I am nervous even thinking about writing this post because I know how many people are likely to start carrying on about their food choices. I know and you know who you are so just don't. This is simply my account of my experience with the diet and I am not saying it is recommended or not. I am not saying it is good or bad. I am not saying anything other than how I found it. So with that in mind lets get into it.
So I listen to IMTalk and one of the hosts John Newsom was experimenting with a LCHF diet. I have heard so many different things about what impact this has on your body. Me being the curious foodie thought there was no better way to make a decision than to try it myself. I made the suggestion to Dez that we try it for four weeks and she was right on board. We set our menu for the week and decided the goal was to keep our daily carbohydrate intake to under 50g a day. I thought this would be relatively easy. I was wrong. At first I assumed all I would really do would be to minimise the amount of toast and cereal I would eat. I downloaded my fitness pal and started inputting everything I ate or intended to eat. Going into the plan I knew I would feel a bit rough for the first few days/weeks but would eventually start to feel better. I feel it is necessary to state here that I was not doing this diet to lose weight but instead I wanted to see if the claims that you could train/race harder without relying on food were true. Truth be told I do most of my training on an empty stomach and without food anyway.
The first few days the food was relatively easy to stay on top of. The first speed bump I hit was when I realised that if I had a soy coffee which is my favourite thing in the world it would throw my daily carb intake out the window. Great, this four week experiment already was causing me some issues. In fact as long as I stayed at home I found it quite easy to stay under the 50 grams of carbs. It was as soon as I started to try and source food outside that I struggled. I know there are plenty of options if I really want to but I was shocked at how carbs are basically in everything. I couldn't even eat too much fruit. I do not actually think it is too hard to source LCHF food. I am more commenting here on how you don't realise how much sugar there is in so many of the things that we eat. More and more often I found myself eating meat and eggs.
Then there was my training. Again, going into this I expected it to be hard and to have an impact on my training. Well as I wrote about last week, I bonked on my Wednesday ride. This is a ride that I do at least twice a week and have never had an issue with before. I knew this would happen at the start and I am not saying it is a negative consequence of the diet. Other than feeling a little flat I actually got through all of my training and even did a surprisingly fast run on the Saturday morning. I was also extremely happy that my protein supplement from True Amino did not have a significant amount of carbs in it so using it was no problem at all.
The biggest surprise for me was how quickly I lost weight. Within a week I had dropped over 4kgs. Anyone who knows anything about weight-loss know this is not a healthy level of weight loss. People told me this is normal as it is mostly fluid that the body is dropping. While I knew it was a little crazy I have to admit I enjoyed seeing my abs make a reappearance. Dez also had dropped a few kgs and was pretty happy about that. Maybe one of the biggest errors I made with starting this diet was starting the week of Easter. On Friday I went up to visit my Mum for lunch. My Mum, much like other people's, is always sure I am too skinny or not eating enough or not eating the right way. So when I told her that me and Dez were trying this diet (and clearly explaining it was an experiment and temporary) she had some concerns. She cooked a meal for us we could eat but there were a number of comments made.
It is actually the thing I noticed the most. As soon as you would tell someone that I was trying the LCHF diet they would have a very strong reaction either way. Some people who had either tried the diet or heard about it would tell me about their experiences. The other camp however, carb enthusiasts lets call them, would become quite aggressive. Almost getting angry about it. Some people could not believe I was doing it and tried to explain to me why I should not do it. I am still baffled as to why people are so opinionated by what people eat. Some of my friends were using any opportunity to give me a hard time about not eating carbs. Almost rubbing it in my face. Weird hey? At no point ever was I telling people to do what I was doing. I was simply trying something to get my own opinion.
Needless to say from the title of this article, I did not last the four weeks. I gave up after 9 days. Why? It certainly wasn't because I felt sick or weak or anything like that. It was a much more personal reason. I love carbs. I eat pretty well. I rarely eat take away food etc. But telling me I could not have carbs meant that instead of missing the things I usually ate I became obsessed with them. I was getting cranky because all I wanted was to eat pizza and hamburgers and bacon and egg rolls. By saying I could not have carbs they became the only thing I wanted. I also like to eat meat, just not all of the time and I also found myself relying on meat a bit too much. It was the easiest way to eat LCHF for me personally. But this diet was literally impacting on my mood. I was like an addict. All I wanted was a sweet hit of carbohydrates. Like a madman.
One of the biggest messages about food and diet which I try to promote is that when it comes to a diet if you can's see yourself doing it for the rest of your life then you will fail and shouldn't do it. So I chose to follow my own advice. There was no way I was going to be able to continue this diet and for what? To write about it in my blog? When we decided to go back to our regular way of eating I instantly felt at ease. I am still keeping an eye on the carbs that I eat. I am trying to keep them to a minimum at night but I am not having crazy cravings or mood swings.
So what were my key learnings from this little dabble with LCHF? I lost weight very easily. This isn't really too big a surprise. I am able to drop weight very quickly when I set my mind to it. I could not give an opinion on the benefits of it on my training as I simply did not give it long enough to experience the benefits .I also learnt that I could quite happily be vegetarian. I am not going to go vego (calm down everyone) but I am extremely fond of vegetables these days. Who would of thought that was possible when you consider that old fat Tim did not touch them at all. The other thing I learned which I already knew but had it really re-enforced was how protective people become of their eating habits. I do not understand why people need to try and convince others that their way of eating is the best or right way. I do not actually care what other people eat. I may have issue if you are eating KFC everyday. But honestly I do not mind if you are paleo, LCHF, vegetarian, vegan, or anything in between. It is entirely your decision and as long as it doesn't make it too hard for me to spend time with you by having to cook several different meals when friends visit knock yourselves out. It actually isn't that important to me and I do not create my impression of a person based on what they do or do not eat.
Will I try LCHF again? Maybe. I may try it again in the future but I would really need to develop some better systems to deal with it. I was honest to god out of control. I never realised how much I enjoy, not need, but enjoy eating things like toast and cereal. I train bloody hard and if I want a slice of toast with peanut butter I am going to have it. I said it at the start too. Most of my training is fasted. I never take food or nutrition with me when I train. It wasn't out of some desire to develop the ability to train on an empty stomach. It was mostly out of laziness. I do not like to have stuff in my pockets. As a result of this I find that I am able to run or ride for a long time without any nutrition.
So there we go. I tried and failed to adapt to a LCHF diet. Not because there is anything wrong with the diet but instead because it simply was not something that I want to do. I know that there are many people who successfully live this way just like there are many who rely heavily on carbs. Whatever your choice it is exactly that. Your choice.
Have a good week, enjoy a feed and remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.