Challenge Salou 2019

Early season starter…

After a shit past 2 years with broken back then broken clavicle destroying the seasons it was good to get back to racing after a long recovery and winters training.

The goal was to qualify for the Challenge Championship and to play it safe on the efforts to not blow up. So some limits for the bike and run where put in place pre-event and other than a big mechanical I should have a safe ride into the top 5 to secure a place come June.

Fig 1. One the beach

Fig 1. On the beach


We had an apartment close to the race start and that made for an easy time getting to and from registration and the event. It’s the key to a de-stressed race and if you can do it the closer to the race start the better. Post the bike unpack had a few issues with the stem but the mechanic at the expo fixed no problem (panic over). I was out a few days before the race and had some time to check out the road conditions and some parts of the course. However, come the race briefing it was all getting a bit messy with a change in the bike course (no 3 laps rather than 4) from the previous year the explanation at the briefing was a joke. No one had a clue what was going on or how it was all going to run on the day. Despite the concern the bike course on the day was pretty clear.

The day before the race the was to be an early morning organised swim of the course. However, the water was so choppy it was cancelled as they could not get the canoes out or to stay upright. The discussion was possible swim cancellation come race morning. At the race briefing we where told we would be informed by email over night or on the morning of the race.


The race start was 8.20am (that’s right a sleep in) so we set the alarm for 6.20 to get some food in and then to make our way to the race start. The transition was nicely organised and lots of space to get in and have a good check over the bikes and to look over race bags. Post bike check there was time to have a good warm-up running around the car park. However, one issue is very few toilets. Although I didn’t need them one of the guys I was sharing with did and it was a big wait, so anyone thinking of doing the event build this into your morning schedule.

8.10am and made my way to the AG start. The water did not look inviting and was very choppy. I though the start would have been a wave start so it was a shock when all athletes entered the water in one go.

THE SWIM [Time 36:48]

The start of the swim ended up a real push up there was the waves to contend with and then had my hat and goggles pulled of (the 1st for me). However, you just have to get on with it and plough on (advice – start on the left of the pack and get close to the right of the AG pen before the start as you get moved through a small gate down towards the water before the gun).

Fig 1. Out of the mixer...

Fig 2. Out of the mixer less a cap but at least I managed to get goggles back on.


The swim was the shape of the letter ‘P’ and as you where due to tune back on yourself it was very very difficult to see the last buoy and this resulted on a pack of about 30-40 athletes swimming straight to the shore. The result would be at least curing of 300m from the swim. I email challenge about this and will see what happened to these athletes. However, for me I could not take the risk of a DQ and thus had to sit up in the water to spot the one but last buoy (more lost time). I found it but was hard swimming the opposite way from the pack heading to the beach.

Reaching the beach we could hear a whistle as athletes where getting out of the water up and down the sea front due to the swell.

Once up onto the beach I could see 35 mins had passed a good 6 mins of planned swim and a time that’s about a recovery swim for me. So was a bit stressed but had to stick to the bike plan and just refocused back in T1. Through transition was fine and out onto the bike.

THE BIKE  [Time 2:29:39]

The idea was to hold 240-250w (np) over the whole bike so that I could run a low 1.20 Half marathon. This should have given me a 2hr 18min (ish) but was based on the old course and average wind conditions. The course was very windy with some long drags up the dual carriageway. Anyway stuck to the plan irrespective of the time with a slight mechanical being the only eventful negative (chain came off about 1min to slip back on).


Fig 3. Getting ready for the transition.

Fig 3. Getting ready for the transition.


Desperate for a pee on the last lap of the bike but just could not go and given the deficit was not going to stop. By the run it wore off so was the right choice to push on.

The final watts where spot on 245w and legs felt fine defiantly undercooked, but that was the plan and was then hoping for a solid run.

THE RUN  [Time 1:22:18]

It was starting to pick up in temp and the run was a 3 loop course with headwind on the way out. But felt strong and dialed into 3.50/km pace early on with only a few sloppy km’s when dodging the other runners out on course. Had a good run and could have pushed much more but the goal was no risks and snag a top 5 qualifying spot.

Fig 4. Getting hot on the run.

Fig 4. Getting hot on the run.

Crossing the line felt like I had lots in me and that was a great feeling. Grabbed the medal and back to apartment for shower and check my results before heading back to watch my flatmates finish out the day.

POST RACE  [Overall Time 4:34:46]

Once back I could see I was second in AG and that meant the job was done without too much damage so I could be soon back into training.

Fig 5. Over the line time to chill

Fig 5. Over the line time to chill

Overall a good race and well organised although the race briefing could have been done much better. Would defiantly advise getting out there a few days before the even to try out some of the bike course. Would also advise if possible (for us it was not) to also try out the swim. If it’s choppy given the mass start it can be a real washing machine at the start, but if you expect it you can position yourself at the start in a good position.

Fig 6. Thanks for the memories

Fig 6. Thanks for the memories


Next stop ‘The Championship’ and to open up full effort on the bike and run…



Post x-ray it was clear it was game over for the season and its not so much the injury but the 8 months work to get me to Kalmar in top shape that’s so hard to swallow.


It’s been a while since I posted and that’s because I have been licking my wounds. 2018 has been a real mixed bag. I took a big chunk of the year to improve my bike and bike to run and with a new coach and whole new focus on hard training. The aim for the year was Ironman Kalmar and to qualify for Kona and get my times down towards 9Hrs.

The year started off well with a best time at Outlaw Half Nottingham then a good race on the mental side at IM 70.3 Switzerland (when things don’t go to plan can you push). However, in the building up to IM Kalmar and on my last long training ride I came of my TT bike and broke my clavicle & damaged rotator cuff. That’s not to mention the usual general battering and bruises – but at least the bike was OK ha.

Figure 1. Me immediately post crash battered, bruised and collar bone snapped. Then post operation to removal of bandages and stitches.

Figure 1. Me immediately post crash battered, bruised and collar bone snapped. Then post operation to removal of bandages and stitches.


Post x-ray it was clear it was game over for the season and its not so much the injury but the 8 months work to get me to Kalmar in top shape that’s so hard to swallow. I was just about recovered from a van hitting me on a training ride from the year; so to be injured again on the bike was a real downer. The biggest issue is the time spent getting back to health and in shape to give it my all at Kalmar that was so hard to swallow.

I have to say I had to consider that having 2 accidents resulting in a broken back in 2017 and broken collarbone in 2018 should I continue on. While that thought spun around in my mind I jumped back on the bike a few days post injury by rigging up a harness from my TRX. I though I could train as long as I didn’t have hold the bars of my road bike and the harness around the chest allowed me to avoid putting any weight through my arm and broken clavicle. I had some great advice including some from the ever winning Lucy Gossage which gave me some confidence in keeping active despite the damage.

I only trained 3 times a week over the 1stfew weeks but after the 1stweek all sessions where short but high intensity. I figured if I could hold onto some of the gains when it came to making a decision of continuing on with Kona / sub 9HR dream then I would have some fitness as a base from some maintenance work.



The last 3 years I have worked hard to improve my performance and in 2018 I had bumped up the weekly training to circa 15Hrs from 10Hrs the years before. The idea of giving up on that work, time away from the family, early morning and late training nights just stuck in my throat if I was just to quit.

As you guys will know family is everything when we do this crazy sport and I am very lucky to have a really supportive wife and a daughter who loves to see her dad race (It’s a free holiday so what’s not to love).

My motto has been to ‘Never Quit’ and this is painted on my pain cave wall. The other issue was if I gave up on the Ironman dream could I really just let it go without regrets?

Once I had made the decision to give it another year it was a case of getting some races booked in so that a real focus could be brought back to training. Then to go back to the coach to get a program back in place.



After 6 weeks post operation (break pinned and plated) I had a follow up x-ray which showed it still was not fully healed but I could run but no swimming. My final follow up will be next week (1st week November) and I should then have the all clear for swimming.

Over the past 4-5 weeks I have managed to get back running up to 21km on long run at around 4.20Min/km and my bike has become the strongest to date. The latter has been as a result of getting up to 4 session in a week and all hard sessions around threshold. All threshold work, now above 4.2w/kg and feeling strong and attacking each workout.

Like everyone its end of season and time to ease up on the diet. Always tough mentally as you get use to being lean but you need to let the body and importantly the mind unwind following the strain and stressors of the season. The cut off for me should always be around 6-7% of your race weight so you can gradually easy back on the diet and up the training. Those who fall outside of this range typically end up over dieting which results in poor recovery from training session and an increased risk of illness and injury. There is also the psychological issues of cutting back the calories so hard to the point people can break and start binge eating.

Its now November and it’s the start of the next season of ‘structured’ training for me building to a half marathon in Feb. The marathon is no more than a target to keep me honest over the xmas period as I start to tidy up the diet.  The next triathlon will be Challenge Salou in April and the ‘A’ race in September. Fingers crossed no crashes or white van man this year. With 2 IM distance events booked for 2019 I am hedging my bets I make at least one in good form without injury.

So guys have a great xmas, keep safe if your out on those roads and all the best for 2019!

Ironman 70.3 rapperswil-jona

The bike was tough and climbs long, with some  lasting over a 7km and at places a 13% gradient.


Apologies for the delay in posting up this race report but work has been pretty hectic although that has not resulted in any reduction in the training. So back to race…

Switzerland…Always sounds beautiful but I had a shocker getting there. It was an very early flight out of the UK, so had to leave the house at about 3am – so everything packed and had airport parking at the terminal.

However, arrived in plenty of time but on route from the car park to the check-in desk, a few hundred meters I had dropped my wallet. PANICK stations. Its 5am surely no one would have picked it up and kept hold of it especially with only about £10 in there. But sure enough in the minutes of realising and going back to the car pack the wallet was gone and no one had handed one in. As you know the headache is the loss of all your cards.

I needed the wallet to pay for the bike check-in and of course no one was awake at that time to bail me out and I needed to cancel all my cards. That was the start of the day. Next one of the guys I was with was overweight for bike check-in so we had to try to sort his case and time was ticking.

Enough of the drama, we eventually made it to the hotel but could not check-in for a few hours so decided to put our bikes back together. One we checked in we would go for a ride to shake out the legs. Only 20mins out and there was a thunderstorm – it was so heavy we had hide under a garage from the lightening. Was someone trying to tell us something?

Next morning one of the guy’s bike was not right and an issue with the headset would mean no race start unless he could get it fixed. So needed to try and get the race mechanics to fix it. They could not so he was in search of another mechanic and that would mean wandering about in the 30oC sun for a few hours. Then just to add more insult later in the day for bike checking we had didn’t have all the bags we needed so had to do another 40mins round trip on the bikes to collect 2 empty bags from our hotel so we could rack the bikes. What crap race prep, lots of dehydration and stress all what you don’t need pre race day.

By the end of the day we had checked in and the bike was fixed, so we would all be racing the next morning. That left some panic re-hydration and not much time to sit with the feet up.



Race day was going to be hot peaking at >30+ oC, and as an old guy I would be going later in the day, but in our group we had age ranges from 21> up so we still needed to be at the race early. Race morning bike check and warm up all went great so a big relief.

The swim was wave starts and you self selected within your wave for time (I selected sub 30mins). My swim was just OK but again not fantastic at 31Mins. Not sure what’s going on with my open water swim in these early season races as not reflecting the improved pools times. But will keep at it and make the weekly outdoor session a regular thing from now until Kalmar.

Transition is longish but pretty straight forwards but I am typically sluggish on transitions and this one was no different where I was about 1min down from top age-groupers. Once onto the bike it was head down for what was going to be a tough race with climbs and the heat and also lots of early age groupers out on the course to get around.



The bike was tough and the climbs where long with some for sure lasting over a 7km stretch and at places 13% gradient. However, I paced it well and as planned just slightly under a NP of 240w with the aim of a strong low 1.20s half marathon run on the cards. My bike as a 2.33 and the T2 was also fine as usual.


Off the bike felt pretty good then 1-2km at race pace (4min/km) in I got cramping in quads and hamstrings. This is very rare for me as pre-race prep and nutrition is normally on-point; so I can only put this down to all the time spent in the heat in the days leading up to race day. Unfortunately, the situation did not improve as the run progressed so it was a case of managing it by continuing with nutrition and keeping pace just under where the cramps would kick in.



To be honest the run was brutal and ended up running the whole run with severe cramps. I knew if I stopped I would not be able to start again so just kept on at circa 4.25/4.30 pace. The only exceptions was at what is know as the ‘stairway to heaven’ a series of steps in the centre of town you have to climb twice during the run.


There are maybe 50/60 steps and when you have cramp that’s some painful shit. After the steps you have a slight downhill and that allowed me to force the legs to get going again and just grin and bare the pain.

70.3 SWISS


My run was a 1hr 32min, which was about 10mins short of where I should have been and would have given me around top 5 in the age group. But you have what you have on the day and I was proud of myself for pushing through when I could have so easily walked. I learned some good lessons from the race:


  1. Make the day before the race a true rest day
  2. Stay our of the heat
  3. Make sure you hydrate and fuel pre-race
  4. Always have another plan or 2 ready in case your day becomes a hard one.
  5. Never give up. You can be surprised what you can put up with if mentally your willing to go all in and visit some mental suffering.


My 4.44 was almost 20mins slower than a 70.3 just a few weeks before but I was still pretty happy with the result as I had given my all. The only downside was what had I done to myself regarding recovery time. In the end these 70.3s are only sharpeners for my Ironman races, and there is the choice of how hard to push and how quick you can get back to solid IM sessions.


bite the lip

This was a good few weeks ago now and I am fully back into IM training in the UK heat wave. At the time of writing I have 5-6 weeks before IM Kalmar one of the A races for the year. Although I hate that term as when you toe the line of any race you should be giving your all – I see A/B/C race categorisation more about what sore of form your in at that point in the season than the importance of the race.

I can recommend IM 70.3 Switzerland to anyone it’s a real honest race and tough – you earn you post race goodies for sure and no one get over those climbs easy.

For me it’s back into the final few weeks of long bikes, brick sessions and some final dieting for Kalmar. I am really looking forward to the race and enter it in best shape since getting into this sport.

Whatever, your plans for the season I wish you the best!


Outlaw Half 2018 – 1st triathlon of the year!

It was a great race for early season and reflective of the hard work and new coaching over the past few months.


Since my bike crash last year there have been ups and downs in the recovery process and lots of appointments to get a diagnosis and some treatment. But am on the mend despite some challenges remaining when I do tough swim sessions – but we push on.

Other news is that from December 2017 I took on a new coach (Mark Livesey, Xhale #bricksession podcast) to help me prep for my ‘A Race’ for 2018, which is Ironman Kalmar in August. Mark is a sub-9hr Kalmar Ironman so no one better to talk from experience in prep for this event.

Since the start of the coaching it’s been on a new level of difficulty and to begin with didn’t think I could stick with the intensity of some of the session. As a scientist sometimes you need to switch of the analytical brain and just run with the process. 

The last 5-6 months have been intense and I have had some of the best sessions ever in my triathlon training. The biggest challenges have been on the bike and sticking with it has been tough but the results speak for themselves in what you can push though in sessions. 

So as per usual the outlaw half is the pre-season warn up for me as other years and it was a case of lets see how far we have come and hoping for no mechanicals as I had in 2017. 


A real early start was on the cards for Sunday morning as I managed to scrape into the elite wave so it was a 6.10am start. So I planned my time based on the other years to get to the event and to give about 45 mins warp-up. So up and rise at 4am for a pre-race breakfast then to make race for 5.10-5.15. However, we got stuck in queue of cars for over 10mins at the turn in to the national water sports centre so it was rush about time as there is a walk from parking to the event and bike racking. 

Just about managed to get bike set up and wetsuit on and it was time to rush over to the water with little time pre-race start and no warm-up. 

Figure 1. Not the best swim

Figure 1. Not the best swim

Swim was not great in-fact 3 mins slower (32min 42secs) than my 2017 time, despite some great pool work over the last few weeks. Maybe the lack of warm-up, not sure; but was pretty unhappy about the swim. Once out of the water and into transition the woes continued with my visor shooting of the helmet before I could exit transition loosing me a bit more time. All-in-all I think the swim plus T1 lost me a potential 5-6mins of what where my  pre-race goal times. 

I had to just stick this to the back of my mind, relax and just concentrate on the controllable (aka the bike and run). 


I know the course quite well and was ready for a solid bike with new found strength from all the new bike session and was aiming at 240-250w over the course. I had no idea what this would give me time wise but that was the effort I was going to put in to leave me with some legs for a strong run. 

Figure 2. Pulling back time from the swim with a solid bike

Figure 2. Pulling back time from the swim with a solid bike

I took a few more risks in the race nutrition this year with less hydration during the bike but still a good intake of carbs. As anyone who knows the finish to the outlaw half is hideous with gravel, speed bumps and pothole track making for a bike accident waiting to happen. Luckily no casualty for me but it does impact your overall time. However, looking at the power file post race I managed to keep effort up over this section. 

The only downside of the bike was drafting. I had a guy hanging off the back of me and one other rider the whole way around the course. We where in TT position and I would look back and he was sitting up drafting the shit out of us. This is so frustrating as there was nothing you can do to really stop this – you can say “get the F*~k off me,” but if they keep at it and marshals won’t intervene then that’s the way it goes.

Figure 3. Data showing well paced bike power

Figure 3. Data showing well paced bike power

Despite this frustration I had a strong bike at 2hrs 26mins 45seconds and despite hitting 250w np (240w average) – I felt pretty strong and ready for the run. 


Quick T2 and out onto the run. I had 4 gels with me, and fluids are of easy access on the course. The aim was a Gel every 20Mins and fluids when I can.  The goal for the day was circa 3.55min/km and I would try to stick to that best I could. I was pretty much on track and felt good but by second lap a lot of AGs where now on the course and this slowed down passing as the pathways around the course other than the lap around the lake are pretty tight. 

Figure 4. Onto the run and holding onto a good pace

Figure 4. Onto the run and holding onto a good pace

One thing I noticed was my trisuit…I have always used a race number holder that I can Velcro onto the back of my trisuit for many years to reduce the drag you get from then if not flat against your body (i.e. resulting in lost time). I had placed the rough Velcro on the race number and soft on my suit and it should have been vice versa (brain fart).

Figure 5. An expensive mistake when you put the rough velcro on the wrong way around ;-)

Figure 5. An expensive mistake when you put the rough velcro on the wrong way around 😉

I looked down at end of 1st lap as my number had started to slip to the side of me and notice 2 big rips in the front of my suit. With running the Velcro had shredded my race suit and any second the old meat and 2 veg could have been waving to the crowd if the rips got any higher. You just got to laugh – I pushed the race number down a bit to proven that and importantly to hide any accidents ha.

Figure 6. Nice effort on the run

Figure 6. Nice effort on the run


Needless to say I survived the run with a 1hr 23min 21sec half marathon. 


It was a great race for early season and reflective of the hard work and new coaching over the past few months. My overall time was 4hr 28min 49secs, which was a new PB on the course and given the poor swim I am getting closer to breaking the 4hr 20min mark, which is need to guarantee the AG win and get into the top 10. 

Figure 7. That finish line feeling (no mechanicals ye me)

Figure 7. That finish line feeling (no mechanicals ye me)


The swim for sure hurt my race and lost me the AG win by less than 2 mins but I was happy with the performance and a top 20 finish. 

Next stop in 3 weeks is IM 70.3 Switzerland so will be aiming to sort the swim out on route for the main race of the year in August. 

I hope you guys are having a great start to the season and remember consistency build results. 


Evidence suggests there is a limitation in the amount of ketones that the muscle can actually use as a fuel source


The big discussion over the past year for endurance athlete’s diets have been around 2 subjects. Firstly, we have low carb/high fat diets and secondly, ketone supplementation. Although related in many ways these are distinctly different issues when it comes to diet, therefore this article will layout the pro’s, cons’ and darn right lies about these dietary interventions based on the latest ‘Hard Evidence’ rather than pure opinion.


What are Ketones & What do they do?

Ketones are generated from the partial breakdown (oxidation) of fatty acids, and include acetoacetate (AcAc), Acetone and Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). These are produced in the liver (ketogenesis – Main Ketone is AcAc) primarily as a result of fasting but also nutritional manipulation of carbohydrate intake e.g. low carb intake = increased ketone production. Although the main source material is free fatty acids from body fat (Ketolysis – Main Ketone is BHB) we also have a small percentage (<5%) of circulating ketones from the ketogenic amino acids leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, tryptophan, and tyrosine.

The response of producing more Ketones is to provide an alternative fuel for the loss of glucose (low carb intake) from the diet.

In those taking on board a normal (non carb restricted) diet the contribution of Ketones to energy production in the muscle is small (<5%). However, this can increase during fasting to 10% after an overnight fast and 20-50% after 72hrs of fasting but declines after 24 days. This suggests there is a limitation in the amount of ketones that the muscle can actually use as a fuel source. As such this is important and will have implications for discussion later regarding Ketone supplementation.

Although there has been research into the impact of training much of the trials have been difficult to interoperate due to athlete’s individual dietary practices as well as variations in training. However, some early data gives us clues as the where ketones are most used as defined by the levels of enzyme (BDH) that transform BHB to AcAc (See above). Research from back in 1974 (Winder et al.) has shown that the highest levels of activity in BDH are in our TYPE 1 muscle fibres – that’s our endurance muscle. With the lost levels of activity in Type IIb – our sprint fibres. The same author demonstrated 12 weeks of running in these rodents increased BDH by 3 fold compared to untrained controls. Similarly, the protein that transports ketones into muscle from the blood is also highest in Type 1 muscle fibres (Bonen 2001). It is therefore likely that the clearance (take up) of ketones from the blood are greatest in those that are aerobically trained and thus have a higher proportion of Type 1 fibres and related oxidative capacity (Svensson et al. 2016).

COMMENTARY: Just as a note here we are providing a distinction between ‘FAT’ use during exercise and ‘KETONE’ use. These are 2 different fuel sources and in the media and posts by so-called experts on sports nutrition they are often confused.


Fuel use during exercise!

So what about Ketone and Fat use during exercise? Most of the existing literature has focused on Carbs and Fat and the general consensus is that as exercise intensity increases the contribution of not only shifts towards carbohydrate but also from peripheral (blood) stores to central sores of fats, intramuscular triglycerides, and muscle glycogen.

However, this pattern is readily altered by nutritional manipulation such as high carb intake, low carb high fat and periodization such as carbs morning and fats protein later in the day or indeed intermittent fasting (Robinson & Williamson, 1980; Laffel, 1999). The latter has been well known to result in increased Ketone use (Owen & Reichard, 1971; Elia et al. 1990) as has exercise (Johnson et al. 1969; Johnson&Walton, 1972;Rennie et al. 1974; Rennie & Johnson, 1974a).). Indeed there has been shown a five-fold increase in ketone use during exercise (Evens, Cogan & Egan 2017).

Despite these issues when looking at any research or guru articles suggesting increasing ketones by supplementation or other dietary manipulation you will need to also consider that other factors such as metabolism, training status, and exercise intensity, which will all impact our ability to use ketones as a fuel source.

So lets look at some actual ‘evidence’ rather than ‘hearsay’ on how the body can use ketones but more specifically the differences between ‘supplementation’ (Ketones taken in a concentrated dose form from a drink, food or capsule) versus Ketonaemia (increased ketones in the blood) that occurs from their release from inside the body as a result of fasting or a low carb diet.



One of the key issues of ketone use by the muscles (we are taking about muscle here as that’s what moves us during exercise) is our ability to use them. If there is not limit great then matching intake to utilisation is a simple issue. However, this is not the case and research suggests some significant limitations to the ability of working muscle to use ketones as an energy source.

The removal of ketones from the blood is an indication of how the muscle can use them as a source of energy. In technical terms this is know as the ‘Metabolic Clearance rate (MRC)’. At low levels of ketones in the blood (such as achieved during an overnight fast) we see resting (rest not exercise) MCR is higher then achieved during prolonged fasting (Fery & Balasse, 1983). In fact overnight fasting results in a 2-10% contribution of ketones to energy production (Hagenfeldt & Wahren, 1968; Owen & Reichard, 1971).

Importantly during exercise at low to moderate intensity (post fasting) MCR increases 5-75% (Fery & Balasse, 1983, 1986), suggesting exercising muscle has an ability to increase its ability to use ketones as a source of fuel. However, where ketone exceeds 2.5mM (5 time that of a resting level) as achieved from 72hr of fasting ketone contribute a negligible amount to energy provision. This suggests a limit to the contribution of Ketones to energy contribution and as levels increase the ability to use them as an energy source (oxidise them) is diminished i.e. a threshold level.

However, these are acute studies relying on fasting over a few days. There is an argument that changes in the level of Ketosis brought about by dieting or by supplementation may impact this ‘threshold’ however, the data is week but lets explore.


Dietary Ketosis: Low carb

A lesson I learned from my PhD professor was to consider the ‘normal dietary’ experience when looking to interoperate how the body may adapt to a certain intake of a nutrient, the amount of that nutrient and importantly what the physiological rationale could be as to why we use nutrients in a certain way. This form of thinking is not new we have all heard of ‘evolutionary’ theory of Darwin and to that end the human body is an amazing thing and adapts to its surrounding (diet, exercise etc).

So when we think of low carb diets we should consider if we are physiologically cut of for such a diet. What is clear is that at rest fat is dominant fuel representing circa 50% of our energy needs (Owen & Reichard, 1971; Elia et al. 1990). Similarly, as we become glycogen (carbohydrate) depleted through reduced dietary intake of sugars or prolonged low-intensity endurance exercise (where sugar intake does not meet demand by the bodies muscles) then the body increases its utilizations of fats to compensate.

It would therefore seem that as an evolutionary mechanism the body has adapted to effectively utilise fats as a fuel source when carbohydrate rich foods are scarce. However, since the increase in agricultural (rather than hunter gatherer) sourcing of foods there has been an increasing shift towards sugars and carbohydrates as a proportion of daily food intake, exacerbated by government guidance on what foods should be consumed. The result for the most part can be argued to be increases in obesity and high sugar consumption related diseases such as diabetes. One hypothesis maybe that the body is better adapted to a higher fat consumption from the diet as we spent more of human evolution eating meats and fats than we did refined sugars – simply put the body has not evolved to process a high sugar diet.

One of the major issues in the wonders espoused by many converts of the low carb diets we must consider such comments in context. In that regards I see context s meaning, “what is low-carb”? Is it simply <20-50g per day of carbs (Very low calorie diet – VLCD)? What about levels of fat? What about protein – protein being important as its insulinogenic (causes the body to produce insulin just like when we use carbs). This is important as looking at carbs alone in the general population an intake of 50-150g/d (Low Carb Diet – LCD) would not result in urinary ketones a marker use to suggest adaptation or ‘metabolic switching’ from carb use to fats. We then should also consider are these levels <50g / d suitable for the exercising athlete? Such low intake could result is the equivalent to a negative carb intake as we use carbs to fuel exercise, so would a 100-150g or more be equivalent to a <50g/d LCD? It should also be noted that circa 200g of glucose per day could also be manufactured by the liver and kidney from dietary protein and fat (some from their breakdown and use of carbon skeletons).

In my own view the jury is out as we do not have enough published studies to demonstrate what levels of carbs are allowed in competitive endurance athletes training intensely, whist still entering into a state of ketosis and/or achieving the suggested benefits from being on a LCD. In sedentary controls, there are circa 8-10 studies that look at metabolic changes from low car/high fat diets but these studies have very small subject numbers (5-24 subjects) and over a short duration (2-14 days). More importantly they are not in athletes, which is the focus of this article.

In athletes, we have perhaps relevant research spanning 40years but still very limited in its application to real life performance. These studies have included exposure to VLCD (<20g/d Carbs), high fat (80% of dietary energy) (Phinney et al. 1983) or a restricted CHO (15-20% of energy), high fat (60-65% of energy)(Lambert et al. 1994; Goedecke et al. 1999) as well as short-term adaptation to a high fat diet and 1 day of high Carb availability ((Burke et al. 2000, 2002; Carey et al. 2001; Havemann et al. 2006).

Although these iterations of higher fat, lower CHO diets result in increased rates of fat oxidation during exercise of varying intensities, evidence that this substrate shift translates to a clear enhancement of sports performance in athletic populations is lacking (Burke&Kiens, 2006; Burke, 2015). As can be noted these diets are not really low carb but are in fact low carb and high fat (LCHF), commercially known as the ‘keto diet’ as they result in an increased reliance as fat as fuels and elevated levels of blood ketones (Noakes et al. 2014; Volek et al. 2015). [note. this paragraph take from Burke et al. J physiol, 2017]

In endurance athletes, irrespective of all the claims made on social media regarding the benefits of Keto diets there have only been 2 interventional studies (Phinney et al. 1983; Burke et al. 2017) and two cross sectional studies comparing ultra-endurance runners/triathletes who have chosen this eating style with similar athletes following higher CHO diets (Volek et al. 2016; Webster et al 2016). The only one of these studies to measure performance or where undertaken at an intensity relevant to endurance completion was that of Burke et al. who investigated a 3-week intervention of a LCHF diet for 3 weeks in world-class race walkers ( vo2max ‘Personal correspondence with Dr Burke – please note these are pre-season values so not peak’).

I will discuss the Volek et al. study as it is well referenced as evidence of the benefits of the LCHF diet but let’s for now concentrate on the only performance assessing study. In the Burke study, there where 3 groups studies – these comprised of high carb group (HCHO -8.6g/kg CHO & 20% FAT), a low carb high fat (LCHF – <50g/d CHO & 70-80% fat) and periodized diet of high and low carb intakes (PCHO – 8.3g/kg CHO, 2.2g/kg Protein, 4.7g/kg FAT) conducted during 3-weeks of intense training with performance and blood tests take before and after the 3 weeks. The tests included a 10km race walk and a 25km standardized pace test to look at how the body uses fats, carbs and oxygen as well as blood levels of ketones, glucose and lactate (calculated from pre-diet walking test). All groups had the same level of calories.

The results of the study showed an increase in the ability of the body to use fats as a fuel source in the LCHF group, however this came at an increase cost of oxygen uptake (i.e. use of a high % your aerobically capacity at X race speed). In essence the athletes became less economic whilst on the LCHF diet yet in the HCHO and PCHO the oxygen demand decreased suggesting these diets resulted in the athletes becoming more economic. However, the important factor here is ‘performance’ and the results from the 10km walking race demonstrated faster times for the HCHO (6.6% improvement), PCHO (5.3%) yet no improvement in the LCHF (-1.6%). There is an issue here though as the high fat group where provided high fat during pre and during the performance tests. However, its likely in most LCHF dieting athletes they still use cabs pre and during the event as such it could be argued that the study in this regards set up the LCHF group to fail in performance improvement.

So what can we take from this other than low-carb high-fat does not enhance performance and hi-carb does? Well a few interesting bits of information stand out, 1. High Fat diets make racing ‘feel’ more difficult, 2. High Fat results in greater levels of fat oxidation than high carb and periodized groups, 3. Athletes had to work at higher percentage of their maximum to sustain higher speeds whereas the high card and periodization groups did not.

The down side for applying this research to triathlon (half and full distance) is the testing in this study was 10km and 25km, both of which did not exceed circa 2hrs in duration. For most age groupers and elite triathletes we are around the 4 hr mark for half and 8hr> greater for Ironman. As such given our natural Carb stores (blood glucose, muscle and liver glycogen) can last for 2-3hrs (at race pace for most top end age groupers 3hrs> at high intensity) then this study would be examining subjects during an event where glycogen depletion does not occur. As such what happens to the fat adapted athletes in Ironman racing? Is there a benefit to tap into fats as fuels? Another issue is body composition? These days there are a lot of fat triathletes sitting on Pro value bikes. Shedding some lard would be invaluable. I will talk about this are a little later on but there is no doubt the LCHF diet results in massive weight loss especially around the mid-section.


What bout long-term adaptation to High Fat?

One of the criticisms of the research on high fat diets so far has been the fact most look at only short term <4-6 week of a high fat diet. However, in 2016 one of the most active researchers in this area Dr Jeff Volek published a study that looked at Ultra-endurance athletes and great for us also Ironman Triathletes (Known as the FASTER study). In this study, they looked at subjects who had been following a high carb (>59% CHO) vs. low carb (< 10% CHO & >70% Fat) diet over a 9-36 month (20 Month average) period.

They had these athletes perform a max test, then following a high fat (81% fat, 5% CHO) or low fat (36% Fat, 51% CHO) drink a 180 minute sub-maximal (64% Vo2 max ‘that’s about 74% Hr Max) and looked at rates of fat use and contribution to energy production, levels of muscle glycogen (our stores of carbs) pre and post exercise (fat adapted took fat drink, carb adapted took low fat drink). The results are very interesting with come important implications for age groupers and Pro athletes.

The results showed at rest the fat adapted athletes had 95% of energy contribution from fats and carb adapted only 47%. Similarly, peak levels of fat use where 2.3 fold higher in fat adapted athletes, which also occurred at a higher (70.3% vs. 55%) percentage of the maximum vo2. Similarly, during the sub-max test fat oxidation was 59% higher in the low-carb / high fat group than high carb. The most interesting part of the study was that resting and post exercise muscle glycogen was not different between the groups, and there are a variety of chemical pathways that could be utilised to replenish glycogen such as lactate carbon skeletons.

In the latest study and 1st to demonstrate some performance benefits of the High Fat Low Carb diet is that by McSwiney et al. 2017. In this study 20 endurance trained males (4 of which were Ironman athletes) whom where currently following a standard endurance diet (50% of cals from carbs). The athletes underwent 12 weeks of training a diet that was followed following guidance from a nutritionist to follow a high carb (60% carbs) or high fat (77% fat) low carb (<50g/d) diet and both to meet daily energy requirements. A food diary was checked each week to ensure the athletes where following the diets. The training followed was the same for each group and was 7+ hours of endurance training as well as 2 strength session and 2 HIIT sessions.

The participants completed 2 performance tests of a 100km time trial to be completed as fast as possible and also a six second sprint (carried at at end of TT test to represent a sprint to the line), and a critical power test (CPT). These tests were conducted pre and post dietary and training intervention with the High Carb group consumed 30-60g per hour during the test and the high fat group water and electrolytes.

There was a significant decrease in body fat and body mass in the High Fact compared to High Carb group. There was however, no significant different in 100km TT performance but unexpectedly a greater improvement in peak power (but not average) in CPT, likely due to changes in weight to power (greater weight loss at end of study in high fat group). .

A number of interesting issues here include a 4.4kg loss in body fat in the high fat group vs. 0.7kg in high carb. Despite no significant change in performance in the 100km TT test (significance based on statistical analysis) may be due to the large variation in response between participants and with greater numbers there may have been a ‘statistical’ benefit. If we just look at actual time of the TT test the high carb group completed the TT 1min and 13secons faster than their pre 12-week dietary and training intervention but the high fat group was 4min and 7 seconds faster.

Although you could pull some positives from the study the issue here is 6 second sprint and the subject number could easily account for such an effect. In addition, the way the subjects where selected into each group could have been of issue i.e. not selected according to fitness and indeed the groups where significantly different between body fat and carb intake. Such issues could have impacted the results of the study and clearly more work is needed.

There are some other details which are not clear as it states 30-60g/hr where taken in the High Carb group during the post intervention test. However, how many where on 30 and how many on 60g? Was this optional? Where both groups fully glycogen loaded pre-tests? There are still many issues not clear and need to be addressed in future study designs before we can draw any firm conclusions.

Conclusion: So at this point there only 1 real ‘published’ performance data to demonstrate high fat diets work better than high carb (McSwiney et al. 2017) and one performance study demonstrating no effect (Burke et al. 2017) as well as  a restriction in the adaptive response to training as well as subsequently performance. Yes we see in both studies from the likes of Burke, Volek and McSwiney elevations in Ketones (offering an alternative fuel source to glucose) from fat adaptation but the correlation to exercise performance still is jury out.

There is still a gap in our knowledge here for the potential of using high fat diets, and this relates to long term adaptation, its use in ultra-endurance events where fat reliance is put to the test, and also the impact of protein intake, and high fat as primary diet but carbs used during competition in this equation. In relation to the latter from what I have seen from many athletes is what they can low carb is really high protein, low fat and low carb. We need to remember protein is insulinogenic and as such can deliver many of the benefits (although not efficiently) as carbs.

Personal view: I tried the high fat diet in 2016 for 5-6months at the early part of the season (less intensity more volume and L2 work) and I have to say the effects on huger and body composition are astounding and as such as a health option and ability to alter body fat levels there maybe some significant scope for play. However, as you move into doing higher intensity work and much glycogen levels are depleted to a greater extent the high fat diet for me falls short as your either 1. Not able to carry out higher intensity interval work because your glycogen depleted (this would go against the Volek study suggesting no difference in CHO repletion rates) or 2. There are some metabolic changes that occur due to a high fat diet that inhibit the ability of the muscle to function and/or adapt to working at and above your threshold.

My other thoughts are for those in the pointy end of half and long distance triathlon is that your already highly fat adapted. Your training 2-3 times a day which often leads to low muscle / liver glycogen levels (the same result as fasting and low carb diets). The result would be many of the adaptive responses seen metabolic from the FASTER study. I would advise if you want to try this diet then try on the off season or even better try a periodization approach of high carb immediately post some higher intensity sessions, mixed in with a few fasting and longer low carb endurance rides. Care must be taken on manipulation of your diet with low carb as there are risks of immune suppression and that can mean greater susceptibility to infection/illness.


Ketone Supplementation

I want to start by saying Ketone supplementation is nothing new and in fact has more research underpinning its use as an intervention than high fat low carb (HFLC) diets. It’s been around at least since the early 1970s, where we see studies using ketones ingested as a means to bring about nutrition ketosis (high blood Ketone levels)(Johnson & Walton 1972). With more recent trials using β-hydroxybutyrate (β-HB) and acetoacetate(AcAc) and (R)-3-hydroxybutyl (R)-3-hydroxybutyrate (ketone monoester).

These lovely sounding chemical names as with the high fat low carb diets are also limited with reference to performance despite the mechanistic possibilities of an effect. So in this part of the article we again will look at separating hype from fact and if these supplements are 1. Performance enhancing, 2. Legal and if they offer any benefits to triathlon performance.


Performance Data

As we have seen with the studies above Ketosis (elevated blood ketones) can be achieved endogenously (produced by the body in response to low carb intake) but it may also be achieved exogenously through Ketone ingestion or infusion (injected directly into blood stream). There are 2 potential ways Ketones maybe beneficial to endurance performance from an energy standpoint. First, its an alternative fuel source as to be used to spare muscle glycogen (however, there is a view that this may indeed result in decreased capacity for high intensity exercise), secondly, it has the potential to be an more efficient in supplying energy than from the breakdown of carbohydrates. However, these are primarily theoretical consideration and or based on rodent models (trials). There are also a number of metabolic effects that maybe of use such as increasing the rate of glycogen replenishment post exercise (i.e. faster recovery), and improving recovery through increased protein synthesis.

Again there are studies both for and against such mechanisms so lets look closer at performance.


Diet & Performance

Despite a significant amount of papers on possible mechanisms and biochemistry of supplementation with Ketones, as with high fat low carb diets there are almost no studies on human performance. To date there are 3 studies relevant to triathletes and endurance exercise.



The 1ST study is not even peer reviewed (i.e. not assessed by another independent academic and them published in a science journal), and was indeed part of a patent submission back in 2013 (Clarke et al. Patent Application. June 18, 2015; 20150164855 A1).

In this study a solution containing circa 230kcal from ketones where taken prior to 30 minute rowing test. Performance outcomes included distance in m, and seconds to complete 2 km trial. The improvements where modest at best in this group of elite and sub elite rowers, with a reduction in times of 1-2% according to the patent (see figure 1).


clarke light weight and heavyweight rowers performance results

Figure 1.  The effects on rowing performances from ketone drink in heavy and light weight male an female rowers.




Accepted for publication in May 2017 the next study (O’Mallet et al. 2017) took 10 healthy males (note healthy i.e. not trained) undertook some lab sessions to get use to the tests there where going to do (i.e. you get a big jump in FTP test results in second test than 1st as you learn to pace better rather then physical performance increase).

Subjects reported to the laboratory in the fasted state and consumed either 0.3 g/kg ketone salts (beta-hydroxybutyrate) or a flavour-matched placebo at 30 min prior to engaging in cycling exercise. Subjects completed steady-state exercise at 30%, 60%, and 90% ventilatory threshold (close to lactate threshold) followed by a cycling time-trial.

The respiratory exchange ration (a measure of fat use the lower the great fat contributes to energy) was 30% and 60% lower at VT in the ketone compared with control condition. Total fat oxidation was greater in the ketone versus control. Average time-trial power output was 7% lower in the ketone condition. Ingestion of ketone salts prior to exercise increases fat oxidation during steady-state exercise but impairs high-intensity exercise performance.



In October 2017 a paper was released which is more inline with triathlon performance and was actually peer reviewed (Leckey et al 2017). This study took 10 elite male cyclists and had them complete 31km lab based time trial (tria lasting circa 50mins). The cyclists consumed on the evening and morning of the trial a meal containing carbohydrates of 2g/kg bodyweight. The morning of the trial cyclists also consumed 200mg caffeine with their meal.

Prior to the trial they where then provided either placebo or 2 x 250mg/kg (dose 20 mins apart) ketone (1,3-butanediol acetoacetate diester) drink and 200ml of diet cola 30 mins before a 20min warm up then the TT. Participants also ingested 250mL of commercially available 6% CHO drink (Gatorade) at 15.74 km. The trial was conducted again and the intervention was swapped (i.e. those who had ketones the 1st time around would have placebo and vice versa).

The results of the trial demonstrated a 1-3% decline in performance that was associated with gut discomfort (all subjects given ketones reported this and none on placebo) and a higher perception of effort.

There are a number of issues here and it seems the researchers have jumped ahead of a more logical approach to investigating ketones. Because the trials involved what is in effect a multi-nutrient mixture i.e. taking on board carbs and caffeine as well as ketone we don’t know if the issue of GI distress was ketones alone or due to the combination. Similarly, we also do not know what impact ketones alone would have on performance. What the study does demonstrate is that utilising current dietary race strategies and dumping a new ingredient into the mix has consequences (negative ones) on performance.

As such in the real word a more cautious approach should be taken to trial any product starting at lower doses taken alone and graduating the dose up to allow for tolerances and possible adaptation. Example you would not give a new athlete unaccustomed to caffeine 4mg/kg bolus as caffeine sensitivity and tolerance can be markedly different. In addition the ability to use and deliver a performance benefit can be dependant on the intensity of the exercise and its duration so what may not work for a 50min time trial may not be the situation overview a 5 hour sportive or Ironman competition.


Supplementation & performance – Time to ‘ReTool’ metabolically?

Although Ketone supplementation may not yet have been demonstrated to enhance performance as an ergogenic substance within training, there maybe other benefits metabolically to their use. There have been at least 3 very interesting studies that may suggest some benefits to endurance athletes outside of a direct performance enhancer.



Firstly, A study providing high dose ketones plus glucose and measured change in muscle glycogen levels versus a placebo following glycogen-depleting exercise (Holdworth et al. 2017). The results demonstrated the ketone drink increased muscle glycogen levels 50% higher than after the control drink. Whilst these are very interesting the study design is not externally valid i.e. its not representative of the real world. Firstly, all we are looking at here is recovery from total muscle glycogen depletion and for most athletes this level in normal training would not be reached. In addition the change in muscle glycogen was not mealy a result of drinking ketones. The study gave the drinks then intravenous glucose was provided compared post ketone use or following placebo (glucose) or saline control. As such we do not know if actually taking ketones plus glucose orally would enhance glycogen levels, would compete against each other in the gut for uptake or as per the time trial study above in cyclists cause significant gut stress.




In another 2017 study (Vandoorne et al) researched investigated the effects of a protein/carbohydrate mixture plus placebo or a Ketone drink on the nutrient sensing protein complex MTOR (rapamycin complex 1). This molecule directly impacts muscle growth and recovery so enhancing its activation suggest improved muscle protein synthesis (growth and or repair). The researchers also looked at muscle glycogen levels following intense one-leg glycogen-depleting exercise (knee-extensions).

The results demonstrated no effect on muscle glycogen levels in direct contrast to the study above. However, there was activation of MTOR and also associated muscle protein synthesis. These are interesting findings but again the issue is the study did not measure recovery that has direct bearing in the real word – but that I mean improved recovery time before next training session, increased muscle mass etc. Finally, these where just health subjects and not trained, and the difference in how nutrients are utilised can be very different.




This month a study from researchers from Oxford University (Stubbs et al. 2017) looked at the impact of taking a ketone vs. a glucose drink on reported feelings of hunger and hormone levels known to be related to perception of appetite. The results of the study demonstrated increased blood ketone levels may directly suppress appetite, as ketone drinks lowered plasma ghrelin levels, perceived hunger, and desire to eat 1.5hours after consumption. Again this study although interesting to demonstrate a real impact would be to look at its use in a free living diet and if it can help you eat less and thus maintain or loose body weight. These studies are still needed to draw any conclusions.



Conclusions & Recommendations

I would start by saying please don’t believe the hype over any diet or food supplement until you have reviewed the evidence. People can become almost religious in their beliefs that x diet or supplement can work. However, take a view 2-3 years later and 99% of those suggesting it was the next miracle product don’t follow/use it anymore.

Most that suggest a high fat (80% fat) low carb (<50-100g/d) base their views as evidence on historic diets i.e. what we consumed during prehistoric or Neolithic times. Again what was our historic diet that our genes and bodies adapted too. Well that depends on where you would have lived i.e. near the ocean, access to meat, fruits etc. Outside of Inuit populations there is little evidence that dietary fat intake exceed 35% of daily caloric intake. There is also no evidence to suggest such populations where healthier or lived longer.

I would refer you guys to some interesting free articles on these areas:


However, in this article we are talking about performance rather than health and there is no doubt reducing calories and indeed simple sugars from the diet impact health and specifically bodyweight and blood glucose control. From my own experience there is a place for higher fat and lower carb diets but this is very much dependant on the phase of your training cycle, the amount of training you do and even your own individual reaction to foods. It’s clear in my mind higher fat and lower carb diets reduced appetite and help greatly with body fat levels. My own view is that much of this is a result of the fasting component of such diets. Try such a diet for too long, whilst you have multiple training sessions a day, training involves very high intensity intervals or during competition and performance will be reduced and the most recent well-controlled intervention studies support this.

In relation to Ketone supplementation we need to separate it out from high fat low carb diets, as there are not the same. High fat and low carb diets result in prolonged (Chronic vs. acute) ketosis as well as other effects from reduced carb intake. The studies on ketones although very interesting from a biochemical point of view simply have to date not stood up to scientific rigor when it comes to delivering performance benefits. The studies are also a mixed bad as they use different subjects (trained vs. untrained, rowers vs. cyclists) as well as different types of ketones.

As such I could not recommend that a high fat low carb diet is used as a permanent diet change but early season during endurance build it may have its place in the control of bodyweight and enhancing the aerobic biochemical machinery in our muscles. When it comes to later in the training cycle periodization would be advised at best.

As for ketones I would just not recommend for anyone looking to enhance athletic performance, the evidence is poor for benefits, and indeed the gut issues associated with their use can be a significant issue.








Ironman Florida 2017: Take 2

It has been sometime since my last write up but it’s been a really tough few months…


End of September I was involved in a bike accident where some idiot decided it was ok to reverse around a blind bend at the bottom of a hill with no signs or warnings he was doing so. I was out for a 4-hour ride and was the one who was his victim…

The result of the crash was double compression fracture of my spine (something I didn’t fund out until 3 weeks after the crash) as well as all the usual niceness of whiplash and bruising. I guess it was on the cards given the arseholes on the road and never been involved in a ‘real’ accident;  but when you’re building for an Ironman, accidents are a true disaster. In addition to that as a stress I have just moved to the other end of the UK and unfortunately for the family I was as much use as a chocolate fireguard in helping move.


Figure 1. Enjoying the removal of neck brace before finding out I have a compression fracture of T4/T5

Figure 1. Enjoying the removal of neck brace before finding out I have a compression fracture of T4/T5


Needless to say I have been and continue to have lots of issues with my back and neck, which has not fully healed so next stop, will be a MRI. In the interim I have been trying to get back into some training (approved by the orthopaedic consultant) after almost no training for 3-4 weeks post-crash. As I write this part of the blog I am 4 weeks out from Florida and have been trying to regain some lost form and have put in a few good rides and painful runs and swims (I have issues taking a deep breath due to injuries).

I have 4 weeks and ideally squeeze in 2 big days over the next pre-taper 2 weeks. Tomorrow and the following weekend will be big days and got to say am nervous as anything over 90mins (and any swim) has been leading to sleepless nights due to back and neck pains. However, as we all know once you have signed up for an Ironman the lure is difficult for reasons of costs (flights, entry already all paid for) and in my case I wanted to make the season worth it as had not beat my IM best despite spending a big winter and early summer getting in very good shape pre-taper for my main race at IM Frankfurt. I know I’m not the only one who feels the pressure to validate a season of hard training but maybe not the best idea.

Sometimes I feel the whole thing is madness as if the event was low cost and in UK I would have dropped out, as health is more important. I would never advise my athletes to do what I am doing in continuing to train when I should be 100% focused on recovery and getting my injuries resolved. So with making that decisions let’s turn back to Ironman Florida.


FLORIDA – Turn that frown upside down

In 2014 on a road bike, on the early stages of my Ironman journey and on the heels of a major storm I completed IM Florida. Back then there was no swim (a first I think is 14 years of the events history) due to the very bad weather. The race from recall was OK as it was pretty flat and not too hot, and despite a few punctures I enjoyed the ride and the marathon.

Flat and fast is what I love and given this time I will be a stronger biker (my race pace was my FTP back in 2014) I hope to at least crank out a better bike than my 5hr 53min bike from 2014…



In the run up to IM Florida I had my issues as above. However, in the 4 weeks prior to IM I managed to get in some good sessions although only 1 bike lasting 4hr 30mins I was ready to at a minimum get around the course.

In the run up to the race felt pretty calm and had a great shortened taper thanks to Dr Garry at SportsTest and made it through without any sign of a cold which has always been an issue. I was checked in and all prepped for race morning no problem. Come race morning I was up at 4.50am food in and then off to drop transition bags and make sure bike was in one piece and fully loaded and race ready.

Figure 2: Up and adam ready for the day ahead!

Figure 2: Up and adam ready for the day ahead!


Check in was fine and made it down into the swim start and slotted into the sub 1-hr group. Swim was always going to be a bit choppy and it’s a strange old swim as the level of the water remains shallow for a good 100-150m from entry so you have a few meters where you can dolphin and the rest your wading out. The 1st lab was fine and I was a little cautious on my effort as swimming had been causing the most issues in my back (t4/t5) where the fractures had happened from the crash. Although I had done bike to run brick work during training I had done no swim bike and was just hoping all would be OK. After getting in for lap 2 the orange markers had significantly shifted.

Figure 3: The start of the day and end of lap one.

Figure 3: The start of the day and end of lap one.

I don’t know if they had become untethered but a lot of people had began to swim out very wide away from the direct line to 1st turning buoy (was red). I asked a few others who where also lost wondering what was going on but no one knew so I decided just to head for the red buoy and if the wrong line the refs in the water would tell me. It was the right choice but the dicking abut burnt some time but as long as I got out and the back was in one piece it would be a thumbs up.

Swim [1hr 05mins].



I don’t often talk about transitions but Florida is 100% on the ball – yes it’s a long transition from beach to change to bike and you cannot have your shoes on the bike but the staff are all over ready to make sure your get to your bike. In my situation I was very near the transition exit making finding the bike easy and when you get to the change tent the volunteers are waiting for you with your bike change bag. No mean feat with 3000 athletes. Similar, getting of the bike you had over your bike as you cross the line and the volunteers rack and also hand you your run bag making for a super smooth transition. Other IM events could learn a lot from Florida.



Following the weather it was forecast to peak at about 3 hours into the bike at 80of but very little wind so real feel of 90oF. For me I was not concerned but I knew if would be a factor on the run, so hydration pre and post swim as well as on the bike would be key. Got to say I felt good on the bike on the lead out and perhaps a bit to over eager with exceeding my race watts by 10-15watts. That would be fine in a cool European event but given the heat in Florida I wanted to ease off to make sure I was leaving some in the tank for the run. I also had done only one long bike in 12 weeks leading up to the race so what was in the legs I didn’t know.

Figure 3: Time to hold the aero and get head in the game.

Figure 4: Time to hold the aero and get head in the game.

After the 1st hour I had settled in and from where I was after the 1st hour I didn’t see any drafting, which is what Florida has had a reputation for. I don’t know if this was due to increased marshalling or some change in the way age groups are now approaching races but it was useful and allowed me just to think about my own performance without to much surging etc.

Out on the course my mind was on 2 things .1 holding aero position and 2. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. I try to get in at least 1000mls an hour although I know I will sweat more than this. I have been up to 1200mls/hr previously but just not had enough time to get in the sessions to adapt. However, as long as I can hold my aero position I can get away with lower watts for a better return in speed (note: my CDA for Florida was 0.223 m^2).

Over the last 30Mins I was beginning to feel the ride become a bit more of an effort than the ease the rest of the race so held back another 5watts, hoping it would leave me with some legs for the run.

Bike time [4hrs 53mins]



Dam, Dam hot…That’s the summary for the Florida run. I jumped of the bike out of transition and have to say felt ok and tried to settle into a 4.40-4.45mi/kg pace of running and until about 14/15k (See Figure x.x) I was bang just under a 4.35average (to get me under a 3.15 marathon and circa 9hr 20Min IM based on the days swim/bike– p.s. that would have given me second or 3rd in age group and kona slot) then the heat (or maybe just the lack of training) started to kick in….

Figure 5: Feeling good on the run well at least to 14km ha

Figure 5: Feeling good on the run well at least to 14km ha


The rest of the run was ok high and lows but manageable but could not hold the speed and hard to keep body temp down despite lots of ice at aid stations and remaining hydrated. I had not done anywhere near enough the acclimatisation work I had done for Frankfurt and I could feel that on the day. Frankfurt’s peak heat was higher than Florida but I felt easier at Frankfurt heat wise so something I can cope with but need to do the right preparation.

Figure 6: Hot hot hot...even from the start.

Figure 6: Hot hot hot…even from the start.

So the run became a case of grinding it out but with no real walks of shame only walking the aid stations after about 15k I was pretty happy to make it through, given the last few months of not even knowing if I would make the start line.

So come the end of the run there was the lovely finish shoot and unlike in 2014 I finished in the sunlight and was great to see the family and my Mam who had come over for her 70th birthday. Despite nipping under the 4Hr mark for the run I was well away from the 3hr 27min run I did in 2014, which if I could have put together on the day would have given me my goal of a Kona slot. But these things are here to tease but a sign for me that I have it in me.

Figure 7: Not long after this one the shit hit the fan.

Figure 7: Not long after this one the shit hit the fan.

Post analysis I improved from 2014 but a poor run and lack of training let me down on the day and although I didn’t aim for Kona on this race but a finish holding together my run from 2014 would have got me to the island. There have been improvements since 2014 results but the only number that really matter are 1-4 i.e. the finishing slots guaranteed to get you to Kona and that’s got to be the goal again for 2018.

  • 16th Age group (Up from 52 in 2014)
  • 96th Overall (Up from 275 in 2014)

Overall IM Florida 2017 [10hr 6min]

Figure 8: On the way to ice-cream and beer

Figure 8: On the way to ice-cream and beer


SUMMARY – A Year to forget or remember!

I have had a great year of training but a crap year for results. I am sure everyone has them but you always are looking for validation of your efforts but you have to look to your long-term goals, evaluate and fix what maybe broken in your strategy. You will always get those looking to the failure in a result or you not achieving x but every season and indeed every race brings new insight. The application of that insight to you micro, macro cycles in training, your diet and recovery are all key.

The pro’s for this year for me is I have finally understood how to acclimatise for the heat that’s to Frankfurt. 3 weeks having a mix of steam/sauna and hot baths post training do the job. I am never going to be an optimal athlete in the heat as I carry too much muscle and simple thermodynamics come into play here. However, managing and still performing to ‘my’ best ability in hot conditions is key to a good performance if not the fastest race.

I also believe a shortened taper works best for me. I felt so much better going into Florida than any other IM, so despite the lack of long bikes I think I had a good race.

Negatives of the year have been my 1st real bike crash and I am writing this second part of my blog a week post IM Florida and another night of poor sleep due to continued back pain. I am in for my MRI and hopefully the issue is just muscular and I just need time post the fractures. I will keep up with the physio and osteopath sessions and the latter are a massive help.

Although the race times for various reasons of health have not been fantastic I have learned this season and become stronger on my bike. It’s the start of the off-season and I’ve had a week of very little post Florida so I guess its time to get back on it. It’s been a busy work year from the day job and setting up some other projects but some very exciting stuff in the pipeline for 2018.

“Wishing you guys a very happy xmas and all the best for your winter training!”




Roll on July 9th

That was the thought process in the months leading up to Ironman Frankfurt. I felt ready and was shooting out some great training sessions as well as some long training hours, effort and coin on route to what I though would be a big PB.

Pre-race blues!

One thing that seems to be common across those involved in long course triathlon is the dreaded taper illness. In 2016 I was victim and ended up ill pre-Austria making me jump into Ironman Barcelona to validate my years efforts, which I did with a PB. However, I was hoping I would be able to avoid such issues this year but for those following me on twitter (@marktallonphd) a week out I ended up with a bacterial chest and throat infection – so out came the anti-biotics. It was a case of fingers crossed that I would be ready for race day!

T-Minus 48Hours

What a week…So a week out I picked up the illness and pretty much did nothing training wise other than try to recover for race day. Then day of flying out I was told my grandmother died – so some icing for the shit cake I was dealing with. There was also a load of work stuff to deal with for both wife, and myself but maybe go into that in another blog.

As you guys know you invest not only significant time but also cash into preparing for an Ironman. Physio, bike kit, nutrition, coaching, flights, hotel, entrance fees all add up to £1000’s of cash. So many of us go against what we know is right i.e. to pull out. I would never advise an athlete to race when ill other than head cold but once on the chest and green chunks there are some real health dangers to racing like that – so I must be a bit of a nob as still raced.

48hours out and I decided I would race and I needed to get my head into the right space. Before I get into the story of the race the goal was sub hr swim, 4hr 45min bike and a 3.10run – all on the cards based off my training leading up.

Bike Check

For those who don’t know the swim start and T1 are across the city from T2 for Ironman Frankfurt. So the day before the race you need to grab your bike to get checked in by taking your bike onto a bus with the other 3116 registered athletes. The bus journey was about 40mins and as you can see by the pick the queues are pretty big and at over 30oC you’re sweating your nuts off for about 30mins before getting on-board. I have to say the operation is slick and there are lots of busses so don’t stress about getting to racking in the 1st bus to go.

Figure 1. Bike queue for getting the ride to T1

Figure 1. Bike queue for getting the ride to T1 – All around the block…

What I would say is for those of you who are staying near the city and my not get an opportunity to try out the swim is to bring some swim kit so after racking your bike you can get on the swim course. Again getting back into Frankfurt is hassle free as lots of busses on for the return journey.



One of my previous issues during Ironman was getting my ass out of bed in the Morning in enough time to make sure I was not rushing to race start and could get a warm-up in. This time set my clock early so we where out of the door 4.35am to get the bus (yes you can bring family) to Swim start (T1 opens at 5am). I got there in good time to check over the bike and load food and drink for the day and managed to get into the water for a good 10min warm-up. The lake is stunning, very flat and easy to see the markers, so I stuck my self into the sub hour group.

Swim [1hr 46seconds]

Prior to the start of the swim I felt pretty good. I was still coughing but didn’t feel to bad and had completed the antibiotics the day before the race and had a good sleep. Got into the swim which is a wave start and there seemed to be lots of space. In hindsight I wish I had been a bit more aggressive but was not sure how I would feel. In the end was an OK swim and felt pretty comfortable post swim.

The transition was a long run up to the bikes and changing area. I had already scoped it out pre race so I knew what was to come. I had no issues during transition and out on the bike in ok time (T1 = 6min 46seconds).


Bike [4hr 57min 18seconds]

The bike was short this year by a supposed 3km (My Garmin says 6k). Like all Ironman the bike is a make or brake for the rest of the event and I was looking forwards to it after some great rides in training. After the 1st 10k my power was down about 20watts from target effort and this was the concern – what impact of the illness. However, I had decided whatever happens I would finish the race and work as hard as was comfortable. Despite not being able to hold a higher power I enjoyed the bike. There was very few out on the course and that would mean I only saw one instance of drafting – so a real honest course – just how Ironman should be.

Figure 2. Out on the bike and into the fryer.

Figure 2. Out on the bike and into the fryer.

A few tips for those of you that might be interested in doing Frankfurt. There are a few places with cobbles and these are real boneshakers. I used 28c wheels for the race and 90psi to try to absorb some of the shakes but lost my chain over one of the sections. So key for the cobbles is to keep spinning the legs as your go over them as any slack in the chain when not pedalling can make the chain more likely to jump off.

Figure 3. Frankfurt cobbles, shake rattle and roll.

Figure 3. Frankfurt cobbles, shake rattle and roll.

Over the second half of the course I dropped another 6 watts but on the plus side did get in all my nutrition / fluid on the day, which was a concern as antibiotics can ruin gut function. This was key as mid bike the temp was already heating up to a toasty 32oC. I had done 10 days pre race heat acclimatisation work and got to say it worked a treat as even with a TT helmet on I did not feel fried.

Coming off the bike I was ready to get a quick transition and had feet out of the shoes ready to hand my bike to waiting staff. Once off the bike I ran to my bag (which I had market with black permanent marker to ensure it stood out from the other bags). On arriving at my race number the bag was gone from the hook (Yep fucked off is an understatement). I called a member of staff over to help out but they where as useful as a chocolate fireguard – after some running around I found it about 5 meters away under another rack. Clearly someone must have picked up the wrong bag realised it and dumped it (Thanks). Panic over but maybe 1-2mins lost resulting in a 4min transition when you could do this in 2mins.

Figure 5. Out of T2 ready to attack the sweltering run.

Figure 4. Out of T2 ready to attack the sweltering run.

Run [3hr 57min 21seconds]

Out onto the run a felt OK (As good as you can feel post bike leg) and tried to set off at pre planned 4.20/4.25 pace. After 5km this felt tough and the cough was back in full effect so I slowed it down trying to hold around 4.45min/km. Despite averaging this up until 24/25km into the run the cough was constant and the next thing I was laid on the floor then being carried of to the med tent. After about 15mins in the med tent I was allowed to go (I had blacked out due to low blood pressure from the coughing).

Figure 6. Never quit no matter what!

Figure 5. Post med tent back to work – Never quit no matter what!

By the time I got running I had lost about 20mins (Stuck the run splits at the end of the blog for those interested). However, after dropping out at Austria in 2016 I promised I would never quit another Ironman, so on I went and pushed as much as I could holding around 5min/km pace over the rest of the course. I guess without the stop I would have been around the 3.30marathon time, which would have been all things considered and OK race and a PB.

Figure 7. The finishing shoot plays feels so good!

Figure 6. The finishing shoot feels so good!


Despite the failure in making my goal race effort, I learnt a massive amount about myself over this race.

  • 1st – I now know what I need to do to acclimatise for a hot race, which has been an issue for me in the past.
  • 2nd – Even when I am not in best form and have a disaster out on the course I can still push close to a sub 10hr Ironman.
  • 3rd – The experiences of hard races over the past few years and the failures have strengthen my mind so when the wheels come of I can find the motivation to carry on.

So despite not getting the race nor the outcome of the race I wanted I felt proud of the effort I had put in. After a few days reflection I have signed up to a race I did back in 2014 – ‘Ironman Florida’.

Figure 8. Amazing how quick you can forget the pain when you grab the gold.

Figure 7. Amazing how quick you can forget the pain when you grab the gold. Remember why we do this sport – for the love of it!

Writing this Race Blog is a bit delayed and it’s now 2 weeks post Frankfurt and still not 100% over the cough. So far I have only done a few easy sessions to keep the legs spinning. However, I have really needed the break with so much going on in personal life and being training solid for the last 7months have taken their toll.

I have loved the break both physically and mentally but I am ready to get back to it from 1st week of August and will use the next week as a run in pre training proper. So another 12 weeks of graft are ahead for me and I feel mentally recharged and ready to attack. Best of luck to all of you for the rest of the season and remember avoid the doubters as there are no limits other than those inside your mind! #believe

Best in training, Mark


Salt Supplementation & Sweat testing for Ironman – Why it’s not about cramping!

my salt picOld wives tales are great for getting the kids of to sleep but should serve little or no place in Nutrition Science. However, we have the persistent commentary that salt supplementation prevents cramps in the same manner lactate is rolled out by the TV commentators as the cause of fatigue. In this article I want to dismiss some myths about salt/sodium use, sweat testing and how to integrate the information from this review into your competition nutrition safely and effectively.

Before we begin there will be some science here as much of the marketing of salt and sweat testing is positioned on scientific precision and evidence. However, we rarely see what science underpins their testing and related claims. As such I have fully referenced this article with the scientific studies used to form my views on salt supplementation and related sweat testing. If you are short on time simply jump to the, ‘HOW TO USE GUIDE’ at the end to see the application of the research and information from the article.

Figure 1. Me and salt loss post Barcelona marathon (see salt on clothes)

Figure 1. Me and salt loss post Barcelona marathon (see salt on clothes – Salty sweater? So what…).


Historical BS

The place of salt as the cause of cramps hails back almost 80 Years to studies on Miners working underground in high temperature environments.[1] In a study on 1 single miners urine subject to cramp (although not cramping at the time the sample was taken) had the levels of chloride that was almost absent (note: chloride was used at the time as a marker of sodium levels). [2]

This absence of chloride in the urine according to the authors of the study suggested an excessive shortage of chloride (and as such sodium) in the blood. However, it was known that sweat contains much lower levels of salt than in the blood, so as sweating (loss of more water than sodium from the blood) continued the level of sodium in the blood would actually concentrate.

The study author was aware of some animal data that demonstrated that animals forced to ingest large quantities of water developed muscle twitching,[3] and from that the miners cramp must be due to excessive water consumption. Therefore, the author decided to develop a solution that had a sodium chloride solution (0.51g sodium/500mls) (double that in lucozade sport), and test it on miners as a means of preventing cramp. The effect of this drink on 7 miners where that only 4 felt it benefited them (not exactly an endorsement for this level of intake).

The result of the study from the authors point of view however was that cramp due to sodium loss was made worse by excessive water consumption. Then in 1929, Hancock et al. proposed that[4] since drinking water will continue a drop (loss) of chloride (and sodium) in sweat from the blood; salt will move from the cells (including muscle) to maintain blood sodium concentrations (maintenance of osmotic pressure).

Under resting conditions the kidneys would expel excessive water and as such retain sodium and chloride levels in the blood. Yet according to Hancock and colleagues it was thought that during exercise blood flow is diverted to muscles and skin and thus making the kidney ineffective. The result is a continued loss of sodium/chloride in the sweat and due to water ingestion a continued lowering of the levels of sodium/chloride in the blood (despite not actual evidence in humans demonstrating this effect). By the 1930s Dr Talbott of Harvard concluded that when a critical level is reached in the working (exercising) subject, muscle cramp would occur.[5] The obvious solution here was to ingest more sodium as suggested by Dr’s Moss and Haldane.

A big problem with the theory of sodium depletion based muscle cramping is that there is almost no evidence demonstrating during prolonged exercise subjects with reduced serum sodium vs. those with normal serum sodium have more cramps. There is also importantly no real evidence to demonstrate total body sodium depletion or its depletion in muscle. This must be key issues to demonstrate as it’s the muscle that goes into cramp not the blood. So if the intracellular sodium pool is not different between those cramping and those not Cramping then can sodium depletion be the cause?

“Before I go on to cover this issue further common sense is always a great guide. For me if I do a run prior to a swim I get cramps in my clalf’s. Now if cramps are due to sodium deficiency / depletion then why are only my calves effected rather than all of the muscle in my body? The vast majority of triathletes out there experience cramps at many times where they are still in a very hydrated and non-sodium depleted state (or even during sleep), again how does this support sodium depleted theory of cramping?”


Salt Stores in Human Body: Salty sweater are they relevant?

Typical sodium concentrations in sweat are 20-80mmol/l (460-1840mg per litre) and in workers exercising at relatively low intensity in high temperatures for 10 hours may (not actually occurring but predicted from hourly loss) have sweat losses of 10g sodium (Na) or the equivalent to 25g salt (NaCl) per day. Without external intake this would be a loss of 50% of the total body stores.[6] Given the role of sodium in muscle contraction, nerve function and indeed blood pressure; then the sodium loss can be theoretically important. But weather you’re a light (20mmol) or heavy (80mmol>) sweater we must consider the reality of what happens during an event as almost all athletes take on some sodium in drinks and foods that are on the course.

In addition we must consider that the body will try to excrete excess sodium and retain sodium when intake is too low (providing the kidneys function correctly). The potential issue with this is when too much water is consumed and too little sodium – the result is hyponatremia (dangerously low blood sodium levels.) Of course on a daily basis too much sodium can increase blood pressure due to the retention of excess blood volume. As with everything there must be balance for health.

The problem with most published endurance studies looking into sodium depletion and cramp is we do not see sodium depletion occurring as measured in the blood (extracellular fluid). This maybe as a result of the release of sodium from other body stores. At this point despite the development of magnetic resonance imaging[7, 8] for real time measurement of Sodium within the muscle (in and out of the blood) and other intracellular organs its not usable in the field (i.e. what happens during an Ironman). What we do know is that there is no proven relationship between sodium loss and cramping in healthy athletes.


The alternative theory of Muscle Cramping

There are at least 2 other theories that suggest a cause of muscle cramping beyond the dehydration/electrolyte hypothesis. The 1st relates to an extension of the action behind how dehydration & electrolyte loss may cause cramps by increasing pressure placed on nerves (due to a loss of the interstitial fluid surrounding the muscle cells and nerves) and a build-up of excitatory neurochemicals. There is no evidence in humans to support a such a change in pressure or build up of these chemicals. The 2nd theory relates to altered neuromuscular control.[9. 10]

This latter neuromuscular model I believe is in the vast majority of athletes the primary cause of muscle cramping during exercise. From my own experience, cramping of my calf’s during swimming post-run (not dehydrated post run) would mimic what has been demonstrated in laboratory models used to bring about muscle cramp. So I do a run (I run off my toes) and as such the muscle is in the shortened (contracted) position (i.e. toes pointed down). Then I go for a swim and again my feet are extended (plantarflexion) and point behind me. In both exercises the muscle in in the contracted (shortened) position.

In lab tests trying to bring about cramping in a repeatable manner demonstrate performing exercise with the muscle in the shortened position followed by some free exercise then followed by exercise of muscle in shortened position again brings on muscle cramp.[11] Similarly, models where electrical stimulation to shorten the muscle and hold it in that position brings about cramp.[12, 13] These studies in conjunction with the lack of evidence demonstrating that cramping and non-cramping athletes are not related to levels of sodium loss/dehydration indicate a neuromuscular basis for cramping.

For me personally – the mechanism of cramping on the function of the body is interesting ‘academically’. However, my real interest and probably for most of you reading this is how do I prevent it? If dietary what do I do? How much of x? When to take? And what’s the benefit (Performance)?

So lets look at some the action points from the research and how it’s useful to you as an athlete.


The continuing benefit of sodium use for Ironman

Excessive fluid loss does impair performance, and we know this from many studies. But the level of fluid loss is important. A few KG’s may actually be beneficial towards the end of an Ironman race with data on elite athletes nearly always demonstrating the fastest performances are those with the greatest levels of fluid loss (up to 8% of bodyweight i.e. 5kg for a 70kg athlete).[14] Whilst this topic on dehydration is a whole other area the academic debate contained in reference 14 is a good start for a discussion of some of these issues.

In Ironman we are not just talking about loosing 2-5kg in bodyweight. If we had a sweat rate of 1ltr per hour that’s a potential fluid loss over the event of 15-16ltrs. Of course this is impossible as we would have developed sever dehydration and heat stroke well before that level of loss. But it demonstrates a potential performance risk and that to get through such an event an adequate hydration strategy is required to maintain health and performance.

My own view on the benefits of salt (sodium) use during prolonged endurance exercise like Ironman is its effects on hydration rather than any effects that are related to cramp prevention. This has been demonstrated in many studies but my favourite is by Professor Maughan and John Leiper.[15] In this study the take home for subjects exercising until they lost about 1.5kg of body weight through sweating, could hydrate to a much greater degree the more salt that was present in their hydration drinks (See below for more detail on the study).

Therefore, what are the practical considerations from such research? If your sweat rate is over 1tr per hour (Mine during a run can be as much as 1.5trs) then it becomes very difficult to take on board that level of fluid to make sure you maintain your core temperature and hydration levels. Although its possible to train the gut like any other organ in the body to tolerate such high fluid intakes, for many its very difficult and forcing in such levels could result in gut issue during a race. As such the supplementary intake of sodium can be a great option to enhance the retention of what you do take on and as such reduce the risk of dehydration of ultra-endurance events such as Ironman.

In addition the amount of carbohydrate in your sports drink will also play a role in hydration and the lower the levels of carbs the more hydration but likely less energy taken on board. The high the concentration (amount of carbs) of carbs in your sports drink the less hydration but more energy delivery. As such there is a trade off between hydration and energy delivery but the prevailing view is a concentration of about 5-8% carbohydrates (that’s 25-40g carbs in your 500ml drink) is a nice option. As this article is primarily about salt/sodium we will revisit carbs in another article.


A word on ‘sweat testing’ for athletes

There has been a big push for athletes to measure (have tested) the amount of sodium you loose in sweat. There are a number of issues with such tests I want to discuss before you go and burn some cash on this type of testing.

Firstly, as you loose water through sweating the body will try to retain sodium. Secondly, dietary changes in salt intake will impact the levels of sodium you loose during exercise (example during winter months your salt intake maybe lower than summer when you use more sports drinks containing salt). Thirdly, the suggestion is sodium loss is the cause of cramping when as above we have demonstrated this is not correct. Finally, most of these tests assess sodium loss (they actually look at chloride release) on one point in the body (example forearm). It is know that sweat rate and sodium loss is dependant on where the measurement is made (arm vs legs), and when the measurement is made (point of fitness during the season, environment) and as such any one off measure for whole body sweat rates during exercise is questionable.[16] What is know is that the most accurate way to assess sweat rates is via weight loss and I will discuss this to a great extent in the ‘HOW TO GUIDE’.

One of the common test (Iontophoresis) is the placing of a chemical (Pilocarpine) onto the skin and an electrical current placed into the skin to elicit sweating (This is not a new test and can be traced back to 1959). There are a number of issues with such tests for athletes. Firstly this method has not been validated for use in athletes (its use was for cystic fibrosis patients) as an indicator of whole body seat rates. It also is highly variable in terms of its accuracy with results from test then a re-test showing 18% variability in the results.[17] In addition research also shows that in athletes steady state sweat rates do not occur until 20 -30 minutes of exercise which is key for applying techniques to predict whole body sweat rates from an isolated part of the body.[18, 19] In addition the research shows that sweat rate is significantly higher with exercise and thermal stress compared with Pilocarpine Iontophoresis.[20, 21, 22]

Figure 2. Pilocarpine a chemical used in sweat testing

Figure 2. Pilocarpine a chemical used in sweat testing.


The reasons for such difference are pretty common sense as local (forearm) sweat stimulation from a electrical impulse and Pilocarpine is that during exercise and heat stress there are alterations in blood flow, neuromodulators, adrenergic stimulation etc. Therefore, its of no surprise that the test alone (even by companies using it) is normally not relied as delivering a answer to sweat and sodium loss rates. Instead testing companies implement questionnaires into the discussion, suggesting the test is little more than a gimmick to make the whole process more scientific.

Finally, if there is an optimal level of sodium for each person than how can we square that with studies such as that of Professor Maughan and John Leiper?[23] In this study the authors provided 1 of 4 drinks following exercise that resulted in 2% loss of body mass (circa 1.5kg). The drinks where at a volume of 1.5x the loss of bodyweight (circa 2.25ltrs) post-exercise, with the only difference in the composition being the sodium (salt) content.

The dose of salt was 2 (46mg), 26 (598mg), 52 (1195mg) or 100mmol (2300mg)/ litre of drink, which was consumed within 30 minutes following exercise. Drink volume 2.25ltrs within 30minutes. The results demonstrated that the higher the sodium concentration the great the fluid retention in the following 5 and half hours post exercise. However, although the difference between the 1.2g and 2.3g was not significantly different from each other based on fluid retention. As such a dose around 1.2g was the optimal intake for rehydration in these subjects.


Evidence for sodium intake benefits in Triathletes

As I said the important part of all this discussion is to demonstrate practical application and where possible evidence for benefits. In 2016 researchers from the University of Spain assessed the impact of salt supplementation on half Ironman performance.[24] A group of 26 experienced (7-8yrs) All the participants were instructed to take 867mg sodium (plus 1.3g chloride, 265mg potassium, 44mg magnesium) during the transition between the swimming and cycling sections, the same again around the middle of the cycling leg, and again during the transition between the cycling and running sections. The subject would either be given the salt formulation or a placebo (cellulose) without knowing. The temperature during the event was 22.5+/- 2.7 °C (18.8–26.6°C) with a relative humidity of 36.8 +/- 8.3% (32–45%), the swim 17°C.

The results of the study demonstrated quicker race time in the salt group vs. placebo with sweat loss and sweat sodium similar between groups. However, weight loss tended to be less in the salt vs. control group. Furthermore, post race blood sodium levels where also higher in the salt group. The take home of the study according to the authors was, “Oral salt supplementation was effective to lessen body mass loss and increase serum electrolyte concentration during a real half-ironman.”

So what’s the take home from this everything from this article?



1. Calculate fluid intake based on real fluid loss (whole body sweat rate): Void your bladder pre-exercise then weigh yourself naked before exercise. After an hours exercise at intended race pace and temperature whilst also taking on board your intended drink at 500-1000mls over that hour weigh yourself again. When you have the weight loss take into consideration how much fluid you consumed over the hour. Example: Starting (pre-exercise) weight 72kg – post exercise 71kg. Fluid consumed over the hour 500mls. Total sweat rate = 1kg + 0.5kg = 1500mls/hr.

2. Sweat rate can vary between days in the order of 5-15% so your sweat rate using the example above could be 1500 +/- 75-225mls. Therefore, you should practice consuming during training at least replacing what has been lost during exercise. This may require practice and training so perhaps starting at 800mls per hour and increasing 100-200mls each week (depending on how your gut reacts).

3. Sodium would be suggested at 500-1000mg/ltr of fluid (ideally closer to 1000mg). Note that again individual tolerance to sodium can vary so practice in training.

4. Carbohydrate composition: Suggest using a glucose or maltodextrin plus fructose based drink at a dose of 5-8%. So for 500ml bottle you would place 25-40g into your drink bottle and fill it with water. Again practice using different concentrations of carbohydrate. Note: Maximum levels tolerated of mixed (glucose:fructose) carbs are 60-90g/hour although adding caffeine may also be beneficial.

5. Be careful of using commercial sweat testing be sure to ask: 1. how they know their test works in athletes, doing your sport (evidence), 2. is the test reflective of whole body sweat rates (evidence?), 3. Relevant in predicting sweat rates in the environment you will be competing in (hot/cold/humid etc)(evidence?).

If they cannot provide a study to shows the test and predictions are correct then you should consider why are you spending cash when you can use the free method above that would likely be as or more accurate.



Note: A special thanks to some of the thought leaders in the area of sodium and salt supplementation for endurance athletes specifically Prof Tim Noakes. Whilst I don’t agree with all Dr Noakes concepts and ideas he has been willing to push back against much of the scientific dogma regarding salt use in endurance sports. Its key to let your mind be flexible to new ideas and concepts and not read research with pre-conceived ideas and views and let the data (the raw data) speak for its self. For that reason Dr Noakes has been a leading figure.

1. Moss KN. Some effects of high temperatures and muscular exertion upon Coliers. Proc Royal Society B. 1923: 95, 181-200

2. bid, pg.193-196

3. Rowntree LG. Water Intoxication. Arch Int Med. 1923, 32. 157 -174

4. Hancock W, Whitehouse AGR, Haldane JS. The loss of water and salts through the skin, and the corresponding physiological adjustments. Proc Roy Soc London Series B, Biol 1929a: 43-59

5. Tabott JH. Heat Cramps. Medicine. 1935;14: 323-376

6. Note: 52.7g Sodium equivalent to 131g of Salt (45g in Extracellular (Blood Plasma (about 55% of total blood levels) and Interstitial fluid (fluid around cells), and 7.7g in the intracellular tissues such as muscle.

7. Ouwerkerk R, Lee RF, Bottomley PA. Dynamic changes in sodium levels in human exercising muscle measured with 23Na MRI. Int Soc Mag Res in Med. 7th Scientific Meeting. Abstract #1530

8. Hammon, M et al. Tesla 23Na Magnetic Resonance Imaging During Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise. Acad Radiol 2015; 22:1181–1190

9. Schwellnus MP, Derman EW, Noakes TD. Aetiology of skeletal muscle ‘cramps’ during exercise: a novel hypothesis. J Sports Sci 1997;15:277–85

10. Schwellnus MP. Cause of exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC) altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion? Br. J. Sports Med. 2009; 43:401Y8.

11. Norris FH, Gasteiger EL, Chatfield PO. An electromyographic study of induced and spontaneous muscle cramps. EEG Clin Neurophysiol 1957;9:139–47.

12. Bertolasi L, De Grandis D, Bongiovanni LG, et al. The influence of muscular lengthening on cramps. Ann Neurol 1993;33:176–80.

13. Minetto MA, Botter A, Ravenni R, et al. Reliability of a novel neurostimulation method to study involuntary muscle phenomena. Muscle Nerve 2008;37:90–100

14. Sawka MN, Noakes TD. Does dehydration impair exercise performance? Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007; 39, 377-390

15. Maughan RJ, Leiper JB. Sodium intake and post-exercise rehydration in man. Eur J Appl Physiol. 1995; 71: 311-319.

16. Bates, GP, Miller VS. Sweat rate and sodium loss during work in the heat. J Occup Med Toxicol. 2008; 3: 4.

17. Willems P, Weekx S, Meskal A, Schouwers S. Biological Variation of Chloride and Sodium in Sweat Obtained by Pilocarpine Iontophoresis in Adults: How Sure are You About Sweat Test Results? Lung. 2017;195(2):241-246

18. Morris NB, Cramer MN, Hodder SG, et al. A comparison between the technical absorbent and ventilated capsule methods for measuring local sweat rate. J Appl Physiol. 2013;114:816–23.

19. Boisvert P, Desruelle AV, Candas V. Comparison of sweat rate measured by a pouch collector and a hygrometric technique during exercise. Can J Appl Physiol. 1997;22:161–70.

20. Taylor NA, Machado-Moreira CA. Regional variations in transepidermal water loss, eccrine sweat gland density, sweat secretion rates and electrolyte composition in resting and exercising humans. Extr Physiol Med. 2013;2:4.

21. Hjortskov N, Jepsen LT, Nielsen B, et al. Pilocarpine iontophoresis test: an index of physiological sweat secretion? Clin Physiol. 1995;15:409–14.

22. Vimieiro-Gomes AC, Magalhaes FC, Amorim FT, et al. Comparison of sweat rate during graded exercise and the local rate induced by pilocarpine. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2005;38:1133–9.

23. Supra Note 15

24. Del Coso J, Gonzalez-Millan C, Salinero JJ, Abian-Vicen J, Areces F, Lledo M, Lara B, Galo-Salazar C, Ruiz-Vincente D. Effects of oral salt supplementation on physical performance during a half-ironman: A randomized controlled trial. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2016: 26: 156–164

Outlaw Triathlon – A lesson in quick fixes!

Here we are for the 1st tri of the season and a 70.3 is always a great way to open the account for 2017…

The Outlaw is a bit of an institution in the UK and has a super loyal following due to its fantastic team of organisers and atmosphere on the day. However, May in Nottingham (UK) can get a bit Chilly and this year was one of those, not to mention the rain over the preceding days. So, coming into the race I expected a cold morning with wet roads and a muddy run. However, despite the cold swim the weather warmed up nicely so it was a day for a good race. I had taken a relatively easy week prior to the race so felt I was in good shape for a strong race.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Early mornings pack and ready for the OUTLAW


The Swim [29mins 9seconds]

One of the mistakes last year was too much of sleep in so was late for the start of the swim (well late as in didn’t get chance to get acclimatised to the cold pre race start). The day of the race I was up and at the race for 4.45am (15 mins pre-transition opening), this gave me time to get the bike into transition, wetsuit on and a good 5-7 mins in the water before the gun started.

The Outlaw swim is played out in 4 waves. Prior to my wave (M30-34, M40-44) the 1st wave included Relay, MU24, M25-29, M35-39, and M55-59 participants. This means you have a lot of bodies to pass after 950m of the swim. So you need to get out hard and then avoid the bodies. I felt pretty good on the swim and it was the first time to try out the new Maverick X wetsuit. The suit felt great (amazing actually) and despite getting a little chilly I was only just outside my 28min target.

Figure 2. Maverick X Wetsuit felt like a second skin.

Figure 2. Maverick X Wetsuit felt like a second skin.


The Bike [2hr 31min]

Only the day before the race I made the decision with my coach (Dr Garry from SportsTest) to take some risks on the bike and looked towards 235-240watt average over the half ironman distance bike leg. I was having a great race and felt very comfortable pushing the watts out but just after an hour into the race my front mech decided it was time to f*ck up and twist in on me (See red square on bike power profile below). I am still not 100% sure what happened but the result was a twisted and damaged front mech and slightly twisted set of chain links. Its took a week to get the bike fixed with a new chain and front mech.

Figure 3. Power profile from Outlaw bike

Figure 3. Power profile from Outlaw bike.


I tried to pedal for a bit whilst looking down to see what had happened but once I realised this was not a quick fix I pulled over. After a bit of self-talk not to throw in the towel I managed to get the mech in a position to allow me to keep into the big chain ring and some movement across 4 gears of the rear cassette. This would get me to the finish if the bike would stay in one piece, which it did.

Despite the loss of 7 minutes I was 6 minutes quicker than 2016 bike leg. Without the mechanical I would have been have ridden 2hr 24Min. I had thought pre-race a 2hr 20min to 2hr 25min was on the cards and it was frustrating not to be able to achieve that, but I had to take home the positives and the main breakdowns over the ride was:

  • 54mins (204-243)
  • 40mins (244-283)
  • 10mins (284-323)
  • 7mins (>324)
Figure 4. Out on the bike.

Figure 4. Out on the bike feeling strong.


The final power value was 233w and I cannot post any heart rate data because I also made the decision not to race with a heart rate monitor. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I have been training at a much greater volume this year which I know can impact my heart rate, secondly I have been trying to move more towards training on feel as the constant looking at Heart Rate can be a stress in itself.

Figure 5. Shortly after the mechanical back on the road playing catch up.

Figure 5. Shortly after the mechanical back on the road playing catch up.


The Run [1hr 26mins]

In 2016 the run was a strength for me with a 1hr 24min half marathon off the bike (including a toilet break), so I was hoping for something similar. I was not sure how the harder bike effort would impact (never mind being about 2kg heavier) my goals but as a ‘B race’ had nothing to loose. Initially, the run felt good and over 13km I was averaging about 4min/km. I then faded to about 4.10-4.15min/km coming out with a 4.08min/km average (respectable but could be better). I have to admit I died over the last 2km, which was either the higher intensity from the bike or still some fatigue in the legs from recent training or a mix of both.

However, I guess the best test of any race effort is if you could do it again what would you change? Well I would not change much other than the mechanical and also some of the decisions made in the transitions.

Figure 6. Into the run and feeling good.

Figure 6. Into the run and feeling good.



I have to be honest I have never really paid a massive amount of attention over transitions because my focus is Ironman and at my level make little impact unless you really mess up. However, I made some major mistakes on the day especially for a half ironman. I made the decision to place on shoe covers and gloves as in 2016 my feet and fingers where freezing. I never practiced this in training in relation to how much time this would burn, not only getting them on but also off. This was a mistake and one not to be repeated if I ever make another stab at a 70.3.

The effect of my faffing about was about 2 minutes added to my 2016 transition time. In the future unless it’s going to be very cold I will not be putting on such items in the transition zone but may perhaps bring some gloves onto the course and putting on while out on the bike if needed.



The mechanical and poor transition lost me 9 mins and a potential time of 4hr 26mins, which would have gained me a podium place rather than 6th in my age group and top 20 overall rather than 33rd. The Outlaw continues to go from strength to strength and the total finishers where 1221 athletes from the 1500+ registered this year.

Figure 8. You are and Outlaw [Just not the fastest one ;-)]

Figure 7. You are and Outlaw [Just not the fastest one ;-)]

Despite the poor overall time from what I expected it gave me some great data on where my performance is after a tough winter of training to further boost the bike. Next up is the ‘A race’ for the season ‘Ironman Frankfurt’ in July and I have a real good couple of weeks of brutal training and some additional dietary control to implement. Fingers crossed no more mechanicals and I am really looking forwards to a fun race.

Until next time all the best in training!





The Myth of Functional Threshold Power (FTP)

“If you repeat something long enough people will begin to believe it’s the truth.”



How can I set training zones based on power? Are they accurate? Are they based on evidence? These are just some of the basic questions those looking to base their training on power. One of the most widely used and accepted methods of setting up training zones are based on what is know as the “Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test”. We see it used by coaches, listed in the magazines, and now it’s proliferated into online virtual training platforms and virtual reality training platforms such as Zwift and TrainerRoad.

However, what is the scientific basis of the FTP test? Does it measure / reflect lactate threshold? What are its limitations? Are there better options? In this blog and want to take a real look into the limitations of this suggested method of setting up a training program and why I believe it’s not all its suggest to be.

*In advance there is a little bit of physiology and some discussion of studies in the following blog. This sometimes breaks up the flow of a discussion but try to stick with it as it should help explain my views on FTP.

**November 2017 BLOG UPDATE: Please see comments and clarification following the publication with Dr Coggan, regarding FTP tests. 

FTP or Critical Power

The basis of FTP and other measures of so-called ‘threshold testing’ is defining that point between energy being primarily supplied by the aerobic system (i.e. sustainable over a long time) and the anaerobic system (sustainable over a short period of time).

According to one of the main academics behind the FTP test; Dr Andrew Coggan[1] states, “FTP is the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour.” In addition it is suggested that the best predictor of performance is performance itself – so a 60-minute time trial is just that a great predictor of 60 minute time trial. Because 60minutes is often very difficult (especially the relatively untrained) its suggest by Coggan that a 20minute test can be used, which is described as underestimating the 60minute test by 5%. Knowing this the 20minute test is suggested as a means of determining FTP.[2] This is interesting as a description of the test but what is the scientific basis? Why should we use it (or not) to develop training zones?

The underlying basis of the FTP test is touted as being 1. Being representative of lactate threshold (See Figure 1) and, 2. The mathematical concept of critical power (CP). So lets take a look at both of these with reference to the FTP test.


Figure 1

Figure 1. Here we see a test of lactate threshold with a subject working and increasing power and lactate levels rising at a relatively low rate until a threshold (LT) is reached where any additional increase in power output results in an almost exponential increase in lactate.[From Coggan AR. Training and racing using a power meter: an introduction. 2003. Accessed online at:].


Lactate threshold and FTP

One of the main studies cited as supportive of the 60minute FTP test as being reflective of lactate threshold and a pragmatic approach to non-lab based testing is that by Coyle et al. [3] In this study 14 male endurance athletes where used. The cycling lactate threshold test was based on testing at 5 different intensities and looked for a 1mmol (a blood measure of lactate) change on blood lactate above baseline as representing the balance between lactate production and use.

The performance test was cycling until fatigue at 88% of maximum (Vo2max). The study split the group into 2. One group (HL) that could work at a higher % of the maximum at lactate threshold (72-86%) and one at lower level (LL) (59-71%). The results in terms of time to fatigue for the LL group (working at 34% above threshold) and the HL (3% below threshold) was as follows.

Time to fatigue in the HL group was 60mins and the LL was 29mins.

Therefore, how can was state that a 60 minute FTP performance test can be related to this study and lactate threshold when the LL group did not work at lactate threshold but 34% above it. Similarly, the HL group although lasting on average 60mins, when we look at individual subjects we have one lasting 75minutes and another only 51minutes be fatigue. That’s a possible variation of 24Minutes between subjects? As such we cannot base any type of assumption that the FTP test is reflective of any type of late threshold based on the results of this study.

Given that subjects during the test where not aware of the elapsed time this perhaps speaks of the inherent variability and weakness of the FTP test i.e. how motivated are you to perform? When the real question is when does lactate threshold occur.

Therefore, I am not convinced that a 60minute test can predict accurately where the lactate threshold is or power at lactate threshold (or at least not without possible significant variability). Although there is no doubt a relationship between Lactate threshold and time to exhaustion that does not mean that time to exhaustion or max power produced over 60 minutes is an accurate value to determine training zones.


The concept of critical power (CP)

The critical power (CP) test was the mathematical basis of FTP in many ways but it when we look at what the CP test involves it not merely a 20 or 60minute performance test.

The relationship between power output and fatigue was initially introduced by Hill (1927).[4] However, it was Monod and Scherrer (1965)[5] that coined the term ‘Critical power’. These researchers investigated the relationship between power output and time to exhaustion during multiple bouts of exercise on specific, isolated muscle groups. They then derived a mathematical equation that defined the relationship between power output and time to fatigue. This test involved 4 -5 bouts over a time period of 2 – 24 minutes and the data then entered into the equation to define CP.

We can already see limitations to this work – as they say ‘no muscle is an island’ as such testing a single muscle group would not be reflective of the physiological stress brought about during cycling where we see modern day application of FTP. So what about looking at a more relevant studies.

One of the primary papers referenced as underpinning the suggestion that CP is representative of maximum lactate steady state (MLSS)(i.e. just below lactate threshold where there is a balance between the rate of lactate production and the rate of lactate removal primarily representing aerobic system) or just above it is that by Poole et al.[6] In this trial a cycling test was used to assess the relationship between power and MLSS. Similarly, we see other studies referenced to demonstrate a relationship.[7]

 However, although there maybe a relationship that does not mean accurate. For example I might say driving when the group is icy may result in a 60% chance of a crash but 60% although significant does not predict it will happen. In assessing the accuracy of such a relationship last year Maturana and collegues[8] demonstrate that CP (calculated in tests over 1-20mins) over-estimated MLSS by 20w (based on subjects with a threshold of about 255w). That’s an 8% overestimation and although it may not sound like much if you cycle 20w above MLSS it will result in a continual rise in blood lactate ending in subjects fatiguing before the end of the test.[9] These results have been further repeated by studies from the likes of Bull et al, which demonstrated that CP overestimates the power output that can be maintained over 60minutes. [10]

Finally, the calculation of CP is highly impacted by the mathematics employed to identify CP, as is training status of subjects and pedalling frequency (higher cadence resulting in lower CP and FTP).[11]

As such this general view amongst people that CP and FTP are representative of lactate threshold is clearly flawed and at best controversial among scientists. Therefore, care should be taken to base any type of training program on the basis that FTP or CP is an accurate representation of an athlete’s true threshold.


What else does FTP testing not tell us as athletes?

An important factor in developing an effective training program is to know what our physiological strengths and weakness are. As part of determining where there are weaknesses we need to look at factors such as aerobic or anaerobic capacity, or economic an athlete maybe (the oxygen cost of cycling at certain intensities). What we get from FTP testing is one value, ‘a performance measure over one hour’. We do not get a measure of oxygen cost (or oxygen cost per watt – economy), lactate threshold, or similar measures that are independent of psychological motivation to complete a test to full exhaustion. In fact in most lab-based test of aerobic capacity most can generate a value well before physical exhaustion.

Another important factor is the assessment of fuel use across a given range of exercise intensities. What I mean by this is how much fat (grams/min) and carbs (grams/min) are you burning to maintain a given effort (say 200w vs. 250w). You may ask why is this important?

Well for any event exceeding 2.5-3hours in duration it can be massively important as the results from sub-maximal and max testing can give and indication of how much carbs we would need to take on board (based on stored carbs or circa 400-500g) to get us through an event. For Ironman based events such information can be vital to effectively determine pacing and nutritional (Carb) intake requirements.

So what about the practicalities of getting testing carried out in a lab (no I don’t do such testing)? A submax (check of bodies response to aerobic up to threshold work), max (anaerobic capacity and maximum oxygen uptake), and LT test carried out for cycling and running may cost in the region of £300-400 in the UK. For cyclists only needed a bike test or runners needing a run test its going to be half this cost. When you think about the money spent on a new wheel, helmet or the latest watch such costs spread over the course of a year should not break the bank for most. The data from such testing should not be under estimated and can be massively important in tracking fitness but more importantly identifying how a training program should be structured and how much time dedicated to base, build and comp specific periods.



So whilst testing FTP are great as a performance measure and I do believe performance is the best measure of performance its limited as a tool for accurately setting up training zones. However, few of us compete in only 20minute time trials or even 60-minute time trial. As such I would rather base my performance on a performance trial that is closer to what I would experience in a race. The problem is I do Ironman and other than jumping into a half Ironman I don’t thing any performance test would be appropriate.

FTP repeated over time can help be a measure of improvement in fitness/ performance once any learning effects are overcome (i.e. the first time you do an FTP test you may go out to hard and burn out, the next time you will pace better, spreading the effort over the 20mins). However, what I am discussing in the blog is the data in the scientific literature. Maybe tomorrow a new study will find some other reason why the FTP 20 Min test is accurate as a measure of threshold, however, until I see that evidence I can only base my views of what I have read so far.

For setting training zones I want to know how my body is reacting internally – so how much oxygen, carbs, fat am I using at given intensity (heart rate, power, or velocity) and how much lactate I am producing. Psychologically, I cannot significantly control my lactate response of the amount of oxygen my muscle consume for a given power, yet I can control how hard I feel I am pushing for the FTP test.

I am sure many coaches would swear that FTP is a great way to monitor athletes and set up training zones but is this because they don’t have access to other forms of testing? Is it because FTP is quick and easy, needing limited equipment? Have they actually looked at the other options? The bro-science response well my athlete did x or qualified for Y using FTP is not a response to the limitations discussed above. Maybe if they used other ways to set up training their athletes would have achieved their goals earlier, or perhaps many of their athletes don’t achieve but they just pull out those that have as a defence.

In conclusion FTP has its limitations and if it works for you as a coach or athlete and you improving year on year then keep on using it. However, don’t do it blindly, always consider why you are doing something what are the limitations? Is it based on real evidence? I will in later blogs look at the other measure I mention above such as lactate threshold, Vo2max etc but for now I hope you find this blog useful.

Keep training and best of luck for 2017!

Ps. I asked some of the key authors behind the FTP test for comment on what I feel are the limitation before writing this blog but received no response.



  1. Hunter A, Coggan A. (2006) Training and racing with a power meter. VeloPress, Colorado USA.
  2. Ibid, pg.51
  3. Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hopper MK, Walters TJ. Determinants of endurance in well-trained cyclists. J. Appl. Physiol. 64:2622-2630, 1988.
  4. Hill AV (1927). Speed and energy requirement. In Muscular Movement in Man, pp. 41–44. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  5. Monod H & Scherrer J (1965). The work capacity of a synergic muscular group. Ergonomics 8, 329–338.
  6. Poole DC, Ward SA, Whipp BJ. The effects of training on the metabolic and respiratory profile of high-intensity cycle ergometer exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 1990;59:421–9.
  7. Pringle JSM, Jones AM. Maximal lactate steady state, critical power and EMG during cycling. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002;88:214–26.
  8. Maturana FM, Keir DA, McLay KM, Maurias JM. Can measures of critical power precisely estimate the maximal metabolic steady-state? Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016; 41: 1197–1203
  9. Ibid n8, pg 218, 222
  10. Bull AJ, Housh TJ, Johnson GO, Perry SR. Effect of mathematical modeling on the estimation of critical power. Med Sci Sport & Ex. 2000; 32 (2), 526–530
  11. Barker T, Poole DC, Nobel ML, Barstow TJ. Human critical power – oxygen uptake relationship at different pedaling frequencies. Exp Physiol 91 (3), 621-632.