Some of you might remember a couple of blogs I wrote in May of 2008 regarding the use of O2 Metabolic Assessment tests and "metabolic efficiency." (if not, go back and read Mythbusters and Chewing the fat).
In this last one, I started out by saying:
"Apparently, the fat utilization myth is alive and well"
Well folks, it seems that almost two years after those blogs, the fat utilization myth is still going strong. More and more "coaches" are getting in the business of acquiring the necessary equipment for this testing and getting in the bandwagon. Of course athletes are getting mislead and some people are making a lot of money under false pretenses, but we all know that the World is not fair and it's "buyer beware" out there.
It is important to remember that using O2 Metabolic Assessment tests to guide your training is a self-fulfilling prophecy. After you do the first test, the usual advice is to train at your “maximum fat burning zone”. Often you also get nutritional advice that in reality increases your % of dietary fat intake. When you repeat the test, you will be hopefully more fit and have a diet with more fat. So the results of the test will show that you’re better at burning fat at absolute intensities. The “obvious” conclusion is that the advice that was given was spot-on and you’re better at burning fat. Coaches using these tests get artificial validation in the eyes of the athletes, that first are impressed by the use of (pseudo-)scientific methods, and later are convinced of the coach's competency by the fulfillment of the initial prophecy.
This subject wouldn't bother me much if it wasn't for the growing trend of having elite athletes involved in this fad. More and more professional athletes are getting in the bandwagon, and "metabolic efficiency" is the latest holy grail in endurance sports. This bothers me because (most) elite athletes have made a commitment to the sport and it pains me to see them being advised by people that either don't know what they're doing, or if they do, they are misleading them on purpose.
Having athletes that are looking to win an Olympic medal or podium in Kona work on their "metabolic efficiency" is simply ludicrous. But champions distinguish themselves from the rest not only because of talent and hard work, but also because they make good decisions. Athletes that show poor judgement by working with incompetent coaches are not good decision-makers, and therefore curtail their chances of ever being champions.