Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The lows and highs of LCHF eating abroad

Travelling and dieting is hard, no matter what diet your on. Let's face it, airports and stations and coffee shops want to sell you coffee and cakes and sweets. Remember how I couln't find anything with no sugar in but water in WH Smiths? Well that's what you eat when your travelling, unless you have brought a picnic.

This week started out badly, a tasteless coffee at Gatwick, a nicer one on the train from Schiphol to Rotterdam; cakes everywhere and not a sausage or hunk of cheese in sight. Arrived late and caught a Caesar salad in the bar. It was gone in a minute and I went to bed hungry.

Woke up hungry and had breakfast at 6:30. The 'raw' milk separated in my cup and the second cup scolded me. Quick scrambled eggs but I had to be with the client early so no seconds. There was nice looking sugary stuff all around me. My little chimp sat on my shoulder asking why I didn't just take one of those pain au raisins? No one would notice, would they? Someone told me the other day to feed my chimp so I took a banana from the stand and put it in my bag for the chimp to have later. That shut him up.

It had been 6 hours since breakfast and I was hungry again. I wandered for 40 minutes looking for some lunch that I could eat; coffee bars with cakes and paninis, corner shops with 100 varieties of sugar. Nothing. Then a student told me about a shop that sold salads, it was back in the Medical Center where I am working. So I find the shop and found the salad but, get this, they can't take credit cards, and they can't take cash. Just cash cards. A couple of nurses look at me as if I'm some kind of freak but a nice chap says there may be a restaurant nearby that takes MasterCard.

I follow his instructions and find it. A cashier confirms that they can take my card. I see soups and salads and I think I may be in heaven. I wander around and choose some spicy soup, a plain salad with thick balsamic oil, a tuna wrap (I will bin the wrap) and a boiled egg. That should do nicely. I take this manna to the cashier and she say's 'oh!' perhaps we can't take your card after all. Or those nice fresh Euros you have!  I must have been looking desperate as she calls the smart young manager and he looks me up and down; I think he can sense the pain I am feeling at having to walk away from that tuna, and, cool as anything he says; 'Enjoy your lunch sir; you can pay me next time". Nice one sonny; I might just remember to do that.

This evening after a modest set of mile reps in the park I am hungry again. There was nothing to eat this afternoon as my kind of snacking is just impossible away from home unless you can find a supermarket big enough to stock <5% carb stuff. I must remember never to leave Britain again without M&S Luxury Nuts.

There is a Michelin starred restaurant in my hotel but I can see the look on my boss's face when I present that expense claim; so I head to the bar where I eat possibly the best burger I have ever eaten. Sans pain it came with super-sized egg, a bacon, red-onion and asparagus compote and a truffle-cream sauce; with a side of sweet-chilli prawns. The meat was like something I'd never seen or tasted before; a cross between fillet steak and mince. Perhaps it was a returned tartare that they couldn't bear to bin. It was sublime. I was just washing it down with a glass of fine red when suddenly the bar erupted into euro-vision song time.  Time for bed then.

Got to take the rough with the smooth with the rough I guess.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Obesity - the new Smoking - is LCHF the new cure?

The new head of the NHS Simon Stevens is worried. Worried that if we carry on in the direction we are going then the NHS will not be able to fund the treatment costs for metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

He is about to publish his new 5-year plan in which he will be looking for lifestyle interventions.

Surely LCHF has to be regarded as a strong case for intervention. It is relatively easy to implement, it is proven to work (see my previous post at http://lchf4runners.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/gps-report-success-when-recommending.html) and the perceived risks are being systematically dismantled with modern research and clinical experience.

Quite frankly Simon, what have you got to lose?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Is running LCHF harder for the first 20 minutes?

Here’s An Idea.

“While adapting to burning fat instead of glycogen it may take up to 30 minutes to get into your stride on longer runs”.

This is a thought that has been crossing my mind during the first 2 weeks of reverting to a LCHF diet after 2 weeks on carbs on holiday in France.

The French Experiment is starting to look like a success - by which I mean can I go on a carb-bender for 2 weeks and then easily switch back to LCHF? - after just 8 days back on LCHF I managed a gentle 13 mile run (longer than I have run in 5 months) with none of the classic fatigue symptoms that hit me when I first tried the diet in January.  The intensity is less, and I am mixing the exercise with cycling, but it has been a problem-free return to LCHF so far.

One thing that I have noticed, and I recall this from January; my longer runs and rides have tended to feel harder at the beginning, much harder . In some ways this is not surprising – I'm not an early riser and the knowledge that I am nearing home often lifts my mood and my speed. This week though I have noticed my energy levels rise significantly after 20 minutes or so and then remain that high for the rest of each run/ride.

If true this could explain a lot about why some people reject the diet –“it made me feel worse than ever before when I was running”. But didn't we all feel this way for the first week or so when we first started running? The body has to adapt; only this time it is the energy supply that is adapting rather than the muscles. If false then no matter, it's just an idea.

I have precisely no data to back this idea up; but today's 17 miler was a good example; the first hill was lousy and I had to walk some of it, which is a rear event. Then after 40 minutes I had to slow down a lot as I was daydreaming and casually running much faster than I had planned (my coach/wife thinks this is why I get injured so much!). The second hill at 9 miles was a breeze, as was the third and it was only the fourth at 14 miles that actually had me properly knackered.  

Perhaps it was the gentle breeze behind me!

I don't have a good explanation for this experience; apart from the idea that maybe when we first set off our muscles have some stored glycogen and they want to burn it; but there is not enough so they can't perform; once this runs out the fat-adapted state wakes up and gets to work. 

I can find no articles on the internet that talk about this subject. So, head down and time to find out more. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Obesity - Eat less Move More?

This weekend there was a call for a task force to tackle obesity. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-28985874. Doctors, schools and nutritionists were encouraged to get together and make a plan.

However doctors are not generally well-trained in nutrition (I have this on authority from Aseem Malhotra) and the nutritionists have been failing in this task for ages. So what is going to be different this time unless something else is to change?

The advice in the comments section on the BBC article shows that the people concerned enough to comment generally seem to think that “Eating Less and Moving More” is what the fat people should be doing. and that self-control is what the fat people need; with many commentators suggesting that the sell-off of school playing fields leading to less school sport is greatly to blame. 

This mantra is too simple and rather patronizing and tends to be the advice of the lucky slim commentators, who as a consequence of their interest in health are likely to have a 'healthier' diet already. It is what they eat, not their willpower and Sunday morning jogs that is keeping them slim.

Assem Malhotra's advice: “You can’t out-run a bad diet!“ has become a favorite slogan of mine. Yes exercise is very good, but diet is a much bigger factor in weight management.

Over the past 7.5 months of LCHF diet my weight has consistently been about 11 stone 6 lbs. My average training has been low (due to injuries) about 4 hours per week.  We just had a 2-week holiday in France during which I reverted to a carb-based diet, I did not noticeably eat more than normal although I was not counting calories – I never do.  I trained for about 8 hours per week and my weight rose to over 12 stone.

This is not exactly clinical research but something tells me that my weight is controlled more by my choice of diet than by my levels of exercise.

Losing weight is not as simple as ‘eat less move more’. Yes, we have to aim to eat less, but how? The carbohydrate-loaded diet recommended to us by the NHS leaves us feeling hungry too often and this leads us to eat too much and too often.

We need the NHS to recognize the role of carbohydrates in fluctuating blood sugar levels and leading us to feel hungry more quickly and hence to eat more food. The obesity epidemic is directly related to the growth in the consumption of carbohydrates.

Imagine what would happen if we led half a class of children to a table covered in sugary drinks, sausage rolls, sandwiches and and donuts (typical kids party food) and the other half to a table covered in water, chicken salad, strawberries and cream (a typical adult summer lunch in Hassocks). We then invite the children to eat as much as they like. Lots more food (and lots more calories) would be eaten by the first half, even though many children and adults would admit that the second table tasted just as good or better.

A fat-based diet stabilizes blood sugars and suppresses hunger; so we eat less and less often. As humans this is how we have evolved. Carbohydrates are relatively new and we have not evolved to tolerate them very well yet.

Eat real, unprocessed food – and this includes fat.

To tackle the obesity epidemic we need to change the way we eat.  And to do that we have to challenge the myth that fat is bad. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Low fat, weight gain and back to running

So after 3 months of almost no running due to back and calf problems I am now moving again on two legs, albeit rather slowly! In order to recover carefully I have been mixing fast walking and running. This allows different muscle groups to take turns and lessens the stress on a recovering body; it is also the method by which I now plan to complete the Beachy Head Marathon in 8 weeks’ time as I doubt that I will be able to run it all as I have in the past.

We just had two weeks in Bordeaux and when in France we eat like the paradoxical French; which means croissants and baguettes. A beer or two by the lake in the evenings is also a tradition that we are unable to drop.  I put on 8 lbs during this brief return to low-fat living!

Luckily another holiday tradition is that it includes lots of activities, principally running in the woods and down to the sea, windsurfing, kayaking and cycling.  I think that perhaps camping is good for my back – sleeping on a harder bed and moving about all day long being so much better that sitting in a chair for 9 hours per day. There were still twinges in the calf but these settled down with my Roman March style of walk-run soon becoming more of a run than a walk. I also find back in Blighty that this approach gives me more opportunity to enjoy the scenery on our local hills rather than just watching out for flints the whole time. So despite the weight gain I feel fitter than I have for some time.

So I am back to training for over 2 hours at a time and soon back to what I see as the investigative side of LCHF Running.  Only eggs and bacon for long-run fuel. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to switch back to burning ketones instead of glycogen. Will my previous adaptation allow me to switch back more quickly than the first time? Will the side-effects be less? Will I be able to train enough over the coming 8 weeks to cover the Marathon at a good pace on zero carbs?