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Newbie Needs Advice: Primal Runners--Does It Get Easier?

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  • Newbie Needs Advice: Primal Runners--Does It Get Easier?

    Sorry, I know this post is really long, and if you don't feel like reading it, perhaps you can just skip to the end and read my questions.

    I started eating primally eleven days ago. (I actually tried going primal two years ago but didn't try hard enough evidently because I didn't really lose any weight.) This time around, I'm much more strict and am seeing some good results. I'm a runner, and I like running so I'm not going to stop any time soon regardless of how unprimal it is or whatever. I'm currently training for a 10-miler that's coming up two weeks from this Sunday, and I'll probably reduce my weekly mileage and do more weight-lifting after the race, but for now I'm sticking to the training program. I've found that running has gotten harder since I went primal, which makes sense, but the difficulty doesn't seem to correlate with how much carbs I eat 24-48 hours before a run. My first really difficult run happened last Thursday, just four days after I went primal. That made sense because I did sprint intervals on Wednesday and didn't eat extra carbs afterward to replenish my glycogen stores (it didn't occur to me then). I did remember to eat extra carbs (a weird melon from South America that I've never had before--a little bigger than a kiwi, not too sweet but seemed starchy). On Friday, I had a beer after dinner. (Btw, I eat fruit every day--usually an apple and a handful of frozen berries.) I was afraid that Saturday's long run (14 miles) would be impossible given my terrible experience on Thursday so I brought a homemade smoothie (1 cup of frozen blueberries and half a banana) and a banana with me. Turned out that I had no problems at all--it was like a normal run, and I didn't need the extra food. But I started drinking the smoothie after 7 miles and ate the banana after the run anyway since I didn't want to throw them away. Saturday night I actually had a bunch of carbs, mostly in the form of wine (I probably drank 3/4 of a bottle of red) and a bunch of dried Gogi berries.

    So I figured that some of that must have gone toward replenishing my glycogen stores, but on Monday I had the worst run ever. Seriously, it was really hard, and it shouldn't have been (it was only a six-mile run with some low-intensity intervals, unlike the high-intensity intervals I do on Wednesdays). I almost didn't finish it. Felt like crap afterward, got home and had some frozen blueberries with yogurt. Then I felt nauseated, tried to ignore it, shower, and go to bed. It didn't go away so I got up and puked just so I could get to sleep. I have felt nauseated after running in the past--maybe 3 or 4 times--it always happens between 90 and 120 minutes after the run, and I think I've only actually thrown up one other time. I actually think that in my case it's caused by drinking too much water too fast. Anyway, I felt fine after that but didn't bother eating more carbs because it was 1 am at that point and I just wanted to get to sleep.

    Tuesday I lifted weights, and that was fine. I didn't work out yesterday but did consume a bunch of carbs during dinner. I had beef slathered in barbeque sauce, lots of veggies including carrots and squash and some other (squash-like) thing (small, round, and some were yellow and others green) that I didn't recognize, a couple slices of apple with a salad, and three beers. This morning I had frozen blueberries with yogurt and some leftover beef slathered in BBQ sauce. I also had an apple and a piece of dried apricot in the afternoon and one pint of hard cider with dinner. Then I did high-intensity intervals tonight, and I barely finished my six intervals. In fact, I had to stop after the fourth interval and rest for two or three minutes. Overall, it wasn't as bad as Monday's run, but it was hard. I'm really confused by this because I thought I consumed a lot of carbs yesterday so today's intervals shouldn't have been that hard, right? I mean, do I need to consumer even more carbs than I did?

    Because the runs feel so much harder, I feel like I'm out of shape or something even though I'm not. I've been training for this ten miler for eight weeks now, and I'm in the best running shape I've ever been in. (Before I started this training, my longest run was 7.5 miles, and now I can do 14--I couldn't even imagine a 14-mile run 8 weeks ago.) So my questions: Am I just not eating enough carbs? How much more should I eat? I'm reluctant to eat too much more because I'm afraid that I'll stop losing weight. (And if I stop losing weight, I'll lose all motivation to stay on this primal thing because carbs are delicious and the only thing that's going to motivate me to refrain from eating them is the prospect of losing the belly that I've had since I was a child.) And will the runs get easier after my body adapts to this low-carb diet? Approximately how long would that take? I know there aren't exact answers to any of these questions and that it varies depending on the person. But if you could just tell me how things worked for you (so I can extrapolate/guesstimate from that), it would really help. Thanks!

    My journal

  • #2
    Hi Serenity....I encountered the same challenge but persevered through the transition the body makes from utilizing glycogen to body fat. It took about 4 weeks and it was tough as my runs were deadly fatiguing and slow, but now my runs are amazing and I am very strict Paleo and also intermittent fast (IF) and often run after fasting for 12 to 16 hours. Once the body makes the transition you will be amazed at your energy level. If I really feel the need for carbs I eat yams at dinner and add in some fruit. Your challenge is time frame and you may not be able to transition in time for your race, suggest you wait until after your event and give yourself a month of Paleo to complete the transition to proper fat utilization.
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    • #3
      Thanks, that was really helpful. Glad to hear that it does get better after a while. I originally planned to wait until after the race to go primal, but, once I made the decision to give the primal thing another shot, I just started avoiding carbs. (I'm like that--once I decide to do something, I want to do it right away.) I'm going to try to slog through the training and "carb-load" two-three days before the race and hope for the best. Oh well, if my race-day performance is worse than I had hoped, at least now I'll have an excuse.

      My journal


      • #4
        I'm a distance trail runner and finishing week 4 being primal as well. It was tough for the first two plus weeks but I started clicking during week 3. I'm training for a 50k and am now starting to see the benefit and don't need gels, beans, etc. on training runs. I now fuel with Pocket Fuel almond butter and Paleo Kits (nuts, jerky, dried fruit) for my long runs.


        • #5
          I am also new on Paleo. Been about 6 weeks now and feel great. I do have what may be a dumb question. When I run, the first 5-10 minutes are very hard. Legs feel heavy and HR is high. Then things settle down and I feel great.

          Physically, is there some sort of process where when start, my body quickly burns the few carbs that i have on board and then, like a flip switches, I change to burning fat.