Less Cardio, Less Fat, More Muscle

I’ve been a distance runner who fights my weight for the past 24+ years. I started running to lose weight in 1985, when I weighed 180. Right now, I’m in the mid-190s. Funny how that worked (not).

Two-plus years ago, I started lifting, which helped with fat loss. Some of the time. As long as I was very careful about what I ate.

In the past few weeks, I think I may have finally found the  answer. I’ve made a number of changes:

1) No grains
2) No sugars
3) Less cardio
4) More lifting
5) Less structure and rigor to my workouts. I still don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow from an exercise perspective.

So far this month, I’ve seen the following changes:

1) Carb cravings are gone – completely
2) I’m gaining muscle mass at age 47
3) People other than my wife are commenting on changes in my physique
4) I’ve dropped almost 2 inches from my waist and tomorrow, I’ll measure my BF% to see how it’s changed this month
5) I’m falling asleep when tired and waking up on my own
6) My weight is dropping

Lastly, it all feels sustainable.

Oh yeah, long cardio is hard while eating this way. I learned that the hard way.

I have been an ultramarathon runner since 1994, but maybe it’s time to simply move on, save the time normally spent running for hours on end, day after  day, and spend that time with my family.

Right now, I simply feel great and my body is changing. I need to see where I am six months from now, but I’m more optimistic now than ever that I’ve found a sustainable way to be fit and lean and happy.

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16 thoughts on “Less Cardio, Less Fat, More Muscle”

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  1. I’m also a long distance runner. I eat mostly a vegan diet but have been throwing in a few of the primal meals into my weekly rotation.
    But I find it really hard to run long distances the day after eating primally.
    I feel like I’m 10 to 15 pounds heavier.

  2. Dear Distance Runner, congratulations on finding what works for you! I’m also a distance runner, and find I do function best with some carbs (usually less than 100g) depending on what running I’m doing- I try to earn them though, and otherwise (on rest or short days) keep it lower. What is helping me with my weight loss is more mileage (but easier) ample protein and veggies after running, with carbs as an afterthought (a pound a week weight loss right now). I can’t imagine eating the amount of carbs that conventional wisdom says are needed though! I also find it works best if I take it easy, keep HR down much of the time and “play” with exploring new routes and cross-training (would like to do more). Sounds like you’ve found a good balance though. You may find you adapt to the lower carb intake and your running gets better than before! And of course the weight lifting should help too!

  3. Seems strange, but my running performance is going up the more I slash carbohydrates. I’ve been averaging 40 daily for the past month. My body isn’t dying mid-run and I feel way better at the start and all the rest of the time during the week.

    I’m zero grain and only trace amounts of sugar from my fermented foods. Basically just meat and green vegetables for the time being.

    I am looking forward to more variety when the fat is all gone. Soon…. I’m still burning it like crazy & gaining muscle 🙂 Scale & shirt sizes going up, jeans down 5 inches.

    I’m not running ultras, but I am putting in 6 to 20 miles 3 or more times a week.

  4. I have mixed feeling towards long distance running. I did it in my early 20’s. I felt great after a long run and the hours which followed it.

    But I also dreaded it and ultimately couldn’t keep it up (not for health reasons…I just dreaded waking up early and running even though I felt great after such runs).

    I’m a firm believer in Marc’s belief that long distance running is harmful to your health. But I still sort of miss it and thinking about trying to run 2-3 times a week.

    1. I might have mischaracterized Mark a bit (and spelled his name wrong). I’m not sure if he’s ever argued that long distance running is bad for your health. I think he’s just said that it can be.

    2. I think his position is that it’s ok every once in a while, as long as it doesn’t fall into “chronic cardio”. Humans are built to run, but why would they waste all that energy unless it was absolutely necessary?

      Maybe he can chime in.

      I run a lot more than I want to, but until I win the primal phone call… I won’t have the answers I need for my training 😉

  5. I’m the person who wrote this. I don’t really have any photos at the moment, to be honest. I have some photos from earlier in the summer and maybe I’ll take some new photos in a couple of months and send them to Mark.

    And, I might find that the distance running gets easier after I’m more adapted to eating this way. It’s only been a month so far since I really changed my diet. Until a month ago, I was using carbs during my workouts and then more after my workouts. These days, I might eat some fruit after a workout, but none of the carb replacement/recovery products I used previously.

    I did one 50 mile bike ride eating this way and it was hard. I didn’t “bonk”, but I rode slowly and just didn’t feel like I had the energy to push the speed.

    I’ve been fighting a running-related injury, so I haven’t run longer than 10 miles since earlier this summer. Ten miles is fine eating this way, especially because I’m running slowly due to the injury.

    But, to be honest, after running ultras for so many years, the change of focus is really nice. I don’t feel like I “have” to run right now, and that makes my training more fun and less stressful.

    It is interesting to show up at ultras and see the different body types. There are lots of skinny types, and lots of people who clearly carry too much fat (me included). It’s rare to see someone who is muscular and lean.


  6. I would suggest checking out http://www.CrossFitEndurance.com I used this site (and got the certification last year) when training for my Ironman distance race. I feel like this style would much more suit your new lifestyle and mentality. It involves doing CrossFit (check out http://www.CrossFit.com) regularly, along with interval and tempo work for the running, instead of the long slow distances that you have done (or so I am guessing) in the past. There are people on the site, including the creator, who do ultras of 50-100 miles on 8-10 hours total per week. Feel free to hit me up if you want any other info than what the sites have to offer.

  7. Hi I came across MDA recently and have started doing grain-free meals for the last 5 days – But I am still unclear about some details – When you say no-grains – exactly what grains do I avoid? Can I have lentils / gram / sprouts? What about corn? I am a vegetarian and have fish occasionally. If I could add any of this into my diet, it would greatly help! Right now I am doing it safe by not eating any of these. Thanks!

  8. I found that my distance and speed ultimately increased on a primal diet. There was defiantly a “breaking in” period, though. I am an avid cyclist, and routinely put 150+ miles on my bike a week. for my 50+ mile rides, I usually have some almond butter with a little honey. It seems to suffice.

  9. Gyday;

    Try ‘Coconut Cream” as a carb replacement….

    The fats will keep you going mate; without the coma inducing sugar reflex.

    If you must run so much then chuck in some bananas with the cream.