TWIR #84: cold + keto = bad workouts (again)

It’s been another doozy of a week. Between this ketogenic eating and constantly feeling on the verge of cold or flu, I can’t say it’s been the best week for workouts. Fingers crossed I win the fight against whatever bug is hanging out in my system. I have to believe that at the very least the keto diet has kept me from moving into full-blown flu by keeping sugar out of my system. Did you know every teaspoon of sugar you consume supposedly suppresses your immune system for up to six hours? I don’t know if it’s actually true, but I do know that the last time I was sick, my symptoms worsened dramatically after eating a giant block of chocolate cake. You do the math. Enough about sugar, let’s get on to workouts.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: lunch plans + date night + potluck dinner shopping
Observations: I barely survived Saturday morning. Between the haze of sugar-and-carb-free exhaustion and trying to decide on appliances for our new home, I was at my wit’s end.  Thankfully the afternoon and evening were better. Biggest accomplishment: no cheating on keto diet despite dinner out and my boyfriend buying a bottle of wine for his cheat day. Just to be clear, he didn’t drink the entire bottle in one day, although personally I have been known to do that.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: Hamapalooza!!!!!!
Observations: I had the best of intentions of doing my usual weekend park workout, but I had absolutely no fuel in the tank to do it. I’m sure you all think I’m exaggerating, but I found it exhausting just to go on a 4 km walk on mostly flat ground.  Running was not going to happen. Also, in case you’re wondering what Hamapalooza is, it’s an entire potluck dinner party built around the roasting of a bone-in spiral ham. To some that will sound like a dream, to others a nightmare. All I can say is that my Fall calendar revolves around this dinner party and it did not disappoint. I cheated with one perogy (they were home-made! come on!), a roasted parsnip and three glasses of sangria. I do not regret any of it, particularly the sangria, because my friend makes the best sangria on the planet. Don’t even try to tell me you know someone who makes better sangria. It’s not possible.

Activity: sad outdoor strength workout
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations: Once again, my morning energy was not high enough to even contemplate a legit workout. We went for a long walk and I was content to leave it at that…until the late afternoon when I felt overly guilty for taking three rest days. I decided to do my park workout in the afternoon. This plan had two major flaws: 1) my SI had inexplicably started aching again and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run (I wasn’t–I made it about 20 steps before having to turn around) and 2) a hell storm of rain and wind descended on me the second I stepped outside. I had to settle for a sad outdoor workout, on the small portion of our back deck that is covered. All things considered, I did good for the lack of space and equipment, but it wasn’t a hard-core workout by any means. This is precisely why I knew it was no good that my muscles were super sore Monday night…

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min./lower intensity
Observations: …and, of course, I woke up Tuesday with ultra sore muscles and an inkling of a sore throat and about five times more exhausted than from the keto diet alone. Damnit. My trainer took pity on me, probably because I looked on the verge of collapsing at any moment, and made our workout way easier than usual. I knew things were not good when even an easy workout felt impossible. I have no idea how I made it through the rest of Tuesday. I was in bed by 8 pm and knocked out eleven hours of sleep.

Activity: spin warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 5 min spin + 25 min strength
Observations: After eleven hours of sleep you’d think I’d be raring to go. I was not. I contemplated staying home from work but aside from being monumentally tired and having a bit of a scratchy throat, it didn’t seem necessary. And of course, even after writing about not going to the gym when you’re sick, I did just that. At least I vigorously wiped down my equipment. The workout sucked beyond imagination. Even on the lamest of tensions, my legs would not spin those pedals. I gave up and opted for an equally lame strength workout which felt just as impossible as Tuesday’s training session even though it was ten times easier. Damn you, cold and flu season!

Activity: spin + core
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin (light) + 5 min. core
Observations: In efforts to bolster my workouts, I broke my keto diet and had oatmeal for breakfast. Hallelujah! Although I still feel like I’m fighting something, my workout was better. I lasted a half hour on the bike, which felt like a massive victory, even though I was using about 1/2-3/4 of my usual tension. I suspect this had nothing to do with the oatmeal, though. I’d put my money on the placebo effect, especially since I ate the world’s smallest serving of oats and only ate them about 25 minutes before my workout.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I told myself today was going to be better. And it was. I mean, my head still feels a bit foggy from my cold and I definitely am still tiring more easily, but today felt better overall. I even upped my back squat weight by another ten pounds and forced myself to push the evil prowler with the usual weight! I think tripling down on my vitamin C and getting extra sleep have helped me continue to function this week.  Also, I had more oatmeal today. I am not entirely convinced that I’m eating enough carbs for it to make any difference whatsoever, but I’m doing it anyway. For the record, I am also still way too excited about oatmeal.

There we have it, another week down. I’m looking forward to a weekend of NO PLANS. My original goal for no sugar/no carb was two weeks so this weekend brings that to a close. I have no desire to dive head first into any carbs at this point, nor sugar really, so we’ll see if I cheat just for the sake of cheating, or whether I hold strong until I really, really, really want that dulce de leche donut.

Happy weekend, y’all.


Mid-Week Tangent: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of my (brief) experiment with Ketogenic Eating

I am no stranger to elimination diets.  Back in my 20s, I used to do cleanses 1-2 times per year, not the kind where you don’t eat at all and just drink strange lemon-water-Tabasco concoctions, but rather the kind where you eliminate sugars, refined foods, alcohol, coffee, dairy and anything else that we typically consider enjoyable foods.  I was vegan for a year and a half, largely in efforts to naturally promote adrenal balance. I’ve given up sugar and carbs for extended periods simply in efforts to curb a raging sweet tooth. I lay all of this out because I think it’s important context for what I’m about to say about my experiment with ketogenic eating, or at least because I feel the need to ensure that I don’t come off as a lazy whiner who can’t tolerate the smallest ounce of dietary deprivation.

Also important to note is that it’s been a week and a half since starting ketogenic eating, which is not at all long enough to see any major effects by all accounts of ketosis. That said, my own personal philosophy is that, beyond a week, one should generally start to see some benefits and feel some improvements after undertaking a significant shift to his or her diet. Enough with the prefaces, here’s my take:

The Good

–Less hunger: Okay, there were a few days when I felt constantly hungry but since Saturday I have felt more satisfied with less.

–You can eat a lot of fun things: Cheese! Bacon! Whole avocados! Drown your salad in olive-oil based vinaigrettes! You can do it all with keto living. Hell, you can even put butter in your coffee (though I never developed a taste for that). It’s a free for all in the high-fat department and, at times, that felt quite liberating.

–No sugar cravings: Part of the reason I picked keto vs. Whole 30 or paleo or other low-carb approaches is that I’d heard the sugar cravings weren’t as bad. They were not. From day one, I haven’t cared at all about sugar and still don’t. Not once have I been tempted by dessert. For me, this is an absolute miracle.

–It’s less restrictive than many of its low carb counterparts: I found it easier to eat in restaurants, in particular. The ability to eat some dairy products definitely helped with presenting more food options and, in general, it was relative easy to adjust normal recipes to a keto recipe. Of course, this depends on what your “normal” recipes are.

–My digestion improved: 10 days, zero bloating. That’s all I have to say.

The Bad

–It’s extra work to grocery shop and meal plan: Although I do believe it’s easier to adjust this plan to a regular lifestyle than some other low-carb diets, it still takes extra thought and care to read ingredients and meal plan. We meal plan every week anyway, so it wasn’t a far departure from our normal life, but if you don’t meal plan on the regular, this will be a pain in the ass.

–You really need to track your macros to do this right: I will straight up tell you I did not closely track my fats, proteins and carbs. Ain’t nobody got time for tracking. And don’t even get me started on testing ketones in blood or urine. I just wanted to cut back on sugar for a while. I don’t want to feel like I’m visiting a medical lab every day. Long and the short of it, without tracking you can’t be guaranteed you’re in ketosis and that’s just too much work for the likes of me.

The Ugly

–The energy lull is real, y’all: Seriously, like I said, I’ve done elimination diets at least a dozen times in my life. Normally, my energy dips for a few days but nothing like this. I have been an energy-less sack of sadness for the entire 10 days and it feels like there’s no end in sight. Seriously, I have never felt so exhausted in my entire life.

–Workouts SUCK: I wrote at length about this yesterday. I don’t care what all the science says, carbs are life when it comes to workouts. I’ve never experienced this type of muscle fatigue. Ever.

–Bulletproof Coffee: You’re supposed to be full from fat-laden coffee? Until lunch? I don’t think so. The best I did was make it about three hours until I was starving.  I also very strongly beg to differ that butter in your coffee is a revelation. It is butter. In your coffee.

The Verdict

I just don’t think it’s worth it. As I said in my extensive prefacing, I ultimately feel like any elimination diet should yield faster improvements. My personal benchmark is that you should start to feel better, not worse, after one full week. Keto just didn’t deliver on this for me.  I’ve had much better results just cutting sugar and 95% of grains.

An even bigger issue is that it’s just not sustainable for me (and I’d argue for any human who enjoys things like wine, beer, chocolate, or ice cream).  I can stick to these types of things for two months max, before some sort of event (helloooooo Christmas!) rears its ugly head and draws me back to the dark side of indulgence. Really, its moderation that’s the ideal state for me, and maybe one day I’ll actually get the hang of it. Until then, I’m going to stay off sugar for a while longer, but I am most definitely having some oatmeal tomorrow morning.

Training Tuesdays: working out without carbs

Look, there are tons of legit nutritionists and experts who’ve written at length about how your body can perform without carbohydrates. I’m not going to attempt to counter their assertions, which I’m sure are scientifically backed, with what is essentially just my own experience. But damn it, this is my blog and I am still going to tell you about my experience. I’m just going to preface everything I write by saying a) I’m not attempting to refute science and b) my experience is  100% uninformed by science.

I’m going to do a whole post on my very brief experience with the ketogenic diet, but for today I’m just going to focus on how low carb eating has impacted my workouts for the last week and a half. Let me just say in no uncertain terms: my workouts have sucked since I gave up carbs (!!!!). There is no point in mincing my words. Let me bombard you with my list of negative workout experiences:

–inability to lift my usual weights without my muscles feeling like they’ve spontaneously atrophied
–inability to sprint or hill climb at my usual spin bike tensions without feeling like I’m trying to push my bike against the weight of the world
–workout dread (i.e. inability to muster the will to workout out of the fear of just how bad the workout will be)
–zero energy for intense cardio activities like running (I’m talking feeling winded and fatigued after, like, one minute)

As you can see, it’s been a crap week for activity. Spare me all the research that shows that this is just a phase, or that it’s because I’m not eating enough fats to fuel my workouts. I have read all the articles about how it takes time for your body to adjust to ketosis and to properly fuel your workouts with fat. I don’t care what the reason is, I care about the result, and the result is that my workouts have been abysmal since I gave up my sweet, sweet carbs.

I fondly recall my relatively peppy carb-fuelled workouts from a mere week a half ago and dream of their return. At this stage, I don’t want ice cream or cake. I don’t even want pasta. I just want some bloody oatmeal, which is arguably the saddest of the carbs.  I’ve tried to rationalize eating oats because they’re low on the glycemic index, but I know full well that they are still not acceptable on the ketogenic plan.  So I do not eat them, and instead suffer another day of crappy workouts.

Perhaps I am just too impatient for this diet. Or perhaps my body just needs some damn carbs to muster up the strength for a legitimate workout.  Either way I look at, the best possible answer seems to be: eat some carbs.*

*Although I’m not sure how much longer I’ll stick with ketogenic eating, truthfully I am not throwing in the towel quite yet. This post is mostly tongue in cheek…but I really would like a bowl of oatmeal…and the fact that oatmeal is the carb on my mind really does make me sad.

TWIR #83: no sugar = no energy

Ugh. My friends, it has been a week.  As I alluded to in my cake-ploration post on Wednesday, I’ve decided to take a hiatus from sugar. Well, we dove head first into an experiment with the ketogenic diet and I am here to say, man I am freaking tired!  I felt great the first few days, but since then it has been a steady decline and my workouts have certainly suffered. I’m not going back to carbs and sugar just yet. I don’t even miss them, to be honest. But I do miss having energy for workouts.  Enough whining, on to the workouts!

Activity:  planned rest day
Relevant Stats:  afternoon birthday cake + evening candy cane blizzard
Observations: No, I clearly had not started the ketogenic diet yet. We had a early afternoon birthday party for our niece, and then all of my walking for the day consisted of roaming the mall in search of clothes and not finding a single, damn thing. I then felt the need to dive deep into a very large blizzard because, hello, it’s candy cane blizzard season, plus you have to go big or go home before going off sugar for a while.

Activity: park workout!!!! (i.e. running intervals + strength)
Relevant Stats: 45 min park workout + one final slice of chocolate cake
Observations:  This was not my best park workout. I forgot about those days where you just don’t feel like running and every step seems supremely arduous as a result. This was one of those days. I can’t even blame the ketogenic diet because I still hadn’t started yet. Regardless, my outdoor park workouts are my favourite of the week and thus, this was by far my best workout of the week.

Activity: spin + elliptical
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 10 min. elliptical
Observations: Ugh. This spin session sucked. I felt like I’d travelled back in time to two weeks ago when I was filled with nothing but rage for the spin bike. After half an hour I gave up and tried the elliptical, but I have to say I was hating that just as much. All in all, this was not a good workout, mentally or physically.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: Whoa. Day two into ketogenic living and my muscles wanted nothing to do with working out. I can’t blame the diet for sure, but I can say that my arms felt 10 times more fatigued than usual and I was counting down every last second until this workout was over. Every once in a while I have this type of training session, so it could have just been a blip, but I like to think that if I’d been running off fumes from a Monday night dulce de leche donut from my favourite bakery the workout would have gone better.

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: Okay, definitely by this point in the week I was convinced the lack of carbs was impacting my cardio. I’d managed to suffer through Tuesday’s strength training session, but I barely survived this spin workout despite being all sorts of slack-assed on the tension dial.  There was absolutely no sprinting happening, and even my hill climbs lacked their usual oomph.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: This was a brief bright beacon of hope in my week of workouts. Afterwards, I felt certain I was on the upward swing in terms of my workouts. I loaded weight onto that prowler like nobody’s business and even upped my weights on back squats. Aside from the negative pull ups, I felt certain I was ready to rock Friday’s workout….

Activity: spin + random strength +internal whining
Relevant Stats: 15 min. spin + 25 min. strength
Observations: …and I was not ready to rock this workout. My discovery: cardio is not my friend right now. I tried spinning, I really did, but even on lower tension settings my legs were having none of it. I gave up after 15 minutes and was like “what now”? “What now” consisted of random exercises like dead lifts and push ups and single-leg bridges and I think even some back squats. All I know is I moved from thing to thing with no sense of logic or purpose until I finally threw in the towel altogether. Ugh. TGIF.

So that brings this week of workouts to a close. I am so, so hopeful that this is just a delayed “keto flu” and that my energy will spontaneously rebound come Sunday. Otherwise, I am giving up on this and doing a face plant into something deliciously sugar-filled. You think I’m kidding, but I’m probably not. Happy weekend y’all. May your weekends be full of wine and sugar and sweet, sweet carbs. Someone has to have fun, and that someone is not me.

Mid-Week Tangent: Cake-ploration Season Finale

Well, friends, it was a damn good run of cake eating. All told, I consumed 1-2 slices of cake per week for the better part of a month. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s because I haven’t included a donut, candy, and ice cream count. I’ll spare you the mental math and admit that it’s been a lot of sugar. That’s why today is my cake-ploration season finale. Well, in actuality, Sunday was my cake-ploration season finale, but I’m just getting around to writing about it now.  But as of Monday I am taking a bit of a break from sugar. I know, why on earth would I do that? Never fear, though, I have one last slice of cake to tell you about this season, and rest assured that once I get through this little sugar hiatus I will launch into next season’s search for the perfect cake.

And I will find it, damnit. 

That right there was a little something I call grit. But back to the cake. This weekend I decided to give an old favourite a try to determine if my first true bakery cake love might just be the perfect cake. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. That makes it sound as though the cake was awful, which it was not, so before I create all sorts of false impressions, let’s dive deeper into this.

One day I won’t be so eager to eat my cake that I’m not willing to take even a second to take a picture that makes the cake look appealing!

As I mentioned, I visited an old haunt, True Confections. As happened to me at Trafiq just a week ago, I almost had a minor meltdown when it appeared as though they had no classic chocolate cake. I mean, you cannot have a bakery cafe called True Confections and not have a classic chocolate cake, am I right? Alas, much like last time, only my dazzling powers of observation were to blame. The cake was right there in front of me, on a pedestal no less. Crisis averted yet again!

My second near-meltdown moment happened when I went to pay: $9.25 for a slice of cake?!?! Good lord, when did a little flour, butter and sugar get so damn expensive. And with all the other fantastic cake floating around in this city for $5-6 a slice, how is this place still in business? Okay, I’ll stop ranting like the cheap person I’ve evidently become because, really, can you put a price tag on good cake? No.  But you can put a price tag on decent cake, and it’s about three dollars less than I paid.

The cake itself was the issue here. It was dry, bordering on crumbly in some layers. I’ve simply had too many deliciously moist cakes lately to put up with those kind of shenanigans. The only thing saving this cake was the frosting.

Oh, the frosting.

This is the frosting I’ve been waiting for, a classic, chocolate buttercream. None of that swiss meringue buttercream bullshit. Just pure sugar and butter and chocolate. It won bonus points for setting up firmly like fudge when refrigerated. I will admit that I saved all of the frosting for last, consumed every last bite of it in rapid succession, and have zero regrets. If I could have loaded that frosting onto the chocolate cakes from Buttercup bakery or Magnolia Bakery, I would have found my elusive perfect cake. Alas, life is not that perfect and so my search must continue.

And continue it will, but not for a few weeks. Until then, I will accept any and all referrals for future cake-ploration adventures.

Training Tuesdays: the gym is a germ factory

Anyone who has children in daycare or the public school system, anyone who works in an office, or anyone who takes transit knows that these gathering places are germ factories. During cold and flu season, look out! Illnesses will sweep through these places in waves, taking down casualties right, left, and center.  We expect it to happen. But there is one place where we often don’t expect to encounter a total germ-fest: the gym.

I recently read a (very old) article about how dumbells have 362 times the bacteria of a toilet seat and that treadmills and bikes have 417 times the bacteria of a toilet seat. Let me start by saying I have no idea the actual scientific source of this research, nor do I know how much bacteria is on the average toilet seat (i.e. maybe 362 times the bacteria is no big deal). In other words, these could totally be click-bait fear mongering. Even so, since reading it I’ve noticed all sorts of behaviors at the gym that would seem to correlate to heightened bacteria and germs on equipment: wiping running noses and then putting hands on equipment, coughing-that-sounds-on-the-verge-of-the-black-lung without covering one’s mouth, sneezing without covering the nose or mouth, etc., etc. etc. Regardless of what I’ve seen, the end result is a lot of germs where they needn’t be.

As we leap head first into cold and flu season, I hope I’ve sufficiently scared all you gym goers into a following a few simple precautions for keeping your fellow gym-goers at a lower risk of infection:

1. For the love of God, wipe down your equipment when you’re done. It takes seconds. Consider it an extra part of your workout. It’s good for the arms. I tend to be low trust in the gym environment, so I will often wipe down my equipment before and after using it.

2. Your hands are not good places to wipe your nose. I know it sucks to carry tissues during a workout, but it’s a nice thing to do for those who share your space. In a pinch even your gym towel is an upgrade on using your hands. It will keep your fellow gym goers from unwittingly smearing their hand with your germ-infused mucous. Sorry, does that sound too disgusting? It should. It is.

3. There is no invisible force-field blocking your sneezes from other’s airways, so use your arm or towel. Seriously, your sneezes are landing everywhere. On the equipment. On the mats. Maybe even on the arm of the guy who’s doing a plank next to you. It’s super uncool.

4. If you have a legit bad cold or flu, maybe consider a time-out from the gym. In the past, I would be guilty AF with this one. No cold or flu would keep me from my workouts. I’ve since seen the light. You know what? Taking a day off from the gym is actually going to help your cold or flu get better, plus you’ll avoid causing someone else to miss out on a week of workouts because you’ve infected them with your germs.

So there you have it, your PSA for making gyms less germ-ridden and lower risk in cold and flu season. If I see you sneezing at the local Steve Nash, you’ve been warned…


TWIR #82: back to 6!

Back to six days of workouts for the first time in a long time. Even on the days where I contemplated bailing on a workout, I dug deep and dragged my ass to the gym (sometimes even walking through torrential Vancouver rain). At week’s end, I can say I feel good about that. I will feel even better when I eat birthday cake tomorrow. Cake makes everything better.

Activity: park workout!!!!! (i.e. running intervals + strength)
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: I live for a my weekend outdoor workouts! The park is so lovely in the mornings, especially with this week’s low fog during the sunrise. It makes running laps in between sets of exercises so much better than being in the gym. We rounded out the day with a solid walk and with beer…on a patio…at the end of October. You have to seize a warm-ish, sunny day this late in the year. I’m convinced if you don’t take advantage, it causes a bad winter weather curse to descend upon the city in which you live.

Activity: planned rest day + walking
Relevant Stats: 13 km, one tragically disappointing hot chocolate and a very large slice of vanilla salted caramel cake
Observations:  It was another warm-ish, sunny day, so after hitting the most dreaded of malls in the lower mainland to run some errands, we hit the outdoors for an epic walk. I splurged on a hot chocolate wanting nothing more than a heavy crown of whipped cream, only to be insulted with the smallest possible swirl of whipped cream you can imagine. Now maybe you understand why I had to drown my sorrows in a giant piece of cake.

Activity: spin + after work walk
Relevant Stats: 40 min. spin + 60 min. walk
Observations: I do not know what happened, but spinning has become tolerable again. I still don’t love it, but at least I can last more than 30 minutes and I’m not slacking off for a good portion of the workout. I am doing some seriously challenging hill pyramids these days and my hamstrings are feeling the burn.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: Good lord, as if it wasn’t bad enough when my trainer made me tow the tiny sled-thingy loaded with weights, this week she made me tow the damn prowler. Let me just say, that prowler does not glide nicely like the tiny sled-thingy. I was doing walking lunges with just 50 pounds on the prowler and I almost fell backwards after the first step. That prowler was not budging. Suffice it to say, the whole workout was rather brutal.

Activity: spin + after work walk
Relevant Stats: 40 min. + 45 min. walk
Observations: Another spin workout in the bag. It was solid, even though after Tuesday’s training session, my legs wanted nothing to do with sprints. Hills for the win! I think this was also the first day after Halloween in years that I didn’t wake up with a humongous sugar hangover.  Also a win!

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I loaded more weight onto the prowler and my legs were not impressed. I also doubled up on my negative pull ups so my arms were similarly unimpressed. I supposed it is a sign of a good workout when your body is angry with you. But the most exciting thing about Thursday was that we had snow mixed in with rain on the way home(!!!!!). I am team snow all the way so I was thrilled, even though social media has convinced me that I’m in the minority on this one.

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I came so close to spinning for 45 minutes today. So close! But then I did some hard core sprinting in my last planned drill care of some particularly upbeat music and my legs were just done. All in all, I feel good about this week in workouts, so I feel like the five minutes of slacking was totally appropriate.

With Friday’s workout and work day done, it’s time to catch up with some friends over deep fried pickles. They sound disgusting but I promise you they are delicious. There will also be wine involved which, as far as I’m concerned, is the hallmark of a good Friday. Happy weekend y’all!