I have issues with weight, food and body composition, so I understand that I am particularly aware of articles concerning diet and nutrition. Usually I try to ignore a lot of what is written because I know both intellectually and from experience that nothing works for everyone and that diet and nutrition can be intensely personal. That being said, I was somewhat dismayed to read the February / March issue of Lava Magazine. In the same issue of the same magazine Lava had two different articles that advocated for conflicting diet and nutrition protocols (the same issue also referred to Ironman Copenhagen as a “new” race when in fact WTC acquired the race formerly known as Challenge Copenhagen, so there were editorial issues abound). Page 74 of the magazine contains an article by Ben Greenfield entitled “Tap Into Your Fat” and on page 82 there is an article by Jesse Kropelnicki entitled “Overhauling Your Diet.”  Here’s a rundown of the positions each of the articles take on various nutrition related topics:

“Tap   Into Your Fat” “Overhauling Your Diet”
Race Day Fueling “you can limit the amount of simple sugars and calories you need to consume during   your event, resulting in lower risk of gut distress, the ability to carry   less fuel and the elimination of mid-race porta-john stops.””You   can consume 100-200 calories per hour of easy-to-digest fat sources such as   coconut oil or MCT oil.” “We   don’t have much of a choice during [training]: they must be chock-full of low   nutrient foods to fuel the activity and train the gut for race day.”
Fueling   During Workouts “one   long, minimally fueled or fasted workout a week is all it takes to gain   metabolic efficiency” “workouts   should always be well fueled, with at least .6 grams of carbohydrates per   hour, per pound on the bike (half of that for running).”
Use of   Sugar “But   I do recommend limiting sugars and eating a diet that is as high as 40-60   percent healthy fats (I personally eat an 80 percent fat diet). “Post-workout   foods should always include a sugar based recovery drink, with protein in a   3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This drink should contain   almost no fat.””Eat   lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and lean dairy during   all other periods of the day.”
Timing   and Number of Meals “you   only need to eat three square meals a day. Yes, even if you are a hard charging   Ironman, three nutrient dense, high-fat meals cab easily fuel a day of   workouts.” “Reduce   fasting periods by eating very frequently, every one to three hours, and   sticking to recommended serving sizes on packaged foods.”
Pre-Race   / Training Fueling “I’ve   found a particularly potent combo to be a style of coffee that is growing in   popularity among athletes. It’s called “bulletproof coffee” and consists   of 8-16 ounces   of black coffee blended with 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil or a more concentrated   form of coconut oil called MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil, 1-2   tablespoons of grass fed butter, 1-2 tablespoons of a hydrolyzed collagen or amino   acid source, and optionally, for extra calories, 4-6 ounces of full fat   coconut milk.” “Only   eat grains (including white potatoes) and refined sugars within an hour of   starting a workout, during the workout, and/or after the workout is completed.”

The articles, which appear one after the other in the magazine, contain ideas that are directly in conflict (and on a personal note bullet proof coffee seems, well, interesting).  I understand that there are many, many, many different theories about fueling for training and racing.  I’m not trying to be critical of the ideas of either Greenfield or Kropelnicki but rather I’m asking the question — Why would a magazine print two opposing articles without even acknowledging the conflict?  Wouldn’t the better article be an analysis of the pros and cons of each system and how it may help (or harm) certain athletes rather than printing two fluff pieces that amount to little more than advertising for the Core Diet and Ben Greenfield Fitness. Lava Magazine, you can do better.

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05


Leana · January 16, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Wow, those articles are definitely contradictory. I need to read my copy of Lava!

Alicia · January 17, 2014 at 9:42 am

This is really interesting. I feel like this happens a lot – I feel like I’ve seen it in Runner’s World… there is a lot of conflicting advice out there… I guess its all situational as to what you should do, but it would be nice if someone who just lay it all out and talk about all the options pros and cons or whatever. That would probably be a 500 page book, though 🙂

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · January 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I think it would make a really good article if someone was willing to interview / investigate all the various nutrition approaches and do some analysis as to which ones work well for what type of individuals. I haven’t seen any publication actually willing to do that.

Michelle Simmons · January 21, 2014 at 5:57 pm

I was going to comment on this earlier then I got distracted and forgot. 🙂 But anyway, I hear your frustration between these opposing viewpoints. Here’s my 2cents, for what it’s worth!
If you follow the coaching style/philosophy of the 2 authors, you see that one is very much on the ‘Quality over Quantity’ side… Ben very much prefers to go out and do very short very hard intervals and then be done with it. Then he can personally go out and finish an ironman in ~10 hours off that kind of very limited training. I’d go out on a limb and say that most of us do not have the genetic potential to pull that off. There are some who do, for sure, but they are the minority.
So Jesse favors his athletes becoming extremely aerobically efficient, which can only truly be accomplished by putting in long hours at moderately low HR. His pro athletes are training 25-30 hours/week, week after week. The only way to train that much and not completely fall apart is to keep the intensity low enough (at first anyway) that the effort is repeatable, as well as fueling yourself very well every day!
So as far as your question about which way works for which individuals, my take on it would be, Which direction are you taking with your training? If you’re only training 10 hours/week then you can probably get away with fueling quite a bit less, and you won’t need a huge focus on carbs. If you’re on the high volume side then you’re going to have to fuel appropriately to sustain that. Jesse doesn’t want his athletes bonking during a training session today because he knows that will impair their ability to train tomorrow. In Ben’s world it’s less of an issue if you bonk today b/c tomorrow is only a 30′ session anyway…
For me personally, I’ve never been able to figure out how to go low carb fueling on high volume training… But I’ve coached some athletes who can do it! I believe that is a genetic gift. 😉 I’m currently experimenting with a version of that right now but wouldn’t call it low carb (just no refined carb) and my volume is only moderately high at 15-17 hours/week… So far I’m ok though my gut would say I’d have to tweak it if I were to up my volume to 20+ hours.
In the end I think the best approach is the one that works for you and there isn’t really a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy when it comes to any of this! That’s why it can be so frustrating. 🙂

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