Train Low, Compete High

It’s controversial.  Imagine rowing, running or swimming your heart out and recovering with a nice bowl of… salad.  Not too enticing.  And it probably feels horrible.  Yet new research suggests that endurance is enhanced when training in “a glycogen-depleted state.”  They’re calling it “train low, compete high,” referring to the nutrition component of training.  By intentionally under-fueling muscles during training, there might be a better ability to use fat more efficiently for energy and spare glycogen for later.

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Glycogen is the body’s energy reserve that is topped off with carbohydrate-rich meals.  Coaches will therefore recommend consuming carbs (in beverage, gel or food form) before and during exercise to ensure enough energy for the event.  It’s like an ATP piggy bank.  With lower glycogen, metabolism shifts to muscle and fat oxidation.  The theory is that training at this lower glycogen state will improve fat oxidation over time so the athlete can maximize her energy during competition.

More research needs to be done on this concept, which has only been reviewed with regards to lower intensity training.  I cannot imagine training for a long period of time on, essentially, a low carbohydrate diet.  I am assuming that the athletes have to ingest higher percentages of fat and protein as compared to the RDA.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Hi, interesting post. I have been thinking about this issue,so thanks for writing. I’ll certainly be coming back to your site.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Doug on May 4, 2009 at 5:27 am

    Very interesting study, Marissa. The problem with these types of reports is that they don’t apply to the average athlete – yet some people will almost certainly adopt some of the principals…it’s almost an excuse to train on an empty stomach…many people could fail miserably as a result.

    Reply

  3. It’s true, train low/compete high is a concept that only applies to serious collegiate or professional athletes. Sports nutrition RDs and doctors should work with athletes if they are attempting to fuel in this manner, since it is neither a sustainable nor healthy way of training long-term. Carbohydrate is important for recovery, and supplies proper energy during exercise. Those attempting to lose weight should do so in an alternative manner.

    Reply

  4. Posted by anon on May 5, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Nice new design!

    Reply

  5. Posted by anon on May 6, 2009 at 10:03 am

    holy crap this looks even more awesome!! im blown away!!

    Reply

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