Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Evening with Peter Defty and Vespa

Vespa CV-25 and Junior
I think a lot of people didn't know what they were getting into when they decided to attend this information session.  For those of you who don't know, Peter is a very accomplished ultra runner and the Vespa rep for North America.  He coaches MANY high level ultra runners.  His ideas are radical and controversial as they would require a complete overhaul in the diet of the average runner (and the average American).  The payoff for these changes can be huge especially for marathon and ultra distance runners.  Dale Humphrey has a good blog post that details some of the dietary changes and product usage strategies.  I'm going to list out some of the things I noted from the information session and some of the books he brought with him and others he recommended.

The goal of all of this is to get the body to burn fat for energy instead of the 1500 calories or so of glycogen it has available on an average day.  By burning fat you can reduce/eliminate your need for calorie ingestion during training (which has many benefits), reduce muscle fatigue/post workout recovery and increase sustained performance during longer events.  In order to prime your body for burning more fat Peter advocates a low carb diet.  This is especially interesting to me, being a larger runner, as I find dealing with calorie and fluid requirements for longer runs to be quite daunting.  I've already had some great results experimenting with reducing my daily carbohydrate intake and using the product on runs over the last few months.


Some of the books Peter recommended:
New Atkins for a New You
Protein Power
The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living
Authors/Research Institutes:
Dr. Eric Westman
Weston A. Price Foundation


He recommended using the following formula for heart rate based training, which is a bit more aggressive than standard Maffetone Method based sessions.

180 - age + 15

Peter advocated making sure to take a VERY LONG TIME TO WARMUP in each training session to ensure the body will burn fat over carbohydrate.  He also emphasized the importance of fluid and electrolytes for ketosis (fat burning).  I could be mistaken, but I believe he said he ran Western States on up to 60 oz of water and 1500mg of sodium per hour.  These number seem huge, but if the body isn't also trying to digest food at the same time I can see how this could be possible and a requirement to sustain such high effort for nearly 24 hours, 100 miles and temps up to 115 degrees.  He also recommended UVB treatments for athletes, although I didn't have time to discuss this point with him.


If you are not used to eating low carbohydrate, using VESPA during the transition can reduce the side effects a person may experience during the first couple of weeks (brain fog, lack of energy, craving carbs etc).  He recommends a rare steak and a baked potato loaded with butter and sour cream the night before a race.  I didn't have a chance to write down much else, but I hope to have more information to share as I continue experimenting with the product and my diet.  Since I already have to be gluten free, my carbs aren't very high to begin with, but I've made a point to drop them even more and replace those foods with more healthy fats and proteins.  Using VESPA, I have stopped needing to take in gels during a run and my recovery seems to have improved tremendously between workouts.


  1. I've been low-carbing and Maffetone (sort of) running all Summer and I can say it's really paid off. Long runs aren't debilitating any more and I'm burning way more fat than I used to (dropped a good 10 pounds this summer).

  2. Did you make it to any of the info sessions by Peter? I believe he was at Fleet Feet, as well. He definitely had alot of good information related to low carb diets and endurance training. He's sent me another 6 emails worth of links and pdf's as well. Glad it is working so well for you! I just need to start getting in those longer runs again...

  3. Unfortunately, I've been tied up with family obligations (house remodeling, kids, wifey, etc.) most of the Summer, so haven't been able to indulge in my running "hobby" very much, other than actually running that is.

    After a couple of weeks, the long runs get much easier, especially if you start doing your runs in a fasted state (I eat after I run, which forces my body to go to fat as fuel during the run). Tough at first, but your body adjusts and it gets easier quickly. Been a fun experiment...

    PS: Could you enable email updates, so I know when the comments have been updated on your posts?

  4. Never mind about the email notifications. I just noticed the "subscribe by email link below"! LOL!