Saturday, July 9, 2016

Keto & Long-Distance Running

To update last year’s running progress: I did, in fact, finish Brazen Racing’s Ultra Half Series by completing six of their toughest trail half marathons in a year. The finale at Rocky Ridge (Las Trampas Wilderness) was particularly torturous and required dedicated training for the terrain and heat. But I did it. All while in ketosis.

The following is what works for me while training and running at half-marathon distance and below.

But first, “long-distance” is relative. To me at the moment, a half-marathon is about as long as I want to run. Distances beyond that push the fun-to-suffering scale too far to the right. So, at half-marathon conditioning, a long-run might be 9-plus miles. But, say, 15 years ago when I ran a full marathon, a half-marathon would be warm-up. And in my 20s? Goodness, I was a smoker and 70 pounds overweight. I couldn’t run 50 yards.


Long Runs

It took me awhile to get this sorted right. And I’ve settled on the following: It’s okay to have some carbs during a long run. Heck, I’ll even have a few shots of full-sugar cola if race-day conditions are particularly brutal. Here’s the thing: If I’m not stuffing my face at every aid/snack station, it’s a safe bet I’ll be at a huge calorie deficit and running on ketones throughout.

What I eat on a long run:

  • Tablespoons of various nut-butters tied up in grocery-store vegetable bags. Lots of good fat. Potassium. A handful of sugar grams. I eat maybe one or two of these an hour. These are my energy-gel (sugar bomb) replacements.
  • Tablespoons of cream cheese tied up in bags. Helps break up the monotony of nut-butters. These have to be eaten before the day warms up. 
  • Gummy chews in tiny bites. This is mostly a mental/CNS boost to get through very hard efforts. Just a taste is enough. I’ll chew off about a quarter of a gummy and keep it in my cheek, swishing it back and forth before and during a hard effort. Here’s a really fascinating article (with linked studies) on When and Why to Swish 'n' Spit
  • Supplements: Zero/low-calorie electrolyte & salt-stick capsules 
  • Aid-station snacks. I’ll save these for late in a run. It’s a nice change-up in texture and flavor. A handful of nuts, raisins, M&Ms, maybe some banana bites. Maybe a shot of cola. I’m here to party, y’all.

For short races and tempo runs:

  • A pre-workout (eg, C4)
  • Gummy chews in tiny bites (see link above)


Keto doesn’t break the laws of Calories-In/Calories-Out. If I want to maintain my fitness gains and enjoy the rest of the day, I’ll eat back estimated calories burned. This is all fuzzy math because workout-burn is wildly speculative. To be safe, I low-ball the burn estimate then eat more through the day as needed in 100-200 calorie increments.


If I’m on a cut, I don’t count my longer runs as part of the calorie deficit. I feel awful when I try. The goals feel like they’re at tug-o-war. There’s a time for training-gains, and a time for leaning-out. Eat enough to get strong and kick-ass.

NEXT POST: Keto & Getting Ripped

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