Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Why do antiglycolytic training? - Part 2

A very complicated view of the Krebs cycle
This is a continuation of my potentially many-part series on antiglycolytic training. See Part 1 here.

Randy asked me to speak to the "science" of why AGT works. As AGT moves out of the obscure Soviet literature, the sport science folks are going to want a more science-y explanation of it. Unfortunately I can't really do that - and to be honest, no one can.  Above is the Krebs cycle and a bunch of other energy-producing reactions that happen in your mitochondria. This is the cycle of life, how energy is made in the cell and what the inputs and outputs are. This is really well studied, and I could be snide and say, "that's the reason AGT works. It's all right in that picture."

It's all there. Almost. One thing that folks often forget is the difference between statics and dynamics. Anyone who has taken a high school chemistry class has written chemical reactions. Those are relatively easy to understand. What's much harder to study are the dynamics, or kinetics, of a reaction. Doing any theory on a static system is not much more than bookkeeping. That is, keeping track of what's where. Computers make that easy. Understanding a dynamical system is hard - you need differential equations.

Once you have more than a few pathways, the problem quickly becomes intractable. When I did my Ph.D. work, the state of the art for full quantum dynamics was a 4-atom system. That was a while ago, but computers haven't gotten that much faster in that time, and the problem size grows exponentially with the number of atoms.

Why do we still crash test cars? Surely, we have extremely detailed CAD drawings of how a car is put together. The engineers know the material properties of everything put in the car. Extensive testing is done on even the smallest component to understand how it will hold up under the heat, cold, vibration, etc. in a car. Why don't we just simulate a crash on a computer? That way we can try every possible collision angle and test all kinds of impacts.  The speeds involved and the number of ways energy can be dissipated are so vast, that even knowing, exactly, the contents of a car, we cannot come close to simulating a collision. It's cheaper and more accurate to actually crash test cars.

I can go through every arrow of the Krebs cycle and tell you about NAD+ and NADH and Pyruvate and acetyl-CoA and FADH2 and ATP and glucose and electron transport chains and blah blah blah. I could try to sound smart and try to impress you and sit in an ivory tower and explain with detailed theory why AGT is good for you. Or you can just look at actual results: the experiments that have been done for years.

Rather than go ultra-reductionist and try to over science-ify things, we should just look at the results. This is the academic vs. tinkerer argument that Taleb hammers home in Antifragile.

Humans aren't just a collection of parts that can be studied in isolation. My biggest problem with the sports and exercise sciences is that they are always trying to impress you with their fancy names for everything. I stop listening to any trainer who starts giving the exact name for every muscle. Knowing the name of the thing is not the same as knowing the thing. (Feynman said something like that.) That doesn't mean we can be in the dark about the biochemical processes that happen when we're training. We just can't base our understanding on theory alone. Use the theory to inform the real world. If the theory doesn't agree with what happens, the theory is wrong.

My best argument for "why AGT?" is this. Looking at the big picture, you can see that there are lots of places that H+ leaves the cycle. A proton (H+) dissolved in water (your cells) is what chemists traditionally call an acid. Where does that acid go? There are lots of buffering mechanisms in the body, but I don't really care where they go, I care about the rate at which they go there (the dynamics).

A simplified view of the Krebs cycle. Notice all the place where H+ leaves the cycle - that's making the acid bath we talk about.
There will always be some point where you need energy (ATP) so fast that you are producing protons faster than they go away. That point is different for everyone. When you "feel the burn", that's too late, because you have already accumulated a bunch of acid. Our goal with AGT is to train at a rate where we need energy at a slow enough rate that we don't get a build-up of protons.

Why do we care about generating too much acid? Where do you want to put your limited resources? Where do you want to spend your energy? When you train you're telling your body to adapt to the stresses of its environment. That means you could get stronger and faster or you could train to buffer excess acid. You can't do it all because you have limited resources.

Training is not the same as testing. But what if you have to run away from the hungry lion? Don't you want to train for that when you need to make that energy all at once? Actually, no (or technically, not much). If you spend your training time getting stronger, then you'll do more with less energy (less acid) and if you do need even more energy, it's okay to have that acid build up to save your life! You'll recover. What you don't want to do is run from the lion every day. That won't make you stronger, and eventually you'll get eaten.


row 500 / run 400
crawling lunge
10 KB swings or snatches
double KB overhead lunge
10 TGUs or windmills
10 goblet squats
5 pull-ups or push-ups or dips


squat 8-5-3x5


5 pull-ups between sets

Group Workout

6 rounds at a challenging weight:
4L, 4R kettlebell back squat 
6 goblet squat


One max rep set goblet squats using a heavier weight than used above - challenge yourself
then do one set at 75% of the reps from the max rep set 
and one more at 50% of the reps from the max rep set 


2 minute bar hang


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