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Interval Nutrition Self Experiment – For all those with an interest in HIIT

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  • Interval Nutrition Self Experiment – For all those with an interest in HIIT

    A Self Experiment with Interval Training and Nutrition - or 'alright I get the endurance athlete stuff! What about higher intensity Anaerobic Training?'

    First some definitions:
    Low Carbohydrate = anywhere between 0g – 100g Carbohydrate
    High Carbohydrate = anywhere between 100g – 150g Carbohydrate

    Ok, where to begin. I should start by putting who I am and my exercise history into perspective. If you become bored, just skip to ‘The Plan’. I decided to post this in the Fitness forum, as the Athlete forum doesn't appear to get as much traffic.

    My exercise history and I – or ‘My Pain Train to fitness’
    I am a 24 year old male, weighing in at 60kg (135lb) with a height of (5ft 11.5 inches). I have been in the military for seven years and have made some fairly significant fitness gains over the last two or so years. I have recently transitioned to a Paleo diet (thanks to the discovery of Mark Scisson’s Primal Blueprint, as well as noticing the ‘Paleo Diet for Athletes’ book which generated some interest) and have recently completed the 30 day Challenge. The types of exercise I enjoy are running intervals and strength training. Let me detail what my typical work-outs and performance was PRE-PRIMAL/PALEO:

    Cardio Training:
    Workout 1: Interval
    • 400m Sprint in under 1min 20 seconds, followed by light jog for 200m in roughly the same time. Repeated six times.

    Workout 2: 30/30s
    • 30 seconds of hard pace, followed by 30 seconds of easy running. Completed 16 times (total of 16 minutes).

    Workout 3: ‘Mona Session’
    • 2 x 1min hard pace, 1 min easy running; 4 x 45 second hard pace, 45 second easy running; 6 x 30 second hard pace, 30 second easy running; 8 x 15 second hard pace, 15 second easy running,

    Treadmill Workout 1:
    10 minutes at 5 min/km pace followed by alternating between 1 minute at 3:45 minute/km pace and 5 min/km pace for a further 15 minutes (25 minutes total workout time).

    • Treadmill Workout 2: Pyramid – Twice through of the following:
    • 1 min at 12 km/h
    • 1 min at 13 km/h
    • 1 mint at 14 km/h
    • 1 min at 15 km/h
    • 1 min at 16 km/h
    • 1 min at 17km/h
    • 1 min at 16 km/h
    • 1 min at 15 km/h
    • 1 mint at 14 km/h
    • 1 min at 13 km/h
    • 1 min at 12 km/h

    Treadmill Workout 3: Intervals.
    • 3 minutes at 12km/h, followed by six repeats of the following:
      • 1 minute at 18km/h
      • 1 minute at 12km/h

    Strength Training.
    My strength training consisted of almost everyday hitting the gym and conducting 3 x super-sets of 10-12 reps of various activities (generally no more than eight total different types of lifts). An example session would be doing bench-press/pull ups, hammer-curls/dips, row/lat pull down and preacher curl/triceps extension.

    My discovery of Primal/Paleo – or ‘hey! This looks like it would be great for my performance!’

    Alright, so that was PRE-PRIMAL/PALEO. Note that four of these workouts (sometimes 5) were conducted each week.

    I was then placed onto a Fitness Leader course, which is designed to train you to be able to plan, organise and running physical training for units within the Army as well as provide technical exercise advice to soldiers.

    This course lasted four weeks, and increased in intensity each week. The second and third week were composed of conducted circuit training for several hours each day, with the fourth week composed of Endurance PT from 0700 h – 1030 h each day, followed by various circuits until 1700 h.

    I discovered Paleo at the end of the second week of the course (half-way through) and thought I would give it a shot. I also thought that, given my current position on the course, with fairly extensive daily fitness the ‘transition period’ or ‘Carb-Flu’ would be quicker/easier. Needless to say it was a very draining course.

    At the end of the course I took three weeks leave and visited my Family. At this point I decided to become ‘strict Paleo’ for 30 days and eliminate dairy, caffeine, alcohol, etc. My physical training over this period changed to some weight work (compound lifts in circuits) every second day, with no Cardio training – as I was recovering from the Fitness Leader course.

    My return to exercise – or ‘troubled waters’

    I have recently returned to work and finished my 30 day challenge. I have begun my cardio/interval/anaerobic training again but have found my performance to be significantly reduced. This is not a surprise, however the degree to which my performance has degraded was somewhat of a concern. As an example, before my Paleo Transition I could comfortably run my 400m intervals in sub 1 min 20 seconds, and use a 200m jog recovery before conducted another 5 in a similar fashion. This morning I conducted 4 x 400m intervals with 1 minutes Standing rest and could not complete any of them below 1 minute 20 seconds (in fact, the last three were around the 1 minute 40 second mark).

    Needless to say I am somewhat concerned. I understand that performance will be reduced after sedentary periods (I have been through it many times in the Military), however the last time I took 3 weeks off I did less exercise yet my performance was stronger on returning to work. Granted, it was not at the same level however was much better than what my ‘return to work’ performance currently is.

    After some research and reading I have decided it could be the following (reader input into this hypothesis would be greatly appreciated)

    After tracking my dietary intake for a week, my Carbohydrate intake average between 40g – 60g per day coming from very minimal amounts of fruit and mostly vegetables (no starchy veggies either). Now, whilst I believed I was fairly sedentary during my three weeks leave, I began thinking about the training I was conducted (being compound movements in a circuit with little rest) which led me to believe I would have been slowly depleting my overall Glycogen stores progressively without being able to replenish them. Therefore, when it came time to conduct the interval training I found that I ‘hit the wall’ much early than I normally would have.

    I researched this through the Paleo Diet for Athletes book and was caught by the article on Lactic Acid – which basically states that the Acid levels in your muscles are what causes them to ‘slow down’ when exercising at high intensity. Basically, it states that Glycogen (stored directly in the muscles) releases one unit of Hydrogen (thus increasing the pH scale, or how acidic our blood is), whilst Glucose (stored in the liver and floats around the blood stream) releases two units of Hydrogen. Now, the body uses Glycogen immediately for Anaerobic type exercise, however when it can no longer generate the energy required from Glycogen (such as if the stores were depleted), it switches to Glucose which generates twice as much Hydrogen and doubles the acidity in the blood causing you to ‘hit the wall’ faster.

    This research again led me to believe that my overall Glycogen stores were fairly low or depleted.

    Lastly, my leg muscles have felt particularly tight over the previous month and often twitch and spasm in a manner very similar to the feeling you get before a muscle cramp whilst playing sport (something which has never occurred prior to going ‘Paleo). I know the feeling because I played Touch Football (involving a lot of explosive movement and anaerobic exercise) at a very competitive level and have suffered from one or two cramps, all of which were pre-ceded by the muscles spasms and twitches. Whilst I do not have scientific evidence to prove this, I believe that this is another sign that my muscle Glycogen is depleted – as it would be in a similar environment being subjected to intensive activity such as playing Touch Football.

    Therefore my hypothesis is that I am not consuming enough Carbohydrate to replenish the Glycogen and my performance is suffering as a result. All research I have done points to the body’s ability to perform well under ‘Ketosis’ and becoming fat-adapted for endurance exercise – unfortunately there is very little in high intensity training. What little there is on high intensity training seems to indicate that no matter what, carbohydrates are pretty much required for Glycogen – as without Glycogen the muscles simply cannot operate at the higher intensity required during the exercise. This is also in-line with my basic understanding of the bodies energy systems.
    Last edited by Tracer; 09-25-2011, 08:19 PM.
    "Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."

  • #2
    The Plan! – or ‘the bridge over the troubled waters’

    My action plan is as follows: Increase the amount of daily Carbohydrate. I refer to Mark Scisson’s Carbohydrate Curve diagram. I am going to aim for high Carbohydrate (100g – 150g of Carbohydrate) on my Interval training days (again, not an excessive amount and still well within the ‘healthy’ range) and switch to a standard ‘high fat, normal protein, low carb’ intake on the ‘off-interval’ days.

    The priority for the higher carb intake during the interval training days will be immediately after training and extending into about four hours post exercise (so Lunch will probably involve a sweet potato, white potato or maybe some white rice), with all meals after this (such as dinner) being lower carb, normal protein and high fat. I believe this is what is called Cyclic-Low Carb? Can anyone confirm this?

    Alright, now for the training program. My week can be broken down into the following:

    Training Program

    • Tuesday:
      • AM: Cross Training (swim intervals, swim distance, jump rope training, ect)

    • Wednesday:
      • AM: Interval Training
      • PM: Strength Training (5x5 Strongman program)

    • Thursday:
      • AM: Long, slow distance run. Aiming for 30minutes minimum at a comfortable pace

    • Friday:
      • AM: Weighted Walk (40minutes minimum) or Interval Training (depending on feeling)
      • PM: Strength Training (5x5 Strongman program)

    • Saturday:
      • Rest – Or possibly conducting some training on transitioning to barefoot running. Focus on extremely low intensity and concentrate on techniques.

    • Sunday:
      • Rest – no exceptions.

    Typical Nutrition
    On interval and strength training days:
    Post Intervals: I will finish each session with a 200ml juice to assist in restoring Glycogen immediately (similar to the homebrew shakes recommended in the Paleo Diet for Athletes, but minus the pure glucose, other fruit and protein).
    Breakfast: I will then consume breakfast with high protein and slower releasing Carbohydrates (an example being some sweet potato with chicken).
    Lunch: High protein, Low Carbohydrate (High nutrient) with some fats – an example being a salad with good amounts of veggies, meat and good fats such as avocado.
    Dinner: High protein, Low Carbohydrate (High nutrient) with normal fats – eaten post Strength Training. An example being a piece of meat (steak, salmon, pork, etc) with a side of veggies and some fats to go with the meat (such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, etc).

    On non-interval days (cross train, long easy runs, weighted walk, etc)
    Breakfast: High protein, High fats, low carbohydrate (an example being a couple of poached eggs, bacon or ham and some fried mushrooms and tomato).
    Lunch: Normal protein, High fats and low carbohydrate – an example being a salad with a moderate portion of meat, good amounts of veggies and greens, and good fats such as avocado.
    Dinner: Normal protein, High fats and low carbohydrate – An example being a serving of Meat (with the fat eaten) with a side of veggies and nuts.

    Higher Carb day
    I am also toying with the idea of a higher carb day which does not fall on the interval training days. My current feeling is that Sunday would be ideal (as it is the day prior to my first interval session for the week). The idea here is to consume enough Carbohydrate to ensure my Glycogen levels are full (again, staying under 150g of Carbohydrate per day). This may or may not be required depending on how well my Carb levels on the interval training days maintain my Glycogen levels. Essentially I would be eating as per a non-interval day but would throw in a sweet potato, or some other starchy Paleo source of carbs, to bump up the overall intake to over 100g. Any thoughts?

    Overall Goals – or ‘mum, are we there yet?'
    Improve my cardio-vascular fitness for power and short distance running (maximum 5km) whilst improving overall muscle strength and conditioning.

    I intend to keep this up to date with my progress and Daily Nutrition and exercise. Please feel free to add your own input / experience and maybe we can create an amateur ‘Knowledge Base’ on this type of exercise (as the internet is already full of info on Paleo and Endurance activities). It would be nice to have some more data/info on interval and strength/power training.

    Any comments? – or ‘holy cow batman! I am panicking, please talk to me!
    If anyone can offer some advice, suggestions, criticisms, corrections or otherwise assist in this experiment PLEASE DO SO.

    I believe the sum of the results will only be as good as the input, so let me know what you think!
    Last edited by Tracer; 09-25-2011, 08:12 PM.
    "Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."


    • #3
      Well, here was today's dietary intake. I decided to have a handful (25g) of raisins post my 5x5 Strongman lifts to boost carbohydrates post work-out. Overall, today was what I would consider a very high Carb Day (particularly given the levels I was previously eating at) - however we can see that it was still only 141g, with 27g of Fibre, leaving 114g of usable Carbs. So, despite having what I would consider an adequate amount of recovery carbohydrates it is still well within the healthy range. A good start. We shall see how performance on the next interval training day (Wednesday) fairs.

      26 Sep 11..jpg
      Attached Files
      "Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."


      • #4
        Ok, so I have done some further research and discovered the following.

        Mat Lalonde (those who listen to the Paleo Solution Podcast will know who he is) wrote an interesting article on conducting Cross-Fit, higher intensity training on low carb (~50g per day). He initially had some great success. I suggest everyone read the article as it provides some interesting information

        Cross-Fit on a Low Carb Paleo Diet by Mat Lalonde

        So, going off this article alone would say that Carbohydrate is NOT required for higher intensity training... although it would depend on the difficulty of his cross-fit sessions (which I have reason to believe are fairly intense). HOWEVER - Mat Lalonde appeared on the Paleo Solution podcast during episode 68 and made a very interesting comment about the training. Follow the link below and go to the bottom of page 19:

        Paleo Solution Episode 68 transcript

        Turns out that Mat went back on his origional assessment. As he put it - he though his brain was going to die essentially from lack of Carbohydrate. His conclusion:

        If you are going to do high intensity exercise, you should eat the carbohydrate that goes along with it. So don’t repeat that experiment.

        An interesting read that points towards the fact that Carbohydrates are probably a must if High Intensity training is conducted fairly regularly.

        Any thoughts?
        "Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."


        • #5
          Alright, so far so good with the training. I am recovering fairly well considering the lack of conditioning (thanks to the 3 week rest period). Here is the log of Yesterdays food intake (27 Sep). Training yesterday was a circuit focusing on core strength exercises, with 3 x 400m rows on an Ergo Trainer thrown in. I also did around 15 minutes of jump rope technique training and 10 - 15 minutes of Handstand skills training.

          27 Sep..jpg
          "Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."