If you would’ve told me I would be running 3 hours on green tea for breakfast, or that I’d be riding a 100k mountain bike race for 5 and a half hours on 215 calories, or that I’d conquer the Leadville 100 MTB race in 9 hours and 45 minutes on less than 1000 calories of food, I would’ve said you’re crazy! But that is exactly what happened.
I did everything I was told. I carb loaded, I ate my steel cut oats in the morning, topped with a banana and maybe some raisins. Then I’d have my pre-workout drink to kick start my run or ride. It was a little sugar and caffeine boost. After my run or ride, I’d return and make my recovery drink which had more carbohydrates. Then, I’d have a protein shake with another banana, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, almond milk and protein powder. Doesn’t sound unhealthy at all, right? In fact, all of it is pretty healthy, but not for someone like me. I’m insulin resistant, which means I am pre-diabetic. Or at least I was.
I used to burn sugar as fuel, now I use fat. There is so much science and frankly, conflicting science on the issue of using carbohydrates or fat for fuel. With the obesity epidemic, so many people want to burn off their fat, so it seems counter intuitive to be eating a high fat diet. Another argument is that on a high fat diet, you’re bound to have animal fat which could increase your risk for heart disease. If you’re not confused already, just start doing a little research on vegan diets vs. paleo vs. low carb high fat vs. pescatarian vs. the standard American diet (SAD). It’s baffling.
I never had any symptoms. Let me repeat that. I never had any symptoms! After turning 40, I decided I should have my blood checked. I felt great on the inside, I looked fit on the outside, my energy levels were fine, and I was super active. I assumed that the extra carbs and sugars would burn off from the amount of exercise I was doing. At 43, I finally had my blood work done and learned that I had insulin resistance in my adipose tissue.
My doctor told me that it was nothing to panic about and that we could use some lifestyle changes to lower some of the negative levels then retest the blood. Thanks to Health Diagnostic Laboratories, we’re able to do that with some insurance.
After 6 months on a low carb, high fat, moderate protien diet, I was able to increase my HDL (the good cholesterol) by 15% and decrease my triglycerides by 15% and that is just the beginning! One of the biggest changes is in my energy levels throughout the day. I no longer have spikes of energy followed by crashes. And as an endurance athlete, it’s been an amazing transition. I no longer worry about what gels to have or how many carbs I need. My stomach no longer bothers me on races and I never worry about overeating.
My disclaimer is that my diet is NOT for everyone. Everyone is unique, you are unique and your diet should be what works for you. One genetic test we did was the APO E genetic marker. It’s a 3/4 which means I’m at a higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. My very good friend had a similar diet when he took the same tests. His APO E was a 4/4 and his levels were all fine. With diets, don’t do what I do, check out your blood work then see what you need. My results are only one in many thousands.
Here are the steps I took to figure out what was going on inside and the experts who have inspired and helped me along the way.
First, I had blood work done to see the levels and check some genetic markers. Get the full panel from hdlabsinc.com. Second, after learning I was insulin resistant, I dug deeper into what I as actually eating. I became brutally honest about how much sugar and how many carbohydrates I was eating. Third, I contacted Mark Sisson, a Paleo expert and asked for advise on how to train and compete on a low carb diet. See other resources below. Fourth, I decreased my carbohydrate intake to about 100gms per day. It took 3-4 weeks to feel normal again. It was seriously like coming down from an addiction. It took about 6 months to get my blood levels heading in the right direction.
There are so many resources, here are a few: Mark Sisson, Gary Taubes, Dave Asprey, Drs. Phinney & Volek, Dr. Mark Hyman. There is plenty of information on the market and much of it will be conflicting, but the key is to use your own life as an experimental lab. Ask yourself What are your goals? Do you want to loose weight or run an extra 8 hours? What stage of life are you? What is your current diet? Most importantly, what are your blood levels? I’m happy to answer any questions for you on twitter @teddymcdonald during your quest for optimum health!