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Benefits of massage and adapting to burn fat as fuel
by on Thursday, June 18, 2015  (16 comments)

This week, I have an interesting roundup post on the benefits of massage and adapting to burn fat as fuel.

Benefits of massage

We all know massage feels good, right? But does it do anything physiologically to actually make us better runners?

It appears so.

We've already known that inflammation is reduced and mitochondria (the "power plants" of the muscles) growth is increased when muscle is massaged after exercise.

Now, there is evidence of more benefits. More blood vessels, less scar tissue and more muscle fiber regeneration.

Also noted is that massage immediately after exercise is better than 24 or 48 hours later. Timing matters.

Adapting to burn fat as fuel

A few months ago, I wrote about the idea of the low carb/high fat diet in relation to runners. I noted in there that we simply can't burn fat quickly enough, even after adapting to burn fat as fuel, to support 5K or even marathon pace. I received a couple emails from LCHF advocates in which they called me a liar and one said a few other things. Such is life on the Internet, right?

Well, I directed them to some evidence that you indeed can't burn fat quickly enough to support even marathon pace. Now, I have more evidence I can direct them to.

As noted in the image there, you're pretty much out of luck on burning enough fat to power yourself through a 5K or 10K if you're focused on racing. As for the marathon, if you're a 176 pound marathoner you could train yourself to burn enough fat to get you to the finish line in 4.5 hours. If you're a 132 pound runner, you can train yourself to burn enough fat to get you to the finish line in 3.1 hours. Any faster and you're going to need glycogen (carbs).

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16 comments
cesar

There are always going to be haters on the internet and in face to face world. You are not supposed to burn carbohydrates at faster paces and fat at slower paces?

Either way, You have to include both in an efective training program.

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Ryan

I've heard often, if you're not getting some hate mail, you're not really making a difference. If you're not ruffling someone's feathers, you're not really saying anything that adds to the conversation. You're just being a part of the echo chamber. Not that I intentionally try to ruffle feathers but I call things as I see them and, if that gets some people worked up, I invite debate and don't worry myself about insults.

As for the argument they make, it boils down to the fact that you can train yourself to burn fat more rapidly and fat is essentially an inexhaustible energy source. The idea some forward is to eat a very low carb diet to train yourself to burn fat more quickly. The problem is that this may work for slower events like ultras but, for competitive runners in marathon or shorter events, you simply can't burn fat rapidly enough to fuel the higher intensity effort. Some seem unwilling to accept that.

I still believe training to burn fat more rapidly is important for anyone racing more than 90 minutes to 2 hours and, to some extent, even shorter events. However, I think the evidence is clear that, if you want to run your best in the marathon or shorter events, you need to use more than just fat.

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cesar

What do you think about the theory that doing speed workouts and threhsold runs burn a lot more calories than an easy, slow runs. That makes sense since if that were easy all the joggers would be fit and lean, but some are fat no matter what. Runners who train speed, threshold and easy runs are lean and fit.

I have not seen an elite or a fast runner that is chubby.

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cesar

What do you think about the theory that doing speed workouts and threhsold runs burn a lot more calories than an easy, slow runs. That makes sense since if that were easy all the joggers would be fit and lean, but some are fat no matter what. Runners who train speed, threshold and easy runs are lean and fit.

I have not seen an elite or a fast runner that is chubby.

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Ryan

Well, it's a little more complex than that. For one thing, you can detect a nearly linear relationship between average weekly volume and some measure such as BMI at least on the average. There are, of course, always exceptions.

It's a simple fact that you burn more calories per minute while running fast. However, it's also a simple fact that, regardless of pace, you burn roughly the same number of calories per mile. So you get more calorie burn per minute invested when you do intense workouts but you can get more calorie burn overall by running a higher overall volume, which can be accomplished by going at a lower intensity.

In general, I think the best method for weight loss takes into consideration a few factors:

1) Do what you like, which will help you do it more consistently.
2) Mix it up, both to keep things fresh and to stress your body and burn calories in different ways.
3) Maintain a sustainable routine, one which you can stay both motivated and healthy, so you can keep at it for a long time.

Except for point 1 (sometimes competitive runners have to do what they don't like) this is similar advice to what I would give for competitive runners.

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cesar

Thanks Ryan!! As today I do have 3 days without running due to the shin splints, I am much better and I ll do a short run tonight. I am 196 pounds( weighted myself this morning) and I ll control my eating and drinking calories, I want to lose 30 pounds or so by December.

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cesar

3 weeks without running***

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cesar

3 weeks without running***

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Ryan

You can do it. Take care of those shins.

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cesar

Oh man! I just came back to running after 3 weeks, and during the run yesterday) I could feel it a bit but could run through it , now I am limping and feel like those 3 weeks off were a waste of time. The funny thing is that its only my right shin( almost in the ankle), my left shin is great and everytime I experience shin splints are in one leg,not both at the same time. So I pretty much discard reasons like overweight, worn out shoes,etc. Dont know what to do , the help did not rest at all, well, it did help, but as soon as I ran,the pain came back!

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Ryan

Cesar, work back gradually. Even stick with 10-20 minutes easy and even consider using walk breaks if necessary. Typically, when people start back up and feel no healing has happened, it's because they try to start back right where they left off after a relatively significant break.

Also, have you been doing things to strengthen your shins and increase the flexibility of your calves during the time off? If you're not working to remedy the underlying issue, the problems will keep returning.

Calf stretches are all over the place and I'm sure you know some. For strengthening the shins, try walking around on your heels, with your toes pointed upward.

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cesar

Thanks Ryan!! That was my plan, to keep running even if short amount of time, I won´t waste time resting and losing all my fitness if I can run some through it. I honestly wasdoing some stretches, but not much. I thought that with rest the inflamation would heal and I would be back "normal" again.

Hope the trip went well!!

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Malcolm (Guest)

Hi
What are your thoughts on the FASTER study which suggests that we adapt over time to burn fat at higher and higher rates?

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Ryan

Hi Malcolm. The FASTER study is actually the one that is referenced in this link I referenced in the post.

Yes, we can adapt to burn fat at higher rates over time. However, there appears to be an upper limit. For a 132 pound runner, this upper limit leads to energy production at a rate sufficient to finish a marathon in just over 3 hours. For a 176 pound runner, you're looking at energy production at a rate sufficient to finish a marathon in 4.5 hours.

I'm not discounting the benefits of training our bodies to burn fat more efficiently. I think there are benefits to be gained by doing so. However, the idea that you can burn only fat is limited as races get shorter and more intense by the fact that there appears to be an upper limit to the rate at which we can burn fat.

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Pieter Oosthuizen (Guest)

FWIW:
I did a 4:14 marathon on fat in Jan (178 lbs/ 81 kg)
No CHO loading at all, only took 200 ml of Coke @ 37km to see if it will make a difference:
https://www.strava.com/activities/847824708/overview

This (hilly) half mar with 0 CHO as well:
https://www.strava.com/activities/690274041/overview

10Km:
https://www.strava.com/activities/690274041/overview

Obviously I can't say how much different (+/-) I would have done by following a 'hybrid' approach. Maybe I will experiment with that in a couple of months time.

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Ryan

Hi Pieter,

Based on the research, what you've done is roughly the upper limit of what could be expected. As noted in the comments at the link, a 176 pound runner burning all fat could be expected to maintain about 4:30 marathon pace. Given individual variation, I'm sure something even close to 4:00 might be possible for some individuals who weigh in the 170s.

Again, I'm not saying it's impossible to run on nothing but fat. If you're chasing the fastest time possible, though, that's very likely not the path you want to follow.

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