Nutrition and the Maffetone Method

By April 9, 2019 April 12th, 2019 No Comments
Ragi dosa with mixed vegetable curries and papaya

Runner and Coach Ajit Thandur talks about following a balanced diet that is most essential for aerobic training via the Maffetone method.

My previous three articles on the Maffetone Method dealt with (a) the principles behind 180 Formula, (b) insight into Maximum Aerobic Function Test or MAF Test for short and (c) the methodology of aerobic training in terms of duration, build up to a race, interval training etc.

In this concluding article on the Maffetone Method, I would like to cover aspects of nutrition around the three macronutrients – carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Now, reading through an article such as this is relevant to all athletes – competitive or recreational but my main focus here is for the recreational/amateur athletes who run/cycle/swim or does any form of exercise to stay healthy and fit.

Most often, people tend to take up endurance running or bicycling to shed excess weight and be trim. While doing so, if they choose to train by the principles of the Maffetone Method (180 Formula), the body mainly uses the aerobic muscles and thereby burn fat for energy. That is the advantage of aerobic workouts as explained in my previous articles.

However, a more important aspect than the exercise itself for weight loss is the consumption of the right kind of food.

We have been told for so long that the ideal weight loss formula is “eat less, burn more”! But what is much closer to the truth is “eat unprocessed real food, avoid processed carbohydrates such as polished rice, processed Atta, Maida, white bread, give up on added sugar, jaggery, sweets, soft drinks etc. These are the foods that make a person fat and not the lack of exercise. The common misconception that a lot of us carry is that we can go on an eating binge so long as we exercise a bit – that is definitely an illogical thing to do.

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Dr. Phil Maffetone’s take on nutrition

It is prudent and appropriate to now see what Dr. Phil Maffetone has to say on nutrition. In his book (the bible for me) “The  Big Book of Endurance”, he discusses nutrition in detail talking about the three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat their importance or otherwise, the effects of using any of them in excess and the need to understand their relevance.

The one reason why most people get into recreational running or any other form of exercise is to mainly do with weight loss. It becomes imperative to mention Dr. Maffetone’s explanation that most athletes depend on or consume heavy carbohydrates for the supply of glucose. He then explains that unfortunately, most of us consume highly processed carbs such as wheat from which bread and pasta are made. He recommends unprocessed grains and food cooked from them. He also says sugar, fruit juices, and sugar products are a big No. He further adds that the required amounts of glucose can be made by our own body from fat and protein. In any case, we already know that by following Dr. Maffetone’s 180 Formula, we burn fat for energy and not sugar or glucose.

Carbohydrate intolerance

Dr. Maffetone talks about carbohydrate intolerance. He suggests it initially shows itself in the form of sleepiness,  intestinal bloating, increased body fat, and fatigue. And then in the next stage, it can manifest as higher triglycerides and hypertension which eventually leads to diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease.

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He suggests a 2-week test for athletes to determine if they are carbohydrate Intolerant. It surely is important to try this test out and determine your intolerance levels to take remedial measures to eat right and overcome issues especially obesity and diabetes. Instead of going into the whole gamut of details here, I am posting this link for those who want to check on the Carbohydrate Intolerance-

Follow a Balanced diet

Dr. Maffetone, in fact, suggests a balanced intake of food comprising of unprocessed carbohydrates such as whole grains, red rice, vegetables, and fruit in real form rather than juices and also to consume real fats and protein. It is best to have all micronutrients too through real food and not from supplements which could as he says be misleading and counterproductive.

I have been practicing the Maffetone Method ( ) and benefited greatly by getting fat adapted and use my own body fat for energy. I have adapted to a lifestyle of low unprocessed carbohydrate, high fat, and medium protein intake and been at an ideal weight for the 4 years now. You could further get some insight into a low carb diet and it sure is a good read-


Chicken curry with hyacinth beans (avarekai/surti papdi lilva), made in ghee and light spicing of ginger, garlic, turmeric, red chilli and dhaniya. Vegetables pickled overnight in vinegar, salt and pepper. High fibre red rice dad with a lots of ghee.

Adai, a type of South Indian dosa made red rice and whole lentils for high fibre eaten with oodles of ghee, Chicken curry made with coconut oil and raw vegetable salad.


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Ajit Thandur

Ajit Thandur

Ajit Thandur is an entrepreneur and amateur endurance runner/swimmer based in Mysuru taking a keen interest in injury-free training and nutrition. He also conducts Thonnur Swimathon, Tri Thonnur and a run race Chamundi Hill Challenge in Mysuru.