March 19, 2014

2014 Cut, Part I: Eat to Match your Exercises

So the more I started to think about this cut in 2014 the more I started to research the basic biology behind human energy output, and based on that I decided to change things up a bit for this coming cut.  This is going to be a 4 or 5 part 'essay' type of thing.   There should be some good information in there for people to glean as well.  This is Part One I'm posting, dealing with the different energy systems you are using when you perform different types/rep schemes of exercise.  I'll show how this connects to how you should be eating as well, in this part somewhat and in later parts. 

So every single movement you do depends on the breakdown of ATP to fuel it. Your body has a few different options for how to fuel these movements. For the first few seconds of any set or movement you do, you’re depending on your ATP-PC System for energy. This is your stored ATP reserves for the first couple of seconds, and then PC (phosphor-creatine) combining with ADP (the atp that lost a phosphate in those first couple seconds) to make more ATP for the next 5-10 seconds roughly. This system is where your max power comes from, in fact if you notice bar speed dropping during a set, you’ll probably notice it’s after that first 10 seconds or so, and it’s a direct indicator your ATP-PC system is no longer fueling the movement. For every second you use this system it takes about 10 seconds to restore. So a 12 second sprint would take about 120 seconds for full ATP-PC recovery. Also, of importance here: Where does your body get the fuel to restore this system? Stored adipose tissue. It breaks down body-fat. This is one of the reasons sprinting TORCHES body fat; it’s typically largely dependent on the ATP-PC system (and secondarily the lactic acid system, covered next). Your body is literally fueling the exercise with fat. So something like 60m or 100m sprints, long jumps, broad jumps, Olympic lifting, low rep/high weight sets, etc. will really hit this system.

The next system is The Anaerobic Glycolytic System, also known as the Lactic Acid System. This system takes over as the ATP-PC system is exhausted, or if it hasn't had enough time to recover between sets.  This system works by breaking down stored glycogen into glucose as part of the process of producing more ATP. The end result is something called Pyruvate, as well as hydrodgen ions. The system is anaerobic because there’s not enough oxygen to break down the Pyruvate further and produce more ATP (remember this, it comes up in the third system). This system peaks around 15 seconds and carries you through about 45 seconds to a minute, before falling off a cliff, and your power from it will never be as high as from the ATP-PC system. Incidentally, lactate (or lactic acid) is not the reason you feel the burning in your muscles when you exercise. It’s the buildup of hydrodgen ions causing the muscle to become acidic, on account of a lack of oxygen the hydrogen cannot be removed, and the buildup continues. Lactate is formed when the Pyruvate molecule binds to two of those hydrogen ions. The lactate is then quickly shuttled out of the cell. This lactate then gets shipped to muscles that have available oxygen, or the liver, where the Aerobic system can use it to continue producing more ATP (more on this in a moment). Eventually hydrogen builds up so rapidly that it can’t be cleared fast enough, the muscle becomes more acidic, and begins to burn. This is also the reason your lungs may burn during extended exercise as well. That burning is a sign you’re relying on the Lactic Acid System for energy. It takes roughly 6 seconds for recovery of this system for each second you use it. As mentioned, it hits your glycogen reserves pretty well; after sprinting, especially 200s I am ravenous for carbohydrates because I have heavily drained my glycogen reserves. Lighter weight sets utilizing higher reps, really most bodybuilding routines (think: 6-12 rep sets, high volume, etc. things aimed at exhausting the muscle), 200m sprinting, some circuit training, etc. will really get this system involved.

Finally, the Aerobic System, that great well of low-power energy. If you’re looking to get stronger, you do NOT want to spend time here. This system takes over gradually around the 45 second to one minute mark roughly, and occurs in 3 parts. The first is almost identical to the Anaerobic Glycolytic System, except that there is sufficient oxygen, and the pyruvate is converted into Acetyl Coenzyme A, which helps fuel the second part, the Krebs cycle. Here Acetyl-CoA from step one, along with fatty acids and protein which are also broken down into Acetyl-CoA, are further broken down to produce more ATP, as well as some hydrogen ions. Note that protein is used for fuel here, something we do not want. Those hydrogen ions produced here, along with ones from the glycolysis covered earlier, get taken to the third step of Aerobic energy production; the electron transport chain. You actually get a ton of ATP out of this, over 8x as much as the first two steps of Aerobic, and an order of magnitude greater than either of the other two systems used. Of course the power you produce in this phase is pretty much non-existent. Think a 1600m race, a half marathon, marathon, running cross country, a 50 rep set, etc.

As you can see, each one of these systems uses different fuel types, and depletes different nutrients.  The ATP-PC system isn’t using any glycogen, whereas the anerobic glycolytic system uses a ton for instance.   In other words, if you’re doing a very low rep/high weight workout that depends on the ATP-PC system mostly, and isn’t depleting glycogen, why are you loading up on carbs that day?  Likewise if you’re doing high rep work, why are you consuming much fat at all, when you’re going to need carbs to replenish that glycogen (side note: you can restore glycogen via dietary fats but it’s an incredible pain in the ass for your body).  You may be seeing some ways to apply this information to your own workouts, and I will bring things back around in the final part of this series.  For now I’m going to post a few more parts dealing with dietary concerns I had for this cut. 

Further reading, if interested

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