By getting into or very near Nutritional Ketosis this has the effect of lowering insulin & increasing insulin sensitivity so the body does not lose significant capability to quickly metabolize carbs/sugars when ingested during training or competition. In fact, BECAUSE those carbs are being ingested on top of a large fat burning base and the body is insulin sensitive, insulin actually works better than ever to facilitate getting them into the cells and metabolized into energy VERY quickly as they are suppose too but in a sustainable way. Athlete feedback confirms (observationally) “strategic” carbohydrate intake actually has a much stronger and lasting effect when the athlete is of fat-adapted (keto-adapted) and using VESPA when following the OFM protocol.
As a general guideline it is recommended athletes ratchet down concentrated carbohydrate sources in their daily diet as much as possible most days, especially in recovery but, once OFM adapted (i.e. fat adapted or keto adapted), they can “sneak” some carbs into the diet prior to a long training session or competition. Depending upon the event and intensity level sneaking back those carbs can occur up to 3 nights out to the night before for a marathon or 50K to only the night before for a 100 Miler…..the higher the intensity and shorter the event the sooner carbs are raised. When insulin levels are low and insulin sensitivity high we have observed that athletes benefit performance wise from the increased carbohydrate consumption yet retain their fat-adapted capacity to fuel most of their aerobic spectrum.
When and how you “sneak” those carbs in is the key…
For the diet its suggested athletes have a meal where concentrated forms of carbohydrates are ingested under a “blanket” of fat….common (and easy) ways of doing this are a medium rare Ribeye steak , greasy ground chuck, roast duck, salmon (or any other well-marbled red meat, NOT lean meat) and a baked potato or sweet potato buried under loads of butter, sour cream and salt. The carbs should represent between 35-45% of the calories but because of the fat and protein in the meal, especially if you start on your protein/fat sources first, the glycemic rise and load will occur much slower than the traditional carb load of naked carbs (i.e. 60-80% carbs as calories/low fat). Since the athlete is insulin sensitive and the blood sugar rise is moderated by the fat & protein the insulin response is minimal. While this will take the athlete out of Nutritional Ketosis temporarily it has minimal impact on most VESPA using athletes’ ability to get right back into ketosis during training /competition the following day from what we have observed and is reported back to us by athletes.
During endurance training: For most of your training the athlete should try to use minimal caloric intake to help “train” the body to for OFM. This does not mean no carbs or waiting until you absolutely need them but it does mean stretching them out a bit to help the body adapt. For endurance events where a tempo or high intensity race simulation training run is in order then use carbohydrate sources that work for YOU during the activity like you would in competition.
During competition: This is the time where carbohydrates can be used without restriction to take full advantage of them. Use source you are familiar with and work for your situation even if it means breaking your normal OFM dietary rules. So, if you find pretzels work well, go for it!
Even under race conditions of high intensity athletes find the amount of carb calories ingested is significantly lower and there is an absence of stomach and gut issues.
Here are a few tips for “strategic” use during competition:
- Always do a Long Slow Warmup (LSW) . This is key for fat adapted athletes because you need to prime the muscles with oxygen so they can metabolize aerobically. Start easy and do at least 15-20 minutes prior to the start of a competition and allow time after the start before hammering.
- Take a VESPA CV-25 45-60 minutes prior to the start but then take a VESPA Junior within minutes of the start. This will not only “front-load” you with VESPA but the little bit extra Orange juice calories in the Junior will give you a fast acting sugar to help you in those 20 minutes after the start where you are going to burn a bit more glucose. If you are competing in a Triathlon use the VESPA Junior at T1 & T2 as a boost .
- Allow at least an hour to two to “settle in” before starting a feed of calories to get thoroughly warmed up and in a metabolic fat-burning groove. Depending on the competition you may start earlier if the intensity is higher or wait a bit if you are competing in an extended duration event like a 100 Mile Run or Double Century or Ironman.
- Never ingest a lot of calories, including fats and protein, at one time during competition. It is better to keep it lite.
- Race hungry! Trust your fat burning to prevent the bonk and fuel on the lighter side and/or spread it out.
- Back off on calories and focus on hydration in the heat (see section above on Hydration)
- Take extra calories in the cold and especially cold & wet moist conditions to maintain core body temps
- For competitions where the athlete is in a state of metabolic homeostasis, i.e. a track run or flat terrain do use a formulated rate and time of taking in calories, however, for other types of races consider taking in calories strategically rather than by time….so if you are competing in an event where you know you have a big extended climb coming up take, say a gel, 10-15 minutes before hitting that climb so the blood sugar rise from the gel coincides with the extra effort of the climb. Also if it is hot make sure you also take in some salt and start sipping on water so that your muscles can sweat and thus cool the extra energy produced by the higher effort. This concept would also apply if there was a section of a competition where you wanted to throw down and compete hard .
- Always be adaptable to shifting conditions and situations and adjust accordingly.
- Be flexible in what you can ingest as calories. Naturally, use what works for you! An OFM/VESPA athlete does not need to consciously restrict themselves during a competition because there are too many more important things to consider and focus on. When an athlete is well adapted their stomach and gut can generally take a hit of crap and use it as fuel. While there are exceptions (like if an athlete has had Celiacs, IBS etc.) this freedom allows an endurance athlete to focus, compete, cruise into an Aid Station or Transition, grab whatever looks good, wash it down with a swig of Coke and get back to business rather than fret over finding their drop bag and special sauce, lose focus and stress (read Cortisol response) because they are lost without it.
There is a tremendous amount of discussion around recovery fueling immediately post exercise. In a Fat-adapted or keto-adapted athlete replenishing glycogen stores is not nearly as critical except in certain circumstances. Because the OFM athlete is not depleting their glycogen in typical training he/she will normally experience a serum “ketone surge” due to a lag in signaling the liver to down regulate ketosis to meet the new lower energy requirements of the body post exercise. Often, this results in stable blood sugar and a steady flow of energy so the athlete actually experiences appetite suppression in the hours following a workout instead of an acute need to eat.
For multi-day training or events where simply having time to restore caloric needs is critical having some carbohydrates in conjunction with protein and fat is recommended. Again, while the athlete should adopt an attitude of flexibility, they are encouraged to use food and drink sources they like, are comfortable with and are easily accessible. Portions should be small to moderate to prevent a sharp insulin response. Fat-adaptation allows this window of metabolic flexibility.
In the OFM athlete fructose is actually a very potent energy substrate so consuming fruit or honey post exercise is actually encouraged because fructose is not insulin stimulating and the fructose is converted in the liver into fats that can be easily accessed and converted into ketones the following day.
The 4:1 carb intake post workout is probably necessary in glucose dependent athletes. This is convention where you are absolutely dependent upon your glycogen stores, but it has a serious and real flaw for optimal recovery and adaptation. That is, when you ingest a lot of naked carbs (4:1 ratio of carbs to protein = 75% carbs) you will get an insulin response. Insulin, being a hormone, will rise and affect hormonal balance and here is the kicker; high insulin levels suppress HGH and testosterone levels. HGH will surge after a bout of exercise if allowed to, however, if high insulin levels are present this surge is not going to be nearly as strong as it can be.