The fastest member of Crossfit Inception and I were talking, as gym going friends are want to do, about physical related activities and he brought up a concern about my advice against trying to carbo load.
I don’t think I really ever tried to dissuade anyone from consuming a larger than normal amount of carbohydrate before a race, but I do think that the mechanism of carboloading is overemphasized.
First, let me say that there is far more that we agree on than disagree on. This argument may seem like arguing over who is better looking: Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel. Actually this argument is probably a lot less interesting.
So we agree that the consumption of a pre-race meal containing dense carbohydrates prior to a race is vital.
We also agree that the human body has a finite potential to store glycogen. BC pointed out something I had not considered: that humans can increase their glycogen storage capability through training.
This makes a lot of sense to me. Almost everything is trainable. If athletes can increase their VO2 max,flexibility, and red blood cell count than why couldn’t they increase their readily available (not converted into adipose fat) glycogen storage. Since all of the glycogen not stored in the body is in the muscle cells, and you can increase the number of muscle cells you have, this also makes sense.
The other thing we agree on is the importance of peri workout (during the race) fueling to replace these glycogen stores.
Where we begin to differ is on what fuel source the body is using for what.
I think that since the body is operating in the oxidative metabolic pathway and the fuel for that pathway is fat, than the body can and is functioning independent of its sugar stores. There are several bodily functions (brain operations to name one) that requires glycogen and can only use glycogen. Processes like gluconeogenesis can convert proteins found extant in the body into that sugar.
I also think that there it would be impossible to provide a steady enough source of fuel to fuel an activity of that duration. If you think of the race like a plane flying across the Atlantic, I do not think that it would be possible to mid-air refuel a human with enough sugar to complete an event lasting over three or four hours. Sugar is a fast burning and inefficient fuel source.
I think that the benefit of a source of mid-race simple sugar (in the form of a goo or even better product which is a different post) is that it save the body a step.
That quickly digested sugar keeps the body from having to resort to gluconeogensis to provide sugar to the brain. I know that every marathon that I have done, I’ve felt a lot better after taking a goo packet. Maybe it was psychological, but I think it was also because my brain had the sugar it needed to keep me from hitting a wall.
The other benefit of mid-race replacement of sugar is that your fast twitch muscle run only on sugar, and this will differentiate between having enough “kick” to sprint it into the finish or having someone pass you in your finisher photo.
So back to carbo loading. We both agree on the importance of doing it for hydration, that it can be a trained or timed thing, and it should be done.
I do not see a scenario where doing it prior to a race would be harmful, especially if you are primarily a fat burning individual. Where it becomes an issue is for endurance athletes who are on a chronic high carb diet and use primarily sugar to fuel their activities. For them, that extra reserve of glycogen that they think they are storing is just another in a series of insulin spiking meals.
BC: The article looks good overall. I think the biggest point of disagreement is fuel sources. Ninety-nine percent of runners will tell you that carbs are the most efficient fuel source, especially for distance running. Most running resources will cite fat requiring more oxygen to become usable as the reason for this. I am no scientist, and cannot give a more definitive answer than that.
Here is an article that goes over most of what I go by with regard to carbo loading:http://www.marathontraining.com/articles/art_39th.htm
. You will see variances on how much sugar your body can store, but there is general consensus on how to execute safe carbo-loading for endurance races.
Finally, I will say this has worked for me. I have experienced marathons where I definitely hit the wall, and flamed out badly, and others where I was able to cruise all the way to the finish and walk around the next day like nothing happened. I think the combination of conditioning and proper carbo-loading helped. Hit me up if you have anymore questions/comments.
Here is my take on the article. Definitely written by someone way smarter than me. I want to highlight a few passages because I wrote my first piece before reading this. A lot of the points are the same, but it does not really address the Crossfit Endurance proposition that if you make your body able to function on fat, than you will expend less carbohydrate during your event, thus saving more glycogen for your brain and muscles.
“Remember also that muscle glycogen is committed to be used by muscle and cannot assist in maintaining blood sugar levels. Therefore should no additional carbohydrate be ingested during prolonged exercise, the task of maintaining blood glucose levels rests firmly on the liver’s glycogen stores and gluconeogenesis (the manufacturing of glucose from plasma amino acids). Oxidation of blood glucose at 70-80% VO2 max is about 1.0 g/min or about 60 g/hour. Therefore it can be predicted that even with full glycogen stores, a less conditioned athlete’s liver will be depleted of its carbohydrate within and hour and three quarters of continuous moderate intensity exercise.”
So there are really two ways around this issue, you either keep topping off or find a different fuel. If you think of your body as a hybrid solar/gas powered car, there are some functions that only gas (glycogen) can do and some that both can do (fat is solar). All are in agreement that the muscles can only go on gas, but the air conditioning, radio, GPS, etc can all run on solar power. This is like your body. All of your non-musclar organs need to keep going while you are doing your race. These organs can use either sugar or fat. So the more fat you can make them burn, the more sugar you save for the muscles, the better use of space you are making in your gas tank.
“For an untrained individual consuming a high carbohydrate (75%) diet, glycogen stores may increase up to 130g and 360g for liver and muscle respectively for a total storage of 490g.For an athlete training on a daily basis consuming a normal diet (45% carbohydrate), glycogen levels approximate 55g and 280g for liver and muscle respectively yielding a total of 330g. However, should this same well-conditioned athlete consume a high diet (75% carbohydrate), their total carbohydrate reserves may soar up to 880g with approximately 160g stored in the liver and 720g in the muscle.”
This makes perfect sense to me as an adaptation and mechanism.
“Firstly, glycogen storage is associated with a concomitant storage of water. It is estimated that every gram of glycogen stored is associated with about 2.7g of water. Therefore, a well-conditioned athlete with total glycogen stores approaching 800g will find their body weight about 2kg heavier at the start of the race. This increased body weight will have implications on running economy and performance at least near the beginning of the event when energy reserves will be high.”
I don’t really know that an extra 2kg will really have that detrimental of an effect on running efficiency, especially when you compare it to the effects of dehydration on running.
“Another drawback to carbohydrate loading if performed incorrectly is gastric/intestinal upset. Very large amounts of ingested carbohydrate can affect the osmolarity of the intestine. In other words, carbohydrates (especially simple/processed sugars) in the intestine draw water into the gut by osmosis affecting the water balance and may cause intestinal upset and diarrhea.”
I have experienced this on several occasions. Not a lot of fun.
I am at a loss how to wrap up this huge post.
I was unaware of the exact quantities, how, and the why behind effectively increasing your glycogen stores prior to a race, but it is fascinating and something I will recommend to endurance athletes in the future. I suspect that people who eat a lower carbohydrate diet will need to adjust to protocol a little bit. I think that they may get more for less with carboloading, but I see only good that could happen for following this as part of your taper for a race week.
Maximizing the use of fat stores, which are larger in your body than glycogen stores, will allow you to most efficiently fuel your muscles with glycogen during an endurance activity. No matter how big your gas tank, if you can use a near unlimited fuel source for your trip you will be able to get more miles out of it.
I just got back a few hours ago from the Crossfit Games Dirty South Regionals.
It was the first Crossfit competition that I’ve been to without competing. I found it kind of frustrating, even though I know I am no where near anyone who was in that arena competing. The lack of chicken sweat pre-WOD was replaced with helping Inception athlete Erich Roberts with mobility work prior to his WODs and pimping out Rumble By the River.
There were a lot of pretty bad ass people running around. It sort of felt like an extended family reunion. You knew enough people that you were always running into someone you either haven’t seen in years or that you see frequently while you were meeting new people at the same time.
It was definitely a Crossfit block party, and everyone was there with a sort of a purpose. While most were there to either compete, cheer on or coach a competitor, or to promote something. Everyone there really believed in promoting the sport of fitness. I got to talk to the guys from SICFIT for a while. They really put themselves out there for all of the smaller events in addition to being probably the best grass roots promotors for the Games for actual Crossfitters.
A lot of fun, but I would have rather been making an ass of myself with my lack of strength and overall poor physical abilities.
I met a lot of awesome Crossfitters there and was glad to be able to cheer on some really good friends.
Some of the things that I saw that I want to emphasize are, of course, nutrition and mobility work.
Everywhere I looked I saw both competitors and non-competitors doing mobility work. People were using products like the stick and various forms of lacrosse balls while they were sitting and walking around. I was not allowed into the athlete area (although I “found” my way into it a few times), and there were tons of ice baths, stretching bands, and messages to go around.
Bottom line is that if the best are doing it, than you should too. Do your MWODs
Nutrition was pretty funny. In the same group of people, you would see a few people eating paleo to include tons of people eating Paleo Kits. I love Paleo Kits not only because they are charitable, but because they are delicious. They are the staple of my diet when I travel and when I am in the woods.
The other people would invariably be drunk, in the process of getting drunk, or having an epic cheat day. The epic cheating post-elminination for competitors was always impressive.
For our part, we kept it pretty clean. The venue did an amazing job of catering to our orthorexia and had a lot of Paleo food available. The Holiday Inn could not keep enough bacon in their free breakfast buffet.
Most importantly, we had three pretty solid dinners. One at Ted’s, where most of us had the Bison burger and some had it without the bun. The first and third were at an amazing Brazilian Steakhouse. We came pretty close to putting the place out of business between the amount of meat that we ate and the reaction we had to the bartender who claimed to be a Ranger.
As for the competition. The judging was upholding a really high standard, but it was definitely consistent and professional.
It seemed that the difference makers for females was gymnastics and for males it was strength. This is an enormous generalization inherently fraught with exceptions and inaccuracies, but if I had to choose an aspect of physical fitness as the game changer for each, that is what it would be.
For the females (in both teams and individuals), there were very few WODs where strength really made a significant difference in the finishing order. Even in the Thrusters workout, the spread between first and the middle was not that great.
For the females, it really came down to gymnastics. This skill set is the reason why several of the qualifying athletes chose to go team instead of individual. While work capacity definitely factors into it, in the first (handstand pushups), fourth (pull ups), fifth (muscle ups), and sixth (toes to bar) workouts the limiting factor for females was almost always their gymnastics capacity.
This does not mean there were not outliers, namely Jessica Denney from World Camp and Kyri Harbrueger from North Atlanta whose performances on the Thruster and Deadlift/Box Jump workout were game changers. Besides those two performances, it seemed that gymnastics made the biggest differences for the most of the female competitors.
For the guys, it really came down to strength. Russell Berger won three of the six events, but the performance on the Thruster ladder kept him away from California.
This was also true for the third, fourth, and sixth event. The movements that really created the most separation were there deadlifts (most of the guys were pretty steady on box jumps), the kettlebell “swings”, the overhead squats, the squat snatches, and the ground to overhead.
All of the guys went through the pull ups, muscle ups, burpees, and lunge pretty steadily. The real difference was made under the load.
It was interesting to me that the monostructrual movements really did not play into the standings that much. The double unders, rows, and the run did not really separate anyone by any appreciable measure or means. Granted, I was not in any athletes head, but I did not really see any point where a slow start or trip ups on the rope affected anyone.
I think the most impressive thing about watching these athletes compete was their composure under fire. Almost everyone in the gym, myself included, is guilty of putting an extra “D” or two in WOD. The first would stand for drama, the second for douchebaggery.
None of the top athletes spent minutes pacing around exhibiting their pain face, dropping the barbell for distance, making pre-mature sweat angels, or slamming their jump ropes or kettlebells into the ground like they were to blame for the pain.
That’s not to say that they were robotic or going through these work outs pain free. Trust me, watch any of the videos or look at any of the pictures and you will see plenty of pain, emotion, and drama. You’ll just see much fewer drama queens than at you’re average Crossfit class in any box.
Its the 11th (or 12th if you think the 11th is looking good) physical skill of mental toughness. It was on display by the boatload in Jacksonville. You saw it with the comebacks, the never quit performances by people well out of contention, and the super human feats of strength in every WOD.
While the high rep WODs dragged a little because you had no idea of what repetition the teams were on, the weekend was pretty amazing. The sport is definitely growing. The venue, the sponsors, and the organization were all pretty amazing. Definitely another level from what I’m used to.
If you make a big enough purchase from Tropical Traditions, you get a free book with your order. I realy don’t know anyone who would willingly read a 200 page book about coconut oil…except for me.
This occupied about an hour and a half of my flight to Seattle. It was filled with personnel testimonials, which to me is the most infuriating thing possible to read.
I skipped almost all of those, which wad an excellent decision all around.
This book would be best served donated to a book drive. Maybe there’s someone in the world more jazzed about it than I am.
I guess calling it a book is sort of unfair. It’s really just a very long brochure.
I will admit that I know can speak fluently on the ways and qualities of different coconut oil processing techniques.
The traditional fermenting technique used by Tropical Traditions shows the best results for: melting point, iodine, free fatty acids profile, and most vitamins and anti-oxidents.
Coconut oil is not regulated the way olive oil is, so a company can basically do whatever they want to it and slap a virgin label on it.
There was a pretty solid set of references to scientific studies related to coconut, including Safdarjang hospital in New Dehli’s comparission of coconut oil and heart disease in india that I reference in my presentation.
There is a very good explination of medium chain triglicerieds focusing on Lauric Acid and how they relate to health.
The recipe section is decent.
The part of the book that I found the most interesting is the use of coconut oil as an antibiotic. The claims are pretty bold, and while I love a good bold claim as much as the next guy I really do not think that anyone product or change can do that much.
Granted, using coconut oil is two changes. You are adding a great source of fat and removing the most villenous substance on earth: vegetable oil.
Fully agreeing here with the authors that soybean (vegetable) oil may as well be called hydrogenated Nazi Zombie death juice, not for use on Nazis or zombies.
I just don’t think that coconut oil alone could single handledly reverse all of the ailments listed in this book.
I think it will help, but it is a hard sell to convince me that coconut oil is like the full fat version of water from Lourdes.
It took me an embarrassing amount of time to read, but I finally finished reading Good Meat by Deborah Krasner.
I think I’ve finally burnt myself out of Russian Novel sized cookbooks about pastured meat. This is no knock on Deborah. The book was well written, informative, and had some great pictures in it. She’s a James Beard award winner, so even though I haven’t made any of her recipes I’ll go out on a sturdy limb and say that they are pretty good.
The points that she makes in the introductions to each chapter are pretty valuable and are great recommendations for how to know exactly what you are getting.
Being a meat snob is a good thing. It’s the most or one of the most expensive things that you will buys, so you should know the most about where it comes from and feel justified in being choosy. Making informed choices is always a pain, which is why it took me a few months to get my act together for the Crossfit Inception meat share.
Pretty much everything you get out of reading a book like this can be found in videos like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-rM9LYZ5oA or the DVDs that White Oaks Pastures gave us.
Honestly, if anyone is not intuitively sold on the Grass-fed Beef is better than feedlot beef thing please let me know. I could write forever on the better taste, health benefits, environmental sustainability, etc of the topic.
I’d probably jump down that rabbit hole right now, but from keeping up with Karen Pendergrass and her efforts at Paleo Approved and Meat Eaters for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sort of leaves my brain supersaturated on the topic. Not that overwhelming my modest brain power is a feat, but it happens nevertheless.
My recommendation is economize your efforts and energy on the topic. Read (or listen to podcasts and watch youtube videos) enough on the topics that you can converse about them intelligently with people who disagree and spend your time with cookbooks on the recipes by actually cooking your own meals.
So this workout, that I’ve now spent three days rambling about, destroyed me.
The original point of the whole post was that I had not had my ass handed to me by a WOD like that for a long time. Its humbling to double, probably triple, the time of a workout of the people you usually try to keep pace with.
Taking around about fifteen minutes to inch your way through your least favorite movement is horrible. Its a mental anguish to watch everyone finish, the clock go past half an hour, and spending what feels like days staring at the bar makes you want to kill yourself and quit.
This is even worse when you are somewhat used to being towards the top of the leader board.
I do not like high repetition chippers. These are workouts like Angie and most Hero WODs.
At the end of them you’re exhausted to the point of delirious, you cannot move, you feel like you were hit by a truck for the rest of the day.
That’s sort of the point, force that mental adaptation and get used to the pain. If nothing else, if you can stare at a that bar and keep picking it up than you can definitely skip that snickers bar.