Before Jeremy Powers retired in 2019, the pro racer won four national cyclocross championships and held a Pan-American continental title. Before switching to ’cross, Powers had a 10-year road racing career with team Jelly Belly (now Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling), and placed first in over 90 UCI races.

Powers still clocks eight to 10 hours of riding per week, with one long ride that’s three-plus hours.

“Back in the day [when racing for Jelly Belly], we used to eat literally just straight sugar—I would leave the start line with [Jelly Belly] Sport Beans and Snickers bars in my pocket, and we’d get Cokes from the team car,” Powers told Bicycling. I was eating mainly carbs full out in my 20s, so it’s all about switching over to what type of diet matches my lifestyle now. I care about being healthy. I don’t want to just be eating crappy foods—I want to live a long time.”

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Powers, who now works for Global Cycling Network, has found his body doesn’t tolerate carbs as well as it used to, which got him thinking about the keto diet—where you consume 80 percent of your calories from fat and almost zero from carbs. This puts your body in a state called ketosis where you burn fat, instead of carbs, for fuel. He decided to give it a go and see how it might affect his riding. In a “go big or go home” fashion, Powers tackled just over 84 miles in ketosis near his home in Northampton, Massachusetts, back in August.

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Below, Powers shares more about his time on the keto diet—which he doesn’t adhere to anymore—and how he fuels his post-retirement rides and day-to-day life.

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Six Weeks on Keto

I do feel like I have some weird carb resistance or something—my body doesn’t love 300+ grams of carbs these days. So when I took on the keto challenge, it was like, what is this thing about? I did quite a bit of research, and I understand my macros and my nutrient needs. I’m not afraid to push my body even though it might not feel normal, and it was a real opportunity to showcase what was possible.

I ate about 400 grams of fat a day [on the keto diet]—a lot of steak, meat, dairy, chicken thighs with skin on, bacon fat, pork rinds, eggs, macadamia nuts and peanuts, chia and flax seeds, full-fat coconut yogurt—along with fruits and veggies.

The ride in ketosis was quite painful. I had headaches, grumpiness—it was a tough time. It didn’t feel totally normal doing it or even talking about it, but there were no significant changes in my blood work. My cholesterol is usually 160 overall, and it went up to just under 200, which is still well below what most people would consider to be normal. There wasn’t anything that pointed to it being unhealthy.

I’m not a huge proponent of the diet, and I’m not currently doing it—I jumped out of it after about six weeks or so since I felt like it was restrictive for me—but the experiment was super fun if you have the willpower to try it. It changed the way that I think about a lot of things. All those diets—keto, paleo, Whole30—will teach you something about your body.

4 Foods Jeremy Powers Ate on the Keto Diet
Sea Salt & Pepper Pork Rinds
Epic Provisions Sea Salt & Pepper Pork Rinds
$33 at Amazon
Credit: Amazon
Organic Raw Chia Seeds
Viva Naturals Organic Raw Chia Seeds
Credit: Amazon
Oven Dry Roasted Macadamia Nuts With Sea Salt
I’m a Nut Oven Dry Roasted Macadamia Nuts With Sea Salt
Credit: Amazon
Full-Fat Coconut Yogurt
Noosa Full-Fat Coconut Yogurt
Credit: Walmart

Emphasis on Balanced Meals

I eat greens with almost every meal. A typical breakfast includes eggs—I eat at least two every morning. I either make an omelet or scramble them and put them in a taco along with cheese, salsa, and spinach. That holds me for a while. I try to have under 30 grams of carbs in the morning—when I was racing, I’d have oatmeal with berries every morning, but I haven’t had oatmeal since retirement.

For lunch, I usually have a really big salad—plate full of greens, raw veggies like zucchini, sunflower seeds, raisins, Kalamata olives, olive oil dressing, and sardines sometimes for protein. If I’m feeling a sweet tooth, I’ll toss in a cut-up apple or shredded carrot.

I snack a bit throughout the day with berries or a banana and peanut butter if I’m feeling low on energy. Then for dinner, it’s almost always a starch, protein, and veggies. Last night, it was roasted chicken, potatoes, butternut squash, and broccoli. I try to do one to two meatless days a week where I have tofu. Everything I eat comes from a local butcher here in town—I ride by the farms we get our meat from—and I get my veggies from a farm share.

Postride Berry Smoothies

My number one thing to eat after a ride is a shake with almond milk or rice milk, some peanut butter, and strawberries, blueberries, a banana, and chia seeds thrown in the blender. That’s the most refreshing. If I’m really smashed and it’s been very hot, I’ll want white sticky rice—which was hard to not be able to eat that on keto—and veggies and protein with it. This is great after a four-hour ride in 90 degrees when you’ve lost electrolytes.

[Want to fly up hills? Climb! gives you the workouts and mental strategies to conquer your nearest peak.]

A Sweet Tooth for Dessert

I have eaten more sugar than most people have. I love ice cream—my family has an ice cream business, so I ate a lot growing up. My favorite flavors are chocolate chip cookie dough, anything with peanut butter, or malted vanilla—with proper chocolate sprinkles made from real chocolate. I also really love chocolate chip cookies.

Everything in Moderation

I believe in everything in moderation—which is why keto was hard for me—and trying to look at where things fit in. I also think it’s important to understand what intolerances you may have—I shy away from gluten because it’s just never really agreed with me in the last five or six years, so I stick to a paleo-esque diet. I try to eat as clean as possible in a fast-paced life. Do I eat ice cream? Yes. Do I eat cookies? Yes. But I try to aim for an 80 percent/20 percent balance of eating healthy versus not healthy.

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Danielle Zickl
Senior Editor
Danielle Zickl for Runner's World and Bicycling.