Developed by renowned Sports Dietitian, Bob Seebohar.
I grew up as a competitive soccer player. In fact, my soccer tenure lasted 18 years until in 1993, while studying Exercise and Sport Science at Colorado State University (CSU), a friend of mine dared me to do the sprint triathlon that CSU hosted. I had never done any type of endurance event while growing up. I could sprint fast on a soccer field and I had the stamina but had never done a triathlon. I accepted the challenge and finished toward the back. I had very little knowledge of the sport or nutrition and I was still only 2 years into my exercise science degree so had no formal endurance training knowledge. I swam in cycling shorts that had a thick pad. Needless to say I felt like I was wearing a diaper by the time I hopped out of the pool and ran to find my bike in the transition area. Once I slowly put my helmet and shirt on, I got on my mountain bike, equipped with big knobby tires. Let me tell you, that was one heck of a workout pedaling 12 miles on the road with big mountain bike tires. Of course, I couldn't figure out why I was getting passed so easily by everyone on these bikes with such skinny tires! Once I got to the run and was having thoughts of why I was doing this, the soccer player in me kicked in (pun intended) and I was finally able to use a strength of mine. I took off sprinting, or at least I felt like it, and quickly learned a lesson about pacing. Luckily, I slowed down enough to get my breathing under control and cruised around the 5k course and across the finish line. It was that very moment that a spark was lit. Little did I know back then that this spark was going to ignite into a career/passion of helping others and exploring new paths in the sports nutrition world. All due to me stepping outside my comfort zone and trying something different.
I steered my career to satisfy my fascination of the human body and how it could do things that I wasn't used to it doing. I did more triathlons, learning a great deal the last two years of my undergraduate studies. Six years later, I signed up for my first Ironman. I trained with a couple of close friends and we all went through the trials and tribulations of learning what long distance triathlon training felt like. With that came unsatiable appetites, sore muscles and the inevitable gastrointestinal (GI) distress "monster". Back in those days, having GI distress was a rite of passage and one that every coach, dietitian and athlete acknowledged was just part of Ironman training. You were the lucky one if it never happened to you. Unfortunately, I was not in that category. Not a long training day went by that I did not have gas, bloating, and nausea. This carried over to my first Ironman (Florida) in 1999 where not only did I have those symptoms but I also vomited repeatedly during the marathon.
After finishing my first Ironman in 1999, I proceeded to do five more in the next 8 years. During that time, the GI distress "monster" still haunted me. However, as I engaged in more formal education (two graduate degrees in Health and Exercise Science and Food Science and Human Nutrition), I began to learn the intricate nature of how the human body worked. Complex metabolic cycles and biochemistry along with advanced nutrition and physiology concepts began to make more sense as I applied them to my new found love of triathlon. I gained a better understanding of the possible causes of GI distress and with this, I began asking more questions. Fast forward to 2004 when I was working as a Sports Dietitian for a Sports Medicine Center, seeing a plethora of endurance athletes just like myself, all with similar GI distress issues. To attempt to "cure" athletes (and myself) of GI distress, I did everything within my knowledge including fiber tapers, product comparisons for potential ingredient issues with carbohydrate sources, travel food issues, illnesses, medications...the entire gamut. I never found a reoccurring theme...that is, until I decided to get smart again and go back to my books and scientific research studies.
It was then that I was re-introduced to the crossover concept (which I learned in Exercise Physiology 101), a physiological term that describes the relationship between fat and carbohydrate burning over a series of exercise intensities. The concept explains that as the intensity of exercise increases, so does our body's reliance on carbohydrate for energy. It's absolutely true. However, decades ago, the only premise that was researched as it related to this concept was exercise interventions and not nutritional changes. In fact, earlier research indicated that the body's maximum ability to use fat as energy was between 63 - 65% of maximal intensity (measured by VO2max or maximum heart rate). This meant that as long as you exercised below this intensity, you would use more fat as energy. While this is true, it is not even half of the story! As an exercise physiologist and endurance coach, this made complete sense. However, as a Sport Dietitian, I wondered if there would be any impact on altering a person's daily nutrition, not just their exercise program. And that one thought, based on the scientific principle of the crossover concept with supporting biochemistry, metabolic pathways and macronutrient shifting, began the journey of what I termed Metabolic Efficiency.
I began altering my own daily nutrition plan to see if there were any tangible changes that I could notice that would answer my questions. Shortly thereafter, I created the physiological test protocol that would measure Metabolic Efficiency. I relied on my exercise physiology knowledge and understanding of a metabolic cart to devise a test that would accurately reflect dietary changes that I was making in my own body. I perfected the test on various athletes and began more intense dietary changes in athletes and after years of collecting quantitative test data, qualitative feedback from athletes, body composition/weight and performance data, I was comfortable enough to begin to introduce the Metabolic Efficiency concept to the world.
My first professional presentation on Metabolic Efficiency was in 2003 at a SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists) conference in Boston. I vividly remember this because there I stood in front of a packed room of my dietitian colleagues. As I was presenting vibrantly on what I had found and created, I noticed looks of confusion and bewilderment in the audience. Nobody had ever heard of this before and because many were not physiologists, they did not grasp the science behind it at first. Nevertheless, the presentation was a success and I had many interactions with my colleagues after my presentation and throughout my time at the conference. Questions right and left, along with stares of disbelief, but I walked away from that experience knowing that I was just scratching the surface of the evolution of Metabolic Efficiency and used this spark to shed more light about the topic to athletes and coaches. It has been many years since I began this journey and while more is to be learned, I certainly have a much better understanding of what Metabolic Efficiency is, how to manipulate it and how to measure it. Since I published my first book on the topic in 2009, there have been many interesting iterations of the concept and I have progressed exponentially in my understanding and implementation strategies as more individuals have adopted Metabolic Efficiency into their lifestyles. The second edition of my book was published in 2014 and was so because of the all of the updated information about positive health outcomes, additional performance measures and testing protocols. In 2012, I created a certification for the concept and just this year, my colleague Dina Griffin and I have redefined the certification to allow for specific learning objectives for fitness, coaching, medical, nutrition and health professionals.
Yes, I created the concept of Metabolic Efficiency. But the bottom line is that I am a practicing Sport Dietitian, who cares about the positive impact it can make in peoples lives. Because of this, I, along with my team of Sport Dietitians at eNRG performance, colleagues and Certified Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialists (METS) across the world, will continue to study the interactions of nutrition and exercise on the body's ability to use fat as fuel and preserve carbohydrates. Keep this website as one of your favorites as it is meant to be a resource for everything pertaining to Metabolic Efficiency, along with updates as we have them!
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II