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RMI Expeditions Blog


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Tucker & Team at Altzomoni Hut

Nap time at 13,000+. Team is doing great! Said goodbye to La Malinche this morning and hello to the mountain Ixtaccihuatl (The Sleeping Woman ). A four-hour drive has brought us to a nice hut. Our local staff made us a fantastic dinner so we are well taken care of and fired up for an early morning ascent to our high camp. Loads are reasonable but not light. Weather has been a bit unsettled but not bad. Lots of gear shuffling and we are looking prepared. All is well.

RMI Guide Mark Tucker

On The Map


Mountaineering Training | Improving Fat Oxidation

This is the second of a two part series looking at the benefits of improving rates of fat metabolism to prevent or delay bonking in endurance sports. For week one of the series, click here.

Last week, we introduced the idea of training or developing fat metabolism to preserve glycogen stores, utilize our body’s largest energy store, and ultimately prevent “bonking” while climbing. This week we’ll look at how to accomplish it!

There are two main components that we can alter to affect our body’s use of fat: diet and training. The two work hand in hand – a change in diet without a focus on aerobic training volume is of little use, as anaerobic workouts require glycogen by definition, and aerobic training volume while continuing to eat a high carbohydrate diet will cause little change in your body’s metabolic pathways.

Diet
The key to training fat metabolism is to adjust your diet to take in more calories from fat than carbohydrates. This doesn’t mean you need to take in more calories overall, but instead, shift the nutritional balance of your diet. These diets have taken on the moniker LCHF or low carb high fat in studies and the media. There are a number of specific diets out there that align with this description (the paleo diet, the Atkins diet) but the specific diet is less important for the purposes of an athlete than the nutritional balance. Some articles suggest about 15% of your daily calories coming from carbohydrates, which is a significant shift for those of us that have trained under the paradigm of carbohydrate loading!

Changing our diet to make carbohydrates more scarce, and fats more plentiful accomplishes several things that will ultimately help our fat oxidation rates. The first is that when sugar is present in the bloodstream at high levels, insulin is released to control rates of blood sugar—extremely high rates of blood sugar are treated as a toxin by the body—and consequently insulin is a fat oxidation inhibitor, as the body wants to burn off the excess sugar and uses the opportunity. If we keep our levels of blood sugar lower with diet, our body releases less insulin, and fat oxidation rates are not suppressed.

Second, while sugar is easily transported across cell membranes and into cells, fats require transport by specific enzymes. Reducing our blood sugar and allowing fat oxidation to take place stimulates the production of these fat transport enzymes, so that fat can be brought into the cells at higher rates and utilized.

Finally, mitochondria are responsible for oxidizing fat and producing the ATP that fuel our cells. By reducing our carbohydrate fuel and relying more on fat, we stimulate the growth of mitochondria in the cells. Studies of athletes that are efficient fat oxidizers vs. sugar burners show a significant increase in mitochondrial density in the muscle cells.

Training Type
Our body is able to burn fat as fuel during aerobic exercise – those workouts and efforts that stay at level 3 or below. Once we cross the anaerobic threshold into lactate production, glycogen is the only fuel source that the body uses for energy production, so the stimulus to oxidize fat is gone. Thus fat oxidation is best trained during an aerobic base or volume phase, when the preponderance of workouts focus on relatively lower intensity, higher volume (hours or miles).

This isn’t a process that can be changed overnight. The cellular development that is required to shift your metabolic pathways takes time and sustained stimulation to change. With dedication to diet and training, studies show marked improvement in rates of fat oxidation after 8 to 12 weeks, so stick with it!

It’s often tempting as athletes to take things too far: if more of something is better, even more of it must be better still. Fat oxidation alone isn’t enough to keep up with our energy demands when we are training heavily for a climb. Therefore, maintaining some carbohydrates in your diet is important. Think of it as replenishing the fuel you spend: a workout of harder intensity will deplete your glycogen stores more; a 4 hour workout will require some carbohydrate fuel intake during the workout to prevent depleting glycogen stores as well. For those who want to really dig into the numbers, Alan Couzens has a calculator for balancing your nutritional intake depending on the phase of your training plan, hours, etc. It is designed for ironman triathletes, but can provide some interesting numbers for us as climbers as well!
_____


For more reading Alan Couzens has a number of interesting blogs on the subject. A good one to start with is Improving Fat Oxidation.
Also see Deborah Schulman’s Fuel on Fat for the Long Run.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Tucker & Team Acclimatize on La Malinche

Sunday, November 6, 2016 - 7:15 pm PT

Hola -
We are checking in from La Malinche, a beautiful park located a couple hours from Mexico City. After a beautiful hike thru the forest we broke out to amazing views and wild clouds in the start of the alpine environment. Our goal for the day was to stretch the legs, starting from our nice cabin at 10,000’ we did just that. Some review of climbing technique, familiarizing ourselves with some new gear and dusting off some of the old made for a nice five hour jaunt in the hills. Great to see the team in good shape with no issues for the first foray of this expedition. A nice restaurant in the compound took good care of food needs and has us happy and fueled for a beautiful night in the mountains.

RMI Guides Mark Tucker & Hannah Smith

On The Map

Miss you all already! Loved meeting everyone - have fun!  Pam

Posted by: Pam on 11/7/2016 at 11:28 am

Following the climb - have a great time and climb safely!

Posted by: George on 11/7/2016 at 10:14 am


Mountaineering Training | Becoming Bonk Proof

Climbing is a long and demanding endeavor, with a typical summit day on Rainier or Denali stretching for twelve to fifteen hours. Every time you take a step, your muscles require energy in the form of ATP to be able to fire. ATP is created within the muscle cells by mitochondria from two main nutrients: carbohydrates and fat.

For many years, athletes have focused on their carbohydrate intake as the key to performance. Carbohydrates provide a readily accessible and easily digestible energy source for your body, which is the reason that they are the main content in most sports foods; just look at the labels of shot blocks, Gu’s, bars, energy drinks, and the like, and you will see a heavy focus on sugar. There is a good reason for this: your body has a limited ability to digest food while exercising (digestion requires energy of its own), and carbohydrates and sugars are the easiest to digest, requiring little to be done to the glucose components before they enter the bloodstream and are carried to the cells.

The main issue with a reliance on carbohydrates is that your body has the ability to store a finite supply of glucose in the muscle cells and the liver in the form of glycogen. For trained athletes that are efficient with their energy usage, that store still only lasts for about 2 hours of sustained hard effort. If you aren’t familiar with the term “bonking,” it’s that feeling when your performance drops off a cliff; you don’t feel like you are working that hard aerobically, but you can’t possibly go any faster or harder. You’ve run through those glycogen stores and your muscles are out of fuel. Eating while you exercise can help to delay bonking, but your body can only process about 250 Kcal of sugar per hour, far less than you expend over the same period. Even though we are replenishing our sugar fuel, we dip further and further into those reserves as summit day goes on. At the same time, even the leanest among us carries over 24 hours of energy in the form of fat stores. Wouldn’t it be nice to recruit those stores while you are climbing?

Fatty acids are the most energy dense nutrients in our diet and our body stores them readily. They create more ATP per unit than sugars, and our body’s ability to store them can leave us with a huge reserve energy supply. The problem is that when fatty acids and sugars are both present, our metabolisms preference burning the sugars for energy. Julia Goedecke is a sports scientist who has been examining the influence of fat oxidation (metabolism) in endurance athletes. In examining rates of fat oxidation in athletes at different intensity levels, she found a vast difference in overall rates of fat oxidation. Some burned nearly no fat at rest, while others metabolized nearly 100% fat at rest, but while there were differences in overall rates of fat metabolism, those who metabolized more fat at rest derived more of their energy from fat at all intensity levels too. This would suggest that if we can train our metabolism to derive a greater percentage of our energy from fat, it will continue to do that as we up our intensity climbing, and we will use our sugar reserves more slowly, and hopefully avoid the dreaded “bonk!”

Now that we’ve introduced the idea of developing your fat metabolism, stay tuned next week as we get into the details about how to accomplish it.
_____
For more reading Alan Couzens has a number of interesting blogs on the subject. A good one to start with is Improving Fat Oxidation.
Questions? Comments? Do you have experience applying LCHF nutrition to endurance sports? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Team Descends from Orizaba

This is the RMI Mexico team back safely in town. We had a good descent from the summit of Orizaba. Our shuttle picked us up just as the clouds and rain began to set in. Stormy weather played a huge part of this trip, we are glad that the weather cleared for our successful summit this morning. The team is getting cleaned up and sorted for their flights home tomorrow.

Thanks for following along.

RMI Guides Mike King & Steve Gately


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Team Calls from Summit of Orizaba

Saturday, October 22, 2016 - 8:07 am PT

This is Mike with the RMI Mexico team. We are currently standing on top of Pico de Orizaba. We woke up around midnight and the weather was wet and rainy, we didn’t think we were going to get it.  When 2:30 am rolled around the clouds parted. Everyone is doing really well up on top.  We are taking some photos and taking in the sights from the highest point in Mexico will give you guys a shout once we are down safe and sound.  Talk to you later.

RMI Guide Mike King


RMI Guide Mike King calls from the summit of Pico de Orizaba, Mexico.

On The Map


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Team Prepares for Summit Attempt on Orizaba

The Mexico Team is resting comfortably at the Piedra Grande Hut on Orizaba. Yesterday we had a nice day off in Puebla, everyone took advantage of the good food, area surrounding the Zocalo and some visited a car museum.

Leaving Puebla this morning we took in more of the countryside and ended up at a century old soap factory turned climber’s hostel run by Sr. Reyes. We met his 93 year old father and enjoyed a nice lunch after sorting our gear for the climb.

Our drive up here is on a fairly rough road through pine trees and the grassy lower slopes of Orizaba. We are currently at 14,000’ sitting in a light cloud with views of the mountain from time to time.The team will wake around midnight and hopefully have good weather to climb.

Keep your fingers crossed that we get a chance to summit Orizaba!

RMI Guides Mike King & Steve Gately

On The Map

Good Luck ALEX S and team wishing you all the best in your summit attempt…

Jeff and the Gang from the TH53 Project in Northern MN

Posted by: Jeff Hall on 10/21/2016 at 3:12 pm


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Mike King Re-Caps Summit Attempt on Ixta

This morning around 12:30 we woke for our Ixta summit day. We had a relatively clear sky above us with a bright moon, but out to the east was a small cloud bank with some lightening radiating through the clouds. We got ready to climb since the storm looked to be moving away from the mountain.

As we approached our first break the storm clouds began to creep our way with the lightening increasing in the distance. The guides turned the group around and made the call to pack up camp and head to lower elevations. The team responded and broke camp quickly, transitioning into downhill mode.  Carrying heavy packs in rocky terrain at night isn’t easy and we all arrived tired but thankful to not be up at Ixta’s high camp.

Upon reaching the trail-head all signs of the storm had disappeared, clear above visibility unlimited. Some frustration and confusion pulsed through the team members and guides. When you’re in the mountains it is important to take the information available to you and make a conservative decision. Sometimes the storm rolls in and sometimes the skies clear.

We spent the morning resting and sorting gear for the next few days. Like clockwork, the skies turned grey, hail fell and thunder rolled high on Ixta. Our shuttles arrived to take us to Puebla for the next 2 nights.
The Team will enjoy a day off in the historic district and then we are off for Orizaba, the 3rd highest peak in North America.

RMI Guide Mike King & Team

glad everyone returned safely, climbing acancagua with RMI in january and hope to summit, but hope to return home even more

Posted by: Dave Folsom on 11/12/2016 at 7:07 pm

Bummer…Disappointed for you…Enjoy the town…Next mtn please…Waltero

Posted by: Walter Glover on 10/20/2016 at 3:36 am


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Team Turns Back on Summit Bid

RMI Guide Mike King checked in from Mexico.  Today the team made their summit attempt from High Camp but were forced to turn around at 16,000’ on Ixta due to a major electrical storm on the horizon.  The team descended and returned to the Altzomoni Hut where they packed up their gear, loaded vehicles and continued their descent.  They will travel to Puebla today as scheduled and explore this beautiful colonial city.

We look forward hearing more from them soon.

RMI Office

On The Map


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Team Prepares for Summit Bid

The RMI Mexico Team is nestled in their tents at 15,000’ after a heavy move day to our camp. We woke early to beat the heat and afternoon storms. Our route today took us to the base of the “knees” on Ixta over four hours. The camp is dry so we had some porter help carrying water for two days.

We enjoyed views of the expansive golden bunch grass as the hills and rock features making up the lower flanks gave way to volcanic rock and scree. Being in and out of the clouds allowed for cooler temperatures and the team climbed well. We will head for the summit tomorrow morning if the weather holds. Coverage has been troublesome for longer dispatches, we’ll get a longer one up from our day off in Puebla.

RMI Guide Mike King

On The Map

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