Tabata Protocol for Skiing Endurance

freeheelI’m going skiing the second week of February and I’m feeling a little soft around the midsection and really out of shape. I’ve decided to use the Tabata Protocol adopted by the Japanese speed skating team to increase my anaerobic capacity and aerobic fitness.

I wrote an article a while back that outlined everything you need to know. The basic premise is all out sprinting for 20 seconds with a 10 second recovery phase and repeat for 8 sets or 4 minutes.

Seems simple but its not. A Men’s Health article on Tabata says, “So why isn’t everyone doing Tabata workouts? Well, most people would vomit—or come close to it—if they actually tried the routine that was used in the study. That’s not good.”


NYT: Brown Fat, Triggered by Cold or Exercise, May Yield a Key to Weight Control

I often revel in the I told you so moments. See my previous post, Cold Weather Weight Loss – 376% Increase in Fat Calories Burned, and then read the following New York Times article.

Brown Fat, Triggered by Cold or Exercise, May Yield a Key to Weight Control

Published: January 24, 2012
In separate studies, researchers have determined that in cold conditions, people’s calorie-gobbling brown fat uses ordinary fat as fuel — and that exercise may convert ordinary fat to brown fat.

Cold Weather Weight Loss – 376% Increase in Fat Calories Burned

I’ve known for a while now that exposure to cold climates increases metabolism. I found this journal article ( that proves my hypothesis. Here’s the summary:

Effect of cold exposure on fuel utilization in humans: plasma glucose, muscle glycogen, and lipids

Effect of cold exposure on fuel utilization in humans: plasma glucose, muscle glycogen, and lipids. J Appl Physiol 93: 77–84, 2002. First published March 1, 2002; 10.1152/japplphysiol.00773.2001.—The relative roles of circulatory glucose, muscle glycogen, and lipids in shivering thermogenesis are unclear. Using a combination of indirect calorimetry and stable isotope methodology ([U- 13C]glucose ingestion), we have quantified the oxidation rates of these substrates in men acutely exposed to cold for 2 h (liquid conditioned suit perfused with 10°C water). Cold exposure stimulated heat production by 2.6-fold and increased the oxidation of plasma glucose from 39.4 ± 2.4 to 93.9 ± 5.5 mg/min (+138%), of muscle glycogen from 126.6 ± 7.8 to 264.2 ± 36.9 mg glucosyl units/min (+109%), and of lipids from 46.9 ± 3.2 to 176.5 ± 17.3 mg/min (+376%). Despite the observed increase in plasma glucose oxidation, this fuel only supplied 10% of the energy for heat generation. The major source of carbohydrate was muscle glycogen (75% of all glucose oxidized), and lipids produced as much heat as all other fuels combined. During prolonged, low-intensity shivering, we conclude that total heat production is unequally shared among lipids (50%), muscle glycogen (30%), plasma glucose (10%), and proteins (10%). Therefore, future research should focus on lipids and muscle glycogen that provide most of the energy for heat production.

There’s a lot of math and jargon in there but in a nutshell; they put a few guys in suits that maintain 10°C or 50°F and measured the amount of energy their bodies used to maintain a core temperature of 98.6°F for two hours. The results are remarkable and very useful for those of us with a few extra pounds to lose. The men in the experiment burned 376% more fat wearing the cold suit versus sitting in an 80°F room.


Needless to say, I’ve been using this information to trim the fat. I got lazy when it started getting dark at 5:30 and started eating like crap. On New Years Day, however, I entered a Biggest Loser competition with my family members. I’ve been taking 30 minute walks in jeans, a hat, gloves and a Tshirt. It’s semi-painful, but I believe it is working.


Tim Ferriss in Outside Magazine

I would actually say that motivation is not the question. The real question is: What are the incentives? Let’s say I created a gym where you pay $400 the first of the month, and for every visit I refund $25. And before you sign up, we take unflattering photos of you in your under­wear, and if you don’t make a certain number of visits, we post those photos to a public website. I guarantee you that would be one fucking fit gym.

This quote from the Outside Magazine article about Tim Ferriss is classic…and true.


Get Tim’s book on Amazon


Power and Efficiency on a Bicycle (1449.28 MPG)


I had an interesting conversation over lunch about exercise efficiency. It all started as I was explaining how I hate running. Then we started talking about how running used far more energy than cycling and one thing led to another. Anyway, I brought up the fact that a bicycle is one of the most energy efficient forms of transportation and quoted my usual random figure about the miles per gallon equivalent of bicycles and cars.

I have always been unsure of the exact MPG equivalents so I looked it up and found the above equation on Wikipedia.

Go ahead and read everything at the link for a full explanation but I’ve quoted the variables I’ll use here:

Where P is in watts, g is Earth’s gravity, Vg is ground speed (m/s), m is bike/rider mass in kg, s is the grade (m/m), and Va is the rider’s speed through the air (m/s). K1 is a lumped constant for all frictional losses (tires, bearings, chain), and is generally reported with a value of 0.0053. K2 is a lumped constant for aerodynamic drag and is generally reported with a value of 0.185 kg/m.

I’m also going to use the same values for Vg (ground speed) and Va (air speed) and assume there is no wind just to simplify it a bit.

I weigh 210 pounds or 95.25 kilograms, I can peddle at 15 miles per hour or 24.14 kilometers per hour which is about 6.7 meters per second. So here we go with the math:

P = (9.8 x 95.25 x 6.7 x 0.0053) + (0.185 x 6.73)


P = 89.54 watts

Simple, at 15mph on a flat road without any wind I am generating 89.54 watts of power. If we go back to the Wikipedia article for some numbers we can assume that the human body converts food calories to energy with about 24% efficiency or every kilojoule of energy to the peddles requires about 1 kcal of food.

Human Efficiency  = 89.54 x .24


Human Efficiency  = 372.08

Assuming the loss in efficiency  I’m using 373.08 watts of food energy to get 89.54 watts to the peddles. Next we’ll convert watts to kilocalories per hour by multiplying by 0.86 to convert it to food energy. (A kilocalorie is the equivalent to 1 calorie of food.)

Calories per hour = 373.08 x 0.86


Calories per hour = 320.85

So i’m using about 320.85 calories per hour to travel by bicycle on a windless flat road. Now lets get to the final answer. We’ll use 31,000 kcalories of energy per gallon of gas and do some simple division.

Calories Per Mile = 320.85 / 15

which is 21.39

Mile Per Gallon = 31,000 /  21.39


1 449.28 MPG


In a nutshell, I’m getting 1,449.28 mpg when I’m peddling the bicycle around. I’m glad I finally calculated all that and know the answer.

…and back to the original discussion on why running sucks, it uses nearly three times as much energy to travel the same distance:

On firm, flat, ground, a 70 kg person requires about 30 watts to walk at 5 km/h. That same person on a bicycle, on the same ground, with the same power output, can average 15 km/h, so energy expenditure in terms of kcal/(kg·km) is roughly one-third as much. Generally used figures are

  • 1.62 kJ/(km∙kg) or 0.28 kcal/(mi∙lb) for cycling,
  • 3.78 kJ/(km∙kg) or 0.653 kcal/(mi∙lb) for walking/running,
  • 16.96 kJ/(km∙kg) or 2.93 kcal/(mi∙lb) for swimming.

You can do you’re own math with that information. I still hate running.