Keeping it KETO

Next in our series of “What Trail Runners Eat”, Trish Eksteen (39) from Durban North in KZN shares her KETO eating plan. Trish trains predominantly at A.O.T. (Adventure Obstacle Training), at Kloof Gorge, and when time allows heads out to the North Coast. She adds road and beach running to round out her routine.

“Trail running fills my “soul bucket”.  It’s my happy place, where everything seems peaceful, beautiful and awesome…  Even when you are sucking air through any hole you can find, it’s still where you seem to make sense of life and feel most alive!  I’m a sucker for punishment, so I LOVE technical trail, anything that challenges me.  Most of the trail runs we compete in at the moment have obstacles, however very often the running part of the OCR race is received harder than the actual obstacles we face!

We train 6 days a week.  Running makes up 2 thirds of our training, then we have to focus on strength, technique and cross training too.  Finding a balance with OCR training is pretty similar to Triathlon Training; various disciplines to prepare for in one race. 

Claude and I are doing Drakensberg Northern Trail 40km Sky Run, and then if all goes well this year we will do the UTCT 100km.”    

Trish and Claude are KETO Athletes, which means that the focus is on using fat as their energy source and not carbs or glycogen.

A keto diet is well known for being a low carb diet, where the body produces ketones in the liver to be used as energy. It’s referred to as many different names – ketogenic diet, low carb diet, low carb high fat (LCHF).

When you eat something high in carbs, your body will produce glucose and insulin. Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that it will be chosen over any other energy source. Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body.

Since the glucose is being used as a primary energy, your fats are not needed and are therefore stored. Typically on a normal, higher carbohydrate diet, the body will use glucose as the main form of energy. By lowering the intake of carbs, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis.

Ketosis is a natural process the body initiates to help us survive when food intake is low. During this state, we produce ketones from the breakdown of fats in the liver.

“We have been living the “KETO” lifestyle for about a year and haven’t looked back once! It has really given my sport a new lease of life and I feel a lot more energetic, not only during training sessions and races, but throughout the day in general.

I’ve always known that if I could find a lifestyle that offers me what KETO is producing, then I’ll not only be a better athlete w.r.t. performance, but definitely have a better chance at fighting serious illnesses, recover easier, and have a lifestyle that I actually can ENJOY and find pleasure in.  My family is plagued with Cancer so it just makes complete sense that I cut out as much acidity from my body as possible. Sugar is a large contributor of acidity.

Within 2 months, I lost all excess fat (I’m not the biggest girl). I lost 4kg within two months and since then have never had fluctuations in weight like I used to.  I experienced a huge influx of extra energy, and my concentration has also improved. I also used to battle a lot with a bloated stomach and stomach cramps especially after hard, high intensity training sessions. This has disappeared completely.”

Trish describes some of the challenges that she has experienced within this lifestyle.

“I have two sons, 7 and 9, who are very fussy eaters. So I sometimes end up preparing two or three different meals.  I do, on the odd occasion, crave something “nice” to eat, but that can so easily be relieved with a something Keto nice! We make a lot of treats ourselves so we know exactly what is going into our bodies. It is also crucial to have the right foods at hand in your home and to be prepared. Otherwise it can be very tempting to fall back into your old ways.”

What are the common misconceptions about eating this way? 

“A lot of people are concerned about the high fat and increase in Cholesterol as well as the idea of no bread and no sweet stuff.  I don’t think I’ve enjoyed my food and snacks as much I do now. People also tend to think that we don’t eat from a very wide array of foods… like veg for example, but if you actually look at what you eat this isn’t the case. All you are doing by eating this way is switching from eating one group of foods to eating another.”

Trish and Claude have found distance running easier in terms of how to refuel.

“Recently Claude and I ran a marathon on just water.  We had our Keto Nutrition Bar for breakfast, sipped on Keto EXO (juice) on the way to the run and felt terrific.  We ran it as a training run.  Claude ran 2:57 as his first training run on a marathon distance and I have never felt better on any marathon ever.  No sugar drops, no energy loss, no feeling ill, hungry etc.  Brilliant!

We are absolutely addicted to our Keto Nutrition RTD’s (Ready-to-Drinks).  No Sugar, low carb and the protein is incredible. If you love milkshakes then you will fall in love with these.”

For those wondering what the family eats, and what a typical KETO plate looks like…

“A dinner that we all love to eat as a family, even our fussy boys, is chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in bacon. We bang that in the oven with some salt and pepper for seasoning for around 30min or so, or till cooked through. You can be as adventurous as you like with the filling, for example spinach or peppers. The bacon keeps the chicken moist and adds some amazing flavour. We have this with some coleslaw, pumpkin or salad.”

Advice to anyone looking to change over to your kind of fuel plan? 

“Be patient. Some people go cold turkey right from the word go or gradually cut down certain foods. A good way to begin is to cut out junk food… Sweets, chocolates, cold drinks, takeaways etc. Then look at your breads and starchy foods. Just be aware that you can go through what is called “carb flu”. This is where you experience a period of feeling very tired and run down. Don’t stress as this is common and is due to your body trying to adapt and adjust to using fat as your energy source and not glycogen.”

Where do you shop and what is on your regular grocery list?

“We shop at your regular grocery stores. Then we also go to some speciality store like Loafers or Manolis. We always have the right fats at hand first and foremost like Olive oil, coconut oil and Avo oil. We buy a variety of meat, from red meat to chicken and eat a lot of spinach and cabbage and various leafy greens. We snack on a healthy dose of mixed nuts and biltong as well as full cream plain or Greek yogurt. Cheese is also a big staple and we stick to all full cream/fat products when it comes to dairy.”

Trish refers to Pinterest for recipe ideas. Other resources worth checking out: