January 18, 2024

How To Train (And Eat!) For World-Record Endurance Performance

It’s always fun and informative to read case studies of athletes who attempt endurance feats most of us admire but would never consider. Here are two. One describes what it’s like for a recreational cyclist to ride the Tour de France course, and compares his physiology to that of an actual elite Tour competitor. The other tells us about the training of a runner who broke several ultra-distance world records in recent years.  

The two cyclists (one recreational, age 58, weight 212 pounds; the other elite, age 28, weight 148 pounds) both covered just over 2000 miles in 21 stages). The rec rider burned 8,580 calories/day en route--an astounding amount. The elite rider burned 7,098 calories/day.

Amazingly, both ate almost as many calories/day as they burned. We know this because “both individuals lost minimal body mass during the event.” The elite rider was able to spend more time at higher intensities. But, hey, give him a round of applause, our 212-pounder got the job done. 

Conclusion: “Not only professional cyclists but also recreational athletes can reach currently known ceilings of total daily energy expenditure for humans.” This could be one reason explaining the big growth of ultra-endurance racing. Yes, the event distances can be staggering. But, also yes, recreational athletes can train to complete the distance (and eat enough on a daily basis to sustain themselves.) More at J of Applied Physiology and Outside Online.

If you’d like to run 198 miles in 24 hours, you’d better be prepared to average well over 100 miles/week in training with occasional weeks up around 230 miles. Your peak training will come 4 weeks before your big race. Regular training will include both cross-training and interval sessions with repeats from 1000 meters to 6 miles. 

You’ll do most of your daily training at about 7:15 min/mile, and also complete your 24-hour race at that pace. Conclusion: You should train with “high-volume running at varied paces and intensity with cross-training to avoid injuries.” More at International J Of Sports Physiology & Performance.

Positive Self-Talk Improves Mid-Distance Performance

A Greek researcher wondered if middle distance runners would benefit from learning positive self-talk cues and strategies. In other studies with endurance athletes, the process seemed to work. What about 1500 meter runners?

To find out, he gave an experimental group of adult runners 5 weeks of lessons in the use of positive cues. The idea: “While practicing strategic self-talk as a part of an intervention, athletes become able to internalize the use of the predetermined cue words and finally they choose them unintentionally as part of their organic self-talk during the moment they perform.”

Another group of matched runners did the same physical training for the next 5 weeks, but received no instruction on self-talk cues. Both groups were tested in a “field setting” (ie, not in the lab) before and after the 5 week period.

Results: Both groups improved their performance significantly, and about the same. “Nevertheless, participants of the strategic self-talk improved more.” Conclusion: “This study supports the effectiveness of self-talk training in running performance in a realistic field setting. More at University of Thessaly with free full text.

Your Body Can Absorb More Protein. But Then What?

Protein-loving fans, perhaps mostly body builders, are excited about a revolutionary new study result. The paper seems to show that we’re capable of utilizing much more dietary protein from a meal than was previously believed.

Old school: Your body can only absorb about 20 to 30 grams of protein at a time. Therefore, to maximize protein intake over the course of a day, you should consume that much at every meal. 

New school: You can absorb up to 100 grams of protein (and possibly more) at a time. This seems reasonable from an evolutionary perspective, since early humans didn’t have credit cards or a nearby Whole Foods supermarket. They had to cope with periods of “feast or famine,” so it wouldn’t make much sense for a feast to have a protein ceiling, given protein’s importance to so many body processes.

Brady Holmer explains the study’s methods and findings in his Physiologically Speaking newsletter, and protein/strength expert Stu Phillips has written “Great study! Best evidence yet that meal distribution doesn’t matter that much.”

But we should note a few things first. There’s little evidence that most of us are lacking protein. There’s consistent evidence showing a link between higher (meat) protein intake and shorter lifespan, though this may not be true for those over age 65. More at National Institutes of Health.

Finally this is one of those trials that measures a measure--”muscle protein synthesis”--and not the sort of outcome we’re really interested in such as strength, endurance, or health. As Phillips himself observes: “We don’t know if all this protein 'translates into gainz.' ”

Also, before boosting your protein intake, take a look at studies showing a link between higher (meat) protein intakes and shorter lifespan, except in those over age 65. 

SHORT STUFF You Don’t Want To Miss

>>> Exercise Vs Cancer: A systematic review reveals that “aerobic and resistance training enhance the quality of life of patients with prostate cancer.”

HERE’S WHAT ELSE you would have received this week if you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text edition of “Run Long, Run Healthy.” (Subscription Link Here.)

# Three cheers! Running is good for your vertebral discs--just as it’s good for your knees

# Is plyometrics a secret too for faster races and stronger bones?

# The best, most useful, safest pills for better sleep & recovery

# 9 ways to improve your running form

# Regular run training is enough to beat back the ills of too much sitting

# Here’s an expert consensus strategy for returning to running after childbirth

# OMG! Many recreational cyclists take 12 supplements a day, and 23% consume banned drugs

# An inspiring quote from Des Linden on personal responsibility and training

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That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading. See you again next week. Amby