- A look at The MAF Method.
- My recent running exploits.
The MAF Method
Who is Phil Maffetone?
As described on his website – https://philmaffetone.com/about/
He is an internationally recognized researcher, educator, clinician and author in the field of nutrition, exercise and sports medicine, and biofeedback.
I first heard about him when reading the Primal Endurance book – https://www.primalblueprint.com/primal-endurance/
Then funnily enough, the next book I read also featured him too – The Iron War – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Iron-War-Scott-Allen-Greatest-x/dp/1934030775
Whilst he coaches elite athletes, he also does a lot of writing for the novices like me.
What is Phil Maffetone’s: The MAF Method?
It’s not just a handy shortening of his name. MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function. It involves training which builds up your ability to use your aerobic system, therefore tapping into fat burning energy. Which also means you become less reliant on your anaerobic system and your glycogen stores.
His method is more lifestyle, than say a 12 week Marathon plan. It is about training at an intensity that is beneficial to your health, and limiting stress and injury. Whilst he is not a Keto guy. He does advocate eating real food, and limiting carbohydrates so not to inhibit your fat burning abilities.
What is the MAF Method 180 Formula?
“To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps.
- Subtract your age from 180.
- Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:
a) If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.
b) If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.
c) If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), keep the number (180–age) the same.
d) If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5″ – from https://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/
So when I am doing MAF paced runs, I run as fast as a heart rate of 139 allows. Which is 180-36(age)-5(training consistently for less than 2 years)=139. Note I have been training for nearly 2 years now. So I could probably drop the Minus 5. However I do not think there is much need to. So I will stick with 139 for now.
What is the MAF Test?
It is a way to show that your training is improving your pace and endurance at a certain heart rate. As you train consistently at your MAF heart rate, you will be able to run faster and longer at the same heart rate.
Once a month, preform a MAF Test. Do a 10 minute warm up so your heart rate is around your MAF 180 heart rate. Then use a GPS to track your heart rate and time on a race track or flat route. 3 miles is a good test. Each time you do the test, your minutes per mile should be less, and there should be less variance between your first mile and last mile. Then repeat every month on the same track, trail or road.
My experience of MAF training.
I started using the MAF training method in April 2016. I would say 70% of my runs have been at this intensity. The remaining 30% has been done at a pace controlled by breathing in and out through my nose only. This keeps you in an aerobic zone, but at a slightly higher intensity than MAF. So for example if you need to mouth breath, you slow down.
When I first started my MAF pace was late 15 minutes per mile, for 2-3 miles max. This was frustratingly slow, and every time I encountered even a small incline I had to walk. Until my heart rate dropped to 139 or below. This can be put into perspective by the fact that today, I went for a walk and walked 16 minute miles. Now (as in October 2017), I can easily trot around a half marathon at MAF in 10 minute miles. I can also do 20+ miles at MAF in 11 minute miles. So there is clear improvement there. Now I could have probably made quicker pace gains by a more traditional method. However I am looking at this long term. Yes I want to improve my fitness as quickly as possible, but not at the long term detriment of my health. I want my fitness and health to work hand in hand.
Aerobic vs Anaerobic fuelling.
Aerobic exercise is where you can carry enough oxygen to your muscles, to allow the chemical reactions needed to produce energy. At this level of intensity, the body uses mainly fat for energy. Hence why you will probably have heard of the term, fat burning zone.
Anaerobic exercise is at higher intensity, where you cannot get enough oxygen to the muscles fast enough. So your body has to fuel itself in the absence of oxygen. In this state your body will use glycogen. Which is why you need carbs/sugar to replenish you glycogen stores.
The problem is your glycogen stores are about 2,000 calories. That is why a person on a standard western diet are on a carb rollercoaster. Your body is constantly using sugar as energy, but you can only store less than a days worth of calories. So your body is always sending out signals that you are hungry, as it is obsessed with keeping your glycogen stores at 100%.
This is why you have seen an exercise food industry pop up to exploit this. An industry of Gatorade, energy gels and post run bars. This can mainly be traced back to Tim Noakes. He wrote the Lore of Running, which was the bible of carb loading. He like many others believed that you required carbs to fuel your runs and exercise. So the book contained the theory and math on what you had to do. So if you had a marathon, and knew your rough time. You could work out how many grams of carbs per hour you needed to get you to the finish line.
Now while the math is correct, Tim Noakes managed to give himself Diabetes following his own advice. He now advocates a high fat diet and training, and has upset a lot of corporations and government’s in doing so. He now believes in developing your fat using efficiency, over carb dependence. He is a co-author of the Real Meal Revolution based on the Banting Diet. Which is very similar to the Ketogenic Diet.
As I said you have about 2000 calories worth of glycogen in the bank, if you burn through that you are in trouble. Your body wont let you use it all, that is why you see people bonk or hit the wall in runs. However the aerobic system is near limitless, and a man with single digit body fat percentage will still have 40,000 calories of fat to use. So the more you can develop the aerobic system, the faster and longer you can run on oxygen and fat.
There are obvious performance benefits to this. However I am also wanting my running to improve my long term health, rather than being obsessed with race times.
Constantly running in your anaerobic zone is not good for your health, in fact fuelling your day to day life on carbs is not healthy. We have fallen for the dogma forced on us by food pyramids and company funded studies. Did you know that the invention of the Calorie In Calorie Out weight management theory was based on studies funded by a well know fizzy drink company???
You can think of carbs as a fossil fuel. It burns bright but burns quickly. The processes your body has to go through to convert energy from sugar, results in a lot of inflammation and free radicles. One of the most important things your body does when sleeping is flush free radicles from your body. What happens if you are constantly producing more free radicals than your body can clear in sleep….. disease is what happens. Diseases like cancer. Never mind the fact that cancer only grows in an anaerobic state, and feeds and grows on sugar.
So if carbs is a fossil fuel, then the Ketogenic Diet or Zero Carb Diet can be thought of a renewable energy. It is harder for your body to use, especially in intense exercise. However your body thrives on it. It causes next to no inflammation and free radicles. It helps keeps your body in an aerobic and a alkaline PH. Both factors limit disease.
Also as your body becomes more efficient at using fat as fuel. Your body is no longer worried about where your next meal is coming from. Whereas on carbs you have around a days worth of stored fuel. As a fat burner, as discussed you have at least 40,000 calories of stored fat to use. Most of us will have over 100,000 available to use. This is why your appetite levels out on a ketogenic diet. No more hangry episodes, and no more carb comas.
I use a training method that helps my diet, and my diet helps my training. So both methods help improve my long term mental and physical health. That’s a nice loop to have in my opinion.
Disclaimer – I am not a doctor or and elite athlete, but I believe in the training method and the diet I follow.
My Recent Running Exploits
This was my first week back into running after my little October off season. 2 short runs and 1 long run. The long run was meant to be a 22 miler, however I only ran 19 miles and walked the last 3 miles. I wasn’t injured but I was knackered. I thought I would be able to jump straight back into 20+ milers, but with hindsight I should have only done a half marathon and built up a bit more slowly.
You can catch me on: