Monday, 28 April 2014


Surprisingly the LCHF diet is easy enough to follow in the longer term. I had expected to get bored of the same meals being repeated, but I didn't. Perhaps the reason is that we are eating the same things as before, only slightly modified.

Where we used to have pasta or rice we will now have a fried mixture of vegetables or some steamed shredded cabbage, or crumbled cauliflower or just a pile of wilted spinach. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how we and the children are all enjoying vegetables so much more, now that we are free to smother them in butter. It's not surprising how serious cooks use so much butter, it tastes great.

I’ll be honest and say that I do sometimes crave a peanut butter sandwich, but not often. I think we are helped partly by the fact that Jane and I love cooking.  Jane is starting to compile a recipe book of our LCHF meals. Notable entries include pork scratchings (a treat that I have refused to east all of my life up until now), roasted chicken skins, and fatballs (you will have to wait for the book to learn what they contain but the clue is in the title). We save the fat from grilled bacon and sausages to fry with and our current favourite pudding is a mixture of Greek Yogurt and Full Cream with a chopped mix of hazelnuts and a bit of preserved ginger. You spotted the sugar there I am sure but there is not much and we are allowed some carbs after all!

I had been looking forward to the London Marathon enormously. I grew up in London and have always watched and wondered what it would be like to run this one. But I picked up a knee injury running the marathon for Sport Relief and it had not gone away. It hurt after just 1-2 miles of steady flat running.  I tried several things but what my knee needed was some rest. So reluctantly I pulled out of London. I want to run consistently this summer and not be injured like I was last year. So I watched it on the telly again.

Now it is the end of April and things are steadily improving. For some reason I was able to run up and down hills if not on the flat. I’ve run the Tank Tracks (a local 140 meter hill) more times than I like to admit and things are now improving on the flat. I’ve also been to several kettlebell sessions (see for details of the best kettlebell training in Mid-Sussex) and my core strength is improving quickly. 

My diet and training are now both firmly fixed on the Beachy Head Marathon.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Time to Help Bust that Cholesterol Myth

So, the elephants in my room at night are Fats, and in particular Saturated Fats.  I am eating lots of them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The received wisdom suggests that I will die of a heart attack, perhaps as early as next week.  

My wife Jane started using a LCHF diet last year and it was her growing prowess on a bike that really impressed me. As she trained more she bacame less and less reliant on extra energy to power her through the long training runs leading up to the RideLondon-Surrey 100 bike event last August. This made me start thinking about the effect this could have on long distance running.

Up until about a year ago I was definitely in the low-fat camp. I ate lots of good and some not-so-good carbs and I avoided fatty foods. I have never liked margarine and so there was always butter in the fridge. I disliked low-fat food as it is often very sweet (got to make it taste nice after removing the good stuff!) . We ate healthily but it was easy to put on weight, even when running a fair bit.

Opinions have been changing fast in recent years.  

The belief that saturated fats and their association with Cholesterol have a direct relationship with heart disease has led to a demonization of natural foods like meat and butter, and the growth of huge industries for low-fat food and cholesterol-lowering foods and drugs. One of the first studies to refute this belief came from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010. (

Here are a couple of  recent findings – you may have heard about them recently on the news:

When Jane and I started looking at LCHF diets this seemed like a giant leap of faith. What if the research is wrong? What if it is just a fad? But our interest in this subject has coincided with a wave of new research. Almost every week there is a new study published or another scientist or doctor ‘coming out’.  The mainstream is starting to shift, like all rivers do over the years.

What I particularly like about the latest research is that far from being bad for your heart health, a high-fat diet is quite likely to be better for it. This is not so suprising; as Jane put it the other day, "If a high fat diet is bad for you then how did our species ever evolve in a world governed by the survival of the fitest?".
There is compelling evidence that the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease lies not simply in your level of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, but in the size and number of the LDL particles themselves The lower the size, and hence greater the number of LDL particles, the higher the risk. This particle size is known as LDL-p (or alternatively LDL patterns A and B as shown below) . 

This LDP-p value is not reported in the standard UK cholesterol test and is not mentioned on the NHS web sites or that of HEARTUK “The Cholesterol Charity”.   Perhaps because this ‘charity’ like several other charities are sponsored by companies that make cholesterol-lowering foods. 

Research also suggests that the high-carb diet recommended by most dieticians, doctors and the NHS promotes a higher LDL-p (pattern B) value, whereas the high-fat diet that most humans have followed for the last million years promotes a lower (healthier) LDL-p value.

Now this is relatively new science, but the drugs industry and health authorities have yet to seriously challenge any of the data being produced. This may be because a debate might draw more attention to the facts. Or it may be because the research that they produce in support of their own views is generally so weak that most A level students studying research methods and statistics would be tempted to tear it apart (read this and see what I mean This study formed the basis of the ‘cholesterol myth’. 

While you are at it, watch the Cerealkillers movie ( for a description of LDL-p and how it relates to your diet. This documentary also discusses the success being achieved by Tim Noakes and others in treating Type 2 Diabetes with a controlled LCHF diet. It’s a fascinating programme.

Take a look at the graphs below. The left hand side of the first graph below has a lot of scatter, but then there are lots of other causes of heart disease. The right hand side is more interesting as the dots are mostly closer to the line (less deviation implies a stronger trend).  So while the graph does not necessarily prove that less saturated fat will always lead to more heart disease than average it does suggest that more saturated fat will normally lead to less heart disease than average.

So if the countries that eat the most saturated fats appear to have the lowest levels of heart disease then why would we want to lower our cholesterol?

Can you spot France and the UK in the graphs?

This is known as the French paradox - the French eat the most saturated fat, their cholesterol is not that high and they have the least death from heart disease. They also have the lowest levels of obesity. This may be because the French are very resistant to anything that changes their national character, particularly their food; they are still eating the same way they have for decades. So why aren’t they having so many heart attacks as us? Perhaps because their higher saturated fat diet is actually protecting them. I’d be very interested to know if they have a lower LDL-p value than we do in the UK. 

The graphs above were taken from the following web sites. Well worth a read.

February and March Diary

So, I was pretty chuffed with the ways things were going. I’d lost the weight I wanted to loose and was enjoying eating  healthy meals that make me feel full; I was not snacking on sandwiches between meals like I used to. 

I realised one important thing; you have to be prepared to do a lot of your own cooking. This is nothing new in our household but for many this could be a barrier to the use of LCHF. But there isn't really anything new here as most serious diets suggest that you buy, cook and eat REAL ROOD.

I travel sometimes for work and it can be hard finding the right food in hotels and restaurants. Instead of a restaurant I often buy a buffet selection from Marks and Spencer’s. This allows me to get just what I want, and it fits in well with evening runs and desk working in a hotel room. It also costs less than a restaurant meal.

I had a fun idea. For Sport Relief I decided to repeat my wife’s feat of running up and down the village high street (1 mile) 26 times for Sport Relief. The gang from We Run! Hassocks will be out to support me and our friend Marina, Jane’s partner at Aspire Fitness, who is also on the LCHF diet will run if too. This was exciting. I have never run for charity before as I wouldn’t ask someone to sponsor me to complete a run that they know is not that big a challenge for me.  But this was different; we would just be asking people to hand over the money that they had promised to donate when watching the Sport Relief show the night before. 

So I had plans, targets; I was getting back into serious running. Everything was going perfectly!
I have always been too competitive. I always wanted to be the fastest. And so it is now. I’d been aiming at the Brighton Half Marathon for a first serious test of ‘my new powers’. I had not been expecting too much but I was secretly hoping to get close to 1:30; a few minutes off my best but not bad considering the lack of consistent training. 

I started doing speed reps to up my pace and after a couple of weeks I just had to stick with the fast boys when we were doing a session of 12*300m reps at the track. Now I don’t pretend to be a sprinter, so why on earth I felt the need to do this session at full pace I do not know. I strained my left quad after 10 reps and so had to rethink my plans for the London Marathon; and the Sport Relief Marathon; and our ski holiday. Bad boy! After a week’s rest I ran the Brighton Half anyway, it’s hard not to with it being a big local event that almost everyone at my club Arena 80 runs.  I did not attempt to run fast; I just jogged along and made a few social calls when passing old mates in the crowd. But my leg was much too sore afterwards.

After another week of rest I put in a good week of training before going skiing. Now we had always planned to take a week off the diet for the ski holiday. I won’t pretend that that was for any reason other than wanting to indulge ourselves as much as possible. And this we did.  However I also picked up two further injuries that left me hobbling and unable to run at all for another week. Even then I had large bruises in my calf and backside that did not go away for some weeks.

My bad luck did not diminish my interest in the diet. I was reading more on the subject by now and talking the LCHF talk to just about everyone I met. It’s possible I might have bored a few of them.
So with one week to go to the Sport Relief Marathon I had done very little distance training. The only thing that was going well was the diet. I was back to fighting weight in no time after the ski holiday and ran three good long sessions in the week before the marathon with no tiredness, just a sore arse. 

The run itself was so much fun that I hardly noticed the time go by. We took 4 hours 15, a modest pace for me but this included shaking buckets and lots of stopping and chatting.  About 20 friends turned out to run with us or pester the villagers who were quite happy to hand over their tenners in abundance. We all wore our We Run! Hassocks T-shirts and Jane organised the collection. My 12 year-old son Cam ran his first half marathon and we raised over £700 and were very pleased with ourselves. I had 2 eggs and 3 slices of bacon for breakfast and 2 cups of soup during the run. 

And suddenly I had achieved one of the main goals of this diet.  I can run marathons on LCHF. What next?

       A Marathon Runner's Breakfast

January Diary

I started on the LCHF Diet on the 2nd of January and for the first few weeks I monitored my weight and health, kept a food diary, measured my ketone levels with Ketosticks and reported to our local facebook group (!/groups/Werun.hassocks/) on the progress that I was making. Here are my reports.

Vital Statistics
On the 2nd of January this is what I looked like, on the inside:
Weight (kg)

BMI (I am 182 cm tall)

Body fat



Resting heart  Rate






Week 1 summary
Over the first week I have not eaten any carbage (pasta, potatoes, flour, rice, cereals, sugar). Apart from carbs in veg the only food containing measurable carbs has been some cheese with dried apricots, some sausages including breadcrumbs and some peanuts. I’ve also had several Bouillon drinks; these are tasty and include some carbs as well as the salt that is recommended to replace those lost as part of the diet. I am not counting carbs, just managing what I eat. It helps that Jane is also following the LCHF diet.

I have lost 5 pounds and am now back to my ‘normal’ running weight.

My sleep has been poor, but it often is when I start running more. I felt a bit hungry and dizzy/tired on days 3 and 4 but this has mostly gone – salty drinks helped here.

My running has been good. I logged 40 miles in the first 7 days. Most of this has been relatively easy, the advice being to run at around 65% VO2max in order to promote Ketone Adaptation.  Two runs (amounting to 11 miles) were marathon goal pace (7:15 per mile this year) including brief speed/hill reps (and 2 local Strava course records!). At this point in a marathon preparation I would normally run 4 times with at least one harder session (reps, threshold or distance) per week. I have run 8 days in a row for the first time ever, and my recovery between runs already feels to be better – this is meant to be one of the key benefits of burning fat rather than carbs. Note that I would not recommend jumping from a high point of 27 miles a week to a week of 40 miles; this is why the week has been steadier, but I wanted to push things a little. Next week I will ease off a bit.

Week 2 Summary
Over the second week of my LCHF diet I have hardly eaten any carbage; the one exception being several glasses of wine at the Aspire Fitness Solutions 5th Anniversary Party. I’m finding it easier to say no to carbs and am enjoying veg more than ever before – honest!

I have lost one more pound this week, that’s 6 in total, and my muscle mass has increased slightly. I am snacking a bit more, particularly on cheese and nuts, but I have lost enough weight already.  My sleep has been slightly better. No more dizziness this week. 

My running has been good. I logged 39 miles this week with just one day off. Again, most of this has been relatively easy work, although I was happy to up the pace a little on Monday and again on Tuesday evening in the gym, with no ill effects noticed on a slow run on Wednesday.  Today (day 15) I did a 10k threshold run and am rather surprised how easy it felt.  The ketone test strips are purple so I am now officially fuelled by fat! 

Week 3 thoughts
Lots of LCHF doubts while running this week. I start off tired and it takes 10 minutes or so before I get into a rhythm. This could be the muscles switching or warming up on ketones, not sure. On the flat I can keep to a steady, 8mph 8-Strides Per Breath pace easily which is nice, but inclines and hills are hard; I have to remember to breathe more!  I tend to finish well and feeling positive. 

I think the doubts are down to my competitiveness. Last spring I had had a 10 month period of injury free training building up to Brighton 2013, and I got used to running fast and feeling strong. Unsurprisingly I am nowhere near as fit now, I’ve been injured most of the summer and autumn and have only just logged 6 injury free weeks. My mileage is higher than it ought to be after such a poor autumn and I’m just starting to put in some quality training on LCHF, so I need to LOWER MY EXPECTATIONS! 

Stepping back and looking at what am doing right now I ought to be bloody pleased with myself. My 2014 target race is Beachy Head in October, not London in April.    33.1 miles this week.

Week 3-4 summary
Week 3 was hard. I was craving something different quite often and starting to get a bit bored of cheese in particular. Week 4 was better food-wise as the cupboards had more nice stuff in.  Went a bit too far with wine last week and that could be why my ketone readings were lower.
I have lost 1 more pound in 2 weeks.  I felt a bit sluggish during week 3 but this is supposed to be the hardest week on LCHF and that first long run on the Saturday was a killer! Week 4 felt fine. My sleep has improved steadily.

My running has been lower in mileage but harder; including one hard threshold run, one hard long run, two medium paced runs and a hard hill reps session; nothing slow. I had several rest days. Had a brief worry that I’d not be able to do a long run last Saturday (due to low ketone levels) but it was easy and fast; up to the 10 mile point where I hurt something in my calf. I’m currently swinging kettlebells for a few days while it recovers; this is going well and I am feeling strong.
So that was January. Things went well on the diet and I was back to running better than I had for several months.  

Vital Statistics #2
At the end of January this is what I looked like, on the inside.
Weight (kg)


Body fat



Resting heart Rate






It doesn’t take a registered dietician to tell you that something big has been changing inside me. And I don’t think it is due to me running a bit more that I have been lately.

My weight was down, my muscle mass was up, my LDL-P, the ‘supposedly bad’ cholesterol is up, but so is my 'good' HDL cholesterol, and my triglicerides (the actual fatty acids in my blood) were low. I’d take a guess and say my body was adapted to burning fat as its primary energy source. 

I had a few doubts at the time. In particular the use of ketone measuring sticks had me confused. At first they steadily went purple as expected but after a few weeks the colour faded. This had me worried as I needed to be in ketosis for the diet to work well and if I was not then I ought to have no energy for running. However, further research here indicated that this is normal. And this was complemented by the fact that I could do good paced long runs on almost zero carbs. In the past I had always taken some energy drink on runs lasting more than an hour.