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Outside magazine, May 1996
Mike Pigg’s secret to success? A little glycogen goes a long way
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
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, 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
Morning Snack, 7 a.m.
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.
“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.
“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.
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
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.”