As an extension of the Train-Low regime, a new strategy has recently emerged to allow adaptations of the Train-Low without suffering its negative effects, namely the Sleep-Low protocol.
THE SLEEP-LOW STRATEGY.
This nutritional strategy is divided into 2 training periods spread over 2 consecutive days: the 1st training session is performed at high intensity (HIT) and takes place on the 1st day (D1); the 2nd session is performed fasting and at low intensity the next day (D2). Here is the unwound:
D1 – step 1: enjoy a little more of your calories… You might miss them.
D1 – step 2: at the end of the day, perform a HIT session (>106% of your critical power/speed) of type 9*3′ / r 1’30”:
D1 – step 3: do not ingest carbohydrates after the session, neither in liquid nor solid form. Here is an idea for dinner: salad, cucumbers, radishes, meat, cheese, dark chocolate (>90%). Then before bedtime: a glass of milk, yoghurt or cottage cheese ;
D2 – step 1: do a 30′ to 60′ fasting session at low intensity (<75% CP/CV). You can then opt for a 30′ coffee before the session to increase your fat use.
D2 – step 2: Breakfast is completely normal, without any restrictions.
WHICH PERFORMANCE GAINS?
By using Sleep-Low 3x per week for 3 weeks, some research protocols have been able to observe :
– A gain of ~73” over a 10km-run in well trained triathletes (60-65ml.kg.min in VO2max).
– An improvement in the energy cost during exercise at a submax intensity.
– An improvement in time-to-exhaustion at supra-max speed.
– A change in body composition (~1kg of fat mass lost without change in lean mass).
For this weight loss to be done specifically on fat mass, it is important to have a protein intake during low-carb dinners and before bedtime. In addition to maintaining your lean mass, this will repair your muscles, support the energy cost of this repair, and promote the synthesis of mitochondria (the energy factories of your muscles).
THE SLEEP-LOW IN PRACTICE.
In GUTAÏ, we have tested this protocol with the amateur triathletes we train and who essentially prepare 70.3 and IM events. With an active family and professional life, it is difficult to place 3 SleepLow sessions each week for 3 weeks. Moreover, it is complicated to reconcile a preparation focused on long duration events (>4h) by including 3 HIT sessions per week plus specific pacing sessions, the whole without generating an increase in the athlete’s fatigue level.
Since our idea is to offer practical solutions while being effective, we opt instead for a mixed and “periodized” approach of this strategy. We use the different diets available (High Carb, Low-Carb, Train-Low, Sleep-Low…) by placing them at the right time in the athlete’s preparation in order to take full advantage of them. The 2.0 training programs are made that way. Examples :
– High carbohydrate intakes during specific long distance training sessions including pacing phases to allow the athlete to sustain exercise intensity and train their stomach/intestines to the nutritional strategy that will be used during competition. Carbohydrate intake: 60g per hour for efforts <4h ; 90g.h for efforts >4h.
– Restricted intakes before, during and/or after low intensity training to enhance the chemistry of the training stimulus while limiting unwanted effects.
– 1x/ week use of the Sleep-Low protocol
– The use 1 to 2x/ week of the Train-Low with bi-daily trainings.
With this approach, the feedback we have from our athletes is positive and especially the improvement in performance is there.
You now have the keys to integrate the Sleep-Low in your preparation.
References for further information:
Hawley JA, Burke LM. Carbohydrate availability and training adaptation: effects on cell metabolism. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 38(4):152-60, 2010.
LA Marquet & al. Enhanced endurance performance by periodization of CHO intake:“sleep low” strategy. Med Sci Sports. 2016.