Low Carb/Keto adapted swimming
edited August 2013 in General Discussion
I was wondering if any of you are keto-adapted? I have been doing quite a bit of research into this recently as I need to drop a lot of weight. Prof Tim Noakes has said that in theory, you could do a Channel Swim without feeding if you were properly keto-adapted so if that is true (and I'm guessing that it would not be true for every keto-adapted swimmer) then a marathon would also be possible. I have been keto-adapted for a short while now and have definitely noticed a difference in my energy levels as I train for my channel relay but i haven't done a seriously long session yet... I have a 5km swim in April so I guess that will be my first real test but was wondering/hoping that someone here had some experience
I know there's been much discussion of low-carb diets for marathon swimming, but I also don't think they're really usable where regular cold water swimming is part of the training, as just too much food/energy is required for A) re-warming and weight maintenance. Low carb diets burn off most body fat over a longer period, and while the amount required versus speed is a constant discussion here and elsewhere, I don't think none is a good option for cold water.
edit: for those of you interested, here is a great tool for finding the right low carb level http://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/
We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams
http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer
Read it while you gnaw on your jerky.
We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams
Sisu: a Finnish term meaning strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.
My 1st hour was at 01h50 and then again at 07h50, I went in a 3rd time at 13h50. Other than superstarch, I had my 1st meal (cheese/cherry tomatoes/pork rashers) at about 11h00. At no stage was I hungry and had plenty of energy for the swim. I came back to Dover with so much food as I hadn't anticipated how well superstarch worked.
I realise this was 'only' a relay but I really believe this is going to be the way forward for endurance swimming. As you say, GI distress is a problem with long swims and I feel this is the solution.
Next year I'm going to be training for much longer and will hopefully do a marathon and will be using superstarch. i can't wait for someone that does 'proper' distances to try this and give some feedback.
I started using them last winter for training but did not see any significant difference over normal carb products (except they cost more).
I know Peter Attia & others claim they work great, but when I researched further I found a lot of controversy about the efficacy of super starches.
In theory, burning body fat would be great for long swims. I've swum 4 hour training swims on just water without a problem, but I'd love some real instances of marathon swims done on super starch
1. When you burn fat, ketones are released. This is what will then 'feed' you and more importantly, you brain which normally can only be 'fed' glucose. You body needs to be trained to accept ketones as an alternative to glucose. Once this is done, even lean athletes have an almost unlimited supply of fat unlike glucose dependent athletes who will need to replace glucose at a regular interval.
2. The biggest issue for these athletes is insulin. Insulin inhibits fat burning so as soon as you have any glucose (including bread/pasta/potatoes/rice, even too much protein) your insulin spikes and blocks access to your fat stores. Superstarch doesn't react like normal carbs even though it is a carb and therefore doesn't spike your insulin leaving access to your fat stores open.
This is obviously only relevant to a keto-adapted athlete. For an old school athlete, who is taking glucose, the only real benefit of superstarch is it's incredibly slow release... Theoretically, one dose lasts for 4-5 hours of high activity. Most of the research has only been done cyclists at the moment though.
I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom but if you think about it, most nutrition for endurance athletes is based on science from the 70/80's. There have not been any real leaps forward in nutritional 'technology' until now. Is it that inconceivable that there is a better method?
ps. Sorry for the lecture there was no short explanation.
We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams
Pat Gallant is using UCAN "superstarch".
I've been using UCAN for two years and will never again ride the glucose dependent rollercoaster.
I've been working with Dr. Peter Attia since this time. He has been in Nutritional Ketosis for a couple years. I have been HFLC but chosen not to go into NK. Still, my body has adapted well to using superstarch and I never have any GI distress or bonking!
Here's Peter's blog: www.eatingacademy.com
And as far as extended research along these lines, Peter co-founded, with Gary Taubes, and launched this year NuSI, Nutrition Science Initiative, which is paving the way for good, proper and definitive research that we can rely on!
what flavor(s) do you use?
Have you tried diluting it with more water? Or mixing it with some other flavored water, such as Vitamin Zero?
I see *no* spikes in blood glucose level under my feeding regime (koolaid/gatorade at about 60 grams of carbs (240 calories) an hour). Actually, my blood glucose levels become freakishly stable in the "non-diabetic" range -- more so than on land, which really is remarkable.
Research has been done into blood glucose level and hypothermia. If your blood sugar level goes low while you have hypothermia, you can lose the ability to shiver, and you can start absorbing your nutrition more slowly.
I think the issues are more complicated than depicted here. High insulin levels also cause muscles to increase their uptake of glucose -- which is ideal, no?
See the third page of this for reference: http://www.diabetes.ca/files/riddell--final.pdf
I'm also unsure of how longer-acting carbs would be beneficial. I can see how it makes sense if you want to eat 5 hours worth of fuel at one sitting, and exercise for 5 hours (assuming you wouldn't be sick from taking in so much food). But most of us feed every 15-30 minutes, no?
This is certainly too complex a topic to be able to thoroughly discuss here. But, a few quick responses and then a couple resources from which I've based my understanding.
Insulin Resistance is individually unique. So, the only way to really know where you are on this spectrum (which can be changed/improved) is to have the proper blood work done. I did this via Dr. Peter Attia and a local lab he's connected with here in San Diego. It gave me a ton of information, beyond just my own current (at that time; last year) level of insulin resistance. So, although there are certainly generalizations that can be made, it's not the same across the board.
The basic premise of 'super starch' is that it's a 10x longer chain carb than normal (originally formulated to treat a pediatric genetic disorder whereby infants need to be fed every 20-30 minutes) so that the carb is broken down more slowly, thus lower glycemic effect. The application to endurance sport has shown that the body can be reconditioned to utilize the relatively unlimited stores of fat for energy and not rely totally on glycogen, which is drastically lower in stores and only really needed for spurts of energy (i.e., anaerobic need). Otherwise, if insulin level is kept stable, the body is able to tap the fat stores for energy and thus much lower need for glycogen stores.
First resources that Peter gave me:
Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes
Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes
Peter's blog: www.eatingacademy.com
Jen, high insulin does drive glucose into the muscles but it also prevents the body from burning body fat (this is at a different level for everyone). The body can only hold a limited amount of glucose/carbs at any given time which is why a non-keto adapted person has to feed every 30min. Imagine if you only had to feed every 3 hours without a loss of performance? Also, the constant feeding can have an effect on the bowels after an extended time. This is eliminated if you are feeding less.
As an aside, I once asked Prof Tim Noakes of the South African Sports Scince Institute whether it would be possible for a keto-adapted athlete to swim the EC without feeding and he did say that in theory they could although they would still need to take water.
good, clear response.
One does not need to be "keto-adapted" (in Nutritional Ketosis) to be conditioned ("fat-adapted") and be able to rely primarily on fat stores rather than depend on limited glycogen stores to optimize performance and need to feed less frequently and without GI distress.
Here's a good place to start:
Peter references many sources and additional info links in his posts, so you'll be able to continue on from there...
Count me in as another forum member who has made the switch to super starch product UCan. Blech, but willing to make the taste sacrifice to eliminate my GI distress. Thx @DanSimonnelli for your advice and sharing resources. I am not one to get too heavy into the research and science behind why a product works, but after reading and watching some of the info put out by Peter Attia, I was persuaded to give it a try.
As far as the taste, it is definitely chalky but you can become accustomed to that. The sweetness is too much for my personal taste and another user recommended going to the plain flavor. I decided to compromise and now mix it 50/50 flavored w/ plain. I am liking the pomegranate and lemon flavors if anyone cares. Having a really hard time w/ the chocolate recovery drink, but going to finish what I ordered and re-evaluate when it is time to re-order. Have yet to field test it in a long ow swim, but proceeding optimistically during my pool training. Will report back mid-May after SCAR.
Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska
Just noticed your question. I am following the suggestion to drink 1/3 of the tumbler 30 minutes before my morning swim, forgoing my typical pre-work-out breakfast. So far things are going well. Been feeling strong in the pool and posting some good times in test swims. Could be the UCan or maybe it's b/c I slept at a Holiday Inn Express Hotel last night. jk of course. I don't sleep...incurable insomniac.
BTW, It is my understanding that you can't just try this product a few times and get results. If you find it agrees with your stomach and tastebuds, you need to make the commitment and use it for an extended time. Best wishes. :-)
So, I'd be happy to share my experiences with anyone here.
Plus, I'd want to add more detail about diet and the conditioning of the body to burn fat primarily rather than glycogen...so it's more involved than simply feeding with UCAN like it's a "common glucose based sport nutrition drink".
For example, I don't follow the common practice of feeding every 20-30min. I don't need to. Though I hydrate more on that schedule.
Did you notice any difference in performance?
Are you properly keto-adapted and if so, do you measure your ketones?
I can say that my performance has certainly improved, demonstrated by valuable assets such as increased endurance, less need to feed as much and as often, no GI distress whatsoever, continued positive mental clarity and mood after several hours, and my novel theory: increased acclimatization to cold assisted by the higher ratio of fat calories I burn which create more heat than glycogen. ;-)
I have only measured my ketones once, at the start of my second year. So, I now feel from the improvements I've had over the second year that I've also become better keto-adaptive and thus feeling better as I've increased my mileage.
But in reading more about it, it sounds as if people are using it to help lose weight as well? Hmm... Dan, you probably don't need to lose weight, but have you foundyourself becoming more toned/lean? If so, how much and how often are you using it?
Thanks in advance - KK
However, because I'm training for longer swims, I want to condition for feeding as well. So I drink before, as UCAN suggests, and throughout.
I don't use it after. I simply hydrate.
I have lost weight (about 40lbs from about 3 yrs ago), but I attribute that less to UCAN and exercise and much more to LCHF diet.
However, thanks to @sharkbaitza, UCAN UK sent me a few packets as samples to test and review. They were not able to give me much detail for my planned use or even comparable use, they seemed to only have details for two hour swims or 3/4 hour runs. Nothing in the "ultra" range regardless of sport.
I've only had the chance to do so on one 5 hour pool swim with it so far, before Christmas. It started early morning and I went into the swim with nothing eaten/drunk except water beforehand. It is hard to determine how effective it was, so I plan to do the same again. It did not though feel as comfortable as the low carb swim the previous year. The taste didn't bother me, they sent me four different ones, and I can't remember what flavour I used, but mixing it was very difficult and it had a tendency to settle & clump during the swim regardless of shaking.
Thanks to @DanSimonelli, for the Art & Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance link, I found it for Kindle and will read it shortly. (PM me if anyone wants a "loan").
I an interested how much diet change is needed, (or if needed?), around an event like a swim to make this effective? Last time I didn't take anything else and went in with low overnight blood sugar to force ketosis as I thought this was the correct procedure. I don't want to go back to a low carb diet. Low carb seem to necessarily involve dropping weight, which is just not a good idea for someone in 6C winter waters. I imagine that long term you'd have to increase fat consumption to counterbalance this? Or is that too simplistic?
I will say that giving up carbs has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. Not because I felt bad... on the contrary, I felt great 'off' the carbs... But they are so addictive and are everywhere, you can't go into a shop without being bombarded with carbs. There are almost no low carb friendly restaurants. I found it was easier to give up smoking or alcohol than carbs. There have been some studies that have compared the addictive nature of sugar as more powerful than heroine.
I think that in the future as more people realise they are carb intolerant (possibly as much as 75-80% of the population), it will become easier and I won't fall of the wagon as often.
From March, I'm going to start training a bit more seriously and want to work my way towards a non-feeding marathon... Hopefully there will be some on here that will join me
There is a swimmer of the ultra variety who uses this product and has been more than happy to answer my questions. In-boxing you his name since he has not commented on this thread and I'm not sure he wants what he uses for feeds publicly announced.
However, for me I'm not looking to be able to swim for hours in 6C, so I think even with the lbs lost the last couple years on LCHF regimen, and now holding weight and acclimatized well to 50-60F, I'm good. But I haven't yet gone into the 8+ hour range to know for sure. And I'm not that lean. 5'10", 180lb, that seems to be my equilibrium weight.
I believe as scientific fact that,
1. "eating fat doesn't make you fat".
2. "exercise is an insignificant factor in weight loss".
So, first and foremost, I eat LCHF for health.
I've tested as being "insulin resistant" or "carbohydrate intolerant". So I restrict carbs to reduce the inflammatory effect they cause.
The application of this to endurance sport is that overall diet is necessary in order to condition the body and become keto-adapted so as to allow fatty acids to be your primary "high octane" fuel source over glycogen.
And being "keto-adapted" is not necessarily the same as being in "nutritional ketosis" (i.e., generally ingesting less than 50g carbs/day, though that varies a bit per individual).
I'm not in NK and don't plan to be.
I've simply restricted my carb intake (I don't count much, but variably between 100-200g/day) sufficiently long enough so that my system has conditioned to utilize my fat stores first.
It does take some time for adjustment, generally 2-3 weeks, though that varies by individual.
A mistake I made early on with using UCAN is that I was still thinking like I had to feed frequently as if relying on the glycogen cycle, and needing the same amount of calories per hour. And on a 10mile event, I took too much, got bloated and dehydrated and had a rough, puking last few miles.
I adjusted down from there and now I'm going on about 30g of UCAN per hour with water every half hour. I've also been testing out a product called Biosteel to supplement hydration.
Hrmmm when I picked up swimming I dropped 35 pounds without changing my diet, so I am not sure I agree with your second assertion.
http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer
How do u get samples of UCAN? U just email them? Checking the website..
Boy today I swam after work since I've been stuck in Atlanta "superfreeze" hell all week. Didn't take the UCAN for the first time in 3 weeks and boy it made a huge difference. Totally bonked earlier than I'd like so I just got out instead of slogging sloppy miles.
Sloggy sloppy miles...oh, good times! ;-)
I'll venture to say, I really don't think your malaise had anything to do with your not having taken any ucan feed before or during (I'm assuming you're talking about a regular workout of a hour or maybe two...?).
I think it most likely had more to do with what you consumed that day, or perhaps just tired, or having been out of the water in "superfreeze hell all week"! ;-)
I'm no expert on all this, not a doctor or scientist, don't play one on tv, nor have I recently stayed at a Holiday Inn! (perhaps that last reference -from a US commercial- was too obscure for our Int'l group...?!). So through all this, I'm simply sharing what I've learned along my way (both from my own experiences and testing, as well as working with Dr. Peter Attia, which one can't help but soak some things in when enveloped by all the primary resource information on this topic, generally and as it pertains to endurance sport).
As I understand it and apply to 'flystorm's' acute account, "super starch" does not have the same function as what is conventionally understood with glucose based feeding/fueling. We're not 'carbo loading', or trying to constantly replenish spent glycogen. Rather, 'super starch' acts to replenish glycogen (it is a carbohydrate, albeit a 1000 times longer chain) without triggering an insulin response thereby allowing the body continued access to the fatty acid stores (which we have practically a limitless supply compared to very minimal glycogen in muscles and liver) to use as energy source, and a much more efficient and effective energy!
Taking in some carbs is necessary (unless in total Nutritional Ketosis, whereby your body has made the complete shift from needing glucose for brain function to using the ketone bodies-which are byproduct of metabolizing fatty acids) so that you don't completely deplete glycogen stores and can maintain continued normal brain function.
So, in the case of a normal 1-2 hour workout, taking anything other than perhaps hydration is probably not even necessary, (assuming you're keto-adapted).
If, however, you're not keto-adapted and your body isn't conditioned to utilize fatty acid stores first, then starting off with your normal, primary glycogen stores either depleted (didn't eat much all day) or perhaps having had something high in glucose earlier that spiked your insulin which subsequently dropped commensurately low before your workout will both result in malaise and potentially "bonking" (i.e., depleting glycogen to such a low level that brain function is impaired), which can happen quickly...as in this short time scenario; it doesn't have to be over a long duration. It's just that it's more common over long duration event because of the reliance on glycogen energy cycle and the body's eventual inability to keep up with the continued glycogen drain over extended period of time.
In contrast, if you're keto-adapted, and you're primarily using fatty acid stores of relatively unlimited supply, then you use 'super starch' to replenish the slow glycogen depletion (hence you don't need as many calories per hour) to retain proper brain function, and if you happen to need any spurts of energy (i.e. being chased by something! ;-) ...or need to 'sprint' through a current) you'll have the necessary glycogen for that physiological purpose.
And of course you still need to continually hydrate on longer durations.
Though it's not as important on shorter 1-2 hour duration, unless you start off dehydrated. it's more important to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes consistently during off-workout times since catching up during exercise is physiologically impossible.
Having said all this, and even though I'm betting my life (literally) and my swim progress on this info being true and accurate, one main point that comes through from all the top researchers/scientists who have been in the trenches with this research for decades is that we must always be willing to experiment (on ourselves in this case) and realize that there is not one size fits all; perhaps a common thread...but there are just too many variables and moving parts in human physiology.
So, in our discussions here, we must know that what may work for one may not work for another. And if you want to know, then you need to test for yourself and find out for yourself.
Happy swimming...and eating :-)
I should have qualified those statements more.
Like my last post, I pretty much write in one stream of consciousness and don't really go back to edit for clarity ;-)
To clarify, both these statements pertain to general population on primarily carb-based diets.
So, if you're continually eating what makes your insulin spike, thus blocking your body's ability to metabolize fatty acids as its primary energy source, then the body converts excess carbs to fat and stores in adipose tissue.
The human body does not store ingested fat as "fat cells" in adipose tissue. Rather it breaks down into fatty acids and circulates.
Well done, proper scientific studies (of which most nutrition studies are not! see: www.nusi.org) have shown irrefutably that exercise has a very insignificant effect on the process of weight "loss" from depletion of fat cells/adipose tissue fat.
By far, the main process by which the body reduces its fatty tissue is a individualized diet whereby the cycle of chronic insulin secretion is hindered or stopped thus allowing the body to stop storing glycogen as fat and utilize circulating fatty acids for primary energy.
In your case of losing the weight concurrent with "picking up swimming…without changing diet", I think that says more about the way your system was processing what you were eating rather than the thought that you were expending so many calories to explain the 35 pound weight loss.
(somebody do the math, I can't. Others have.) If you do, then it'll give a clear indication that simply 'burning calories' is not a good explanation for what's actually transpiring.
After my losing 40+ pounds of excess, mostly over the past year, I'm now in the maintenance realm and learning more about all that….it can be a bit different for some of us.
To me it makes perfect sense. We start with the type of fuel and that dictates how the engine runs (not the other way around). If the fuel is substandard or not the right type of fuel for the system, then the system will not run properly or well. Whereas, if you find the ultimate fuel that the system thrives on, then you'll be humming along very nicely, indeed! :-)