Metabolic Efficiency "Study"

Metabolic Efficiency "Study"

This is a bit of a personal study, but it will be very applicable to endurance athletes, especially the ones doing marathons, half-ironmans or longer distance events. So what is Metabolic Efficiency and what will I be doing?

Metabolic Efficiency
Sports Dietitian Bob Seebohar wrote a book called “Metabolic Efficiency Training.” The subtitle is key – Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat.

I’ve just signed up for Ironman Arizona 2011, and have a long road of training ahead of me. I hear horror stories of GI distress (for the non-athletes reading this – it’s some form of upset gastro-intestinal tract). Yeah, not something you want to deal with during a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. Bob went out to find an answer and so far his evidence shows that it works. Train (key word!) your body to burn more of its natural fat stores as fuel and rely a bit less on your muscle glycogen (carbs) and therefore you need to consume fewer calories and have less chance of something going wrong. So I’m game! (There is another component of metabolic efficiency training, and that is testing to find optimal training intensities, but for now I’ll just do the eating part. I do plan to get tested in 2011 as I start my Ironman training – and don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it!)

What am I doing?
For the next three weeks I am going to be eating based on Bob’s MET “plate.” That is, mostly fruits and veggies balanced with lean proteins and healthy fats. That’s it. No processed food. No whole grains even. I’m going to eat when I’m hungry and not by the clock. I will track my intake for the study, but I’m not counting calories. If I’m hungry, I’ll reach for fruit/veggies/lean protein/healthy fats.  Although Bob recommends this kind of eating to be done in the base phase of training, but now works for me to modify my eating habits and kick-start these changes. I will point out that I’m not dieting. I am working to improve my eating habits to improve my body composition and improve my endurance sport performance.

To add to this study and to measure any potential body changes (three weeks is short, but there is room to see results) I had Kelly Ping, Registered Dietitian at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs Peak Nutrition Clinic do an ISAK skin fold test on me yesterday to get a baseline. This test measures mm of body fat and a few girths (waist, hip, bicep, calf) so changes can be documented. I might not change in just 3 weeks, but it doesn’t hurt to get some measurements! We’ll measure again after the 3 weeks are up.

My training is easy – body weight strength training, some swimming, maybe a little running. Nothing intense at all. This is also a key point. Since I am training less, I have more time to focus on nutrition, and therefore be able to make eating habit changes that I can carry over into my training season.

All my food and exercise will be tracked in TrainingPeaks. I will blog daily on my personal blog, and probably twice a week here. Kelly has provided me with some meal suggestions, and I’ll check out the Metabolic Efficiency Training facebook page to see what others might be eating.

What about the holidays, you ask? Good point. It is the holiday season. Hanukkah starts tomorrow, which means Latkes. There are holiday parties everywhere. I figure if I give myself no more than two “cheat” meals per week, I won’t be doing too much damage to my metabolic efficiency goals. Now by cheat I don’t mean pig out and eat whatever I want, but it might not be an “ideal” meal.

What do I hope to get out of this?
Ideally, I hope to kick-start some body composition changes. I’ve been a bread lover all my life. I think my mom used to call me starch-mouth. I can also be an emotional eater (chocolate, anyone??) And eating those foods (at least for me) has not been conducive to my body composition goals.
My blood sugar should get more stable so I’ll know when I am truly hungry and I will learn to listen to my body’s hunger cues.
I also hope to learn to appreciate new fruits and vegetables and ways of cooking. My mom had another name for me – Picky Nicky (the last of the nicknames you will learn!). I’m glad to say with age my palate has become more refined, but there is still room for improvement.

So let’s enjoy the journey to Metabolic Efficiency!

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Nicole Odell

  • Mamarunsbarefoot
    November 30, 2010

    Im trying very hard to do what you are, haven't eliminated grains yet(my marathon husband would think I'm nuts) I'm looking forward to following you.

  • Sunny
    December 1, 2010

    Elana's pantry has some gluten-free recipes for carrot latke's and squash latkes.

  • Nicole
    December 1, 2010

    It is a bit of a challenge to eliminate grains, especially if you eat them often (like I used to) but slowly eat fewer and you realize you don't miss them as much. But when training gets more intense the whole grains will get back into the diet.

    And thanks Sunny – I'll check out those recipes!

  • Cut La Rock
    December 1, 2010

    Good luck! I started reading that book, but its been a slow burn, as it tends to put me to sleep. Lots of great information, but not exactly an easy read. 🙂

    I've got Vineman on the books for 2011, and I'm trying to incorporate a lot of the same changes. Whole grains are definitely the hardest part, IMO.

    Can't wait to hear how everything goes for you!

  • Kari
    December 1, 2010

    Good luck! Personally, I found that after eating a diet very similar to yours, I didn't crave starches like I used to. I've been reading *a lot* about insulin resistance and how your body processes carbs – very interesting. GOOD LUCK in training for IM AZ. If you're ever in need of cycling partners, shoot me an email. I love cycling in the springs area. 🙂
    I do have to say that I was eating cheese and crackers while reading this and I did feel a bit guilty. Although not so guilty as to stop eating the cheese and crackers! 🙂

  • Nicole
    December 1, 2010

    Scott – full vineman or the 70.3? Cool either way. One of those is on my bucket list of races since I've got family in Sebastopol.

    Kari – thanks and I'll definitely keep you posted about training rides!

  • Cut La Rock
    December 1, 2010

    I'm doing the full…..I'll be doing my first 70.3 at Wildflower, followed up by the full at Vineman! I'm SO excited, but I know I need to get my metabolism in check over the next few months.