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How I fueled a 50k without carbs

If you’re new here, hi, I’m Missy, and I consume a keto diet! This is not news to anyone who knows or follows me, though. I have been living this low carb lifestyle as a means of becoming fat adapted for running longer distances, primarily. Historically, I bonk hard and get a lot of GI distress with typical endurance fuel– gels, sugars, carb drinks, etc. I’ve tried whole food alternatives like raisins, simple fruit bars, and less processed drinks like Body Armor that rely on coconut water as a base, all to no avail. I never got on top of the blood sugar roller coaster or got the timing just right, and that REALLY frustrated me! I mean we carry plenty of body fat as a general population, right? So why can’t we tap into it when our bodies need it most? The short answer: BECAUSE we fuel with carbs.

Anyways, I’m not here to convince you that’s an ideal fueling strategy for you! But I did want to test it out myself after digging into what the science says about it (the science is good! Check out The Art & Science of Low Carb Performance by Phinney & Volek if you’re interested). So I dug into this way of eating for the long haul, eventually hoping to at least try to run a marathon without having to eat any sugars or carbs. The journey has been one of a lot of ups and downs and pregnancy and postpartum and injury, but it all came together at the Keys 50K!

In the days leading up to the race, I kept my eating relatively simple– leaner proteins, fats to satiety, and extra sodium, potassium, and magnesium. I drink Ultima replenisher every single day but about three days before the race, I started having two scoops a day. The race didn’t start until 1 PM, so I knew I would have ample time before starting to get on top of hydration as well. A huge mistake people make in hydration in general is thinking that means drinking water, but that’s only half of the equation. In hot races like the Keys, that mistake often leads to hyponatremia, and that’s no bueno. Drinking water doesn’t do anything to cool you down, but it’s still what people tend to do when they’re hot and sweaty. That extra water flushes sodium and other electrolytes from your tissues even more than is already being lost through sweat, and common complaints are nausea, dizziness, stomach cramping, and brain fog. We knew electrolytes were going to be key in this race, so I was ready with my Ultima stick packs and canisters. I took two salt tabs and a 20 ounce handheld with two scoops of the lemonade flavor to start the race. We planned to meet my parents (our crew) about 10K in, so a little over an hour. On a normal 6 mile run, I don’t feel the need to carry water or electrolytes because I can just catch up at home once I’m done, but I didn’t feel I could afford to have to chug mid race to catch up or risk getting behind in the heat of the day. The two scoops ended up being perfect, but I didn’t want to take in any more by the time we saw my parents at the first checkpoint, so I took two more salt capsules and chose to carry water with me for the next chunk. I alternated Ultima and water for the first 30k of the race or so, then pretty much got electrolytes every time we saw my parents from there on out. That sun and heat were no joke!

We also took massive swigs of pickle juice every few stops, and I never thought anything had tasted so good! I am a pickle lover, but I don’t make a habit of drinking pickle juice in my day to day life. My body apparently needed what that pickle juice was offering though, cause it was insanely refreshing and tasty! Around mile 19 or 20, obviously we felt pretty spent, so I did eat a boiled egg and half a piece of bacon to get SOMETHING in my body, but really that was just in hopes of somehow still being able to nurse Tucker after finishing this race. Again, this was all a big experiment! Especially the being a nursing mother part– very few people can really advise you on how that aspect is going to affect you. I was also secretly hoping a little bit of protein would put more pep in my step, and maybe it did. I had more jogging left in my legs in those final few miles than I did in a lot of the race, but that could also be that phenomenon of knowing you’re close to finishing and the eagerness to end it. Either way, it didn’t hurt.

So why Ultima? Why not Gatorade or Powerade or Mio or Body Armor? First, I needed a low carb drink, so traditional sports drinks were out. I also do my very very best to avoid sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame and acesulfame K just from a personal health choice standpoint, so there go the Propel, Gatorade zero, Mio-type options out there. Body Armor does have a “lite” version now, but it uses erythritol and that can cause some GI distress. That brought me to finding Ultima and its stevia-only-sweetened formula. It is vegan, non-GMO, with zero sugar, carbs, or calories. I got to try a sample pack after the Irongirl Clearwater event in 2017, so I knew it tasted good as well. When I compared similar “keto-friendly” formulas I found online, I also found that Ultima had the best servings of potassium and magnesium per scoop for BY FAR the best price per serving, so all-in-all, it was a no brainer! A 90 serving canister on Amazon runs just over $30, when several of their competitors are around $1 or more per serving. That adds up when you’ve got a family who drinks multiple servings of this stuff a day. Rhett calls it his juice!

Our soil ain’t what it used to be as far as minerals, you guys, so if you aren’t being intentional with your electrolytes already, let me encourage you to give Ultima a try! You won’t regret it 🙂 And if you ever want to chat about fat adapted running and fueling, you know where to find me!

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