‘Training Low’ & What Does It Mean?

Ever heard the phrase ‘shocking the body’? Well if you’ve read any of my other articles or daily facts then the answer is probably yes. If not, then the term loosely refers to the act of changing your training routine in order to confuse the body and panic it into change and adaptation.

Tipton & van Loon, (2013) describe the strategies for ‘shocking the body’ in to change, and one of the most effective ways is deliberately perturbing or disrupting a training stimulus. One of the main ways of doing this is depleting glycogen (stored Carbs) stores forcing the athlete to perform at low energy. Granted, training performance will be hindered for several reasons, mainly because they perceive the impending training session to be harder than usual, and because they have lower energy stores to draw upon! This may seem counterintuitive when trying to maximise performance, but Tipton & van Loon (2013) go on to explain that the muscle markers (metabolites released when exercising) of training adaptation/growth are still present in the body even when training intensity is lower.

The theory pertains to training fully carb and glycogen loaded in the morning i.e. a high endurance exercise such as a 10k run, followed by another run in the afternoon at which time your Glycogen stores will be dramatically depleted. This depleted state should ‘shock’ the body, and reduce its capacity to train optimally and as it ordinarily would, therefore the body has no choice but to adapt. However, the risk of overtraining or overreaching syndrome is a possibility when training so frequently and at such an extreme level of depletion, and ones immune response may be compromised if glycogen levels are low. There is an element of risk associated with such training methods meaning due care and attention, as well as the supervision of a registered exercise or coaching practitioner should be afforded to the athlete in order to get the balance between adaptation (improvements in fitness) and breakdown (fatigue).

Metabolic and physiological adaptations play a part in ‘Training Low’ i.e. when you train in a depleted state, your body’s carbohydrate metabolism is forced to be more efficient and become better acquainted at drawing from fat and protein. Once the body thinks there is a chance it may become depleted again at some point, it ‘supercompensates’, meaning it’ll try to store more Carbs as Glycogen (once you replete after training low) in order to ready itself for the next bout of exercise.


Burke, L, M. (2003). The IOC consensus on sports nutrition : new guidelines for nutrition for athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 13;549-552.

Tipton, K, D. & Luc, J, C, van Loon. (2013). Nutritional Coaching Strategy to Modulate Training Efficiency. Training Low. Basel: Karger.


About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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