Friday, May 17, 2013

Metabolic Efficiency Success Story #1

I have decided to start sharing more success stories related to Metabolic Efficiency “journeys” from athletes and fitness enthusiasts to whom I provide nutrition coaching services.  There are some misconceptions out there in the sports nutrition and endurance athlete community regarding the purpose, implementation, and benefits of Metabolic Efficiency.  My intention is not only to share success stories from real athletes and individuals who desire a better health profile and improved racing performance, but also to periodically share some insight on the “ins and outs” of what we know now and what is still to come with Metabolic Efficiency.

This first story is about a gal I’ll call Ann. She is 39 years old, married with two young daughters. She was athletic throughout her upbringing but took on the sport of running about 3 years prior to our first meeting in 2011.  I began working with her to help with her goals of learning how to fuel for her training runs, help her family eat more healthfully, and to improve body composition slightly. Even though Ann had two half marathons on the racing schedule in 2011, the first priority was examining daily nutrition and making changes in line with the Metabolic Efficiency principles. (If you are brand new to this concept, you can learn more in the Fuel4mance books “Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat” and “The Athlete’s Food Guide to Metabolic Efficiency” both available at

I guided her in changing some aspects of her daily nutrition that included:
  • increasing her daily protein intake
  • adding variety with protein sources
  • moderating her carbohydrate intake
  • educating her how to combine foods that optimize fat burning
  • attention to appetite and hunger levels
Ann had a good working knowledge of nutrition and she was extremely motivated. This made for easy adjustments to her daily nutrition patterns and her habits changed quickly. It is always fun for me to see my athletes make nutrition a priority... and then hear how much better they feel.

Within 3 weeks, she was within her goal body composition range and she reported feeling good energy, less hunger throughout the day, and training runs were feeling solid. She had become more metabolically efficient!  She went on to run successful and strong half marathons...and then she got the bug... the M bug. Marathon.

Because Ann is super-motivated and has an appreciation for working with an experienced sport dietitian, she contacted me again this year to help her prepare for her first marathon in May. The goals: tune up her metabolic efficiency, maintain body weight throughout training (so many first timers gain weight during training!), and just “finish strong” her first marathon (around 3:40-3:50). There was talk of trying to qualify for Boston, but I remember her saying that would be “a pipe dream”.

We checked on her daily nutrition patterns to fine-tune for metabolic efficiency, but we also spent some time doing some training nutrition trials with her long runs. She was using a well-respected coach out of Boulder, Colorado, so her training schedule was not easy by any means.  I introduced her to GenerationUCAN products since this would be complementary to her improved fat burning state she had achieved. After a couple trials, she was rocking and rolling with her long runs.

The outcome of this story is that not only did Ann run a super solid marathon, she qualified for Boston and smashed her expected finish time, ending up with a 3:32 finish. Some fueling details:
  • chocolate GenUCAN 45 minutes prior to the race start
  • 1/2 packet of cran-raz GenUCAN at 1:40 into race
  • 1/2 packet of cran-raz GenUCAN at 2:40 into race
  • 3/4 serving of GU Brew electrolyte throughout race in a handheld bottle
She consumed a total of 185 calories during her race, which means she averaged about 53 calories per hour.  Pretty impressive especially considering the current standards for sports nutrition state you should consume between 120 and 360 calories per hour or the dreaded BONK will occur.  Nope, not the case for Ann.  Her fat burning efficiency from the changes she had made with her daily nutrition and training nutrition (along with her training program) resulted in a super marathon performance. 

Next up... a story from a fat-adapted Boston marathoner.


Friday, May 10, 2013

The marathon that wasn't

(aka "It will be good for you mentally and physically)

I'm not new to marathon running, but I am new to including one in the middle of Ironman training with no taper or my usual preparation. Many of the Ironman athletes I nutrition coach include a marathon as a 'C' race, so I figured why not try it. When I asked Coach Julie about this possibility, she responded "I was wondering how long it would be before you mentioned the M word." She knows very well running is my prime passion, at least for now.  So, we put it on the calendar. I picked a local race: the inaugural Horsetooth Marathon in Fort Collins, Colorado. This decision was made prior to the bombings at the Boston marathon and interestingly, this would be the first marathon to be held in Colorado post-Boston.

About a week prior to the race, Fort Collins got 2 feet of snow. I received an e-mail from the race organizers that the course was going to be altered as a result of the snow and it likely would not be a full marathon distance. In fact, it would feel like a 50K run.  Ahhhh well. Coach said "it will still be good for you mentally and physically", especially with no taper. I suppose I was slightly bummed the course would be shortened but no biggie. I figured this was also a good chance for me to test how training nutrition is going since I hadn't needed to fuel with any calories during my long runs yet.

The details for the marathon course that I paid attention to were:
- 200 person limit (probably good for an inaugural event.. nice and cozy)
- course would be on trails for the first 16-17 miles and then join up with the half marathon course on the road (okay, a mix of trail and road sounded great for injury prevention and I do love trail running)

The piece I did not process very well was the course description. There was no elevation profile on the race website (I'm a visual person), although the short description mentioned some elevation gain and loss just like most Colorado races do. I admit I haven't spent much time trail running since my 50-miler last year. This means I haven't thought about elevation changes all that much in my current IM training. In hindsight, it wouldn't have changed a whole lot about my approach that day, but it might have mentally prepared me better.  Going in to this event, I just told myself "This is JUST a training run." Not a race. No need to fret or risk injury.

Dinner the night before was at a microbrewery with my husband and his BFFs (after they had been successful at some microbrewery hopping). I ate chicken breast, guacamole, side salad and some sweet potato wedges with water to drink. Note:  I do watch my carb intake daily so that I continue following a carb-controlled, higher fat plan as part of mine and Bob's nutrition experiment.

I stayed at a friend's house in Fort Collins that night.  Sleep was erratic since my husband and his BFFs didn't return until the house until the wee hours. Plus, I woke up several times in my unfamiliar room on the blowup mattress to look at the clock. After the alarm finally chirped at 4:30am, I quietly gathering my things and scurried out of the house to catch the shuttle bus to the start by 5:15am.

Breakfast was a vanilla GenationUCAN mixed with 10 ounces water 40 minutes prior to the start time. That's it.  Simple and I trust it completely as I have practiced with it prior to long training sessions and other marathons.

At the start area, my eye caught elite ultrarunner Nick Clark who looked calm and relaxed. I tried not to stare, of course, but it's always fun for me to see what the elites are carrying for fuel and gear. Ummm....He didn't appear to be carrying any nutrition and looked light as a feather just standing there. (He would go on to place 1st in this race). Anway, back to the race... the organizer led a 26.2 second period of silence to honor the victims of the Boston bombings during which you could instantly hear sniffles and sad sighs. In those few moments, we were all pulled together by the array and intensity of emotions. Deep breaths ensued after the silence. I appreciated even more how fortunate we were to be alive and have this opportunity.

It was 34 degrees but luckily no wind and only a clear blue sky above us.  A few minutes later at 6am, we heard "GO" and we were off... and heading up.

My run fueling supplies:  20-oz handheld bottle filled with a mix of water and 1 packet of lemonade GenerationUCAN. I had 4 SaltStick capsules with me and two pieces of gum.

It may not look like much, but for a marathon starting on trails this was a tough beginning for its elevation gain and loss in conjunction with the trail conditions. The first 3 miles was over an 8% grade.
                               [this is just 6 miles of the course]
The service road would turn into a deep and very tight single track trail, both of which had long sections of snow (yep, spikes on the shoes would've worked nicely), ice, slush, mud...and it kept going for well beyond the 6 miles shown above. It took me an hour to go 4 miles. It was going to be a long marathon... I mean, training run. There was a huge water pit at mile 7.5 which was unavoidable. Wet, cold feet - oh yaay!  I didn't let these things bother my mood because I remembered Coach telling me this would be "good for you mentally and physically."

The single track trail turned back into a service road, which was much drier, and eventually we dumped out onto pavement to join up with the half marathoners.  I had sipped from my GenUCAN bottle without taking any additional water from aid stations until after mile 18 and then I grabbed a few cups of plain water. I felt great energy despite my quads feeling the up and down of the first quarter of the course. It was good to have such a trusted fuel source - my body's own fat stores and a little extra GenUCAN on board.

I noticed the mile markers were indeed going to make our marathon route short by about 1 mile. All along I had paid attention to my average pace and knew this would be my slowest not-marathon ever.  Even though it was JUST a training run, there is still the bit of competitor in me that kicked it into a higher gear for the last mile.

I didn't get to see the results until they were posted online a few days later. You know it's a slow not-marathon when the top female finishes in 3:38.  Yikes.  I was surprised to see I had placed 1st in my age group with a time of 4:18 (53 minutes slower than my best "real" marathon time). No matter, it was for sure good training for me. Obviously, the physical challenge was good for my IM training as I had just done a 20 mile run the week before and a 55 mile bike ride a few days prior. Mentally, being able to persevere when the conditions are tough teaches you to be stronger.  Additionally, I thought of those people at Boston and realized any pain that I might have had was really insignificant in the grand scheme.

...and nutrition-wise, I consumed 2/3 of my GenUCAN mix which works out to a total of about 75 calories or ~18 calories per hour.  A sign of metabolic efficiency!

I have some exciting metabolic efficiency stories from my athletes coming in the next posts that I look forward to sharing!