LCHF and Me

Earlier this year I started a diet. I have never followed any kind of diet before and it was aimed to be an experiment. It is starting to become a way of life.

This blog is aimed at documenting my progress on the Low carb high fat diet and its effect on my running; and also providing further information as to what it is all about. I may digress onto other subjects; we will see.



The more I read about LCHF the more I have become passionate about it. Perhaps it’s my mid-life state that has me taking health more seriously, or perhaps I am just getting angry about all the misinformation being peddled by the 'experts' and the drug and food companies – probably it is both. But I get angry about this stuff; it keeps me awake at nights. So this is my pressure release value.

 I became interested in LCHF as a result of my wife’s research into the subject. Jane runs a Personal Training company (http://aspirefitnesssolutions.co.uk) and has been looking to provide reliable advice about weight management to her clients. She also insists on understanding things before passing them on as advice; unlike many in her profession and the diet industry. Jane has been using LCHF for about 16 months now.

LCHF is different from other diets; it’s simple, and it takes us back to our natural state; the way we evolved before low-cost junk food became widely available. I like to hope that no one could successfully market a high-fat diet food range – but I suspect that I could be wrong! Most diets are full of restrictions, LCHF has just one. I love its simplicity; just cut out the only unnecessary macronutrient group and you’re done. After all carbs are the dull part of any good meal aren’t they?

When it comes to food our bodies are so much cleverer than our minds. In three weeks my body learned to do something that most registered dieticians would tell you is impossible. And in three months my body re-learned a way of fuelling itself that is as old as our history on earth. I can run a marathon on a couple of eggs and bacon for breakfast and a couple of salty cups of soup. And I can still run up steep hills as fast as I could 5 years ago when carbs ruled the world. 

About Me
I am a 48 year-old with better than average health and fitness. Since turning 40 I have taken up running as a serious pastime. I run between 20 and 50 miles a week and I run for a local club. Sometimes (but not often) I win races. I put on a few pounds if I stop exercising and don’t cut back on food. I like food and drink. I eat home cooked food 95% of the time and I like to drink wine with dinner, usually more than I should.

What worries me is not so much my weight but the stuff that goes into my food. How will it affect my future health? I also worry about what other people eat. Why are so many people overweight? You would think that in this day and age we would know enough about how our bodies work to ensure that no one got to be obese unless they actually wanted to. But clearly we do not.

Lots of people make a living out of telling other people what to eat. Diet clubs make lots of money and we are getting fatter. Food companies produce low-fat food and we are getting fatter. The NHS suggests a balanced diet (whatever that means) and pays billions a year to keep diabetics from dying and provide gastric bypasses for the obese. And has this helped? No. In fact the situation is getting worse. I would like to help to change this situation.

I would also like to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible. I would like to beat my Beachy Head Marathon PB. This might sound a bit delusional (it is a good time set 4 years ago and I'm nearing 50) but there are aspects of LCHF that may well help me to do this. I planned to start with the London Marathon; I planned to cruise through comfortably and enjoy it with a shirt that reads ‘Fuelled By Fat’ on the back. If that went well that it would be back to the hills and the BHM where my love of running began.

Read on if the subject appeals to you….. 

The basics of LCHF
I am not about to try to describe the diet in detail as there are excellent references by folks much better qualified than me. Here is one of the best : http://www.dietdoctor.com/lchf
And here is another http://eatingacademy.com/how-a-low-carb-diet-affected-my-athletic-performance.

These two websites have fuelled my interest in the subject and led me to read a number of very well written books, the best of which would be The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek. 

And here is a rather amusing and straight to the point article that I like. http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/On-Tim-Noakes-and-Bullsht-20140113 By the way, everyone should listen to Tim Noakes; he is just great and ought to receive a Nobel Prize or something suitably grand.


To summarise on LCHF. Fat used to be our primary energy source. In the absence of carbs our liver will turn fats into ketones which are the body's alternative energy source besides glycogen. Carbs used to be an infrequent luxury; ripe fruits found and gorged upon. Our bodies learned to make use of carbs; they may even have made us a bit better at chasing those fatty animals that we like to eat, but is was the fat of those animals that powered us most of the time. Our Palaeolithic ancestors may have been short of some forms of nutrition but they were not short of energy.


Our bodies do not tolerate carbohydrates very well. Feed them too much and we store it as fat. Some of us develop nasty diseases as a result. But remove the carbs from our diet (carefully mind) and hey! those diseases often go away. This is where Tim Noakes is such a superstar, along with Phinney and Volek. They are not just talking about LCHF diets; they are curing many ill people with them.
To my mind it is not the ability for folks like me to lead a healthier lifestyle and maybe beat an old PB that matters, it is the possibility that millions of people suffering diabetes and faced with a lifetime of drugs and pain might shake off those shackles and live a healthy and happy life.
I grew up in a world where carbs were king. I did not grow fat on them but my family were very active and we did not eat much sugar; many of my friends did get fat. Since I have worked and travelled around the world with my job I have seen the extent to which whole communities can become part of a culture where obesity has become the norm. I refer to this as the ‘Cakes in the Kitchen’ syndrome. We all know those cakes we bring in for a birthday treat are bad for us but for some reason unknown to anyone but Mr Kipling we do it every time.
In the time that I have been growing up there has been an epidemic of obesity, timed perfectly with an epidemic in the consumption of carbohydrates. Many people have suggested that the cause was a more sedentary lifestyle but that is only one part of the bigger picture - in fact there is recent research that suggests that we are just as active now as we were 30 years ago. If I ate all those ‘cakes in the kitchen’ at work then no amount of running would prevent me from being fatter than I am.
It is only in the last few years that anyone has suggested that the problem might be due to carbohydrates; and many of these heretics have been burned at the cross of capitalism. But the proof is emerging fast; it is all around us in research papers, clinical results, hard evidence. And still big-pharma and big-food refuse to admit they are wrong. And governments refuse to admit they are wrong because they are sponsored and advised by big-pharma and big-food. But the foundations are crumbling and I hope that the tower of carbs will fall soon.

9 comments:

  1. I'm 42 and been running for a while. My best marathon time is 3:37. I've won and usually place in local 10ks and half marathons, and I've run a 50k and did an Ironman last year. I would like to qualify for Boston one day. Maybe in a few years once the time goes to 3:25 for my divison. Anyway, I just started the HFLC diet and my running performance has been suffering. Will I eventually get faster/better because of the diet? I am losing weight, which is nice, but I'm concerned about losing speed. Has your running performance improved since the diet? I would appreciate your response.

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    1. I'm by no means an elite runner, but I'd like to offer some input. My PB for a 1/2 Marathon is 1:48:18 so I'm not a complete novice. I'm 46 and coach for a local running club and switched to LCHF about two months ago - during off-season. The best book I've read for advice has been, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, by Volek and Phinney. I experienced a lull in performance and realized I wasn't getting nearly enough salt and I lost weight way too quickly. I'm glad I'm 10 lbs. lighter and weigh what I did 20 years ago, but it came off too quickly. I feel that I've found a good balance and my performance is back. Good luck.

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  2. Hi Russell, as mentioned elsewhere in this blog my performance has not suffered. Like most people there was an initial period of 2-3 weeks where running was hard work as I had not yet adjusted to fat burning, but since then things have steadily improved. I would not say that I am faster, but I am as fast as before; the big difference is that I can keep going for longer, as shown by a PB in a tough trail marathon.
    I hope it all goes well for you.
    Malcolm

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  3. What would you recommend for someone who was an avid runner for a few years, not into races or anything, but consistent. Then after a meniscus injury had to quit for a while and is finally getting back. I've been doing low carb for a couple weeks now, and running leisurely each week (about 10-15 miles) but I'm hoping to do my first marathon later this year and I'm wondering if it's a good idea to start training more vigorously having just begun low carb?

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    1. Hi - sorry about the delayed response; lots of changes going on.
      I'd recommend that if it works for you then stick with it. I'f you've stuck with it then hopefully you will be past the first stage of adaptation and running on fat now. From they you should be able to build up just like you would on any other training plan, just remembering not to push too hard on longer runs as you risk burning off the little glycogen that you have in store. Burn it up as fast as you like on speed sessions!
      As you train you will slowly adapt to burning a higher ratio of fat per minute and your long distance performance should slowly improve. I did well in my first LCHF marathon but a year later I hit a big PB. So stick with it!

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  4. Just wanted to say thank you for your informative posts. I'm a running who runs about 50 miles a week and have switched to LCHF for the past week. My runs have suffered due to lack of carbs but reading your blog this is a temp thing and will pass in a few weeks. I was willing to ditch the new plan and carb load for my next long run but I'm going to persevere. Hopefully my stubborn old body will stop protesting soon and give me some energy and pace back. Thanks again, Sue

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    1. Hi Sue
      See the comment below about protesting bodies.
      Pace is another thing; I firmly believe that your pace can improve on LCHF, but only because the diet allows us to train better over a long period of time and become a faster runner who doesn't rely on carbs.
      It is not like you will run faster on fat than carbs; but you may become a more efficient athlete, which over time will help you to run faster. This was certainly the case for me.
      Good luck!
      Malcolm.

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  5. Hi Malcolm, I am 2 weeks into a LCHF eating plan & I run 3 to 4 times per week. Since starting the new plan Ive found I'm struggling to run, especially on an evening.
    What I would like to know is, is this just a temporary issue?
    Regards, Jane Hill

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  6. Jane
    This sounds like a common issue.
    Weeks 2-4 can be hard work as your body adjusts to burning fat rather than carbs. Stick with it!
    For me it was in week 3 that I really felt the difference, for others it can be earlier or later.
    But if you have been careful with carbs then you should be ketogenic by now.
    Are you using keto-sticks? They are not perfect (read http://eatingacademy.com for lots more details here) but if the stick is red then you are probably fat-burning which can only be a good thing.
    Lots of people I talk to want quick results here. Don't be in a hurry, the adaptations come steadily but surely.
    Let me know how you get on.
    Malcolm

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