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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Speed and Recovery

Here in Wisconsin we have gotten hit by yet another super cold spell. I am fortunate enough to live near a 200-meter indoor track, so I look at cold days (recently we've had a few that dropped below -30°F with windchill) as opportunities to log some fast miles on the track. As I add more speedwork, I become even more conscious about what I eat in order to optimally recover.

Here is an example of one of my speed/strength sessions and what I ate before and after it.

Pre-Workout Fuel

Since I follow an OFM (optimized fat metabolization) protocol, I don't eat much before workouts. My body is trained to burn fat efficiently most of the time, reserving stored glycogen for quicker pace stuff. Before this workout, I had a Vespa Ultra Concentrate, a cup of coffee and a concoction containing almond milk, raw honey, 2 Tbsp organic butter, coconut flakes, chia seeds, cocoa nibs and Himalayan sea salt. Just before I started the progression run, I had a Vespa Junior.


I warmed up outside by running to the track. It was interesting, given that we had about 4 inches of really powdery snow that had not been shoveled yet. The warm-up was five miles in all.

This stands for sprint straights, jog corners, and it's a workout I learned at Stevens Point running track and field. It is a really good way to get some turnover in your legs before getting into the real workout. 

Progression Run
I did a short progression run of three miles. I kept it short so I would have something left in my legs for some 200-meter repeats afterward. My progressive mile times were: 5:30, 5:22 and 5:09.

Active Recovery
I wanted to get enough of the lactic acid out of my legs before starting the 200-meter repeats, but without standing around, which would cause my legs to tighten up. I did a two-mile recovery jog. 

My goal here was simply to get some over-speed training. This trains me to maintain proper form at high speeds, making it less likely that my form will break down during a long ultra. Sometime I do this type of workout in the form of a 20/40s (20 second sprints, 40 second jogs). Today, it was 200-meter repeats. I didn't need to do a ton of them, so my plan was to keep going until I couldn't do a low 35. Each 200 was separated by an easy 200-meter jog around the track. I ended up with seven repetitions (35, 34, 34, 33, 34, 34 and 35 high).

I still had leg strength training to do, so I ran another 1/2 mile just to let my legs catch back up.

Strength Training (Legs)
This isn't what I do every time I do leg work, but it is a sample of one of the circuits I use when doing leg strength.

  • Walking Lunges with two 10 lb plates for 1/8 mile
  • Squat (machine) 3 x 15
  • Hamstring plank 2 x 20 both legs; 2 x 10 single leg (each leg)
  • Russian-Dead-Lift 3 x 15
  • Box Steps 2 x 10 (each leg)

I did a 3-mile jog outside back home

Post-Workout Fuel

After the workout, It is all about recovery. Since I did quite a bit of intensity between the running and strength training, I strategically included some carbohydrates in my post-workout meal. However, it was still much less than what most people would have after a workout.

  • 4 oz fresh calf liver
  • 4 strips of thick bacon
  • 2 oz wild caught Alaskan salmon
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 sweet potato
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 3 Tbsp of sour cream
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt


  1. Zach,

    Thanks for the great post. Do you keep yourself in ketosis, and if so, does adding a few carbs after your workout knock you out of ketosis, or does it just replenish muscle glycogen?


    1. Hey Clayton,

      I don't focus on Ketosis too much. I definitely am in it from time to time, but that is not my goal. I follow a protocol called OFM (visit the Vespa Power Products website for a thorough explanation of OFM). It's basically a method that allows the body to get really good at utilizing fat as a primary fuel, but uses carbs strategically for performance. If you are looking to stay in ketosis, I would say pre, during, post workout are the best times to take in your carb sources for the day.

  2. Zach, another good post. I appreciate you sharing your diet information. Is OFM a Vespa thing? How does it differ from Phinney and Volek? Also, have you heard about Michael Arnstein's diet of fruit? Almost opposite of what your're doing. Check out his interview on Ultra Runner podcast, it is hilarious.

    1. OFM is not necessarily a Vespa thing. It was Peter Defty (North American Distributor of Vespa) who came up with it. So in that respect it has a lot to do with Vespa. It is designed to work great with the use of Vespa, so the two approaches work great together. The big difference between OFM and Phinney and Volek is the two Doctors are known for straight up Ketosis without any strategic carb use.

    2. I know Mike pretty well. Great dude :) two guys with two completely different approaches. We're friends, which makes me think the Dems and Reps should learn from us :)

  3. Neat post, thanks. Do you ever do foot-specific workouts, or do you find running in your Skoras is adequate to maintain foot strength?

    1. I spent a long time adapting through just using low drop shoes. I transitioned using a variety of Altra, Inov-8, and Skora. Currently, my top shoe of choice is the Altra line. All zero drop, but diversity from road to trail in their models. I didn't spend any time doing foot exercises, but that might speed up the process.

  4. Hi Zach, thanks for sharing this info! I find it really fascinating to see what you top endurance runners are doing pre and post workout. One curiosity I have is how much honey do you mix with your coffee concoction? I do something similar in the mornings with butter and MCT oil in my coffee, and I'd like to add honey as a sweetener but I get nervous about adding to much sugar into the mix.

    1. I would say it's between 1-2 servings. Honey, in most folks, doesn't produce much of an insulin spike. Plus, when taken pre-workout it's unlikely it will kick you out of ketosis if you take it in small doses. If you are really worried take it with cinnamon, which will reduce the insulin spike.

      I don't worry too much, because I follow OFM. My goal isn't to stay in Ketosis all the time. I really focus on Ketosis when I'm in recovery mode.

  5. Hey Zach! I really enjoy cooking and am wondering how you prepare your fish/meat. Do you grill it? saute it? bake it? poach it? Thanks for sharing your workout. Hope to see you at another race soon! Beth

    1. Hi Beth,

      I typically fry it on a pan. I either use bacon grease, butter, or coconut oil. I avoid extra virgin olive oil for cooking; as it has a low smoke point compared to the others. I usually cook the meat and vegetable on a low setting.

  6. I'll chime in with a goal to add to the the OFM , fat-adapted world almost everything is turned on its well-known item are saturated fats and cholesterols...instead of being villians they become the most potent allies. . . saturates are actually the preferred energy/fat....

    What we see is that under the OFM protocol a fat-adapted, VESPA consuming athlete can make better use of CHO without losing the advantages of fat-adaptation. They actually get a lot more out of carbs using less. It seems the VESPA keeps them locked into high fat burn even when carbs are introduced and the carbs really have a huge yet sustainable effect.

    So another not too well-known fact is that fructose is your friend....not only does it not ellicit an insulin response but, in a fat-adapted, VESPA athlete fructose become a key source of ketones for the liver....this is why things like honey and agave syrup and other higher fructose carbohydrates seem to work really well with OFM athletes as long as they take in the appropriate amounts.

  7. Hi Zach, Thanks for the detail in this post. I am in my first training cycle after switching to a ketogenic diet back in Nov. Loved how I felt, awesome all the time, until I hit 40+ miles a week again heading back toward 60. Then I'd have three great days worth of sessions, and three ugly ones. I think I've realized that I'm not getting enough glycogen replenishment over the course of a six day training week. I'd been aiming to stay ketogenic all the time, but my feel is that I can't stay in a high training zone and not take some carbs with training. So this weekend I added one cup butternut squash puree to my dinner menu the night before my 16 miler and one cup to lunch immediately post. A universe of difference! How cow. Anyway, reading your pre and post workout fuel summary I realize that the experience I had this weekend wasn't a coincidence. Sounds like I blundered into a strategy!

  8. For most of us, athletes, muscle soreness after the trainings is unpleasant although inevitable part of our training routine. However, latest research shows this part could be omitted! Found a lot of interesting information on how to prevent DOMS due to proper nutrition and supplementation here:
    For me it was quite helpful to improve my workouts and gain better results!

  9. Hi, Zach,
    Your blog is such a great resource for us middle of the pack runners who are trying to improve our performances.
    I read Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney's book and am now in week 3 of very low carbohydrate (all vegetable/greens), higher fats, and the right amount of protein.. and i guess i'm doing ok. I'm doing my training runs under 12 miles on coffee/coconut oil/butter. And, for longer (16-26) I add UCAN and Vespa. However, I have not been adding carbohydrates in addition to that before, during, or after.
    In the book there is no mention of upping carbohydrates the way you do. Will ingesting some sweet potato the night before a longer run, ingesting some additional carbohydrte during, and a bit post run upset my body's fat burning ability? slow down the adaptation? or do you think it will help?