‘Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.’
Robert Frost

Following represents musings from the trails with Minnesota-based prolific writer, author, and entrepreneur, Phillip Gary Smith, and one of a series of collaborative efforts in the spirit of health and sport.

Amber Ferreira | Professional Endurance Athlete
Amber Ferreira | Professional Endurance Athlete

“Endurance athletes require precision nutrition,” notes Dr. Jeff Kildahl, Wellness Editor of Snowshoe Magazine. In this article, he proudly presents metabolic efficiency concept for snowshoe and endurance athletes, an industry first.

Understand with this information, an athlete should exceed their current abilities, be healthier, perhaps even extend one’s life expectancy.

Dr. Kildahl continues, “The foremost nutrition limiter to endurance sport performance is depleted glycogen stores. Reliance by many athletes on carbohydrate [CHO] as their primary fuel source remains pervasive and indefensible because it sabotages one’s health and potential.”

ME fuel options

Endurance athletes erroneously fixate on replenishing the limited supply of CHO [1,200 calories] in the tank while transporting nearly unlimited fuel stored as endogenous fat [80,000 calories].

Bob Seebohar, Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, displaying a coaching resume’ of Olympians, professional athletes and collegiate teams, bluntly lays it out: ‘The best training plan is worthless if the nutrition plan fails.’

Consuming protein, fiber, and healthy fat represent the nutritional foundation of Metabolic Efficiency [ME].

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The Issue

The body shifts its primary fuel source from fat to carbohydrate as intensity levels increase. This shift is an ineffective route to optimal health and sport performance.

The typical diet induces nutritional stress. Ingest commercial sports drinks composed of simple sugars [sucrose or fructose] or maltodextrin and you get both quick energy and an unhealthy cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes.

Insulin-stimulating carbohydrate represents an insidious path to the podium of self-destruction.

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The Solution

Preservation of glycogen until it is needed ought to be the maxim. Insulin sensitivity is paramount to this process and it is attainable only via metabolic efficiency. Fat adaptation is paramount..

ME is the catalyst to optimal health and performance. Its profound impact on mitigating health markers while maximizing sport performance is unparalleled. It is an inside out approach to disease prevention and sport performance.

The Benefits

–> Enhanced concentration and focus;
–> Increased sustained energy;
–> Lower caloric needs during exertion;
–> Reduced cravings;
–> Satiety;
–> Enhanced moods;
–> Better fasting blood sugar levels;
–> Improved sleep quality;
–> Accelerated body fat loss;
–> Enhanced HbA1c levels;
–> Decreased risk of chronic and degenerative diseases

The Key

ME manifests sport performance excellence because of your diet and exercise regimens — not in spite of them. A by-product of metabolic efficiency is its innumerable benefits respective to health markers.

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Teaching your body to oxidize fat as its primary fuel source [fat adaptation] changes the scope of longevity and performance.

Synergy is the key to your mansion of optimal health, endurance sport performance, and self-actualization. It begins and ends at the cellular level.

The Evolution

The Crossover Concept:

The Crossover Concept [CC] pinpoints the exercise intensity in which the body shifts from fat to CHO oxidation. This is expressed as a percentage of exercise intensity relative to the maximum volume of oxygen [VO2] consumed. It describes the relationship between intensity and the utilization of fat and CHO during exertion.

This concept is an exercise only intervention. The outcome of CC is to improve fat oxidation via low intensity aerobic training. The premise is fat oxidation will predominate when exertion is less than or equal to 63-65% of maximal intensity. The CC identifies one’s ideal “fat burning zone” absent nutritional variables.

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Metabolic Flexibility:

Metabolic flexibility [MF] is a nutrition-only intervention.

Metabolic flexibility is the capacity to utilize fat and carbohydrate fuels plus the transition between them in response to changes in dietary energy intake or circulating substrate [enzymatic] concentrations.

MF is the ability to adapt fuel oxidation to fuel availability. The switch in fuel oxidation will depend on the type and amount of nutrients available for oxidation at the cellular level. Insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance impact metabolic flexibility and metabolic inflexibility, respectively.

The inability to modify fuel oxidation in response to changes in nutrient availability has been implicated in the accumulation of intramyocellular lipid and insulin resistance — precursors to metabolic syndrome.

The MF concept is based on following a low CHO daily nutrition plan before switching to a high CHO diet prior to competitions. Fat adaptation is the desired outcome.

Andrea Kladar | Calgary BC Canada | Philanthropist
Andrea Kladar | Calgary BC Canada | Philanthropist

Metabolic Efficiency:

A concept created by Bob Seebohar complements his nutrition periodization method for peak performance and quells recurring nutrition and training issues by endurance athletes.

ME is the body’s ability to utilize endogenous stores of CHO and fat at varying exercise intensity and duration levels and rest. It is focused on the manipulation of the daily nutrition plan and the contribution from different types of exercise. It is a nutrition [75%] and exercise [25%] intervention.

ME creates the enviable quality of significantly reduced caloric intake during exertion because the body is proficient at fat oxidation even at high intensity. Its far-reaching, cost-effective benefits create a desirable approach to health and sport performance.

The ability to oxidize fat at or near one’s lactate threshold [LT] level changes everything.

Lactate threshold [LT] is defined as the exercise intensity at which lactate accumulates in the blood [lactic acid] faster than it can be extracted. It is a byproduct of the anaerobic glycolysis energy system and commonly termed oxygen debt.

Lactic acid has received a bad rap for decades as a waste byproduct of exertion. It is now known to be easily recycled into glucose by the liver versus an inflammation-creating performance inhibitor.

Research indicates that lactate, not glucose, may be the predominant energy source metabolized by brain neurons.

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Four primary reasons exist to implement the metabolic efficiency concept. These reasons impact health markers and sport performance limiters common among the mainstream and athletes.

1~Eliminates GI distress

Each person carries a limited supply of blood. Blood is necessary to transport oxygen to fuel the digestive process. This means a shortfall exists respective to the brain and musculature.

Find below typical factors that cause GI distress and gastroparesis.

–> Diversion or blood shunting;
–> Excess carbohydrate intake;
–> Osmolality imbalances;
–> Excessive water intake;
–> Exercise intensity

Joe Kulak | Ultra-Endurance Athlete

Becoming metabolic efficient through food combinations and exercise adaptation will balance blood sugar and manipulate endogenous fat and CHO stores to maximize performance via less caloric intake.

2~Improves nutrient partitioning for energy use

Nutrient partitioning describes whether the energy derived from the food one consumes is utilized as fuel for muscles or stored as fat. Each macronutrient and micronutrient is partitioned to either muscle or fat cells.

Insulin plays a major role in nutrient partitioning and the level of insulin sensitivity determines how the complex shuttle system functions. Insulin sensitivity has the potential to improve energy expenditure where insulin resistance turns your body into a fat storage facility.

Insulin stimulates the uptake and storage of glucose. Blood glucose levels surge when the small intestine breaks down CHO. Elevated glucose levels propel insulin spikes which inhibit lipolysis.

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Glucose will be converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles. Glucose in the bloodstream means additional insulin is released to expunge it [convert and store it as fat]. This leads to insulin resistance which first impairs muscle function before triggering other health markers.

Fat adaptation is the key:

–> Increase whole body fat oxidation, even in highly trained individuals;
–> Skeletal muscle is primarily responsible for increased fat oxidation during exercise after a short-term, high-fat diet as a result of altered substrate storage;
–> Increased fat oxidation is due to elevated intramuscular triglyceride (IMTG) concentration

3~Improves body composition and weight

Decreasing body fat is beneficial for optimal health and performance.

Body composition refers to the proportion of lean body mass (highly correlated with muscle mass) to fat mass in a person. Improving body composition involves decreasing body fat while maintaining or adding muscle.

Laura Conley | Ultra-Endurance Athlete | LA
Laura Conley | Ultra-Endurance Athlete | LA

There are a plethora of reasons for losing body fat from maintaining health and well-being, excellence in sport via improved quickness, agility, and enhanced performance, or simply to look and feel better.

Restrictive caloric dietary plans will provide insufficient fuel for exertion, compromise training adaptations, and deliver suboptimal results.

A more prudent approach is to provide adequate energy to fuel exercise and allow endogenous fat stores to play a vital role in attaining a lean athletic physique.

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4~ Improves health markers and risks associated w/ chronic and degenerative diseases

–> Mood stabilization;
–> Improved lipid profile;
–> Lower fasting blood sugar and insulin;
–> Controlled inflammation;
–> Improved memory;
–> Improved sleep quality–> fitful sleep and sleep deprivation are linked to high glucose concentrations which increase the risk for chronic and degenerative diseases
–> Blood sugar Imbalances –> Effects on Health and Performance

Insulin not only facilitates the proper utilization of glucose but plays a significant role in other aspects of cellular function and nutrition. Insulin has been shown to affect protein metabolism, amino acid transport, neurotransmitters, nutrients, and other molecules across the cell membrane.

A system termed the sodium-potassium pump is critical to cellular homeostasis. Elevated blood sugar damages this precious system via oxidative stress, glycoslyation, and hypoxia.

The system monitors cell communication, antioxidant protection, electrolyte balance, and ion regulation such as calcium, magnesium, among others. Phosphate metabolism is the key to ion transport, mitochondrial proliferation, and muscle contraction.

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Elevated blood sugar increases insulin secretion which decrease the insulin/glucagon ratio, inhibits glycolysis, which hampers energy production. Find below some of the adverse health conditions resulting from elevated blood glucose levels:

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Cellular health requires synergy among four important variables: homeostasis; antioxidants, mitochondrial function; and the acid/alkaline balance. Detailing these processes is beyond the scope of this article but an overview is available in a four-part series published in Snowshoe Magazine | Cellular Foresight | http://bit.ly/1klAIev.

Testing Protocols

ME testing is different from all other exercise physiology testing protocols because it utilizes indirect calorimetry. Calorimetry means the science associated with determining the changes in energy of a system [www.physicsclassroom.com].

Indirect calorimetry is a technique that provides accurate estimates of energy expenditure from measures of carbon dioxide production and oxygen consumption during rest and steady­-state exercise. Direct caliometry cannot be performed on humans.

A submaximal ME test should not to be confused with the coveted VO2 max test. The primary difference between the two assessments is that a submaximal test allows the body time to adapt to incremental changes. Substrate circulation [MF] must stabilize to incur a precise reading.

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VO2 max is the maximal oxygen uptake utilized in one minute during maximal or exhaustive exercise. VO2 max tests can be valuable tools to train endurance athletes to attain their maximum potential. The training zones can be correlated with heart rate, perceived exertion rating, power, and pace.

Aerobic exercise significantly improves VO2 max. Though VO2 max is an excellent mode to measure fitness it is not a viable predictor of athletic performance. Enter the ME assessment.

–> ME assessments last 30-45 minutes at 5-minute increments;
–> ME assessments use lower output settings;
–> ME assessments incur precise metrics

–> VO2 max assessments last 20 minutes at 1-minute increments;
–> VO2 max assessments use higher output settings;
–> VO2 max assessments incur estimated capacity levels

Each ME assessment includes at least the following additional measurements:

–> Resting substrate;
–> Resting lactate;
–> Resting blood glucose;
–> Blood pressure;
–> Body weight;
–> Oxygen saturation

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The Metabolic Efficiency Point (MEP) is the point where carbohydrate and fat oxidation intersect during exertion. As the intensity of exercise increases carbohydrate becomes the preferred fuel source to sustain exercise.

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Incremental Assessment

The goal of the incremental metabolic assessment is to determine if an individual has a MEP and, if so, what intensity it occurs.

The data will determine nutrition and exercise protocols to maximize fat oxidation at higher intensities.

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Continuous Assessment

This assessment is not concerned with identifying a MEP but determining specific substrate utilization at a given intensity or varying intensities.

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A continuous metabolic efficiency assessment helps an athlete create their competition day nutrition plan based on their individual fitness level at a given point in their training program. It accounts for the physiological and nutritional responses that were trained during the previous months.

It allows the athlete to dial in their nutrition more accurately based on their physiology rather than using the standard calorie and CHO ranges seen in many sports nutrition resources.

The data from a continuous assessment will ensure metabolic efficiency during competition thanks to prudent nutrient partitioning and exercise adaptation.

ME Testing Centers

Life begins and ends at the cellular level.

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In order to maximize longevity and performance one must begin to focus from the inside out. One site identifies individuals certified in administering and interpreting data from a MET. http://www.metabolicefficiency.org/certified-professionals/.

Now that you have this understanding from Dr. Kildahl, recognize there are only 41 persons on the globe with the Metabolic Efficiency Testing Specialist [METS] credential.

This L1 credential requires thorough knowledge of ME and nutrition periodization concepts and in some cases (like Dr. Kildahl), the ability to administer ME protocols and interpret data from an assessment respective to mitigating or even reversing health markers. Additionally, they will possess the ability to maximize endurance sport performance via diet and exercise interventions.

Less than a dozen people on the planet will possess the METS L2 certification when it is next offered in 2016 in a biennial process. These few on the globe, like Dr. Kildahl, can sing as Tom Petty puts it, “It’s good to be king . . . whatever it pays.”

Lauara Conley - Stadium Steps

Most METS L1 and METS L2 certified individuals are endurance sport coaches, trainers, athletes, and the like. Cyclists and triathletes have embraced the ME concept. These individuals are most likely dedicated to improving sport performance. Dr Jeff Kildahl possesses credentials bringing more to the table.

What differentiates him is the medical specialty he created to maximize longevity and endurance sport performance known as Performance Medicine™. Its principles are designed to create synergy – the key to optimal health and sport performance.

ME acts as the catalyst to these Performance Medicine™ principles:

–> Endurance Capacity;
–> Body Composition;
–> Disease Prevention;
–> Metabolic Efficiency

Nutrition represents the cornerstone of optimal health and sport performance. Our fuel choices ought to nourish our bodies not zap energy.

Measuring physiological and biochemical performance on a continuum where the law of diminishing returns is ever-present is a delicate balance. Implementing the requisite modifications to optimize both longevity and sport performance is paramount.

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Performance Medicine™ is applicable to mitigating health markers and maximizing endurance sport performance. His desired outcome is to educate trail, ultra and snowshoe endurance athletes in the spirit of transcending health, performance, and potential (self-actualization) in life and sport.

Science guides us…life leads us.

When you make the decision to honor your body – it will honor you. It is at this stage one begins to realize the difference between effort and struggle.

Coach Steve Ilg | Durango, CO
Coach Steve Ilg | Durango, CO

Future posts will delve into specific nutrition and exercise interventions, testing and interpretation protocols, and related strategies respective to metabolic efficiency and its unequivocal link to each Performance Medicine™principle

May your Sadhana thrive!



Phillip Gary Smith
Phillip Gary Smith

Jeff Kildahl

View posts by Jeff Kildahl

Jeff Kildahl is a writer, author, wellness consultant and philanthropist advancing preventive health care by synthesizing primary source nutrition and fitness as the principal components of the practice of medicine.

Kildahl is a sponsored vegan ultra-endurance athlete credentialed in bioenergetics, biomechanics, metabolic efficiency™ testing, sport nutrition, and natural medicine. He is a dynamic member of CUBE™ ~ a professional speakers group ~ empowering others to harmonize the "Keys to Living in the Song of Life."

He is the wellness editor at Snowshoe Magazine, United States Snowshoe Association columnist, and contributor to health, fitness and wellness sites, blogs and publications. He is a US-based ultra-endurance athlete and philanthropist for the 100 FOR 100 Movement ~ https://100for100.me.

Kildahl is the creator and president of The Wholistic Edge® ~ a visionary firm providing synergistic solutions to transcend health, performance, and potential in life and sport from the inside out via the principles of Performance Medicine™ ~ http://thewholisticedge.com.