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Mitochondria, the secret sauce of elite athletes…

By March 31, 2017 No Comments

As athletes we have all heard of mitochondria. They are the foundation of our endurance performance. Even though we might not get the biology, we should be aware of how to grow and maintain them! #Zone1Addict #HittAddict #Triathlon #IRONMAN #Primal #MAF #PeriodizedCarbs

Mitochondria are organelles, or parts of a eukaryote cell. They are in the cytoplasm, not the nucleus. They make most of the cell’s supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that cells use as a source of energy. Their main job is this energy conversion. They oxidise glucose to provide energy for the cell.

Tuning out Already? Well that’s the last of the pure biology! If you want the science it is here.

In short Mitochondria convert the energy source of glycogen to usable energy, pretty important hey? So if you aren’t building mitochondria, you are not maximising your performance.

In the recent study, neither continuous sub-threshold training nor long interval workouts of  4 minute repetitions at 90 percent of peak power  changed mitochondrial function, but sprint workouts of  30 seconds at 200 percent of peak power did boost mitochondrial function. You need that very high intensity to boost the output of each mitochondria.

The scientific evidence shows High intensity Tactical Training (HITT) is a critical component in the training of all successful endurance athletes. About two HITT training sessions per week seems to be sufficient for inducing physiological adaptations and performance gains without inducing excessive stress over the long-term.

A complete endurance training program should in include 80 to 85% of low intensity training and regular HITT training to build and maintain healthy mitochondria. The middle ground between these is about the head space, building mental tolerance to endure and manage the low grade discomfort of race day and building intuition as to how to react to the signals our body gives us.

Endurance athletes targeting longer distances of Marathon, 70.3, IRONMAN, and Ultras often drop HITT and sprint sessions, believing they are irrelevant to performance in the longer events. The fact is we need to keep the HITT sessions in play no matter the distance.

Train wisely! If you don’t train low, medium and high you are not hitting your potential. Getting the ratios right will take you even further. Add adequate recovery and sleep and you will be at another level before you know it!

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