Sunday, 1 November 2015

The Healthy Athlete and Fat burning.

This approach is for all athletes from all levels of competition and all sports especially when a high degree of endurance is called for.

As a species I feel we are endurance orientated and most of us have an in built aerobic system built on using oxygen and fats are our primary energy source.
Sprinters are mostly unaerobic and use low oxygen and glucose as a short burst of power. That does not mean to say that they would not benefit from a  sound aerobic base - they would and they would post better race times and be able to run more races in a season due to having a shorter and healthier recovery time and have an over all sense of good health and well being.

Fat burning as a fuel for us humans is much more efficient than burning carbs.
For every gram of fat we get 9 calories, for every gram of carbohydrate we get 4 calories.
From one molecule of the common saturated fat, palmitic acid we get 130 ATP molecules.
From one molecule of glucose we only get 36 molecules of ATP.
It takes  more O2 to oxidase the fats to release ATP so therefore there is great benefit in building up a solid aerobic base into our fitness levels(this applies to all sports).
Fats also take a longer metabolic pathway and thus a longer time, to release their ATP than carbs. So it's wiser to have a slower longer warm up period (15 to 20 mins) to prepare your body to fat burn.

When you take in carbs your insulin levels spike and stop you from burning fat as a fuel,instead it makes fat and deposits it as adipose tissue in the usual areas.( waistline and thighs).

So it makes sense in the athlete to use fat as the main source of fuel to burn during training and race conditions.

The old approach of 'carbing up' will help replenish glycogen stores(stored glucose) but will diminish the athletes ability to fat burn as his body is getting a clear message from the spiked insulin to store fat not burn it.

Yet we need glucose for fat burning to be more efficient and the only fuel supply for the brain is glucose.

So what's the remedy to this conundrum?

As I've said before in my updated blog we need to reduce significantly our carbohydrate intake and completely avoid all refined and processed carbs ( all junk food) and increase our healthy fat, vegetable  and protein intake.(all pesticide free and organic)
This approach allows the body to use fat as an energy source from its stores and dietary intake.As insulin doesn't spike as no starches are present,the the body will be more efficient at utilising dietary and stored fat. Muscle function will improve laying down more lean muscle bulk as fats and proteins work well together both in the digestive system and muscle cells.

So the individual athlete must over come her past indoctrination about carbs as been the best energy source and that 'carbing up' is the solution to her energy needs.

He must also face up to his addiction to sugar and sweet foodstuffs and start to wean himself of sugar rich foods.
(We must, I repeat must come of all junk/processed foods as paramount to well being)

It means a willingness to try something new and a  'trust process' to allow for this change in approach to take effect and a open mind to observe the results.

It also means 'label reading' all and every packet and canned foodstuffs to make sure they are additives,preservatives and sugars free.(glucose,maltodextrose,corn syrup,sucrose to name a few of the disguises sugar comes under)

It also means cooking and preparing food and finding the time to do so.
I always recommend cooking as it can be therapeutic and a rest from the rigours and stress of training and competition.(and the work place).

So what about the good fats?

Only cook with goose or duck fat or lard.They stay stable during the cooking process and do not go rancid or transform(trans fats). Trans fats are the bad boys- big time!!

Do not cook with vegetable oils as they very quickly change to trans fats or go rancid and therefore very toxic for us. It is my opinion that rancid and trans fats and processed carbohydrates are at the root of many of the endemic diseases of the 21st century.

Eliminate these from our diet and we will go along way to be a far healthier species.

It goes without saying that the athlete who wants to perform at his highest level and recover as speedily as possible must eliminate all trans/rancid fats and processed carbohydrates from her diet.

Raw vegetable fats are very healthy for us.
Coconut oil
Olive oil
Sesame oil
Flax oil
Pumpkin oil
Hemp oil
Pumpkin oil

Nuts and seeds raw(just out of their shells) and put through a blender are an excellent source of healthy oils and protein.

Organic eggs are a super food but cook them soft boiled and poached.(cooking in air oxides the healthy fats) They contain lipases(fat reducing enzymes) alongside good fats and proteins. They also contain Vit K2 that helps make osteocalcin that takes calcium from blood and atherosclerotic plaques and drops it into our bones, teeth and nails.

There is a method to eating that maximises the goodness we get from our foods and that is the Hay diet or food combining diet. Simply put,you separate proteins from starches at any given meal, with most vegetables going with well with either proteins or starches.This is a ' must' on so many fronts for good health.The benefits are potent and long lasting and quite easy to implement.

In other words proteins and fats are digested in one system and starches in another system. A bit like putting petrol into your petrol engine and diesel into your diesel engine. You wouldn't put petrol into you diesel engine? So we must learn not to put proteins into our starch digestive system and vice versa.(see food combining blog).

Healthy Starches.

Whole grain organic brown rice
Sweet potatoes

Unhealthy Starches.(all cause an insulin spike)

Refined sugars of all kinds
fizzy drinks of all kinds
Sports drinks of all kinds

Training on your maximum heart rate(beats per minute-bpm) to burn fat.

For all athletes from all levels and background a change from using glucose as the primary energy source to utilising dietary and body fat as an energy source comes with a change in how you train.

How you train will change your metabolism from excessive glucose intake which causes the insulin 'spike' to fat burning as its primary source of energy production i.e. beta oxidation of fats in the mitochondria so they enter the Krebs cycle as Acetyl CoA

This requires the use of a pulse monitor, to measure keeping you, too your designated maximum aerobic pulse rate over a set distance and observing the change in time.

Initially this means you will train slower to get faster- slow is the new fast. There will be noticeable results in around 2 weeks and by the 4th week you will be in the grove of - slow is the new fast. You will have a feeling of well being and generally have more energy as you body adapts to the dietary change and the new approach of training on the pulse(beats per minute).

 You  will notice that you speed up and you will have to put more effort into maintaining your maximum aerobic pulse rate.
In other words, at the same pulse rate you will take a shorter time to cover the same training distance.

Finding your maximin aerobic rate- beats per minute.

This is the 180 formula developed by a colleague of mine Dr Phil Maffetone-the MAF formula.

The MAF formula.

Take 180 minus your age is your maximum aerobic rate. When training you don't go above this level and you seek to maintain this level for the duration of you training,meaning you don't go under this level.

So a 35 y.o. runner's  maximium heart rate according to the MAF formula would be

180 minus 35 =145 beats per minute. So he would warm up for 15 to 20 minutes till his heart rate was 145 bpm and maintain that for 30 mins with a cool down for 10 minutes.

One of the key features in the MAF formula is that you slowly warm up, this is very important as it reduces the anaerobic, hormonal, heart, circulation stress and gently brings in fat burning as a fuel while not exhausting glycogen stores, thus keeping them for that last anaerobic energy burst to the winning line-the 'kick'.

A 15 to 20 minute warm up at a slow gentle pace to reach your max aerobic pulse rate maintaining this for 30 minutes then a warm down for 10 minutes. As you improve and your body adapts to the new changes you will want to stay at you're  max aerobic level for much longer.

The warm down is also important so as not to stress the body any further.

I would also say that if you are a regular athlete/sports person at whatever level then you could  use the formula as-
180 minus your age plus 5.

For example if you regularly exercised for a number of years and are not overstressed from your training schedule then you could add on an extra 5 beats per min. to your MAF formula.  e.g. a 35 y.o. female triathlete MAF pulse per min would be
              180 minus 35 =145 +5 =150
so her 15 to 20 minute warm up would take her up to 150 beats per minute.She would stay at this level for a minimum of 45minutes then take 10 minutes to warm down.
Depending on the athletes ability and sport this max heart rate level could be maintained for longer e.g. 60/90/120 minutes.

I would also add that if you have not done any exercise for a number of years and your ‘getting on ‘ a bit then you would subtract 5.

For example if John at 55 had not played any sport since college I would put his MAF formula as  180 minus 55 =125 minus 5 = 120.
So John would start with a 20 minute warm up till he reached 120 bpm then keep that rate for 30 minutes with a 10 minute warm down. He could be jogging/cycling/swimming.

I offer a service which would taylor make your MAF to best suit your individual level of fitness and goals.This would also include a full AK evaluation of your nutritional/dietary needs and treatment of any injuries to enhance your performance and sense of well being.


You may have seen that most of the top level dance companies/football clubs/rugby clubs have ice baths to help reduce inflammation in the musculoskeletal system.
They are invaluable tool to aid recovery but what they don’t realise is that they aid fat burning.
We all have a small amount of ' brown fat' situated at the under arms(axilla) and at the  back of the neck. The purpose of brown fat is help metabolise our fat stores to burn as calories. This is stimulated by cold/plunge baths or just shower these areas with cold water after your workout.

Here is a recently published article on fat burning

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