Most endurance athletes are placing a large load on their bodies ….too much attention has been paid to getting calories in but not real nutrition. In the OFM/VESPA program, because the athlete does not consume massive amounts of food to get calories the nutrition component needs to be spot on. I recommend athletes make and consume bone broth (see attachment) and have fresh liver at least once a week (if you cannot do liver then pate or liverwurst/braunschwieger or dessicated liver tablets). This is in addition to muscle meat from ruminants, fish and poultry. Think of it from a “Whole Foods” concept of eating only now we extend this to be a “Whole Animal” concept:
- Moderate Portions of Muscle Meat
- Small Weekly or Bi-weekly Portions of Organ Meat/Offal
- Moderate Portions of foods rich in collagen/gelatin rich animal parts regularly
- Eggs & Dairy as Tolerated and desired
Personally, I eat fresh liver when available and love it. I make the broth and drink it regularly and use it for my soup and sauce bases. I also will eat Cabeza Tacos and Menudo sans hominy, bone marrow and sweetbreads. All are full of fat soluble vitamins. By doing so you leverage what you get out of muscle meat due to the synergies.
The Reality: The challenge is the modern diet and culture has elminiated a lot of the foods we should be eating and modern food production has lowered some key nutritional components of our food supply . This dictates careful and prudent supplementation.
Salt: Like fat, salt becomes your friend and many people who shift to Nutritional Ketosis tend not to get enough salt in their diet because we are told salt causes hypertension (high blood pressure) ….not when fat adapted….the body will actually excrete sodium and an athlete will be sweating out boatload so you need salt.
Magnesium: Magnesium is a crucial mineral but one that is not needed in massive amounts. The issue is that Magnesium can be rapidly depleted but it cannot be rapidly absorbed. So I recommend taking in a supplement of Magnesium Chloride (available from VESPA) which is a naturally occurring, easily assimilated, relatively inexpensive form of Magnesium after your meals in 100-200 mg doses. Trying to pack in Magnesium to make up for a loss can result in diarrhea (think Milk of Magnesia). I also think that Epsom Salt baths, especially in the winter and topical oils containing Magnesium can be useful for athletes with a high training load.
Zinc: Another mineral that is essential but often not optimized in athletes having a high training volume. Oysters are literally the best source. More to come on this mineral.
Keep in mind Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc are key minerals which need replenishing for endurance athletes but each “competes” with the others for absorption. Most commonly athletes are getting plenty of Calcium in various forms which “out competes” with Magnesium and Zinc. This is an overly-simplistic explanation.
Other trace minerals are generally available via eating whole foods which are nutrient dense as they are needed in such minute amounts, however, this does not mean an athlete cannot run up against a deficiency.
Iodine: Iodine is essential for proper Thyroid function and is easily available in many seafoods, iodized salt and some other foods…..this being said iodine deficiency is fairly common even when an athlete is eating seafood etc…..one of the most common forms of iodine deficiency/ thyroid dysfunction is actually via consuming plant based foods that bind the iodine and other minerals. Cruciferous Vegetables, especially in raw (uncooked and/or unfermented form), consumed in large quantities are known goitrogens and should be cooked and consumed in moderate amounts…..many athletes unknowingly consume loads of raw cruciferous vegetables and end up with Thyroid issues.
The take home is that most people are going to get enough iodine if they eat a varied diet that includes some seafood and iodized salt and as long as they are not eating a ton of raw vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables.
Omega 3 fatty acids: I suggest athletes who are fat adapted take in 1000-2000 mg of a high quality fish or krill oil supplement per day when in training / competition. Because Omega 3 fatty acids are Polyunsaturated oils they are inherently unstable so too much is not the best.
Now eating grass fed ruminants (beef, venison, lamb, goats) and lots of fish will negate this need in the fat adapted athlete because of the availability of Omega 3’s in these sources and that they are in balance with the Omega 6’s and omega 9 fatty acids etc.
While this is a personal rant of mine, it is also something you NEED to know….. the type of Omega 3 fatty acids your body uses and can assimilate are DHA and EPA Omega 3 fatty acids and are only available from animal sources. The main type of Omega 3 fatty acid in commonly available plant based oils is ALA Omega 3 fatty acid and your body can only poorly convert one at best. So if you are taking flax seed oil, borage oil or eating a bunch of walnuts for your essential Omega 3’s you are wasting your money. A simple google search on this subject will bring up a bunch of really good but highly technical science on this very subject.
* Also it is important to avoid commercial vegetable oils (corn, soybean, canola, etc.) as they are made via high heat and chemicals and are altered chemically and are pro-inflammatory. The vegetables oils found in most commercial restaurant fryers and in practically all store bought condiments, mayonnaise, and salad dressings utilize these oils because, relative to natural, traditionally extracted oils, they are dirt cheap.
If you use vegetable, seed or fruit oils make sure they are low pressure pressed (expeller) and do not use heat or chemicals…sunflower, seed, borage, flax and olive oil are all good examples. Because these are poly unsaturated oils do NOT use them for hi-temperature cooking as they are unstable and I do not recommend using them in massive quantities.
Vitamin D3: During the fall, winter and early spring months I do suggest supplementation with Vitamin D3. This can also apply if you work indoors most of the time even in the summer. I suggest starting for 2-4 weeks with 6000-10000 IU of Vitamin D3 then backing off to 2000-4000 daily . If you want to be more precise getting your 25, hydroxy Vitamin D levels checked going into fall/winter then a few months later after starting to supplement is a good idea. Another , better way is be out in the mid-day sun at a lower latitude (like Southern California or Florida or any lower latitude state on a daily basis during the fall/winter/spring or getting weekly tans where they offer UVB tanning specifically of Vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D is key to balancing Vitamin A & K so these work for proper uptake of Calcium and depositing it in the bones. It also helps to prevent depression (winter blues) and boosts immunity. During the summer get out and sun without sunblock to really soak up the Vitamin D. Naturally, if you have fair skin you need some exposure but not overexposure so getting 15-20 minutes while exercising daily or 2-3 X per day while exercising will prevent problems. Also note that the data is strongly suggesting cell membrane composition is more robust in fat adapted athletes so you are better equipped to not only protect your skin from the sun but get all the benefits…I recommend getting sun while exercising because also the sweat aids in keeping the skin cool and moist to help mitigate the deleterious effects of the sun while soaking up the benefits of Vitamin D production.
Eating whole nutrient dense foods generally provides plenty of all the other minerals and vitamins and in highly bio-available forms.
Intestinal health (Stomach and gut) is the 5th wheel of the OFM program. Over the past several years we have worked with several athletes who have had chronic intestinal issues and been able to consistently turn this problem around over time. A lot of the issues are due exactly to the “corrosive” impact a high carb/low fat diet has on the the villi, enterocytes and mucous membrane of the intestinal tract. This extends from the stomach all the way to the colon in its impact. Another aspect is restoring the proper balance of gut bacteria through proper diet which includes fermented / pro-biotic foods but also a bit of supplementation with the right Probiotic to shift the bacterial profile in the right direction with “good” bacteria that colonize. This is a subject that is large and complex and I am not going to go into in this document but something for all of you to keep in mind.
Other important aspects of OFM related to supplementation:
While the dietary changes and hydration are probably the single biggest piece of the OFM/VESPA program it takes all the pieces for the program to work optimally. Here are the other parts that are just as important:
Intermittent Fasting: Once the athlete is adapted I suggest Intermittent fasting (IF) as a regular part of one’s lifestyle. IFing should be effortless because when in Nutritional ketosis the body freely releases free fatty acids into circulation to be used as energy for both fatty acid metabolism and ketones. This makes the athlete blood sugar stable so one of the main triggers of appetite, low blood sugar, is eliminated. Also there is hormonal balance and the signals of hunger are suppressed. By IFing on a regular basis you re-enforce the fat metabolism. Many athletes, once fat adapted, find they inadvertently IF all the time due to the suppressed appetite and the efficiency gain they see.
Lifestyle / Stress Management: Many athletes need to be consciously aware of how their lifestyle and stresses in their daily lives outside their sport impact their athletic performance and overall health. OFM is an integrated approach so this has to be looked at and addressed if the athlete wants to achieve optimal potential under a given situation. Being fat-adapted will help because of its profound effects on stabilizing blood sugar. Many athletes note this profound shift in their mental focus and emotional stability…..so do their spouses and significant others!
Cortisol is the stress hormone…..occasionally a little is good and natural but chronic stress and chronically elevated cortisol levels tend to make athletes crave carbs and caffeine both of which further exacerbate the cortisol and insulin levels to the point where an athlete gets adrenal fatigue and this severely impacts the ability to be fat adapted.
A big part to this stress management can be due to trying to fit training and competition into an already packed schedule so finding the proper work/life/family/relationship balance with your sport is key.
While there is a lot here and it may seem complex and overwhelming for most people the VESPA/OFM program is quite doable as long as the basics are followed ….the body is meant to burn fat as the main aerobic energy source so it is the natural aerobic energy source so as long as you can restrict concentrated sources of carbs (bread, pasta, cereal, beer, starches and high glycemic fruits). Generally, most people see dramatic shifts in their athletic performance and overall in their daily lives.