MET - the other side of the coin

I've been writing about my personal experience with Metabolic Efficiency Training and I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't mention the information that people have been sending me that refutes the evidence that MET is an effective method for training your body to use fat, especially for endurance athletes.

I had a talk with my coach today that made me think about my goals for following MET and how it is affecting my training.

The article that made the most sense to me (sent to me by my coach) was written by Ellen Coleman who is a Registered Dietitian and also a Certified Sports Nutrition Dietitian.

Reconsider Athletes’ Carbohydrate Needs

My coach also sent me the following summary of the article (for folks who don't want to read the entire article)
Some practitioners have proposed that athletes train with low carbohydrate stores but compete with high fuel availability to promote performance—train low, compete high. In theory, training with low muscle glycogen stores maximizes the physiological adaptations to endurance training and improves performance. Despite creating metabolic and muscle enzyme adaptations that should enhance endurance, there is no clear proof that “training low” improves endurance performance.

While more research is certainly warranted on the train low model, it is reasonable to continue to recommend dietary strategies that promote carbohydrate availability to support optimum athletic performance.
I liked the article because it seemed to give the ideas behind MET a fair shake and basically came to the conclusion that more studies should be done (isn't that always the case?!)

This article made me take stock of what I've seen in my own training to date.
  1. my training has been mostly aerobic training.

  2. I HAVE noticed significant decrease to push high zone 4 and zone 5 intervals

  3. I have been able to complete long aerobic level rides and runs without taking in additional carbohydrates without noticing any significant decrease in performance.

  4. I don't need as many calories during training and racing as I previously thought

Personally, the line in the article that resonated with me was
"Fat adaptation increased fat utilization but reduced the activity of pyruvate dehydrogenase, a rate-limiting enzyme in carbohydrate utilization. In fact, not only did fat adaptation fail to improve athletes’ endurance performance, but it also reduced their ability to perform high-intensity exercise. This is significant because the strategic moves that occur during competition (eg, breaking away, surging up a hill, sprinting to the finish line) all depend on the athlete’s ability to work at high intensities, which are in turn fueled by carbohydrate.
-quoted from Reconsider Athletes’ Carbohydrate Needs

I feel I've experienced this in my training... I can go forever, it seems at that aerobic level, but my ability to "surge" is not where it would normally be. I'm wondering at what point following the MET plan is going to be detrimental to my training.

In my head I started thinking "pro/con"

- In my daily life I am enjoying the "level energy" aspect of following MET. I no longer experience the energy super highs and super lows that I had before.
- I am experiencing less GI distress during training and post "long day" training sessions. (that's as gently as I can put it folks) :D
- I've realized that my body does not need as many calories coming in during aerobic base training. (I used to take in about 200 calories an hour and here I am sustaining long rides on no calories coming in and reduced carbohydrate intake in my daily eating.) I would bet (this is an educated guess) that I could race on more like 100 calories an hour. I think there is a big difference between what you can "get by on" during training, vs what will actually help me perform at the right level to "race".

- concern that I may be reducing the effectiveness of my high intensity workouts
- concern that following MET has reduced my body's ability to recovery from high intensity workouts (i.e. I've noticed more muscle soreness, etc. in next day activities than previously)
- not a ton of studies (outside of the book itself) are available that support the theories of the book.

So where does that leave me?

My most important discovery in all of this (for me) is going to be realizing that point, in my running and riding, that my body switches over from primarily using FAT to using up glycogen. My coach has always advised me to race under that point for my long races (70.3 and up - "just under" for 70.3 and varying degrees below based on the distance of the race). The problem was that I was never really certain WHERE that point truly was. The "point" I got from the lactate testing was certainly correct, but seemed conservative to me. I felt like I could go harder (and had successfully raced at a higher level) than that testing indicated.

From training now for a month on MET I have a new feeling for my body and a better understanding of my lactate testing results.

As I stated in my previous post, for now I am sticking with the plan from a daily diet standpoint AND a training stand point. I do see myself experimenting with what works best for me.

The first thing I see myself changing is reintroducing my recovery drink of First Endurance Ultragen. I really feel that I'm missing the amino acids received from drinking the FE Ultragen. I started taking Ultragen over 3 years ago and immediately noticed the difference. I'm thinking the same thing will happen as I add it back into my routine now.

I also think I am going to add whole grains back into my diet (but whole grains ONLY - no simple carby breads, etc.) and initially have them only in the 24 hours leading up to a long ride with intervals or a high intensity training day.

I am going to be incredibly judicious and conservative with adding these things back into my diet. I just really like how I FEEL following the MET style of eating. To me, that is more important findings based on studies of other people.

I also have NO PLANS to drop MET and go back to how I was eating/training before. This is definitely a better plan for me, but as I move forward into heavier intense training blocks I think it's time to put some additional carbs into my routine (which - by the way - is recommended in the MET plan, so technically, I still on plan, even if I'm viewing myself as a little bit rogue) ha ha

I want to extend a big thanks to all the folks that have offered their advice and pointers as I go through this journey.

a couple of shout outs:
Gerry Halphen for starting the process to begin with
Matthew Rose for being supportive and encouraging and giving me an awesome super secret navy seal energy tip (olive oil or EVOO for you rachel ray fans!!)
Andrew Shanks for taking the Bob Seebohar seminar during your USAT junior coaching training and sharing your insights with me!
Laura Sophiea - my incredible coach - for finding out more information and sharing your counsel and experience.
Dani Grabol for pouring over a ton of research and sending me some highlights on MET and other similar training protocols.

and of course, my Trakkers teammates and all of my friends, acquaintances, twitter buds, etc. for or being super supportive! you all rock!!!

I'll keep you posted!


  1. VERY interesting! I remember from Bob's "plates" that carbs come back in (limited) during phases in which intensity is reintroduced into training. You might point him at this blog post and see if he'll respond to you. ;)

  2. Great post, Jill. I think you are taking a very balanced approach to this experiment. One thing to remember is that carbs don't have to be grains. Sweet potatoes would be great leading into harder workouts for energy.

  3. Well thought out Jill. Love how you are being very analytical on both sides!

    Do you feel that the limited ability to train in anaerobic levels during training will have an impact on your ability to do this at race time? Lack of specificity?

    Or is the aerobic base so strong that the time pushing it to higher zones more sustainable?

    Enjoying your analysis!

  4. Rachelle, that's a good point! We'll see if he responds :D

    Kelly, thanks! you are spot on with the sweet potato suggestion! Thanks for the reminder!

    Jeff - that's an interesting question. The short answer is yes I do think I need train at anaerobic levels in order to do it in races. The reason behind that answer though is that for me doing it in training helps me believe that I can do it in the race and it helps me race stronger. But physiologically, I have no idea :D

    Thanks to you all for your comments and support!

  5. Jill, I think I told you that I did MET back when I was in base training, and I loved it, but then I immediately switched over to adding whole grains and other starchy foods back into my diet once I started my building phases because the intensity of workouts really built up, and I needed them! Plus, who doesn't like toast and pb, or whole grain pasta when they are training? I think it's great for base training, but then after that, I need whatever my body is craving:)

  6. It is so weird when people try to tear down other's training plans because there isn't enough science to back up almost EVERYTHING that we do in training.

    I don't think I'll ever understand that...


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