Three Marathons On Zero Calories
sports & fitness
How far can we go using our fat as fuel? Mikey Sklar used a wide array of tools to guide his training for running 76 miles in less than 24 hours without the use of food.
Blood glucose monitor | heart rate monitor | Microbiome | Oura ring | VO2Max | Zero App
Three Marathons on Zero CaloriesHi I’m Mikey. I work for Adafruit as a biohacker and I’m going to talk about how I ran three marathons on no calories. So, I’ve been running ultras for about five years. I’ve been in ketosis for the last three years, and my goal was to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours without the use of any calories.
So I came into an event in Phoenix last new year in a fasted state, so I already was 18 hours fasted at the start line of this. I found a group on an official course that was doing 24 hour runs, 48 hour runs, 72 hours and even up to six days, so I was hardly the least most crazy person out there.
I’m going to just mention that there’s this concept of the wall. I think runners are familiar with it, and basically at mile 20 most of us start running out of fuel. And the idea is that in our muscles and our liver, we have glycogen and we start to use them up by really working hard.
So what you see at aid stations in races is a bunch of garbage. Pretzels and Skittles and people tend to fuel themselves off that or space food as I call it, modern nutrition. And that can lead to inflammation and that can lead to long recovery. It’s the number one reason people don’t finish long endurance foot races is because their stomach goes out.
So with that in mind I want to focus on one thing going into this event and that was fat burn. How can I achieve the maximum fat burn, so I don’t need fuel? I can just cannibalize myself for a day or two.
And what it is I started with the most excepted test which is to do a sort of a VO2 max or R2 test on the treadmill, had people monitor my breath. I got out of that test a heart rate number where my peak fat burning was. So, for me it was 118 beats a minute, or 64% effort.
There are two other ways to verify that. There’s something called nico-nico pace, which is really popular in Japan where people basically walk as fast as they can. It’s huge there.
And when you do that you tend to hit right in that max fat burning zone and they have a formula, basically 138 minus half your age and that should give you the heart rate to be at.
Another way to verify this is Phinney and Volek, who has done a ton of research on athletes and very low carb diets, and they tend to use 64% in general during their experiments. So, it’s nice to have a triple verification of the effort level I should be at.
So, this is my heart rate recorded throughout the event. What you can see is two big gaps in there. I fell asleep, so even although I’m chewing myself up and holding the heart rate I want, I still got tired. I’m still walking in circles for a day.
And I didn’t meet my goal. My goal was to do 100 miles and I only got up to 76 miles in 24 hours. And now it was time to go back and really look at the data that I’ve been gathering for six months and see what I can do to optimize. What went wrong here.
So, I started looking at DNA data, basically Ancestry, 23andme, and running it through some of the free engines and some of the expensive. I actually ran through 12 different third parties just to try to look for different nutrient deficiencies, or genes that I might have and take advantage of.
I started correlating some of that data with blood test data, using a blood calculator, which is a machine learning engine that looks at 40 real blood test samples. But then extrapolates to another 120 on top of that, so you get 160 in total. So it’s making stuff up, but still interesting to start comparing that back to the DNA results. And then I started using biome. I had used microbiome as well, but to look at the basically large group samples and see if I had parasites or viruses or any dietary recommendations.
They all kind of came back to the same thing, like your electrolytes are really off. You need a lot more. You have B vitamin deficiencies genetically, and you need a supplement and you know, stay away from daily and pretty much anything that’s sweet. So, that’s fine. I’ll incorporate that.
Then I did this pretty standard QS tool. I was using a cornometer, a diet app and feeding everything in. So I was feeding you know, my ring data, the oura ring. I was feeding exercise data. You know, all of my daily quantified data into one app and I could graph from it.
That was a lot of work. That was really like a lot of work, and I was trying to like find patterns in there. And I found a little bit. I basically started ended up building my own heart res at this point. I built a breath monitor. I call it the ketometer. I’ve been filling it for about three years, and it helped me correlate some of my stats each day to my diet, to my sleep, to other things.
But what I was finding was all this work I was doing to record stuff might not have been that necessary. I was getting the most out of just one simple app. I was using the Zero app to monitor my fasting each day and that was driving my ketone levels really high which was great. So I ketone levels for me meant high performance. Environmental cognition, I could really feel it on a daily basis. When my ketones were off I was off. So, I basically stop to an 18:6 fasting window. But now I have a new plan.
So, I like the fasting and I made some changes to my diet supplementation, but my new plan is instead of focusing on fat burn and getting the maximum 100% fat burn it’s to focus on getting really high. So, the way I’m going to do that is basically, there’s a lot of studies that show this. It’s 75% effort as opposed to 64, you start producing peak endorphins. Peak brain-derived neurotrophic factors, peak endo carbenoids. All these rewards come in at a slightly higher effort than I was going. So, I was at the miserable fat-burning pace, but I really now want to get to the super happy, you know, maxed reward system pace.
So, with that in mind now I’m going back for the hundred miles, getting this record fasted. I’m going to wear a CGM, a blood glucose monitor because running and manually trying to use blood sticks through the night was a terrible idea. The meters don’t work in cold weather, like my fingers were even too cold to get blood out of, it was taking time out of my day.
Now I’m basically just in the training mode, where I jump onto 50K races, and I’ll show up six hours early and run them twice just to you know get my mileage up and get used to running alone all night. And I’m you know, pacing regularly at 100 and 200 milers just to you know, be ready for this.
So, basically this New Year’s Eve, I’ll go back the same track with all the crazy six day people and try to set the record.