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Iñigo Mujika

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Iñigo Mujika

The training stimulus in competitive sports is usually described as a combination of training intensity, volume and frequency. It is generally believed that these three factors produce an adaptive response in the body that should lead to improved performance.1,p395

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Iñigo Mujika

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Iñigo Mujika

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Iñigo Mujika

The aim of this case study was to report on the performance outcomes and subjective assessments of long-term low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet in a world-class long-distance triathlete who had been suffering from gastrointestinal distress in Ironman competition. The lacto-ovo vegetarian athlete (age = 39 years; height = 179 cm; usual racing body mass = 75 kg; sum of seven skinfolds = 36 mm) changed his usual high carbohydrate (CHO) availability diet to an LCHF diet for 32 weeks (∼95% compliance). He participated in three professional races while on the LCHF diet, but acutely restored CHO availability by consuming CHO in the preevent meals and during the race as advised. The athlete had his worst-ever half-Ironman performance after 21 weeks on the LCHF diet (18th). After 24 weeks on LCHF, he had his second worst-ever Ironman performance (14th) and suffered his usual gastrointestinal symptoms. He did not finish his third race after 32 weeks on LCHF. He regained his usual performance level within 5 weeks back on a high CHO diet, finishing second and fourth in two Ironman events separated by just 3 weeks. Subjective psychological well-being was very negative while on the LCHF diet, with feelings of depression, irritability, and bad mood. In conclusion, this long-term (32 weeks) LCHF intervention did not solve the gastrointestinal problems that the athlete had been experiencing, it was associated with negative performance outcomes in both the half-Ironman and Ironman competitions, and it had a negative impact on the athlete’s subjective well-being.

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Iñigo Mujika

Detailed accounts of the training programs followed by today’s elite triathletes are lacking in the sport-science literature. This study reports on the training program of a world-class female triathlete preparing to compete in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Over 50 wk, she performed 796 sessions (303 swim, 194 bike, 254 run, 45 strength training), ie, 16 ± 4 sessions/wk (mean ± SD). Swim, bike, and run training volumes were, respectively, 1230 km (25 ± 8 km/wk), 427 h (9 ± 3 h/wk), and 250 h (5 ± 2 h/wk). Training tasks were categorized and prescribed based on heart-rate values and/or speeds and power outputs associated with different blood lactate concentrations. Training performed at intensities below her individual lactate threshold (ILT), between the ILT and the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA), and above the OBLA for swim were 74% ± 6%, 16% ± 2%, 10% ± 2%; bike 88% ± 3%, 10% ± 1%, 2.1% ± 0.2%; and run 85% ± 2%, 8.0% ± 0.3%, 6.7% ± 0.3%. Training organization was adapted to the busy competition calendar (18 events, of which 8 were Olympic-distance triathlons) and continuously responded to emerging information. Training volumes were 35–80% higher than those previously reported for elite male and female triathletes, but training intensity and tapering strategies successfully followed recommended best practice for endurance athletes. This triathlete placed 7th in London 2012, and her world ranking improved from 14th to 8th at the end of 2012.

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Iñigo Mujika

Training quantification is basic to evaluate an endurance athlete’s responses to training loads, ensure adequate stress/recovery balance, and determine the relationship between training and performance. Quantifying both external and internal workload is important, because external workload does not measure the biological stress imposed by the exercise sessions. Generally used quantification methods include retrospective questionnaires, diaries, direct observation, and physiological monitoring, often based on the measurement of oxygen uptake, heart rate, and blood lactate concentration. Other methods in use in endurance sports include speed measurement and the measurement of power output, made possible by recent technological advances such as power meters in cycling and triathlon. Among subjective methods of quantification, rating of perceived exertion stands out because of its wide use. Concurrent assessments of the various quantification methods allow researchers and practitioners to evaluate stress/recovery balance, adjust individual training programs, and determine the relationships between external load, internal load, and athletes’ performance. This brief review summarizes the most relevant external- and internal-workload-quantification methods in endurance sports and provides practical examples of their implementation to adjust the training programs of elite athletes in accordance with their individualized stress/recovery balance.

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Iñigo Mujika