Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Thu, 18 Feb 1999 13:27:37 -0500

Carbo Lowering

(from RC 281)

A testimonial to protein-power eating (see "Pro-Protein" February 5th column) comes from one of my longest-time friends. Jeff Kroot was the first runner I met after moving to California in 1967.

He was then an architecture student at UC/Berkeley who moonlighted as a photographer for Track & Field News (where I'd come west to work). I already knew his name when we met at a race in Sacramento.

My first impression of Jeff was how big he was for one who ran so well; not fat, just solid. Our abilities were similar, and I was pretty good then. He outweighed me by 50 pounds.

Jeff's weight later went down as his mileage went up. He bottomed out at about 150 pounds, at a time when he could break 10 minutes for two miles and 11 miles for an hour.

Jeff quit running races some 20 years ago. Though he kept running, his mileage eased -- and his weight climbed -- as his business thrived and he entered local politics.

His architectural work was featured in regional and then national magazines. He ran for the city council in his Marin County suburb, and won. He later served as mayor of San Anselmo.

During these years Jeff's weight inched above 210 pounds, an all-time high. He couldn't live with this, and could barely run with it.

Dieting had little effect. Running more only injured his overburdened legs.

Then he found an adviser who told Jeff exactly what he needed to hear: "You're one of those people who is sensitive to carbohydrates. Cut way back, especially on sugar and flour. Eat like a caveman and see what happens."

Jeff did as he was told. He ate all the meat and vegetables he wanted, but studiously limited the high-powered carbos.

"I'm down into the 180s now and still dropping," he told me recently. His running has gone up as the poundage has come off. "I ran several 10- to 15-milers during the summer and fall," he said.

Jeff isn't dieting, at least not in terms of cutting total calories. He has just said no to constant carbo loading.

This doesn't mean he has lost the craving for the missing items. "Tina made a cherry pie last week," he said of his wife. "I couldn't resist, and it tasted great."

I asked him about what effect, if any, this eating change had on his energy. The party line among runners rates carbos as our fuel of choice. What happens if they run low?

"My energy stays steady all day," said Jeff. "Before, it had highs and lows because I was in effect hypoglycemic."

His body had trouble regulating blood sugar, in other words. The low-carbo diet stabilized it.

A diet that offers weight loss and energy gain is tempting. But a stronger temptation, the urge toward everyday carbo loading, stands in the way of carbo lowering.

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