Fat Burning Efficiency by Marc Laithwaite

Image ©getphysical.co.uk

Image ©getphysical.co.uk

Last week we talked about the possible benefits of high fat coffee (Bullet Proof Coffee) prior to an endurance workout. Greater levels of circulating fats in the blood stream, may promote the use of fat as a fuel source and thereby saving precious carbohydrate stores. It created quite a stir… as we expected!

As a recap, when you run long distances, you use a combination of both fat and carbohydrate to provide energy. Your objective is simply to get the most energy as possible from fat and less from carbohydrate, as your carbohydrate stores are relatively limited and can run out quickly.

For example: If when running at an endurance pace (say long ultra) you currently use 600kcal per hour with 30% coming from fat and 70% coming from carbohydrate, that’s 420kcal of carbohydrate per hour. If you reverse this figure so only 30% of your energy comes from carbohydrate, then you will only use 180kcal of carbohydrate per hour. That is a saving of 240kcal of carbohydrate per hour (60g per hour), which is actually the recommended intake during most endurance events!

So if the recommended guidelines are to ingest 60g of carbohydrate per hour during endurance events (that’s approximately 1-2 bars or 2-3 gels) and you switch your fat usage from 30% to 70%, then technically you don’t need to take any fuel right??

Not quite… even if you optimise your diet and training to enhance your fat usage, you’re always going to be using carbohydrate to some extent, so you still need to take it on board. There are a couple of key things you need to take into account:

  1. If you’re rested, tapered and fuelled, then you should be starting on a full tank of carbohydrate, so eat a good source of carbohydrate in the days prior to racing.
  2. We are obsessed with carbohydrate portions, thinking that more is better and a bigger portion equates to more glycogen (stored carbohydrate). Your glycogen stores are relatively small, so you don’t need to eat a lot. If anything, eat a little less in the final days to stop yourself feeling bloated and heavy. This is difficult to do, as we generally believe that ‘carbo loading’ is required so eat excessively in the final few days. The same rule applies for breakfast, a huge meal is of no benefit as your stores are probably already full.
  3. If your fat usage is enhanced, you don’t need to eat as much during the race or training. In Ironman many people ‘panic eat’ on the bike with a fear that we won’t have enough fuel on board. There is a real trend for people to be obsessed with how much they can eat during the cycle section. Athletes often have a set plan of several bars and gels, plus energy drinks at regular intervals. Stomach problems are very common due to high amount of carbohydrate, which gather in the stomach, leading to bloating.
  4. The most common reason given for people failing to hit their target times in endurance events is ‘I got my nutrition wrong in the race’. The truth of the matter is that you got your training wrong.

Last week, we suggested that Bullet Proof Coffee or training in a fasted state works best when training for 1-3 hours, depending upon your sports and ability. But what if you’re going further? What if you’re running for 3-5 hours or cycling 5 hours or more? For many athletes, riding for 5 hours in a fasted state would create a very high level of fatigue, which may take several days to recover from and impact upon your normal weekly training. If you are riding or running longer distances, breakfast and food throughout the session is needed and you should follow these guidelines:

  1. Eat food which will maximise fat usage to save carbohydrate.
  2. Maintain a constant blood sugar level and avoid spikes and dips.
  3. Based on point 2, eat foods which provide a slow ‘drip feed’ of energy rather than those which give you an instant hit.

Here are examples:

Breakfast is 1 mug full of muesli with no sugar. To increase fat content, buy mixed seeds/nuts breakfast cereal topper and add quarter of a mug. To further increase fat content sprinkle on desiccated coconut. Add dried or chopped fruit (anything low GI) and eat with full fat milk or natural yogurt. Don’t add any sugar, honey or syrup. It should be a small to medium bowl, don’t overeat and try to stock up with extra toast and jam for carbohydrates.

During exercise eat nothing for the first hour then take something every 30 minutes. You need to avoid things, which give you an instant hit, so avoid all high sugar products and don’t use energy gels. Energy bars take longer to digest so half a bar every 30 minutes would be suitable. Opt to have half every 30, not a full bar every hour, as this is easier for your stomach and intestines to deal with. You can choose something different to sports bars, such as flapjack, dried fruit or bananas. If you make your own flapjack, butter, fruit, coconut and oats are good, avoid sugar and syrups. The key is small quantities frequently (every 30 minutes from 60 onwards), coupled with water, squash or electrolyte solution, but no energy in drink.

The great gel quandary

Gels were invented for a specific purpose. When you felt low on energy and you were about to ‘bonk’ or ‘hit the wall’, you took a gel and it gave you instant energy. They gave you a rapid sugar spike at times when a rapid sugar spike was required. Then at some point the rules changed, gels were no longer a rapid source of energy for low periods, they are now to be taken every 20 minutes to provide a constant flow of energy. Simultaneously we are advised that we need a constant drip feed of carbohydrate and to avoid sugar spikes. Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is key to efficient metabolism. I’m not sure if I’m the only one confused, but I’m not sure how taking a product designed to spike your sugar levels every 20 minutes can be described as ‘drip feeding carbohydrate’ and maintaining a steady supply. In fact, gels sold based on their ‘fast acting’ properties, would surely be the worst things to take? That of course depends upon how you’re using it, if you’re taking it every 20 minutes to top up energy through a long race, the statement is correct. If you’ve bonked and you need an instant hit, then a gel is perfect, as that’s what they were designed for. It’s interesting how the purpose of a product can change, but I guess if you only took gels when you ‘bonked’ compared to buying 18 of them for a 6 hours ride, the gel economy would take a hit. Just saying.

What next?

As a start point, go out and ride or run and try the strategy. Don’t panic eat or over-eat either before or during. Choose low sugar foods in small quantities at frequent intervals and don’t be afraid of ‘bonking’ during this process. It may take your body a while to become accustomed to utilising fat so give it some time.

Pacing is key

Pacing is the missing jigsaw piece for this strategy. Riding or running at the correct intensity is critical during training sessions if you wish to maintain glycogen stores for the full duration of the workout. We’ll discuss pacing in next week’s blog and how intensity impacts upon fuel usage during endurance training and racing.

– Marc Laithwaite

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Bullet Proof Coffee – Boost Your Endurance by Marc Laithwaite

I Love Bullet Proof Coffee

There is a current trend for ‘Bullet Proof Coffee’ which is used to boost endurance performance, in this post, we’ll explain the basic thinking behind the concept and how it can help you when training for endurance based events such as marathon running, cycling and long distance triathlon events.

Why Bullet Proof Coffee?

It’s something we’ve discussed many times before, if you can increase your fat burning during exercise, you will save glycogen (carbohydrate) and therefore exercise for longer. People who use glycogen at a high rate will run out much more quickly, so shifting your metabolism to use fat as your main source of energy is of great benefit.

What is Bullet Proof Coffee?

Bullet Proof Coffee 2

The subject can become a little over complicated, but in simple terms, it’s ground coffee with added MCT oil and butter. The perfectionists will argue that you need a specific high quality coffee bean freshly ground, but I’m sure you can start with general filter coffee powder and progress from there! The term MCT oil refers to ‘medium chain triglycerides’ which are a specific type of fat which is known to be fantastic for energy. MCT is found in coconut, so MCT oil is generally derived from coconut with the flavour removed. The other ingredient is butter, preferably organic and grass fed to be high quality, don’t use ‘Flora’ or ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ it’s really not the same. Full fat, organic, grass fed butter might sound a little strange as it’s high in saturated fat. However, saturated fat is one of your main fuels and critical for endurance performance.

Those who know a bit about nutrition trends will be familiar with the above info, those who are not familiar with nutrition trends might be thinking ‘I thought saturated fats were the bad one’s?’ It turns out they were wrong, who’d have thought it? it’s a long explanation so probably easiest if you just go with it…

The process:

Bulletproof Coffee

Make your coffee, add 1-2 tbs of MCT oil and 1-2 tbs of butter. Put it all in the blender and whip it up until you have a nice froth on the top. You can pour boiling water into your blender to keep it hot, then empty it just before the coffee goes in to stop the coffee cooling. Fat & oil don’t dissolve in water so it floats in the top.

You alternative option (the fanatics will not like this) is to use MCT powder. It works a bit like coffee mate, add a heaped teaspoon to your cup then add a small amount of coffee. Give it a good stir and whip to get the lumps out, then add the rest of the coffee. MCT powder tastes quite creamy (not of coconut) and you might find it more palatable than oil and butter floating on the surface, although I’d encourage you to try to original recipe also!

When should I drink it?

Before you go training, most people will generally opt for one of the following:

1. High carb breakfast
2. No breakfast
3. High fat breakfast

All 3 are viable, but it really depends upon the athlete and the type of session you are about to take part in. We will discuss this in a lot more detail next Tuesday.

Eating no breakfast (fasting) is a common method for encouraging the body to burn more fat, but actually taking a high fat breakfast (in this case a bullet proof coffee), might enhance fat usage even greater, by increasing the amounts of fats circulating in the blood.

IMPORTANT: It should be used for endurance sessions (long and slow) and works perfectly if you’re following a Maff formula or similar (as per last week’s blog). Each person will differ, but eating no breakfast and drinking a bullet proof coffee would work perfectly for:

Endurance runs of 1-2 hours
Endurance cycles of 2-3 hours

The timescales will very much depend upon the experience and fitness of the athlete. If you are very well trained, you may well be able to do more on a single drink, but these are average timescales. You should not take any breakfast beforehand and you should not eat sports products or ingest any other form of energy during the run or ride. You should also ride at the correct intensity (as per Maff or similar).

What to do next?

Buy some filter coffee, or some beans and a grinder. Google MCT oil or MCT powder and purchase some online, then get some grass fed organic butter. If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry, just give it a good whisk with a fork!! Drink the coffee 30 minutes before exercise.

– Marc Laithwaite

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Maffetone Formula for better endurance performance by Marc Laithwaite

Marc Laithwaite at Lakeland 100/ 50 2014

Marc Laithwaite at Lakeland 100/ 50 2014

In a new series of articles, Marc Laithwaite (The Endurance Store), endurance coach and regular contributor to Talk Ultra podcast will provide insight in how you can become a better endurance athlete by training smart and eating for performance.

In the first article, we look at the Maffetone Formula also known as ‘MAFF.’

 

The term ‘aerobic base’ is used widely in endurance sports but what exactly does it mean? To build aerobic base athletes will generally do long and slow distance to gain specific benefits, we consider those 2 key benefits to be as follows:

  1. Conditioning – Your legs deal with a great amount of impact every time they hit the ground, which causes muscle damage. In turn, this muscle damage will slow you down. The only way to prevent this muscle damage is to become accustomed to ‘time on your feet’. Hence, by slowing down and running long distances at a slower pace, you will ‘harden your legs’ and prevent damage. If you run too hard during your ‘base training runs’ you will not be able to run far enough to get the required ‘time on feet’ so slowing to the correct intensity is critical. It’s important to note that this applies to cycling also, whilst the impact isn’t the same, the repeated action of pedalling means that your muscles will break down, your hips will become tight and your back will ache!
  2. Metabolic Adaptation – Your muscle fibres will adapt and more closely resemble the ‘slow twitch variety’. One of the key changes is the ability to use fat as a fuel source and also to use less energy overall. These combined changes mean that you are less likely to run out of fuel during longer distance exercise. If you can change your muscle fibres so running out of fuel is unlikely, combined with your ‘hardened legs’ which don’t become damaged easily, you are ready for some serious endurance action.

So how slow should I run?

It’s very common for endurance athletes to get the ‘training zone’ thing very wrong. The key thing to remember is that variation is critical, so easy sessions to develop base should be easy and high intensity sessions to develop power should be extremely hard. Many athletes tend to drift into the middle ground where no training is really easy, no training is really hard, but pretty much everything is ‘moderately hard’.

What is the Maffetone Formula?

Made famous by Mark Allen who won the famous Iron War with Dave Scott in 1989. Allen had repeatedly failed to beat Dave Scott, always running out of fuel in the marathon stage. He turned to Maffetone who revolutionised his training, with the principal aim of enhancing fat burning to make him a more effective runner. Maffetone employs a maximum aerobic heart rate above, which you cannot exercise. Initially, athletes find it very frustrating as they will be running very slowly, but over time there are large benefits to be had as the base aerobic system improves.

What’s the Formula?

Subtract your age from 180.

Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.

If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (b), you get the following:

180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm).

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary.

Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations:

  • The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty-five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.
  • For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate were determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

Completing the Test:

Completing the test is simple, for running find a flat 3 miles course or complete 20 minutes. The simplest way is to find a running track as this makes distance measuring easier. Warm up for 15 minutes within the Maffetone Training Zone and then run 3 miles within the Maffetone Training Zone and record your time. You could use a flat circuit on road and use a GPS but variations in GPS accuracy mean that a running track is more accurate. Record your time for the 3 miles and preferably record your time for each of the mile splits. For the bike, it’s best done on a calibrated turbo training or riding to power. Warm up for 15 minutes in Maffetone Training Zone, then ride 30 minutes within the Maffetone Training Zone and measure average power or distance completed. Remember that the turbo and power meter needs to be calibrated or the accuracy is poor.

Practicalities:

You may find the run pace very slow and frustrating, if so, then you should take this as a positive, your base is very poor and you therefore have plenty of improvement to make for the 2015 season!! All of your easy mileage running should be done in the Maff Training Zone and the test can be repeated every 4-8 weeks. You should see an increase in speed and distance for the same heart rate as your base fitness improves. If you keep getting quicker, then don’t worry about speed work until the Maffetone training reaches a plateau. Develop your base as much as possible at the start of the year for maximum gains later.

On the bike, heart rate is generally lower than it is during running, so you’ll find the test a little less frustrating. In reality, the Maffetone Training Zone for cycling should be adjusted by reducing it between 5-10 beats (my opinion – you might want to incorporate it). This test is based on 180 minus age and we all know that maximum heart rate varies from person to person (220 minus age to calculate maximum has been widely criticised), but just go with it and try the formula, nothing is perfect!

We’d be keen to hear your feedback, go and give the test a try and let us know your progress. If you found this article useful, please share with your friends and re-post on Facebook or Twitter!

– Marc Laithwaite

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

 

Montane Lakeland 50 – British Athletics Ultra Trail Championships

screenshot_480

 

The Montane Lakeland 50 route has been chosen as the course for the British Athletics Ultra Trail Championships.

This is obviously great news not only for the Montane Lakeland 50 but also the runners who will participate.

Without doubt, the 50 and 100 routes are arguably two of the most desirable routes within the UK for trail running. It will be great to see how the race unfolds… will Ben Abdelnoor’s and Tracy Dean’s records fall?

An interesting point will come in regard to the course route. The UTLD100/50 have always been noted as ‘navigation’ events with no route marking. Of course, pretty much everyone who races (or plans to race) recces the route in advance of racing to ensure they are able to run fast (or as fast as possible) come race day… the inclusion of the event in the BAUTC does beg the question; will the course be marked to provide all runners a level playing field?

You can read the full post HERE

Paleo, Maffetone & the Method

Have you ever asked yourself?

  • Why can’t I lose weight?
  • What can I do to reach my potential as an ultra runner?
  • Why do I sometimes have pain and discomfort?

Dr Phil Maffetone says he can’t tell you the answers to such questions but what he does say is that he can help you find out.

He has a mantra that ‘everyone can succeed’. I agree, we are all capable of so much more than we think. But often, we need to think outside the box or we need to think in a very different way. We all become programed; we conform to the general consensus when actually finding our own path may very well be the best decision we could make.

Forget easy fixes. They don’t really exist. If you want something, you are going to need to work at it. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will need to make sacrifices but it may mean that you will need to adjust your thought process and look at things from a completely different angle.

Dr Maffetone has evolved and developed his ‘method’. We are all individual but certain patterns exist within all of us when we are not balanced in a perfect way.

As Dr Maffetone says, “These were physical, biochemical and mental-emotional imbalances, complete with various signs and symptoms. These patterns provided vital information, which helped lead to quicker and more accurate evaluations, and faster therapeutic outcomes.”

The ‘method’ leads to specific questions such as “Do you get pain?”

  • How do you get the pain?
  • When does the pain start?
  • What makes it better or worse?
  • How long does the pain last?

“These questions are a vital part of my style, and important tools anyone can use to find and fix physical ailments, metabolic imbalances and other problems.” Says Dr Maffetone.

Ultimately we all need our own personal program that will allow us to progress and function to the best of our ability. We need to self-test.

“By testing the body by adding or avoiding certain foods or specific workouts, for example, one can obtain valuable information to begin piecing together the details of an individualized program.”

There are many different facets of health and fitness that also must work together to create optimum human potential for an ultra runner, we are primarily looking at the bodies efficiency at using fat as a fuel and the physical activity that we undertake in training to make us stronger and fitter for the challenges ahead.

Burning body fat helps any athlete to perform at high levels, particularly ultra runners. The benefits are incredible, lets face it, and we all have plenty to call on. If we are using the fat within our bodies effectively not only can we perform better but we also prevent the accumulation of excess stored fat and weight.

Most of the body’s energy for daily living comes from the conversion of both sugar (glucose) and fat to energy (in the form of ATP).” Says Dr Maffetone “Some people rely on larger amounts of fat, with the result of high physical and mental vigor, improved health, and better all-around performance.“

If you are not able to burn fat and rely mostly on sugar for energy, then you will burn less fat in day-to-day life but more importantly you are neglecting one of the primary fuel sources that will enhance your training and race experiences. In addition, you will have the highs and lows that are associated with the ‘spikes’ from a high sugar diet, you will gain body fat and weight and you may very well feel sluggish with less consistent energy to perform daily tasks.

Is a Paleo lifestyle something that you now feel will enhance your life?

But Paleo is only one aspect of the Maffetone Method. If you want to switch on the fat burning mechanism within your body and enhance it, then we need to look at how we undertake our physical activity. Dr Maffetone pioneered this process way back in the 80’s with Mark Allen (now a highly respected champion Ironman Triathlete).

We need to train our Aerobic system.

“By stimulating the full spectrum of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which rely on fat for fuel, improvements in the heart and lungs with increased circulation and better brain function also occur.”

If we don’t train our fat burning system we are missing a really key component that will enable us to function at the best of our ability, we actually run the risk of becoming aerobically deficient.

Dr Maffetone explains, “Being aerobically deficient is a common syndrome associated with fatigue, increased weight and body fat, reduced immune function, physical disability, and hormonal imbalance.”

The Maffetone Method also covers so many other aspects such controlling chronic inflammation and stress management, which you may like to follow up on in one of his many publications.

  • “In Health & Fitness” by Dr Phil Maffetone HERE
  • “The Maffetone Method” by Dr Phil Maffetone HERE

I caught up with Dr Maffetone for episode 32 of Talk Ultra and we discussed the Aerobic system and Paleo diet. You can listen to the full interview HERE

Aerobic Training

How do you calculate your own maximum aerobic training heart rate?

To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps to the Maffetone Method:

1. Subtract your age from 180.

2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

b. If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

c. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.

d. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (b), you get the following:
180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm). 

In this example, 145 will be the highest heart rate for all training. This is highly aerobic, allowing you to most efficiently build an aerobic base. Training above this heart rate rapidly incorporates anaerobic function, exemplified by a shift to burning more sugar and less fat for fuel.

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary.

Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations:

• The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty-five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.

• For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range.

For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate is determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

Initially, training at this relatively low rate may be stressful for many athletes. “I just can’t train that slowly!” is a common comment. But after a short time, you will feel better and your pace will quicken at that same heart rate. You will not be stuck training at that relatively slow pace for too long. Still, for many athletes it is difficult to change bad habits.

CASE STUDY taken and edited from markallenonline.com

Mark Allen says:

During my 15 years of racing in the sport of triathlons I searched for those few golden tools that would allow me to maximize my training time and come up with the race results I envisioned. At the top of that list was heart rate training. It was and still is the single most potent tool an endurance athlete can use to set the intensity levels of workouts in a way that will allow for long-term athletic performance. Yes, there are other options like lactate testing, power output and pace, but all of these have certain shortcomings that make them less universally applicable than heart rate.

In our sport there are three key areas of fitness that you will be developing. These are speed, strength and endurance. Strength is fairly straightforward to do. Two days per week in the gym focusing on an overall body-strengthening program is what will do the trick.

Next are the focused workouts that will give you raw speed. This is perhaps the most well known part to anyone’s training. These are your interval or speed sessions where you focus on a approaching a maximal output or your top speed at some point in each of these key sessions. But again, developing speed in and of itself is a fairly simple process. It just requires putting the pain sensors in neutral and going for it for short periods of time.

Now for the tougher part…the endurance. This is where heart rate training becomes king. Endurance is THE most important piece of a triathlete’s fitness (or ultra runner). Why is it tough to develop? Simply put, it is challenging because it usually means an athlete will have to slow things down from their normal group training pace to effectively develop their aerobic engine and being guided by what is going on with your heart rate rather than your will to the champion of the daily training sessions with your training partners!

For those patient enough to do just that, once the aerobic engine is built the speed work will have a profound positive effect their fitness and allow for a longer-lasting improvement in performance than for those who blast away from the first day of training each year.

What is the solution to maximizing your endurance engine? It’s called a heart rate monitor. And using one in the way I am going to describe will not only help you shed those last few pounds, but will enable you to do it without either killing yourself in training or starving yourself at the dinner table.

I lived by the motto “No Pain, No Gain” motto. And it worked…sort of. I had some good races the first year or two, but I also suffered from minor injuries and was always feeling one run away from being too burned out to want to continue with my training.

Then came the heart rate monitor. A man named Phil Maffetone, who had done a lot of research with the monitors, contacted me. He had me try one out according to a very specific protocol. Phil said that I was doing too much anaerobic training, too much speed work, too many high end/high heart rate sessions. I was forcing my body into a chemistry that only burns carbohydrates for fuel by elevating my heart rate so high each time I went out and ran.

So he told me to go to the track, strap on the heart rate monitor, and keep my heart rate below 155 beats per minute.

Maffetone told me that below this number that my body would be able to take in enough oxygen to burn fat as the main source of fuel for my muscle to move. I was going to develop my aerobic/fat burning system. What I discovered was a shock.

To keep my heart rate below 155 beats/minute, I had to slow my pace down to an 8:15 mile. That’s three minutes/mile SLOWER than I had been trying to hit in every single workout I did!

My body just couldn’t utilize fat for fuel.

So, for the next four months, I did exclusively aerobic training keeping my heart rate at or below my maximum aerobic heart rate, using the monitor every single workout. And at the end of that period, my pace at the same heart rate of 155 beats/minute had improved by over a minute. And after nearly a year of doing mostly aerobic training, which by the way was much more comfortable and less taxing than the anaerobic style that I was used to, my pace at 155 beats/minute had improved to a blistering 5:20 mile.

That means that I was now able to burn fat for fuel efficiently enough to hold a pace that a year before was redlining my effort at a maximum heart rate of about 190. I had become an aerobic machine!

On top of the speed benefit at lower heart rates, I was no longer feeling like I was ready for an injury the next run I went on, and I was feeling fresh after my workouts instead of being totally wasted from them.

Now use the 180 Formula as outlined above and….

Go out and do ALL of your cardiovascular training at or below this heart rate and see how your pace improves. After just a few weeks you should start to see a dramatic improvement in the speed you can go at these lower heart rates.

Over time, however, you will get the maximum benefit possible from doing just aerobic training. At that point, after several months of seeing your pace get faster at your maximum aerobic heart rate, you will begin to slow down. This is the sign that if you want to continue to improve on your speed, it is time to go back to the high end interval anaerobic training one or two days/week. So, you will have to go back to the “NO Pain, NO Gain” credo once again. But this time your body will be able to handle it. Keep at the intervals and you will see your pace improve once again for a period.

But just like the aerobic training, there is a limit to the benefit you will receive from anaerobic/carbohydrate training. At that point, you will see your speed start to slow down again. And that is the signal that it is time to switch back to a strict diet of aerobic/fat burning training.

Who is Mark Allen?

Mark Allen was born January 12, 1958 and is the six-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion. He graduated from Diego, where he was an All-American swimmer, with a degree in biology. After competing and losing in the Ironman Triathlon Championships six times, Mark Allen emerged victorious in 1989, winning one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. It would be the first of six Ironman victories for Allen, the last coming in 1995 at age 37.

Web Site markallenonline.com

What is Paleo?

We have had some excellent discussions on Talk Ultra in the ‘Talk Training’ element of the show and I recommend that you go back and listen to them. In particular, my discussion with Barry Murray in episode 19 available HERE

The Paleolithic (‘Paleo’) lifestyle has been gaining a lot of interest lately. It has gained increased momentum recently with such notable figures as Prof Tim Noakes and Comrades legend, Bruce Fordyce changing to this way of eating and reaping the benefits. So much so, that Prof Tim Noakes is re writing the nutrition section of his iconic book “The Lore of Running’.

Followers of a Paleo lifestyle are finding that they loose weight quickly as well as generally feel better once their bodies adjust to it.

Paleo is a call to old food values for millions of years ago before a relatively recent event, ‘The Agricultural Revolution’, completely changed the way humans eat.

But what does Paleo mean for you and your running lifestyle?

Well, it will mean a complete change for many… A daily diet of rice, pasta or potatoes will go. No grains, no bread, and especially no sugar or processed carbs, nothing that comes out of a box or a carton and no vegetable oils.

Nothing labeled “low fat” or “light”. Low or light usually means fat is removed and replaced with processed sugar.

I can hear you now, but that is what I eat. I live on rice, pasta and bread.

Paleo is high fat, medium protein, and low carb. It is about eating plenty of meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts. The emphasis of this diet is based around eating fats of all kinds such as the ones found in Canola oil. Ideally when cooking, you will use coconut oil or butter.

Paleo and exercise work well together and as we have explored with Dr Phil Maffetone and the case study of Mark Allen, if you are patient the rewards can be reaped. Many ultra runners (amongst other athletes) are switching to a Paleo approach, 2012 Western States winner; Timothy Olson is a classic example.

You may find this article taken from ‘Me & My Diabetes’ of interest.

Earlier this summer, Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek, authors of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, headed to the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run, to study how runners in this grueling race fared, literally, for they were checking how the athletes performed, AND how they ate.

Link HERE

Ultimately, and I love this quote, this article is ‘Food for Thought’. Paleo has been around for years and recently its prominence has grown. Just like barefoot running became the next best thing after the book ‘Born to Run’, Paleo may very well be the next best diet. I however feel that having investigated it for months that a Paleo approach, or should I say, a reduction in carbohydrate is certainly a direction that can reap rewards and benefits.

But it’s all about the individual and finding out what works for you!

I’d love to get your feedback and stories both for and against all that has been mentioned above.

Episode 29 – Robbins, Bragg, Grant, Corbett

Episode 29 Talk Ultra

 

Come back man Gary Robbins telling us what it’s like to return from 2 years of injury to not only win Hurt 100 but to set a new CR. Jez Bragg tells us about completing ‘The Long Pathway, Te Araroa’ in New Zealand. Joe Grant says goodbye and heads off to the Iditarod. Colourful Catra Corbett tells us about drugs, alcohol, running, tattoos, clothes and Truman. In addition to all that, we also have… phew; Talk Training about the long run, ‘A year in the life off…’, part 3 of our Marathon des Sables special, A Meltzer Moment, Up & Coming races and of course the News.

Show Notes:

03:45:45

00:00:00

00:00:45 Start and introduction

00:09:31 “Year in the life of….” This week Amanda Hyatt tells us all about her first ultra. Not  one day, but two days of 33 miles. As many of you will be able to relate to, it didn’t quite go to plan. But did she finish…?

00:27:52 News Plenty of news with a catch up from Rocky Raccoon, The Coastal Challenge, Fuego Y Agua and more…

00:35:06 Jez Bragg completed The Long Pathway, Te Araroa and I was very fortunate to speak to him less than 24 hours after he crossed the finish line. I think you will be able to hear in his voice how this journey not only exhausted him but changed him. Check out his website HERE and take a look at his sponsors The North Face

00:54:30 back to Karl

01:18:50 Joe Grant spoke to us several weeks ago about his preparation for the 350 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational. I caught up with him this week, just a day before he headed out to the race. Joe’s website Alpine Works. The ITI website HERE

01:35:05 back to Karl

01:38:15 BlogCatra Corbett colourful, fresh, modern and different. Catra or Dirt Diva adds some spice to the ultra scene. Listen to what she has to say and check out her blog HERE

02:12:25 Talk Training with Marc Laithwaite – this week we talk about the long run….

02:31:35 Interview with Gary Robbins. Life with passion, pursue your dreams. Gary just a few years back won the Hurt 100 and in doing so broke Geoff Roes old course record. He was suddenly seeing all the hard work pay off but then a series of events almost ended his running career… hear Gary talk about that period of his life and what it is like to comeback and be on top! For more information and a list of results, check out his blog HERE

03:18:00 Back to Karl

03:20:30 A Meltzer Moment with Speedgoat Karl. Good, Bad and Ugly.

03:27:25 Marathon des Sables spécial. This is part 3 and we are back with Stuart Rae to find out how the progress is going to the 2013 edition in April.

03:40:55 Races the up and coming races for the next 2 weeks

03:42:30 Close
03:45:45
LINKS

Episode 26 – Talk Ultra

TU 26

A super stacked show and maybe our longest yet… our main interview is with The North Face athlete, Mike Wardian. We speak with inspirational film makers and ultra runners, JB & Jennifer Benna from JourneyFilm. Live from the Te Araora trail in New Zealand we speak with The North Face athlete, Jez Bragg on his incredible journey. We have our first ‘A year in the life of…‘ chat, Talk Training with Marc Laithwaite, A Meltezer Moment with Speedgoat Karl, the News with Ian Sharman, a blog post, 15mins of fame and of course the up and coming races.

Show Notes:

00:00:00

00:00:45 Show start and introduction

00:12:45 Interview with JB Benna & Jennifer Benna of Journey Film

Journeyfilm is a film production and distribution company that focuses
on adventure, sports, and travel. Established in 1999, the company is
led by filmmaker JB Benna, a USC Cinema/TV graduate and outdoor
enthusiast with an adventure resume that includes the 2,700 mile
Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe Rim 100 Mile Endurance Run.
Since its launch, Journeyfilm has produced documentaries such as The
Runner (David Horton’s 2,700 mile run of The Pacific Crest Trail),
UltraMarathon Man: 50 Marathons * 50 States * 50 Days (Dean Karnazes’s
North Face Challenge), Spinning Southward (a 16,000 Mile Bike Journey
from Alaska to Chile for the Brain Tumor Foundation) and GoLite’s Andy
Skurka and his 7000 Mile Trek. Benna and his team are also committed
to raising awareness for conservation, simpler living, and greater
appreciation of the world.

00:46:20 ‘A Year in the Life of…‘ is a new addition to Talk Ultra. For 2013 we will follow two people on their ultra journeys. This week we speak with Amanda Hyatt.

00:55:10 Back to the show

00:58:10 The News with Ian Sharman as guest co host

01:09:30 Interview with The North Face athlete, Jez Bragg live from New Zealand as he makes his process along ‘The Long Pathway’ the Te Araroa Trail. You can read and listen to my interview with Jez from The North Face press conference HERE and an update HERE. Also a first video has been added HERE

01:37:00 Back to the news

01:50:45 15 mins of Fame – this week we speak to Amanda Boldy and Sarah Gardner Hall. October 2012 Amanda entered a competition to win a prize to go to The Ocean Floor race in Egypt. Running 160 miles non stop departing at the beginning of February. She only went a won it… we speak to Amanda and Sarah with just 2 weeks to go before an adventure of a lifetime.

02:00:30 Blog by Emelie Forsberg. Emelie discusses her incredible 2012 season and you can read that HERE – ‘The Year of 2012’

02:01:00 Talk Training with Marc Laithwaite we discuss year planning and setting objectives.

02:22:40 Interview with The North Face athlete Mike Wardian. Mike is without doubt one of the most formidable ultra runners (and marathon runners) in the world. He has a reputation for running lots of races… he doesn’t only run but he wins them too. Unfortunately for the latter half of 2012 he has had a series of injuries. We catch up with him to discuss his progress and find out about his career.

38 years old, Arlington, VA-United States of America Father of 2 young boys (Pierce-5 years old & Grant-3 years old) BLOG HERE

Current Results:

  • 2nd place at 2011-Disney Marathon
  • 3rd place at 2011-ING Miami Marathon
  • 14th place at Empire State Building Run Up
  • 1st place at 2011 Lower Potomac Marathon-set Guinness World Record-Fastest Marathon as Superhero (Spider Man)
  • 3rd place at 2011 Shamrock Marathon
  • 1st place at 2011 National Marathon (5 time winner)
  • 19th place at Two Oceans Marathon (56K)-First USA
  • 11th place at Comrades Marathon (87K)-First USA
  • 3rd place at The North Face Endurance Challenge-50 Miler
  • 1st place at The North Face Endurance Challenge-1/2 Marathon
  • 13th place and Olympic Trails Qualifier (2:17:49)-Grandma’s Marathon
  • 3rd Place at Badwater Ultra Marathon
  • 1st Place at Grant and Pierce Indoor Marathon (4 days after Badwater)
  • 1st Place at San Francisco Marathon
  • 1st Place at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K-Kansas City
  • 1st Place at The North Face Endurance Challenge 1/2 Marathon-Kansas City
  • 2nd Place at the Kauai Marathon
  • 2nd Place and Silver Medalist at 100K World Championships and First ever Team Gold Medal for 100K World Team for USA-The Netherlands
  • 2nd Place at the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100K

Previous Results:

  • 1st at 2010 ING Miami Marathon
  • 1st at 2010 Delaware Marathon
  • 1st at 2010 National Marathon-Washington, DC
  • Bronze Medal at 2009 & 2010 50K World Championships-Gibraltar, Gibraltar
  • 3rd Place at 2010-100K World  Championships-Gibraltar, Gibraltar
  • 6th Place at 2009-100K World Championships-Torhout, Belgium
  • USATF National Champion: 2008, 2009, 2010 USATF 50K National Championships
  • USATF National Champion: 2008-USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships
  • USATF National Champion: 2008-USATF 100K
  •  Accolades:
  • IAU Ultra Runner of the Year 2010
  • USATF Ultra Runner of the Year-2008 & 2009  & 2010 & 2011
  • New York Road Runners Ultra Runner of the Year: 2009

03:13:40 Back to the show

03:19:30 A Meltzer Moment with Speedgoat Karl

03:29:34 Up & Coming Races for the coming two weeks

03:31:30 Close

03:25:35

LINKS

Hydration

Wow! it would appear that Dr Tim Noakes and his ‘Waterlogged‘ book has caused some interest… not a surprise. I guess the whole reason for me initially posting was that I new that it would rock the boat and make us all look at what we do personally in regard to our own personal hydration when running or racing.

As part of Talk Ultra we have a regular section of the show called Talk Training – we look at our sport and we discuss all aspects of what will make us all better runners. Often our subjects and our thought processes may very well be controversial and thought provoking. Only recently we actually discussed this exact subject. You can listen HERE

However, Marc Laithwaite from Endurancecoach who is my co-host for Talk Training is far more experienced and a specialist in this field. I will let him tell it in his words:

An alternative view on hydration

Our focus is hydration or in more simple terms how much to drink.

Why drink?

Your body needs fluids for various functions. Body cells and tissues are filled with fluid, the nervous system requires fluid and the fluid component of your blood (known as plasma) is also affected by your drinking habits. Exercise leads to a loss of body fluids via sweating and breathing and this loss of fluid can eventually lead to what is commonly termed dehydration.

What happens when we drink?

When you put fluids into your stomach, they pass through the stomach wall into your blood vessels and effectively become plasma. As your blood stream can pretty much reach any part of your body, any tissue or any cell, this fluid can be transferred from the blood stream into the tissues or cells.

How does fluid actually pass from one place to another?

To get the fluid from your stomach into your blood stream or from your blood stream into tissue cells requires a process termed ‘osmosis’. Salt acts like a magnet drawing fluid towards it and the concentration of salt in your blood and tissues determines the shift of fluid around your body.

When you take a drink of water it reaches your stomach and waits excitedly to pass through the wall into your blood stream. Your blood is saltier than the water in your stomach and due to the higher level of salt in the blood, the water is drawn from the stomach, through the wall and into the blood. This water effectively becomes blood plasma and travels around your body. If it finds muscle tissue which has a higher salt concentration, the magnetic pull of the salt within the muscle will draw the fluid from the blood into the muscle.

In simple terms, when something is dehydrated, it becomes more salty. By becoming more salty it’s magnetic pull increases in power and it attracts water towards it. That’s how fluid shift and hydration works within the body, that’s ‘osmosis’.

What happens when you dehydrate?

When you dehydrate your tissues and blood have less fluid thereby making them more salty, in the hope that they can attract fluid towards them. Your blood becomes thicker as you still have the same amount of ‘blood cells’ but the fluid component is reduced, thereby making it more concentrated. Not only does the blood become thicker (making flow more difficult), the absolute amount of blood is also reduced so you have to pump the smaller blood volume more quickly around the body, thereby increasing heart rate.

Most text books will recommend somewhere between 1 – 1.5 litres per hour depending upon individual sweat rates, but it is unlikely that this amount can actually be absorbed when you are exercising. As each litre of fluid weight 1kg in weight, it is possible to calculate (very roughly!) fluid loss by taking weight before and after.

The Endurance Coach research on ultra distance runners

Last year we measured pre and post body weights for competitors taking part in a 100 mile mountain running event http://www.lakeland100.com. Race finish times varied from 24 to 40 hours and if we presume that athletes are losing 1-1.5 litres per hour, just how much weight did the competitors lose???!!

The body weight stats 2010

Our stats from last year showed the followed weight loss at the finish line:

  1. Runners sub 30 hours, average weight loss 860g / 860ml
  2. Runners sub 32 hours, average weight loss 1008g / 1008ml
  3. Runners sub 35 hours, average weight loss 1040g / 1040ml

Compare those figures to the guidance given in the previous paragraph which suggest that athletes will need to replace 1-1.5 litres per hour as this is the rate at which they are losing fluid. Admittedly the competitors may not be exercising at a very high intensity due to the nature of the event, but even then.. something doesn’t add up as the fastest runners haven’t even average 1 litre fluid loss at the finish.

Take the mineral water challenge.. we guarantee if you drink 5 litres per day we’ll feel great about our bank balance and you might end up in hospital..

I know.. I’m cynical.. However, there needs to be some common sense applied to hydration. Your body tells you when you need fluid by making you feel thirsty and then you should drink what you’ve lost. Your body is very much like a water tank with an overflow system, once the tank is full, any further fluid intake will be dispensed with by urinating. It’s correct to say that urinating frequently and especially if the urine is clear, IS NOT a sign of optimal hydration, it’s a sign you’re drinking too much.

The drink might kill you..

For many years marathon runners were encourage to drink at every aid station and “don’t wait until you’re thirsty.. it’s too late then!” Unfortunately a few of those people died as a consequence due to a condition known as ‘hyponatremia / hyponatraemia’ which is excessive dilution of body salts.

What’s going on??

Hyponatremia is quite simple:

  1. Take 1 medium sized bucket, add a tea spoon of salt and then add 1 pint of water and in your bucket you have a salt solution.
  2. Add another pint of pure water to the same bucket and you have now diluted the salt solution (it’s a bit weaker).
  3. Add another pint of pure water to the same bucket and dilute the salt even further.
  4. Keep going until the salt solution is so weak you can hardly even taste the salt.

We said earlier in this article that salt acts like a magnet and attracts water towards it:

‘When you take a drink of water it reaches your stomach and waits excitedly to pass through the wall into your blood stream. Your blood is saltier than the water in your stomach and due to the higher level of salt in the blood, the water is drawn from the stomach, through the wall and into the blood’

What if you’d added so much water to your body that the blood wasn’t salty at all, it was massively diluted and had thereby lost all its pulling power?

Stay calm..

The chances of anyone dying from hyponatremia are so minimal and so infrequent that this should never concern you but weight measurements before and after can be an important part of medical checks. In essence, if you collapse and you’ve lost weight, we’d give you a drink, some food and a lift back home. If a competitor were to collapse and following a weight check they had gained weight, we would take it more seriously.

Some of you may be thinking at this point that you can take salt tablets with your water, if you add salt and water simultaneously, problem solved! The research has shown that it’s not a lack of salt intake which leads to hyponatremia, it’s too much fluid.

In conclusion

Drink sensibly, let thirst guide you and don’t force load yourself with water.

Aside from excess fluid intake, there is one other thing which may lead to weight gain during ultra distance endurance events and that is ‘rhabdomyolysis’ or ‘muscle damage’ leading to inflammation. This is a real issue for longer events and has a huge impact upon performance and health.