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Primal or Paleo Eating: Becoming a Keto-Adapted, Fat-Burning Endurance Athlete

eebee's picture

I just read an interesting article on Mark's Daily Apple, about a couple who used to follow the 'healthy grains' carbo- and sugar-loading philosophy in their endurance training lives. Like many of us, they trained for many hours for triathlons, marathons and bike events, using grains and sugars to fuel these workouts, and like many of us, found they couldn't get out of the cycle of burning huge amounts of calories and eating them all again later, and then some. They found they not only didn't lose weight during the training season, but put it on 'effortlessly' during the off season. 

If you are also an endurance athlete, or just do a lot of cardio, or if you have been on a never-ending calorie (or other) counting diet since you were sixteen, but either kept gaining weight or never lost your extra poundage, do yourself a favor and read the above-mentioned article. Then when you're done with that and the rest of Mark's Daily Apple site, read Gary Taubes' Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It. Then read Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. 

I have been wheat- and legume-free (no peanuts, lentils, pinto beans, etc.), and soy-free (for thyroid reasons) since the beginning of February this year. I started it for health reasons (autoimmune conditions such as asthma and other allergies, edema, etc.) and found I quickly lost 10 lb into the bargain, without feeling deprived or hungry. In February I wondered how this drastic reduction in 'carbs' would impact my skate training, but more importantly, events like A2A where I am on the road and really want to be done sooner rather than later. 

What I hadn't yet realized was that by losing 10 lb, I would already be covering more distance with less effort and a lower heart rate. When I finally started training in May after a couple of months of awful chest infections, I couldn't get my heart rate up to save my life, but I was still averaging the same mph as last Fall. My workout heart rate averages were something like 117 for a full hour of skating. Now that we're into the nineties again though, my heart rate has returned to it's usual 150 or so average.

Since going wheat-free in February, my asthma and full/drowning sensations have gone, both while skating or trying to go to sleep at night. So you all can enjoy your pizzas and bagels - I will enjoy being able to breathe thankyouverymuch. I'd like to also add that it's really difficult for me to put that 10 lb back on, even if I eat til I'm stuffed, which of course doesn't happen much any more.

So far this year, now that the long Summer bike rides and training skates have started, I am doing just fine without choking down a big bowl of 5am porridge, without smacking my dry mouth on fluffy Fig Newtons or Snackwells at rest stops, and without bloating like a water balloon from Gatorade. Water is just fine, as are dried cranberries, regular old fresh fruit, nuts, etc. I will post a separate list of wheat-free workout and event foods. I'm not totally paleo yet - that is, I still eat stuff that cavemen definitely didn't have access to. For financial reasons I keep a load of non-melting sugar-bomb candy from Walgreens in my trunk in the event that I didn't plan well for a training skate in the evening. It usually helps me finish the skate, but it also makes me feel really yucky. I still eat Power Gels and Gu's though, and find they give me the energy I need without the yucky sugar-bomb feeling and blood sugar tidal wave. But the gels are 90% more expensive.

The couple in the Fat-Burning Beast article really went the whole hog. The article describes their reactions to what they ate, the reasons they ate it, whether they bonked or not during their triathlons, etc. At this point they aren't even focusing on beating others, but simply enjoying these events in improved states of health while hopefully training their bodies to burn fat instead of glycogen stores. 

I'm all for skating all day between Atlanta and some other city or state, but not if I can't walk for three days afterwards or if it causes my ankles to resemble Pansy Potter's.

There isn't much info out there on the topic of Paleo/Primal Endurance training (and Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple isn't an ultra-cardio fan), but I will try to post links to whatever I find as it comes up. In my opinion, exercise should help us, not hurt us (roadrash excluded).


roadskater's picture

Great Info on Changing the Way We Eat

Thanks, eebee, for telling what you have been up to foodwise. I am still enjoying the wheat but I believe less of it than before. I am trying to swap out high carb nibble food and swap in snacks that are mostly protein and fat.

But the rest of this is unhealthy talk, ha!

About a half hour before skating I do try to take in some carbs, and I still use 'ade while skating. The sugar candy we call sugar bombs is ok for a quick jolt but i agree it has an icky after effect. What really worked for me all year last year was to focus on powergels &c. and carry one for each 45 mins planned. I usually didn't eat all of them but they were easier to carry than many things and I think I had better days because of it.

I also carry some things I know I will love even when I hate almost everything. Lately that has been the pink'n'white Good & Plenty sugar-coated licorice. Sometimes Gobstoppers fit the bill too. These are items I don't usually hit until 3 or 4 hours have passed.

I've been looking into some Mexican treats based on tamarind (I think it is) hoping to find some sugar/spicy/salty alternatives. Oh yes. Don't forget Atomic Fireballs...the slow sugar drip that shocks your mouth back to life. Much of this was a repeat, I'm sure!

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