The How and Why of “Train Low”

With so much confusion regarding strategies for training low we decided it was time to clear up a few things.

What are train low strategies?

This is a generic term when talking about reducing carbohydrate availability for certain training sessions. The aim is to reduce your reliance on burning glycogen for energy (from carbohydrates) and condition the body to fuel more efficiently from fats.

That seems pretty simple – restrict the availability of one fuel source to force the use of the other, except there are so many mistakes being made.

Why is this beneficial for the endurance athlete?

That brings us to the term “FatMax” – the intensity where an athlete will be most efficient at using fats for fuel. Beyond that, they become more reliant on stored and circulating glycogen. Beyond that again, at a certain intensity termed the “anaerobic threshold” an athlete will burn only glycogen. And that’s fine if you can intake the required carbohydrates to sustain the intensity. 

But what if you suffer from digestive issues at intakes of 60g carb per hour and above? (that’s about 3 gels per hour)

The solution – increase your Fatmax – in a nutshell become a better fat burner.

What athletes should be concerned with this?

This is where we see decisions being made on the misunderstanding that increasing Fatmax will only benefit the long distance endurance athlete such as Ironman athletes – not necessarily true

The knock on effect of an increased Fatmax will also increase your efficiency at burning glycogen – so instead of requiring 90g of carbs to fuel a 30minute effort you only need 60g. Also – and this is of particular interest to road cyclists – becoming a better fat burner allows you to spare precious carbohydrate stores for durations high intensity when they are of utmost importance.

Which brings us to – how do we do it?

There are several methods to training with low glycogen stores and we strongly recommend you discuss the application with a professional coach or nutritionist. 

First of all – you need to be training within your Fatmax intensity for maximum adaptation to occur – this is roughly 55%-65% of V̇O2max (or 60%-80% of your maximum heart rate. More accurate values will be taken from a metabolic profile test such an INSCYD test.

Carb restricted training can put a much higher strain on immune and stress responses due to the shortage of carbohydrates so it’s important not to perform it amidst periods of high intensity training and racing.

Low glycogen does not mean low calorie – you only have to restrict carbohydrate – eating protein and fats will not impair the adaptation. There are some athletes – some females in particular – who should never train completely fasted. 

Which takes us to the obvious – what can I eat that will supply the energy I need, a range of vitamins and minerals so I’m not abusing my overall health and has the highest quality protein source including all the essential amino acids I need for performance? 

Enter Power Meal – the stand out training aid used by our elite endurance triathlete Dr. Finbar McGrady and developed by 43 time full Ironman and 8 time KONA World Championship athlete Dr. David Minkoff. Containing:

  • 7.5g PerfectAmino formula – the premier blend of the 8 essential amino acids
  • 5g MCT Oil – for satiety and energy for the long haul
  • 12g of high potency organic Superfood Blend
  • Daily Dose of Vitamins and Minerals

Mixed with a low carb smoothie, or molded into energy balls or simply mixed with almond milk – PerfectAmino Power Meal provides all the nutrition you need to fuel your Fatmax training and reach the next level of peak endurance performance.

Our athletes will have full test data compiled by Dr. Finbar on PowerMeal and how he integrated it into his training plan to see an 18% improvement in a 30minute power test.