Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Maffetone training, Mærk Næstved, more LCHF and other news

What pace do you train at and why? I guess every runner should think about this. I have to admit, though, that when I learned about "Maffetone" training through Larisa Dannis, it opened up a whole new way of thinking about training for me. I started out by listening to the the Ulltraruner podcast with Larisa (at Olga's recommendation) and then  the Trail Runner Nation podcast with "Dr." Maffetone himself (the quotes since I can't figure out what his educational background is by googling him...I do know he is a is a self-proclaimed musician with a lot of experience in exercise physiology).

Edit: I just received an email from Dr. Phil Maffetone himself and he is a chiropractor who then pursued an interest in exercise physiology.

The idea is simple: find the pulse that represents the upper edge of your aerobic zone and train almost exclusively at that pace. You can learn how to estimate it here. I usually ends up approximately being 180-age.

Why would you do this, you ask? So the claim is you can develop your aerobic system without going anaerobic, without stressing the body (through cortisol, lactic acid, etc) and with less injury risk. What athletes (Mark Allen, Larisa Dannis plus other anonymous that I have read about) and Maffetone claim is that over weeks and months, you run faster and faster within this pulse range. This is very thought provoking.

In my first few runs, I was surprised how hard it was for me to run this pace. It is faster than I do my long runs yet slower than a tempo. I think coach Ole was a bit surprised that a 150 pulse for me started out as 5.53/km on mixture of trails and streets and just over the last week, I have watched the pace go up for the same pulse every single time I run this route (I am running the very same route -more or less -since I know it is an experiment). Today my pace was 5.15/km. I had not expected to see results in a week, so I wonder if there are other factors coming into play.

Either way, Larisa has certainly had success with it. Not only did she come from a non-runner background to running a 2.44 Boston Marathon and take 2nd female at Western States, but two days ago she just run the fastest 50 miler/80.5km run by an American female in the last 20 years: 5:59 (and on a hilly course in Wisconsin). She kept her pulse "aerobic" the entire time (generally 147-152). She didn't know what her mile splits had been until she got home, but she was very consistent at just around 7 minutes/mile. You can follow her runs on Strava.

Larisa Dannis at the Door Country Fall 50, courtesy of INKnBRURN. Note the foot strike :-).
As stated earlier, I have dealt with plantar fasciitis for a number of months, but am back to training now (minus intervals and tempos). I have some tips for getting over PF, which you can write me an email about if interested.

I decided to run a 12k race this past weekend. It is a cool event we have run before called "Mærk Næstved Løb" put on by our local athletic club, HGATM. SR had run the Trailman 50k last weekend so offered to watch the kids and even cheer along the route. There are not a lot of money races where I have a chance of winning, but I do keep trying.

I am wearing shoes, which I would like to refer to as my PF rehab shoes. They are heavy and awkward, but support the arch very, very well. Salomon has recently notified me that they also have shoes with this type of arch support--- I am trying those starting tomorrow and am looking forward to less awkward shoes. P.S. Do you see any correlation between foot-strike pattern and happiness?
Before the race SR suggested I run 4.05/km pace. This seemed fair on a windy, hilly yet non-technical route. I ran a pretty even pace, but started a bit fast coming through 10k in 40.20, but the race ends with a wicked uphill so I slowed. I was happy I didn't start too fast because this meant passing the first female after 3km and winning 1.000 kr. (thank you, Sydbank!) and won a personal training program + free training at Fysium for setting the female course record.

What probably interested me about this race was my pulse (by the way, my pulse strap was so tight around my thorax that I had trouble breathing!! Looser and I feel it will fall down-- tips?). My max pulse is "supposed to be" 220-35: 185" which means I was pretty much maxing it out all the way after 5km (see below). What is the deal? I mean, yeah, it felt super hard, but I can only come to the conclusion that my max pulse is quite a bit higher. This is a long time to run at max pulse. No wonder I was wiped out the last km...

If interested, you can follow almost all of my runs on Endomondo.

More on the LCHF diet

One of the foundations of improving aerobic performance is the ability to oxidize fat for energy. Runners on a high carb diet may not have much success with the Maffetone method (says the good doctor himself). SR, who has just recently gone super low carb, had me calculate my actual percentage of calories from carbs on a daily basis and we found out it was somewhere between 30 and 40%. The "sad" thing is this is about half of what it used to be. So it was only relatively low carb. In Phinney and Volek's study, "low carb" was defined as "less than 10% of daily calories" The good thing is, most of my carbs come from vegetables. Except for those two darn Clif Builder's bars in the morning and the glass of wine at night. Tomorrow, for the first time, I am replacing the bars with eggs. Wish me luck.

The change in my diet so far has been mostly positive (and I have been on this diet since February). I love that I can last long runs and many hours without getting that hungry. That old feeling of hunger I knew (headaches, fatigue) is gone. I don't need to worry about my weight anymore. It just stays in one place. I have also been surprised that despite being at the same weight on the scale, the lingering cellulite on my thighs just disappeared.

Dr. Phinney had claimed that in order for the LCHF diet to work you had to be "ketotic" which he believed required less than 10% of calories from carbs. See my post here. I however am nowhere near this and feel I am experiencing a lot of the same benefits as athletes who are techincally low carb. There simply must be a gray zone.

One down side is I feel like I have a lot more body odor (just female hormones??). Food is also more expensive and requires more preparation.

Then again, if I do end up living a long life, the fact that I will be less likely to develop insulin resistance (since I am producing less insulin than if I were on a typical Western Diet) is nice, too. As I look back over the last  year, I have gained endurance and speed, but that may be due to my training plan.

I keep hearing all of these positive things from athletes on the LCHF diet, for example Joe Uhan and Zach Bitter (weight loss, improved cholesterol, more energy, faster race times, etc). I would be interested in hearing if any readers have had a negative experience with a similar diet.

P.S. The 32Gi  energy products are NOT part of a LCHF diet. They are made of a type of sugar. They are not healthy to train with on a daily basis and do not improve fat burning. And these products do not make sense for marathons either because they have the same glycemic index (GI) as milk (which is 32). This may mean you feel you are lacking that boost of energy you can get from high GI sugars, which again I feel should be reserved for races.

Edit: I can see now that I shouldn't have made such a bold statement about 32Gi. One could potentially use them as part of a LCHF diet, but they are made out of a type of sugar. When I said they were not healthy, I meant compared to a healthy diet, but they do induce less of an insulin response than most other energy products. Basically, I believe all energy products should be reserved for races and preferably not part of daily training.

Oh and yes, you see I am sponsored by Vitargo, which for me is perfect for races, because it is easier on the stomach and gives a nice burst of energy. But I do not use their products for every day training


In other news, I just got permanent residency in Denmark and I am studying to take the Danish citizenship test December 2nd. This was really great news for our family. Up to this point (the last six years) I have been required to have full-time work at all times, plus document all of my work plans, rental contratracts and keep reapplying to maintain residency. Now, I don't need to worry about being allowed to stay og traveling back and forth from the US. The whole thing was a very difficult process, but I am enormously grateful it worked out.

Running songs of the day (Maffetone (musician that he is) says you should not listen to music while running in order to keep your pulse down.... hmmm... I'm not buying into that one just yet)

Edit: Ok, Dr. M cleared this one up for me, too. He says he prefers athletes listen to their bodies rather than music while running. He said he did an observational with runners who were and weren't listening to music on a treadmill and found those with music had a decreased running economy. My note: I am not sure if this difference was statistically significant.

Running song of the day
The first song I was going to put was Taylor Swift's "Out of the Woods". She is such an underrated overrated pop star. That video is not available on Youtube yet. This one is from the Icelandic Elliphant and the Danish Mø.


Shauna said...

Hey! Great post about an intriguing approach. Question: isn't it supposed to be 180-your age, not 220?

sea legs girl said...

Thanks, Shauna. Yeah 180-age approximately for the aerobic max and 220-age for the max pulse. I was talking about just plain max pulse at that point, but can see why it was confusing, since it just came out of nowhere :-). If you think of it, let me know if you try the Maffetone approach.

Olga said...

I find it very difficult to run at my MAF pace (and so does Larry), as you mention, it neither fastish to have a good flow, nor slow to just slog out. I am hoping it will get better, I have nothing to hurry for. On another note, going 10% carbs seems hard. What would you eat? I mean, I eat veggies as my carb sours as well, but I certainly eat lots of them, and when did do daily calorie intake calculation through some online programs (I don't anymore), it was at least 35%, up to 45%. By the way, another problem for me if we simply say "replace veggies with lean meat" is that said lean meat requires very small portion to reach same calories as huge bowl of veggies. I love to chew, and have a full stomach, and regardless how much butter I can throw in, I do not feel satisfied, unless I am truly full - and had spent 10 minutes over my plate consuming.

sea legs girl said...

We must have been thinking of each other, Olga. I just went in to edit my post to thank you because it was you who told me about the Larisa podcast. When I stopped editing, there was your comment! I agree with you. Nothing will make me give up my veggies. I believe they are healthy and that 10% is very arbitrary in my mind. I'm quite happy with my diet at the moment, honestly, but SR has a point that I should give up my Clif bars (even if they are pretty low carb).

SteveQ said...

I tried Maffetone a couple of times, but different runners have different heart rate profiles and I ran a 1/2 marathon at a HR of 179-182 (excluding the first minute) with a tested maximum of 184, which should be impossible. If you go to the trouble of finding out what different heart rates feel like, you end up finding out that you don't really need the monitor.

Going low carb just switches your body to burning protein, rather than fat, unless the diet's also low protein. The decreased glycemic load doesn't mean much to athletes; if you eat a lot of protein at once, your body releases insulin, which lowers your blood sugar and leads to the Thanksgiving "meat coma" feeling. I think the main reason people adhere to low carb/high protein is that the body stores water with carbs, so depleting them causes you to have the bodybuilder "contest-ready ripped" look.

sea legs girl said...

Good point about the high protein, Steve. I do think that the low carb/high protein approach is more a thing of the past, but maybe I am wrong. My understanding is truly high protein is not healthy under any circumstances.

I am glad we same to share this ability to max out our pluse for extended periods of time. I just love the fact that SR took that picture of me smiling while my pulse was apparently as high as it can go. Pretty surreal and definitely not what I had expected.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tracy, my name is Mark Wolff, like you I am an expert in physiology, specifically exercise physiology and sports science. My field of expertise is sports nutrition and this has been for the past 20yrs. The reason I decided to respond was actually the comment about 32Gi below and there is some clarity that needs to be made around that statement.
Let me begin by saying I have been following an LCHF diet for approximately 11yrs now. I have in-depth and intimate knowledge around it as well as being an endurance athlete with a lot of experience in ultra-distance triathlons, stage racing MTB, running, ultra-running etc. I work with many professional and amateur athletes across the globe and this is my area of expertise. I won’t go into the Phil’s, theories I wanted to focus more on the nutritional aspect of training and racing so that it provides clarity to your readers. When you say 32Gi is just a sugar and the same GI as milk it’s not accurate. Milk value depends on whether skim or full fat, skim milk is not for the healthy, full cream is a better option which is over 40. Also you cannot compare a 1-4 alpha linkage with a 1-6 alpha linkage the behaviour in the digestive system is completely different and there are a lot of aspects to take into account. Also the GI index is limited to 50gram carbohydrate intake as even a low GI food consumed in excess will cause a high GL causing a much higher rise in insulin, which is why GI index is not accepted in many countries in EU as well as Israel for example. As you cannot provide an index and expect consume to measure his carb weight intake at every meal which I agree with. However even if you consumed 200grams of isomaltulose (primary 32Gi carb) at once it still would not increase the GL and maintain a low GI factor. Wheras if you consumed large amounts of milk (lactose sugar for ease of understanding) you will spike blood sugar and cause issues. Let’s clarify firstly we are looking at one product in the 32Gi range of many, and that is the Endure. This uses a 3 carbohydrate blend of which the predominant carb is isomaltulose. I agree it won’t make you burn more fat, but we know that nothing will just water :-). It’s not claimed that it burns more fat BUT that it allows for a higher level of fat burn to take place with the simultaneous glucose feed. How is this achieved? Simple the carbohydrate uses triggers a slow and steady rise in blood sugar and a stable level of insulin which is perfect for allowing the body to tap the fat stores for the balance of energy. In actual fact isomaltulose is the only carbohydrate that allows this. Fructose is too low and others are too high mitigating the fat burn ability. Isomaltulose is derived from honey or beet, however it’s allowed to ferment causing a strong bonded molecule which is the reason it breaks down slower. Actually the ratio in the system is 1:1 glucose to fructose ratio. The carbohydrate is completely digested and absorbed unlike others nothing is left over and it releases over a period of hours. I have worked with many diabetics who suffer from hypo and hyperglycemia and the carbohydrate has actually been an answer to some of their prayers during exercise. It provides stability and balance. Understanding physiology and exercise you will agree that in order to utilise fat as an energy source there are 2 critical conditions that need to happen. (Part 1 of 2)

Anonymous said...

Understanding physiology and exercise you will agree that in order to utilise fat as an energy source there are 2 critical conditions that need to happen.
1. Oxygen is required for lipolysis (fat to glucose conversion)
2. There cannot be any excess glucose in the blood as the body will attempt to get rid of that first.

Number 1 is easily taken care of by controlling pace during exercise. If you can run comfortably and breathe comfortably in an aerobic zone you have the ability to burn fat. The more fat efficient an athlete is the more fat he can utilise as a higher intensity. This has been scientifically proven but a person needs to train himself into this stage. As an example I can easily run a 2h55 marathon on water because my pace is controlled nicely and oxygen supply to my system is sufficient so I can harness fat. If I want to run a 2h40 marathon I would need to put myself into a higher intensity phase of which I will be burning part glycogen part fat and of course I would introduce carbohydrates to assist. I often experiment with carbohydrate periodization and can easily take myself out of a ketone adapted state and then put myself back again by proper carb periodization and daily nutrition.
When it comes to short fast paced events such as a 10km or a 21km even up to 33km running it flat out from beginning to end is ok and warrants a faster releasing carbohydrate which gets into the system quickly and spares the glycogen as much as possible. Of course in a 21km I don’t require anything because if my glycogen stores are topped up and I am running 75min I have more than enough glycogen to see me through and I am efficient at an extremely high pace to just over 2hrs. However when it comes to a marathon this is where the game changes. WHY? Because none of us run marathons flat out from beginning to end. Not even the Kenyan marathoners I work with. Understand that even though they have a high carbohydrate diet they are so fat efficient due to their training and eating regimes and when they run a 2:05 marathon they are running on their glycogen stores alone you will very rarely see any of them consuming carbohydrates in excess on route. If anything they just use carb and mineral intake to assist with fluid uptake because it’s more rapid than water on its own. However a Kenyan cannot run a 56km I have watched and witnessed attempt after attempt and they just fade completely, WHY? Because they are not used to running on fat. Enter the Zimbabwean and South African ultra-runners of which I work with many and you will find that these guys run 90km Ultras at incredibly amazing paces with very little carb intake. Because they control their pace and are extremely fat adapted. A 4hr run on water for these guys myself included is simple with no carbs necessary. One of my athletes Claude Moshiywa who won Comrades Marathon in 2013 I experimented with and decided to measure his carb intake the entire 90km route while seconding him. He averaged 27grams carb per an hour and he ran the 90km in 5h32 minutes and this is a mountain run anything but flat. My athletes have won Comrades the past 5years in a row and they all come out with similar ratios in the equation around 27-35grams carb per an hour. Their fat adaption is excellent because they train that way.

Anonymous said...

Back to 32Gi Endure. Not everyone can run on water for hours. However if you are LCHF eater and you want to remain in a fat burn zone and not get taken out of it then 32GI Endure will allow you to stay in a state of ketosis and I have done this testing on myself for many years. My ketone levels can be at around 2.8 and while consuming the product it might drop me to around 2.5 during exercise sometimes it doesn’t drop but within 2hrs after exercise I am back at where I started. What this shows is that it never removed me from my fat burning state at all as ketone levels over 1.5 are excellent for constantly fat burn. I often request athlete to water fuel more often to become more fat efficient and to introduce most carbs immediately post exercise when insulin levels are at their lowest as this assists with glycogen top up and will keep them fat efficient. I call this carbohydrate periodization (timed intake) it works very well for many that want to go the fat efficient route but battle to cut the carbs significantly.
Back to the average marathon person. Anyone that runs a marathon in 3hrs or more would be silly to spike their blood sugar at the onset. If you want to really run a good race you pace at the onset get into a rhythm and slowly build. When you are pacing you are able to burn fat at the onset and later on in the 2nd half or sometimes later you might want to switch to a higher release carbohydrate when you up the pace significantly and fat usage is mitigated due to pace being too high. Oxygen deprivation = no fat burn. I have worked this stability feed initially followed by spiking only later on with many athletes and it works extremely well. Spiking yourself too early already sets the pendulum swinging and this can be detrimental if the pace isn't high enough from the onset. Roller coaster riding, leading to peaks and troughs and eventually dizziness and nausea is not pleasant and timing the type of carb and intake will be beneficial. You mentioned Vitargo earlier on this is probably one of the biggest blood sugar spiking carbs on the market. An ultra-distance runner or controlled pace marathoner would be doing themselves a complete disservice by using this carb early on because it will mitigate fat burn completely which means fuel partitioning of the body is ruined at the onset. The human body is amazing it is brilliant at partitioning our energy sources as long as we allow it to. Many ultra-runners are also introducing MCT's (medium chain triglycerides) into their race nutrition as its rapidly metabolized fat and of course delivers twice the amount of energy as a carbohydrate. 1gram of fat is 2 x more than 1gram of carbs. It’s an incredibly powerful fuel and when harnessed the benefits are amazing. However it can never be harnessed by introducing carbohydrates which raise blood sugar too much. 32Gi has 4 ranges 1-blood sugar controlled or stability range for the pace controlling athletes 2- blood sugar spiking range with stability properties for the high performing athlete 3-LCHF pure range no carbs coming end of year. 4- Recover range with LCHF version as well. Every single athlete is different what works for one will not work for another and if I had to push a spiking carb to every athlete especially an ironman athlete or ultra-runner I would be putting them on the back foot. I always put health before performance. I mentioned earlier I deal with a lot of diabetic athletes as well, many fuelled themselves into a diabetic state due to consuming spiking carbs for many years during exercise, the endocrine system is powerful but it has its fragility as well and health always comes first.

Anonymous said...

Just to finish off I just want to mention if you want to put yourself into a state of ketosis I would not go by a percentage of carbohydrates in diet. 10% could be way too much for some depending on how many calories he is eating in a day. For most we look at around 30grams or less and fat and protein consumption needs to be ideal. The 30grams of carbs would also need to be vegetable based preferably. Many who attempt LCHF make the mistake of excessive dairy, excessive nut intake or excessive protein intake all these will keep an athlete out of a true fat burn state. I hope this provides a little clarity to the readers as well, 32Gi is a brand with a large number of products under the umbrella, the company doesn’t push product they educate and guide athletes to help them perform at their best whilst keeping their health intact. Apologies for the 4 posts but characters are limited and i can speak for days on the topic :-)

Scotty Kummer said...

Great post! I Love hearing about people experimenting with new things. the best running season I had was with a low carb diet and a heart monitor. I love that feeling of not needing food. You have a great blog!

sea legs girl said...

Hi Mark! First off, thanks for the very thorough and educational response. I can tell you know 32Gi in great detail-- and also know you work for their company so I can understand and respect your interest in defending the theory behind the products. What is most important to me as a physician is that readers of this blog take away the point that it is preferable to focus on a healthy diet (without sugar and refined carbohydrates) rather than thinking that using energy products while they train is particularly healthy (whatever the GI). For example, if an athlete's goal is to go low carb (and even become ketotic), they can achieve this through their diet and I do not see extra health benefits of doing this through a product like 32Gi. (I do not see health benefits in general of being ketotic, though I do see health benefits in being able to oxidize fat at a high rate - this can also be achieved naturally).

In terms of which product is best to use while racing, perhaps you are correct that it is better to use a product that creates a stable blood sugar. I am not an expert on this. I just know that there are many years of research that have shown that simple sugars help athletic performance during races. You can probably teach me something here. Of course athletes should do what works for them. Do you have actual randomized data of athletes using 32Gi compared to athletes using another product that show a a significant performance advantage? If you do, we will certainly all take your claim about its benefits while racing very seriously! These couple athletes at Comrades, including Claude Moshiywa: their perforamces alone can not prove anything, though I am certain that the fact they were good at oxidizing fat helped, but it of course does not prove anything about 32Gi.

I have to thank you again for your expertise and time. I hope you don't mind my questions and challenges! - Tracy

sea legs girl said...

Thank you, Scott :-)

Larisa said...

Are you picking fun at my fine heel strike, lady? ;)