Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"An Interview with Endurance Expert Dr. Philip Maffetone"

Very interesting interview covering a lot of topics that should be of interest to ultra runners. Read the whole thing:
"Will: One of your trademarks is the 180 Formula, which is designed to develop the aerobic capacity of endurance athletes. How did you come to develop the 180 Formula?

"Dr. Phil: I started using heart rate monitors in the late 1970s, and all I had as a guide were the old 220 formulas. But training at these heart rates seemed to induce excessive stress after a very short period of time. I tried searching for the scientific rationale for these formulas and realized there were none. So I began evaluating runners on a treadmill using slower paces, attempting to find a less-stressful and more effective training pace. I eventually performed these tests with a gas analyzer (the athlete would breath through a tube so oxygen and carbon dioxide could be measured), which gave me important information on fat- and sugar burning at various heart rates (along with other factors such as VO2 max).

"I began using training heart rates based on the highest fat-burning levels before the shift to more sugar burning took place. These training intensities were much lower than the 220 formulas, much less stressful, and I saw much more rapid improvements. For example, athletes could soon run faster at the same heart rate, and even burn more fat for energy (and not just while running, but at all times). I soon realized a new formula would be very useful as most runners were not able to have an expensive treadmill evaluation, and the 220 formulas were unacceptable. By experimenting with the math (I basically worked the numbers backwards), I was able to get a formula that correlated extremely well with what the treadmill tests were providing. This became the 180 Formula.

"A heart monitor is a simple biofeedback tool (the hardware), and the 180 Formula (the software) is what makes it useful. Biofeedback can help any athlete because it’s a means of more objectively evaluating progress (or lack of it), impending injury and ill health, and other factors. (I’ve used biofeedback in many other ways throughout my career, including developing various biofeedback techniques such as those for muscles and the brain.)...

"...Will: One of the biggest challenges in a 50 or 100 mile race vs. the marathon is the need to consume calories throughout the entire event to sustain energy. This is often difficult because the stomach doesn't always cooperate. What advice can you give to athletes regarding nutritional needs in races lasting up to 24 hours?

"Dr. Phil: my advice is generally the same for any endurance athlete needing to consume calories during a race: find out what works for you. This involves experimenting during training (not racing). I can make some basic suggestions. The first is water – you’ll usually finish the race dehydrated, so drinking small amounts of water throughout the race, and often, is important.

"Carbohydrate liquids can provide both nutrient (carbs) and water. These carbs actually help maintain our fat-burning process. I prefer monosaccharide carb liquids because they don’t require digestion (which uses energy), so there’s no stomach bloating or gas from undigested carbs, and you can absorb the sugar much easier. These liquids include fruit juice (I don’t recommend citrus) diluted with water, and honey diluted with water. Vegetable juices work well too, but I’ve known only a few athletes who used them. (I also like adding sodium chloride to this type of drink.) Solid carbohydrate foods are important too, but use those that are easy to digest. The best are ripe fruits. While they are in a monosaccharide form and don’t need digestion to get the sugar available for energy, they do need to be well chewed.

"I don’t recommend grains (flour products like breads), potatoes and most sports drinks because they contain carbohydrates bound together that must be digested before they can be absorbed. For example, white sugar (sucrose), maltose sugar products (including maple sugar products) and other commonly used carb sources contain two sugars bound together that require digestion. Grains and potatoes are made up of three sugars bound together (called starch) that require even more digestion. Carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth and most athletes don’t chew sufficiently for this phase of digestion (especially liquids). During a race (and even training) digestion is normally very inefficient, so give your gut something easy to deal with. Creating digestive stress commonly causes intestinal upset – gas, bloating, and even diarrhea. And, you may not get the full load of nutrients from your foods.

"But there’s another issue just as important. The whole idea behind building the aerobic system is to burn more body fat for energy. You’ll also burn more fat during a race, providing a significant amount of your energy needs. This makes the supplemental nutrition part – eating during a race – a lot easier because you won’t need as much. Supplemental carbohydrates are important during and immediately after racing, and very long training sessions, but not before you train and race...."