Friday, April 28, 2017

Fat Adapted

Fuelled from fat
There are always two things that people who are with me in the mountains climbing, ski touring, ice climbing, etc., and even while sport climbing at crags or on multi-pitch routes comment on. First is how small my backpack is and second, that I do not eat or drink much.

I do long days out often with just a litre bottle or thermos. I train a lot in a fasted state and many times with nothing to eat or drink - these can be four, six or even more hour-long endeavours  If I am doing a course or guiding a tour, I am generally too busy to eat anyways. However, I will on colder days have some nuts or high-quality dried sausage with me. In summer, nuts and raw vegetables.

The concept of being "fat adapted" is something that is making the rounds in a lot of sports endurance circles now. The idea is to get your body to utilise its fat stores at a greater and greater amount for work at an aerobic level. You are already carrying the potential energy with you on your body, so why not use it? In the alpine disciples there is great stuff on Steve House and Scott Johnston's website that supplements the information in House and Johnston's book, Training for the New Alpinism.

Perhaps one of the first to bring the ideas of training and eating for metabolic fat addaption was Dr. Phil Maffetone who coached a number of legendary Ironman athletes and ultra-distance runners. The more recent appearance of the idea of fat adaption has been the term "fat burning" seen in the diet books of those advocating 'paleo', 'primal' or 'ancestral' ways of eating as well as those who recommend ketogenic diets to readjust faulty metabolisms and cause body fat reduction.

Training the chicken for fat adaptation, everyone wants it now!
There is a ton of material on the webs, social media and in bookstores about this. It takes a bunch of patience and experimentation to see what works for you as an individual alpine athlete. The biggest hurdle for most however is to have an open mind about eating and training that often is very radically different from what you believe.

I have slowly figured things out for myself and now know what works for me to keep me able to train injury free across multi-alpine disciples and perform well. Unfortunately, most do not have the patience, discipline and determination to take this responsibility on themselves.

There was a time when I bought into the hype of the hawkers of sports nutrition products, energy bars and gels, re-fuelling, pre-fuelling, carb loading, protein-to-carb ratios, on and on. It wasn't until I just got fed up with it all - it wasnt't working, my body composition was not optimal, I wasn't recovering or sleeping well - and took the steps to figure it all out on my own, for myself, and only using my own experience as a yardstick for what worked and what did not. I also had to open my mind to completely new and enlightened ways of thinking about eating and training.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Are You a Bodybuilder?

Are you a bodybuilder? Then why are you training like one? This is my thought when I see climbers and other alpine athletes stuck in the fitness industry ideal of resistance training, cross-training, supplemental training, etc. 
Way too many people think that somehow doing bodybuilder movements will then translate into better climbing. Many have adapted the concept of training body parts from large commercial gyms and the fitness business media. So that their non-climbing training is based on doing some form of resistance exercise for a specific body part. 

I have nothing against bodybuilders per se, however, bodybuilding and fitness model training protocols will not be the best methods to improve your performance on the rock or in the mountains.

Athletes need to train their bodys as one holistic integrated part. Athletic qualities are universal and involve accurate movement, patterning the movement, increasing the movements range of motion, increasing the strength at the ends of the range of motion, then focusing on developing speed, power and quickness.

This is so obvious when you say or write it, however every time I am in the climbing gym I see someone doing bicep curls.

Bodybuilding is not a performance sport. The point is the aesthetic development of your physic, not whether or not your physic performs well. Looking good naked does not mean you will climb 5.12a/7a+ or not.

When you train climbing, you are either improving your skills or you are improving your climbing specific fitness. The aspects of fitness that apply to climbing are predominantly, 1) finger strength and, 2) body composition.

Yes, you can use climbing to improve your body composition. However, body composition is without a doubt, first and foremost an issue of nutrition. Additionally, it makes no difference if excess muscle or excess fat limits a climbers strength-to-weight ratio. It is both excess.

All climbers are concerned with increasing their strength-to-weight ratio. You can 1) keep your strength and lose weight, 2) increase your strength and stay at the same weight, 3) combine weight loss with strength gains. So the optimal situation is to lose excess body fat and make your muscles stronger but not not bigger. Then, when you get to the right level, start slowly, painstakingly and with a long-term view incorporating climbing specific finger strength work.

I believe that until you are climbing at around the 7b / 5.12b you do not need to do any supplemental training for your finger strength. Why? because you will progress much faster by simply climbing with as much variety as possible. All the necessary finger strength will develop as your climbing skills improve. More importantly, you are allowing the critical adaptations to take place in your tendons, ligaments, joints and bones - which progress much, much slower than muscle gains. All other muscle adaptation will nicely proceed as your climbing skill moves up to the level of 7b / 5.12b or so.