Colette's Blog

December 4, 2017

I sat down with Zach Bitter, ultrarunner and coach, holder of the 12-Hour World Record, 100-Mile American Record and numerous course records, to discuss how switching from a high-carb diet to a low-carb lifestyle has impacted his athletic performance and overall health.

Typically, high-carb diets and “carb loading” before events are par for the course for endurance athletes. As an ultrarunner, why did you decide to embrace a low-carb diet?

In 2011, I decided to go all-in with my ultramarathon running in terms of how I trained and peaked for races. As a result, I ended the year by doing three 50-mile races in a nine-week span, and I started to notice a few negative side effects that high mileage was taking on me, including big energy swings, sleep problems, and swelling and inflammation. In my eyes, I had to reduce the amount of training and racing I was doing or look into other modes to prevent these negative side effects, and I decided I would explore different nutrition options. Like most endurance athletes, I followed a high-carb diet. But, after some research, I decided to start my low-carb journey. I’ve optimized this approach to work best with my lifestyle, which I would describe as a personalized Atkins. One key figure who really helped me succeed with this approach is Jeff Volek, who is an expert in the science behind low-carb diets and co-author of The New Atkins for a New You, plus he’s also a former competitive powerlifter who continues to follow the principles a low-carb lifestyle while training.

How has living a low-carb lifestyle benefitted you?

 Within the first month, I began to have more consistent energy during the day, I was sleeping through the night, and the swelling and inflammation I had been experiencing had mostly disappeared. I also noticed that my recovery from workouts and races seemed to be quicker. Plus, the higher amounts of fat I was consuming did not affect my lipid profile; in fact, during my annual screening, the nurse commented on how great my numbers looked!

In the past, I based my diet heavily on things like whole-grain oatmeal, starchy vegetables, fruits of all kinds, and modest amounts of lean meats and dark leafy green vegetables. My pre-race meal would usually consist of a bowl of oatmeal with honey. Post-race, I would eat lots of whole grains and potatoes, or maybe a homemade pizza. My current approach is much more sustainable and consistent. I no longer experience any of the negative mental and physical fatigue that I would experience after a big training block or race.

You’re coming up on a big race. How are you preparing?

It is a bit of a unique event, because it’s not only an ultramarathon, but it’s also on a 400-meter track. The general preparation principles that I use to prepare for a 100-mile race apply here, but I try to shift a good portion of my runs to the track to prepare my body for the tighter turning and flat hard surface. I spent most of the summer and fall building a strong aerobic base; which I do by monitoring my pace at a given heart rate and/or perceived effort. Once this got to where I feel my aerobic base is solid I start introducing some specific workouts like: tempo runs, progression runs and interval sessions.

 Zach Bitter’s low-carb meal plan:

 It varies quite a bit depending on where I am in my training but I love to make is a stir-fry with dark leafy greens and lots of coconut oil, ghee or avocado oil. I’ll often add a meat source to it as well, such as beef, chicken or salmon. (Try Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry.) When I go out to eat, I’ll order a steak with non-starchy vegetables or a salad. A quick snack includes eggs with avocado. (Try Two Eggs Cooked Any Style with Avocado or Eggs with Avocado and Tomato.)

 Here’s are the other go-to items that I always have in my kitchen:

  • Avocado, raw
  • Coconut oil
  • Sweet potato
  • Russet potato
  • Spinach 
  • Almond milk
  • Cream cheese
  • Butter (real, not margarine!)
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Peas
  • Cornmeal 
  • Oatmeal
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cottage cheese (highest fat content available)
  • Mixed nuts

 

#zachbitter #atkins #lowcarb #lowcarbultrarunners #lowcarbendurancetraining 

More From Colette

Back to School 2021

School’s back in session, and hopefully the “new” normal looks a little like the old normal. Even if you are still working from home, you might be juggling those responsibilities with getting the kids out the door and to school, preferably with some breakfast in their tummies and a healthy lunch and snacks in hand.

Read More »

5 Immune-Boosting Recipes

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, or you just want to support your immune health as part of your low carb lifestyle, we have created some new, delicious, immune-boosting low carb recipes featuring foods containing nutrients* that may support your immune system, such as iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Whether it’s a

Read More »

11 Tips for a Low Carb Labor Day Picnic

Labor Day is the perfect time for a picnic, whether it’s in your back yard, a local park or a delicious reward after a walk or hike. You can take advantage of dining al fresco before the weather turns cooler with these low carb Labor Day picnic recipes, which include appetizers, sides, main dishes, plus

Read More »