Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fat Burning Machine - Part 2

continued from Part 1

A few years ago (let’s say, pre-MDA), I didn’t really eat all that "well" – my diet consisted of too many carbs and other crap – both processed and unprocessed. I thought - “I do triathlons, I can’t eat whatever I want, whenever I want!” (typical noob mentality). After my first season, I weighed as much as I ever did - 160 lbs of non-mean and non-lean non-machine.

As any endurance athlete knows, the hunger pangs that can come on during training can get pretty bad. Back then, I couldn’t imagine going 3 hours without eating. Sometimes if I got too low on calories, I would get into a really cranky and irritable. It didn’t matter if I was in the middle of training, or just at work – I was a different person if I was hungry (Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde), and it would come on strong and fast. Not fun - for myself, or others. I taught my body how to burn CHO as a main fuel source, and since it was very finite and quick to burn - this led to some of these "mood swings".

Since adopting a high fat diet, where at least 55% of calories coming from fat, I have noticed a number of things. Mainly:

* Those hunger pangs don’t really come around as much.
* I have done some pretty hard, and/or long workouts, where I have taken in little to no calories. I'm talking a 2-2.5 hammerfest ride where I took in 0 (zero) calories, and a 5 hour ride where I took in a measly 700 calories - in the middle of winter no less. On the latter ride, my friend Paul took in over 2500, and still bonked hard at the end. (Granted, fueling in the 24-48 hours prior to each workout has an effect, but still - there is something to be said).

The reason is because I have taught my body to burn fat as a primary fuel source - whether I am training or not training. How is this beneficial? Aside from not having mood swings and possibly eating my, or other people's heads off, there are a multitude of them, which I will talk about in below, and in future posts (primarily around the body's response to CHO consumption).

One of the main benefits is that your body doesn't crave CHO, and hence, burn it as much, leaving you feeling like crap when you need more. Secondly, you don't have to rely on them as much - especially while racing. Three, it's a nearly endless energy source in your body.

Why are these beneficial? From a racing standpoint, would you want your engine tuned to running on a fast burning, very finite fuel, or a slower burning, not as finite energy source? While the previous reasons and examples may not spell it out clearly, Alan does a much better job comparing a corvette, accord and prius (albeit, in much more detail) on his blog (and if you don't read his blog, you definitely are not in "the know" - learn it). He also has 2 morsels of information on becoming more of a fat-burning machine here.

Now, I want to be clear about 2 things (unrelated to the 2 morsels above):

• When I mention fat, I mean GOOD fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts & seeds, clean animal fat (it does make nearly everything better), and coconut oil (high in Medium Chain Triglycerides [thanks James]). NOT processed industrial oils (corn, vegetable, canola, etc) and crap like that

• I am not anti-carb. I just don’t think we need as much as we think we do. We only need as much as we need. (kinda like the hunger [needing to eat] vs. appetite [wanting to eat] thing - which I will get into)

These last 2 posts will lead into the next 6 blog posts will be a series of articles I wrote called “The Endurance Athletes Guide to Nutrition”, where I will basically write about everything I learned over the past 8 months or so. I hope you enjoy!

Fat Burning Machine - Part 1

About a month ago, Angela Naeth, an athlete of Chuckie's, and probable dominant force in the 70.3 circuit in a year or so, wrote a blog post about caloric needs. This served up quite a bit of motivation for this post, and for probably the next 6 or 7 posts ("uh oh", I am sure you are probably thinking).

Towards the end of her post, she mentioned that she wants to be a fat-burning machine. Now, please don't confuse her with some tv-ad, or aerobics instructor circa '92. For athletes that like to go long, I think this should be a primary objective in their training - right up there with actually putting in the training time.

For those of you that know me, you know that I am big into nutrition, and that I am a proponent of Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint (specifically, the eating portion, because, well, I like to eat, and eat well). He argues that fat should our primary fuel source in just about all of our daily activities, and that the consumption of good fats “promote the burning of both dietary and stored (adipose) fat as fuel” (did he just say eating fat helps burn fat? whoa...). Although he specifically doesn’t doesn't talk about endurance athletics being part of the PB, I would argue that the same approach should be taken for endurance athletes, especially for those that go long (not to be confused with being long) - we need to train our bodies to burn fat as a primary fuel source. (As an aside, Mark does talk about a fat in an endurance athletes diet here, which I think is one of the few very good articles on the internet regarding endurance nutrition). Let's face it, to endure anything, requires a number of things, including stamina. Stamina requires energy, and the body can store a very finite amount of energy.

Chuckie is also a proponent of a high fat diet, and even during his “hey-day” of being a professional stud, he consumed a lot of fat calories, despite what “others” told him (you don’t even wanna know what he puts down these days). He and I spoke about diet at length (again, not to be confusing with anything here) when I was up for a visit a few months ago, and he believes that training is the main driver (“98%” as he said) for making the body burn fat as fuel. I mostly, but not completely, agree with him (although the exact percentage is still unknown).

Mark talks a lot about gene expression, and basically argues that what we eat and do will modify our genes and actually change our genetic makeup (nothing too drastic here, but he is definitely onto something).

Part 2 will be a little personal story in why I believe in this stuff...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Yes, I am alive!

July was pretty much a month off of training (and blogging), save for a few bike rides here and there. It was a great month really to take some time off from everything and do some other things…


Michelle killed it one (of many) night with dinner! The menu consisted of a whole bunch of good stuff. The picture says it all.

Locale wasn't too bad either (wait, is that another gray sky in Diego?! You don't say... seriously - enough!)




We drove out to Idyllwild one day, and did a gnarly hike up (with an emphasis on up) San Jacinto mountain. Could this be considered elevation training?

I don't know about you, but I had never been to an official "wilderness" before, where I had to be responsible for knowing a bunch of stuff (uh, like walk on the trail).

Michelle won the dirty feet contest!

VEGAS… (ie. The official ‘meet the family trip’!)

… and a few other ‘extra-curricular’ activities. Let’s just say I stopped at Bev-mo more in the month of July, than I had since … ever

But, starting the second of August, I started getting back into some training (read: swimming and/or running everyday) – a little ahead of schedule. I love it when you think you have everything all planned out, and then something happens where the plan gets thrown out the window.

My original plan was to take July and August completely off to focus on work and school (which finishes the day before Labor day weekend – how appropriate!). I really wanted to do a race with all the fitness I had after RAAM, but I didn’t think it was in the cards (or my wallet, for that matter).

However, July actually ended up being a rather stressful month, and I realized that without training as an outlet, the stress was unmanageable. This was a far cry from years past when I always looked forward to an off-season to re-charge – mentally and physically.This year , I was chomping at the bit. I definitely missed running, and even swimming (in some weird way). Hell, I even missed blogging. I have a lot of stuff to say (there’s a surprise!) in some future posts so stay tuned. I am stoked to start writing again it for the world to (not) read!