Glycogen depletion training is a phrase that I heard from the Great MissZ about a month or so ago. At the time I thought to myself: Why would you do this? Why would you purposely not use carbs to help fuel your workouts and races. It wasn’t much prior to that message from MissZ that Jeff Irvin said he was going into carbohydrate control so that when he took in the carbs on race day his performance would peak because of the extra energy.
Both of these sounded somewhat absurd to me. I am of the belief that if we take in carbohydrates on a routine basis that our bodies will be fueled for our workouts. And by routine I mean eating a diet that consists of 60%-65% carbohydrates and not going for that midnight Snickers bar. Routine meaning that you are getting your carbs on a consistent basis throughout the day so that you are burning what you need when you need it.
After reading MissZ’s report about glycogen depletion training I decided to give it a go. Last week was my first full week of doing it and I have to say that there was not a loss of performance during the training and maybe even a slight pickup. The rules I laid out for myself were to have nothing prior to working out and only consume water during the workout. The key rule though was nothing longer than 2 hours. If I was going to go longer than two hours than I was going to take in my Prolong/Prepare mix during the workout. The other rule was on a day with 2 sessions (1 in the morning and 1 at lunch) that I was going to eat lunch 1 hour prior to the workout. Also, recovery was going to be key to this test. Without the proper recovery all of this would be for nothing.
After the second day of being on this newly discovered training plan I had lost 4 pounds and could feel myself getting stronger. Now the change is not the only difference in my training, we also have to take into account the fact that I am getting stronger and faster because of the volume of training I’m doing. The weight loss coupled with my body learning to use fat as fuel was a spark for me. It has led me to be able to focus on my efficiency and not worry about the timing of the clock for when to take in a sip.
Here is where the rubber met the road for me. I decided to take this weekend as a race weekend. This means that on Thursday night I am doing my big carbohydrate meal followed by a huge breakfast on Friday (1,000 calories of waffles, pancakes and toast) with tapered eating the rest of the day. Saturday morning consisted of a typical race day breakfast (toast with homemade nut butter, sliced banana and honey along with granola and coconut milk) and then off to ride for 5.5 hours and run for 30 minutes.
The results of the ride were great. For 5.5 hours I felt terrific and never felt like I was struggling. This was a training ride so we weren’t going at race pace but I held an easy 18 mph ride in comparison to the week prior where I was around 17 mph. In the end I rode 90 miles and in 15 minutes faster than the previous week (wind, terrain all play a factor of course) but I felt better. The 30 minute run afterwards was ‘easy’ as I held 8:30/mi paces for the entire time whereas the week prior I came out at 8:30 but soon slowed down to close to 9:00/mile.
On Sunday I had a 15 mile run with the first mile as a warm-up and the remaining 14 miles at tempo pace. I ran the first mile in 9:30 and then held 8:15s until the last two miles which ended up closer to 8:30. I ran the entire 2 hours and 5 minutes with nothing but water and two sticks of Hydrate, which is an electrolyte mix with only 4g of carbs. I felt good the entire time and never had that feeling of this is just horrible I want it to be over.
This type of glycogen depletion workout has worked for one week and I am doing it again this week to see how my body adapts to using fat as fuel and to make sure that I am recovering properly to enjoy my workouts.