I would love to regale you with the story of my life but will restrict it to my low carb journey.
It’s the 23 of April 2014 and I have just returned from a holiday in Cape Town. This was a time when I still considered myself fit. This was evident from my shaved legs to show that I was an avid cyclist.
My weight had blossomed over the preceding two years but it had crept up on me slowly and I must admit that I wasn’t too concerned about it. My gut was starting to protrude quite a bit but not being aware that this was one of the first signs of metabolic syndrome in men I largely ignored it.
While looking through the photos of the trip I saw how big I had become and this really upset me. It was a time in my life where I should have been able to run and play with my two young boys but I seldom felt like it
During the holiday I recall a moment on the beach where the boys wanted me to come and swim with them and I was too embarrassed to take my shirt off. This was not how I imagined things would be. This I believe was my awakening. I did not want to be this way.
I did not grow up over weight. 1985 after matriculating I weighed 52kg all muscle and no fat. So not a big guy by any standards. My weight slowly increased over the years but I still stayed under 65kg well into my late twenties and then started blossoming. I was always active in gym and martial arts and worked hard at keeping a lean body. I do recall that from about the age of 37 I started to sit back a little and within a very short space of time put on an exceeding amount of weight
By Dec 2009 I was weighing in at 115 kg. I recall having a New Year’s bash at my house and my neighbors were carrying on about cycling. I decided to join them on a mountain bike ride the very next morning. Needless to say I nearly died before we got to 10 km. This annoyed me and I set to riding regularly but kept it to under 12km for almost three months. This was my first turning point. I did not know anything about low carb but did remove all sugar and most of my grains from my diet and for the next two years trained exceptionally hard, racing regularly until I had built up enough confidence to enter Ironman 2011. I had reached 80kg through a lot of hard work and about 25 hours of peak training just before IRONMAN 2011.
Ironman 2011 went well for a rookie but it had put stress on my family from the excessive training and coupled to the business climate led to a divorce which really shocked me. I had placed training as my priority and everything in my life revolved around it.
I recall being on the Symphonia just before Argus in 2010 and training every day. This was meant to be a romantic breakaway. I tell you this as it was what I thought was necessary at the time to correct my weight and I committed myself to it .In hind sight it was ridiculous
Shortly after Ironman 2011 on a trip to Mozambique I crashed a quad bike really badly and broke some ribs. This put paid to training for a while. Consider that I had been training daily for up to four hours at a time and eating to match the energy I believed I required. I share this with you to create context for my desire to fix things myself.
During this time I ate copious amounts of food much the same as I had been eating while training for Ironman. Needless to say the weight started creeping back and even with training I just got heavier and heavier.
At the end of 2012 our family got back together and it was necessary for a complete priority change. I realized that maintaining health and weight was more a product of joy than eating and training. I weighed 105 kg and had 39% body fat to correct. While this may sound crazy let me explain.
Motivation that’s not fulfilling your beliefs are not motivating for very long and what I believed would bring me great joy was a great relationship with my maker, a great relationship with my partner and a great relationship with my kids. If I could fulfill theses three dreams everything else would fall into place.
I did strike me though that in order to do this it would help if I could achieve a balance between health, weight correction, exercise and quality time with my family.
I knew that I could not go back to training 25 hrs a week and running a business. I started researching alternatives ways of achieving exercise and weight activity success without having to put in the extra hours.
It was during this period that I read Tim Ferris’s “The four hour body” and was exposed to the concept of minimum effective dose training. It’s important to understand that I believed I understood how to manage my nutrition and was only looking for a better solution to training less but achieving the same results.
Rules that change the rules
My first course of action was to break the conventional rules by having an understanding of them that would allow me to break them effectively. I did not believe that I had the time or space to waste time trying different methods. My purpose was to find the simplest and most effective way to maximize results in the shortest space of available time. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for.
“This book essentially deals with the principle of minimum effective dose and how you get the best results for weight and health correction from the least possible effort. “
I started by investigating training methods that could increase strength over many modalities while efficiently using the least amount of time possible.
More about this later suffice to say I was ready for new information that could assist me in achieving my goals. I would go so far as to say that if it had not been for my desire to create a balance between health, weight correction, exercise and quality time with my family I would not have been as receptive to the concepts of low carb high fat as I had been. This is important as it sets the tone for the changes that were going to take place in my life.
I do not recall how I was introduced to low carb and Banting but I can assure you that I did not believe in it. I had been following Professor Tim Noakes for years and was astounded to hear that everything we thought we had to do in terms of carbo-loading etc. was wrong. Astounded may be putting it lightly. I thought he was nuts.
I endeavored to find out what I could but I must admit that I was rather fixed in my old ways of thinking and was not looking to find out why fat was good for you. After joining numerous Banting groups and seeing what they were advocating I decided to give it a bash if only to prove it wrong.
I may add that I had lost seven kg’s from April to May and found myself putting them all back with the notion of eat as much as you like from the green list and add fats and double cream yoghurt to everything. I loved the way of eating though but felt vindicated in my belief that high fat was not the way to go. While following the comments of many of the banters and seeing and hearing a mixture of great and poor results I had to find out what it was that I did not understand.
The time had come for me to take a closer look at what Professor Tim Noakes had said and how fat and carbohydrates affected my health.
It was clear from the beginning that the term “eat when hungry” did not mean eat continuously and I needed to find a way to not be hungry but how was this possible if I was hungry all the time?
While education is key, everything that I was reading about low carbohydrate living was resisted by the main stream medical profession which made it really hard to get an objective view. The evidence was contradicted by as many experts as there was that believed it. High fat had been entrenched from the early seventies as the cause of high cholesterol and heart disease.
So what was the thinking as I understood it? A low carbohydrate diet consists of low net carbohydrates, medium protein and high fat in relation to the carbohydrates consumed. I was eating 300g plus of carbohydrates per day and needed to bring it to below 25g net carbohydrates to deal with my obesity and insulin resistance.
Now think about this for a second. A normal day for me, prior to low carb would have included
- muesli and yoghurt for breakfast or a cereal
- Tea time snack
- Lunch of a protein
- Afternoon snack
- A huge dinner of at least 3-500g protein, starch and vegetables
- Coffee with milk throughout the day.
Dinner on its own would easily be between 3-4000 calories. This was completely normal for me. I loved pasta.
By cutting my carbohydrates and only eating medium protein, I felt I was going to starve and I was hungry all the time.
Dinner had become a small protein with salad, double cream yoghurt, fat bombs, and coffee with cream and as it would happen, whatever other snack I could find. I was hungry and not making any progress with my weight correction. As a matter of fact it was getting worse. This could not continue.
It was quite by chance that I came across an interview where Professor Tim Noakes was chatting about the size of the breakfasts he ate when he was in hotels. Now if there’s one thing I know about high performance coaching is that you can either listen to what a champion says or you can watch what a champion does.
I immediately set out to test the big breakfast theory and reaching satiety. The idea here was to eat a breakfast to satiety but what exactly did that mean? Not knowing I went and looked at what was available on a hotel breakfast spread other than the carbohydrates. Protein in the form of bacon, eggs and fish was abundant but pretty much nothing else.
My breakfast existed of bacon and eggs with a little butter. Initially breakfast only lasted for three to four hours before I was hungry again. Professor Tim Noakes had indicated that he would only have to eat at dinner after a big breakfast so there was clearly something that I was missing.
I knew that I could not increase my protein much more than I already had as low carb is a medium protein diet and carbs were not going to do it, so I opted for fat by adding a whole avocado to breakfast and increasing the butter. It was by chance that I was eating an avocado out of the skin and preparing scrambled eggs and bacon that I lasted for most of the day without hunger.
I might add that during these experiments I never weighed food or counted net fats, protein or carbs. I would grab an avocado, two to three eggs and a handful of bacon. Add two tbsp.’s of butter and fry up them lot.
I also strongly resisted buying food in a chemist and was spared the pain of low carb baking.
It took about two weeks to get to a point where I could say with confidence that if I ate to satiety I would be hunger free for most of the day and get to dinner without an appetite.
Dinner now became similar or smaller than breakfast.
This struck me as rather odd as it made sense to me that if I wasn’t eating all day I would be starving at night. I was however no longer hungry and the weight started dropping. I might add that I was extremely committed to correcting my weight and regaining my health and I had started following a rigorous CrossFit program which in itself had me rather hungry.
I had a clear picture in my mind of what I was endeavoring which included being able to run with my boys, catch them when they flew off the stairs at me and completing Ironman 2015 on minimum effective dose training.
I share this with you to demonstrate that I knew very little about what I was doing and was essentially using trial and error and the feedback from thousands of banters that were experiencing exactly the same problems that many still do today.
You may recall that my previous Ironman required 25hrs of training per week and all I could set aside without effecting my family was six hours per week. I had made a commitment that it would not interfere with my family life.
Add to this that I would need to do it on a diet that had no support in the multi-sport community that I knew of. Everything I knew flew out of the window. I would need to eat smart and train smart and get the absolute maximum out of everything I approached. Paying attention to how my body responded to the training and eating was going to be absolutely key.
I am going to end off this part of the story by sharing my results of the first year on low carbs with you.
- I dropped from 105 kg 39% body fat to 82 kg with 10.5 % body fat and I am still working on it
- I completed Ironman 2015 on fat only. I might add that I will never attempt to do a race that long on fat again.
- Since then I have completed greatest challenge being a multiple endurance races with my greatest challenge being a 100 km Sky Run.
It’s time to take a look at how you can also make this possible. Are you ready?