Metabolic Efficiency - Be lean, get faster.

  • Posted on
Metabolic Efficiency - Be lean, get faster.

Adapt this lifestyle over the off season and be faster next year.

It’s that time of the year when most of us are entering our off season and getting ready to enjoy a much needed recovery period. We can let the body recuperate and perhaps put on a couple of pounds enjoying some of the things we may have forgone during our peak racing period. Others, like myself, may have ended the season a little early and are now laying base work for next year. Regardless of where you are, it’s not too soon to discuss nutrition. Whether your plans for next year involve doing your first tri, a PR at the Chicago Marathon or earning one of those coveted Kona slots, I have a nutrition strategy that we need to discuss.
It’s called Metabolic Efficiency. If you’ve been to the shop and have asked me about nutrition, then we’ve definitely talked about it. I’ve been training and racing with it since September, 2012, right after Ironman Wisconsin and if you know me, then you know that I dropped 50 pounds and have never raced faster in my life than I am right now.

There are several key benefits to adopting a metabolic efficient, or ME, lifestyle. First, body composition, as I’ll explain in a bit, ME burns a lot of fat. Second, stable blood sugar. Without all the simple starches and sugar in your regular diet there are no longer highs and lows in your blood sugar which means no more burst of energy and the inevitable “crash” that comes with it. But, what I think is the most beneficial aspect, less stuff to carry when you’re racing. As you become more and more metabolically efficient, your body learns to burn more and more fat at higher intensities. And less of your limited glycogen stores. All this means is that you eat less because you need is less! This is exciting stuff for anyone, racing any distance!

Hopefully by now I’ve got your attention and you want to know how it all works. I’m going to give you a 5,000 foot view because honestly, it’s a lot of information for the short space I have. Lets begin here: at various levels of exercise intensity, your body burns a mixture of fat and carbohydrates (glycogen). Everyone will burn a percentage of both but at some point, as the intensity increases, your body will look for the energy source that is most readily available and burns quickly. If you eat a lot of carbohydrates and train with a lot of nutrition then that’s going to be glycogen. Stored in our muscles and liver, we all carry about 2,000 calories worth of this very quick burning and very limited supply of fuel. As a side note, a very lean person carries roughly 30,000 calories of stored fat and a person who is a little less lean carries 50,000-80,000 calories of stored fat. As an example, what if you ran a 10 minute mile and burned 1,000 calories/hour of carbohydrate and then trained ME and six months later you could run a 7 minute mile and burn 600 calories/hour of carbohydrate, what would the implications be? You would be running faster, burning less of your precious energy source (glycogen), more of your nearly unlimited energy source (fat), replacing less of the glycogen you were burning, carrying less nutrition, going further and going longer! This is possible! It also means that if you train to be ME, it will be much more difficult to “bonk” at a race again. It means that you’ll burn fat like crazy. It means that your diet won’t be giving you blood sugar spikes and crashes. It means that you can race an Ironman distance triathlon and not have to pack four lunches to get to the finish line. This is great stuff, right?!

But why is this information relevant at this time of the year? Maybe you’re saying, “great Ed, can we talk about it in the spring or when I’m closer to my next race? Right now, I just want to drink a few beers, eat some donuts and do some of the easy aerobic work that my coach is sending me”. Well, there’s a very good reason I’m bringing this up right now, it’s because base phase is when there is the greatest mitochondria cell growth, both in number and size. Mitochondria are what allows the fat burning process to occur within our bodies. Preparing a diet that is without simple sugars and starches and one that is rich in vegetables, fruits and lean proteins along with your aerobic, base phase training, will allow for the quickest and most effective adaptation. While it’s true that you can see improvement in your metabolic efficiency in a little as three weeks, it is not permission to wait until three weeks before your “A” race to adopt this protocol and then proclaim that you’re ME. It’s a lifestyle and it will make you faster, more efficient and healthier with a better body composition.

As one of four Chicagoland certified Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist, I’d be more than happy to discuss what ME can do you for you. Feel free to come by the shop or email me at and we can talk further.

Edward Dailey
USAT Level 1, METS Level 1

Ironman Wisconsin, September 2012. 208 pounds
Ironman Cabo San Lucas, March 2013. 182 pounds
Ironman Arizona, November 2013. 167 pounds
Ironman Cabo San Lucas, March 2014. 158 pounds.
Get the picture?

*Please consult with your physician before starting any type of exercise or training program.