Diagnosing An Increasing Resting Heart Rate
It’s been nearly 2 months since I started my ‘Row Faster’ training (slash experiment). My MAF score has improved from 140w (6627m) to 153w (6837). I feel stronger on the rowing machine, I feel fitter and the ketogenic diet continues (I can’t remember the last time I had carbs).
So all is well right?
Well not quite, you see my resting HR has been increasing. I track my HR every day using two devices:
- Oura Ring – This measures my resting heart rate during the night. It’s a really neat piece of equipment, you can read my review on it here.
- Polar H7 Strap – I check my daily HRV score every morning using the Elite HRV app. You can read more about this here.
- Note – the Oura should have a lower resting value as it’s measured while sleeping.
Now both of these have been showing a resting HR that seems to be going up. Now if two months ago my RHR was 34 or something crazy low then I wouldn’t be worried if this value was going up. But it’s important to remember that prior to my Row Faster training I hadn’t done any form of endurance training… for years. And so my RHR was typically around 50 +/- 5 beats.
Today it was 52 (Oura – overnight) and 67 on my Polar strap (after getting up, drinking some water, peeing, then laying back down to start my 10min HRV test).
An abnormally perhaps? Well not really, you can see my Oura data over the past few days (I’m limited to using the phone app to see this data, the web dash isn’t available yet).
Lots of 50’s right?
Now compare my resting HR with my numbers PRE Row Faster training:
Notice a lot of 40’s?! Remember this was during a time when I was only doing weight training once a week and the odd HIIT session (you can see exactly what I was doing here).
Before we look at the Elite HRV data, I want to show you my readiness score data (as calculated my my Oura ring – I explain how this is calculated in this article)
Over the past 10 days my readiness score values have been:
Average = 79.2%
Now if we pick a random 10 days worth of data pre Row Faster training we have:
Average = 85.4%
A noticeable difference.
Elite HRV Data
So let’s see what my HRV data is showing:
3 months ago my 7 day HRV and RHR numbers were 71 (higher is better) and 64 (lower is better) respectively.
Today, my numbers are 64 (down from 71) and 68 (up from 64). Both not great. Well the numbers themselves are OK (ish), but the movement is concerning.
As you can see, there has been a huge change in my HRV and resting HR score.
When we pull back a bit and look at the trend of these values (7 day HRV in purple and 7 day HR in orange) we see this:
This data runs from early August until present day. I started my Row Faster training mid august. My Resting HR is increasing, my HRV is dropping.
I am a little bit concerned. Primarily because I feel like I’m doing everything right.
- I’m only doing 4 aerobic rows a week (all restricted to below 146pm – pure aerobic training, 3 out of 10 on the intensity scale). I do max one weights session which is more rehab work than anything. The whole session lasts 30-40mins and that’ with 2-3 minute rests between drills.
- I’m still sleeping great. In fact I’m going to bed around 830pm these days. I’ve never been sleeping so much in my life (well my adult life at least). Seriously if I’m not sleeping for 8.5 hours in a night it’s a horrible sleep.
- Stress is pretty stable, nothing out of the ordinary there.
I have to ask the obvious question – is it really that bad? Seeing my RHR increase? As I said earlier, if my RHR was really low to begin with then I wouldn’t be too worried, but because it wasn’t anything great to begin with (from an endurance point of view) and because my fitness training was non-existent, then yes I think these changes are bad. Especially with the drop in HRV.
So What Could It Be?
I think it could be one of 4 things:
1) The training Is simply too much
This is scary, as the row’s I’m doing are VERY gentle (Zone 2 type of work). If I go above 146bpm in any of my sessions I literally stop, drink some water, take some deep breathes and wait for it to drop down before continuing.
In fact, I consider my training at the moment to be very easy. I’m looking forward to upping the intensity. But maybe it’s simply too much?? Or I simply can’t handle this load. Which is concerning given all my stress mitigation and recovery strategies I utilise.
2) The Ketogenic Diet Is impacting me negatively?
In order to maximise my aerobic capacity I decided to switch to a ketogenic diet. I have been eating this way for nearly 3 months now. I aim to keep my ketone level above 1.0 mmol throughout the day. I haven’t had carbs in 3 months. I feel fine, energy is great, functioning well etc.
But maybe there is something at play here that is impacting my recovery and stress state? I have read how some people don’t respond well to a ketogenic diet, and it can add extra stress to an individual.
Also, I’m working in 14-16 hour regular fasts. I skip breakfasts and sometimes lunch. I train in a fasted state and remain in a fasted state for 1-5 hours post session in order to boost ketone levels and upregulate growth hormone release.
I have started eating bigger meals since doing my hour+ long rows. I would guess that I’m eating around 3000-3500 cals a day. A tracked a few days intake in my fitness pal and it put me in this range, some days I hit 4k.
The problem with the fasting, however, is that I’m eating a lot of food at dinner…
3) Impacted sleep
Maybe I’m not recovering adequately to my training? And maybe this is because of the bigger caloric intake closer to bed.
Some nights I would easily consume 2000 calories at dinner (especially if I fasted 24 hours). Normally this would be fine as I would have 2-4 hours post dinner to digest this food pre bed. But because I’m going to bed so early these days (830pm), I’m leaving a very small window post dinner pre bed.
I have noticed that if I overeat to close to bed that it impacts my sleep. Heck my Oura App even tells me this some mornings!
Saying this, I am still waking refreshed, and my Oura Sleep score is pretty solid (and hasn’t dropped off like the other markers).
4) Gut Health
I have been dealing with some chronic gut symbiosis over the past 12-18 months. I saw a different functional medicine doctor earlier this year and he ran a few more tests. The results were worse than my previous tests. He wanted me to go on a strict gut healing protocol that included 2 weeks of pulsed antibiotics.
I was very reluctant to use antibiotics given their impact on our health, but I was also sick of the gut issues and this doctor ensured me that if I stuck to his (very extensive) gut protocol then the negative impacts would be minor.
Also, the particular overgrowth that I had (Streptococcus) struggle to survive in a ketogenic environment. So I thought since I was embarking on a keto journey, why not do the gut protocol as well. This meant that the antibiotics (and all the other supplements) all started around the same time my ketogenic diet and new training protocol started. Not great for controlling variables I know!
I finished the antibiotic course a month or so ago, and have continued with all the recommended probiotics and other supplements. I’m meant to follow this protocol for 3 more months. I don’t know if it’s having an impact on my health/RHR/HRV but I wanted to include it here.
What to do?
I have a few options:
- Continue as is and see what happens
- Cut back my training volume and see if that has an impact
- Halt my Ketogenic diet and return to my usual low carb diet with carbs once a week
- Stop the Fasting and aim to eat more calories during the day instead of late at night
- Stop all my probiotics for my gut healing protocol (I don’t really want to do this though)
At this stage I’m leaning towards number 1 – keep the status quo – just for another week or two, but also because I’d love to get some readers opinions on this matter. Maybe there is something totally obvious to you that’s sitting right under my nose (i.e., maybe one of the points is a stand out).
So I’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback. Especially if you have experience with MAF training, keto diets or anything else that could be impacting my results.
Otherwise I’ll be sure to update this blog in the near future with my own findings/progress! Be sure to subscribe to be notified of these updates!
Blogger, Athlete, Health Coach, Personal Trainer, Health Nerd... I'm in search of enhancing performance through optimising health, self experimentation, cutting edge science (and technology) and I share it all here at RowFaster.net! I also have a popular blog at www.AlexFergus.com