the same high fat, low carb diet (HFLC) and also a cross-fit type exercise regime which , apparently, is better suited to the older athlete. Even Tim Noakes has changed his tune and moved to the HFLC diet. He is determined to take on type 2 Diabetes which he puts down to the carb rich diet we have been recommend and encouraged to eat , and have been for the last 50 years. ( https://www.thenoakesfoundation.org/ ) . Noakes feels so strongly he had been taken to court , where we won, and also set up his foundation. This from the running god and author of the running bible “The Lore of Running”. All four of these guys cannot be wrong surely. Years and years of experience at the highest level combined with the best authorities on the subject all coming to the same conclusion.
I get what the guys are saying but in the back of my mind is always my 2016 session where I basically started to run twice a day , every day, albeit normally at a lot slower pace. I also raced nearly every other weekend so regularly put myself in the anaerobic zone. My diet was the stereotypical runners diet, very carb focused with smatterings of pancakes and muffins. This worked and produced great results at 49, better than I had ever achieved. So what I was doing was all wrong according to the HFLC diet advocates but it worked. In my corner is most of the running world but the same could be said of all the “the earth is flat” believers from the Middle Ages. sometime the Status Quo is wrong. Is this the case with the HFLC diet ?
Taking this one step further will we look back in 10-20 years and ask how we could possibly eat junk food as part of the average persons daily food intake ? Will McDonalds be akin to smoking in the seventies, once embraced and then when the truth came to light vilified ? Are a runners best friend , carbohydrates, the scourge of the performance enhancement and holding us back by providing poor fuel and adding weight to our running frames for no return. It gets worse of course with the next inline in the HFLC most wanted radar, sugar. Of course sugar offers little or no nutritional benefit but boy it can taste good, especially when disguised as a Yelo muffin or Clancy’s pancake. This is of course the ‘fly in the ointment’, the ‘elephant in the room’, giving up carbs and sugar is not just against everything we have been taught over the years , it goes against our taste buds. Who really can honestly say they don’t like a good donut or three ? Dark Chocolate Digestives, brownies, ice cream , the list is a long one and all are justified with the old adage ‘I’ve just ran xxx, I’ve earned this‘.
This will be the last post on nutrition for a while because truth be told I haven’t really answered the question of what diet to follow. I have said this before many times, ‘just eat good food’, be it carbohydrates or a diet rich in fat and no sugar. What works for you works for you. I feel the most important part is you need to be happy with what you are doing and achieving the goals and targets you set yourself. If you’re ticking all the boxes what does it matter if you enjoy the odd ‘treat‘ , you only live once (I’m assuming?) so you need to be happy. The only caveat of course is you also need to be healthy so don’t take this post as an excuse to drive to your nearest deli and order 24 donuts. Short term you may be happy ( after you recover from the sugar high headache!) but long term your health may suffer. With all the good will in the world people you still need a balanced diet if you want to be a successful and happy runner, and this is always the end goal.
The comeback from injury is a slow process where you need to nurse the injury while also being mindful of an impending marathon in less than 7 weeks. Of course some people would question entering a marathon while recovering from a calf tear but I ain’t ‘some people’ and the City to Surf is important to me as I have ran every one since the inaugural running in 2009. I have mentioned before that being at the start of a major marathon is the holy grail of marathon runners, a once in a lifetime experience and one not to be taken lightly. Currently for the Perth City to Surf there are 26 runners who have ran all previous 8 iterations and each year we all wonder how many will fail to turn up or finish. I’m assuming all 26 now know they are part of a select group and will do everything in their powers to stay within the fold. There’s no rejoining this group, once you’re out you are out for good. For the City to Surf there is a list of 40 finishers who have finished any 7 of the 8 marathons, but really 7 out of 8, c’mon , if you ain’t one of the 26 who have ran all 8 you might as well not have ran any, sorry but that is just the way it is.
This is why I entered the City to Surf the moment I could run (hobble) 4k and after a second scan only showed a small calf tear. This was all the incentive I needed to sign up. Luckily I have had a good recovery so far and managed to rack up some reasonable weekly totals while nursing the calf.
Of course these weekly figures pale into insignificance to previous totals pre-calf tear. I have attached an extract from Strava for January this year which highlights some serious running totals and all this in a Perth summer. (Note: if it isn’t on www.strava.com if never happened !) The pierce de resistance in the extract below is my one and only ever 200k week. No real point for the total but with runners it’s all about numbers, be it weekly totals, pace, racing time etc. etc. so to make 200k in a week was a rite of passage I suppose. Certainly got some kudos in Strava, the facebook of running, another important reason for the 200k total. This is a similar story to the City to Surf list of runners who have run all 8 City to Surf marathons, run 7 and it means nothing. Running 199k in a week is impressive but 200k is a whole different ballpark. Is 200k a week sustainable ? Not for me. The pressures of juggling family, work and running is thwart with danger . I read somewhere you can do two things well but not three. I’ll leave you to work out which one suffers normally. (A clue here, it aint’ running or the family (well not too much) ) Even for a professional running 200k a week will normally end up with parts of your body breaking or even tearing ( like maybe a 5cm right calf tear?)
Is injury inevitable with large mileage? Tough one to answer, there are so many variables when it comes to injury. Some people may have the weirdest running styles and a junk food based diet but seem to run forever without injury, while others take care of themselves and tick all the boxes when it comes to recovery, hydration and nutrition but spend half their time on a physio’s bed. Personally looking back at my calf tear there were many reasons for the eventual injury and I reckon I had many opportunities to avoid injury, all were ignored.
Have I learned my lesson moving forward? I think so, bar running a marathon 8 weeks after the second calf tear is diagnosed? I have been running on grass as much as possible and keeping my heart rate under 135bpm average, this has restricted me to less than 5min/k average pace which obviously reduces the load on the calf. The next big challenge of course is to not only finish the City to Surf marathon but to finish it quicker than 3 hours to maintain my 25 in a row sub3 finish streak. Maintaining streaks is as big as entering inaugural marathons, a runners ‘precious‘ that must be nurtured , loved and never relinquished. This will be a challenge as I just mentioned I am nurturing my injury which means nothing faster than 5min/k pace. I need to eventually be able to run 42 km at an average pace of less than 4min15secs. / k in 6 weeks. Nobody said it was going to be easy.
For the moment it feels great just to be running again, albeit slowly and on grass but with the help of the Elliptigo ( http://www.elliptigo.com) for some good ‘second sessions’ commuting to work and general cardio recovery I hope to be able to cross the City to Surf Finish line for marathon finish number 9 with a time starting with a two. Greedy perhaps to put a time on a marathon I’ll be lucky to get to the start line, probably, but another thing us runners do so well is optimism and I have it in spades.
After the obligatory long run on Sunday me and the posse sat down at Clancy’s Café in sunny City Beach to mull over the weekly events. Due to a suicidal café manager they have stopped serving the best pancakes in Perth and instead offer waffles. This has not gone down well with the boys but needless to say we all ordered the waffles anyhow, after a slight protest which was of course ignored. ( In Perth the customer is always wrong apparently. ?) As we all wolfed down our coffee’s imagine our surprise when the waiter came over with a quiche for the table. There was much laughter among the lads at the thought of one of the boys eating quiche but then Jon put up his hand and took the offending article from the waiters grasp. After a period of stunned silence the banter began in earnest. It started with the obvious comments about Quiche being invented by women so they could enjoy bacon and eggs and not feel guilty, where as there is nothing a man enjoys more than a bacon and egg sandwich smeared all over this face. We then moved into the old Wife’s tales about Quiche affecting a mans sexuality. True to his ‘Banting diet’ regime Jon even ate the quiche but left the pastry, as I tucked into my waffle I wondered if Jon was enjoying his quiche as much as I was certainly enjoying my waffles, with extra maple syrup.
After my post earlier in the week regarding diet, and Jon ordering quiche, the conversation again turned to weight, diet and running performance. The table agreed as a whole that the most important thing is to get to your racing weight and how you get there isn’t important as such. If Jon wanted to eat quiche and test his masculinity then that was his choice. The rest of us ‘real men’ chowed down on our waffles confident our sexuality was not being compromised. Of course the quiche was probably helping Jon’s cause where as you would be hard justified to argue the case for waffles (with extra maple syrup) and weight loss to be perfect partners. I made a conscience effort to put in an extra hour on the Elliptigo in the afternoon to counter the waffles , a small price to pay me thinks.
I have attached the 10 golden rules of Banting below but, of course, have issues with a few of these. The first four are , at a push, do-able but the problem starts at number 5. Imagine skipping a meal, it just seems to alien to me (and all runners really. ). As runners we are normally always hungry as we exercise , the old adage calories out, calories in. The more calories we lose the more we need to refill, common sense surely ? Thus skipping meals is something that never happens. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is a bare minimum. This lead me to number 6, to quote John McEnroe ‘You cannot be serious!’….No snacking ! Runners love to snack as we’re always hungry and truth be told we enjoy snacking.
Unfortunately things now take a big turn for the worst as we look at rule number 7. No sugar, which means no sugar I assume, I had to reread it a few times to make sure I wasn’t missing something? Oh dear, Mr. Banting just lost about 90% of the population with this ‘bad boy’ rule. No sugar means no waffles, muffins, pancakes, do I need to go on ? This for me is a show stopper but we’ll continue on, rule 8 is another hard one to stomach (excuse the pun) as they’re taking out bread, pancakes, waffles again. (Banting really wasn’t a pancake fan was he?) Rule 9 is another tough one because there goes banana’s, our staple go to food after most runs. Banting does redeem himself with rule 10 as eggs are a runners friends but in the Banting diet they become your number one food source. This must have serious consequences for the people around you on a daily basis as eggs can certainly cause some unpleasant smells to be offered to the world, if you know what I mean. (I’m sure Quiche does not have this unpleasant side affect and any aroma would smell of ‘elderberry’s’ ?)
So that about sums it up for me. It ain’t going to happen. I’ll get to my racing weight with extra hard work and it’s a price I’m willing to pay. So as Jon sits at home eating his quiche reading ‘Good Housekeeping Monthly’ I’ll be out on the pavement putting in the extra hard yards needed to justify the pancakes, waffles and ‘all things nice’ I’m about to devour and I wouldn’t have it any other way……
10 golden rules of Banting
1. Remember: this is not a high protein diet. It’s a high fat, medium protein, low carb way of eating
2. Choose real foods that look like what they are, and cook them from scratch
3. Fat is not the enemy. Enjoy it!
4. Eat only when you are hungry; eat until you are satisfied – then stop
5. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. You won’t die if you occasionally skip a meal you don’t feel like eating.
6. Stop snacking. You won’t need to – it’s just a habit.
8. No grains of any kind
9. No (or very, very little) fruit. Think of it as a sweet rather than a health snack.
10. Embrace eggs. They’re healthy, satisfying and very good for you.
So to sum up this post there are diets out there for all people but to me a diet should be defined as a ‘temporary’ change of eating habits that is long term unsustainable. I see it so many times at work where people go on the ‘liteneasy’ diet where the food is delivered to them daily and costs a kings ransom. They do lose weight but look miserable every time lunchtime comes around as I tuck into my smorgasbord of meat, rice and pudding (runners love pudding!) while they are faced with something that looks like it was prepared for a small child who has an allergy for anything that tasted good and loves tuna. Eventually they come off the diet and the weight returns like an old friend as they sneak to the comfort foods that made them smile and they enjoyed eating. This of course is the fundamental flaw in diets, you are changing peoples eating habits by giving them food they don’t really enjoy eating or quantities that are not satisfying. What a diet should do is couple the diet changes with a change in attitude towards nutrition. Once you enjoy eating the food offered it is no longer a diet but a lifestyle change, which is sustainable.
It looks like Jon has embraced quiche and thus he is enjoying the Banting diet and does not see it now as a constraining factor in his daily diet choice. Thus he is at or near his racing weight and running the best I have seen him run in many years. This is a double positive, a new diet that he is enjoying and a performance spike. Of course this is the sacrifice Jon is prepared to make but now he is at his racing weight he can control his urges and maybe treat himself to a ‘macho‘ waffle and maple syrup in the near future. Maybe next week there’ll be more than one quiche making its way our table, we’ll see.
What William Banting did in the late 1800’s was basically describe a High Fat , Low Carb (HFLC) diet. My friend Jon had taken on this diet and lost a considerable amount of weight and also improved his running, breaking sub3 for the first time in years in the recent Bunbury marathon. Truth be told I think a large portion of Jon’s weight loss was his ability to walk past the fridge in the evenings rather than scavenge like a starving hyena , which is the normal runners actions late in the evening, searching for one final sugar hit. The only fly in the ointment is the guru of all things running and he who must be obeyed, Matt Fitzgerald, is not a HFLC fan. I have attached an article written by Erin Beresini quoting Fitzgerald and his views.
I think the best thing is to research the subject yourself and decide whether a HFLC diet is for you. To really gain the full benefit of this diet you’d also need to train aerobically (a posh word for slow!) for a few months to teach your body to burn fat. I personally reckon you’d have no choice but to train aerobically while starting this diet as you’d be without a runners best friend, Mr. Carbohydrates and his side kick sugar.
I’m curious myself to try out the HFLC diet but it would mean me forgoing my Yelo muffin ( http://www.yelocornerstore.com.au/ ) and coffee and personally I’m not ready to give these up, even if I can improve my performance and even general health. We’re on this planet only once and we give up so much for our running I refuse to lose one of the few pleasure in my life. Myself I’m a believer in putting in massive weekly distance , without worrying too much about pace, eating as healthy as possible with the odd ‘treat’ and enjoying my running without a regimented training programs that must be adhered to. I run because I love running and I eat because I also love eating, restricting myself with a ‘diet’ (because that it basically what you are doing) does not sit well with me. It’s hard enough finding enough time in the day to run while juggling family, work, puppies, Elliptigo time sleep and other ‘stuff’; adding in food as well just becomes too hard. !
Do I believe a HFLC diet will work and do what it says, yep I do; will I change, no. Sorry people but this runner is sticking with the Status Quo and to quote my Dietitian professional running friend David Bryant when I questioned him on this subject he responded ‘Just eat good food’. ( I took ‘good food’ to mean pancakes, muffins (from Yelo) etc..?)
Currently in my running group there is a split on the HFLC diet. Jon has embraced the diet and shut the fridge door while Mark C. has gone down the Matt Fitzgerald path and gorged on carbohydrates and sugar. Both are currently enjoying success with their chosen paths but I suspect Mark C. is enjoying himself a lot more. We’ll see this Sunday when Mark will chow down on waffles while Jon will lose himself in his scramble eggs, I know which one I’ll be ordering.
So digest (excuse the pun) the two articles below and then scurry off and research away, as with all things in the 21st Century it’s all on Google…..
William Banting was a British undertaker who was very obese and desperately wanted to lose weight. In the year 1862 he paid a visit to his doctor, William Harvey, who proposed a radical eating plan that was high in fat but included very few carbohydrates. By following this eating plan Banting experienced such remarkable weight loss that he wrote an open letter to the public, the “Letter on Corpulence”, which became widely distributed. As more people started following this eating plan to lose weight, the term “banting” or to “bant” became popularized.
Banting merely discovered what human beings were designed to eat: what early humans ate 200,000 years ago. Respected biologists, geneticists, paleoanthropologists and theorists believe that human genes have hardly changed since human beings began their journey on earth. If you could put the entire human history into one day, we have only been eating cereals and grains for five minutes and sugar for five seconds, a very short amount of time in our existence. After the success experienced by William Banting on this low-carb, high-fat eating plan, the “banting” diet became the standard treatment for weight loss in all major European and North American medical schools. But in 1959 it was excluded from all the major medical and nutritional textbooks.
In 1977 the US government published the Dietary Goals for the United States, a set of guidelines that advocated a diet high in carbs and low in fat, exactly the opposite of the diet we have been following for much of our existence. It was decreed that we should eat six to eleven portions of grains per day and that sugar was absolutely fine to add to everything. This diet was subsequently adopted across most of the Western world and a plethora of low fat-food products hit the shelves. This has had a disastrous effect on our health. Since the early 1980’s the incidence of obesity and diabetes has risen rapidly. Can we really call this a coincidence?
There is a common misconception that eating fat, especially saturated fat, is bad for you and that it is a primary cause of high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. This is simply not true and was based on a flawed study by Ancel Keys in 1953. The truth is that a diet high in carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates and sugar are the cause of obesity, diabetes as well as other chronic illnesses. Vegetable (seed) oils and their derivatives such as margarine are also a contributing factor to heart disease, although manufacturers tell us the exact opposite.
This might come as a surprise, but of the three macronutrients in our diet (protein, fat and carbohydrates), only carbohydrates are non-essential for human life. We cannot function properly for more than a few days without eating fat; without an adequate protein intake we develop protein-calorie malnutrition within a few months. But avoiding carbohydrate has no short- or long-term effects on humans, other than the (usually beneficial) effect of weight loss, especially in those who are the most overweight. While we need a constant supply of glucose, it can be produced by the liver from fat and protein and doesn’t need to be ingested as carbohydrate in our diets.
The usual refrain of anyone looking at banting for the first time is “but what about my cholesterol?” There is much evidence to support the fact that cholesterol is not the culprit in heart disease. A bit like a policeman being at the scene of the crime being blamed for the crime – cholesterol will only adhere to a ‘leaking’ artery wall which is damaged by inflammation – to protect you. By living on carbs and sugar those arteries remain inflamed. Sugar is the most inflammatory thing you can put into your mouth, and will continue to rob you of perfect health. Grains are turned into sugar by the body. So a high carbohydrate diet will always foster inflammation in the body, not only in the arteries but the brain, liver, digestive tract and joints leading to many of the chronic diseases we see today which are supposedly ‘incurable’. Many people report relief from all the above in a relatively short time after adopting the Banting lifestyle.
Below is the article quoting Matt Fitzgerald, who is the running guru. Matt is not a fan of the HFLC diet but Tim Noakes is a big advocate , and as we all now Tim Noakes was the original running guru. Maffetone is also a big fan of the HFLC diet and training at an aerobic pace restricting your pace by heart rate. ( https://philmaffetone.com/ )
Before Dr. Robert Atkins launched his low-carb diet in 1972, there was Banting, the fat British undertaker who designed coffins for England’s elite in the 1800s. According to Men’s Health, the guy needed to drop a few kilos, so his doc put him on a high-fat-low-carb (HFLC) diet and, presto change-o, he lived to 82 and was buried in a skinny man’s coffin.
It may seem silly to talk about Banting now, but he’s back from the dead, courtesy of a controversial sports scientist who has been vehemently championing the Brit’s diet for the past few years. Professor Tim Noakes, from the Sports Science Institute of South Africa at the University of Cape Town, even published a book of Banting recipes that sold out not long after hitting shelves earlier this year. There’s just one problem with the diet: It’ll make you slower.
Matt Fitzgerald, author of the new book Diet Cults, has some sobering words for athletes who try to train on fat. “Decades of research indicate that high-carb diets are optimal for endurance and that ingesting carbohydrates during endurance exercise enhances endurance,” Fitzgerald says.
Sports nutrition scientist and European Journal of Sport Science editor in chief Asker Jeukendrup, for example, recently published a paper outlining carb needs during exercise to enhance endurance, suggesting athletes take in small amounts of carbs during training sessions lasting an hour, 60 grams of carbs per hour for exercise lasting two to three hours, and 90 grams per hour for exercise lasting longer than that—regardless of body weight or training status.
Noakes’ diet, on the other hand, advocates eating as little as 25 to 50 grams of carbs per day. While upping your healthy fat intake to around 40 percent of your total daily calories is fine, Noakes promotes a diet that’s 80 percent fat and only 10 percent carbs. Most endurance athletes, Fitzgerald says, should not be cutting carbs.
It’s not just science that shows carbs make athletes better. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence as well. Eating carbs “is almost a universal practice among the world’s best endurance athletes,” Fitzgerald says. “The typical Kenyan diet is 78 percent carbs, and they destroy the rest of the world in distance running.”
Clearly, there’s a lot going on behind Kenyan running prowess, but the carbs can’t be discounted. “If you care about your performance as an endurance athlete, the safe way to go is a high-carb diet,” Fitzgerald says. “If you go on the high-fat bandwagon, it’s a crapshoot.”
Proponents of HFLC claim the Banting diet is the key to weight loss and improved health and encourages the body to burn fat for fuel. But studies comparing HFLC to nonrestrictive diets found that, over time, people lost no more weight “banting” than they did otherwise. Celeste Naude, a researcher from the Center for Evidence-Based Health Care at Stellenbosch University, told the Mail and Guardian that “the dietary pattern and food choices promoted with a low-carbohydrate/high-fat diet are not well aligned with healthy dietary patterns and food choices known to, along with a healthy lifestyle, reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancers.”
Why the fervor? Fitzgerald says the desire to follow a restrictive diet is fulfilling mental, rather than physical, needs. He calls the phenomenon “sour grapes syndrome,” after Aesop’s fable about the fox who couldn’t reach some hanging grapes. Rather than admit he couldn’t jump high enough to get them, the fox decided they must be sour anyway. As Fitzgerald writes on his website, the victims of sour grapes syndrome:
…are endurance athletes who cannot cope psychologically with being slower than they would like to be and who resolve this cognitive dissonance by replacing the goal of doing their sport well with that of doing it “right.” The syndrome is being spread by various movements that promote alternative methods that are contrary to those practiced by the most successful athlete … By latching onto [HFLC], athletes can claim a kind of victory over superior competitors.
At some point, Fitzgerald writes, when a movement grows large enough, “it begins to win converts among athletes who are not, in fact, wracked with jealousy of faster athletes but who simply don’t know any better.” To enlighten those athletes, he cites a study recently published in the journal Nutrients in which researchers compared HFLC athletes with those eating a balanced diet. While HFLC made athletes leaner, it also caused them to lose power due to “impairment of the muscles’ ability to burn carbs.”
The athletes had, essentially, trained their bodies to use fat for fuel and decrease reliance on carbs. The result, Fitzgerald writes, is a reduced tolerance for high-intensity training and impaired “performance in all races except perhaps ultra-endurance events such as 100 km trail runs.” If you want to go fast, your body needs carbs for fuel. Training on a Banting diet makes your body less efficient at doing so, ultimately hobbling most athletes on race day.
The next time you’re thinking about cutting carbs, check your motives. If you’re doing it to look lean or run 62 miles or more at once, HFLC may work for you. But if you want to perform optimally at nearly any other endeavor, don’t ditch your bagels.
Today registrations opened for one of the best trail ultras in WA, the 6 inch ultra marathon. http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com
The event was started by Dave Kennedy 13 years ago as a fat-ass (free entry with no volunteers) and has morphed into this powerhouse of an ultra that sells out in days and is the highlight of the ultra racing calendar. It offers everything a good ultra should and then a bit extra for good measure. Dave explains the thinking behind the ultra below.
Six Inch Trail Marathon is inspired by the famous Six Foot Track Marathon in the Blue Mountains near Sydney.Returning from New Zealand in January 2005 I bemoaned the lack of trail races in Western Australia. I wanted to move to the land of the long white cloud but family and circumstances warranted at least another year in WA. One evening I headed out to run a gravel road signposted “Goldmine Hill”. What followed was a soaking wet 15K with the highlight being running into the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike trail. The Munda Biddi was built to keep cyclists off the 964K Bibbulmun walking track. The first 335K section from Mundaring in the Perth hills to Collie was completed in 2004. I had seen some road crossing signs during the construction and was keen to one day experience the track either by bike or foot. Finding the track so close to my house in Mandurah had me pondering a race in the near future. On my return from New Zealand I had been discussing a possible trail race on a local runner’s message board. I bought the map and found that this town to town section was about 44K. Six Foot which I had dreamed of running for years sprang to mind. “We could have our own version”. I had ridden between the 2 towns, North Dandalup and Dwellingup, and the road was super hilly. I was a little disappointed by the lack of hills when I ran the trail but some less masochistic runners didn’t agree with me. The result is a 46K trail race starting at the foot of Goldmine Hill 1K from North Dandalup and finishing in Dwellingup. This run is designed to be tough but most marathoners can expect to finish within an hour or 2 of their best marathon time
He wasn’t joking about adding an hour or two to your marathon time. I raced it 9 times and my best is a 55 minute marathon delta. That is due to many ‘trail’ challenges including hills (and lots of them), single track trail where you have to watch every step, navigation challenges (I wear two Garmin’s for the race , one with the course plugged in and I still get lost?) , did I mention the hills ? and also just the whole ‘trail running’ thing where you can’t really judge pace as the lay of the land dictates how fast or slow you can run. With the 6 inch you can never get into a road marathon type rhythm where you can concentrate on average pace and enjoy the scenery and the journey. A trail marathon will kick you in the backside the moment you let down your guard and start too drift off, add in ‘pea-gravel‘ ,which is God’s way of teaching ultra runners how to fall over , and unless you bring your end game you are going to end up covered in ‘claret‘. Actually this seems to be the in-thing for the 6 inch finisher, some sort of wound weeping claret, if you don’t have one you are ostracised and scorned !
I’ve done several posts on there 6 inch so search the archives to read about last years run and other general comments. You’ll see I’m a big fan and typing this post now am getting excited of the prospect of lining up again at 4:30am faced with Gold Mine Hill and what is to come. The BK running posse has already entered and it promises to be another Stella event with Jon getting his red spike this year, although there is some conjecture over a possible disqualification pending over the use of (potentially) helium filled arm bands he wore in 2014. Bart’s is conducting an enquiry into this heinous crime (if proved) and his red spike (you get a red spike for completing 6 events) could be in jeopardy. It probably doesn’t bode well for Jon as last year Bart’s got his red spike despite getting an official DQ asterix against name for getting lost one year. Jon, being the owner of the official spreadsheet, was not happy with Bart’s receiving his red spike a year early, in his view. This could turn nasty for all concerned.
Truth be told the reason Jon is wearing the arm bands was the previous year he found the only puddle on the whole course, in WA it doesn’t rain for months, and then proceeded to through himself into it , get up and slip into again. Of course he was left to struggle alone as is tradition in these events and stumbled to the finish line a long way back, covered in mud. The following year he was made to wear a climbers rope as he fell into the deep ruts up the ‘escalator hill‘ and Bart’s had to jump over him while he again struggled to find his feet.
This is why I love this race, so many happy memories and that is why we keep going back year in year out to these events to add to the memory banks of ‘great times spent with great people, racing great events’, and of course documenting Jon and all his adventures.