From metabolic profile to ideal fueling: That's how the pros do it!

Why you need a metabolic profile to optimally match your training and your diet

What is a metabolic profile?

The metabolic profile basically maps how your metabolism works. It is a reflection of when and how much carbohydrates and fats you consume during which performance.

Because this is very individual, complex and not just a number, it needs a so-called metabolic profile. With the help of this, you can control your training and ultimately improve your performance.

Of course, professional athletes such as a Laura Philipp have a different metabolic profile than amateur athletes. Therefore, it is useful to create your own metabolic profile and be able to analyze the data.

The metabolic profile can be determined, for example, by performance diagnostics (spiroergometry) or various tests during training.

Interesting insights are provided by how the two parameters VLamax and VO2max relate to each other. This is because it is easy to see from this data in which areas the athlete still has to work until day X (the competition).

The training and nutrition plan is then built up in accordance with these data/results.

Important: Nutrition and training plan should always work together and not against each other!

Philipp Seipp, who trains top athletes such as Laura Philipp or Sebastian Kienle, describes the metabolic profile like this: 

“In a needs pyramid, the metabolic profile is the base and is part of the foundation along with proper fueling. Both are basic tools to successfully engage in training. And helpful in that regard are products like MoN’s, as well as platforms like AZUM.”

An overview: What does the metabolic profile say about my training?

This figure shows an example of a metabolic profile of a cyclist. On the x-axis the wattage is indicated. On the left side of the y-axis you can see the energy consumption and on the right side carbohydrate and fat consumption in grams per hour.

At low load, the fat metabolism is higher here and the KH consumption is lower. With increasing load, the curve shifts up to a very high consumption of carbohydrates, which increases exponentially. If the red line were to continue even further, it would also continue upward.

How the curves relate to each other depends on various factors:

  • From the basic fitness or performance of the athlete.
  • From the maximum possible oxygen uptake (VO2max)
  • From the lactate formation rate (VLamax).

An endurance athlete who runs an Ironman, for example, tends to have a low rate of lactic acid formation. So he is very efficient and will consume less carbohydrates at higher loads than a sprinter, who is less efficient but can produce more power in a shorter time. So for a sprinter, the curve would be a little steeper than for an endurance athlete.

A common training mistake made by many (amateur) athletes

A common problem in the training of many (hobby) athletes is that too much and long training is done in the middle range. As can be seen on the graph, 10 to 20 watts more there can already mean a significant increase in carbohydrate consumption.

And as we know, the KH absorption capacity per hour is individual and above all also limited. Even with “train the well” an intake of more than 100g – 120 g KH/h is hardly possible.

So if you train too much and for too long in this middle range, it happens quickly that you always feel empty. This is because the body cannot even properly absorb the required amount of KH – and afterwards it is difficult to compensate for this loss.

So what can you do instead?

In training, depending on the goal, you should set individual stimuli and try to feed them optimally.

For example, an intense “train the well” workout if you want to train for a higher carbohydrate intake (which is hugely important, especially in competition). 

Or, on the other hand, to train very calmly – in our example of a well-trained athlete in Z1 or here below 200 watts.

Or, for example, with a limited time budget in the Fatmax zone, where KH consumption is in a range that you can cater to without problems.

In general, it is important to avoid “idling” – unless it is a training control measure.

We will now describe what this looks like in concrete terms for specific training targets.

An application example: VLamax training through the metabolic profile

This figure shows a metabolic profile from an athlete with different lactate formation rates (VLamax).

The VLamax describes the lactate formation over a longer period of time at full load. This can be determined with a sprint test, for example: After 10-15 seconds of sprinting, it is measured how much lactate has formed.

You have to reckon with the fact that if the lactate formation rate is high, the efficiency – if you equate that with KH consumption – is lower than if the VLamax is low.

So a “sprinter” usually has a higher rate of lactate formation than a marathon runner. This is because the sprinter must be able to provide a lot of energy in a short time and therefore works less “efficiently” than the marathon runner.

In your metabolic profile, you can see exactly how high or low your carbohydrate consumption looks like during a particular workout. This is important to know in order to manage training and nutrition with regard to competition.

The questions to ask yourself with regard to the lactate formation rate are: What do I really need for my competition? What is my goal? What stage of the season am I in?

There are measures that can be used to reduce or increase the rate of lactate formation, depending on the objective. Neither is easy, however.

With a (too) high VLamax, the consumption of carbohydrates is also very high. However, the amount of carbohydrates that the body can provide is now known to be limited. Despite “train the well” can not exceed 120g of carbohydrates per hour.

If I consume more energy than I can supply, the tank will eventually be empty. This is a factor to consider, especially during long and intense competitions.

Therefore, for long and intense endurance efforts, it is important that the VLamax is not too high or the pace is chosen so that the energy is sufficient until the finish line.

With a long bike race lasting four to five hours and a strong anaerobic system, the rider would eventually not be able to keep up with the energy supply. So in the decisive race phase, you lack the power (and the carbohydrates) to attack again.

So how can I lower the VLamax?

A good option is training sessions with deliberately not full carbohydrate stores (train low), an increase in training volume and targeted strength endurance loads aimed at improving efficiency.

Another option is training blocks in which “train-low” units are integrated (for example, on the 2nd or 3rd day of a training block).

The goal here is to optimize fat burning and thereby reduce lactate formation. Through this training, the body “learns” to gain energy primarily through fats and thus saves carbohydrates.

However, carbohydrates should not be completely avoided during the “train low” phases, especially during longer endurance sessions. Instead, it is advisable to resort to slowly available carbohydrates.

Our  SLOW CARB was developed precisely for this purpose and is therefore ideal for improving fat metabolism and reducing VLamax.

That being said, if I am able to properly cater a unit, then I am able to regenerate better.

If I just don’t take good care of an intense workout, the window of opportunity to replenish or partially replenish glycogen stores simply becomes very small. I can’t do that if I want to work out again the next day.

50 g KH / hour more or less are already decisive and not only to be covered by the daily food.

How can I increase the VLamax?

A too low VLamax can occur if, for example, a sprinter or a MTB XCO rider has concentrated too much on endurance training and possibly trains “low” on a regular basis.

An increase of the VLamax is possible on the one hand via training and here via strength training or interval training. At the same time, when training to increase VLamax, carbohydrate stores should always be full and energy should be available as quickly as possible.

Our  FAST CARB  and our  POWER CARB are very suitable for this purpose, for example, and are used daily by top athletes.

Specifically, how can I use modern platforms like AZUM to track my progress?

Via the platform AZUM can be used to display not only the VLamax and VO2max, but also how many carbohydrates an athlete consumes in a day.

This in turn gives an indication of how fueling is done and how loads are structured. This data is helpful in getting a picture of what to consume in terms of food before, during, and after exercise.

For example, if it makes sense to send an athlete into a carbohydrate deficit over a period of time, that can also be inserted into the training schedule at AZUM.

As described, the goals are different depending on the time of the season: in intensive phase you should see to it that you balance the energy deficit immediately. In winter and in preparation, on the other hand, it is also quite possible to deliberately go into deficit.

In addition, intensity profiles and energy values can be created for different sports. These values can be adjusted – and so can the training.

As a coach (and also as an ambitious hobby athlete) it is worthwhile to pay attention to the training control every two to four weeks, especially with such special goal requirements as it is the case with an Ironman or cross-country race.

Summary: How can the metabolic profile help me in competition?

  1. Find out how many carbohydrates you can take in and process over a longer period of time without problems.
  2. Then see how fast you can go at a given KH consumption: If you are able to consume 100 KH/h, then you can easily go above that when pacing (see curves above). Because your body also still has its own glycogen, so your stores are not completely empty.
  3. You should then maintain your pace/wattage and ride steadily. Otherwise (as described above), the KH consumption quickly increases exponentially.
  4. This is also good for your head: if you know, I can keep this pace with this amount of KH without problems and slumps, you are mentally stronger in the race

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