Written by Christopher Kelly
Sept. 7, 2017
Christopher: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I’m joined by none other than 13x elite national champion, Katie Compton. Hi, Katie. How are you doing today?
Katie: Good. How are you doing? Thanks for having me here.
Christopher: I’m doing great. Thank you for asking. I am delighted to have you obviously and a little bit shocked that you’re willing to come and talk on my podcast. We’re all very excited. My cofounder is Jamie Kendall-Weed and she is very much a fan of yours. So, she was very excited that you’re going to be on my podcast.
Katie: Good. I’m excited too.
Christopher: Tell me about cyclo-cross. Why do you race cyclo-cross and not some other sports?
Katie: I started cyclo-cross mainly because I was good at it.
Katie: Race on the road, and road and track as a junior and then I gotten a mountain bike in high school and then I started racing cross in college. It’s one of those things where I was always a good criterion racer on the road and good track rider but I couldn’t climb that great. And then I had good skills from the mountain bike. I had friends encouraging me to race cross. I was reluctant cause I didn’t want to run. I’d rather just ride my bike if I could over obstacles and stuff.
Christopher: I heard you. I feel your pain there.
Katie: Yeah. I kind of committed to it drinking in a bar one night. I was like yeah sure, I’ll do it. It probably wasn’t the best way to get into cross cause I definitely suffer the next day but I enjoyed. I loved it. I had a good race considering, and I was pretty much hooked ever since then. I think that was in maybe 98 I think or something I start cyclo-cross.
Christopher: Wow. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what cyclo-cross was in 1998. Can you tell me when your friends sold you cyclo-cross in the bar, how did they sell it to you? How did they describe it?
Katie: They bought me one more drink. It was like okay. Yeah. It was one of those things where it was kind of I probably should have stopped drinking but it was close to last call and they were just… Yeah. So you’ll be really good. You should try it. And then I had one more drink and I said okay. I’ll do it. Come get me in the morning. I mean I should have just gone home.
Christopher: Just think what would have happened if you’ve just gone home.
Katie: I know.
Christopher: We wouldn’t have you as a national champion all those times.
Katie: I know. And that’s the thing it’s like once I commit to something I commit to it. And so I said I was going to go and I went. It was a struggle but I also had a great time. I think after that I went to race every weekend by just riding a single speed mountain bike.
Christopher: That’s awesome. Would you say that’s good advice for anybody who is interested in cyclo-cross? Just grab yourself a single speed mountain bike and just go do it.
Katie: Yes. It’s a great way to start because the bike is simple. It’s lightweight for a mountain bike. You don’t need obviously full suspension. I mean this is back on 2016 wheels too. And most hard tails are 29ers now which is real butter anyways. But it’s just a simple bike to start on and then you can see if you like it or not then you can commit to a couple of thousand dollars to buy a cross bike.
Christopher: At the store, did cyclo-cross bike even exist in 1998?
Katie: They did. I didn’t have one but yes they did.
Christopher: Cause I believe they are fairly recent invention. I’ve definitely have heard some local guys here in northern California say I remember the first time I saw a cyclo-cross bike in a bike shop and I couldn’t believe it because cyclo-cross was always about the bike that you coupled together and that’s just what you had and that’s the way it was. That was always the ethos of the sport.
Katie: Yeah. And you can still do it that way. I mean people still do it that way. Not until you get into the elite level or get competitive where you need two bikes and race wheels and tubular. There’s a different level. You can definitely do it as entry level. One bike that’s kind of your commuter bike too or you can commit to investing in two bikes and racing every weekend. Race wheels just get more expensive. Like everything bike related it can always get more expensive.
Christopher: Okay. Tell me about your level of commitment. You mentioned commitment there. Is that something that you think has been really important for your success?
Katie: It has. Mainly cause I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have in my career if I haven’t been committed to the process and committed to finding solutions and figuring out ways to keep doing it and doing it well.
Christopher: Okay. That’s really interesting. You say that you’re committed to the process. Do you think that’s too then? You just enjoy the outcome. Enjoy the race whether you win or lose or whether the goal is met or lost. You’re just someone that loves the process.
Katie: I do. I do love the process. Like granted some days are better than others. Some races are better than others. There’re plenty of races where I’ve finished and I’m like what am I doing? This is the stupidest thing ever and same thing with training. But we all go through that no matter what job we do, no matter what problem we have, there’s always time to question what you’re doing.
I enjoy it. I like racing. I like the adrenalin rush. I like the challenge of cross where you’re thinking about the line, you’re thinking about the technical aspects. You’re also thinking about the physical and the kind of mental aspect of the race where you’re thinking you don’t want to give up. You got to push through it and suffer but also when you can attack, when you can recover and how to win the race.
Christopher: Do you have any tips or tricks that you use to stay focus in a race? I find cyclo-cross more than any other sport its home to the chimp that tells you that you’re stupid and that you should stop doing this. It has something to do with the intensity. It’s like so intense that it’s very easy for that chimp in your head to take control and tell you to slow down. Do you have any tips or tricks that you use to overcome the chimp?
Katie: I try to ignore that part of it cause I know my brain is telling me to stop because of course it’s what it does. Like when you’re suffering, your brain is like what are you doing. Stop. Like your body is like no I can get a little more out of these legs. Yeah. I try to turn that part of my brain off and just keep pushing.
Obviously, there’s a time where that doesn’t help. But I definitely try to just focus on first of all the technical bits and the lines and making sure I’m shifting and breaking and balance through the line especially riding in sand grits. When you’re tired, it’s really hard to hit that perfect spot which you have to hit every lot consistently and be pretty concise with it.
When I start getting tired I definitely see the tactical bits hurting a bit. So I really try to focus on just being smooth and efficient and then the physical stuff you know if I can go hard I will. That’s one of the things you can’t really control. You can tell your legs to go harder but if there’s nothing left there’s nothing left.
Christopher: Can you describe the start of the World Cup cyclo-cross race? I’ve seen it many times on the TV and I’ve been in the start of cyclo-cross race. But I’m sure it’s nothing like a start of world cup cyclo-cross race. Could you describe that for me?
Katie: It’s probably like the feeling you get when you’re finishing a sprint in a high end race in a pack. It’s full gas from the start. As soon as you clip in, it’s max sprint. It probably goes for like 300 meters or so, 500 meters before you hit that first turn. But yeah you clip in and sprint the gear as fast as you possibly can and you try to be at the front.
You want to be usually within the top 5 going into the dirt or the first or second turn just to set you up to have a good race. The start isn’t everything in the race but you can definitely lose the race in the first turn. So you…good positioning until you’re not chasing through 20 people just to get to the front in order to win the race.
Christopher: Right. I get that. You can’t win the race with the start but you can definitely lose it.
Katie: Exactly. Yeah. It’s kind of like race car driving where it’s like you can lose the race in the first turn if you crash or you mess up. But if you drop to the first turn 5th or 6th it’s like you can still have a huge opportunity to win the race cause you’re in the right spot.
Christopher: How is your start? Are you one of those lucky people that has a fantastic sprint that you’re going to be in the top 5 whatever happens and say you don’t need to worry too much about the start.
Katie: I used to. In my 20s I had a great start where I really didn’t even have to work on it. I was just naturally good at starting. I think that was because I was a pursuer on the track and I race the tandem on the Paralympics team. So we did pursuit in kilo. So I always had really good start out at the gate.
Now since I have been racing track and I’m getting older, I don’t have that kick, I have to work on my start quite a bit. And it’s definitely something that hasn’t been good for me at times.
Christopher: Right. Why don’t you continue to train on the track a little bit maybe to keep that start? Is that something that’s possible?
Katie: It is possible. I lived like a mile from the track and now since I’m in Colorado Spring with the Olympic training center there, the USFC and Paralympics they put a cover on the track. And so, you can actually use the track all year round now which is awesome. But I still have to get track legs and get my track bike set up and it’s not necessarily the same exact feeling as riding the cross bike.
Katie: But it definitely helps for sure. I think mainly it takes me 20 at track legs. I’m timing my track legs together. I spend too much time making it work where I feel like I’m losing training in the process if that make sense.
Christopher: Okay. Yeah. It does make sense. Tell me about your relationship with podcast and what you’ve learned from podcast especially with respect to nutrition.
Katie: For me I started listening to podcast mainly when I was having the majority of my health issues within the last probably 3 to 4 years. I just had some health issues and I was trying to figure out what’s wrong with me physically and I’ve always loved the human body. My degree exercise science. I just always really like the human body and just the way it functions. I’ve been fascinated with it.
So looking at podcast I always just search for physiology for nutrition cause that what I was interested in. And I stumbled upon some good podcast pretty much by doctors just talking in their field and trying to help patients that they can’t reach in their everyday clinic and everyday work life. And then researchers too. So I started listening podcast and just started learning a lot. One podcast leads me to the next and before I know it, my whole phone is full of help…that is podcast.
Christopher: That’s why I have to switch to overcast cause it does a really good job of managing whether it downloads or stream it. When I used the native podcast dot, maybe they’ve updated it for all know but at one point my phone was completely unusable because it had however many gigabytes of podcast downloaded.
Katie: Yup. I bought a new phone that has more memory so that helps.
Christopher: It’s all a ploy. Apple is just trying to make you buy a new hardware. That’s what it’s all about.
Katie: And I needed to cause I was deleting everything and I only could carry five podcast on there and I was like you have to figure this out cause I don’t have any photos left, full of podcast and a little bit of music. It’s time for a new phone.
Christopher: Tell me about the health issues. What sorts of health issues?
Katie: For me, like I’ve had health issues since the late 90s since I was teenagers mainly with real excruciating leg pains and that was off and on. That’s kind of been in the media off and on because I’ve missed world championships numerous times with I’ve been out with leg pain and they last anywhere from two weeks to 28 days my longest. So that was probably the biggest issue I’ve had.
And kind of as that progress cause I went to doctors and everything was completely normal. I’ve gotten so many tests done and everything has been normal. So I tried to figure out okay how can I just work around the issue. Then in that process I kind of stumble upon diet issues cause my leg issue as they’re getting worse I found out allergy issues and asthma issues and thyroid issues and it kind of just cascading thing of injuries.
And then having gone antibiotics for giardia and then for staph infection and MRSA infection. It’s just one thing to the next. And so those health issues have been you know I think I’ve dealt with them for so long. I only try to figure out the solution form. But the leg pains were the major ones. That I just figured out two years ago cause that was an MTHFR gene defect.
Christopher: Wow. Okay. Can you describe the leg pains? We’re not talking about a cramp that you might have in a bike race. Is this something different?
Katie: It’s very different. That’s the problem with explaining it to a doctor cause I can’t say cramping cause I learned that whenever I explained cramping to a doctor well did you take electrolytes. Did you drink some Gatorade? Like that. Cover that.
Katie: Yeah. I wouldn’t be seeing a doctor if it was electrolyte imbalance. I’m pretty sure that would be fixed with nutrition at some point.
Christopher: Right. Right.
Katie: And then I’ve never actually had cramping from fatigue or dehydration. So I don’t really know what that feeling is. I started thinking about what the actual pain is. It’s more like a burning pain. Have you ever had dry needling in like the muscle spindle?
Christopher: No, I haven’t. I can imagine.
Katie: Yeah. I loved dry needling. It works great. But that feeling when the doctor puts the needle into the muscle spindle and it kind of twitches and then relaxes that pain is a pain I get when I have muscle pain only it radiates through entire muscle and usually in the gluts and quads. But the gluts and quads only and so that’s what’s surprising about it too. It’s like if its systemic issue I feel like it’d be throughout my whole body.
But since it’s only in my quads and my gluts, I’m like what’s specific about those muscles. But yeah just really intense burning pain where I’ve never felt something like that. And pain killers don’t help. Like nothing helps. You just have to wait for it to go away. It did. It took two to four weeks usually. Even when I wasn’t moving I just sat there with pains.
Katie: Yeah. It’s been pretty bad.
Christopher: So how the heck did you figure out? MTHFR I mean this relatively obscure and by that I mean no primary care doctor or maybe even specialist of some type is going to know or be thinking about some genetic mutations. So how the heck did that go down?
Katie: That I figured out because I think two or three summers ago I was running a lot because I had an abscess that just took forever to – well it’s an abscess and of course as an athlete I’m like I can keep going. I don’t need to rest. I think there’s MRSA infection. But I was running because it was from saddle sore so I couldn’t ride my bike. And so I was running and I was listening to Dr. Michael Ruscio.
Christopher: Oh yes.
Katie: Yeah. Functional medicine doctor. I think he was on maybe one of Jimmy Moore podcasts.
Katie: Yeah. Just random interviews on one of the podcast and you know as a function medicine doctor he was mentioning if you got like all these symptoms getting a test of MHTFR gene mutation might be a good way to go to see if that’s an issue. I was thinking about I was like I got all those symptoms.
So the next time I saw my endocrinologist which was probably a month later maybe, I just asked him to do the test. He wasn’t reluctant but he’s just like I don’t know. We can do the test. But I don’t know if that’s going to be your leg pain issue. I’m like just do it. It’s something out of pocket too. So I was like just do the test for me. It’s for $500 like it’s worth it to know. Cause at least like it can solve a lot of problems and I can figure out otherwise I can move to something else.
Katie: I was homozygous for A1298C and I was like that’s interesting. And then I start researching that and kind of looking into okay. What is that? What can I do to fix it? And then nutrition wise, what can I do to make it stop and to manage it. It’s funny cause as soon as I figured out how I can manage it nutrition-wise I’m not having that leg pain since. I don’t even have a twinge. And my allergies are better. My asthma is better. Fatigue is better. Everything just go better.
Christopher: Wow. I got to slow you down here. There’s so many things I want to impact. So you did a blood test not the 23andME saliva test.
Katie: Yeah. I just asked for the test. It probably would have been cheaper for 23andMe but honestly I didn’t consider that or maybe I didn’t know of it at the time. I just talk to my doctor.
Christopher: And he just ordered it. You just wanted to know. So there’s lots of different ways you can find this information out. You just choose this way.
Katie: I did. That and my endocrinologist is really good and he’s open minded too. He’s really good at listening to my symptoms not just looking at the blood test results. Cause as athlete and he knows me as an athlete and then he knows he’s like okay we’re looking at the blood test results but he’s like just because you don’t – but you don’t feel well even though you might be within ranges but he’s like you’re obviously not feeling well. Let’s kind of look at other things. So, he was open to do that thing. He wasn’t confident that would be the solution.
Christopher: Did he know how to interpret it?
Katie: Yeah. Yeah. But it was one of those things where he also recommended genetic counseling for it too. It’s like I’ll just figure it out myself.
Christopher: Okay. That’s fantastic. Good for you. I feel like it’s a common trait amongst the top athlete is they have this incredible interest in their own engine. Whereas my most athletes like me they tend to be more interested in equipment which is the best [0:17:23][inaudible] to have. You find the top athlete they’re more interested in the engine that’s driving the [0:17:28][inaudible].
Katie: Yeah. Exactly.
Christopher: Super interesting. So you figured this out. So MHTFR is this enzyme that processes folate which are primarily coming from the cooked leafy or uncooked I should say leafy greens in your diet. And so what did you do? Did you take a supplement? What did you do?
Katie: My biggest issue is I can’t have folic acid. And it’s funny cause everything I read they mentioned folic acid and folate and they used it interchangeably like it’s the exact same thing. It’s not the same thing. It’s very much not the same thing. If you can process it, folic acid is fine. If you can’t process it, for me, it kills me.
Now that I’ve gotten super sensitive and I haven’t had foliate acid for two years, obviously I ate folate and I take enough folate supplements but make sure it’s out of leafy greens and vegetables.
Christopher: So that was the main thing then. It was removing the – folic acid is synthetic and it’s in everything, right. It’s in breakfast cereal. It’s in fortified bread. It’s in your cheap multivitamin.
Katie: Yeah. And it’s funny cause I didn’t quite think until after I got that test and even after I got the test I saw folic acid. It’s in my multivitamin. I need folic acid. As I looked at it more I was like no, no. Don’t eat folic acid. But you need the real form of folate.
And the thing is if I have any folic acid it affects me anywhere from three days to seven days where my legs pains come back. I feel miserable. I can’t sleep. I’m cranky. I don’t have any energy. It’s amazing how even a tiny little bit can affect my whole body for – well until my body eventually processes it and gets rid of it.
Christopher: Sometimes I wonder with this stuff whether you think you know the thing which is leading to the improvement and you are making change and you are getting the improvement. You’re not imagining it. But maybe it’s not the thing that you think it is that’s leading to the improvement.
So what I’m thinking of here is that maybe people think they have a problem with folic acids and then they stop eating cereal and they stop eating bread. Do you see where I’m going with this? Maybe it wasn’t just the folic acid that changed in your diet. Maybe you’ve changed your diet completely and maybe ate less processed food. Would you say that’s true?
Katie: That did help a bunch. Cause I know when I have the most severe issues I was in college and I was eating bagels and pop tart. At the time, we’re into the low fat and counting calories is like pop tart sure they’re fuller. They’re delicious. I was just eating really crappy diet and not knowing that that was a crappy diet. It’s all the whole grains, low fat craze. But the thing with me I cut out glutton just because everyone is cutting out glutton so I’ll do that.
Christopher: It’s quite trendy. Yeah. But maybe that’s safe thing. It’s another example where really what’s happening is you’re just improving your overall diet quality and then you have a name for that glutton-free. The trouble is now industry tends to catch up with this. They’re going to produce this slightly different version of the crap that got you into trouble in the first place. And before you know it you’re eating gluten-free muffins.
Katie: That are full of crap. But it’s funny cause I cut out glutton. I start to feel better but I’m still eating white rice and rice in general and then corn and even gluten-free products. This is one thing that annoys is US government can enriched certain products without labeling it. So I can’t have white rice and I was eating white rice cause it’s gluten-free. It’s supposed to be easily digestible. But that was really affecting me. So I had it cut out.
Now I just cut out all grains because even some corn mesa they’re going to start enriching corn mesa for the Mexican population since they eat a lot of corn generally and apparently birth defects especially spina bifida has been on increased in babies from Mexican descent so I was like great. Now corn mesa is going to be enriched.
Christopher: Okay. So that does beg the question is this now a very low carbohydrate diet?
Katie: Yeah. It is low carbohydrate? I try not to eat the low pattern. I don’t eat less than 100g a day I’ll say.
Katie: It’s hard to do. I definitely went through that phase where I was eating low carbs and I was actually feeling really good as long as I don’t do intensity. I started shifting to more of a keto diet which was awesome. Because I was like wow I can eat bacon and I can have fat like I’ll just add more fat. That taste delicious. So that was great and I did. I felt really good. But yeah the carbohydrates for intensity I definitely feel like I struggle at the high end.
Christopher: Okay. How long did you try it? Was it a long term experiment? Did you do any races in ketosis?
Katie: I did. Yeah. I did. I started probably looking into the diet and trying the diet in probably June two years ago maybe, maybe last year. I remember starting it in like June mainly cause I was dealing with an abscess, an MRSA infection abscess and it was three months off the bike and I was running again and just fat. Not fat but like a little tubby I’ll say for cyclist to think like I need to lose weight but I’m always hungry. Like what can I do? And then I need to work my aerobic system like how can I quickly get fit between diet and exercise and be able to race cross season in September. So I started that in June.
I mean I never measured it and I probably should have but I just went by I cut down to 50g a day carbohydrates max. Still training, still doing two to four hours a day or when I was riding I was riding like an hour and a half to probably an hour and hour and a half and doing some good intensity, good like sprints and [0:23:14][inaudible] and such and then just eating higher fat. It was great. I would eat breakfast at eight. I think I’d have dinner at four. I wasn’t hungry. I only eat at four cause I like to eat in general. Not necessarily to start cause I needed to.
Christopher: Yeah. Wow. This is what everyone has found is you have the spontaneous reduction in appetite. How did you even hear about the ketogenic diet? How did you know to try it and what resources did you use to change your diet so you can get into ketosis?
Katie: Jimmy Moore, his low-carb podcast. So I was listening to that. I mean granted for him it’s more of a diabetes control diet, which I was like not necessarily for athlete. One is I knew it’s kind of like I don’t know. I’ll give it a try and see how I feel of it. But not necessarily fully believing it’s going to help. And then I read two books on keto. I can’t remember which ones but I read two books for just health. It’s not necessarily controlling diabetes but it’s just keto for health. I made sure I did as much research as I could to make sure I was doing it right. I mean I just went by how I felt.
Christopher: Okay. Which is really really good obviously as you have kept doing it. Did you body composition improved?
Katie: It did. I got pretty lean for sure. I lean out and got stronger. I just felt better. Like aerobic capacity was great. I could do four hour bike rides without eating and I come home and I’m still not hungry. I was strong at the end which was great. Even for cross racing I would do – I kind of race early season like that. Yeah. I think I had breakfast at eight in the morning and by the time I’d be done racing it would be four. And then I was like I should eat something.
Christopher: Yeah. That’s amazing, isn’t it?
Christopher: That maybe an advantage I feel like with the high intensity cross like food and that level of intensity just don't go well together. You just do not want to be eating anytime near the start of the race. And then probably not afterwards either if you just thrash your gut and all the blood has been diverted away from the gut to exercising muscles, do you really want to dump a giant child size burrito and a pint of beer down there? I'm not sure. I really don't know.
Katie: I've never had gut issues like that. I'm usually pretty good. But I've also never relied on sugary supplements. Like, I've never been big on gels. I've never been big on energy drinks. That's something I've never really enjoyed. I just like to eat. So if I'm on my bike like I'd rather eat a bar and drink water than I would have a gel and have some electrolytes mix or something. I think that's probably been good for my gut in general cause I've never really enjoy the sugar. Granted I do like cake. I do like cookies. I like treats. But I would rather eat a cookie than have an energy bar.
Christopher: I wonder why that is. You just not succumb to the marketing. I feel like I fell for the gels. It's just the marketing thing. Someone convinced me that I was somehow going to be a better cyclist if I was to suck down these things, and then before I knew it I was addicted to them. And you just didn't fall for that I guess.
Katie: No. Cause I grew put racing my bike. I grew up before gels. We never had any of that. I've been racing since ‘88. I mean I start racing when I was 8 and then 10. I went to nationals when I was 12 on the track and I was pretty serious from 10 through – well even now I've been serious my whole life about it. We drank water. I think Gatorade. We had Gatorade and water that was our options.
I think power bar was the first time an energy bar came out and that was I think in the mid90 for me when I first saw power bar. I think that was back when they used real ingredients before they used high fructose corn syrup in it. So they digested a little better too but they didn't taste very good. It's not like I want to eat a power bar. No one ever said that. The only time [0:27:10][inaudible] like really needed it.
Katie: Yeah. You're peeling yourself off the pavement. Like bonking. Like I’ll eat a power bar.
Christopher: Tell me about your top end power and ketosis thing cause obviously anecdotally and maybe even some scientist starting to emerge now. There's a paper that was published by Caryn Zinn just this week actually. I'll link to that in the show notes and that show deceases in VO2 max which you may care about as a cyclo-cross racer for people who'd been on 10-week ketogenic intervention, which is actually quite long. Most of the studies are shorter than 10 weeks. So what did you find with your top end power when you're on ketogenic diet?
Katie: I lost power the high end. I keep wanting to believe that it wasn't happening. I was like I'm just getting tired. But it felt so good at tempo and I did. I feel really good as long as I stay on my tempo aerobic range. But as soon as I had to go into the high intensity, I feel like I was working really hard and I've never suffered like that on a bike. To the heart felt like I was going to throw up. I felt nauseous. I was working so hard. But I wasn't going anywhere.
I was looking at the power data. I was like my power is pretty low for as much as I'm suffering right now. I was kind of like but I committed to this so I'll try to stay committed. Just cause it was one of those things where it’s like you did or you don't. You can't see if it doesn't work if you don't commit to following a diet or following a protocol, following like your training program. So I just since I was committed I continued to do it.
I think as the season progress and I kind of look into it I was thinking you know I've done this for a while. I don't feel like the performance is there. I'm really hurt the high end. My recovery isn't as good as I think it is if I'm doing the intensity. Yeah I may not be as hungry but I think maybe I need more carbs just to fuel the high end engine.
That and I noticed my VO2 was actually lower which I know for the research it says it’s supposed to improve your VO2. But I think it improves your ability to use oxygen aerobically, but I don't think it improves your ability to if you're not using oxygen like when you're VO2 it's more like an anaerobic. But it hurt me at like above when I was in my anaerobic zone. It really did. Like I didn't feel like I was able to access the energy quickly enough.
Christopher: Yeah. In this latest study like I said in one in five people increase VO2 max, decrease in the rest. Four out of five people had a decrease in VO2 max after 10 weeks on a ketogenic diet. I'm sure I had the same experience. You know at the start of the mountain bike race the gun would go off and I'd be peddling hard but not so hard that I was going to blow up. Just the usual intensity that I always use at the beginning of a race.
Everyone like literally everybody was disappearing. Not just I wasn’t on the front. It was like the whole race was gone. I was like watching it disappear into the distance. I’m thinking what the heck is going on here. I can’t go any harder because I’m going to blow up.
Christopher: But this doesn’t normally happen. And so you feel fine. Your legs feel fine. But there’s just something somewhere the power is gone.
Katie: It’s you don’t have a fifth gear. You got four but like you need that fifth gear in order to keep up with the traffic.
Katie: I felt that too. I felt like I could manage for about 20 minutes of activity, 20 minutes of intensity. But after that 20 minutes if anything above tempo I just couldn’t do it. That’s when I start okay I came back from world this year and I decided I was going to kind of eating more carbs just to see how I felt and also for the recovery too.
I was like I try to follow the keto thing for probably 6 to 12 months. It was a solid and granted once I started racing cross I did start adding a little bit more carbohydrate but still not enough. I was probably eating a 100 to 150 which probably is technically isn’t ketosis.
Christopher: It could be for you doing as much exercise as you do, right, because you’re burning so much fat.
Katie: Yeah. That’s kind of what I was thinking on paper it probably wouldn’t be but the way I feel I feel like maybe not in all the time but in and out of it pretty consistently. Cause it only took me one day of intensity and I can get back in it which that was kind of nice. I like to have that ability to kind of use whatever energy stores I have.
Christopher: Right. Talk about your recovery because that I think you said that your recovery suffered. That seems to be the opposite of what I personally experienced and what seems to be the norm amongst the athletes that I spoken to. Do you think your recovery got worst?
Katie: It did if I did high end. If I was aerobic, it was great. It’s just the high end intensity. If I was doing sprint work, if I was doing VO2 work, if I was racing I wasn’t recovering quickly after that. I think that’s because it was just pure carbohydrate or glycogen source as going through and they are gone it just took me a little bit time to replenish them.
I don’t know if I was ever actually replenishing enough. I try to calculate it all. I was like okay if I’m burning 1200 kcal joules from their power meter and I’m eating say 600 calories from carbohydrate for the whole day like I don’t know if I’m necessarily replenishing all these carbohydrates stores enough to perform the next day.
Christopher: Are you a big sort of measure of things? Do you weigh food and track calories and count walks and all of that kind of stuff?
Katie: I do a power meter. I have an SRM which is fairly accurate with kcal joules and power of course. So I do look at kcal joules. I look at how much work I’ve done. I don’t weigh food. I do count calories. I do measure things. Not so much anymore because I know what a serving is. Like, I’ve done it for so long. I know how many calories are in food.
Now I can ballpark pretty easily. And I do keep a running track of the calories I consumed during the day. Mainly as a cyclist power weight matters as much as I don’t want to say it. But it’s part of my job is to not get tubby. I’ve got the genetics where – I like to eat cake and I can easily overdo it and then I put on weight pretty easily especially if I eat too much carbohydrate. For me, I definitely have to keep it in balance and keep track of what calories I’m consuming to make sure I was in balance.
Christopher: What things do you use to control your body composition now then if not the ketogenic diet? Like, if you knew that you needed to drop a few pounds what would be your approach. Will you just stop eating so much food? Like you knew how much a serving was and you just stop eating so much.
Katie: Yeah. I just eat less and I can tell especially when I’m training hard and racing hard I get hungry. The human body just gets hungry. If you spend more energy your body is going to want more food. I just try to eat a little bit less but not so much less where I’m hungry. So I cut to 500 calories a day depending on how big the day of training was. And fat for me it’s pretty easy cause I also follow like – obviously circadian rhythm is really important to me so I signed up for circadian rhythm study through I think Dr. Rhonda Patrick had podcast with…
Christopher: Satchin Panda. He’s going to be in Iceland.
Katie: So I signed up for his circadian rhythm study. And so I think I did that over a year ago and I just still use the app. Whether they use my data or not anymore, I don’t know cause you only commit to a four month plan. But I was like I’m going to still use the app cause its awesome. So, I track all my food and my sleep and health stuff that way.
So I still do a 12-hour fast every night. Usually 12 to 16 hours depending on how early I eat dinner or I’d say late lunch in my case. More like when grandparents eat around 4 or 5.
Christopher: That’s exactly what we do. Oh my god. I can’t believe this. I promise we didn’t plan this. You’re basically describing parts of our program without me even preempting you. So that is exactly what we do. You’re eating breakfast and then maybe lunch and then you’re done with eating by 4pm in the afternoon.
Katie: Yeah. Usually. It depends. Obviously, when I’m hanging out with friends, we do social stuff. Cause I’m not going to miss hanging out with friends and drinking some wine. I drink hard ciders or hard tequila or something. I like to drink and be social. I try to kind of balance that out where if I might do a 12-16 hours five days a week and then once or twice a week maybe it’s 11 hours or 10-1/2 or something.
Sometimes it changes. But I try to eat early. I go to bed early. I wake up early. I get outside and walk the dog in the morning and have breakfast and coffee and such. I like that. I like getting up early. I wake up when the sun comes up regardless of when I go to bed so I need to go to bed early.
Christopher: That’s amazing. We have a lot in common. You’re already doing our program without even knowing about it. It’s fantastic.
Katie: Yeah. It feels great for me. I think with the international travel like the jet lag and such. I found that if I adjust my eating – and the circadian app has helped me and kind of taught me how to adjust my eating to help adjust to time changes better too. Especially when we fly to Europe like I’ll start adjusting five to seven days out. So I start eating like an hour early each night and go to bed an hour early so I can get up early.
By the time you get to Europe you know it’s an eight hour time change from Colorado to Belgium, it’s more of a five-hour time change or three-hour time change by the time I actually get to Belgium. So it’s a lot easier to transition instead of dealing with eight hours like all at once.
Christopher: Have you found any improvements? Have you look at any blood markers or notice any other changes in your metabolism or body composition since adopting the time restricted eating?
Katie: I haven’t necessarily done the blood work which I probably – mostly I should just because of curiosity thing. But my issue is if I feel okay I don’t go to the doctor. I just don’t get test order by myself. I’ve just gone by how I felt and the way I feel and how my clothes look. I found that I can eat a lot more as long as I do the 12-hour fasting go to be earlier. I can eat more and it doesn’t necessarily have to be healthiest choices and my weight stays the same.
Which is in the years past like if I have two or three days of not great eating I feel pretty fat and swollen. I’m like is my jean tight. Did my husband put my jeans to the dryer? So I do notice the way my body feels and like just the energy level. I just feel like the nutrition part and the going to bed early I’m sure it has helped my metabolism as well as my hormone levels kind of go back to where they should be.
Christopher: How do you maintain your mental health with all of this going on? I worry with some of the athlete they think they want a body composition goal. What they really want is a performance goal, right?
Christopher: So the key is to focus on performance, not on body composition. If you can get better for performance with a different body composition then yeah I’m absolutely all for it. But we quite often see and maybe not so much the athletes we worked with but just here about in general this type of restricting calories and constantly thinking about food it’s kind of a recipe for an eating disorder. Do you know what I mean?
Katie: I only laugh at that because I think pretty much every athlete whether it’s a cyclist or runner, triathlete I think to be at a certain level there’s a level of disordered eating you have to have to perform well. Because there’s plenty of people who – I mean most cyclists or athletes in general you’re always slightly hungry or you’re trying to control calories to lose weight or to optimize your power to weight ratio.
But for me I always love food. I’ve never had any necessary issues with eating disorders. For me, it’s a performance thing and it’s the way I feel. I’ve always been fairly strong mentally and not stress about things. Like I’ll have cake, I’ll drink, I’ll indulge certain times and I don’t let that get to me. I just know the next five days I’m going to eat super healthy and make sure I do everything right to kind of make up for a couple of days of indulging. I’ve never been the super strict athlete that has to do with everything like by the book all the time cause I feel like that’s what kind of drains you mentally.
Christopher: Yeah. That’s really interesting to find, unpack some of what it is that makes you 13X national champion.
Katie: Honestly, I feel like my longevity on this board is simply because I don’t stress about the pesky details all the time. I stress about it at certain times during the year when it’s important but I don’t let it get to me. I would say 75% of the time I don’t stress over the pesky details. I do my training. I eat well 90% of the time.
And then there’s like six to eight week window around nationals and worlds where I really focus on doing everything right. For me, that keeps it fun. It gets the results and granted I do work really hard like in general. But I feel like you don’t have to obsess about every detail cause that’s where you just get tired of it. Emotionally and physically you just get stressed and over it.
Christopher: Right. I’m laughing because I just finish reading a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Are you familiar with that book?
Katie: No. But it sounds like a great book to read.
Christopher: It is. I think you’ll enjoy it. I don’t think you’re going to learn much new from it based on what you’re just saying. But yeah that’s the premise is there’s only a certain number of fucks that you can give. And if you give a fuck about everything then you’re just going to run out of fucks to give, right. And so you have to very discriminate with the fucks that you give. Like some things are important. Some things are not. So you have to be very careful about the choices you make.
Katie: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and been successful with it. Some of my best years have been the years where I just like I’m drinking every night. I’m eating what I want. Yeah. I might be a few pounds heavy but it didn’t matter apparently. I think there’s something about the lack of stress and being happy and not worrying about it.
Christopher: Yes. I totally agree.
Christopher: Excellent. Tell me about the types of carbohydrates that you now eat. So you’re now eating what a 100g-150g depending on the day and the intensity maybe. Can you talk about the types of carbohydrates that you eat?
Katie: Yeah. Like sweet potatoes and squash and I love fruits. I’ve always eaten fruit. That was actually one of the hardest things to not eat when I was doing the keto. I was like one apple is 20g of carbohydrates. What the hell. That was definitely a struggle. But mostly if I eat carbohydrate it’s usually sweet potato, squash or like brown rice and that’s about it.
Katie: I can’t think of too many carbohydrates I can eat. Sometimes I eat some corn mill but I don’t feel awesome with it. I feel okay. But brown rice or sweet potatoes are usually my go to. Oh, you know what, buckwheat flour. I can eat buckwheat and that I actually really like.
Christopher: Interesting. So the rest of your diet you’re eating vegetables, meat. Any added fats? How does the rest of the diet look?
Katie: Usually its lots of vegetables, salad, cooked vegetables, raw vegetables. I eat dates. I’ll eat raisins for carbohydrates. Pretty much all organic humanely raised protein whether that’s cheese or you know I eat plenty of meat and fish. As long as it’s wild caught or humanely raised. I’m pretty specific about what meats I choose just cause I want the animals to be happy before I eat them.
Christopher: That seems like a reasonable thing.
Katie: Yeah. Like farm raised eggs. I used avocado, coconut oil, olive oil. Those are probably the main ones I go to and some almond oil.
Christopher: You’re not preferentially choosing cuts of meat based on how much fat they have in them?
Katie: I usually choose cuts of meat just depending on what I’m making that day and what I feel like eating. We eat a lot of buffalo and elk here cause we can easily get that in the meat market.
Christopher: Oh yeah. I’ve seen them in the fields when I was out in Colorado recently. I was like I stop and had a look at them. It was quite interesting.
Katie: Yeah. So I loved buffalo. If I make buffalo burgers I might add some avocado oil and salt and pepper as I’m cooking them. Cause buffalo there’s not a lot of fat in them and so you put them on the grill if here’s no fat to hold them together, they tend to burn or fall apart. So you have to make sure you add a little bit some sort of fat as a binding agent so they don’t fall through the grill. For the red meat, it’s buffalo or elk or sometimes beef and then chicken. Usually the whole chicken I’ll cook in the oven or chicken thighs. Everything usually has fat on it.
Christopher: Okay. What the heck happens when you got Belgium? Does it all go to [0:44:36][inaudible]?
Katie: You know I’ve been really lucky. Because where I stay in Belgium, the family I stayed with they’re awesome. And the mom does pretty much all the cooking. You know they have adapted to how I eat and they liked it. So they cooked a bunch of squash for me and sweet potatoes. They used coconut oil to cook, olive oil to cook and for salads. I mean Belgium is pretty good with not buying process food anyway. Our family they eat healthy. They eat a lot of salads and good cuts of meat anyways.
And then there’s a bio shop where I lived and we’re also right next to Holland. Holland is pretty good for having nice variety of all organic like healthy foods, plenty of vegetables and its all seasonal vegetables too. I actually eat the same way in Belgium as I do at home which is really nice. It makes it easy. Yeah.
Christopher: That’s fantastic. So you said when you live so it’s like home from home. You have like a permanent base over in Europe.
Katie: Yes, I do. We stay with the same family since 2007 and they’re kind of like our second family; second mom and dad. They got two kids. The kids are adult now. I called them kids because [0:45:46][inaudible] than I am but they’re both adults and working professionals now.
Christopher: That’s amazing. How did you make that happen? I could imagine young especially the younger cyclo-cross races going across to Europe. I mean you don’t want to be living out of a van like scratching around the local bakery for food and stuff like that. How did you make that happen?
Katie: It was through a friend of a friend. We had our clothing sponsor at the time knew of a family who sometimes host athletes. They reached out for us and asked if they wanted to host a rider for one of the World Cups. Cause one of the World Cups is actually in the neighborhood where they lived in 2007. They said yeah we’ll host them for a weekend. And sure that weekend was good. We all got along and I think they like having us. They invited us to come back and stay. Every since then we’ve stayed there every single trip.
Now when I go to Belgium I try to go visit them if I’m doing a quick trip to Europe. For the cross season Mark and I will stay there pretty much every single trip. Yeah. It’s like going home to mom and dad. We got a room there. We can store things there. It’s been amazing cause without them there’s no way I could have made this happen. It’s just so expensive to be over there. The language barrier, just the travel around Belgium it just makes it so much easier when you have a family who lives there who kind of look after you.
Christopher: That’s awesome. Amazing. What did you do with the races? Do you have mechanics and a van and all of that? You obviously haven’t got a 100-foot motor home with your face painted on the side of it and all of that.
Katie: No. No. That’s kind of out of my price range. Yeah. Usually Trek given us van in the past cause Trek has their service course there for the road team and that’s about an hour and half from where we lived in Belgium. USA Cycling has been good. We can borrow a van from them sometimes and then we borrowed our family van. So for vehicles we usually just see which one we can borrow cause it’s just expensive to have a vehicle over there too.
And then the family is our support and then Mark, my husband, he does all the mechanical support there too. It is a family affair. Like mom and dad they helped at every race. Mark is there from a mechanic support. For me, it might be one me I’m racing but there’s three people, sometimes four just helping me like do what I need to do.
Christopher: What’s the best way for people to follow your racing?
Katie: For me, probably Twitter is good.
Katie: I tend to update on Twitter, Instagram. That’s just katiefcompton for both Twitter and Instagram.
Christopher: What does the F stand for?
Christopher: I thought it might be but I didn’t want to sound – I was almost introduced with that and I thought no, what if it’s not. What if she’s called something else? That’s just her initials.
Katie: Yeah. That was a friend of friend nickname where when the first year I was winning a lot of races consistently and one friend asked like who won this week and the other friend is Katie Fucking Compton. Who else? And then it started took off. Then he started calling me KFC and then KFC started. I feel like that’s kind of the best nicknames evolve is somebody just picks it up for you and you go with it. Yeah. It’s been good. Good nickname.
Christopher: Awesome. I will of course link to your Twitter and Instagram in the show notes. Is there anything else that you’d want people to know about?
Katie: I think for me it’s like just the MTHFR thing. Cause I’ve had people contact me with similar symptoms and they don’t know what to do. They got leg pains. The doctors didn’t know what to do. I would say if you have similar symptoms with asthma, allergies, thyroid, energy, leg pains talk to your doctor. Find a functional medicine doctor.
I think that’s a great way to start. Talk to your doctor about the MHFRT test. And then get it done and just see and just your diet accordingly. Cause for me that was the biggest fix. There’s no pill you can take to help with the methylfolate metabolism. But you can easily avoid eating folic acid and take a supplement with methylfolate.
I just don’t think people realize how bad it can be especially for me folic acid is like the worst thing ever. And I feel like I’m being a little bit dramatic with that but for me it really is. So I’m sure I’m not the only one that has symptoms where it affects them badly.
Christopher: Yeah. That’s great advice and I also had tremendous benefit from digging deeper and finding out what’s going on on the inside and then adjusting my diet accordingly.
Katie: Yeah. I think that’s a really big part of it. And then kind of having the perseverance to keep digging and keep figuring out why you don’t feel well. Talk to another doctor. If one doctor doesn’t work, find a different one.
Christopher: That’s a really great idea. Really good philosophy.
Christopher: Katie, this has been fantastic. I really appreciate your openness and very much value your time today to talk to me. This has been fantastic. Thank you.
Katie: Thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed it.
[0:50:49] End of Audio