Ironman Boulder 2018: T-minus 202 days and keto progress is SLOW

Weight loss is happening, just slowly.
Weight loss is happening, just slowly.

I refocused on eating keto in July: all my measurements are down but I’ve been stuck around 205 lbs for about a month now and it’s getting frustrating! I want to lose a pound a week or more, not 1/2 a pound a week. I know, I know – Keep Calm and Keto On, right? It’s a little more complicated than that when I’m training. There’s this whole calculus of whether I slept right, whether I had too much caffeine the day before to work more, how hard the last workout was, whether I ate enough the day before, whether I ate the right foods at the right time to support recovery, and so on. I haven’t quite figured out … or maybe just haven’t been intentional enough … how to get the calories and macros right to support training and support fat loss.

Let’s talk about MyFitnessPal

I had a streak going for about 100 days on MyFitnessPal, using it to support calorie counts, carb counts, and macronutrient percentages. I stopped for multiple reasons:

  • my wife and I have a personal assistant that cooks for us 2 days a week in support of our business activities. Sounds great, right? She’s a great cook, but it’s still really hard to guess what goes into a given meal she cooks. This is true for both calorie counts and carb counts.
  • Short of measuring everything, it’s awfully hard to get the numbers right for each entry. This is also true for both calorie and carb counts.
  • There is a wide variation between how many calories a given activity burns between TrainingPeaks, Strava, Garmin Connect, and MyFitnessPal.
  • let’s be frank … it’s a beating to enter guesses for so many meals, knowing that it’s not really helpful.
  • I have not confidence at all in the accuracy of the base metabolic rate calculation used to calculate how many calories are used by my body without exercise.

The problem is that with so much play in the system I would need to be grossly under the net calorie intake desired for weight loss to ensure I got it right, and even then I wouldn’t have an accurate picture. Keep in mind that a difference of +/-100 calories per day translates to either gaining or losing about 10 lbs over the period of a year.

MyFitnessPal would work great if I was a scientist about it and spent a lot of time getting the numbers as right as possible.

MyFitnessPal would work great if I ate the exact same thing every day.

MyFitnessPal would work great if I ate one meal a day, the so-called Warrior Diet.

All that said, clearly MyFitnessPal is not the reason I’m stalled.

Let’s talk about sleep.

I’ve always been a light sleeper … that’s not going to magically change. My body usually wants 8+ hours of sleep per night. A perfect night would be 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep and I wake up refreshed: that happens rarely. But there are many things I can do to support better sleep. When I don’t do those things and get a bad night’s sleep that cascades into a specific set of failures the next day. Here’s how it works:

Too much caffeine.

(I spent several decades as a heavy coffee drinker – I love it, but it doesn’t love me so I only drink decaf. Even that has caffeine though. My wife can have caffeine late in the day with no effect – my body tends to metabolize it over a long period of time.)

Scenario. Decide to have a Diet Coke around noon. 20oz from the local 7-11. It tastes so good, satisfies my sweet tooth, and gives me caffeine to focus on work in the afternoon. The rest of the time I drink decaf. Or maybe I have a Diet Coke at the restaurant when we go out to dinner. Or maybe I have a decaf coffee late in the afternoon because I just have to get a little bit more focus to get some more work done.

Result. Takes me an extra 30 minutes to get to sleep, when I wake up to pee it takes forever to get back to sleep, lots of tossing and turning, awake before alarm. Probably short 60-90 minutes of real sleep and the rest of the sleep quality was poor.


Scenario. Well, these are myriad as a father of two teenagers and as an entrepreneur. Like anyone this can catch up to me without some kind of mental relief. Of course all the training helps, but it doesn’t do what breathing and meditation does. Add to these stresses all the little things that catch up to me during training like laundry, unfinished house and car repairs, cleaning and decluttering.

Result. Generally this makes it more difficult to get back to sleep when I wake up during the night. My mind starts spinning. This can cost 30-60 minutes of sleep.

Muscle Soreness.

Scenario. This is never not the case during training. There’s always something complaining and that’s normal.

Result. Unless it’s ridiculous (like when I conveniently “forget” to foam roll my calves for a month, or when I do too many lunges), this can count for an extra 15 minutes getting to sleep.


Scenarios. Go out to a restaurant and cheat on ketogenic diet. Fail to get a good balance of foods during the day, especially quality vegetables. Eat too many foods that disagree with me like garlic, onions, tomatoes, etc. Typically these align with my Kofa body type as described in the Ayurvedic system. Eat too much food late in the day.

Result. Eating the wrong foods can mean a light sleep because of GI distress or simply because your body is spending a bunch of energy digesting all that food I late instead of working on healing itself. Some foods like garlic give me crazy dreams: my body isn’t in a calm state when that’s happening.


So what happens? There are specific impacts from not getting enough sleep:

  • Super easy to miss the early morning workout. Alarm goes off, no desire to workout, can’t envision doing anything except rolling over and trying to get more sleep.
  • Messes up leptin and ghrelin hormones, impacting appetite and in turn weight loss.
  • body is not fully recovered from yesterday’s workout
  • subsequent tiredness makes it easier to fall into the same pattern of afternoon caffeine to keep working
  • stress levels are higher the next day because I’m tired and trying to work, mad because I missed a workout

Let’s talk about eating patterns.

As athletes we are supposed to take nutrient timing into account to ensure proper pre-workout fueling, fueling during a workout, post-workout recovery, and the extra nutritional needs to support lots of training. We also see lots of instructions about carbohydrate and calorie intake rates during workouts and recovery: since you’re here you have most likely rejected those instructions. When we talk about a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) or ketogenic diet we see lots of people talking about Intermittent Fasting (IF), One Meal A Day (OMAD), not worrying about calories and only worrying about macronutrient ratios.

How do I get my eating right? Part of the journey I’m taking with is to provide myself and you some sane approaches to eating a low carbohydrate diet that supports effective training.

So far I’ve noticed a number of things:

  • For early morning workouts I am good to go for shorter distances with just a dollop of peanut butter and maybe half an apple or a piece of cheese just to get something in my stomach.
  • I need to eat breakfast to support a longer ride. Rolling out with too little food doesn’t work for me.
  • I’ve found it tough to make IF happen alongside daily workouts. I want to workout in the morning but if I do IF I want to fast between dinner (family time) and lunch the next day. That means skipping breakfast which just doesn’t work for me. Even going on bulletproof coffee is insufficient. I have to say that at this point I haven’t tried to go a whole week of IF to see if my body would adjust. That said it is a good approach during a day off.
  • Being fat-adapted means that for so far during my long sessions (right now 2 hour run and 3 hour ride) I haven’t needed any fuel. There is no noticeable bonk other than my normal “hey my legs are getting sore”. Part of this journey is to find out how my body will need to fuel as distances increase.
  • I think I do better when I go to bed just a little hungry. This means eating less at dinner and none of those after-dinner snacks watching TV.
  • I love nuts – peanuts, macadamias, peanut butter, etc. – but those are adding too many calories to my diet.
  • I’m getting better at adding greens to every meal. Spinach in my eggs. Salad at lunch. Salad and broccoli at dinner.  That may fly a little in the face of keeping things super low carb, but it’s really important from a nutritional and fiber perspective.
  • I have an ongoing problem with bored/distracted snacking that hinders fat loss.
  • Sometimes after my long workouts I totally crash, sometimes I’m much better. This is a combination of sun exposure (that’s a tough one for me), failing to have breakfast, and insufficient hydration. I really need to work on this because it’s an indication of how things are going to go when the length of the long workouts increases.

Let’s talk about workout consistency.

All the things above combine to impact my fat-loss and workout consistency.  It’s consistency over long periods of time that brings improvement. In fact, that statement also applies the goal of just having a great day: these things are intertwined.

As a Buddhist, the teachings of mindfulness are always in my thoughts, but unless I actively apply them there won’t be any results.

When I plan my food and hydration, my sleep, my workout, I can be more consistent.

When I get my kit ready the night before (tires inflated, Garmin charged, swim bag packed, clothes laid out), I can be more consistent.

When I think about the potential impact of having that Diet Coke and put it back on the shelf, I can be more consistent.

When I think about the potential impact of that handful of peanuts after dinner, I can be more consistent.


I need to be compassionate with myself about being stuck at a weight-loss plateau. I can be pretty hard on myself and that’s counter-productive. I need to be more intentional about all of these pieces: sleep, nutrition, hydration, planning. Most importantly I need to do all these things consistently to progress towards my goals.

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