Slow Carb Eating – Personal Experiment

Posted on 31 March 2016

The world of food and diets – Slow Carb, Gluten Free, no “White”, no sugar, Paleo, my question was how would they work for a long distance endurance athlete?   Author, vagabonder, and entrepreneur, Tim Ferris discusses this approach to eating – slow carb in his best selling book the 4-hour body.   He does not advocate long distance endurance training and is more of a HIT (high intensity training) and strength focused approach.    One thing you have to like about the Ferriss style is he tries everything to disrupt his body.

The slow carb diet is defined by Wikipedia (excerpted by Tim Ferris):“The Slow-Carb Diet is based on eating foods with a low glycemic index. It can be summarized as the elimination of starches and anything sweet (including fruit and all artificial sweeteners) and a strong preference for lean protein, legumes and vegetables. The main foods are eggs, fish, grass-fed beef, lentils, beans, vegetables (like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, radish), mushrooms, fermented foods and drinks (natto, kimchi, sauerkraut), unsweetened tea or coffee and water. Calorie-dense nuts and legumes such as pecans, chickpeas, hummus, and peanuts are allowed under careful portion control. Plain coffee is allowed, but all milk products are to be avoided except cottage cheese.”    Unlike Paleo – beans are allowed and recommended for carbohydrates and protein (lentils are a favorite).  Also, one day a week is the fun day and consuming anything without limits to food types and quantity is recommended. 

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Ferris claims, “without doing any exercise he lost 25 pounds of body fat in 6 weeks.”    As endurance athlete, not doing any exercise is never going to happen.  This approach does not agree with my mindset and many friends and colleagues.   The idea of rushing to get the most benefits in the shortest amount of time is find for some, including Ferris but personally these longer training sessions are the most fun.   However, it was worth examining in detail through a personal experiment to see how my body would react with heavy training and the slow carb approach. My biggest concern, would I get sick of eating the same things over and over again?

Personal Slow-Carb Experiment with Training:  8 weeks with an average of 20 hours training (75-80% endurance running, cross country skiing, cycling and 20-25% weight and intense plyometric training).   60 days of continuous training and active recovery sessions every other week – hiking on the trails.

Daily routine:

4AM – Eat immediately after getting out of bed – 1 chicken breast and a bean salad (same thing every day)

1 cup of  Kimera Koffee (touted to help with energy level, athletic performance and concentration and it does!)

Multi Vitamin: Hammer Premium Insurance Caps, Endurance Amino Caps

3 Omax3 Fish Oil capsules

60 ounces of ice water

After workouts – Hammer Recoverite and Cocoa Elite, 40 ounces of water

Mid morning snack – Bean salad

Lunch – Green salad (Kale, parsley, dill, arugula, olive oil, salt, pepper, avocado and either pork, beef or chicken with the salad)

Mid afternoon snack – almonds

Dinner –Green salad, olives, and extra protein (meat, fish, chicken, pork).

So it was fairly basic diet but without any alcohol, juices, sugar and anything white.  I did include alcohol on the weekend – red wine.

Early on I noticed that recovering from the hard weight workouts was difficult the next day so I increased both proteins (through food and recovery drinks) and more carbohydrate from greens and lentil salads.   It just took a bit of tweaking to get the right balance of food to be able to push through the next day’s workouts.

One big concern was that losing body weight quickly might reduce power wattage on the bike and added in extra weight work – specifically the magical kettle bell.   It’s amazing (with good form) the overall body impact that a simple kettle bell swing can do!

Personal Test Results in 8 weeks: 26 pounds of weight loss and significant increase in muscle mass.   Clearly this was enhanced with all the strength work.   Overall body fat dropped significantly and without getting very scientific with water weight analysis, skin calipers the easiest way to determine it is with the “clothing check”.  Pretty simple, when your clothes start feeling very loose body fat is being converted to muscle.    A great motivator especially as we all know the feeling of just a bit too tight with the cycling shirt in the early season!

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Power wattage on the bike has increased in the 15-18% range with power/weight ratio, but the key was clearly ramping up the quad strength workouts.

Overall, I was very happy with the slow-carb approach with additional protein and carbohydrates.   The best part of the program is that when you get hungry, just eat and this was crucial during the long training sessions for adequate recovery.

As the race season approaches, consider slow carb as it might assist you with your fitness goals.   Looking forward to the next 8 week slow-carb and training push leading up to the Trans Am Bike Race with one new tweak –  the addition of cold showers every day!  See what happens.

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