Michelle ran her first half-marathon at 61 on a low-carb diet
Michelle – 61 year old female, soon to be 62 in January
12/2021 Started carnivore – At that time, I was using a type of macro tracker which, based upon my metrics and goals, had me at adequate protein, low fat, and low carb. Since the end of 2018, I had been dealing with chronic forearm tendonitis and both lateral and medial elbow pain in my left arm. Also, I have always dealt with constipation, bloating, and lower energy. Since my early 40s, I’ve had a small eczema patch, which I affectionately began to call my barometer. Since I had a sense of how much protein to eat and my carbs were quite low, I decided to give carnivore a try to see if I could mitigate my arm pain, and address constipation, bloating, and eczema.
What I learned during my first year as a carnivore:
- I call meat, with its requisite fat, my gate keeper. As long as I have adequate protein, with the fat it contains, my energy is stable and I have no cravings.
- I hydrate throughout the day (water), and use electrolytes during endurance activities.
- Constipation and bloating resolved immediately, as if I never had them. Eczema resolved, but it does present a bit when I eat eggs.
- Arm pain is much better, but not completely resolved. Most of the time I am not in pain (prior to carnivore, I was always in pain). While I do love to lift (compound movements), they don’t always love me back (sometimes my arm hurts and sometimes not). The pain doesn’t necessarily present in real time, so I am never sure of what’s going to hurt and what won’t until after I’m done with a workout. There’s something about stepping up to a bar (regardless of the grip) or dumbbells that doesn’t always agree with my arm, regardless of the weight. However, during this year, I discovered that lifting really heavy things (sand bags, tire flips, hay bales, grain bags), close to my body, generates great blood flow, without any pain in my arm. This type of activity makes me so happy. I can work hard and I never experience pain.
- I realized that I had forgotten to take my supplements for thyroid and adrenals, which I dutifully had taken for years, after starting carnivore. Once I realized this, I no longer felt that I needed them.
- Initially, I didn’t take off weight, but I could tell that my body was changing because my clothes fit differently. I ditched the scales. Eventually, I took off about 8 lbs, but my clothes fit the same.
- I no longer feel compelled to chase errant bio-markers (mostly thyroid). If I feel fine, I’m going to assume I’m fine, and as long as I stay carnivore.
- My sleep is solid.
- I eat when I’m hungry.
- Favorite steak cut: chuck-eye
- Favorite braise cut: cross-cut shank
- When I go on longer runs (5-6 miles), my body is fine. Before carnivore, I felt like I had done work after a long run day, and I would give my body a break the next day. Now I don’t even notice the longer distance and feel that I could do it again the next day.
- Highlight during my first year as a carnivore:
In June, I ran a half-marathon at altitude (about 4800 feet elevation, near Glacier National Park). I neither train that distance, nor run at altitude. My energy and expenditure was fine throughout the run. Afterward, I felt like I had worked, but my recovery was rather seamless. I took the next day off, except for some light walking. The following day I was fine. No carbohydrates required!
Further background about me
I have always been very active, but struggled with weight (either over or under eating). I was constantly on the go, yet fatigued. I always assumed that I was low thyroid, based upon my symptoms. The doctor would check one thyroid marker, which would be in normal range, and tell me I was fine. I love to cook and love to eat. I’ve always been bloated and constipated. I like to do deep dives into information and many N=1 experiments.
In the early 2000s, we embraced Weston Price and Nourishing Traditions. We sourced local grass-fed meat, always tried to source organic produce, and adopted food and lifestyle as our medicine.
Between 2008 and 2018 we farmed in Oregon, raising/selling pastured/grass-fed meat. I started paleo in 2012 and Crossfit in 2013 (5 days per week). I was also active in physically-demanding equine sport and ran 3-4 days per week. I was perimenopausal/menopausal. By 2014, I was in post-menopause and in the pre-diabetic range (A1C of 5.7).
Between 2014 and 2019, I began keto paleo and intermittent fasting, often interchanging days of each. I tried low-fodmap for bloating. Sleep was not great. Adrenals were tapped. I had some low thyroid markers (mostly T3). No autoimmunity. I probably had a cortisol response from much underfeeding, intermittent fasting, and much activity. I tracked blood glucose throughout the day for several years. My A1C didn’t really lower significantly but glucose ranges were so narrow that it was assumed that I wasn’t headed for diabetes, given my food choices and activity level.
By the end of 2018, I had developed chronic forearm tendonitis and both lateral and medial elbow pain from overuse. In 2019, I began using the RP app, which gave me a breakdown of macros that were right for me. I stopped intermittent fasting and started fueling, especially on protein! Had more carbs than I previously had. Great results! Lowered weight and body fat.
In 2020 I got out of the pre-diabetic range (A1C 5.4). I assumed it was because I added back in some carbs. I now know that it was more so that I wasn’t underfueling and stressing my body out.
At the end of 2021, I started carnivore. I love vegetables but don’t miss them, as long as I eat enough protein and fat. In 2022, a few months into my carnivore journey (March), I tried the fruit/honey (small amounts) route for a few weeks. My energy wasn’t great during this time and especially with the honey, it was a slippery slope having it in the house. My lower energy resolved when I ended the short fruit/honey stint. I didn’t miss either. After the brief fruit/honey experiment, I added in some electrolytes, which my body seemed to crave. Was it the electrolytes or was it the hydration that my body was craving? Now, I use electrolytes during endurance activities or if I feel tired, but I endeavor to stay well-hydrated. Recently, I tried adding in more butter. I like the idea of it, but if I add it on top of adequate daily protein, it is just too much fuel for me. Even with increasing activity, my clothes were just getting tighter. I’d need to decrease protein, if I am going to add more fat. Right now my activities include: Functional Range Conditioning, strength training (not always with a bar), rowing, running, rucking, hiking. While I am interested in getting stronger, I no longer want to work against a clock in HIIT activities on a daily basis. It’s great fun and comradery, but too much wear and tear for me.
For 2023, I have plans for two more half-marathons: one near Grand Tetons and one near Yellowstone. Hope to get to more runs in other beautiful locations, as I am able.