Meeting Dr Phil Maffetone – his advice: fat-burning is key
On 31 March 2017, I traveled 1400km to Adelaide, South Australia, to attend a 2 day seminar with the endurance sports coaching master, Dr Phil Maffetone. It was worth it!
I have been following his MAF method of running/training by heart rate for about a year with some improvement in my fitness. The other components of his method are nutrition, managing stress and minimalist/no shoes.
Hearing Dr Maffetone speak in person really brought home to me the most important aspect of the MAF method: nutrition.
His takeaway from the weekend was: if you do nothing else, work on nutrition and becoming a fat-burner – this is where the big results for endurance sports and good health come from.
Here are my bullet point notes from the seminar:
- We all have a body, so everyone’s an athlete. We all have a brain, so everyone’s a coach, too – listen to what your brain wants to do, be intuitive.
- Humans are fat-burning, endurance animals – we have a common biology, we are built to burn fat.
- The body has limited capacity to store carbohydrate (as glycogen) to use as fuel during endurance exercise; fat stores have far more ability to provide energy during exercise, even for very lean people.
- Excess body fat –
- Slows you down
- Contributes to injury – fat contributes to low grade chronic inflammation, which is a first measure of chronic disease
- Changes our metabolism/health/fitness
- Is easy to measure and track over time
- Research Paper – Overfat and Underfat: New Terms and Definitions Long Overdue
Here’s a pause in my notes with some commentary from me: the focus on body fat is NOT about body image or self worth. It is purely about the biochemistry of endurance sports and good health.
Back to my notes:
- Who is Overfat?
- Those with excess body fat
- Those who don’t burn enough body fat – may be a “normal” BMI (body mass index) or weight, but have high visceral fat (fat around the organs)
- Abdominal fat is the most serious – in terms of correlation with chronic disease (e.g., heart disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory diseases)
- Waist to Height Ratio (WtHR): 0.5 or higher. Throw away the bathroom scales and use a tape measure. Measure at umbilicus. Measure once per month.
- Nutrition is the most powerful influence on WtHR
- If body fat is too high, everything else you do in training doesn’t matter.
- Those who burn fat better burn more fat at higher intensities of exercise and perform better at higher intensities. MAF test improvements only happen when you burn more fat.
- Data from Dr Maffetone’s athlete patients:
- Dietary macro nutrient composition compared to fat/carbohydrate burning: a diet with a higher ratio of fat to carbohydrates correlated with higher fat-burning
- Signs and symptoms associated with fat/carbohydrate burning – people with lower rates of fat-burning had more signs and symptoms of injury and chronic disease
- The fat burning spectrum:
- Think of dietary carbohydrates and fat as a seesaw with protein in the middle.
- Do the two week test, then experiment and see what works for you in terms of carbohydrate intake.
- Try the two week test with a group of friends – support and encourage each other.
- Hunger is a good symptom to use as an indication of fat burning – less hunger correlates to better fat burning.
- Single sport training is dangerous – the body likes to move in many different ways. Cross training is good for the body/nervous system.
- Gait – shorter stride is better.
- The non-responsive athlete: Physical, biochemical and/or mental-emotional impairment vs Genetics. Rule out genetics and find the cause. There are 6 common causes:
- Overtraining – improving fitness at the expense of health
- Poor fat burning
- Choose too high training heart rate (HR), or exceed MAF HR too much
- Disordered eating – caloric &/or fat deficits; excess carbohydrate intake
- Muscle imbalance impairing gait and economy
- High levels of stress
- The MAF app is available (currently for iPhone)
- Endurance sports and getting healthier should be fun!
The seminar was inspiring and gave me a renewed focus: nutrition first.
So what now? I will be starting the two week test from Monday 17 April 2017, then spending a few months finding out where on the fat burning spectrum works for me.
If you’d like to join me, send me a message on Facebook and I will create a free, closed Facebook group so we can share our experience and support each other. I’m looking forward to becoming a fat-burning machine!