I have always had high cholesterol. Approximately 6 months after separating from my wife in 2011 – I was overweight, mildly depressed, and drinking too much. I was 39 ½. Both my father and grandfather had their first heart attacks in their 40’s. One day I decided to quit feeling sorry for myself and start living my life.
That night, I headed over to the workout room at my apartment complex and reluctantly hopped on the treadmill. I have always hated running, but knew it was one of the best exercises to burn calories.
I couldn’t run 1 mile that first day! 3 months later I ran my first 10K.
After that first 10K, I decided to do an Ironman – something I’d always wanted to do, but since I’d hated running, I’d never even done a triathlon. 8 months later, I finished my first Ironman.
During this process, I lost 35 lbs, and became incredibly fit by eating a “healthy” low fat high carb diet. My doctors have always said that eating “healthy” and losing weight would help my cholesterol and reduce my chances of heart disease so I wanted to see just how much losing the weight, eating “right”, and exercising had reduced my cholesterol numbers.
I had my blood work done in December 2013. At this point, I had been eating a “healthy” low fat high carb diet for 2 ½ years. My numbers came back and I was shocked:
Total Cholesterol: 344
These numbers were almost identical to what my cholesterol was when I was a fat, lazy, beer drinking guy that ate Big Macs & Whoppers 5 nights per week!
Since I started this whole journey to avoid being the 3rd generation of men in my family to have a heart attack in their 40’s, I immediately accepted and filled a prescription from my doctor for Crestor.
Then a friend convinced me to read “Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is wrong with my numbers” by Jimmy Moore. What an eye opener this book was. I have been eating Low Carb High Fat for 3 ½ months now. I literally eat bacon and eggs every morning, I eat avocados like they are going out of style, I eat a ton of meat and vegetables, and I eat VERY LITTLE CARBS.
I was seriously worried about how this would affect my training and recovery sessions. I started reading more and more about becoming “fat adapted” / ketosis. According to what I’ve read when you become fat adapted your body burns fat as fuel instead of relying on glycogen stores. Since fat burns slower than glycogen, you can last a lot longer and won’t have the need to refuel during races etc. Common sense tells me that there are limits, and I imagine these limits are different for everyone based on a variety of factors (metabolism, genetics, effort, training etc.).
I am currently testing those limits, and am up to a 16 mile run on nothing but water. I have hiked up mountain trails that have nearly 1,000 vertical feet of gain for every mile you walk, and eaten nothing but beef jerky, or homemade LCFH energy bars at the top. I haven’t touched a energy drink in months. My legs have not been wrecked, nor have I needed several days to recover. The day after long runs, or hikes with massive gain, it’s not uncommon for me to run again or go for a ride.
In all honesty, I’ve been incredibly surprised at the results of fueling my activities with fat, but I’m sold. I do think that I will eventually find my preverbal “wall”. When I do, I will start playing with race day / training nutrition. I will start with non carbohydrate or sugary nutrition, and if that doesn’t work, I will add in the sports drinks and powerbars I used to use, but I am pretty sure that if I have to do that to finish endurance events, I will begin my race fueling much later than those that fuel themselves with carbs and sugar – and I will take in much less required calories during a race to finish.
Don’t forget – this change not to lose weight (although I dropped 13 lbs without even trying), or discover new ways to fuel myself during endurance events. It was to fix my cholesterol problems and reduce my chance of having a heart attack in my 40’s. I plan to continue eating like this for another few months, and then have my blood work done again.
I’m sure my cholesterol numbers will change, but for the better, but if nothing changes with my cholesterol, I might end up eating carbs again – but I highly doubt it. On LCFH I have more energy, I sleep better, I can go farther in training and races and I have seen no issues medically. In short, I feel Great!