Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Phil Maffetone on Aerobic Training and Nutrition

"Next I visited Phil Maffetone’s lecture room. Mike Pigg gave the introduction. He talked about how he had stopped realizing gains and was experiencing frequent injuries. He was searching for a remedy and contacted Phil Maffetone. Phil told Mike to train for five months at no more than 155 max heart rate. He also changed Mike’s diet to include more fats ("good" fats called essential fatty acids) and protein, and less carbohydrates. As he continued to train "aerobically" Mike noticed that his times were improving even though his heart rate was still no more than 155. He began to make gains and is now racing professionally again. Maffetone then began to talk about his theories of nutrition and training. He began by cautioning that there is no 40-30-30 magic and no perfect schedule for the fastest race. It’s a matter of trial and error on every athlete’s part. Maffetone’s recommendation in nutrition, in training, and in life is to remember that you’re in it for the long haul. You can’t consistently produce well by doing all-out efforts followed by crashing.

"Maffetone is concerned about stress in the athlete. This stress can be mental, emotional, or physical. When an athlete trains anaerobically he produces stress and burns glucose. When he drinks coffee he produces a chemical stress. When he eats carbohydrates, he stimulates insulin, burns the sugar quickly and then is left depleted. Maffetone believes triathletes need to get 99.9% of their energy from the aerobic system that is primarily fat-burning. A trained aerobic system results in better circulation, better immunity to disease and better joint support. He says that when the athlete burns more fat (through aerobic training), he has less body fat and burns less glucose.

"Maffetone says that if you’re eating primarily carbohydrates you’re burning 90% sugar and 10% fat. You’re tired, not sleeping well, possibly becoming insulin-resistant, hungry for sweets, craving caffeine, and depressed after meals. He said when insulin goes up in the bloodstream, blood pressure goes up. In the later stages of prolonged high blood insulin, heart disease, stroke, and chronic high blood-pressure may develop. He recommends drastically reducing your carbohydrates for 2 weeks (eating primarily protein, good fats – from linseed, soybean, or fish oils, and vegetables) and noticing how you feel. If it’s noticeably better you may be insulin resistant and should consider restricting your intake of carbohydrates.

"If you feel that your athletic performance is 'stuck' and that you’re experiencing frequent injuries, Maffetone recommends training almost exclusively aerobically until you begin to realize gains again. He is fairly radical in his approach initially restricting the athlete even from weight lifting and situps or pushups. "

Obviously I really like hearing this, since it agrees 100% with the conclusions I've been coming to. :) The fact that it's a top triathlon coach making the recommendations is pretty cool.

I disagree with his definition of "good fats", but that's a small difference, IMHO. (Linseed and fish oil are polyunsaturated, and should be minimized; soybean oil is just toxic, and should be avoided.)

P.S. Found this after I wrote the paragraph above:

"This is done by balancing fats and avoiding all vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, peanut, etc."

His thinking has evolved (PDF), apparently.  I agree with the statement above 100%.  If you click through to the doc, which is interesting, he's a little too gung-ho on olive oil for my taste, but I don't think you could go wrong following that doc.