–By Cricket Howard, Triathlete
Of course we all want to burn that fat to be lean, but there are dozens of reasons that being a better butter burner will make you a better athlete. Ever have GI distress (bloating, vomiting, bonking, etc. ) three fourths through your marathon? Are you filling your pockets with gels and bars to go ride for a couple of hours?
“Efficiency” is usually thought of as doing something well with little amount of effort. In endurance sports nutrition, this boils down to being able to burn more fat and less carbohydrate for energy. Why would we want to do this? Because at any given time, most trained athletes are carrying about 1,500 – 2,000 calories of carbohydrates and 80,000-plus calories of fat. Yep, even speedy little Meb has that much fat in storage. The trick is teaching the body to love to run on fat and use it at higher intensities. This is done through metabolic efficiency training to build a stockpile of fat-burning enzymes- the “machinery” to make it work. Voilà – the ultrarunner, cyclist or triathlete, becomes much less dependent on consuming mass amounts of carbohydrates during the race and has reduced risk of GI distress.
Just how do you ignite this fat fire?
The single most important contributor to improve your ability to use fat as fuel is diet. A diet low in refined foods, specifically carbohydrates, moderate in protein and fiber as well as higher in fat is key to priming metabolic efficiency . Yep, fats! Not the artificial, industrially produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, like corn, safflower, sunflower, or canola. Not crisco or margarine. Those are examples of the “bad” when we speak of bad fats. You can safely enjoy the real fats. Fats, included in meats, avocado, ghee (oh so good for cooking!), macadamia nuts, etc. Add these delicious fats and proteins into your diet and you will be satiated enough to stop thinking about your next meal. Stay away from “low fat” products and read your labels. Carbohydrate translates to sugar. Even those “healthy” organic dressings and snacks have the bad stuff. Take Newman’s Own balsamic dressing… healthy, right? Look closely at the label Vegetable oil (soybean and/or canola oil). Stick to the real oils, like olive and avocado. The food industry has learned to trick those who want to be healthy. But athletes, fats and protein are your friend. The real fats. Yes, even animal fats.
Give your gut a break. Lengthy fasts are not necessary, but giving your gut a break and laying off the mid meal snacks can tell your metabolism to use the fuel we all have plenty of… fat! If you’re hungry before mealtime, choose a small nutrient dense snack that can get you to you the next meal. Some great small snacks that stop the growling are:
- Boiled eggs
- Macadamia nuts, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts
- Celery with almond butter
- Hard cheeses
Get enough sleep. Your body does a lot of work at rest. You aren’t digesting and the gut can rest. Getting sufficient sleep lets you stay in a fasted state where your body is using fat stores rather than carbohydrates from your last meal. Waking up without having to immediately get a meal is a good sign you are functioning on fat stores.
You can also train your body to use fat stores through training! Before we get fast, we have to lay the groundwork. Being a metabolically efficient athlete means we have the foundation of which speed is built upon. To find out where you are as a fat burner you will need the help of my friends at Athletic Mentors to perform a metabolic efficiency assessment. You can do this as a runner or cyclist, whichever area you want to become more efficient in. By doing this assessment you will learn what are the most fuel efficient heart rate zone for you. Athletic Mentors can teach you how to build your foundation and reach your full potential. They are currently offering group classes to teach you how to use your own data. They will teach you how to fuel and train for metabolic efficiency. The next Metabolic Efficiency Class will be held May 11th, at 6pm.
You are meant to burn fats. The average American diet has allowed us to become dependent on carbohydrates to get us through the day, our workouts and races. Take a day to learn about your metabolism, and what you can do to stay healthy and burn the fuel that your body was meant to use. Metabolic efficiency training can help you stabilize your blood sugars, give you steady energy, lose body fat and allow you to run faster at a lower heart rate. All great results, so think about incorporating ME training into your base training. All you really need to start your ME training once you get the test, is your running shoes, a heart rate monitor and your body fat.