The Washington Post has an interview with 70 year-old Joel Friel who is the author of “The Triathlete’s Training Bible” and highly respected among generations of elite runners, bikers and triathletes. In it he describes how, in the mid-nineties, he switched from a high carb to a protein, fat and vegetable-based paleo diet…
In 1995, I changed my diet. I had been eating a very-high-carbohydrate diet, lots of starches, especially breads, cereals, pastas. A friend of mine, a runner, kept telling me about a project he was working on, which he was calling the Paleo diet, short for Paleolithic. He kept telling me about it and the research on it.
He finally said to me, “Why don’t you try what I am suggesting for one month? If it doesn’t work, we won’t talk about it anymore.” I started eating that way, and for about two weeks I felt miserable. I wasn’t recovering well. I was hungry all the time.
But after three weeks, I felt really good. My training started to come around really nicely. I went for four weeks, then five weeks. I was doing a triathlon at that time, and I would normally begin to experience upper-respiratory conditions: a sniffly nose, even a sore throat, which is quite common if I got my volume [of exercise] very high, depending on how many hours I trained in a week. I felt fine. I didn’t have any sore throats or head colds. I wasn’t breaking down. I realized something was happening: My diet was changing my physiology.
I’ve been eating that way every since. That means lots of protein in my diet, lots of vegetables.
So just vegetables and protein?
Last year, Tim Noakes at the University of Cape Town, South Africa [a proponent of high-carb diets for athletes], an MD, started tweeting about changing his diet to eating low carbs, high fat. He was losing weight. His running times were getting better. He’s been a runner for decades, as I had been. I thought I would try it.
I started to cut back on fruits and starch in my diet. I lost a bunch of weight also. I was never what you would call overweight. But in the last few years, I experienced what all aging athletes experience, which is I was gaining weight in the off-season.
I’d go from 154 pounds to 165 pounds over the course of winter, and in the spring I would try to take it off by restricting calories. I changed my diet and noticed I began to lose weight immediately. In the course of eight weeks, I lost 12 pounds.
I was at race weight, which had always been a little bit of struggle every spring. I thought maybe I [would] lose some of my performance. It wasn’t a problem whatsoever.
When you say “high fat,” what do you mean?
Lots of fats. Bacon. Butter. Cheese. Really anything that is high-fat, saturated, not a trans fat. I eat a really high-fat diet. Basically the only carbohydrate I get is fruit at breakfast: half of a piece of fruit, half a pear, or sometime during the day I might have another piece of fruit after a ride.
So no sugar, cookies, alcohol?
My wife and I have a glass of wine every evening before supper. We don’t eat cookies, ice cream. We don’t keep stuff like that in the house. We just don’t eat it.
People think it’s a strict diet, but I enjoy what I eat. I am not depriving myself of anything. The research [I read] doesn’t support that fat causes heart disease or that cholesterol is the cause of heart disease.
Mark Sisson has a success story on his Mark’s Daily Apple blog from Joe who has lost a whole load of weight and feels much better since first hearing Gary Taubes give a talk in 2011 and then embarking on a low carb ketogenic diet. Here’s an extract of some of the benefits Joe has been experiencing…
My energy, sleep quality, every aspect of my health and day to day feeling, is as good or better now at age 44 as it was when I was 24. Everything…yes, EVERYTHING – and now I am spending 80% less time “exercising”.
When others ask me, these are my highlights of why I will continue a Primal, nutritional ketosis lifestyle, and why I recommend others try it:
- Incredible, deep, restful sleep – my sleep improved early on before I lost much weight; now I usually get up without an alarm and I feel great.
- Constant stream of energy throughout the day, regardless of the timing of my last meal…I usually fast 12 – 20 hours several times a week, usually before exercise – I recently did three hours of powerlifting and bicycling after a 20 hour fast…just to see if I could – I felt great.
- Mental focus consistent through entire day regardless of meal timing.
- I lost 115 pounds on the scale in about a year, but more importantly, I have lost over 12 inches off my waist size; I am back to the same college and high school clothing size.
- My headaches/migraines are gone! I’m off medicines for them. The relief of living without headaches makes everything better and this alone would be enough for me to recommend Primal.
- I can still enjoy wine with friends – I stopped drinking beer and mixed drinks with carbs, but continued red wine with meals and whisky or wine on social occasions.
- Neck, ankle, hip, and knee joint pains have disappeared – they went away rapidly, before most of the weight loss – makes me think that the inflammation was due to diet more than wear and tear from carrying extra weight.
- Acne and oily skin has decreased 95% – never this close to normal ever in my life.
- Years of scaly, cracked feet have completely resolved spontaneously; a massage therapist accused me of having a pedicure and exfoliation and having the best feet she has seen on a 40 year old man – I had not done anything other than shower.
- My shoe size has decreased – I was size 11eee or 12 all my adult life. Now I’m 11 regular.
- Two golf ball size sebaceous cysts on my back spontaneously dissolved in a few weeks.
- Triglycerides lowered from very high levels down to 50 now.
- LDL and small LDL particle size falling from very high to normal.
- HDL from 30s to the 60s with low amount of exercise.
- Fasting glucose from high 90s (pre-diabetes) down to low 80s (normal).
- I had elevated ALT and AST most of my adult life – now liver function tests are normal.
- For over 15 years I had episodic gastric reflux, stomach distention and constipation – this has completely resolved.
The majority of my 100 pound weight loss occurred while I was not exercising at all. I started exercising recently in the fall of 2012 (AFTER most of my weight loss). Despite plateaus of staying at the same weight for many weeks at a time, I have continually decreased my clothing size each month – I continue to gain strength, vascularity and muscular definition.