Thursday, May 22, 2008

Comment + comments on the comments.

Dante asked: You mention that if you train higher than MAF you "turn-off" your fat burning system for a number of hours. On this basis, if someone were to come to you asking for advice on dropping weight where would you predominantly have them training? Thanks.

This is a great question that has a couple of answers that are possible. You first need to look at your goals. Are you wanting simple weight loss or are you trying to reach a performance goal in a race? These two do not necessarily go hand in hand! Secondly what distance is your goal race if you have one? The difference between wanting to run well in a 5k and finishing an Ironman are worlds apart.
I did mention that you can turn off your fat burning metabolism but there is a flip side to this. Intensity is, with out doubt, the greatest and most effective way to stimulate fitness.. I would never dispute this. By ramping up intensity (defined in my mind by going beyond your MAF) you actually burn more fat (but a less percentage in regards to exercise time). This gets kind of confusing, I know! Training at MAF burns about 50% fat for fuel while training above MAF burns about 40% fat for fuel... so you could say that MAF burns more fat for fuel. But lets look at the math....

Let’s say you burn 100 calories in 20 minutes of MAF training (50 fat calories), and you burn 160 calories in 10 minutes of intense exercise (64 fat calories)... you still burn more over-all fat with high intensity exercise than with low intensity exercise.

Another positive factor with higher intensity is the increased metabolism for several hours after the exercise is done. A hard weight training session (the king of all anaerobic exercise) will ramp up your metabolism for up to 24 hours after the workout as your body tries to recover. You will have burnt a ton of glycogen and your body will have switched metabolic pathways- in essence teaching it to not use fat as fuel. After a few hours you will slowly revert back to fat burning.. but at what cost?

And here in lies the need to for you strictly define your goals! What do you want to teach your body to do best? If you're training for Ironman then it is imperative for you to be the most efficient at using fat as fuel. A 5k.. not so much.

The problem with intensity is the concern for the #1 factor in long term weight loss and that is consistency. There is nothing better for you than repeating exercises day in and day out.. intensity compromises this due to burn out, risk of injury and the law of diminishing returns- intensity stops producing results, and then you will back slide in performance, once you have exploited your physiological (lactate threshold and Vo2 max) limits.

I am a certified personal trainer and the rule of thumb for quick results is "increase the intensity". If you've ever watched the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser" you will see these people killing themselves by training at maximum efforts.. this does work, but only for a while- the show is only 1 season and it much more entertaining to see people suffering. You will see more weight loss in a shorter period of time, but you won't be able to do this for a long period of time. Here is where you need to examine your goals. The long aerobic training stimulates fitness growth in a way specific to long aerobic goals. Short and intense workouts likewise.

To try and answer your question directly though- you are better off using a periodized methodology that will allow for long term health benefits. This would, in my opinion, include longer aerobic efforts to begin with (minimum of 8 weeks) in order for you to prepare your muscles, tendons, and metabolism to absorb harder training later. Then after you have adapted to the training and lessened the risk of injury you would add weight training and possibly some intensity, and also keep with longer aerobic workouts of ~1 hour or more at least 3-4 times per week.
On top of a well planned program you may try a very strict diet using an alkaline diet along with diligent food logging (calorie counting) at least for the first month until it becomes part of your life style.


jameson said...

killer info Lucho...

Razorback said...

To follow up, if a person is starting from zero, seditary job and no workouts for number of years with intention of iroman within 24 months, does he initially forego MAF to build some fitness and endurance? Or does he start out walking to stay below MAF and continue that for extralong period until he can run and keep below MAF? Seems to me he might want to build to running a 5k or 10k then start the MAF work to build endurance and long term fitness.

ckotte said...

Lucho -

Great advice and information. As someone who has lost 100lbs (holy crap...I don't think I ever wrote that)...You hit the nail on the head in that you need to evaluate your goals (long-term, short-term, ironman, or 5k). I often times get frustrated by my lack of speed, but then again, I am racing Ironman...not 5k's....and I know strength will be key!

With that said, it has taken me a few years to get to my current weight 185lbs...and I still have an additional layer of fat that I know CV is trying to burn off.

Love the posts lately...Keep it up...

Shan said...

Hi Tim! I've been reading your blog for a little while now - thanks for all the great info!!

I especially find the nutrition-training link so interesting. I was really surprised to find that I was actually *gaining* weight (not necessarily muscle) in the peak of my IM training (20-25hr training per week), and looking back I certainly wasn't stuffing my face with sweets or processed foods. I was rather confused by it all. I'm guessing that my body was in such "stress" from all the training that I was actually storing fat rather than using it all the time. Not sure.

Anyway - love reading your blog!

Dave said...

Thanks for the further info on MAF...great stuff! What about general WEIGHT loss. I'm about 6'1" and used to weigh 250 lbs (muscular 10% bodyfat) from playing college football. Since starting purely endurace sports, I've slimmed down to about 180, but still feel like I can go a little more-idealy 175 or 170. Of course my weight goes down as I train more, but simply put, which is better, intensity or MAF?

Lucho said...

Wow.. ok here goes..
Razorback- you are in a unique situation and if your HR goes to MAF from just walking then it may be appropriate for you to simply start by running at an easy PE (perceived exertion)for a few weeks and try to get yourself to a point where you can start to train longer and longer- this way you will experience some fitness gains and will be able to run. You will also benefit more from increased cycling and swimming volume which will have a cross over effect in terms of aerobic fitness. You do need to be patient above all else though. 24 months is a HUGE amount of time and that is a positive which will allow you take time and build slowly. Alternating walking ad jogging is also going to be good. I think you're on the right track.

ckotte- you have Chuck as a coach so you are already on the right track.

Shan- some weight gain can be attributed to increased glycogen storage- which is awesome because it means that your body is using fat and preserving it's glycogen stores! With the storage of glycogen comes increased water retention. You can also gain weight from increased blood volume (water retention also).. another good thing.

Dave- You are in a unique situation also in that you want to lose muscle mass for performance gains. This is difficult as hell because you have to burn muscle. Break it down and not repair it. There are two ways to do this- protein only diet (zero carbs) with long aerobic training. Or carbs only with zero protein and weight lifting to severe muscle break down. Or high intensity.. Neither of these would be something I would recommend! For you- go the route of MAF with high volume running and swimming at aerobic efforts. On the bike you should avoid high intensity or big gear/ low cadence strength work. This will tend to build muscle.. think sprinters VS. marathoners! It will come off if you don't give it a reason to stay around.

Dante said...

A fantastic response, thankyou, although I am sorry for opening that can of worms!

I do have another question though, something more personally relevant.

I've had some trouble phrasing this question, but as a general rule in terms of triathlon progression for the everyday age-grouper hoping to complete a quick (relative)ironman "one day", would you advise a plan that had the athlete going fast at sprint/OD first, then progressing to IM, or commencing with the IM focused training immediately.

Can an athlete take good sprint performances through to an IM? Is it a necessity for a quick IM?

Thanks again!

Razorback said...

Thanks for that. I have read a lot of training advice but all assume some fitness at the base level. The advice is perfect for a complete novice on the run. I am on the bike and in the water.

Lucho said...

Stick with it Razorback! I read your profile.. I basically grew up in a dive bar, my uncle (who was also the town sheriff)owned the only bar in town.

Lucho said...

Dante- If you have the time to spend in building your fitness.. then yes. The ideal year (in my opinion)would be to periodize your training so you focus on getting "fast" early in the year. Then in the last 8-12 weeks before your Ironman you would focus only on Ironman specific intensities. Mark Allen used to do something similar with short Olympic distance races early then Hawaii in October. There is a lot supporting science in doing speed work as early in the year as possible then focusing on endurance later. A split year. I would recommend though that you keep 1 long bike each week and 1 long run either every week or every 10-14 days.
You should also consider focusing more on the Half Ironman rather than a sprint or Olympic distance tri and try to get fast at that distance. The 1/2 IM training would more complimentary to the Ironman. You could rock a 1/2 off of just MAF training.
Hope this helps?

Dave said...

Thanks Lucho, you're the man. I'll definately take that advice! I'll keep you up to date!

Razorback said...

Luckily for me, getting liquor to the people is my job with the state. Dive bars were a great education for job but better for life.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lucho-I'm Jenelle and I met you at Spring Fling last season. You helped me and my friend Tami with our run form on the long run when we werent riding in the back of the truck :-).

I've finished my first Ironman-Canada this summer. After IMC, I felt the strong need to detox from all of the carbs, primarily what I used to know as "good carbs" aka whole grains, fruit, veges, maltodextrin, etc. One thing has led to another and I have been on an "alkaline" or raw diet for severl months. Primarily to feel better but also to help good ol' mother earth.

Do you know what impact, if any, this type of diet has on glycogen stores? When you train, what's in that camel back? Do you stick to whole raw drinks and foods or is it OK, in your opinion, to use maltodextrin? I think I'm bonking pretty early on my rides. Either that or I've lost a ton of my power. Which means I might be losing muscle due less protein. My major protein source is Hemp (stop laughing). I'm following the Thrive diet guidelines; raw and alkaline for endurance athletes.

I must say your play list surprised me-oh so hard for such a gentle soul.

Anyways, if you have time, I'd love your advice. Hope you see you again at camp! I'll be doing my new "core exercises" I found on your sight so I'm sure I'll be all ready to climb!