Heart Rate Training – Part 7

Part 1 of this series.

My MAF Baseline – My Afternoon at the Track

I took a trip to the local track.

I walked a 5K in distance (3.1 miles).

I found it a little bit challenging to keep my heart rate at the MAF HR range of 112 – 122 but I did pretty good at it:

It took about 12 minutes walking to get to the baseline heart rate. This matches this article (Maffetone, Phil. Want Speed? Slow Down! MAF Website, April 30, 2015.):

The test should be done following an easy 12–15 minute warm up

At about 39 minutes into the walk I noticed that my HR went high (around 138 bpm) so I slowed down and my HR dropped pretty quickly back into the MAF HR range. I was shooting for 117 +/- 5 bpm.

My speed was very variable over this walk with speeds as low as 2 mph and as many as 5.5 mph. I wonder if that is an artifact of the GPS sampling. The watch app (Samsung Health) indicated that my average speed was 3.8 mph (3.15 miles in 49m 17s or 0.821 hours = 3.84 mph). If that was my average clearly my last 8 minutes was much slower.

Samsung Gear Sport Watch

Here’s a picture of the watch running the workout app in “walking” mode.

The watch shows that at 48:21 minutes into the walk my HR was 115 and my mile pace was at 17’49”. That is a decently fast walking pace. At no point did I run.

The orange color of the heart indicates that the watch is showing the HR in the appropriate range. It goes yellow if the HR goes too low and red if it goes too high. It seems like the MAF numbers are pretty close to the standard HR numbers that the watch uses. The watch also vibrates when the color change. It may vibrate differently but I’ve not noticed a difference.

Here’s the overall statistics from the app.

My average HR of 116 is right in the range for my MAF HR.

The only thing I probably could have done better would have been to run Strava on my cellphone at the same time and logged the speed in there. It might have been more accurate.

Calories Burned

The reality that a 49 minute brisk walk only burns 229 calories is pretty discouraging for anyone wanting to lose weight. That’s 0.065 lbs of fat. Doing this every day for a month would only result in a loss of 2 lbs of fat. That’s not a whole lot of weight to lose for that much effort.

The beauty of working out at this rate is that the loss is almost guaranteed to be all fat loss and no glycogen/carbohydrate loss.

Workout Frequency?

So far I haven’t seen how often this should be done. I don’t see a practical reason that it couldn’t be done every day. After watching some interviews with Phil Maffetone on YouTube I see that the regular program is prescribed. So I think I will go back to my 5K training program using this method. Unless I get a rower, that is.


Heart Rate Training – Part 6

Part 1 of this series.

Is this only for Running?

I think this could easily be done on a Concept 2 rower at a slower pace. The metric could be the power output over time. This takes the seasons out of the picture and the hassle of leaving the house.

Every run or row doesn’t need to be a sprint. Sure the sprints are impressive. The beauty of MAF is that it offers the chance to seriously improve base aerobic performance in a measurable way. Improving the base performance improves racing.



Heart Rate Training – Part 5

Part 1 of this series.

Measuring Performance

The Maffetone method has an objective measure of performance which CrossFit sorely lacks. Although CrossFit claims to be measurable we rarely do the same thing often enough to measure gains. Our local box does 6 week strokes of a particular lift. Right now we are doing back squats under weight. These start with an initial test to determine ones 1RM (One Rep max). Then we do 6 weeks with a day or two a week including the lift. We re-evaluate at the end of the 6 weeks to see where we are.

The MAF method uses a metric which can be easily evaluated to determine if the method is working.

Phil Maffetone describes his testing method (Maffetone, Phil. Want Speed? Slow Down! MAF Website, April 30, 2015.):

Perform the MAF Test on a track, running at the maximum aerobic heart rate. A one- to five-mile test, with each one-mile interval recorded, provides good data. The test should be done following an easy 12–15 minute warm up, and be performed about every month throughout the year.

This sounds very objective and measurable. Honestly, this sounds tons better than my feeble attempts at running around my neighborhood. Running slower is counter intuitive, but it makes great sense.

Here’s a guy who describes his progression on the MAF.

He emphasizes the aerobic based building benefits of MAF.


Heart Rate Training – Part 4

Part 1 of this series.

This post will take a look at why target heart rate is useful for fat adapted athletes. The reason for this is that Low Carb/ketogenic diets often result in depleted glycogen stores which are used at higher intensity exercise levels.

A useful chart is:

Clearly for a low carb athlete working at at RER=1.0 is a problem. The question is whether or not working out at that level improves cardiac health? If a person is so gassed that they can’t perform are they improving their cardiac health as much as a longer exercise?

In order to maximize the use of fat as fuel and minimize the use of carbohydrates as fuel, the RER should be 0.70. I found out from my VO2max testing this was at a heart rate of about 120.

This is pretty much the same as the MAF HR range of 112 to 122. Perhaps the range I marked on the chart as “Max Fat Burning Zone” could be better understood as the range in which all of the energy was coming from fat or a zero carbohydrate exercise range.

This is shown in the paper (White Paper: MAF Exercise Heart Rate – How it can help improve health and sports performance).




Heart Rate Training – Part 3

Part 1 of this series.

In this part I want to look at a recent walk I took and see what the HR numbers were from that walk. I did not do the walk with the intention of doing it at the Maffetone number. It was just a lunchtime walk up a road adjacent to where I work. And when I say up, I mean it. It’s a pretty decent slope up. Each way was around 2,000 feet with a rise of around 200 feet. That is a slope of about 5.7 deg:

Slope (m) = 0.1
θ = 5.7105931374996°
distance (d) = 2009.9751242242
ΔX = 2000
ΔY = 200

One thing that the people that do this method note is that it starts out very slow. They find themselves walking very slowly up hills since almost any pace causes their heart rate to go up. This can be seen in my data set:

13 minutes of this walk was at my maximum heart rate range (138 and up). The initial 4 minutes or so of the walk was downhill and my heart rate was around 90 for that portion. But as the uphill portion started my heart rate steadily climbed to around 167. My HR stayed elevated even the downhill part of the walk. Clearly the pace I was walking at was too fast for the Maffetone HR range but I’ve become accustomed to working out at this higher range from CrossFit and can sustain this level for more than 10 minutes without issues.

The challenge of doing the Maffetone method here in SW PA is the hills. There are just way too many of them. This is going to take some serious effort to walk slower.

Pace is not a particularly useful metric for me since it’s so dependent on the hill slope. Here’s the same walk but with pace included.

My pace was slower going uphill and faster when I go downhill but my pace went from less than 2 mph at several spots to over 5 mph at other spots. Some of this could be the GPS resolution – not sure? I didn’t perceive a great difference.

What I need to do is take a walk with the goal of keeping my HR in the MAF HR (Mafettone Heart Rate) range and try to monitor my HR.


Heart Rate Training – Part 2

In Part 1 I took a look at the range of heart rates (HR) that burn the most fat as measured in my own VO2max testing.

A great reason to heart rate training (HRT) is that it takes into account your condition. When I weighed 285 lbs and I was on the couch my heart rate was in the 90’s. Now that I am at 170 lbs my resting heart rate is in the 50’s. When I did the least amount of activity at my heavy weight it would make my heart rate go up quickly. I used to joke that just walking to the fridge made my heart rate go to 130. The problem is, it wasn’t actually a joke. If you are out of shape doing HRT is a great way to take that into account.

So what’s a good method to do this with? I keep bumping into a method called the Maffetone method (White Paper: MAF Exercise Heart Rate – How it can help improve health and sports performance). This method takes 180 and subtracts your age to get your max HR for workouts. The range should be that max HR minus 10 to the max HR.

My Maffetone Numbers

My age is 58. In my case the Maffetone rate is a max HR of 180-58=122 bpm. My training should be done between 112 and 122 bpm. The number almost magically corresponds to my own RER value of 0.7 from my VO2max testing.

At 120 bpm my RER is 0.7 and is starting to rise. Although the RER was lower at lower heart rates that’s not really a relevant point since the higher level is more valuable for training. This is why a morning walk may or may not be a useful thing. If the person isn’t burning much fat because of the lower pace/heart rate they may not be getting their goals (of improved heart health and/or fat loss).


Heart Rate Training (HRT)

Heart Rate Training is the idea of training to a particular heart rate range. I am interested in looking at this sort of training and the advantages of the training but first let’s take a look at a typical CrossFit from this morning’s workout. The warmup was about 10 minutes at a low heart rate (less than 80 bpm). The workout itself was five (5) RFT (Rounds for time) consisting of:

I finished in around 28 minutes.

Here is my heart rate throughout the workout.

My heart rate (HR) climbed as I progressed through the workout from my starting rate of around 70 to a peak HR of 169 bpm. Using the standard heart rate calculation my max heart rate is 220 minus my age or 220-58 = 162. So I exceeded my maximum heart rate for some period of time.

The app graded the exercise as 11 minutes of maximum. I think the app uses the standard 220 method so it’s grading 85% of the 162 (from above) or 138 bpm as the start of the maximum effort range.

I did the workout today in a fed start after eating 4 strips of bacon, 4 eggs and 20 oz of coffee with salt water about an hour before the workout. I used to always do morning workouts fasted but I am trying to expand my protein muscle synthesis window.

RER and Exercise

So what is the problem with working out at a heart rate exceeding your maximum? Obviously I lived and didn’t die so there’s no damage that I can see/feel. I am recovering well from the exercise, too.

I think the problem is particular to fat adapted athletes. The problem is that fat is my fuel and not carbohydrates. That does not lend itself to higher intensity workouts nearly as well as lower intensity workouts. This can be seen looking at the RER chart I made from my own VO2max testing.

This chart shows the range of fat burning as noted from the RER value of 0.7 or less (RER is /100 of the scale). When the RER number goes above 0.7 that means that some glucose or glycogen is being spent. When the number hits 1.0 that means that no fat is being oxidized (at least as I understand it). This also correlates to the heart rate. The red line marked Max HR is the 163 bpm number (I was 57 at the time I did that test).

The right hand orange vertical is the point where the RER reaches the point where all of the energy is still coming from fat (RER=0.7) and in this instance correlates to a HR of 120 bpm. That indicates, at least in a rough way that I want to be at or around 120 bpm MAXIMUM to fully utilize the main fuel source I have which is fat.

Yes, I can go higher than 120 bpm, but not for long. In this workout I went higher for around 11 minutes. My watch indicates the range by the color of the heart symbol on the watch as well as the number itself (which the user can keep in mind their range). The watch can also be set to continuously monitor heart rate as follows:

In the next installment I will take a look at the methods to train to heart rate.


Great BLOGs

There are plenty of better BLOGs out there than this BLOG. Here’s some of the evidence based nutrition BLOGs run by some smart guys. As I find more I will add them to this list.


Another Protein Guru (Dr Van Loon)

Dr Van Loon is interviewed here (Optimizing Protein Intake with Luc van Loon, PhD). Here are the referenced studies:

  1. Post-Prandial Protein Handling: You Are What You Just Ate
  2. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery
  3. Pre-sleep protein ingestion does not compromise the muscle protein synthetic response to protein ingested the following morning
  4. Strategies to maintain skeletal muscle mass in the injured athlete: nutritional considerations and exercise mimetics
  5. Skeletal muscle disuse atrophy is not attenuated by dietary protein supplementation in healthy older men
  6. Prolonged Adaptation to a Low or High Protein Diet Does Not Modulate Basal Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates – A Substudy
  7. Habituation to low or high protein intake does not modulate basal or postprandial muscle protein synthesis rates: a randomized trial
  8. Ingestion of Wheat Protein Increases In Vivo Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates in Healthy Older Men in a Randomized Trial
  9. What is the Optimal Amount of Protein to Support Post-Exercise Skeletal Muscle Reconditioning in the Older Adult?
  10. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation

Notes from the interview

  • How much protein?
    • 4-5 meals a day
    • 20-25g of protein per meal
    • Maybe more for elderly (45g?)
    • Maybe more for sedentary
  • Very little evidence for damage from too much protein
  • What happens to the 20g of protein?
    • 10g is retained in the gut
    • 10g of the 20 is released into the circulation
      • 2.2g of the circulated protein are being incorporated into muscle
        • By about 6 hours after the meal
  • Supplementing protein to older patients via tube into stomach increased MPS during sleep
    • Eat casein before bedtime can get additional muscle mass and strength
    • This doesn’t harm the next morning’s response to protein
  • Adding carbs or protein doesn’t affect muscle protein synthesis
  • Carbs help for regaining glycogen stores but they are not needed for MPS
  • Consuming Protein in the 12-hours after exercise increases MPS
  • During exercise MPS increases due to increased blood flow to the muscles when protein is available


Muscle Protein Synthesis Meal Spacing Maximum

I asked Dr Donald Layman the following question:

My question is about the three hour PMS window. The maximum happens at 90 minutes and the return to baseline is at 180 minutes. Does that mean that the cycle can be repeated every three hours? Is there a study showing the minimum interval between PMS cycles?

He responded!

Great Q! No clear study on 2nd meal timing. IMO 3 hr is too soon Our data shows initiation factors still fully active at 180 min, so meal effect should be limited at 3 hr Initiation factors do not reset until ~5 hr However, van Loon shows night meal effect @ 2.5hr post dinner

IMO, to max meal effect, I target meals at 4 to 5 hr apart, with 3 to 4 meals per day, and 1st and 3rd meals at ~45 g to max mPS response.

I am changing my eating pattern in response to this information. I am leaving Intermittent Fasting window and I am going to eat breakfast starting today (I ate breakfast).

7 AM, 12 Noon, 7 PM (after workout or earlier if it is an “off” day).