Basic Endurance Training: A Guide with Tips from Top Trainer Dan Lorang
How to achieve your goals through optimal basic endurance training
From analysis to success
Whether competitive or recreational, one fact does not change: the basic endurance training must be suitable.
Many athletes decide that they want to compete in a particular event. They are super motivated and train very hard. But this is like standing in the kitchen to bake a cake – without knowing whether it’s gonna be a chocolate cake or a fruit tart.
If you don’t think about this in advance, you can probably prepare a nice dough, but then you won’t get much further. You lack ingredients or utensils.
It’s the same with competition preparation. After you have set yourself a goal, you must first consider what’s required of you and what your needs are.
At first, you have to find out your “actual state” so you can then compare it with your “target state”.
More professionally, the “actual state” could also be called the metabolic profile. This is composed of aerobic/anaerobic threshold, maximum aerobic power (VO2max), and maximum anaerobic power (Vlamax).
The Metabolic Profile
By determining this threshold, you can find out in which range the athlete is still able to generate energy efficiently and keep a balance of lactate production and lactate degradation.
The threshold thus indicates the performance that the athlete can deliver over a certain duration (usually one hour).
VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen that can be absorbed by the body during maximal exercise. It indicates how big the “aerobic engine” of an athlete is.
The VLamax Is the lactate formation rate: the higher your VLamax, the more lactate is formed at a certain intensity of exercise.
Finally, top endurance coach Dan Lorang recommends in one of our Webinars to see how the two parameters VLamax and VO2max relate to each other.
This graphic by Dan Lorang shows, the discussed spectrum of an athlete’s performance.
Such a metabolic profile can be determined by various methods. For example, through performance diagnostics or various tests during training. This data should then be used to see which areas the athlete needs to work on the most for Day X.
Your training and nutrition plan should then be adapted to these findings.
Here, it’s important to understand that your diet and exercise plan should work together, not against each other. The two areas are closely linked and one hand should always know what the other is doing.
Once the training and nutrition concept has been established, it is worked with for a while. After some time, it should be checked whether the performance is developing in the right direction. If this is not the case, changes must be made.
If the concept worked out, will finally become apparent on the day of the competition. Depending on the sport, this cycle repeats more or less often.
In the following, the different training areas will be discussed more detailed.
Aerobic and anaerobic training
Aerobic training provides the foundation for improving endurance performance. It forms the absolute basis for endurance sports.
Aerobic exercise leads to improvements in oxygen utilization (VO2Max), peripheral blood flow, and skeletal muscle capillarization, among other benefits.
Training in the aerobic range can also train the fat metabolism. If you want to improve this, you also have to adjust your diet accordingly. More about that later.
In contrast to aerobic training is anaerobic training. These are the training sessions in which the athletes move beyond the threshold.
Anaerobic training can, among other things, improve the rapid energy supply (lactate production). Lactate buffering capacity as well as acid tolerance can be increased and sprinting ability optimized.
The anaerobic zone (in red in the graph) should be neither too large nor too small. Dan Lorang clearly emphasizes that not one area is better than the other. To increase performance in the long term, both areas must be trained.
It is important to understand that aerobic and anaerobic training are direct competitors. They work against each other.
If I’m constantly just coasting along, my aerobic zone will take over and the anaerobic zone will become too small. In return, it also becomes a problem if you constantly train only in the anaerobic zone. This would lead to the anaerobic zone becoming too large.
If one of the two areas dominates too strongly, performance stagnates.
This is the fate of many amateur athletes. Due to the limited time to train, long sessions are avoided. The focus is on the shorter, hard units.
The consequence of this is: the athlete gets better and better in the beginning and at some point the performance stagnates. The aerobic range can no longer buffer the anaerobic range.
In addition, shorter, intense sessions are also important to increase maximum oxygen uptake (V02max). Therefore, these units should not be neglected on other days.
The right supply during training
For longer endurance units, we recommend:
– 60-80g/h POWER CARB in the 2nd part of the unit.
– In addition, supplementable with 1 PORRIDGE BAR / h and for very long units additionally PROTEIN BARs (for additional amino acid supply)
For shorter, more intense sessions, we recommend:
– 40g/h FAST CARB or for higher/longer load 60-80g/h POWER CARB
After the training…
… within the period of 30-60 minutes (the so-called open window), 0.5g of carbohydrates/kg body weight and 0.2g of protein/kg body weight must be taken.
An easy way to achieve this combination is through shakes. This goal can be accomplished with our RECOVERY SHAKE (prepared with rice or almond milk) and 5 apricots or dates.
Decrease/increase of VLamax
If the anaerobic system is too strong, the VLamax will be too high. The VLamax indicates the maximum amount of lactate that can be produced in one second, or the maximum amount of carbohydrates that can be converted in one second.
With a (too) high VLamax, the consumption of carbohydrates is very high. However, the amount of carbohydrates that the body can provide is limited. For example, if a bike race lasts 4-5 hours and the anaerobic system is too strong, at some point the rider will not be able to keep up with the energy supply.
If there are attacks in race phase 5 or 6, the rider simply lacks carbohydrates and cannot keep up.
Where is the problem?
If I consume more energy due to a too high VLamax, I can simply add more carbohydrates, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
It is possible to consume high amounts of carbohydrates through certain carbohydrate blends, there are limits to this as well. More than 120g of carbohydrates per hour cannot be ingested from today’s perspective.
The more intense and longer a competition is, the more important this factor becomes. The calculation is simple. If I burn more energy than I can supply, it will eventually run out.
For this reason, it is important for long endurance efforts that the VLamax is not too high and that the spped is adjusted so that the tank doesn’t run empty before the finish line.
How can I lower the VLamax?
Lowering VLamax through training.
Dan Lorang recommends regular low intensity training and strength endurance training for this purpose.
A high rate of lactate formation is often associated with athletes having high proportions of fast-twitch muscle fibres. These burn a lot of energy.
Strength endurance units try to make these fast-twitch muscle fibres a little more enduring. This is a way to save energy.
Another or expanding approach is to include so-called “low-carb workouts.”
Lowering VLamax through diet: improving fat burning.
High lactate formation can be prevented by optimizing fat burning. The body is able to obtain better energy from fat and can thus save on carbohydrates.
This can be achieved, for example, by forming training blocks. On the 2nd or 3rd day of a training block, it would be a good idea to include a “train-low” session.
In this context, it is important to understand that “low-carb training” to improve fat metabolism does not mean you should completely abstain from carbohydrate intake during training. This is a common misconception.
It would be ideal not to refill carbohydrate stores to the limit after the preceding workout. A relatively low-carbohydrate breakfast, such as omelets with fruit, could be eaten before training.
This method means that the carbohydrate stores are not completely full at the start of training, but athletes do not have to starve themselves.
During training, it is then advantageous to supply slowly available carbohydrates. To do this, it makes the most sense to use special sports nutrition products. Our SLOW CARB for example, was developed precisely for this purpose and is therefore ideal for improving fat metabolism.
The right supply during training
SLOW CARB: 30g/hr – total maximum intake should be 90g/workout. Ideally the amount should be increased slowly.
For units longer than 2h, the additional energy requirement should be covered by POWER CARB from about the middle of the unit. Best in combination with some protein and fat e.g. via sports bars like our PORRIDGE BAR.
After training the RECOVERY SHAKE is suitable again to regenerate optimally and to grant the training stimulus adaptation.
In this context, Dan Lorang also emphasizes that athletes need a certain amount of time before a change becomes visible. This can be 6-8 weeks, but sometimes much longer.
How can I increase the VLamax?
The too high VLamax is opposed by a too low VLamax. This could happen, for example, to sprinters who have concentrated too much on endurance training.
Increase VLamax through training
In terms of training, you can increase the VLamax, for example, via strength training or “all-out” intervals. An example would be 10-30 second intervals with longer rest in between.
Increase VLamax through nutrition
When training to increase VLamax, carbohydrate stores must always be full. In addition, the energy should be quickly available.
The right supply during training
2-3h before training, a carbohydrate-rich, easily digestible meal should be consumed.
During training, it is important to have a sufficient supply of quickly available carbohydrates. As already mentioned, the carbohydrates must be properly composed to be able to absorb more than 60g/h.
Some products provide this composition and make intake easier/plannable this way. This includes our FAST CARB and our POWER CARB.
Overall, an intake of 60-80g of carbohydrates per hour is recommended. With the intake of 40g FAST CARB/h or 60-80g POWER CARB/h the goal could be reached.
Like the lowering of the VLamax, this process also takes some time.
If VLamax is to be kept constant, a combination of both strategies may be useful: a mix of intense training with full glycogen stores and perfect carbohydrate supply and less intense training with glycogen stores not full to the brim and slowly available carbohydrates during training.
The optimal metabolism of lactate/pyruvate
In a competition you often have to go over the threshold for a short time to then quickly recover as much as possible in order to be able to finish the competition. This is not easy and should be learned.
The right training
The body should learn to use lactate as a source of energy to recover in such situations. For the body to be able to do this, it has to be learned in training.
A power measurement shows how much lactate is formed in one minute. It is also important to know how much lactate can be broken down in a certain period of time. Through this data you can control a training session.
For example, interval training on the bike, such as 3:1 or 4:1. So three minutes in the range where carbohydrate/lactate is metabolized, then again one minute above threshold.
This is a way to teach the body to use lactate as an energy source. Dan Lorang reveals that this form of training is particularly useful just before a competition.
How the diet helps you
As with increasing VLamax, it is important that glycogen stores are full at the start of training. This example in particular can be used to explain this in a logical way.
If there is no initial substance for lactate formation, it is also difficult for me to form lactate. This could result in the body using other substances, such as proteins, to provide energy. This is called a catabolic metabolism and should be avoided at all costs.
The rations during training would be very similar to those used to increase VLamax.
In summary: This is important in basic endurance training
The most important thing, says Dan Lorang, is regular training. Intensity comes in second place. Always taking the short, hard road won’t work in the long run.
Good basic endurance training is made up of many different components and must be considered as a big picture. Seiler’s pyramid summarizes this well.
It’s best to work your way up from the bottom, keep your eyes open, get info from the different areas – and look at training as a large, interdisciplinary field.
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