Do you want to race your faster Ironman? Then you need to understand ENERGY!

Training, May 09, 2022

Some of you have raced a few Ironman races but could never really nail the race perfectly right? Well it certainly happened to me as I always knew I could have raced faster... Why does that happen to so many people?

Some of you have raced a few Ironman races but could never really nail the race perfectly right? Well it certainly happened to me as I always knew I could have raced faster...

Why does that happen to so many people?

We know we have done the training right, build the strength and the endurance needed to finish the race well but when we get to the run, we feel fatigued, legs heavy and we can not go any faster and we are forced to walk or run very slowly.... Most try to justify this by blaming the pace (too hard on the bike or beginning of the run and blow up) which could be part of it but I know it's not the main problem.

If you understand that the Ironman race is all about energy then it will be easier for you to achieve your goal and get that PR you always wanted!

I was listening to a professional athlete talking (yeah the same that won the Olympics and just recently Ironman World Championships in Utah) and he was saying that he burns 1,000 Kcals/hour during a 8 hour race like the Ironman. We know that, on average, our body can store only 2,000kcals in glycogen (400 in the liver and 1,600 in the muscles) so... 

Where is he going to get the remaining 6,000 kcals he needs??

We also know that it's really hard to consume more than 350kcals/hour during the race but let's say he could do it, that would be ONLY additional  2,450Kcals (only 7 hours because he will be swimming , transition, etc so not eating the first hour) so he still needs to find 3,550 more calories to finish the race!!!

The only way to do it is by utilizing more fat!!!!

Even the very lean athlete still has about 10% body fat so, if you weigh about 170lbs (77kgs), you have 7,7kg of fat on your body which is about 69,300kcals to use!! 

It means you could do maybe 7 Ironman races back to back without eating anything!!!

But..... the problem is that most people do not develop their body well enough to utilize this fat source so the body will rely mostly on glycogen that we just learned is very limited...

There are two ways to make your body efficient using fat and most people make mistakes executing both so they have a body that has a "poor" energy efficiency.

First way - Long aerobic training

The more easy (and long) training you do the more you are training your body to use fat as a source of energy.

Problem #1 - Most of us are NOT professional athletes that can train (and recover) for a lot of hours. We have work, family and other commitments that only allow us (in a healthy way) to do a certain amount of training. And even if we have more time, our body is not as conditioned to handle that volume anyway.

Problem #2 - Athletes keep making the mistake of training the endurance sessions too hard! That is probably the biggest problem I see all the time. Athletes keep pushing their long training into the Grey Zone where they will NOT optimize their endurance as they could if going easier.

Second way - Fasting and/or LCHF diet

If you fast you train your body to use fat and rely less on glycogen. Your body will learn how to use the stored fat more efficiently and even give you energy for more intense work. Doing your training fasted (at least the easy ones) will also help this process and build endurance quicker!

Problem #1 - People do not try fasting using a correct and gradual protocol and do not allow time (only takes 3 weeks to adapt) to get fully adapted so they quit before feeling the benefits!!

 Problem #2 - People think they can fast one day and be a carb eater the next and you are only confusing your body!!! You are either one or another!!!

THE Best way - First + Second way together!!!

If you can do both than you are really helping your body to utilize fat and have endless energy on your Ironman AND will need MUCH LESS calories during the race, minimizing chances of stomach distress (very common in races as well). Then you only need to make sure you stay mostly aerobic on the bike (using more fat) so by the time you get on the run and are fatigued, you have glycogen left to help you maintain the pace and get your PR!!!

What did Kristian Blummenfelt do in his preparation?

If you are curious to know what the Olympic and IM World Champion did to prepare for Ironman here's a summary?

1. Keep working on his aerobic ceiling (Vo2) so he can have a higher aerobic pace (IM effort) . When you improve your Vo2 Speed / Effort all other efforts will go up with it.

2. Volume at a very low effort (most of his bike training was done at 55% of his FTP!!!)

* The combination of #1 and #2 made his IM Effort pace gets very close to his FTP

3. Managed energy efficiency. He measured his body precisely to know when he was burning more fat and not much glycogen so he knew where to stay in the bike to have enough for the run.

Have a great week and keep following the program AS IS because I'm doing with you the same training principle used by the Champs :)