I have been talking quite a bit about Metabolic Efficiency (ME) lately to different groups and podcasts and have realized that there are still quite a few misconceptions about the concept floating around. Let me take the opportunity to address some of these to clear up any confusion.
1. What is Metabolic Efficiency?
ME is a lifestyle change that focuses on combining the proper nutrients (food) during feedings to properly control and optimize blood sugar. This teaches the body (from a cellular level) how to use fat better as an energy source and preserve carbohydrates.
2. Why is it important?
ME has a profound effect on health by improving certain blood lipid markers and decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome and some chronic disease states. It also reduces body weight and body fat.
ME has a performance effect also. It eliminates GI distress (nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, etc.) in endurance athletes and also reduces the amount of calories needed per hour of exercise. It does this by increasing the amount of fat used at higher intensities. Because glycogen (stored carbohydrate) depletion is the deterrent to athletic success during competition, it makes sense that you would want to use more fat as fuel at higher intensities and preserve carbohydrates until they are really needed.
3. Is it for me?
ME is for anyone with a health or performance related goal. I use the ME plan for myself, my kids, my mom...really anyone. Remember, it's all about controlling and optimizing blood sugar through the different combinations of food. It's safe as long as it is not followed to an extreme for too long.
4. What types of athletes is it good for?
ME works for all athletes but let me make it known that ME is a part of the big picture, that being Nutrition Periodization. As an athlete, you must determine what training cycle you are in first then alter your nutrition to support your energy needs, body weight/fat goals, immune system and health accordingly. For example, an endurance athlete could follow ME year-round but change their carbohydrate and fat consumption based on the time of the year. A bit higher carbohydrate (not a high carb diet) intake during competition cycle may make sense for some athletes while a lower carbohydrate intake would make sense during off-season and early base training.
5. How do I follow the ME diet?
You don't. It's not a diet. It is a manipulation of nutrients based on training and lifestyle. Diets don't work. Diet's are not successful long-term. The ME plan works for anyone because it takes into consideration activity level and other health and performance related goals. The great thing is that all you need to do is change the quantities of carbohydrate, protein and fat throughout the year. ME works beautifully with all sorts of individuals but it must be periodized just like training.
6. What if I screw up?
A change in nutrition is a change in behavior. It takes a few months to really make a new habit stick and there are planned and expected "speedbumps" along the way. Expect these as they will teach good lessons. Don't expect to be perfect. There is no such thing. Allow these "speedbumps" and do not let them affect your self confidence and progress moving forward with your ME plan. As long as you control about 90% of your food, timing and choices, you will do great. The other 10% will be your "speedbumps".
Of course, there is also the topic of nutrient timing and ME. How do you follow the ME plan during training to optimize fat burning and performance at the same time? That will be my discussion for my next blog.
Refer to the great ME resources at the Fuel4mance website for more information.