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High-Carb Diet Experiment

Over the past 15 years, I have become an expert on different diet philosophies. It all started when I discovered the life-changing magic of running in 2006. I was a forestry student, and my growing interest in environmental issues made me think more about my lifestyle choices. At the same time, I wanted to provide my body with the best fuel to improve my running.

I was already pondering eating vegetarian when I stumbled on Steve Pavlina’s “why vegan” article. I had never heard of the concept before, but I was intrigued. It made total sense. Only by eating vegan could I altogether boycott factory farming. Buying only local, organic animal products was not an option, as money was tight as a student.

Over the next week, I spend hours every day on the internet. I discovered a pdf file from Dr. Klapper and used this as my guide during the transition. It didn’t matter that it was geared toward vegan pregnant women.

At the time, I lived in South Africa and had access to the best fruit I had ever eaten. Bananas, mangoes, oranges, paw-paw, and melons became my staples. As did pumpkin, beans, and corn. I loved my vegan diet and continued it after returning home to Germany. I read books from well-known vegan doctors and athletes. I studied the science. I was living the vegan lifestyle and was proud of it.

In 2013, something interesting happened. I was living in London when I quite suddenly felt a craving for smoked mackerel. Lonely and cold, I experienced stress I had never experienced before. The smell of the mackerel in the shop reminded me of the coziness of my grandma’s house in winter.

One day I decided to buy 2 packs of smoked mackerel filets and ate them on the streets of London. To my surprise, I wasn’t overcome with guilt. Instead, I thought, “this is what I needed.” Intrigued again, I started to search online for people who stopped eating a plant-exclusive diet.

My low-carb journey began.

My experiences with low-carb and carnivore diets

Shortly after my mackerel incident, I found “Mark’s Daily Apple.” I had read about the Paleo Diet many years before but dismissed it as pseudoscience. However, I couldn’t ignore the satisfying feeling the smoked fish gave me.

I read a lot and became intrigued by the arguments for a low-carb, high-fat diet. I started to eat eggs again. Then meat. Then cheese. Believing I was just re-adapting, I accepted that my body felt stiff and flu-like every time I ate cheese. I cut out bread and legumes but didn’t feel any noticeable difference. One day, I stumbled across a forum full of people who only ate meat.

The now-defunct “Zeroing In on Health” forum became my new community over the next few months that I was living in London. I adopted a zero-carb diet, today better known as an all-meat or carnivore diet. Back then, this approach to eating was basically unheard of, and the forum was the only resource I had.

When I started to eat this way, I slept a lot. I felt like death but did stick to it, encouraged that my body was “healing.”

From what exactly, I didn’t know.

I had barely been sick since adopting a vegan diet 5 years prior…. I had no auto-immune conditions. I wasn’t overweight.

However, I did have gut issues – bloating and looking pregnant most of the time.

Eating nothing but meat for a few days changed that. This was the reason I continued. I continued, despite gaining more than 10 kg rapidly. I continued, despite not being able to run anymore because I lacked energy.

“Be patient,” they said, “you are healing.”

Eventually, I forced my body to adapt and ate a low-carb, animal-based diet for 2 years. Again I read numerous books. I listened to podcasts. I was convinced it was the best diet for humans. I resumed running. And while I could run far, I could never run fast.

My gut health seemed to have improved since I was hardly bloated. But that was mainly due to simply eating ridiculously small amounts of food. The truth was that the longer I stayed on a carnivore diet, the worse my gut health became. It got so bad that I couldn’t eat anything cooked without having weird reactions.

Instead of taking this as a sign that I needed to change something, I saw it as a sign that I was right. Apparently, the gurus were correct, and everything except raw meat was toxic.

However, at some point, I couldn’t deny the truth anymore that a meat-only diet didn’t work for me. I felt dead-tired every day, despite sleeping 8 hours or more per night. I had brain fog and was constantly cold. I couldn’t even digest a can of tuna without experiencing weird symptoms.

I needed to make a change.

Why I am doing a high-carb diet experiment

In 2015, I added back in carbs. For some time, I adopted a plant-based diet again and ran my fastest half-marathon to date. Most of the time until today, however, I didn’t follow any specific diet for long. I had periods of low-carb, vegan, and everything in between.

But the focus was always on whole foods. I still stay away from highly processed, hyper-palatable foods.

I like that I don’t seem to get hypoglycemic on low-carb, but I realized I recover much better when I have more carbs in my diet. Plus, mentally, I feel much better when I eat a plant-exclusive diet. I don’t remember if I was having these wild blood sugar swings before I switched to a ketogenic diet in 2013. It could very well be that my body lost the ability to handle carbs correctly.

Apparently, a very low-fat diet can correct that. This is the idea behind high-carb, low-fat diets, such as the one promoted by prominent vegan doctors like Neil Barnard or the team behind “Mastering Diabetes.”

My goal with the high-carb experiment is twofold.

First, I want to improve my body’s ability to utilize carbohydrates. For this, it seems I need to keep my fats low.

Secondly, I want to improve my athletic performance, especially my body’s ability to digest carbs while on the run. I want to build on my success of 2022 and keep improving my ultramarathon performance. And for this, it seems vital that I train my gut to handle the carbs I need to race well.

High-carb diet experiment - the setup

The start of the high-carb experiment will be December 1st, 2022, and the setup is relatively simple. I will focus on eating carbohydrates, predominantly from whole food plant sources.

The fat content will be minimal since I will exclude nuts and cooking oils for the first 30 days. I might have some coconut yogurt and tofu, but I will keep track of the fat content. The goal is to keep fats between 20-30g/day. This seems to be critical for achieving changes in insulin sensitivity.

I am not worried about protein at all. Considering my petite frame and opting for relatively high protein intakes of between 1.5 – 2g per kg of body weight, I only need between 79 – 106 g of protein per day.

I might include protein powder as a shake or protein oats if I need help getting enough protein from whole plant foods. I love the vegan protein powder from Bulk. It tastes fantastic, and my body digests it very well, maybe because of the added enzymes.

If you want to try it yourself, you can get 45% off your order by adding my name, “Nicole Linke,” at checkout.

I have been including way more carbohydrates over the past few weeks and reduced my consumption of fats and animal products. I will eat vegan again for this experiment and plan to stay plant-powered.

However, since my reasons for adopting a plant-based diet again are environmental and ethical ones, I will listen to my body and adjust if needed. I do not believe that vegan diets are inherently more healthy, but I do think that vegan diets can be healthy. After all, I was in excellent health during my 5-year period as a plant eater.

I will log my food in the chronometer app to keep track. For future reference, I will also take pictures of the meals I am having and put the recipes on the Blog. Make sure to subscribe or follow me on Instagram to stay updated 😉

How I am tracking results

Weight loss is not one of the goals of this experiment. However, I will hop on the scale at my girlfriend’s house to keep track of any weight fluctuations. I don’t have a scale at home, so I can not track daily or at regular intervals.

The parameters I am most interested in are daily mood, recovery from workouts, and performance. Mood and recoverability will be logged in my daily journal. My running performance will be measured via RPE and, more objectively, via the speed during workouts and my ability to keep my target pace.

Of course, most of the parameters are purely subjective. However, it’s still better than not measuring anything and relying on memory when drawing conclusions by the end of the 30-day experiment.

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