Sunday, November 22, 2015

Metabolic Efficiency Training: The Quick Lowdown and Dispelling Misconceptions

For over five years now, I have specialized in learning, implementing, and educating others in the concepts of Metabolic Efficiency Training and Nutrition Periodization (both concepts created by my colleague, Bob Seebohar).  As a Board Certified Sport Dietitian and Registered Dietitian, believe me when I say I’ve heard the gamut of reactions to these “alternative” approaches to nutrition and fueling athletes. There are the naysayers who are so embedded in sport nutrition guidelines from the 1990s that there is no possible way of opening their minds. The other end of the spectrum are those who have “been in the shoes” and have seen and felt the benefits, from a health and/or athletic performance perspective. For the in between folks or those who are semi-skeptical, I want to clear up some common misconceptions that have been perpetuated about the Metabolic Efficiency (M.E.) concept :

Not a Fad
M.E. is backed by scientific principles and has real life data to validate it. People who claim there is no research to support it are just plain wrong. Sure, there are not decades worth of double blind randomized controlled trials to show it is the one and only way.  However, there are quite a few studies out there if you know how to look for them. I am also confident more are sure to come in these next few years. And we must remember that just because something has not been “proven” scientifically does not mean it is invalid or not worth considering.  Many times, what athletes do in real life settings are light years ahead of the research.

Not a Diet
M.E. is not Paleo or a low carb, high fat diet.  It is not Zone, Atkins, or any other diet plan you can name. At its core, it is the manipulation of foods to stabilize blood sugar. It is sustainable. It is a lifestyle.  Some people do lose weight following this nutrition plan. Many people see improvements in health biomarkers.  However, it is not something to be followed for a few weeks to achieve a temporary result and then discarded.  M.E. can be implemented lifelong.

Not Just for Endurance Athletes
Although M.E. is well-known for its application in the endurance athlete community, there are numerous benefits for fitness enthusiasts, team sport athletes, and power athletes as well. No matter the type of athlete, part of the key to success is proper implementation and individualization.  Nutrition periodization concepts can enter the picture to ensure proper nutrient timing and carbohydrate availability specific to the athlete and their needs for performance, recovery, and health.

Not Food-Restrictive or Numbers-Driven
Unlike classic diets, there are no forbidden foods or required calorie counting.  Learning how to put together foods that stabilize blood sugar and working within an individual’s food preferences are pieces of the foundation.  Implementing behavior change techniques to assist the individual is essential for success. “Simple and sustainable” is not a life of avoiding XYZ food, living by a daily calorie count or a food points number.  It is true there may be times to give attention to specific amounts of macro- or micronutrients, but this typically falls within nutrition periodization strategies to ensure the individual is making progress towards their unique goals.

Not a One-Sized Fits All Approach
When implemented properly and guided by a professional, M.E. should be personalized to the individual and applicable to his/her unique health goals, health history, and athletic goals.  There is more than one way to implement M.E. and many ways to fine-tune it appropriately. For those who claim it doesn’t work, it is likely the implementation strategy was not well-followed, it was not supervised, or individualization was not implemented.

I hope this helps clear up some misconceptions about M.E. If you have questions about M.E., consider contacting me or my colleagues at eNRG Performance. If you have read this and are still curious about M.E., visit



  1. Ok. I have a scientific/medical background and I understand the theoretical science behind this and I don't doubt that for endurance racing it is helpful. However, I have serious concerns about the long term effects on the body. So while many of us enjoy "racing" there are really very very very few of us who race to support a family or lifestyle, etc and most of us race because we enjoy it and as a means to stay healthy. So I think it should be presented as, "there are performance benefits to ME, however the long term effects are not known and it should be approached with caution if it is to be one's diet long term until more longitudinal or epidemiological data is available." Or something along those lines. So please don't be so quick to dismiss the lack of longitudinal or epidemiological data.

  2. I understand we don't have epidemiological studies to show the long-term effects of M.E., but there is far more data to show the long-term 'unhealthy' effects of lack of blood sugar control (systemic inflammation, diabetes, dyslipidemia, etc). This is also why nutrition periodization principles should be incorporated and why individuals should educate themselves as to what is appropriate for them.