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!


Toby Guillette said...

This is a great topic and an area I would like to learn more about so I am looking forward to reading your next posts. Thanks for sharing your findings!

Jeff said...

Denner, Enjoying the posts (and the new pic, sick!). I have two personal questions:

1. How are you determining the percentage of your diet coming from fats, is it a ratio of calories? And are you weighing out food before cooking/eating it? I ask since you seem to have this number dialed in (55%).

2. What's your ratio of animal-based fat / plant based fat.

Ryan Denner said...

Hey Jeff-

1.) I talk about the breakdown in Part 5 of the upcoming series. I used, and basically put in everything I eat during an 'average' day, and it computes all the percentages.

2.) Good question - I honestly don't know. I will say predominately plant-based fats. However, my animal fat % has increased a little since part 5 was written a few months ago. I replaced olive oil with butter in some cooking since butter is a much more stable cooking fat because of its higher saturated fat content. A higher satfat doesn't breakdown into free radicals (the very thing endurance athletes have too much of) as mono or poly-unstaurated oils do. That, and I just really like butter. When I don't feel like butter, or want to change it up, I will use coconut oil, which is also very high in satfat, and stable cooking fat.