May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, May 1996


Mike Pigg's secret to success? A little glycogen goes a long way
By Mark Jannot

Not long ago, Mike Pigg was your typical endurance athlete: a glutton for carbohydrates. "I was having pasta-eating contests, downing 6,000 calories a day," says Pigg, currently ranked among the world's top ten triathletes. "I'd eat and then have to just lie there like a python who'd swallowed a rabbit whole."

Eventually, though, Pigg's body told him it was time to dial back. First it was a bout with a stomach parasite that sidelined him in 1989. Then, in 1992, it was a general malaise that had Pigg, now 32, contemplating retirement despite having been named Triathlete of the Year just 12 months earlier. "Eating a high-carb diet," he says, "I'd hit a wall." That's when he met Philip Maffetone.

Maffetone, an applied kinesiologist who was training Ironman legend Mark Allen, advised Pigg to cut down the carbohydrates and add some fat to his diet. While conventional wisdom among endurance athletes has always been to strive for a 70/15/15 ratio among calories derived from carbos, protein, and fats, Maffetone has created a cottage industry by championing a ratio of 40/30/30. Within months, Pigg was breaking personal course records, burning more fat than ever while avoiding the energy peaks and troughs that had defined his daily grind. Last year, Pigg won five triathlons and placed second in three more, fueled by the Maffetone-inspired diet presented here. Obviously, those of us who don't spend five hours a day in training have different intake needs, but Maffetone says that with three minor adjustments, the following menu works well for any moderately active recreational athlete.

Morning Snack, 7 a.m.
One banana smoothie (12 ounces of almond milk blended with two bananas)
Calories: 365; Carbohydrates: 74 grams; Protein: 5.4 grams; Fat: 7 grams

This is the only "meal" of the day that's dominated by carbohydrates. "What you're doing," Maffetone explains, "is replacing the glycogen stores that the liver uses up during the night to maintain your blood sugar."

Breakfast, 9 a.m.
Three eggs, scrambled; three slices of whole-wheat toast, buttered, with pesto; one ten-ounce glass of tomato juice
Calories: 689; Carbohydrates: 55.3 grams; Protein: 32.6 grams; Fat: 38.2 grams

"Five years ago it was a stack of pancakes," says Pigg, "but I'd be hungry an hour later. Now I can train a lot longer, because the fat in the pesto and butter is a slow-burning fuel."

Maffetone says that by spreading the pesto on your toast, you're assured a proper balance of saturated to unsaturated fat. "When people talk about fats being bad," he says, "they mean that if you eat too many saturated fats in relation to unsaturated, it's a problem."

Lunch, 1 p.m.
One ten-ounce salad of red-leaf lettuce, spinach, carrots, avocado, bell pepper, and sunflower seeds, covered with four ounces of tofu-tahini dressing; one 6.5-ounce can of tuna
Calories: 1,159; Carbohydrates: 41 grams; Protein 66.4 grams Fat 85.9 grams

"The thing that immediately jumps out at you is the high fat content," Maffetone admits. "Mike's total daily fat intake is 47 percent, and yet his percentage of body fat has gone down while his endurance has increased. Plus, there are important nutrients-essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins--that your body can't use without fat in your diet."

Dinner, 6:30 p.m.
One ten-ounce steak; one ten-ounce salad of red-leaf lettuce, carrots, avocado, bell pepper, onion, and pumpkin seeds, dressed with olive oil and vinegar; three leaves of kale, steamed; one-half of a medium winter nut squash; one glass of red wine
Calories: 1,355; Carbohydrates: 79.3 grams; Protein: 104 grams; Fat: 64.3 grams

To add variety, Pigg alternates steak, chicken, turkey, and grilled tuna or salmon and changes the steamed vegetable from kale to broccoli to asparagus. "It's been a bit of an adjustment," he says. "If you'd have asked me to eat kale five or six years ago, I'd have said, 'No way. Give me more pasta!'"

The key to this meal, says Maffetone, is the preponderance of protein. "Combined with rest, eating protein is how we build muscles," he says. "It doesn't matter when in the day you eat it-I like mine in the morning-but what's important is that you get it sometime."

Snacks, as needed
Two apples
Calories:157; Carbohydrates: 42 grams; Protein: 6 grams; Fat: 1 gram

Pigg typically eats one during the day between meals and the other after dinner, when his body needs a huge red sleeping pill. "All that protein works as a brain stimulant, because it increases levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter," Maffetone explains. "Carbohydrates, however, sedate the brain, so the apple makes it easier for him to get to sleep."

Daily Totals
"Mike's fat intake is high, but he's a professional endurance athlete," says Maffetone. "All a recreational athlete would have to do is skip the butter on the toast, leave the avocado out of one of the salads, and cut the steak down to six ounces. That'll bring the fat down to about 30 percent and your calories into the 2,800 range, which is reasonable for anyone who works out regularly. And if you cut out the salad with dinner, you'd be down to a 2,000-calorie day, so this even works for someone who only exercises a couple of hours per week." Pigg agrees, and says the diet will be part of his life long after his career is over. "I don't want to retire the way most athletes do: burned out," he says. "I want to keep this youthful feeling going."

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