I’ve written about how I fuel before a century before so I won’t rehash that, but I’ve been thinking about how I’ve eaten over the last two plus a 90, and have come up with an interesting plan that I’m going to try for my 200k (124.8 miles) next weekend to see how it works…
Based on the information I looked up for my last post on fat in the diet, in which I read that it is possible that caffeine can kickstart the fat burning process, if I’m reading this right, we crazy endurance folks hit “the wall” when we run out of carbs to burn:
She [Krista Austin, Ph.D., CSCS] says runners often hit the Wall because they’re not used to using fat as a fuel source. But by weaning themselves off carbs during training, they discover they can tap into more muscle glycogen when they need it over the last third of a marathon.
It is my understanding that this point is where our bodies switch from burning carbs to fat – and it hurts for a bit, that process. What if I can make the process easier though? Would that make the transition less painful – and therefore easier?
Here’s the plan:
I’ll drink my normal 2 cups of coffee in the morning because I need that about as much as I need oxygen. Then, I’ll start out with the on-board Clif bars at the beginning of the ride, figure two of them by the time I hit 50 miles. At 60 miles, I’ll switch to the GU Roctane and Energy Beans – with the caffeine… 60 miles would be 10-20 miles before I hit “the wall” which would give the caffeine time to work.
Here’s the hypothesis:
If caffeine does indeed kickstart the fat burning process as suggested, the transition should be easier with the aid of the Energy Beans and Roctane – I could be able to switch from burning carbs to fat a little more seamlessly – without having to mess with my diet.
I’ll let you know how it works out.
Fat. Anyone who would slog out a 20-30 minute swim, ride a bike for a little over an hour and then run for about 50 minutes (Olympic Triathlon) is going to hate that word. I’ve busted my tail to lose as much of it as possible from my once budding rotundness. We also hear horror stories about high fat diets from doctors and my favorite – politicians. Fat is a much hated word in the English vernacular.
Unfortunately, it’s necessary in a balanced diet. As with protein in Part 3 of this series, the amount of fat necessary in an athlete’s diet is highly subjective. Fortunately, I’ve combed the internet to bring you a bunch of information that will confuse the hell out of you – so I’ll try to decode it to the best of my ability.
Here’s the important part: There are competing studies that show a diet high in carbohydrates is good for athletes competing at or above the lactate threshold (that translates to they compete at [insert activity here] as fast as they can) over short distances. It has also been shown that athletes who perform over great distances well below the lactate threshold (70% of LT) can get their energy more from stored fat than carbohydrates. Now, here’s the trick… The best performers in the study were carbo-loaders. Trained cyclists ate a high fat (65% calories from fat) diet until three days before their event, then they switched gears and loaded up on carbs. They then rode 2-1/2 hours at a “moderately high” intensity (most of us normal folks would be gasping WTF! after 5 miles – it’s that fast) and followed that with a 20k Time Trial. The carbo-loaders performed significantly better, burned more fat and less carbs than the carb specific or high fat only guys (4.5%).
Now, I realize the weeds surrounding this – we’ve all been told that carbo-loading is useless… And that’s come from the high carb camp and high fat/protein camps. That study is backed up here:
Fat also provides body fuel. For moderate exercise, about half of the total energy expenditure is derived from free fatty acid metabolism. If the event lasts more than an hour, the body may use mostly fats for energy. Using fat as fuel depends on the event’s duration and the athlete’s condition. Trained athletes use fat for energy more quickly than untrained athletes. Consumption of fat should not fall below 15 percent of total energy intake because it may limit performance.
Now, interestingly enough, there’s a way to unlock your potential fat burning furnace, and you coffee haters are going to hate this… From that same page:
There is evidence that the rate of fat metabolism may be accelerated by ingesting caffeine prior to and during endurance performance.
Now I happen to be one of those guys who swears by his coffee – and when I stow on-board food, I never leave home without a couple of bags of Jelly Belly Extreme Energy Beans and a couple of Gu Roctane gels – both of which have caffeine. Now, this may be coincidence, but I rode a century a few weeks ago and when I started to run out of gas, I popped a bag of the Energy Beans at the 75 and 90 mile marks and I finished with a smile on my face. I did cramp up after the ride, but that had more to do with a sodium deficiency as detailed in part 1 on sodium. Many will repeat the oft muttered canard that caffeine will make you have to stop to go, but we should all know better by now. Caffeine (and thereby coffee) is not a diuretic.
So, that said, what is the proper amount of fat in the recreational endurance athlete’s diet? I have no idea, and it sure isn’t easy tracking that info down. Most published papers go by a percentage of calories – but being a noob to all of this hoo-haa that doesn’t mean much, especially when you consider that fat has more calories per gram than carbs by double (9-4). Well for crying out loud folks, I’m an estimator not a damned mathematician and I just want to avoid bonking on a stinkin’ century, I’m not looking to win an Ironman!
So, I went back to the tried and true Livestrong and came up with this:
Based on the studies described above, the general consensus is that CHOs, specifically intramuscular glycogen stores, are the primary substrate for endurance exercise and that high-CHO diets (60% to 70%) improve, while high-fat diets (60% to 75%) compromise, endurance performance . Previous studies showed reduced endurance performance when subjects consumed high-fat diets as intramuscular glycogen was compromised [4,5,11–14]. Fats have been considered inconsequential or even detrimental to elite endurance exercise performance. As a result, athletes have been advised to eat very low-fat diets (10% to 15% of daily calories), which is, in fact, below the level recommended for all Americans .
Now enough is enough. I’m sticking with the 20% because I’m not all that “trained”. If 10-15% is “very low”, 20% should be just plain old “low” and therefore, pretty decent. I’m more awesome than mediocre, but let’s not allow the melon to swell too much, eh?
Part 5, on Sugar is available here
Part 3, on Protein is available here
Part 2, on Carbohydrates is available here
Part 1, on Sodium is available here
My kids like to watch Word Girl, it’s one of the few cartoons I don’t mind them watching… Next to Phineas and Ferb of course, even I love me some P&F.
In an episode a few evenings back, Word Girl found herself in an interesting situation with the jewelry store owner and Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy.
To make a very long story short, Chuck gets to give his explanation as to why he robbed the jewelry store before getting carted off to the slammer.
Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy launches into a lofty explanation in which he becomes the good guy – because he decided to relieve the shop owner of his cash so he could feed his puppy. In fact he claims that he said, I’m going to relieve you of enough cash to feed ALL of the little lost puppies!
Who knew, Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy is a Democrat. And all along I just thought he was robbing the jewelry store.
What threw me was the random act of truthfulness on the part of PBS – Chuck still went to jail. Maybe if he’d have led with, “my mommy set me on the toilet seat sideways”, he’d have gotten farther.