8

votes

Experienced marathoners: Keto training to avoid the wall

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 02, 2012 at 8:17 PM

The body stores about 1800 calories of glycogen, give or take. When marathoners hit "the wall" after 15-20 or so miles they have mostly depleted these stores and are having trouble adjusting to burning fat.

If I train in nutritional ketosis, theoretically my body will be used to using fat as a fuel already, right? So then shouldn't I be able to run a marathon without hitting the wall?

I've run 3 marathons in the past eating lots of carbs during training and I'm gearing up for another. Have any experience marathoners played with this?

I know that marathons can be run on a paleo diet just from other PH threads. What I'm asking here is, could it actually advantageous to train in ketosis?

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 31, 2012
at 06:53 PM

Thanks for the details. I just linked to your report on http://www.ketotic.org/2012/12/bcaas-and-keto-diets.html

22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 12, 2012
at 02:12 PM

As far as me not being someone who has figured things out, I have ridden my bike 200 miles in a day. I'm not asking for a gold star and I don't think that that's ridiculously impressive, but I'm also not some fat guy that rides his bike 7 miles to and from work trying to give advice on something I've never dealt with.

22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 12, 2012
at 02:09 PM

I'm not talking about getting buff so you can compete in an endurance competition. I can't really see why you would think what I'm saying is incorrect other than if you're misinterpreting it. If someone runs 50 miles, a huge proportion of their energy will come from fat. But when people use the term ketosis, they aren't talking about burning fat, they're talking about burning ONLY fat. A person who runs 50 miles burns mostly fat because their muscles are fit and running requires a lesser amount of exertion than it does for most people.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on May 11, 2012
at 11:28 PM

Yup it's possible to train as an elite marathoner and be able to stretch things out for a few more miles, which is all they need. That seems to almost entirely miss the point. Just how much muscular strength do you think you need? Some people may have some things figured out, but I don't think you're one of them.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on May 11, 2012
at 10:45 PM

You can store over 4000 cals of carbohydrates if you eat 15g/kg of bodyweight

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on May 08, 2012
at 02:36 AM

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-fuel-a-marathon/

22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 04, 2012
at 03:21 AM

Simply put, the focus is off. It's not about "ketosis". The intensity at which you perform will determine what portion of fat stores and glycogen you are burning up. If you are in straight ketosis, it will limit your ability to perform and therefore limit your performance gains. I'm not talking about just sprinting the whole way, I'm just saying that a lot of people have run marathons and there have been a lot of different approaches, this is one subject where people have actually figured it out.

22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 04, 2012
at 03:17 AM

I guess I didn't explain it to your liking. Ketosis is very much involved, but training in ketosis is probably less effective than simply training with the intention of improving performance. The idea that there's this awesome way to train for an endurance event that no one has figured out is pretty ridiculous. Running out of glycogen is not a typical thing and it doesn't happen to people that are in good shape and train properly.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on May 03, 2012
at 04:55 PM

Sam, you don't run very much, do you?

Ddfdaa75ac9f47e01fc71162dd0d38dc

on May 03, 2012
at 02:27 PM

Yup. Peter Attia the marathon swimmer also does this. He's posted his ketone & performance values.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on May 03, 2012
at 12:50 PM

And running faster doesn't do you much good if you grind to a halt before the end. Besides, if you train in ketosis but fill up your glycogen before the event then you can tap all the sprint power you, er, want and still keep ticking.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on May 03, 2012
at 12:48 PM

That seems to be a flat contradiction of any credible work I've read or what I've experienced. Is this just good ol' fashioned scepticism or do you have something against ketosis?

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on May 03, 2012
at 12:45 PM

On ultras they eat full-on meals as they run.

D290734f36a9ae03e3f60e0fa088d7ed

(1304)

on May 03, 2012
at 12:38 PM

Is that The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance? Looks awesome. Can't wait for it on Kindle

07243c7700483a67386049f7b67d90a4

on May 03, 2012
at 10:40 AM

^ there's your answer. Spot on sam.

5b5abb28f3cacf4f5a01497f2895d072

(238)

on May 02, 2012
at 09:25 PM

The logic seems good, though there may be downsides. You can probably run a marathon anyway by running on a fat metabolism heart rate - to run faster would require a glycogen metabolism. What I'm trying to get at is that you may avoid hitting the wall, and you may increase the range of effort/HR at which you can run on fat metabolism, but you may still be slower than a conventionally run marathon. One additional question would be how do ultra runners deal with this - running 6 miles after hitting te wall is tough, running 50+ surely requires another strategy.

474ae29b80569199c6589e879e6cd7d1

on May 02, 2012
at 08:46 PM

Thanks for asking the question. I do "big" hikes, 20-30 miles, strenuos terrain I have defintely hit walls in the past.

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6 Answers

4
80890193d74240cab6dda920665bfb6c

(1528)

on May 03, 2012
at 06:11 AM

Read Volek's new book on exercise performance. He offers the case studies of quite a few ultra-marathoners - folks who do 50, 100 mile runs - who live in ketosis just for the advantage of always have steady fuel during these very long endurance events.

D290734f36a9ae03e3f60e0fa088d7ed

(1304)

on May 03, 2012
at 12:38 PM

Is that The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance? Looks awesome. Can't wait for it on Kindle

Ddfdaa75ac9f47e01fc71162dd0d38dc

on May 03, 2012
at 02:27 PM

Yup. Peter Attia the marathon swimmer also does this. He's posted his ketone & performance values.

2
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on May 11, 2012
at 10:08 PM

Steve Phinney has shown that keto-adapted athletes utilize muscle glycogen at a lower rate during sub-maximal exercise. Of course, when you are in ketosis your muscle and liver-glycogen stores are much reduced over someone that has carbo-loaded.

It's like having two leaky buckets, a full to the brim carb-loaded bucket with a big hole, and a half-full keto-adapted bucket with a much smaller hole. Even though one is much fuller than the other, they'll both empty out in the same time: http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/1/1/2

Of course, once your glycogen is exhausted, the keto-adapted athlete is in a better suited to running on stored fat. The alternative title for Phinney and Volek's new book is "the art of avoiding the bonk".

1
8a4ea419662638e5dec709d460d74b7c

on August 16, 2012
at 12:10 AM

I'm not an "experienced marathoner", but I implemented the Volek/Phinney program and ran a trail marathon in ketosis. I wrote up a report on mark's daily apple:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread64390.html

I'm not convinced that there's a performance advantage, but I don't have an apples to apples comparison. Recovery seems to be improved though, which could be very important.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on December 31, 2012
at 06:53 PM

Thanks for the details. I just linked to your report on http://www.ketotic.org/2012/12/bcaas-and-keto-diets.html

0
543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on May 08, 2012
at 03:42 AM

Take a look at http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-fuel-a-marathon/

Mark talks a bit about "Train Low, Race High"

0
22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 03, 2012
at 02:28 AM

Honestly, I'd be surprised if training in ketosis does you any good. "Hitting the wall" is not this inevitable occasion, it's just what happens to a lot of people that do marathons.

A better focus, in my opinion, is to build up your muscular strength and endurance. As your muscles get built up, you will be able to go faster and farther using less energy. I just don't think there's as much to this "keto-adapted" thing as people give credit for. Sure, your body will probably become more efficient at it as you do it more, but to the extent that you'd be better off training in ketosis for a marathon is the wrong approach.

If nothing else, the biological mechanism of ketosis and running marathons are completely antagonistic to each other.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on May 03, 2012
at 12:48 PM

That seems to be a flat contradiction of any credible work I've read or what I've experienced. Is this just good ol' fashioned scepticism or do you have something against ketosis?

22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 04, 2012
at 03:17 AM

I guess I didn't explain it to your liking. Ketosis is very much involved, but training in ketosis is probably less effective than simply training with the intention of improving performance. The idea that there's this awesome way to train for an endurance event that no one has figured out is pretty ridiculous. Running out of glycogen is not a typical thing and it doesn't happen to people that are in good shape and train properly.

22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 04, 2012
at 03:21 AM

Simply put, the focus is off. It's not about "ketosis". The intensity at which you perform will determine what portion of fat stores and glycogen you are burning up. If you are in straight ketosis, it will limit your ability to perform and therefore limit your performance gains. I'm not talking about just sprinting the whole way, I'm just saying that a lot of people have run marathons and there have been a lot of different approaches, this is one subject where people have actually figured it out.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on May 11, 2012
at 11:28 PM

Yup it's possible to train as an elite marathoner and be able to stretch things out for a few more miles, which is all they need. That seems to almost entirely miss the point. Just how much muscular strength do you think you need? Some people may have some things figured out, but I don't think you're one of them.

22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 12, 2012
at 02:12 PM

As far as me not being someone who has figured things out, I have ridden my bike 200 miles in a day. I'm not asking for a gold star and I don't think that that's ridiculously impressive, but I'm also not some fat guy that rides his bike 7 miles to and from work trying to give advice on something I've never dealt with.

22424c9eef944ade83d4e4ffda907056

(1402)

on May 12, 2012
at 02:09 PM

I'm not talking about getting buff so you can compete in an endurance competition. I can't really see why you would think what I'm saying is incorrect other than if you're misinterpreting it. If someone runs 50 miles, a huge proportion of their energy will come from fat. But when people use the term ketosis, they aren't talking about burning fat, they're talking about burning ONLY fat. A person who runs 50 miles burns mostly fat because their muscles are fit and running requires a lesser amount of exertion than it does for most people.

0
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on May 03, 2012
at 01:48 AM

I don't do marathons (longest I ever did was a half). I used to do 10k races a bunch, but since switching to Crossfit and paleo full time, I haven't done any long-distance trainings. I still do one 10k a year for fun, and I've been drafted into some 24-hour relay events where the legs are on the order of 10k or so. So take this for what it's worth coming from an anti-endurance mindset and training style.

I have had my best ever 10k races, both in best times, and felt the best during and afterwards, when I've been keto adapted. In fact my last 10k that I did, I ran it in a fasted state. I woke up, drove to the start, ran. I had an awesome feeling of constant energy, never really got tired. I couldn't ever pick up the pace to sprint past anyone but I had a great constant energy. I never felt anything like it. I totally think that it would extend to a marathon if you wanted to try.

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