Minimum Effective Dose In Training
“The Dose makes the Poison.” -Paracelsus
The Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is a medical term used to describe the lowest dose of an intervention that will produce the desired result. Using anything in excess of the MED is wasteful and oftentimes counterproductive or harmful.
For example, if 300mg of medicine is enough to kill off an illness, 3,000mg of the same medicine doesn’t make it “more dead” – dead is dead. However, taking that large of a dose does put a tremendous strain on your body as it has to metabolize the mega-dose, possibly leading to larger and more serious problems.
The very thing that can improve your health could end up compromising it if the dose isn’t correct. Using just enough to accomplish the task at hand is prudent, using more is wasteful, dangerous and unproductive.
The MED isn’t just important in the medical context, it also has huge implications for your fitness and performance goals. A good training program is the closest thing to the fountain of youth that exists. Appropriately dosed training will help you reach any fat loss or performance goal that you have and will keep feeling young and full of energy. There is a point, however, where too much will have negative consequences.
Training is a stress and too much stress, too frequently is not a good thing. Between the hormonal effects and physical wear and tear of inappropriate dosing in training, the effects could be serious.
“Stimulate, don’t annihilate” -Lee Haney, 8x Mr. Olympia
Crushing yourself or your athletes with hard workout after hard workout, day in and day out will not lead to improved performance or fat loss, it will lead to broken bodies, decreased performance, burnout and quitting.
It’s the classic case of “if some is good, more must be better.” As we saw in the medication example above, that’s not usually the case. More is not better, better is better.
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” -Antoine de Saint Exupery
Training should enhance your life and make you feel better, look better and perform better. If your joints are hurting, your body always feels run down and you find yourself hating to train, there’s a good chance that your dosage is too high. Start looking at what you can take out of your program and still get the same results.
Here are some guidelines for applying the MED to your performance training.
- Lift 2-3 days per week. Unless you’re an advanced lifter, you get paid to lift weights or you compete in lifting competitions, 2-3 full body lifting sessions is adequate for your goals.
- Sprint short distances instead of running long distances. Mileage takes a toll on your body and your joints, keep your running short but intense (most of the time). Again, 2-3 days is plenty.
- Keep the volume for each lift between 15-25 reps and no more than 4-6 exercises each training session.
- Keep your training time under 4 hours per week and no more than 60-75 minutes at a time.
This is just a rough template and shouldn’t be considered absolute. There will be times throughout the year where other stressors are minimized and you can afford to turn your training dose up a notch or two for a few weeks if you choose. But most of the time, do just enough to accomplish the task at hand – no more, no less.
With the right dosage, training helps you lose fat and excel at your sport; with the wrong dosage it leaves you hurting, run down and miserable. Instead of forcing square pegs into round holes, keep the big picture in mind and apply the concept of the minimum effective dose to your training.