Adaptation

(Week 2-6) How my body handled new mix of fuels, what were the consequences on my training and early impressions of things to come.

In adaptation period my diet consisted of vegetables and meat, full fat dairy products (as I am luckily not lactose-resistant), fishes and nuts. Of course no processed food, including no processed meat, only low starch vegetables and fruits (mostly berries), no gels, energy bars or sports drinks.

The theory behind bonking or “Hitting the wall”

The theory behind bonking or “Hitting the wall”

As far as my training went, I fully expected the initial temporary decline in performance, that some term as fat adaptation period. I still vividly remember three workouts from that time which were typical for that training period.

First workout was long bike ride, two days after starting LC. It was 100k easy endurance ride, almost pure enjoyment on a nice winter day. It started well, felt good and was even holding quite nice wattage for this time of season. But 2,5 hours into the ride, in a span of 10 km, my performance dropped from reasonable to bare survival. I never bonked quite this badly on such an easy ride. The last 20k back home was one big struggle, and I would have stopped in the first bakery, if it would be open on Sunday.

Long easy endurance ride that I barely survived

Long easy endurance ride that I barely survived

The other workout was a swim workout, five days after the diet switch. We were swimming 4 x 1000m and 5 x 200m. For first three 1 km repeats I was easily holding 1:30 pace per 100m. Then about 400 m into the fourth repetition, all of a sudden my effort to hold that pace got exponentially higher. To the point, I couldn’t hold it anymore, as my pace dropped to 1:45 per 100 m. I had to abandon the succeeding 5×200 intervals, completing only one repetition, even though I was drafting this time!

Bonking in the water resulted in inability to complete the last 4 intervals

Bonking in the water resulted in inability to complete the last 4 intervals

The third workout was a workout that gave me strength to continue with LC approach. Long hilly run in the snow was planned, 15 days into my experiment, in 19 hour fasting condition. The initiation of the run was prolonged through the day quite substantially, as I was having troubles with motivation yet again. This troublesome starting of training sessions was something that bothered me quite substantially since going LC. But the planned run started (after the thoughts of missed-workout-guilt loomed over), with first couple of 100m tough as hell. Then as I was gradually warming into my pace, I started to feel better and better, my pace picked up, HR went down and I actually started enjoying the run to the point, that I ran a couple kilometers more than planned. So 24 km done on snowy hills, 19 hours fasting before and I felt better after finishing that before I started. If only my diminishing motivation to start training sessions would come back…

The uplifting long hilly run that made me feel better after finishing than before I started

The uplifting long hilly run that made me feel better after finishing than before I started

Gradually over the period of 4-6 weeks, I started to perform better in my trainings. Although my performance was not at the desired level, especially in interval training, at least I wasn’t bonking anymore. Actually I was even feeling better on my longer workouts, most evidently on bike rides. I could easily manage 4-5 h bike rides on water alone, without significant power drops. This was mainly good news, as I was in my base training period. And hope for better performance in high intensity training remained alive, as my performance was on the rise after initial fall-off.

Improvements in general well-being were substantial as well. First and foremost, I basically lost the typical sense of hunger. I was no longer having “sugar cravings” or periods of obsessive eating, the hunger came gradually and was easily sustainable. I could easily go without food for half a day, even when training, so this was very promising news for the life after extensive endurance training.

Another huge benefit was total lack of bloating. In previous times after a post workout high carb loading meal, I often experienced bloating that would last for several hours. I would often even get hungry again, long before the bloating subsided. Now on LC this issue was nonexistent. Even after large meals I could immediately do some strength work, something unimaginable after high carb meals.

As far as my weight goes, it went down to under 70 kg for the first time in a couple of years, and it was very stable even in day-to-day basis. I leaned out quite a bit and my veins started popping out in places, where I haven’t seen them before.

So if I could describe first impressions of this period with one word it would be steadiness. No big fluctuations in hunger/performance/motivation, only steady state. Although the thoughts of highs were missed (i.e. interval training), the thought of never having lows (sugar cravings, bonking) kept me on this journey.

Lessons learned:

  • Body needs time to adapt to LC, as performance drop is quite substantial
  • High intensity training is impaired, but there is no bonking on long, steady efforts

Various observations:

  • The feeling of hunger is different on LC, mainly being more tolerable. There are no urgent cravings, just gradually appearing and very bearable feeling of hunger.
  • The bloating is non-existent on this diet, enabling earlier “regeneration” after meals to start succeeding training sessions.
  • Weight loss was quite easily achieved, without any major hunger crisis.
  • The frequency of defecation is greatly reduced. Before, when on HC, I needed to go to the bathroom in excess of 5 times per day. Also, the runs that were done without the use of toilet paper were very rare. After switching to LC, this problem went away, even though the majority of runs were done in the morning! I only needed to go to bathroom once or twice per day. Constipation was also never present.
  • The need to urinate was greatly reduced as well, as my bathroom visit frequency at work has dropped from once per hour to once per approx. four hours. Nightly visits were reduced as well, from 4-5 times a night to once or never!
  • One interesting phenomenon, that I couldn’t explain, was curious pain in arms when running. This pain would usually appear 10 km into the run and would quite often stay until the completion. It wasn’t unbearable pain, just slight, consistent pain above and below the elbow.

Detailed weekly nutrition data

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