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How Long to Get My Legs Back?

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  • How Long to Get My Legs Back?

    I started PB week, and I'm still adjusting. The problem is that I am a mountain bike and cyclocross racer, and for the time being, plan to stick with a pretty conventional training plan for such. (I do plan on starting to do the five essential moves bodyweight exercises on my days off the bike.)

    The problem is that I got completely drained during my workouts last week, which is bad because I didn't go 100%. I think Friday's ride should have been easy if I were at normal strength, but since I was weaker than normal, trying to keep up with the group required full glycogen-burning effort. I woke up Saturday morning feeling like I had a hangover, and have basically just been resting and experimenting various levels of sweet potatoes and fruit trying to get the weak, empty feeling out of my legs.

    How long does it take to feel normal again for an athlete? I'm not sure if it's a not-enough-carbs problem or just an adjustment problem. I don't want to eat too many carbs, because I'm hoping for that satisfied, don't need to eat every two hours feeling that I keep hearing about. As it is, I'm still hungry every two hours and my muscles are weak. Advice?

  • #2
    In my experience, it seems to depend on how drastic your change is. I went cold turkey, and as a Rugby player, I started feeling back to normal within a week or so. Once your body adjusts, everything will work better than before. Then after that you can start getting into enough carb/not enough carbs arguements with your body. Your body is always right, its just a matter of listening to it.
    - If it was cute and cuddly at some point, eat it. Ignore everything else. -

    - Food is first, and foremost, nothing more than fuel. -

    - The body is animal. The mind, however, is not. -

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    • #3
      You wont be able to ride at peak vo2 max in a glycogen deficient state so stop trying to demonise yourself! Get rid of that sram red and get a power lift rack. Look at all the pro riders dropping dead like flies from heart attack..all from consistant cardio training. Pantani, Tanner etc.

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      • #4
        i don't know about Tanner but didn't Pantani OD on coke?

        my husband & I cycle & we just cut out grains 3 wks ago. Both of us felt kinda blah for 1 or 2 wks, but already now we feel better on the longer (2+ hr) rides, no bonking at all.

        I'm taking a break from racing (mental) but physically I think I could handle it. At the moment, we're both eating probably too much fruit right now (b/c I didn't want to bonk) & need to cut back on it. Maybe you should just temporarily eat more fruit?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Catherine View Post
          i don't know about Tanner but didn't Pantani OD on coke?

          my husband & I cycle & we just cut out grains 3 wks ago. Both of us felt kinda blah for 1 or 2 wks, but already now we feel better on the longer (2+ hr) rides, no bonking at all.

          I'm taking a break from racing (mental) but physically I think I could handle it. At the moment, we're both eating probably too much fruit right now (b/c I didn't want to bonk) & need to cut back on it. Maybe you should just temporarily eat more fruit?
          Its all the cardio Pantani did. Those guys dont take drugs cos they test all the time. Even Lance has never tested positive. He got cancer from all the rice and pasta and bananas you have to eat to ride that fast. Id rather not ride at all than have cancer.

          Watch the fructose in fruit, it will rot your teeth out and give you syndrome x aka obesity in about a year or 2.

          I had a cannondale super 6 with SRM and full super record 11 spd on it and sold it the next day when I read Primal Blueprint and how bad cardio is. Im lucky I found out before it was too late. My Dad had just bought it for me but I sold it and bought a big stash of natural supplements instead. Way better investment IMHO.
          Last edited by Donk; 09-05-2010, 10:33 PM.

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          • #6
            It took me about 3 weeks to get my energy back. I found an article talking about two different explorers that spent >12 months each with Inuits back in the 1800's (with no carbs). Their journals indicated 2-3 weeks to make the transition.

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            • #7
              Interesting that the trolls prompted a few more responses to the thread even if they didn't have anything useful to say themselves. Yesterday was day 22 of PB, and it was the worst I felt post-ride since week one. I'm still feeling kind of bad from it even today.

              I made through the worst of the low carb flu stuff by the end of the second week, and I feel pretty normal again in my day to day life. I still feel pretty weak on the bike, however, even when I eat gel or bananas immediately before or during the ride. So immediate carb intake doesn't seem to do much.

              I'm wondering if I'm depleted in potassium or magnesium or something, rather than suffering from lack of glycogen. My calves have been semi-cramping when I wake up in the morning, but luckily no full-on charlie horse. My general baseline of aches and pains (neck, lower back, hips) has actually increased even though my amount of physical activity is has be cut in half due to lack of energy. That's a bit disturbing since I should have fewer pains on zero grains (lame rhyme).

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              • #8
                muscle memory is an amazing thing
                "Don't dream it, be it"

                -Dr. Frank-N-Furter

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Chairdr View Post
                  muscle memory is an amazing thing
                  Are you saying that as a good thing or bad thing in this case?

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                  • #10
                    Prior to going PB I ran 20 miles a week, all short (3.5) fast runs. I switched to PB because despite my activity level I was about 20 lbs overweight. In my first month I lost a ton of weight and I had the same problems you did - lack of endurance, leg cramps, general fatigue. Instead of increasing carbs I just stopped all exercise other than long slow walks with the dog . Eventually my body adjusted but in retrospect it probably took 2 months to feel completely normal. Honestly, I still get calf cramps if I'm going VLC and not pounding water. Avocados are supposed to have a lot of potassium and I eat tons of those...can't help if they help with the leg cramps.

                    You sound a lot more active than I ever was and it doesn't sound like you're trying to lose any weight. If I were you I would check out Robb Wolf's podcasts where he talks about eating for a performance bias (versus weight loss bias or health/longevity bias). I would imagine he would say to aim for 150 to 200 grams of carbs per day - sweet potato, yams, berries, papaya, bananas. For someone as active as you are dipping below 100 gms of carbs per day would be tough.

                    That said, if you're willing to take a month off of biking I would imagine you could really get a handle on your food if you did what I did and teach your body to run off fat, deal with the adjustment period, and then add good carbs and biking back in.

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                    • #11
                      Oh, and FYI, I eat around 100 - 150 grams of carbs per day on average, 3000 cals per day. Lately I've been feeling stronger and faster than I have since I was in my early 20's (33 now) but I only run about 6 miles a week now and do pushups/pullups 4 times per week.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SlowPoke2320 View Post
                        Are you saying that as a good thing or bad thing in this case?
                        As a great thing. I love road riding. I can skip it for long periods, & get my riding legs back ion a few rides. Same thing with bench pressing & pullups
                        "Don't dream it, be it"

                        -Dr. Frank-N-Furter

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SlowPoke2320 View Post
                          Interesting that the trolls prompted a few more responses to the thread even if they didn't have anything useful to say themselves. Yesterday was day 22 of PB, and it was the worst I felt post-ride since week one. I'm still feeling kind of bad from it even today.

                          I made through the worst of the low carb flu stuff by the end of the second week, and I feel pretty normal again in my day to day life. I still feel pretty weak on the bike, however, even when I eat gel or bananas immediately before or during the ride. So immediate carb intake doesn't seem to do much.

                          I'm wondering if I'm depleted in potassium or magnesium or something, rather than suffering from lack of glycogen. My calves have been semi-cramping when I wake up in the morning, but luckily no full-on charlie horse. My general baseline of aches and pains (neck, lower back, hips) has actually increased even though my amount of physical activity is has be cut in half due to lack of energy. That's a bit disturbing since I should have fewer pains on zero grains (lame rhyme).
                          Are you monitoring your heart rate?

                          Being over the Low-carb flu and being fat adapted are 2 different things.

                          I can ride 5 hours @ 12-15 mph and a heart rate below 75% most of the time (heart rate may go up for short periods of time), fasted with only water to drink. After the ride I am not tiered at all and often continue with a busy schedule all day with no issues.

                          If I push it to 15-19 mph I have only about one good hour in me (fasted) before I start to wear out, I don't eat extra carbs just to exercise I might if I was doing a charity ride or a race.

                          I suspect that if you take a month or two and focus on staying in the fat burning zone everything will get easier, then if you really have to exercise/race outside of this zone you will be able to without feeling bad afterward. This was really hard for me so for my first couple months on the Primal Blueprint I avoided my bike and spent time walking. When I started riding I really had to keep myself in check not to go straight into glycogen burning mode, now it isn't an issue and I enjoy my biking more than I ever did before, I am no longer in constant competition with myself to go faster/harder/longer.
                          Strive for healthy today.

                          Satisfaction is the death of desire.

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                          • #14
                            My main goal for PB was to stop binge-eating, with the secondary goal of losing 20 pounds or so. Of course, I thought that with my level of activity, I would probably lose weight just going a few months without a binge. At the same time, I'll admit that I fantasized about magic 2 pounds per week weight loss at first, not knowing how I would feel after the first week. I actually lost 3 pounds in the first week, but I felt awful. Since then, my main focus is to figure out the right nutritional balance that will make me feel good on the bike and still keep my cravings under control. I'm still a bit afraid of going overboard on fruit.

                            It probably wasn't the best idea to change my diet right before cyclocross season and a couple of major endurance MTB races, but I basically just had it with the binge-eating one day and decided to make a drastic change. I just didn't really understand that I my performance would be this sub-par for this long. Sad that a pint of Ben and Jerry's chased by a box of Cheez-Its didn't slow me down, but a change to healthier eating did.

                            At least Chairdr is right about the muscle memory thing. I can miss some training without really losing too much fitness IF I can figure out how to remedy whatever is suddenly making me weak.

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                            • #15
                              For me, it was 8-12 weeks before I started to see performance levels previous to a low-carb primal diet. It only took a week to make the switch to being fat-adapted, but it was much longer before I could fully perform.

                              I went on the primal blueprint almost a year ago, and the ability to not have to snack every 2-3 hours was a really good plus. However, as winter ended last year, and I got out the mountain bike for a summer of riding, riding and more riding, I noticed that my recovery times after rides was still very poor, even after almost 6 months of low-carb primal. Worse, my body temperature was over 1 C below the normal range. It was too easy to undereat while on a low-carb primal diet, and undereating combined with endurance activities will lower your metabolism.

                              I fixed the body temperature problem by overeating on carbs for a month, while avoiding any rigorous physical activity. Unrefined carbs only though, primarily tubers, although I also ate a fair amount of organic corn.

                              However, even after shifting back to a high-carb paleo diet, I didn't have the swings in blood sugar that I did previous to going paleo/primal. I could still skip a meal, or do intermittent fasting comfortably. The saying, "There is no such thing as overtraining, only undereating" is apt. If I'm putting in lots and lots of hours in the saddle, then I am hungry a lot. In this case, the best way to avoid eating cheats and binge eating is to eat lots and lots of paleo foods - in particular high-carb ones that will help you replenish muscle glycogen: squash, yams and potatoes and lots and lots of fruit.

                              It's not necessary to cut out carbs to get off of the swinging blood glucose roller coaster, only the unrefined and grain-based carbs (at least wheat, although I seem to fairly poorly on oats as well, but don't have too much trouble with rice or corn) need to go. I found a low-carb primal diet while doing chronic cardio makes it really hard to get enough food in me without overeating on the omega-6 fats while being physically active on low-carb - i.e. I would binge on the nuts and seeds way too much. I would argue that eating a lot of nuts and avocados is going to be worse for your insulin sensitivity than it would be to eat lots of potatoes, because of the excess amounts of omega-6 fats.

                              I have been quite happy with that eating plan this summer, basically a high-carb paleo diet, eating unlimited amounts of tubers and fruit. It hasn't done any wonders for the body composition, but I think it's really hard to lean out while doing endurance activities.

                              Looking back at my riding performance a year ago, when I was eating a high-carb garbage diet (lots of refined grains and refined sugar), I am absolutely crushing on that performance on a high-carb paleo diet. However, another confounding factor was that I was also doing lots of weight training over the winter while doing low-carb. Check out the MTB Strength Training systems site for some specific advice on incorporating weight training to improve mountain biking and endurance performance (http://www.bikejames.com/).

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