March 2, 2011
Introduction: Hey, folks! Ben Greenfield here coming to you on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in Spokane, Washington. For lunch today, I had a yoga pot. I bet you never heard of a yoga pot. My wife made it and it’s coconut oil, onion, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, broccoli, carrots, and also zucchini, tomatoes, lentils, chick peas and fresh spices, all basically heated together in a pot. Pretty cool stuff. It’s pretty good. She got it from a recipes website called GreenKitchenStories.com. It was quite tasty. I’d recommend you try it out.
So in today’s podcast, we’ve got an interview with Dr. Phil Maffetone. The guy has written dozens of books on health, fitness and nutrition, including Complimentary Sports Medicine, The Maffetone Method, Training for Endurance, and a book called In Fitness and In Health. He’s also got access via Dr. Coralee Thompson, who I believe he’s married to, a book on healthy kids and healthy family, and in the coming weeks, I’m also going to be getting her on to talk about that book. We will have a few special announcements, and we’ve got a slightly pared down listener Q&A today. I’m going to have a few, less listener questions that I typically have, just to see what you think of it. If you want more questions, let me know. But today, we’re just going to be going through three listener questions via call-in.
Ben Greenfield: You have heard about it if you’re following me on Twitter or you have access to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Facebook Page, but the brand new free Ben Greenfield Fitness android app is here and it’s available for download. I’m going to put a link so you can go over and grab it free and that link’s going to be in the show notes to this episode, Episode # 135. Like the free iPhone version, which I also put a link to, it allows you to access the blog, the podcasts the videos, outbound links to some of the things we are talking about in the podcast, as well as access to gears, supplements, books, DVDs and a handy dandy Ask Ben button, all there on the app. And it basically kind of aggregates everything into one spot and makes it very, very convenient to grab some of the information that I’m providing you with on this podcast and over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. So check that out. I’ll put a link in the show notes. Also, there’ve been two posts in the past couple of weeks about breakfast, What Confuses You About Breakfast? You have had some great feedbacks. Tons of questions have come through and the answers are going to be coming in a live video webinar on Tuesday, March 8, and that is going to be at 9PM Eastern Time. Just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com. It’s going to be a 4-way discussion, a round table discussion with myself and a few other registered dietitians and sports nutritionists about breakfast. So finally, if you haven’t been over to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Facebook Page, there are discounts, videos and links over there that you can’t get anywhere else. So be sure to check that out.
Remember, if you have a question, you can ask it via the iPhone or the android app. You can also leave it over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com on the Ask Ben Form. That’s on the show notes on any of the podcast episodes. Finally if you want to go to Twitter.com/BenGreenfield, you can ask your question via Twitter or like our first question this week, you can call to 877 – 209 – 9439, and leave an audio question.
Armi asks: Hey, Ben. This is Armi. And I have a question about boiling meat and the fat content of the meat. If you were to take let’s say a piece of meat and then chop it up and put it in boiling water, would boiling it remove the fat? I’m just curious. I’m not fat phobic. I know there are a lot of meats out there that have high levels of Omega 6 fats, so I ws wondering if you’re I the pinch, would it reduce the amount of fat in let’s say, chopped up hamburger if you were to boil it for an extended period of time. Also, would chopping it up to smaller chunks, let’s say you have a steak and you want to remove as much of the fat, would chopping it up into chunks and then boiling it and letting it sit ‘til the fat rose to the top and you skimmed off the fat, would that remove the fat? And are there any other meats, do you think, this wouldn’t work with? For instance, I know some meats have a lot higher fat content in them marbling inside the meat. I know other meats like chicken have them on the outside. So how much fat would it remove if you were to boil meat? Thanks! I love the podcast, and keep up the great work.
Ben: Well, as you say, Armi, there’s definite drawback to boiling the fat off meat, and we’ll talk about this in a second. But if you did want to boil meat to remove the fat, typically, the way that you would want to do it is you get your pot of meat, and you would cut away the visible strips of fat that you can find there along the outer edges of the meat. Then you can basically put it in a bog pot, like a big stew pot, and you fill the pot with enough water so that everything except the few inches of the top part of the meat is covered with water. And then what you do is you bring the water up to a boil. You’ll like it to boil at a slightly warmer temperature. You can put a little bit of salt in the water, and you put the meat into the boiling water and set a timer for about 8 minutes or so. So when that timer goes off, when that 8 minute timer goes off, you want to reduce the heat that the water goes just below boiling. So put it down to almost a simmer. And if you need to add a little bit more water to ensure that there’s still enough water in the pot to almost completely cover the meat, do it then. So then you would cover the pot with a lid. Let it sit for about 20 minutes of cooking time for the heat to actually reach the center of the meat that you’re cooking. And then allow about another 15 minutes of cooking time for each pound of meat that you have in that pot. So if the meat is a cube meat, and it’s not like a thin, flat meat, you would actually want to cook it just a little bit longer. And then what you do once it’s boiled and it’s soft and you take the meat out of the water and put it in a cooking dish and you can basically use a knife to remove some of the additional parts of the fat that might still be connected to the meat. You can also take the pot off of the heat and look inside for the fat that’s become detached while you’ve been cooking it, and you could use that fat in a broth or a gravy, or even, you know, if you’re part of a family, and somebody else in your family doesn’t mind using the fat, they can use it for that. So that’s the way that you would do it in terms of the amount to which you would actually reduce the fat in the meat. I can’t give you an exact percentage, but boiling will remove a significant amount of fat from meat. However, because fat in meat contains something called conjugated linoleic acid, which is actually very, very healthy for you in moderation, and has some great anti-carcinogenic and even metabolism boosting property, I really don’t recommend that you remove fat from the meat that you’re consuming especially if you’re consuming a grass-fed meat, which is very, very rich in CLA and actually extremely healthy for you. So not only would I recommend that if you are eating meat that you do not remove the fat from it because the fat is so enriched with this conjugated linoleic acid, not to mention your Omega 3 fatty acids and a lot of other nutrients, but I would recommend you actually look for some of the meats that have a little bit more fat in them. So for example, if you look at the breed or the breed of the cow that’s producing the meat, like a short horn or an angus beef , it’s going to have a little bit more of that conjugated linoleic acid in it. Again, I recommend that you go with a grass-fed beef. Breeds like a Galloway cow are going to be a little bit more lean. And in addition, the time that the cattle are processed will also affect the fat content. So the best natural way to put more fat into the cattle is to process them right after spring, when they’ve been eating lots of that rich green grass. So the meat’s going to be fattier, it’s going to be more tender, it’s going to be tastier and you have to remember that the type of fats that we’re talking about are not the type of fats that are strongly correlated to cardio-vascular disease or any other chronic disease risk factors. If you do have a real, real lean piece of grass-fed steak and you want to dress it up with a little bit of fat, cook it in butter. You could sauté the meat in butter, you could baste the meat with butter, you could put butter right on the meat when it’s served on the table. Preferably the butter would be from a grass-fed source, as well. You can use a tallow. You can literally get a tallow at the store or at the butcher and put that on the meat so that it bastes the meat as it cooks. You can literally add like kind of a natural unhydrogenated lard to the beef if you wanted to add fat to it that way. Or you could just use a few strips of bacon on it. So lots of different ways you could add fat. If you want to learn more about why it really wouldn’t necessarily be a bas thing to eat the meat with the fat, go to a search for a lipid theory. Read the lipid theory which is a theory that fat can actually cause cardio-vascular disease or contribute to obesity. And then look at some of the resources that are going to appear that also talk about fat at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com, do a search for a fat, or specifically do a search for fatty acids, and you’re going to get some good content there that goes into great detail why fat might not be all that bad for you.
Jeff asks: I have access in the morning to a beautiful soccer field, like basic 2 soccer fields side by side. That’s beautiful carpet green grass and nobody else, and love doing sort of interval work in bare feet, so I’m curious if you could maybe lay out a quick 45-minute interval type workout for me. What I do is about a quarter mile around the whole kind of circumference of both the fields together, but I also kind of go back and forth. Anyway, just curious if you could make like a 45-minute interval workout that I could do on that green grass with my bare feet. Thanks a lot, Ben.
Ben: Cool! A lot of advantages to running in your bare feet, we’ve talked on it before, just go to website and do a search for barefoot running, but the gist of it is that you tend to run with a little bit more forward leaning posture, you’re staying in your mid fore foot a little bit more. You tend to heel strike less and you also strain in a lot of the ligaments and the tendons in the bone in your foot a lot more than you would if you are using one of the modern day padded shoes. So whereas I don’t recommend that you do all your running bare foot, because a lot of times it’s not practical, it’s not logistically feasible, and sometimes it could be downright dangerous on a lot of the modern industrial surfaces that we run on, but you have to take into account the fact that if you’re doing races and things like that, you’re going to be running, most likely, in shoes. So as far as a workout for barefoot running, if you are going to be actually running to the field where you’re doing a workout, you could run there in your shoes and then take your shoes off. And that’s actually what I do. I live about a mile from the park where I for barefoot run. I run there in my shoes, I run back in my shoes but I take my shoes off when I actually get there. So once the shoes are off, the first thing that you want to do is warm up for about 5 to 10 minutes, just running laps around the park with the grassy area and getting used to the feeling of the forward lean that mid to front forefoot strike and the way that your body feels when you’re running barefoot. Pay attention to trying to run with an increased cadence. Try to lean a little bit as you run. You’re going to find that that’s a lot easier to do and you’ll feel a lot more comfortable doing that compared to when you’re wearing your shoes. Now the next thing that you can do after you warmed up, and this is what I like to start with are some strides, and I typically do anything from about 50 to 100 yards, and I jog in between each stride. As a matter of fact, because the park that I go to is actually a series of soccer fields, I run the length of the soccer field and I’ll do the length of the soccer field as a sprint. And I’ll do a very, very easy walk or extremely slow jog across the width of the soccer field, turn and run up the opposite length in a sprint. Now, if you’re just getting started, and you don’t have much sprint-based fitness, what you can do is actually sprint the width of the soccer field, and jog or walk the length of it. But the idea is that you want to go, for a 45-minute workout, you’d be doing anywhere from about 12 to 20 of those 50 to 100 meter sprints. And again, you’re focusing on a forward lean and a high cadence and trying to stay away from the heel strike when you’re doing those sprints. Once you’ve finished up the sprints which should be considered kind of the main set of the workout, you could go into your drills. Now, maybe it’s just mentally the way that I do it, but I really like to get the sprints out of the way before I move on to the drills which are kind of like dessert. Technically, it might be better to do the drills first from a biomechanical standpoint, but I’ll leave it up to you. So with the drills, what I would recommend you do are some A, B and C drills. If you don’t know what A, B and C drills are, what I’m going to do is put a link to those in the show notes to this episode, Episode #135. But basically there are series of skipping and hopping and heel-butt kicking drill that really help to improve the biomechanics of your running and your feel for the ground. So what you would do is anywhere from about 4 to 6 sets of several dozen yards of these A, B and C drill. And what I would actually recommend that you do is after each set of drills that you do, you jog again from anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes, just to reinforce some of the basic biomechanical skills that you’re developing as you go on the A, B and C drills. And then if you have a little bit of time left over, you can throw in another kind of 5- to 10-minute cool down run and then you put on your shoes and head home or call it a day. So that’s what I’d recommend for good barefoot interval training workout.
Chuck asks: I’ve been following the Triathlon Dominator package in preparation for the Wildflower Half Ironman coming up, and this weekend I have a long run scheduled, and in place of doing a long run, there’s a 14-mile trail race here in Ohio that I’m planning on doing. So I guess essentially I’m planning on training through the race, I suppose. I wonder if you have any advice for me in order that I can still train through the race. Will it be better to maybe just do a long swim or bike on Friday and race on Saturday? Or if you have any suggestions.
Ben: So this is a conundrum that a lot of especially endurance athletes fall into when they have a bog race coming up, in your case Wildflower, but there’s other things that they like to do leading up to that race that may or may not fit into the training plan that they’re following. So in your case, you have this 14-mile run. And you have a few options. You could just do your normal training week the way it’s written out, and then at the end of the week, rather than doing whatever run is in your schedule, you simply go and do this 14-mile training run. I don’t like that for a few reasons. The first is that I usually observe that athletes really do tend to go too hard and risk overtraining or injury and kind of messing up their program when they enter into a race like that and have the pre-conceived notion that they’re going to treat it like a normal run, because you almost always end up going harder. It’s very hard to hold back during the competition. The other thing I don’t like about it basically you’re just kind of paying many and travelling and all the things that are involved with racing, for a run that you’re going to treat like a training run. It doesn’t really seem to make sense. So your other options are, you simply decrease the volume of all of your training sessions leading up to that weekend race. And you decrease the volume by about 60% or so, but you maintain the intensity. And then you make up for that reduction in volume by racing very hard and treating that race very seriously and really going out hard. The advantage to that is that you get to race well and still don’t have to do a really detailed 2- or 3-week taper for the event. You reduce training say on a Monday for a Saturday race. You just got 5 days of reduced training and that’s not going to affect your fitness too much especially considering that you’re going to actually get a boost on your fitness from the race itself. And then the day after the race, with a couple of days following the race, you just take a little bit easy on your training program, and actually remove any of the intensity. And then if you’re really a glutton for punishment and you want to really taper and get ready completely for that race but not miss your training sessions, and where you do that is you would actually do training sessions after you’ve done the race. So for example, for somebody that has, say you’re training for a triathlon and you’ve got a half marathon or something like you’re doing on a Sunday and you’re supposed to be riding your bike 50 miles on a Saturday, what you do is you go out, you do the race, and then later on in the afternoon or the evening you do your 50-mile ride and still get it in. That can be tough. Kind of sandwiching a bunch of workouts into one day, and that also can increase the risk of overtraining or injury. So typically, I will choose the middle option which I mentioned, and that is to do kind of a modified very, very short taper and then go out and race hard, and just take a day or two easy after the race. That’s fine doing something like that, as long as you’re not racing too much.
Casey calls in: I’m on Day 20 of your Shape 21 program. Tomorrow is Day 21, and I just wanted to call with some feedback. I have lost about 6 pounds, 6 to 8 pounds maybe, depending on when I weighed myself. I didn’t weigh myself before the program, which is foolish. I’m seeing muscles that I have never seen in my life. A lot of spasms. And the program, although it’s challenging in that I wanted to eat more, it’s a simple program, and I appreciated that. That’s what I was looking for. I was tired of the guesswork. The meal plan is very clear, the recipe very simple. The grocery lists are awesome. And the exercise videos and pictures are very clear. So I wanted to thank you for helping me achieve the goals that I wanted to and I appreciate all your time. Thanks!
Lisa calls in: Just calling to leave a testimonial for this fantastic program in preparation for my feat in this year. In January I started the Triathlon dominator program. I really thought what a 47-year old woman’s going to get out of what appeared to be a hard-core training program which has turned out to be just an amazingly doable, practical program that just has been amazing. In 8 weeks I’ve lost about 6 pounds of body fat, increased my core strength and I’m really looking forward to the summer. The workouts are doable. The results speak for themselves. It’s like I’ve gotten a new toy, my body. I can’t wait to try it out this year, racing. Again, thank you for such an amazing program that’s so easy to use and results-oriented. I’ve totally transformed my training and I’m looking forward to racing this year. So thanks to Ben Greenfield and his company for such an amazing product.
Ben: Casey and Liza, thank you so much for your kind words. I love to hear calls like that, and I will put links to Shape 21 and the Triathlon dominator package in the show note episodes. And then finally, if you do want to support the podcast, we do have a donation button there, and I send everybody a cool Ben Greenfield Fitness “My Trainer Told Me To Eat More Fat” t-shirts when they make a donation. So congratulations and big thank you this week to Raymond who sent in a donation and had a t-shirt and a bunch of other goodies on the way. So, let’s go ahead and move on to this week’s interview with Phil Maffetone.
Ben: Folks, this is Ben Greenfield and I’m here with Dr. Phil Maffetone. Now, those of you who have been competing in endurance sports or triathlon may recognize Dr. Maffetone’s name because he’s actually very well-known for the Maffetone Method of training, which he’ll tell you more about in the interview today. He has contributed many publications and websites and also the development of many of the top athletes in the sport of triathlon, and in athletics and fitness in general. Mark Allen, for example, is one individual who has relied on Phil’s training to keep him fit. And you can learn more about Phil in the link that I’ll put in the show notes or you could just go to PhilMaffetone.com. Phil, thank you for coming on the call today.
Phil: Hi, Ben. It’s great to be with you.
Ben: Well, I think that probably the best place to start, and by the way, not to scare people away, you don’t have to be an Ironman triathlete to benefit from this interview with Phil. But the best place to start I think maybe would be one of the things that you’re best known for, and that would be about Maffetone style of training. What exactly is that? How would you describe the Maffetone method, which you’ve actually written a book about.
Phil: Yeah, The Maffetone Method is the title of the book that was written, why, I don’t even remember, but it’s a book that McGraw Hill published a number of years ago, kind of for the general active audience. The latest book for serious athlete is called The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing, which came out this past summer. That gives details about this so-called Maffetone Method, and I don’t really have an answer for you. I guess if I look at what people say the Maffetone Method is, I can give you some answers that are floating around out there, but my approach is very individual. It’s as individual as you can get. When I began the process of taking care of athletes, I realized that training in injury, which I have learned was a very individual thing, everybody’s Achilles tendonitis is different and knee pain is different. I realized that what they were doing in training and in racing was intricately linked to their injury in terms of causing the injury, maintaining the injury, and in correcting it I learned that the best way to prevent it from returning is to have some input into their training. Back in the 70’s, this took place with a lot of runners, a few cyclists, and it would be a couple of more years before I started expanding into many different sports and I’ve been in most of them, actually. If I was going to explain the Maffetone Method, it would be a way for someone to individualize their training approach. Now I’m no longer in practice so people don’t come to see me where I could really get down to the details of individualization. And what I tried to do in recent years with my writing is to give people the same basic materials so that they can individualize their own program.
Ben: I see. Okay. Now, you say in some points that I’ve seen that when it comes to racing, or during, say, a triathlon, that to speed up, you must slow down. What do you mena by that?
Phil: Yeah. That was an article I wrote for I believe Running Times. I don’t know if they exist anymore, but it was probably, I want to say 1981, and it said, the title was something like Want Speed? Slow Down. What it refers to is the notion that by training at a relatively slow pace, you can improve your metabolism, especially converting more fat to energy and for endurance athletes, that means getting faster from a racing standpoint.
Ben: How does that actually work?
Phil: If you could generate more energy, essentially, you have more energy to race. And the foundation of my endurance training is to continuously improve the body’s ability to burn fat. And we can measure that in a variety of different ways. But measuring fat burning is not a difficult thing, especially these days with all the high tech equipments that’s now very simplified. My gas analyzer was big bulky thing, and today it’s a tiny laptop computer with couple of other pieces of equipment. But you can measure the amount of oxygen uptake and the amount of carbon dioxide you exhale at different heart rates, and based on that information come up with the mix of fuels. How much sugar, how much fat are you burning at 95 heart rate, at 110 heart rate, and 135 heart rate, and if you plot out all the heart rates, I’ve done this typically on a treadmill with somebody running, I’ve done it on a bike, I’ve done it on a rowing machine and other ways, but if you plot out the heart rate and the percentage of fat and sugar burning, you’ll see a curve that curves upward as intensity increases you burn less fat and more sugar. But the curve at some point takes a quick upward turn, and that’s called the deflection point and they’ve talked about that way back in the early 80’s in studies. And that’s the point that I call the maximum aerobic function or the maximum aerobic heart rate whereby if you train at that heart rate or lower, you will encourage your body to become highly efficient at fat burning. And the end result of course is that you’ll race faster because you’ll have more energy in the course of the race.
Ben: Now, what is your opinion of interval training in terms of being used as a kind of like a get more bang for your buck when it comes to limited time training. Do you think that you can get good results with that compared to doing aerobic training at this peak fat oxidation heart rate?
Phil: Well, there are two different things and there is certainly a place and I have encouraged athletes to do anaerobic training from the beginning. The problem is too much anaerobic training is quite often the downfall of many an athlete because by doing too much interval work, too much training beyond that maximum aerobic heart rate I just talked about, you increase stress hormones such as cortisol and the outcome is that you eventually diminish fat burning. And again, it’s easy to measure that. Sometimes, there’s confusion because if you really look at what the textbooks say and what the literature says, those anaerobic intervals, any hard workout essentially will improve your aerobic engine, it will improve your fat burning capability. The problem is, and the trick is that it only does that for so long and then the stress gets to you and it turns on you and the result is you burn less fat and more sugar. And that becomes a problem.
Ben: So, it sounds to me like maybe what would be a good idea is for someone for their long training sessions if they’re getting ready for a marathon or a triathlon to figure out where this peak fat oxidation or this aerobic threshold heart rate is and actually do those sessions as close as possible to that heart rate as they can. Is that what they’re going after?
Phil: Exactly. And some people interpret that as slow training. You can call it slow but it’s relative to different paces. It’s relatively slow compared to interval work on the track, for example. But the trick is that if you stay at this maximum aerobic heart rate and allow your body to burn more and more fat, as your fat burning capability improves, so does your training pace at the same heart rate. So if you look at an athlete, Mark Allen, you mentioned him early on. Mark, who I started working with in 1983, training at his, and back then polar had not come out yet with their monitors and we have this archaic, they look like crossing guard straps with these heart monitors. They were used in hospitals only and when I saw them I started using them on my athletes. But Mark was able to run with his maximum aerobic heart rate which is 155. He was on the track running about an 840 pace, I remember. And he said, how could I train slow? This is embarrassing. I said, run at night, nobody will see you. And I think he called me the next day and he said, yeah, I went for a run on the road and I was averaging 9 minutes a mile. And as the months went by, and in fact, as he hit a peak of several years later, he just kept getting faster, he got to a point where he was able to run at a 5 10 pace, at that same 155 heart rate. And some people say, that’s Mark Allen, he’s a special athlete. I think Mark will be the first to tell you that he’s not genetically gifted in any way. The same thing happened with everybody. And what happens is our old friend stress tends to interfere if we have a typical athlete who has a full time job and a family and a house. There’s a lot of stresses there, and those stresses impair fat burning and your progress is not going to be like Mark’s, who had the luxury of being paid by sponsors to race, and so those same types of stresses were not there.
Ben: Interesting. And I think that some people also think that when you’re talking about an aerobic heart rate that that is equated with easy. And I lived in a physiology lab myself for about 3 years and did lots of tests on athletes and tests on myself. And for me that aerobic heart rate is about 6 to 6 ½ on a scale of 1 to 10 which for a lot of people, especially for people just getting the exercise, that’s really not easy. It’s actually, it takes some focus to maintain even that intensity for a long period of time.
Phil: It does. And what happens quite often is people who are aerobically in terrible shape, even though they may race okay, they’re typically people with injuries or fatigue or some type of problem that indicate that something went wrong, but a lot of times, you take these individuals and get them running at their maximum aerobic heart rate, and they’ll be 9-minute pace or 8-minute pace. Even though they could run a 10K at a 6-minute pace. And so, they’re going a lot slower than they would normally train, and they just, it almost makes them feel bad but what I say to them is that it’s an indication of how poor your aerobic system really is.
Ben: No, you have a formula called the 180 minus formula. Or the 180 formula.
Phil: The 180 formula, I developed in the early 80’s. What was happening is, I was seeing all these athletes and figuring out what their heart rate, their training aerobic heart rate should be based on a lot of different evaluations. I had a very extensive assessment process that was in itself individualized, but I spent a lot of time figuring out the best heart rate for athletes to train. And as the years started going by, I would lecture and I started writing some articles and people would say, can I use the 220 formula, which everyone is familiar with, to come up with this heart rate that you come up with. And I said, no, the 220 formula brings you, depending on how you do it, it brings you typically at a much higher level, and it’s a heart rate that ultimately could get you in trouble. So I realized, let’s come up with a formula that replaces the 220 formula, based on the kinds of assessments sites I was doing and it took a couple of years or a year-and-a-half or so. And it eventually became that 180 formula. It’s a way for somebody who can’t get through an exercise physiology lab, or for somebody who cannot be analyzed by a good coach or doctor, physiologist, or somebody who can come up with an individualized heart rate. It’s a way for them to get more than in the ballpark. It’s remarkably close when you compare it to an RQ test, for example, where you can look for that deflection point. And in most people, it gets them within a couple of beats with that.
Ben: So if you are 40 years old and you wanted to approximate your heart rate, you just go 180 minus 40?
Phil: You do 180 minus 40, and then there’s 4 categories that you read through and you pick the one that’s closest than what the attempt is with that is to modify the 180 minus 40 by looking at your level of health and your level of fitness. So if you’re injured, if you’re sick, if you’re in rehab because you had a heart attack, if you’re on medication, you adjust the 180 minus 40 and you either, you go from another subtraction of 10 to an addition of 5 or ore if you’re over 65. So the 180 minus 40 is the first step, and then the second step is the modification.
Ben: I got you. Okay, interesting. Yeah, that’s actually a very cool formula. The way that I’ve seen and I recommended before is to do something like a sub-maximal pass and subtract 20 beats. But this seems like an even easier formula.
Phil: It’s fairly simple and the most difficult part is that the athlete needs to be honest with himself or herself, because athletes who want to be uninjured and they want to be racing their best all the time even though they’re not, so they have to admit that they have some problems and that’s really the hardest part.
Ben: You have another test. It’s called the MAF test.
Phil: MAF stand for maximum aerobic function. It’s not related to my name. It was originally called maximum aerobic pace because in the very beginning, most of the athletes I had were runners and we related to pace. And as I’ve started talking to exercise physiologists and other people, maximum aerobic pace, MAP, was already taken and so I changed it to function rather than pace, because I started working with cyclists then and all kinds of athletes, race car drivers and football players, and everyone else. So it became maximum aerobic function and if you take your 180 formula and come up with your maximum aerobic heart rate, let’s say that’s 150. The maximum aerobic pace is how fast can you run at a 150 heart rate. So you go to the track, you do a little bit of a warm up by running real slow onto your maximum aerobic pace. And then you start running at 150 heart rate and you’d clock up a mile. And if you can run at 8 minutes, then your MAF test is 8 minutes. And the most important part of that is to re-do the test preferably in the same conditions about once a month. And what should happen, if you’re truly increasing your ability to burn fat, your pace should increase. So if you’re 8 minutes today, then next month may be your 7:40 pace, and then maybe a month later, it ay be your 7:30 pace. Another month may be 7:20. And you’ll see those patterns and you’ll have a plateau, a natural plateau at some point, which becomes the time to start doing anaerobic work.
Ben: I see. Interesting. So in your book, in Training for Endurance, you’ve talked about overtraining. Now it seems that with the aerobic style of training, you’re suggesting at least limiting the amount of anaerobic intervals that maybe some of these over-trainings wouldn’t be as much of an issue. But I like how you actually break over training down into more than just over-training and hitting a wall. You actually described several stages of it. Can you tell me a little bit about exactly what you do with over-training syndrome and how you break it up?
Phil: Right, the keyword is syndrome, because there is no clear demarcation, there is not even a lot of consensus. But what I do is I break the over-training syndrome into 3 stages. There are typically, if you read the literature, typically 2 of them, and I’ve added a third one which reflects the earliest stage of over-training. And I do that because over-training is really a stress syndrome, and H. Selle, he’s the researcher in the early 1900’s, did studies on stress. He was the first one to show how the body responded to stress, and what changes took place in the adrenal glands and so on and so forth. And he broke up these stress patterns into 3 stages. If you’re stressed, you’re going to stage 1, and if the stress continues, you go into stage 2. And in long term stress, when it doesn’t let up, you go into stage 3. Well, that’s basically what I followed. That’s a very scientific way, very accurate way to look at it and so for me the earliest sign of over-training, I call stage 1. And it comes after what is often called over-reaching. Over-reaching, I can consider like, I think, everyone else. A normal part of training, you got to train beyond your ability to some extent, otherwise you don’t progress. Well, there’s this point after over-reaching, if you go too far, you begin to cause stress in your body. And the first place you’ll see that is your MAF test. You may go from 8 minutes today to 7:40 to 7:30 to and then all of a sudden, you do an MAF test a month later and now it’s 7:45 again. And you think, well, maybe the weather wasn’t so great. Maybe they really had a bad low pressure system coming in which will affect your oxygen uptake and you know, I’ll do it again next week and you find that now it’s 7:50. Well, that is the first sign of over-training. Will you have other symptoms? Probably not. You may not hurt, you may not be tired. In fact, you may have just run a PR. You know, half-marathon. Because people who enter that early stage of over-training have more power. They have more capability to perform. It’s a very short-lived thing. And the problem is people run a great race and they say well, I must be doing things right, I want to keep doing it. And it’s a big mistake. And they don’t realize over-training comes until the second stage when they start to have some physical breakdown or some chemical imbalance or even a mental imbalance.
Ben: Gotcha. So are there additional stages past that?
Phil: Well, the second stages, the most common is what people see as the classic over-trained athlete when there’s an injury, their performance goes downhill, they’re tired, there’s hormonal imbalance, and we can measure more objective indicators. Salivary cortisol is a very accurate test. Most of the tests these days and for the past few years on stress have used measurements such as hormone cortisol through saliva testing. And it’s a very simple test to do when you’ll see in athletes who were in that second stage, there’s a rise in cortisol, which means there’s too many stress hormones being produced. You’ll see various signs and symptoms and when an athlete doesn’t get themselves out of that second stage of over-training, or doesn’t go to a coach or practitioner or somebody who can guide them out of it and the best way to get out of it is to allow your body to recover. But if that doesn’t happen and they keep pushing, then they’ll get to the third stage of over-training at some point, and in that situation, you see some interesting things, one of which is a reduction in heart rate. You all of a sudden see a dropping in your resting heart rate. And when a lot of athletes see that, they say well, gee, I’m doing really good now. I’m on the road to recovery, and I want to keep pushing. The third stage of overtraining is a very serious condition. The stress hormones are also reduced because in the case of the adrenals making cortisol, the adrenals are burned out now and they can’t make enough cortisol to get you up for the race and at this point, athletes generally stop racing because their performances are much worse than even on the second stage. I haven’t see a lot of athletes in the third stage, but I’ve seen a few dozen and every one of them was a very sad situation because it’s very, very difficult to return to the same level of performance as an athlete. If you’re on the third stage and you’ve been there for any amount of time, you’re probably done as a pro athlete, regardless of your sport.
Ben: Interesting. This kind of relates to something else I’ve seen you say before and that is athletes can be fit but unhealthy. What do you mean by that?
Phil: I define fitness and health separately. Many years ago, the words are thrown around casually and they’re interchangeable. In 1980, I ran the New York City marathon, and had this incredible experience at the finish line in a medical tent. I realized that my goal for the marathon was to just get healthier than I was and I realized that I haven’t gotten healthier at all. All I had done was become fit enough to run 26 miles. And people who are fit enough to run 26 miles are not necessarily healthy. And the most obvious examples are the unfortunate cases of people who have heart attacks during the marathon, or right after a marathon. You’re not healthy if you have a heart attack. In most cases, those cases are chronic conditions that have been brewing for years, and these individuals were not healthy, yet they were fit enough, they develop their fitness to be able to run 26 miles.
Ben: So what types of things would you classify as being unhealthy among the population? Are there certain conditions that you’re thinking of specifically?
Phil: Any injury, barring a traumatic, you know, if you crash on your bike, I wouldn’t include that. But most injuries would be an indication that your health is impaired. Injuries, especially, endurance athletes are not in a contact sport, except getting whacked in the head in the pool or in an open swim. But generally, if you get an injury, there’s a long series of events that could take days at the minimum, but usually weeks, and quite often months, where this injury is brewing because of imbalances in your body, chemistry imbalances in a muscle function, in brain function, in hormonal function, or combinations of everything. And these imbalances are like a domino effect. One domino falls and hits another and that one falls and way down the line your knees start hurting. And these are not symptoms that people get that are not unorganized. These are logical signs and symptoms and as a clinician, you look at these athletes and your job is to trace that injury back to where it started. And if that involves looking at training, or looking at the diet, or looking at mental emotional factors and quite often it’s a combination of several things. That’s what you do and so those individuals in that case are not healthy. You’re dealing with their health and you got to put their health back into better perspective.
Ben: You do a lot when it comes to not just say, training for endurance, but also for health, fitness, fat loss. You and your wife have even written a book and we talked earlier and we met with your wife at some point to talk on raising healthy children. What I want to ask you to finish up in terms of resources for people, you talked about your Big Book on Endurance Training and Racing and I’ll put that as a link for people in the show notes. But as far as like somebody wants to get healthier, start exercising, burn more fat, do you have a book or do you have a recommendation in terms of the philosophy or resource for someone in that category to turn to for more information?
Phil: Sure. I wrote my very first book in, I don’t even remember the year, maybe 1990, called In Fitness and In Health. And George Sheen did the foreword, and that book is for some of the average person who may not be willing to run a marathon or do an Ironman but wants to look at ways to improve diet and exercise and stress management and so forth. In Fitness and In Health is now in its Fifth Edition and that would be the kind of book that most people could get a lot out of.
Ben: Okay. Perfect. Folks, his name is Dr. Phil Maffetone. His website is http://philmaffetone.com and we’ll put more information in the show notes, some links to his books for you. I know that he’s writing for LAVA Magazine. Are there any other magazine that you write regularly for?
Phil: I’m writing for LAVA. I’m writing for a magazine here in Arizona called Sweat, and I believe that’s a monthly article. You know, I’ve written for so many magazines in the past, I decided a few years ago to really limit it so I wouldn’t have to deal with editors and a lot of what I write, the majority of what I write goes on to my website.
Ben: Perfect. That’s a great resource. I’ll put a link to that on the show notes as well. So thank you for coming on the call today.
Phil: Thank you, Ben.
Ben: Well, folks, I will put a link to all of Phil’s books right there on the show notes of this episode at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and this is Episode #135. Remember that all of our podcasts are transcribed within a couple of weeks after they’re released so tons of stuff that you can search for and read over there on the website, and I’ll also, of course, put a link to everything else that I talked about including the link to the A, B and C drills for Jeff, the link to the free android app, the link to the Shape21.com and much, much more. So go check all of it out at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and ‘til next time, have a great week!
For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD’s from Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at http://www.pacificfit.net