Everest without Oxygen

Monday was an absolutely gorgeous day to ride… except that I’ve started a low carbohydrate (Atkins) diet. If you bike at all, you know what happened…
But first, some background. I have to maintain a medical for the FAA, I alternate between the FAA doctor and my real doctor.

The FAA Class II medical (physical) is still basic. In fact, my examiner requires that I sign a waiver absolving him of any liability in the event something isn’t diagnosed. What this means is he does the blood pressure, sugar in your pee, and eyesight tests. The hearing test is pretty binary: either you answer the question or you don’t. As with any government bureaucracy, you have to report everything you’ve ever been diagnosed with or taken in the last five years. Theoretically, this means if you go in for a bad case of jock itch, you have to note this. And when you go in two years later, you have to remember to note it. And again two years later. What they’re really looking for are people who suddenly started taking, say, Zoloft. It’s kind of ridiculous. The spokesgroup of pilots, AOPA, suggests that we report only serious things.  Now you tell me…

The FAA medical examiner is obliged to make an inquiry on anything you note on the form. While you’re officially supposed to note every visit on the form, there’s a mutual understanding that they really just want to know whether you’ve got something that would impair your flying. Jock itch won’t. Bipolar disorder will.

No one wants to rat anyone out, so most pilots genuinely concerned about their medical status will have a separate general physician. This is why, on odd years, I do a real exam. Friday I went in for my annual physical.

I’m in good shape — resting heart rate below 60, normal blood pressure, low cholesterol — except that I need to lose weight. I’m in that age range, over 30, where one’s body is no longer indestructible and I’m starting to feel a lot of random aches and pains. (Nothing a good ibuprofin and ice bag couldn’t fix.)

For the last two and a half years, I’ve been eating a vegetarian diet in adherence to the Food Pyramid, with occasional snacking. I had remarked to the doctor about how I’ve been able to maintain my weight, but not lose more. I asked the big question: Are Carbohydrates Good Or Evil? We got into a discussion of dieting, and he made some interesting observations about the food pyramid.

Long discussion short: he thought the food pyramid places too much emphasis on carbohydrates the Atkins diet had substantial merits once one’s out of the “induction phase.” He suggested I check it out.

I picked up the Atkins books and read The New Diet Revolution over the weekend. I figured I would try the induction phase, which essentially involves cutting back to 20 carbohydrates a day and eating fatty, proteiny meals (lots of meat and eggs). I wanted to stay the vegetarian, so I cut out the meat portions.

We had a week of incredible weather, and Monday was going to be gorgeous. I skipped breakfast because we were out of eggs (plus having them sit in my stomach while riding didn’t sound good). Going to work wasn’t that bad, but I was dragging a little bit through the climbs. Any normal day, I would have eaten a Clif Bar and been fine. However, Atkins says carbs are evil.

Lunch was a salad, and still no meat. I was really feeling awful, but biked home anyway. What normally takes me an hour and a half took two and a half hours. It felt like climbing Everest without Oxygen.

It was dark when I finally got home, and I was exhausted. I took a quick shower and tried reading a story to my daughter. Meanwhile, my spouse was lecturing me on how totally stupid this was, and I should really have some Gatorade. I fell asleep sometime around 8:30 (about 3 hours early), with my spouse, for whatever reason, waking me up to tell me this was a bad idea.

Clearly I’m going to have to reevaluate the meat-thing. I’ve not seen anything from Atkins about long duration aerobic exercise. I won’t try biking again until Friday, but I think I’m going to have to forgo the rigors of 20 carbs a day and have a Clif Bar while riding.

I’d be interested in whether anyone has successfully done the low-carb diet with biking.

2 thoughts on “Everest without Oxygen”

  1. I enjoyed reading Everest without oxygen. I am a high school teacher and coach. I have struggled with high blood pressue for many years and now that I am forty-five have tried to be very serious about treatment. Blood Pressure meds, I still take them, but they are not effective in controlling my numbers. So I too have begun a high protein diet and cut the carbs way down. As a runner I have loved and lived on carbs.

    I am in my third week of training for the LA Marathon. My new high protein diet leaves me in a fog during the day and runs are nothing short of painful. I do not think for one minute that you can do anything of athletic signifacnce without major carbohydrate.

    Lance Armstrong has been quoted about his success in the mountains of France was because he and his trainers believe in carbs!

    My BP is killing me and so is the lack of carbs in my diet. I am ready for a big bowl of cherrios,a cup of yogurt, some whole wheat toast and OJ!!!!!!!!!

  2. I think it really all comes down to moderation and realizing there is no quick fix. (Sorry, eBay power-sellers!)

    Good luck in your marathon training. A friend of mine who did that one was surprised at how much warmer it was than her normal training environment.

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