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The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and Marathon Training

eebee's picture

This post is partly for people out there on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) who want to find out more about getting sufficient and efficient carbs for marathon, or extremely long-distance training and events. This means no sugar, wheat, gluten, grains, corn, or potatoes. I put "marathon" in the title for the benefit of any SCD runners who might stumble across this. Obviously what I'm gearing up for, the 87 mile Athens to Atlanta Roadskate, is three and one third times marathon distance. A Google search didn't turn up anything useful for marathon training and SCD. So I thought I'd put my experience out there for anybody else searching.

Briefly, for those who don't know, the SCD was created by Elaine Gottschall, M Sc.,

http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/elaine/it_all_began_with_a_child.htm

for her young daughter whose health was steadily declining from severe ulcerative colitis, back in the 1950s. Frustrated at doctors' persistent remarks that diet had nothing to do with it, Mrs. Gottschall went back to school to become a biochemist and cell biologist. Somewhere along the way she basically founded this diet, and cured her daughter. Supermom, or what?! This diet has helped alleviate various other digestive disorders such as Crohn's Disease, Celiac's Disease, Diverticulitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Long story short, it's based on how the intestinal tract reacts to different kind of sugars and carbohydrates. I have read testimonies of people who have been on this diet for a year or so, gotten their intestinal tract health back, and been able to return to conventional eating. I have never eaten so much fruit and veg in all my life! So far this diet is working for me.

For those of us who rely heavily on Gatorade, Power Gels, candy, cookies, bagels, Fig Newtons...eliminating these and replacing them with enough assimilable calories whilst training is a huge challenge. But having my belly blow up like the Hindenburg three days after a long training skate just isn't worth the Gatorade any more!!

Jumping straight into my personal caloric needs last weekend whilst skating a hilly course for 3 hrs and 30 minutes, at about 80-90% max heart rate on an 85 Deg F day (bliss), I found that with no real substantial, carbo-loading type breakfast beforehand (not smart), I needed to eat something every 30-40 minutes, starting about 45 minutes into the skate.

Drink:

I switched from plain ice water after 1 hr and 15 minutes, to a grape-juice, water, electrolytes (Elete) and ice cube mix, and the regular 20 oz sports bottle needed to be replenished every 30 minutes. This worked because I was skating 6 mile loops and could get back to my car every 30 minutes or so. However, for A2A, which is point A to point Z, I will need to be wearing a McMansion of a Camelbak, laden to the brim with food and ice/juice/water, or will have to throw a back-up Camelbak into one of the check point tubs at the start line, to be retrieved at mile whatever. 

  

Food:

@0 mins: Banana

@45 mins: Honey, raisins

@75 mins: Honey, raisins

@120 mins: Banana

@160 mins: 1 slab home-made banana-nut 'bread'

Actually, looking back on that, it's not near enough food. No wonder I was bonking. I have not yet tried the honey stingers, and I'm looking forward to testing those out, since squeezing the honey out of the big plastic bottle got me some funny looks, especially when it splotched out onto my face one time.

Cantaloupe works well as it doesn't go squidgy like other fruit, but it is bulky to carry and takes up alot of space for not many calories.

A big difference between my SCD sports nutrition, and the BTT (Before Tummy Trouble) sports nutrition, is that after I eat the fruit or raisins and start skating again, my body goes "What the heck was that? I thought you fed me! I can't use this stuff! Gimme something I can use for heaven's sake", and I'm starving/bonking again pretty quickly. So this needs some serious tweaking before attempting the 87 mile A2A. The longer I'm out on the course, the bigger risk I run of hitting a serious wall.

I'll be researching the most carbohydrate-dense foods I can take on a training skate, and will post findings later. If there is anybody out there on the SCD, trying to train for a mega-distance event in their sport of choice, please please please sign up and let me know what you've learned!

Comments

Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Olympic-Distance Triathlons, Bonking

Dear Eebee,

I ran across your post on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and Marathons from a year ago this afternoon and I wanted to get in touch with you. I have recently developed painful symptoms and my sister who has Crohn's disease is on SCD and she suggested the diet. I started a week before my last Olympic length triathlon of the season which was this past Saturday and had some eye-opening issues with bonking. One thing that I did do is buy one of the GU dispensers and filled it with honey cut with lemon and a couple drops of water to make it flow a little easier. It worked great but I didn't have enough for my run too.

Are you still on the diet? I would be grateful to hear any advice you'd like to share. Especially with eating to train and how you approach carbo-loading (if at all).

Thanks,

Allison

eebee's picture

My Findings Whilst Training on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet

Hi Allison, welcome to Roadskater.net, and thanks for asking! In my original post I was hoping to get some suggestions from people who had been up against this same dilemma for whatever reason, be it Celiac's or IBS or UC or Crohn's, etc., because I couldn't find anything out about it elsewhere online, regarding extreme athletic events in particular.

First off...I'm not a doctor, so be sure to go to yours to keep everything in check, and my findings are based purely on my own reactions to the SC diet.

Second, when I finally got an official diagnosis from my doctor, I told him about the SC diet and he said "Well that sounds like a healthy way to eat, anyway!". By the time I got the diagnosis, my symptoms and UC troubles were on the way out.

I found that training for an event, and actually doing the event, whilst on the SC diet, were two very different things. That is, during training it was easier for me to plan on not bonking because

a) Most of my training workouts only lasted an hour, and were at the end of the day after I'd had the chance to food-load (can't really call it carbo-loading, as you say, because all the carbs you're allowed on the SCD are so compatible with the human body, they're used up pretty quickly and don't hang around long!).

b) After a training skate I could rush home and eat a plate of chicken and broccoli or carrots or something that might remotely stick to my ribs before I got too woozy or calorie-deprived.

However, I did a dummy-run training skate that was to be 35 + miles, and 3+ hours long, in 90 degree heat, and ended up with not near enough energy and bonked something rotten. Instead of gatorade I was using Welch's grape juice + electrolyte water ("Elete" water), plus some salt. This not only was not enough calories, but it upset my system just as much as Gatorade, and was too sweet for me to even want to drink!! Luckily my training partner was at hand and I chugged a bunch of his Gatorade, deciding to pay the consequences later, rather than end up in the ER from hyponatremia, or hypokalemia, or something like that. My philosophy became "It's better to eat something now that'll upset your system later than to eat nothing and end up in an ambulance or coma!".

What I ended up having to carry with me in my Camelbak for carbs during an event, were bananas, dates, chopped up cantaloupe, and honey. However, what I found was that this was disastrously inadequate. On the 87 mile event I had been training for (and my training did reduce in quantity after I started the SCD about 6 weeks before the event), I tried to carbo-load the day before, and that morning, but there are only so many bananas and dates a person can eat! I lasted about 69 miles, and pretty much just curled up in a ball on a grassy bank on the side of the road, convinced I was done. My training partner said the magic words "Would a raspberry Gu work?", and I perked up, grabbed it from him and practically inhaled it. It did the trick and I got up and skated the remaining 18 miles in relative sanity. To heck with the refined sugar!

I'd like to add that I became a baking fool and lived off almond-flour nut breads, cheese breads and banana breads (more bananas! Arrgh!) during that time and found I could no longer stand the sight of them by the time the event rolled around, so my choices for calories were severely limited. There are some things in the SCD book that I never got around to doing, however, such as the home made yogurts and cheeses. Maybe those would've given me more options, baking and event-calorie wise.

Shortly after this event in October 2006, my symptoms calmed down and never came back full force, so the UC has been manageable. I have not needed to stick to the SCD at all. So I never had a reason to fine-tune my training/event calories in relation to the SCD. I think there are probably lots more things I could have tried, but just never got around to it, or didn't have the time to prepare them.

I lost a ton of weight whilst on the diet, and some of it was probably muscle. However, this probably offset the power-to-weight ratio, because I wasn't really 'slower' as long as I had ample calories. Here's how a typical hunger pang went:

  • Oh! I'm hungry
  • Well, what can I eat?
  • Uhh, that's right, NOTHING!
  • Oh well I'll just ignore it until the next pang comes along

I wish I had more hopeful results to give you, and with hindsight I think it would have been better to ditch the training and the event I had already signed up for, until I had the UC under control. But I didn't know it was ever going to be under control at the time, and honestly, I don't think I COULD have given up the physical activity, even if it would've been the smart thing to do. I guess the good news is that I did get better, in the meantime at least.

I hope some of this is helpful to you! Definitely keep a close eye on everything with your Doctor, though. And let me know what you discover with your training.

roadskater's picture

Racing Food: Honey, Lemon, Lime, Lite Salt, Coca-Cola Syrup?

Hi Allison, and welcome. Thanks for contributing such a thoughtful, specific question.

You can find most of what's written here about the SCD with this search:

http://roadskater.net/index.php?q=search/node/%22specific+carbohydrate+diet%22

None of us are experts, of course, but we are learning as we go and sharing our individual, unscientific experience. But that's what is great about it to me, as we can all share what we think, feel, or "know." Consult your doctor and healer before doing anything anywhere ever in all space and time forevermore and all that.

Please share with us your experiences with running, cycling, swimming, triathloning, diet, charity exercise and (almost) everything else. We'd love to follow your story and I know others out there would too...ones we haven't met but who will find us via GooYahMSNAsk.

Whatever we are going through is what someone else is silently going through as well, and while we all should see experts when we need them, we can encourage and inform each other here.

One thing eebee says often is that we need to find the solutions that work for us, not others. Maybe I say that too? I don't know.

[I say play your songs or the ones you like and wait to see who listens because if you play stuff you don't like, you get an audience that likes only what you don't, and the ones that might like what you do won't hang around because you're too busy playing stuff you don't. This goes for dating as an analogy, too.]

More importantly, I hope we can get some people to try exercise and diet alternatives that work for them. And getting off the couch for one lap is still getting off the couch.

Honey, Lemon, Lime, Coca-Cola Syrup?

In response to your comment about honey, we've been using honey for some time when training, sometimes carrying a last-minute-purchased "honey bear" dispenser in our waterpacks out on the Silver Comet Trail and elsewhere. Lately I purchased a Hammer Gel dispenser and liked that, and also bought an empty "travel" shampoo bottle at WallofChina-Mart which is working well.

I never thought to use lemon with the honey, but have put a teaspoon or two of Morton's Lite Salt (potassium, sodium) in my goo and skaterade (to cut the sweetness and replace electrolytes).

Yum, I wonder if lime might be good with the honey? Hmm, what if I added vanilla flavoring. I think I'm getting closer to the Coke recipe here, ha. One of our pals, skart, I think, was looking into buying Coca-Cola syrup for some concoction. Has there been an internet posting of how to make a Coca-Cola? Seems like with all the other how-to info out there, we could get that! Coca-Cola is a secret weapon, along with glitter of course. I just love how the lemon smell comes out when you unscrew the cap on a Coke on a hot day. Maybe it's a lime smell, I don't know!

And upon further research, of course there's much about the Coca-Cola recipe on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_formula

Interesting tidbits from that article:

  • To this day, Coca-Cola uses as an ingredient a coca leaf extract....Because the cocaine predecessors are naturally present in coca leaves, some argue that today's Coca-Cola uses "spent", or treated, coca leaves, those that have been through a cocaine extraction process, to flavor the beverage.
  • The current original "classic" formula was changed in the United States at an unknown point to replace cane sugar with corn syrup, although Coca-Cola is currently sweetened with regular sugar in the rest of the world.  
  • The closest formula to the original that can be purchased is the 1935 kosher formula which is still produced though it may be difficult to find outside of Passover, where it is sold in 2-Litre bottles with a yellow cap marked with a circle around the letter U followed by a P, indicating that the Orthodox Union certifies the soda as Kosher for Passover.
  • While the current American Coke formula is kosher, during Passover most observant Jews do not consume corn products or their derivatives....

The recipes seem a bit difficult, especially the third one, including...

  • Extract the cocaine from 1.1 grams of coca leaf (Truxillo growth of coca preferred) with toluol;dry the cocaine extract.

That's one recipe I won't be trying at home. There's a sidekick to this topic that's interesting, on OpenCola:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCola 

This also leads to a thorough and thoroughly humorous and interesting different recipe page...

http://www.colawp.com/colas/400/cola467_recipe.html

OK back to my vanilla soy milk breakfast lunch for today. Thanks for visiting and we hope you'll be back to share the struggle!

Skateylove, Blake

I find that eating dates

I find that eating dates works well to get the blood sugar up in a hurry.

Dates are quite high in the GI (glycemic index) of the things SC Dieters can/may eat. GI is the scale which measures how rapidly your blood sugar will go up after consuming a product.

  • Pure Capilano honey 25 grams = GI 58
  • Dates sundried (55 gram) = GI 45
  • Banana, over ripe (i.e black spots on skin, 120 gram) = GI 48

As you can see, dates are (pound for pound) more effective in getting blood sugar up than a banana, though, eating a banana along the way is a good idea. Perhaps incorporating a date or two will have its benefits. Obviously honey is even better, but personally I cannot get pure honey down the hatch when sporting, and diluting it in a drink will reduce the effect as you wont get as much honey in at a time, so dates do it for me...

That's my trick!!

Recipes you can try....

recipes you can try.... make some crunchy take along stuff... honey nougat, you can choose which nuts you incorporate. I have made it bom full of nuts and seeds. http://www.scdrecipe.com/recipes-candy/honey-nougat/ and something like the toffee? http://www.scdrecipe.com/recipes-candy/julias-incredible-caramel-toffee/ I make a kind of honey crunch...I don't have a specific recipe, fly by the seat of my pants when making it... honey, heat, and boil till the soft ball state (you know, take some out and dump it in cold water, it should make a soft ball, not too soft mind. Add some bicarb of soda... it fizzes up like mad.. pour onto a greased baking tray, let it cool. It becomes a crunchy honey comb kind of sweet thing, easy to take along. That's about it for my tricks. I was wondering, how much fat do you use, especially the day before you have to perform? Would consuming more fat not help?
eebee's picture

the honey crunch sounds great!

Thanks for joining and repying to my venture into the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, conleeuw! That honeycomb recipe sounds like fun. I hope to try it out sometime.

My self-diagnosed need for the SCD crashed headlong into my ultra-marathon skate training about 18 months ago, and although I believe wholeheartedly that the SCD created a suitable rehab environment for my traumatized digestive system, I was not able to eat near enough carbs for safe 30+ mile roadskates. Bananas, dates and honey might just get you through 30-60 minutes sport-training, but for our 3 to 7 hour roadskate training it's drastically inadequate and frankly, a hospital trip in the making. I studied typical carb requirements per 40 mins of hard training and even carried chunks of cantelope, raisins and dates in pre-measured ziploks. And despite eating a proportionately higher fat diet than ever before, I lost a lot of weight: much of it muscle :-(. Since then I have been able to go back to normal (pretty unhealthy) eating, only needing the SCD about every 6 months or so for a week or two. 

The weightloss, on the other hand, certainly helped me scramble up hills faster than ever, but after about an hour I'd be close to passing out and my heart rate would be maxed out because I was gasping for carbohydrate replenishment. I found dates to be the highest carb allowable on the SCD that I could eat mid-training-skate, but I couldn't assimilate them fast enough to avoid bonking. Fruit juice was out of the question too, because although providing plentiful carbs, the fruit sugars practically morphed into volcanic lava within about 5 minutes!

A lot of fat the day before a race or long skate? Yes! All the time. I made 'cookies' and 'bread' from almond flour, cheese, heaps of butter and peanut butter. However, after my body realized it had been tricked and there were virtually no carbs in these creations, it didn't want the faux cookies any more!

Luckily my condition wasn't so bad that I couldn't handle the odd bottle of gatorade or packet of powergel. This saved me passing out on the side of the road, causing an accident or inconveniencing my skate buddies via a hospital trip, and a day or two back on the SCD minimized any collywobbles I may have had from the refined sugar.

As with the South Beach Diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet backs up its promises. However, I don't advise anybody try 2+ hours speed or fitness skating on so few carbs. 

What sport or training do you do?

roadskater's picture

Honey Crunch Recipe

If you ever formalize that method, please do list it here. I think lots of us would like more recipes for sportsworthy food, or, maybe, just sweet food!

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