Low Carb/Keto adapted swimming



  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CAMember
    Well done @MvG. Good to hear it went well.

    My next "experiment" (well, besides the 1.5mile 'sprint' this Saturday) will be a 10 mile 'race' in a couple months (mostly a fun relay event, but some do it solo), in which I want to pick up the pace from last year and test my limits and the idea about possibly needing carbs at more intense levels of exertion.

  • @MvG Thanks for sharing that... One of the other supposed advantages of ketosis is meant to be a quicker recovery due to reduced inflammation. This is meant to be advantageous in training but I was wondering if you noticed if you felt any different the next day or 2 after the swim?

    I would also suggest getting a blood meter for testing... I've heard it gives a far more accurate reading of your ketone levels...
  • MvGMvG NetherlandsMember
    @sharkbaitza: now that you mention it, yes, I did feel remarkably good the days after. While muscles and tendons hurt a bit at the end of and right after the race, I was completely fine the days after, which I thought was all the more remarkable given the little swimming I had done before. I gave the weighttraining credit for the quick recovery, but perhaps it was due to ketosis. More experimenting needed.
  • helengheleng Hertfordshire, EnglandMember
    Update: After 9 weeks on a keto diet I was loosing weight (at a time when I should really have been putting it on) and despite my best efforts I was merely able to maintain my weight for brief periods.
    After a couple of weekends in Dover harbour where I had to get out because I was getting too cold, I made the decision to revert back to my former diet. After 3.5weeks back on carbs I have gained 8pounds which has helped massively with my cold tolerance (the increased water temperatures have also helped :-) ). However I am still almost 1 stone lighter than I was for my EC solo in 2012, so I am on a mission to gain a bit more before Catalina in October ...happy days!!

    Review: I was very happy with the LCHF diet, I had less energy fluctuations throughout the day, my GI distress was eradicated, I didn't get grumpy if I missed a meal time and I generally felt really well on it. For this reason I was very disappointed to have to quit, but I have learned a lot in the process, and will probably give it another go when weight gain isn't so crucial.

    Next steps: Because of the GI distress the I have experienced on previous swims using Maxim & Maxi, I still plan to do my next big swim using SuperStarch. I am keen to find out more about keto-adaptation without nutritional ketosis, because as I understand, ultimately in a swim of 34km, the body will run out of glycogen - so facilitating the fat burning process can only help.
  • heleng said:

    I am keen to find out more about keto-adaptation without nutritional ketosis, because as I understand, ultimately in a swim of 34km, the body will run out of glycogen - so facilitating the fat burning process can only help.

    My best guess on this would be something along the lines of sticking to a high carb diet till you have gained the wait you need to stay warm and then about a week before the event, go very low carb to get into ketosis. You will lose a few kg's but the initial loss will be mainly water so it shouldn't reduce the bioprene too much. I would definitely practice this 1st though..

    Just a note on superstarch... If you are using it, don't mix it with any glucose based drinks... I've heard biosteel is ok though...

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer Admin
    edited June 2014
    Ok, let me ask one simple question and what I think is the most important and relevant question for most of us who aren't pursuing LCHF:

    How worthwhile is it to use superstarch as primary feed for someone who is not keto-adapted?

    Assume I eat normally (my normal, lots of carbs), including up to the previous day to the swim.

  • Well, there are a few benefits that valid for both keto-adapted and high carb athletes.

    You would not need to feed as often...
    You would have much less if any GI distress

    I honestly don’t know whether as a non-fat adapted athlete, you would get a fat-burning benefit. There is definitely an adaption period to be able to burn fat or rather for your body to see the ketones as fuel. But obviously there is a lot of research still to be done on this. Prof Tim Noakes in South Africa is doing some research high fat v high carbs in ultra marathon runners in SA but I don’t know if this includes supplements such as Ucan.

    But it is something you would need to test yourself... Everyone is different...

    There is another aspect that will need to be explored. What would the psychological effect be on swimmers if you are feeding every 2-3 hours instead of every 30min. I’m referring to the encouragement and interaction between the swimmer and the support team and how the change in that dynamic would influence your mental state.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin

    Ok, let me ask one simple question and what I think is the most important and relevant question for most of us who aren't pursuing LCHF:

    How worthwhile is it to use superstarch as primary feed for someone who is not keto-adapted?

    I asked this very question in a different thread -- here was @DanSimonelli's thoughtful response:

  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    edited July 2014
    IronMike said:

    So, the blood tests came back. Prior, I made no comments to my doc about my diet (I've found that most MDs are extremely ignorant on nutrition/diet). When she read off my cholesterol (190) she applauded me, because it's lower than my previous reading from 5 years ago (dropped about 30 points). My HDL was high (70's). My LDL was low (30's). My triglycerides were nice and low.

    Boy was I wrong. That's what I get for trying to remember the numbers from memory (my memory's about as long as my....little finger), instead of waiting till I got home and reading off the paperwork.

    But today I was back at the doc's, and she said she had my 2010 numbers in the computer, along with the 2012 numbers, so I had her write them down. And I got the 2014 numbers in front of me now.

    So, here they are. In 2010 I was about a year, year and a half "out" of being a pescovegetarian and eating meat. In 2013 I started LCHF:

    (TC=total cholesterol; TG: triglycerides; HDL: good cholesterol; LDL: bad)

    TC: 227
    TG: 125
    HDL: 54 (w00t!)
    LDL: 152 (yuck)

    TC: 230
    TG: 101 (getting better)
    HDL: 55
    LDL: 154 (oy!)

    2014 (after about a year of LCHF):
    TC: 198 (w00t!)
    TG: 53 (hell's yeah!)
    HDL: 62 (boo-yah!)
    LDL: 123 (oh-yeah!)
  • sharkbaitzasharkbaitza Member
    edited January 20
    Interesting video on this subject

  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CAMember
    edited January 20

    Interesting video on this subject

    Can you post the YouTube link URL?

    It's not playing on here.
    Error msg says:
    "play this video on YouTube.
    Playback on other websites has been disabled."

    Admin note: fixed
  • A good tip is to check out Jonas Colting he is all about the LHCF diet

    Has won ultra man and this summer he swam across sweden - its a man made channel so you can swim Stockholm to Gothenburg, he averaged 20km a day BUT he used fins(!) and sometimes a wetsuit.

    However during races like above he would use "fast" carbs like energy drinks and gels everybody else, rice pudding for breakfast etc etc.

    Here's a link to the swim

    would actually love to do this swim myself


  • Hi,
    I am a very new member to the forum, and not sure I would consider myself a marathon swimmer yet. I was glad to see the title of this thread, because LCHF/Nutritional Ketosis has been a number one interest for me.

    I had lost 65 pounds about 8 years ago following an Atkins diet, over the years I put 5-10 pounds back on each year. I started back on low-carb diet in early October, and came across the book mentioned above The Art and Science of Low Carb Perfromance by Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek. I started mainly for weight loss. I have been in Nutritional Ketosis since early October. I dropped 30lbs., and improved blood panels: lower total Cholesterol 30 pts. and LDL 20 pts. More pertinent to this blog though is that I truly saw a marked improvement in my energy levels. I was swimming 1 mile in the pool 3-4 times a week, and now I am up to 2 or so. I realize these are modest distances, but the 1 mile swim used to leave me fatigued and hungry. Now the only reason I am stopping at two miles is time available to me, buy it's given me the itch to try for more and more distance.

    I am familiar with many of the references, already mentioned here, but thought I would add a couple:

    There is a documentary "Cereal Killers" well worth the time http://www.cerealkillersmovie.com/ . You might try searching the title as it's been availble for free viewing from time to time. It can be rented at that site.

    There is a sequel premiering in Feb that covers a pretty amazing feat: http://www.fatchancerow.org/ Sami Inkinen and his wife Meredith rowed across the Pacific from Hawaii to California "fueled on Fat"

    Not swimming I know, but like I said it's made me wonder just how far I can go. My goal is to swim around the island I live on 21 miles. I am targeting 2016. Any advice is welcome.
  • sharkbaitzasharkbaitza Member
    edited January 21
    Sorry guys, it looks like youtube only

  • Another point I've been thinking of is the psychological aspect of feeding. Bearing in mind, I believe that a properly keto-adapted athlete shouldn't need to feed any more than once every 3 to 4 hours, if at all, as even the most trim swimmer has kilograms of fat to burn.

    But, I wonder how important that 30min feed is from a motivational point of view? Touching base with your team, getting some encouragement etc. Having something to swim 'towards' in a way...

    What do you think?
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member

    Another point I've been thinking of is the psychological aspect of feeding. Bearing in mind, I believe that a properly keto-adapted athlete shouldn't need to feed any more than once every 3 to 4 hours, if at all, as even the most trim swimmer has kilograms of fat to burn.

    But, I wonder how important that 30min feed is from a motivational point of view? Touching base with your team, getting some encouragement etc. Having something to swim 'towards' in a way...

    What do you think?

    Maybe still "feed" every 30 but water. Certainly, even keto-adapted marathon swimmers need water.
  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CAMember
    @sharkbaitza, I agree.
    I think that's an important aspect and personally I've found it to be the case.

    And as @IronMike suggests, I've found increasing water intake has made a big difference.

    And really, whatever makes the journey more enjoyably successful.
  • MvGMvG NetherlandsMember

    Posting my first ever experience with Ucan - quite positive!

    Took one sachet (Tropical Orange - revolting!), drank it with 500 mls of water all in one go 15 mins before swim (30-45 minutes is recommended), and never looked back: Starting at 13 pm I swam 10,000 meters in an unheated outdoor pool in 11,7 degrees Celsius (=51.8 Fahrenheit) water, ambien temp 8 degrees C with strong wind, no sun, over 2 hours and 44 minutes. To note that I have not been in ketosis for months (my girth is my witness...), but I had not eaten any carbs since waking up, only no-carb food stuffs, with the hope of getting the fat metabolism going before the swim. This seems to have worked - the swim was mostly easy and at a good constant clip, with an acceleration during the last 1500 meters. Cold was quite bearable for me.

    After I took the Ucan solution before the swim, I was very pleased to note that I did not have to feed once during the swim. I took only a few sips of water at 5000, 8000 and 8500 meters. (In warmer water I would have hydrated much more, but there's very little sweating in 11,7 Celsius water.) Not stopping for carb feeds at my usual rythm of every 15-20 minutes also helped my flow and mental focus.

    My impression is that even for an athlete not in ketosis, superstarch helps stimulate the fat metabolism by not raising insulin levels. That would be good news for people not interested in a LowCarbHighFat lifestyle yet keen to optimize their fat metabolism for very long low-intensity swims.

    So a quite positive first test, but only on a relatively short swim, though coldish.

    I'll use Ucan again next week for a 6-hour swim and report back.

  • SteveWalkerSteveWalker San FranciscoMember

    Hi All,

    A lot said. What is below is from my experience only.

    I have insulin resistance. This means many thing to many people, but generally, when I have easy to digest carbs, bad things happen to me (glucose spike, then drop, fall asleep; weight gain; feel horrible; fat around organs; bad blood work--the list is long). So I do a low carb diet, have eliminated almost all processed sugar from most foods I eat, and my diet most days is about 40/40/20 (protien/fat/carbs), with the bulk of the carbs being veg with some fruit and lactose (cheese, plain yogurt, etc.). I'm 50 pounds lighter since doing this 7 years ago, and my weight has been stable. I am quite fit and healthy at this point in my life.

    I got into marathon swimming in my 20s, but with 3 kids, was mostly out of the water in my 30s, and the weight I'd gained from eating carbs for big swims slowly piled on, and by the time I was 40, I was 60 pounds/25kg heavier. I "quit carbs" (brought my carbs down and eliminated almost all sugars and strarches) at about 40. Started back in the pool 6 years ago, and back into marathon+ swimming 2 years ago. Previously, did EC and many ultra-marathon swims. In the last year, I've done 25 swims longer than 10k, including Gibraltar, a 21.5 miler (8 hrs), and many 4 hour+ swims.

    Carbs most days for me is 30-50g, again mostly from high fiber foods like veggies. On short swims (less than 3 hours), I don't usually feed--just water or sometimes one quick dose of light carb/protein (10g/10g in a liter) toward the end as a treat. i assume that this means that my body is doing a good job of metabolizing fat on the shorter swims.

    On bigger days (3.25-8 hours), I do a feed at 90 mins, then every 45-1h, consisting of 8-15g carb and an equal amount of protein in drink per feed. The drinks use whey and are also sweetened with sucralose or nutrisweet. Alcohol sugars (like manitol) make me feel gross and bloated (in the water and out), so I completely avoid them. Stevia seems fine, but isn't great on taste in most foods (except dark chocolate). Toward the end of a swim, I treat myself to a bar (typically 15-20g each of protein and carb)--it is nice to look forward to. I can't underestimate having a treat near the end (and after, often 2 bars) as a reward--it really helps!.

    I absolutely feel it if I have either too much carb or too much protein during a swim. Protein makes me feel "heavy" (digesting, likely), extra carbs (over 20g or not in a protein mix) make me bonk about 5-8 minutes later--both of these with great consistency.

    I am starting to embark on doing more longer swims (8+ hrs), as I think I've figured out my diet/feeds--now that I've done 8 hours, I'm pretty sure I could do far more.

    I swim mostly in open water (52-63f/11-16c), but also do pool swimming and water polo for cross training. I also sometimes do cold water swims--most recently swimming in Copenhagen--just under 4mi/6km (1:25) at 48f/9c). I don't usually get cold, but I was cold at the end of this.

    Someone commented that you need carbs to swim in cold water. I'd put a finer point on that--you will quickly enter a hypothermic state if your blood glucose levels fall in cold water. There are clearly two factors that must be considered in this statement: 1) how cold the water is relative to the individual's acclimitization, and 2) how well the individual can regulate his blood glucose levels. For a novice swimmer, bonking in 65 degree water will usually result in entering a hypothermic state (and likely ending the swim). For an experienced, acclimitized swimmer, blood glucose dropping a little before a feed during a 52f/11c swim is probably a normal part of a swim.

    I have to say, I think that my experience is my own and everyone is different. At the same time, though, at 47 with this nebulous condition of insulin resistance, others similar to me may find they are in a similar position to me. I do think that injesting a lot of carbs during marathon swims and without protein to slow absorbtion is likely detrimental to many swims, and detrimental to athletes health (probably why I have insulin resistance), but I cannot back up either of these statements--I do hope to read more good science (not the unscientific babble that has been done so far) on the topic in the coming years.

  • SharkoSharko Sonoma County, CAMember

    I like Steve Walker's discussion above and much of it rings true for Sharko....My wife Mary and I put together a little simple synoptic for the Marathon Swimmers Discussion group recently...as she is a micro-biologist and understand nutrition from a molecular level...I think we are on the precipice of understanding a healthy marathon feeding regime and individual bodies and certain times in one's life will react to the types of food...anyway here is the synoptic we came up with on feeding/nutrition:

    Simple Nutrition Synopsis

    Food goes in to the body and is broken down into basic food molecules: PROTEIN, FATS and CARBOHYDRATES. These molecules are then used for energy, for building and repairing your body, or for energy storage. If you understand your food intake at a basic molecular level, you can better understand how to fuel your body.

    Your diet must include these three types of food molecules in a CORRECT BALANCE to insure maximum energy and tissue maintenance.

    Vitamins and minerals are not a food source. They simply allow you to get the maximum benefit from your food molecules.

    Proteins are needed for tissue structure and repair. They can also be used as an energy source after you have depleted your carbohydrate and fat reserves. More importantly, protein is needed to make enzymes. Enzymes are specialized protein molecules that regulate all metabolic functions of your body. Proteins are made up of varying combinations of 20 different amino acids, resulting in tens of thousands of different proteins; such as muscle, tendons and ligaments; the antibodies of the immune system and the all important enzyme.

    Fats are an important source of stored energy and have twice the calorie potential as carbohydrates and proteins. While fats are stores of energy, they are also critical to cell function because they make up the cell membrane. So, for good cell function, all of your cells need to have healthy membranes that can easily transport glucose too make ATP energy for you.

    Carbohydrates The carbohydrates in foods are broken down into glucose. Your blood maintains a glucose level, and excess glucose is stored as glycogen in muscle and liver cells. When you use up the glucose in your blood for energy, glycogen in your muscles and liver is then broken down to replenish the blood glucose. Glucose is delivered to the cell when ATP energy is made.

    So the three basic food molecules should be included in you feeding regime and you need to tweek it with endurance fuels like super starch…go on line and do a little research so you understand


    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

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