“A boutique running holiday” – that’s how the Wildrun team describes the trail running event along the Wild Coast, and beforehand I thought that was probably over exaggerated a bit... It appears I was wrong! It’s been an incredible experience, beyond my expectations. To learn about how to prepare for such an endurance event as much so as the actual run itself.

lisa-omniblend

 

Lisa is OmniBlend’s Sales & Marketing manager, and avid runner. In this series she’s sharing what she learned about training for an endurance event, specifically in terms of nutrition.

 

The Wild Coast Wildrun is one of South Africa’s most sought-after trail runs along the rugged coastline of the Eastern Cape, and appears on many trail runner’s bucket list. As the Wildrun approached, I got a little bit more anxious about what to expect, and how my body would hold out. In preparation of the event, I explored how to optimally train to be able to comfortably run the distance, and remain injury-free. Would it be enough?

The 3-day trail run covers 112km, and as such being able to burn fat for fuel is beneficial. I trained my metabolic efficiency with guidance of Adrian Penzhorn, registered dietitian and sports nutrition coach. Based on Adrian’s recommendations, I’ve been paying specific attention to my protein intake. Following the results of the Fat Max Test, to further improve my metabolic efficiency, I also incorporated both long slow runs, and intervals in my training programme. So at least theoretically I was well prepared! 

Coastal paradise

We arrived in Kei Mouth on the 30thof August, and received a warm welcome from the WildRun crew. It appears to be an event that is so appealing to runners that they come back for it a 2nd, 3rd, and even a 6th time! The atmosphere was relaxed, with a great sense of comradery among the runners. It was very useful to hear about the experiences from previous years, and exchange the last tips & tricks regarding the river crossings and what (not) to pack.

The Wildrun is an experience, not a race. That’s how we approached it too, having put the training effort in to make it an enjoyable experience rather than a gruesome one! Running on trail for 3 days in a row is no easy feat, and preparation makes a huge difference. It all came together during the event, and as we crossed the river with the ferry on the first day, there was nothing left than to just run, take in the scenery, and enjoy the experience!

wild-run-mark-sampson

Picture credit: Mark Sampson

And what an experience it was! The Wild Coast is breathtaking. Wide pristine clean beaches, Nguni cattle grazing on the hills and chilling on the beach, and the trail meandering on and off the hard beach sand onto the cattle trails. Traversing some rock formations, and climbing some increasingly steep hills that offered the most amazing views. Dolphins swam alongside us for kilometers on day 3, adding to the magic of the run.

aloes-wild-coast

Every day I ran comfortably, at what felt like a leisurely pace. For nutrition I used Tailwind dissolved in water, which worked great offering plenty of energy and electrolytes to keep me fueled and hydrated. My heartrate during the runs was quite low, meaning I was able to burn mostly fat for fuel and I consumed less than the recommended caloric intake for a run of so many hours, and felt fine. The control points half way the run each day offered some orange, biltong, salted peanuts and other nibbles  too, which was a nice snack. For recovery, I took a Tailwind recovery protein shake within 30 minutes after finishing each day.

wild-coast-wild-run

Picture credit: Mark Sampson

Being able to finish in the top 25% every day, and feel comfortable to be able to enjoy the run and take in the scenery was first prize for me. I participated to celebrate good health, and to enjoy one of the most beautiful places of South Africa in a unique setting. Overcoming the fear of running long distance again, learning about training methods and nutrition, and finding so much joy in running the event made it a fantastic experience. On top of it I finished 3rdLady overall, which made it even more memorable.

Journey

Reflecting on the Wildrun, I realized however that participating in such an event is not a stand-alone activity. What entering this type of events brings is a journey of exploring, learning, discovering new places and meeting new people. Defining your own goals, learning about how to achieve these, and then working your way towards achieving it adds an extra dimension to the run. This ‘work’ comprised of many fantastic training runs exploring new routes, being more conscious about my nutrition, and reaching out to people to learn. This is what made the entire experience so incredibly valuable over and beyond the 3-day event, and continues to be so enriching.

For anyone still reading, and interested in which factors apart from nutrition & training may have played a role, I’m sharing a few other factors that I think were beneficial to me.

Feet

I haven’t gone very technical on my gear, as this run isn’t a technical trail run. In fact, I ran day 1 on my road running shoes, to go easy on my feet and not wearing the same pair of shoes over 3 days (the road running shoes being a bit softer). I stuck to the same brand for both my road running and trail running shoes, as the brand just fits my foot (go by what suits your feet and don't worry too much about the brand). I took the advise to not take my shoes off before or after a river crossing, and wear a double pair of socks to protect my feet against fine sand. Usually running on thin running socks, the double pair of these thin socks did the trick and prevented blisters.

Walking

Aside from the training runs, I’ve been walking a LOT. Outside the border collies loved the longer walks, excited to go out without fail, even on the rainiest of days! At home and at our office I was clocking about 3 hours a day on the treadmill desk, walking while working. Working on a treadmill desk helps to be more active during the day and spend time on your feet, to build stronger leg muscles, and even to develop your core.

Strength & flexibility

I’ve also done strength exercises: squads, lunges, various abs exercises, push-ups, etc. A friend introduced me to Hot Pod Yoga, which was the encouragement I needed to do more for my flexibility, and learn about movements to support flexibility. I was a bit nervous about the hot pod at first: what about the risk to overstretch in the warm environment and cause injuries? The classes were great though, with very good instructors, and small groups. It made a big difference to me in developing both strength, and flexibility.

Learning

Science of Ultra was my favourite podcast to listen to and learn more about ultra distance training (and by all means; listening to these stories makes running 112km over 3 days seem like child’s play!). It was useful to hear about experiences, and techniques, and finding a new ‘normal’. One of first shows that I listed to already shared an important lesson: when training for or running an event, remember why you do it in the first place. That reason should keep you on track during training, and during the event when it does get tough.

I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to participate, and the enriching experience it turned out to be. Special thanks to Adrian Penzhorn of Food for Sport for the insights into the right nutrition, which really has been an eye opener.

And if you're now keen to participate in a trail run trough Africa's most beautiful places too, check the other events on the Wildrun calendar.

Previous posts:

What I didn't know about training for an endurance event

The role of nutrition in endurance sports

The Fat Max Test and relevance of keeping a food diary

5 best sources of protein and why they are important for everyone

How to build the perfect protein breakfast smoothie 

Protein is a key nutrient as part of overall health and wellbeing as many body functions on a cell level rely on the availability of amino acids. Some of these the body can produce itself, and for others it relies on food. A balanced meal contains sufficient protein providing these essential amino acids. Protein also enhances a meal’s substance (making you feel full), reducing the craving for carbs. By balancing the ratio of protein and carbs, the body is supported in developing the previously discussed metabolic efficiency (being able to burn fat for fuel). So how to start the day with sufficient protein? 

lisa-omniblend

 

Lisa is OmniBlend’s Sales & Marketing manager, and avid runner. In this series she’s sharing what she learned about training for an endurance event, specifically in terms of nutrition.

 

Starting the day with sufficient protein helps to prevent cravings later in the day. Protein also supports maintaining and building muscle, and other important body functions. All the more important to start the day well with a good breakfast, aiming to incorporate a minimum of 20 grams of protein. Typical breakfast options from the list of good protein sources include:

  • 1 egg – 6 grams
  • 1 bacon strip – 3 grams
  • 100 ml plain yoghurt – 5 grams
  • 1 cup cooked oats – 6 grams

A little less obvious for breakfast, although also great sources of protein:

  • 1 cup broccoli – 5 grams
  • ½ cup green peas - 4.2 grams
  • 1 cup soy milk – 7.5 grams
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter – 8 grams
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds – 3.3 grams

I found that as part of my training programme it was a lot easier to blend a nutritious and tasty smoothie, than to pile up proteins on a plate. Also, I guess I’m not alone when I say I can’t really stomach the idea of steamed peas and broccoli for breakfast, but in a smoothie they work great! Smoothies make it a lot easier to add variety to breakfast, which goes back to the point that as part of health it’s also important to consider the package in which the protein is served. So using different ingredients helps to add essential vitamins and minerals to your breakfast.

The model that The Performance Kitchen developed works well to blend your own recipes, as it explains step by step how to build the perfect smoothie.

 how-to-build-perfect-smoothie

 

Typical smoothies for me were:

The Hulk

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup frozen green peas
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 1 tbsp chia
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

 Summer Sweetness

  • 200ml yoghurt
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • ¾ cup frozen broccoli
  • ½ cup frozen cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp chia
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp honey

Some water for the right consistency (making it either a smoothie bowl, or smoothie)

The nutrients in both smoothies make it a meal, not a snack, with a 2:1 carb/protein ratio, so suited for the heavier training days.

By adding broccoli and cauliflower to the Summer Sweetness smoothie, about 6 grams of protein was added, and the green peas in The Hulk added 4.2 grams. Protein powders make it easier to add more protein, and work great in smoothies as you can pick your flavour to taste. Blend a chocolate, berry or coffee smoothie or pick a more neutral version that goes into any smoothie (find more smoothie recipes here). These are some protein powders that offer different benefits:

 

Wazoogles Superfood Protein Blend 

The Wazoogles range of protein blends is available in different flavours, making it easier to create variety for breakfast. Most importantly the Superfood Protein Blend  packs a whole lot more nutrients into a serving than just (plantbased) protein. Magnesium for example, which is important for the functioning of the mitochondria (that play a key role in improving your fat burning metabolism). The blends are free from refined sugars, preservatives, colourants, flavourants or additives and the flavours are built up by natural flavours of nutrient-dense plants. Each serving adds 12 grams of protein, making it a great booster for your breakfast smoothie.

 

Farmer Angus Hydrolysed Collagen

A specific protein that delivers 8 of the 9 essential amino acids. Collagen is referred to as the protein that improves skin elasticity, and reduces wrinkles. It’s also indicated that it can support reducing joint pain. Both joints and skin (long hours under the South African sun) need support as part of endurance training, and this particular product is 100% clean. Farmer Angus is known for his regenerative farming methods, and stocks this very pure product imported from Brazil. It contains 17kJ per gram, no sugar or carbs, and delivers 92% protein per serving.

 

FRY’S KASHA

This product is specifically designed to blend into your smoothies, and adds 7.9 grams of vegan protein to your breakfast. It’s available in 2 classic flavours, Vanilla & Chia, and Cacao and creates a creamy texture. Containing oats, soy, buckwheat and chia it’s a good source of energy, making it easy for use in a post workout smoothie too. Simply add some spinach, fruit, and nuts. Fry’s has developed a fantastic recipe book to create a different KASHA breakfast every morning.

Play around with the different wholefoods and protein powders that work for you, using the steps as a guide to create a balanced smoothie that powers your day. Smoothies can also be included as part of the meal plans offered by The Performance Kitchen.

Next post:

The Wildrun - an experience beyond a 3-day Wild Coast adventure

Previous posts:

What I didn't know about training for an endurance event

The role of nutrition in endurance sports

The Fat Max Test and relevance of keeping a food diary

5 best sources of protein and why they are important for everyone

 

To be able to participate in an endurance event, the first thing that comes to mind is a training programme to prepare the body for the physical performance. Nutrition it appears, is least as important as this cardio and muscular training aspect. A nutritional plan plays a key role in developing and maintaining metabolic efficiency: being able to burn fat for longer. After discussing how the metabolic efficiency can be developed, we’re looking at protein as it plays such a key role in performance. 

lisa-omniblend

 

Lisa is OmniBlend’s Sales & Marketing manager, and avid runner. In this series she’s sharing what she learned about training for an endurance event, specifically in terms of nutrition.

 

To see where I could improve my running efficiency, I first had to establish my baseline. My Fat Max test revealed that I’m on the right track: I’m able to burn a relative high ratio of fat versus carbohydrates up to relatively high intensities. It basically means that my crossover point lies at a relatively high intensity, where consumption of carbs for fuel (vs fat) to dominate. My food log however revealed that I was not consuming sufficient protein.

As women, I think we view protein mostly as essential for guys, or for women heavily into fitness and body building. That appears to be a misconception. Registered dietician Adrian Penzhorn reviewed my food log and pointed out that as part of my training program I should be consuming 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. The bare minimum intake for a sedentary woman is 0.8 gper kg of body weight.  So an inactive woman weighing 65kg would have to consume 52 grams of protein per day, and an active woman with the same weight requires 104 grams.

I’ve become a so-called flexitarian a few years ago, when I decided to cut out meat a few days a week, and only consume free-range meat. I’ve been oblivious about what that meant in terms of my protein intake. Probably also because I’ve never fully grasped the importance of protein as part of all body functions, not only the muscles. Protein is one of the so called ‘macronutrients’ along with carbohydrates and fat. Aside from building muscle, different types of proteins play a key role in the body’s:

  • Digestive system
  • Immune system
  • Cell regulation
  • Muscle contractions
  • Body structure (connective tissues)
  • Hormone production
  • Oxygen transportation

Once you delve into these levels of understanding your body’s functioning you truly appreciate the intrinsic complexities! It made it clear to me that protein is so important not just for building muscle, but for overall well-being and long-term health. We usually talk about vitamins and minerals for maintaining good health, and it was an eye-opener for me to consider protein too. For this health aspect, it’s believed that it’s not just the quantity, but the package in which proteins are delivered to the body that is important. Some foods are good sources of protein, however are high in sodium too, or they’re a good source of protein, but very high in fat. On the extreme side of the spectrum, a high protein powder or supplement shake may miss out on other important micronutrients. So it’s worthwhile understanding which wholefoods are good sources of protein, not just for performance, but for overall health too.

With my activity levels being high, Adrian recommends me to consume about 100 grams of protein a day, spread over the 3 main meals: “It’s beneficial to add equal amounts of protein to breakfast, lunch and dinner versus leaning on dinner mostly. You want to give each meal enough substance as it makes sure you feel full for longer, and prevents that you start snacking in between. It also helps to maintain and build muscle.”

Adrian’s take on healthy nutrition is everything in moderation, and mostly plants to avoid high rates of saturated fat. The body can create 11 amino acids itself, and  needs to get the other 9 from food. Protein from animal food sources are complete proteins (meaning that they contain all of the 9 amino acids that the body cant produce itself). Only some plant proteins are complete (like buckwheat, soy, and quinoa), however eating a variety of plant-based proteins delivers all different amino acids that the body uses to create the complete package it needs. Aside from protein, plants also add fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential in a diet.

Adrian recommends the following top 5 for protein:

  1. Dairy
  2. Lean meat and fish (chicken, salmon, tuna)
  3. Egg
  4. Beans and legumes (Edamame beans, lentils, chickpeas, broccoli, spinach)
  5. Nuts and seeds (chia, hemp seeds, almonds, peanuts)

For the meal plans that Adrian develops for The Performance Kitchen, it’s these sources of protein (depending on dietary preferences) that are combined with sources of carbohydrates in the right ratio for the stage of the training plan and personal goals (with the aim to improve metabolic efficiency for health & performance). The Performance Kitchen really offers the perfect and convenient ready-made meal package for athletes:

  • freshly cooked using quality ingredients
  • customised for your training programme and dietary requirements
  • lunch and/or dinner Monday to Friday
  • optional breakfast & snacks
  • delivery to your home/work address 3x a week
  • using durable & reusable containers to avoid plastic waste
  • nifty app to track & monitor intake and progress, with meal menu
  • additional coaching & nutrition planning and monitoring via the app

Breakfast can be a tricky meal to add sufficient protein. A poached egg served with smoked salmon and spinach is sadly not on my menu every day, and even though a bowl of yoghurt, granola and fruit is nutritious, it still adds only about 12 grams of protein. I took Adrian’s advice on optimising my breakfast smoothies, creating balanced and filling smoothies, as post- or pre-workout meal, typically aiming for a minimum 20 grams of protein per meal.

 Next: How to build the perfect protein breakfast smoothie

Previous posts:

What I didn't know about training for an endurance event

The role of nutrition in endurance sports

The Fat Max Test and relevance of keeping a food diary

 

Science around how to best prepare for an endurance even is evolving, and increasingly highlighting the importance of the right nutrition. Nutrition plays a key role in developing the body’s fat burning metabolism (discussed in the previous post) in support of running efficiency. What gets measured, improves, so first step is to assess the current crossover point, and assessing diet through keeping a food journal. In this article we delve into establishing this baseline. 

lisa-omniblend


Lisa is OmniBlend’s Sales & Marketing manager, and avid runner. In this series she’s sharing what she learned about training for an endurance event, specifically in terms of nutrition.


In preparation for my first endurance event in a long time, the Wild Coast 3-day trail run, I’m looking into how I should train and how I should plan my nutrition to be best prepared for the long hours on my legs. As it appears this type of long-distance events make the ability of using fat for fuel more important, my aim is to become a better runner on fat (read about why burning fat for fuel is important in the previous post). Following my meeting with Adrian Penzhorn, registered dietician and sports nutrition coach, the first step is to determine my baseline. This is done through a Fat Max Test, to establish where I can improve and which changes I should make in my training as well as my diet in order to maximise my running efficiency. Secondly, a food journal should give insights into current diet.

Keeping a food diary to reveal any patterns in your nutrition that aren’t necessarily good for your health or performance can be incredibly useful to make changes to your diet. I’d never done it though, and I realise now how valuable the exercise actually is. It’s a little bit intimidating to show someone what you eat throughout the day, however it’s like with any profession: a dietician has seen it all so don’t feel put off by that thought. I kept a food diary using the Food For Sport template so that Adrian Penzhorn, as a sports nutrition coach, would be able to give me recommendations on my diet to make it more conducive to my training programme.

Adrian also introduced me to David Leith, Sports Performance Biokineticis at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, to assess my current fat burning capacity. The test lasts one hour, and starts with a basic body composition assessment measuring weight, length, and body fat percentage. Then the real work begins, and I have to wear a heart rate strap and a face mask that is linked to gas analysis equipment, which allows David to assess my breath-by-breath oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production and heart rate. The test starts out slowly, running 6km/h for 3 minutes, and increasing the speed by 1km/hr every 3 minutes until my ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide reached the point where only carbohydrate is theoretically being metabolised.

What follows is a test report that brings the theory of metabolic efficiency as explained to me by Adrian to life with graphs of my fat and carb oxidation, at different intensity levels.

 fat-carb-oxidation-intensity-levels

The aim of this test was to establish at what intensity my fat oxidation is highest and for how long fat remained the primary fuel source. This is important information as this would indicate my crossover point that Adrian had explained to me.

Although the differences in athletes can be large, even between athletes with similar abilities, on average maximal fat oxidation rates in athletes have been found to be approximately 0.59g/min, at a relative intensity of 49% of VO2max. When athletes are more experienced, or better trained, better results can be achieved, and athletes with a well-developed aerobic system will achieve even higher maximal fat oxidation rates, up to 1.3-1.5g/min. This the result of both diet and training.

My test results showed that with 0.73 g/min I’m above the average athlete in terms of my maximal fat oxidation, with still some room for improvement to get to that top level of performance. To further improve my fat burning capacity, David Leith suggests to incorporate long slow runs into my training plan at a ceiling speed of 10km/hr, and ceiling heart rate of 134 bpm (based on the test results at this heart rate I’m still predominantly using fat). This type of training tied into what I learned about how to create more and better mitochondria to improve metabolic flexibility.

The good news is that my Fat Max occurred at 55% of my maximal oxygen consumption reached during the test, and it remained high up until 83% of my VO2peak and 88% of my peak heart rate recorded. That was good news for me, as it’s another indicator that my body is able to burn a relatively high ratio of fat at high relative intensities. This is an advantage, as it indicates that I should be able to derive a significant portion of my energy required from my body's fat stores, reducing my reliance on fuel intake during long runs. To further shift this level, David also recommends to incorporate training sessions during which limited glycogen is available, through fasted sessions, basically long runs without taking gels, sports drinks, etc, and by not consuming carbs immediately after a long run.

Even though the test results weren’t bad, I was keen to get insights from Adrian to get his view on the report, especially in light of the food log that he analysed. As mentioned before I only started realising now how valuable a food journal can be. You get so used to your ‘normal’ diet, that you easily overlook where in terms of macro nutrients you may miss the boat. Adrian’s focus was on these macro nutrients: carbs, protein and fat. Key in his observations to me were that my overall intake was a little too low, and where is was on par I wasn’t necessarily consuming enough carbs to meet my energy needs. At the same time, my protein intake also appeared on the low side.

I’ve become a more conscious meat eater, or call it flexitarian, a few years ago and haven’t been paying much attention as to what the impact of this change in lifestyle would be on my protein intake. As protein is often being associated with building muscle, and weight lifting, it wasn’t so important to me, right?

I couldn’t be further from the truth, making this nutritional analysis so much more valuable. Adrian explained that for a sedentary woman 0.8g of protein per kg body weight is the recommended daily allowance (RDA), and for an active woman, as part a training plan I should be aiming for 1.6g per kg. It’s been interesting to do the math, and look at protein intake throughout the day to make sure my intake meets the daily requirements to ensure good recovery after my training runs. Meat easily adds sufficient protein, but when I have my veggie stir-fry for lunch, what’s my protein intake? And my green smoothie packed with spinach, banana, apple, some soy milk, a few nuts: does it provide sufficient fuel?

Next: 5 best sources of protein and why they are important for everyone 

Previous posts:

What I didn't know about training for an endurance event

The role of nutrition in endurance sports

South Africa is proud host of some of the world’s most renowned ultra-distance and stage races: Comrades, Two Oceans Marathon, Sani2Sea, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, Cape Epic, and the Wild Run multi-day trail running events altogether draw around hundred thousand athletes from all over South Africa and overseas to participate in often unique settings. What does it take in terms of training, and particularly with respect to nutrition to prepare optimally for such endurance events? 

lisa-omniblend

 

Lisa is OmniBlend’s Sales & Marketing manager, and avid runner. In this series she’s sharing what she learned about training for an endurance event, specifically in terms of nutrition.

 

Trail runners flock to races held in Africa's most rural areas. One event on the Wild Run calendar is the Wild Coast Wild Run, and this is such a race that offers a unique course. Along the pristine coastline of the Eastern Cape, it allows trail runners to get onto the cattle tracks entering the grasslands of the Nguni cattle. You're crossing rugged cliffs, and running alongside the beaches of the Indian Ocean. It takes runners into rural South Africa, passing just a few rondavels, running from hotel to hotel with incredible views over the ocean.

wild-run-wildcoast

No wonder when I heard about that race, I wanted to be part of it (read more about my history with running here), so I entered the 11thedition of the Wild Coast Wild Run, taking place 1-3 September 2019. After signing up for the Wild Run, and realising that this type of endurance stage race requires you to train your metabolism, I met with Adrian Penzhorn, qualified sports scientist with a Medical Honours degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Cape Town.

Adrian is a registered dietician specialized in sports dietetics, and through his work at The Performance Kitchen as a sports nutrition coach developing meal plans for athletes that are customised for their training plans, he’s got a wealth of knowledge and experience. The perfect guy to explain the concept of running efficiency in a bit more detail!

As a sports nutrition coach Adrian is used to explaining the concept: “To understand how your body fuels you during your run, you firstly need to understand the difference between your aerobic and anaerobic zones. When you’re running a comfortable easy pace, and you’re able to talk with your running buddy, you’re in your aerobiczone: for most people, the body is usingprimarily fat for energy, and there’s sufficient oxygen in your blood that is used by the muscles to process that energy on a cell level. Your body wants to use fat to spare glucose and glycogen, but it takes time. When you’re running a bit faster, and feel like you’re getting slightly out of breath, you’re moving into your anaerobiczone. This is where the muscles have too little oxygen to be able to keep up with the energy needs (it needs to create energy quicker), and need to shift from the most efficient fuel source (fat) to using glycogen (sugar) for fuel.”

Adrian adds on: “The key to this is that aerobic metabolism of fat is a slower process, your body wants to use it and spare glucose and glycogen but it takes time – so when the demand for energy and rate it is required is low you can use fat. At higher intensities the demand for energy is higher, you need to create it quicker and carbs are the chosen fuel for this.”

Adrian is taking a breath as he notices my desire to connect the dots about what I’ve heard Dr Bob Seebohar talking about in the Run to the Top podcast. He explains: “You notice that the ratio of fat versus carbohydrate burning changes constantly with increasing (or decreasing) intensity, and this is the crossover concept that Dr Bob Seebohar is referring to. The crossover point is where we move from predominantly fat to predominantly carbohydrate metabolism. Seebohar talks about the Metabolic Efficiency as the body’s ability to optimally use fat (vs carbs) as burning fat doesn’t have the waste products that develop on a cell level in the anaerobic zone, and more important: the body is able to store much more fat than carbs, or glycogen.”

Now that’s interesting: the body is able to store about 1600 calories in glycogen (carbs), and a relatively unlimited supply of calories from fat. For endurance events, when you need fuel for a good couple of hours, you want to make sure you’re using your fat reserves as much as possible as the supply is basically endless (even for the leanest of runners).

Adrian continues to explain how nutrition supports to improve your body’s ability to use fat as the main fuel source: “It’s actually quite simple, but still often overlooked, that to make sure your body shifts the ratio of fat vs carbohydrate burning, you’ll want to make sure that your food intake is also shifting that ratio. You’ll want to restrict your carbs intake to prevent your body from having immediate access to glycogen and glucose. When you do this, your body needs to turn to fat for fuel.”

He looks at his hands to explain the concept using Seebohars ‘Hand Model’: “Seebohar’s Metabolic Efficiency Training is aimed at managing your blood sugar level. When you’re consuming predominantly carbs, they are readily available either as simple sugars from the meal you’ve just eaten or the glycogen you have stored in your muscle and liver. You want to train your body to start using fat for fuel, and you do this by changing the carbohydrate to protein ratio. The aim is to consume carbohydrates and protein in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio, depending on your energy needs as part of your training intensity. To keep things simple, when you want to determine the right ratio for your meal, you want to use 1 palm for protein, and the other palm for carbohydrates.”

The analytical brain in me wants to understand the why and how of this concept, so I ask Adrian to explain further: “With a lower carbohydrate intake your body is less reliant on using them as a fuel source. On a cellular level, the mitochondria (the energy producers in your cells) are starting to use fat as fuel turning this into energy. This is an adaptation on cell level that is required to become more energy efficient in the long run. Once your body, or actually the mitochondria have adapted to burn fat they will be more efficient at continuing to do so at rest and lower exercise intensities.

The beauty of this adaptation process, for overall health and well-being, is that once you’re able to effectively burn fat, you’re likely able to use both fuels, fat and carbs. It’s called ‘metabolic flexibility’, and it basically means that your body is able to burn carbs when you’re eating carbs or need carbs for high-intensity exercise to perform. Then you’re able to move back to fat for fuel when you’re eating fat, not eating at all or don’t have a high energy need. This type of flexibility ensures that you can effectively use a wider variety of nutrients, and tap into either fat or carbs to fuel different activities. Your body doesn’t rely on a constant supply of food and snacks as it can burn fat in between meals to keep your energy levels up. It’s also able to manage blood sugar levels (as your insulin sensitivity is better) so you don’t crash an hour after lunch as it can effectively metabolise carbs too.

Adrian adds that for exercise performance you don't want to completely remove carbs from your diet: "Through a removal of carbs as a substrate all the enzymes and processes involved in absorbing and metabolising them are blunted such that when you return to consuming them the processes for handling and fueling are worse off and high intensity exercise will suffer. A nice way of explaining this that I have come across is losing the 4th and 5th gear of your your car."

As long as you stick to mostly wholefoods your body is able to effectively use the nutrients for fuel. Your carb intake should be tailored to your activity levels, so eat more carbs when you’re exercising hard (2:1), and go easy when you’re not. The mitochondria play a key role in this process, and that’s why it’s so important that they function well. Aside from the fat-adaptation mentioned before, exercise is key to create and improve mitochondrial function. Long slow runs and interval training are both excellent to support the body to create new (and better) mitochondria.

Now understanding the theory behind metabolic efficiency, I want to get started. First thing is to establish my current fat oxidation level, which can be determined by taking a Fat Max test at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. At the same time Adrian asks me to keep a food diary for a week, recording all my meals & snacks for him to get a view of my current nutrition, and give recommendations on where improvements can be made.

 

Next: The Fat Max test and relevance of keeping a food diary

Previous: What I didn't know about training for an endurance event

 

 

Runners looking for inspiration will know the motivational quote: “No matter how slow you go, you’ll always beat the one sitting on the couch”. It’s inspiring in itself to keep going, and it may even hold more truth, being able to beat the faster guys on the long runs.

lisa-omniblend

 

Lisa is OmniBlend’s Sales & Marketing manager, and avid runner. In this series she’s sharing what she learned about training for an endurance event, specifically in terms of nutrition.

 

Running has been a passion of mine since my early twenties. I started out as a jogger, merely running to manage my weight and build some sort of fitness level. I enjoyed running to clear my head and generally felt good after each run (hello endorphins!).

After moving to Cape Town, I joined the West Coast Athletics Club in 2006. Still considering myself a novice runner, having done not much more than a 10km run up to then, enthusiastic club members soon got me into entering my first half marathon: the Peninsula Marathon 21km, which I completed in 2007.

Any runner will be able to relate to the sense of achievement that you experience after completing your first longer distance race, and for me it was mostly the comradery with fellow runners that stuck. Not only between club members, but also fellow runners from other clubs. Soon when you’re participating regularly in races you’ll also get to ‘know’ the runners who run more or less the same pace as you find yourself running more or less alongside each other during races.

In 2008 I entered the Peninsula Marathon, with the aim to get a qualifier to enter the Two Oceans ultra marathon which soon (again inspired by fellow runners) arrived on my bucket list. I put a lot of training in, however quite straight forward: just running running running, without any consideration of training techniques and training smarter.

My go-to fuel during these races were the GU gels, and jelly babies. Not that I suffered. It may have been that my age was right, that my nutrition was generally quite good, or whichever circumstance it was that unconsciously worked for me. I finished my first marathon in 4h12 and subsequently finished the Two Oceans 56km in 5h37. Anyone with some running experience will recognize those finishing times immediately as a steady 10km/h or 6min/k run. And that’s been me for most of my running career: just running 6min/k, feeling comfortable, just enjoying the run without lazing around too much.

In 2009 I finished another Peninsula Marathon and Two Oceans marathon, and then I called it quits for the long distances. Training for such events take up a lot of time, and I decided I still wanted to do the 10 and 15km events, with the occasional half marathon, but skip on the serious distances.

Until the idea of participating in the Wildrun arrived…: it’s new year 2019, my 40th birthday is around the corner and I’m asking myself questions about what I really want to do, what I enjoy most, and want to do now, while in good health. For years I’ve been pondering over the beautiful hikes that one can do along the Wild Coast, and for all sorts of reasons I haven’t taken action to get organized and do it. Then I realised the Wildrun may offer the perfect package: join a group of like-minded people, to run (which seemed more time-efficient than to hike) along some of the most breathtaking coastlines that South Africa has to offer, while being fully catered for. Cause even though I can rough it on occasion (camping in the wild on an overnight hike makes such 2-day hikes even more memorable), on this type of stage races I prefer to sleep in a comfortable bed, with my own facilities.

So, I entered and suddenly long-distance running was on the cards again. I found myself having to tune in to conversations about endurance training. Ten years on from my last long-distance event, knowledge around how to train optimally for endurance had also evolved. I joined a talk about the importance of training differently, applying different techniques to become more efficient. Running slower, to become faster. Over the years the Discovery Vitality incentives had pushed me to make sure I’d at least run 30+ minutes at a pace that would result in an average 80%+ heart rate to get my Active Rewards points. And now I had to make the switch to long and slow …?

As I researched the topic more, I realized that low heartrate training is indeed great for training your fat burning metabolism. That however is not the full story: least as important is your nutrition. Even more so: according to Dr Bob Seebohar, Sports Dietician and developer of the concept Metabolic Efficiency Training, the right nutrition accounts for 75% of optimal preparation, where your training programme amounts to the remaining 25% to improve your metabolism.

That fascinated me, and I wanted to learn more about it. Looking for a local expert on the topic, I found Adrian Penzhorn, who’s qualified sports scientist with a Medical Honours degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Cape Town, registered dietician, and the director of Performance Nutrition at Food for Sport, and founder of The Performance Kitchen. I met with Adrian to understand the concept of metabolic efficiency better, and more importantly: how would I apply it to my nutrition as part of my training for the Wild Run?

The coming weeks I’ll be sharing articles on what I learned from Adrian that is generally applicable to other athletes too. To understand the basic principles, and steps to take to improve your performance. Not only that: the nutritional recommendations as part of the metabolic efficiency (becoming a fat burning machine), have good health benefits for anyone else, whether you’re an athlete or not.

Next post: The role of nutrition in endurance sports