Book Review: Beyond Training by Ben Greenfield

Rarely do I read mainstream books on fitness, nutrition and performance. I find them too “fluffy”, motivational, and sometimes, just wrong. So I made a huge exception when I picked up Ben Greenfield’s book, Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life.

And boy, am I glad I did. I’ve read a number of books on endurance exercise/nutrition, and they have more or less the same advice: do most of your running at 60-80% of your maximal heart rate and eat lots of carbohydrates. In Beyond Training, Ben definitely does what he says… he goes literally, beyond training, and covers such topics as electronic muscle stimulation, why eating lots of carbohydrates may have its flaws for endurance athletes, proper cross training, recovery from injuries, recovery from training, sleep, digestion (when was the last time a book on sports nutrition talked about digestion?), brain-hacking, and a bunch of other things.



Original source: here.

There are a number of reasons I particularly like Beyond Training:

  • It’s not “fluffy.” By that, I mean that many books have a lot of pages, without a lot of content. Not the case here. Although it’s a long book, it’s all-content.
  • It’s precise. It tells you exactly how to figure out how many carbohydrates and proteins you should have, how much interval training you should do, and more.
  • It’s not dogmatic. Some books say “you only need interval training”, and others say “you only need steady-state endurance training.” In Beyond Training, Ben explains when it makes sense to do intervals, and when steady state makes sense. This is just one example of this book not being dogmatic, but he’s got a balanced view for most topics in this book.
  • It goes into the nitty-gritty. It doesn’t just say what works, but also explains how and why something works. Complete with references.
  • There are lots of additional resources.

Here are some cool things I thought would interest you from Beyond Training:

  • Running a marathon (or any extreme endurance event) increases inflammatory cardiac markers for up to 1 week after the race.
  • The best endurance athletes spend about 80% of their time doing ridiculously easy training (much slower than race-pace), and about 4-10% of their time doing super-intense intervals. The remainder of their time is spent at race-pace.
  • “The burn” is not caused by lactic acid. It’s actually caused by a rise in your body’s acidity levels (a drop in pH), due to too much hydrogen.
  • Wearing a mouthpiece while training can lower cortisol levels, thereby speeding up recovery from exercise. The reason for this is that it’s a natural, sub-conscious reaction to grind your teeth when the going gets tough. The mouthpiece prevents the clamping of the jaw.
  • One study found that sedentary and weight trained men had higher levels of DHEA and testosterone compared to endurance-trained males.
  • Traditionally, endurance athletes did things to boost their performance, to the detriment of their health. Things like pasta parties, sugary gels, etc. All to keep the body with lots of carbohydrates during their activity. Unfortunately, with a strategy like this, you can be a pretty good endurance athlete… but also a diabetic one.
  • Digestive issues are very common in endurance athletes because of the traditional high-carbohydrate intake (usually from gluten-containing sources, and fermentable carbohydrates), in combination with endurance training.
  • Electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) during exercise (even long exercise) aren’t necessary. Not even in longer events. When the body sweats more, the kidneys decrease how much sodium and potassium is lost. So an athlete who uses electrolyte drinks sees “sweat stains”, and thinks s/he is losing a lot of sodium. Yes, but only because they are giving their body more sodium than they need. There’s no harm to taking in electrolytes during exercise. But from what I understand in Beyond Training, there’s not much of a benefit, either.
  • In one study, one group of cyclists had their brains stimulated (through transcranial direct-current stimulation). There was also a control group, who had electrodes attached, but didn’t receive any stimulation.
    • After 20 minutes of real or fake stimulation, the cyclists completed an all-out ride to exhaustion.
    • The cyclists who received stimulation had much lower heart rates, lower RPE, and a 4% increased power output.


All in all, I have 11 pages of notes from Beyond Training, but these were the points I thought would be most interesting to you.

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