Healthy Eating for Men

When men think of healthy eating for some reason, they automatically think they have to eat salad. But we’re here to tell you, you can be healthy without having to resort to boring rabbit food!

healthy eating for men

Men and women aren’t that different when it comes to daily nutrition. Yes, men tend to have more muscle mass which increases their requirements compared to a female. But nutritionally speaking, men still need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to tick along each day. If you’re a ‘skip the veggies, pile on the meat’ type of guy, don’t worry we’re not about to suggest you turn your phone off and lock yourself at home eating chicken, broccoli and rice to meet your goals!

 

We surveyed all the men in our lives and found some common themes when it came to eating habits. Based on these findings, here are our Top Tips to Eating Healthy as a Dude while still balancing life and the bro-code.

 

Common Man Trend No. 1 – Skimping on the veggies

Veggies just get in the way of meat right?! Well depending on your age, 5-6 serves are recommended each day for men. This equates to 3 cups of vegetables or 6 cups of salad which we know can be hard to meet at times.

Hot Tip 1

Our biggest advice here is to try and add a serve or two to breakfast. Throw some spinach, tomato, mushrooms into the pan while you’re cooking your eggs and add some baked beans on the side. Or if you’re partial to something sweet for breakfast, give our carrot cake porridge a go! It’s far easier to meet your serves each day when you start early with 1-2 already ticked off before morning tea.

 

Common Man Trend No. 2 – Forgetting to trim the fat

Just because it’s attached to your steak doesn’t mean you should eat it! Leaving meat untrimmed can more than double the fat content and add over 500kJ to your meal. It’s also not a fat we need any more of in our diets.

Hot Tip 2

Try making a visual connection between the fat you’re eating and the energy it provides. That 500kJ is the same as an extra ½ cup of rice, a slice of bread, or a tub of yoghurt. Always trim the fatty rind off BEFORE cooking or avoid the temptation altogether and swap that rib-eye for a nice eye fillet without the fatty rind and heavy marbling to start with.

 

Common Man Trend No. 3 – Making it all about the meat

Overconsumption of protein, in particular red meat, is one of the most common downfalls for Australian men. It seems to stem from the common misconception that more protein equals more muscle mass. But in fact, excess protein is simply a waste, not to mention problematic for our health. High meat and in particular, red meat intake is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer (1). High meat consumption also leads to an increased intake of energy and saturated fat that over time can cause excess weight gain and a build-up of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your body.

Hot Tip 3

There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a good BBQ and red meat 2-3 times per week. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping red meat intake to 500g/week or less to decrease the risk of cancer. A great way to include red meat while not going overboard with 450g rumps is to make your own burger patties. Try our delicious homemade recipe for beef burgers HERE, they’re delicious!

 

Common Man Trend No. 4 – Falling into the cycle of after work drinks

It can be easy to fall into the habit of having ‘one or two’ drinks (or at least that’s what you tell your partner) after work each day to wind down, or perhaps a few more when catching up with friends over the weekend. Unfortunately, this common habit can negatively impact your health by increasing your energy intake, appetite and altering the way your body metabolises fat.

Hot Tip 4

Our advice is to enjoy one beer, or one glass of wine with a meal, but be careful not to let this become a daily event. If you’re joining your colleagues after work for a drink then try and opt for something non-alcoholic (just don’t tell them), or a choice that has a lower alcohol content like light beer so the overall quantity of the toxin entering your body is less. Avoid getting yourself into rounds as you lose all control when you’re part of the pack.

 

Common Man Trend No. 5 – Not adjusting your intake to reflect your activity

Most guys eat the same thing every day. But as your training load changes, so should your daily energy intake. It can be easier to remember to increase your intake on a heavy training day, as your body gives you hunger cues. But it’s the other way around that can be forgotten.

Hot Tip 5

If you didn’t end up going for that long run like you’d planned, or if you got too busy with work to get to the gym, think about scaling what you’re eating. We’re not saying starve yourself – but perhaps swap that large roll for a wrap or your rice out for potato. This will help you adjust your intake to reflect your activity without having to resort to rabbit food.

 

Common Man Trend No. 6 – Ignorance is bliss!

If you are unaware of recommended serving sizes for different food groups, then it becomes increasingly easy to miss the mark and either be eating too little or too much! Unfortunately, this strategy isn’t going to help you hit any training or nutritional goals.

Hot Tip 6

Try using visual measures of the food on your plate based on the following serve sizes:

  • Protein – aim for approximately the size of the palm of your hand

  • Carbohydrate – aim for approximately 1 fist on your plate for lunches and dinners

  • Salad/Vegetables – aim for 2 fists serves on your plate. 1 serve of veggies = ½ cup of cooked veg, 1 cup of salad. Remember you need 5-6 each day

 

Final Word

Life is about balance and we’re all about enjoying food. We firmly believe healthy eating shouldn’t be HARD or BORING. We challenge you to give our 7 hot tips for Healthy Eating for Men a go and see how you feel. We’re not asking you to eat rabbit food, just make some conscious decisions for your long term health. 

Comment below if you give any of these strategies a go! 👇🏼

 

References

(1). Cancer Council Australia (2013). Position Statement: Meat and Cancer Prevention. Retrieved from Cancer Council NSW https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/1752/cancer-prevention/diet-exercise/nutrition-diet/other-foods-nutrients/meat-and-cancer-3/

Eating for Entrepreneurs

Our Top 5 Tips for Mental Performance

Eating for Entrepreneurs.jpg

As busy business owners, eating well can often take a back-seat when there’s tight deadlines and a million other things to do! But when you’re busy, stressed and time-poor, it’s even more important to eat well to get the most out of your day.

Food is fuel for our bodies and our brain, so if you want to maximise your mental performance and get even more productive, try implementing our top 5 tips today:

1. Choose low GI, whole grains (avoiding white)

Choosing lower GI carbohydrate sources such a wholegrain breads and cereals, brown rice, legumes etc. slows the release of glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream and your brain. This avoids those sugar highs and lows, instead drip-feeding the release of fuel to your brain so you can focus better, with more clarity for longer.

2. Include oily fish at least 3 x per week

Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel are a great source of omega-3 fats which are critical for brain function and development. Don't like fish? Try taking a daily fish oil supplement to enhance your memory, learning and brain cell communication. Easy.

3. Meal prep a protein-rich lunch

Spend 30mins on the weekend setting your week up for success with a batch cooked lunch. Choose a lean protein source such as red meat, chicken, fish, eggs or tofu and serve with salad or veggies. Keeping carbohydrate to a minimum at lunch will help you stay awake for the afternoon and prevent 3:30-itis.

4. Caffeinate with strategy

Coffee or what we like to call 'Productivity Juice' is the worlds most socially acceptable stimulant. But too much can have negative effects. Excessive caffeine consumption can reduce your ability to focus on the one task, irritability, heart palpitations, hormone imbalances and insomnia. If you're a caffeine lover, aim to stick to a maximum of 2-3 x espresso shots/day. If you’re currently having double (or triple) this, work your way slowly back down by decreasing a shot a week until you’re back within an acceptable limit.

5. Avoid junk food

It's the high sugar load in junk food that will give you a quick pick-me-up (read: rapid rise in blood sugar), but then a massive crash 20-30minutes later. If you want to maximise your brain power, don't eat junk when you're trying to be productive. Pick yourself up with a quick walk around the block during a phone call instead to pump blood to your brain. Remember we want brain fuel drip fed throughout the day, not big spikes and crashes.

Take home message

Spend a little time on food preparation and organisation for the week to set yourself up for success. It only takes an hour or two on your “day off” but can save you many more hours during the chaos of the week. Try scheduling 1-2 hours in your calendar for planning, shopping and meal prep each week and set this to repeat. It doesn’t matter what day, as long as it’s there and it works for you. This will set your whole week up for success so you don’t have to think about what to eat, you just grab and run and keep your brain firing on all cylinders.

If these tips have helped you in any way, please share your experiences in the comments below 👇🏼

For more great #DietitianApproved tips, join the crew HERE

How to choose the best protein powder

We have a food first philosophy here at Dietitian Approved but in some instances, protein powders can have their time and place within a healthy and active lifestyle. As a supplement, that’s exactly what they should be used as; an addition to a balanced diet when you can’t get enough protein through real food for whatever reason.

Protein Powder


Here are some of the reasons we might advise using a protein powder:

  • For convenience. If like us, you have a busy lifestyle and seem to be always on the run!

  • To meet protein needs directly after a heavy strength specific session – where we are trying to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis (building new muscle)

  • To make sure your recovery meals tick all the boxes when you’re in a location where real food isn’t feasible. E.g. Post-racing where your recovery meal gets delayed while you’re waiting for your medal :)😂 Or if you struggle to eat post-exercise

  • To bump up the protein of a meal that’s otherwise inadequate to meet your needs. E.g. For those of you who don’t like adding yoghurt to your porridge

 

If you’re thinking about using a protein powder, you first need to ask yourself three questions:

1. Why am I using it?

2. Is it safe?

3. Is it necessary?

 

It’s all too easy to get caught up in clever marketing and the popular opinion that supplements are needed for optimal performance! Once you’ve answered these questions with legitimate answers, the next step is choosing the best protein powder for you. Here are our TOP TIPS to get the best bang for your buck!

1. Ensure it includes enough protein per serve

For optimal muscle protein synthesis look for ~20-30g of protein per serve. More doesn’t equal better when it comes to protein. Anything above this amount in one sitting is a waste as it doesn’t increase the rate of protein synthesis any further (1). And guess where it goes? Straight down the toilet! That’s right – we pee it out.

 2. Choose a protein of high biological value

Not all protein sources are created equal. This is measured by the biological value of the protein. High biological value means two things:
1) it contains all 9 essential amino acids (the ones our body can’t make itself) needed to build and repair muscle and
2) the ratio of these amino acids are similar to what is needed by our body (1).
High biological value proteins are typically whey or milk protein based, but includes egg and some soy proteins as well.

Plant based sources of protein are often missing essentials amino acids and are in a different ratio than what’s required by the body, making them lower in biological value (1). Not to say they are bad, as they can still be matched with a complimentary protein source to provide all essential amino acids between the two sources, but a larger quantity is likely needed as we don’t absorb these as well. Plant-based protein powders are a good choice if you’re vegan or sensitive to lactose or milk proteins.

Protein quality is also influenced by how fast it can be digested, meaning how quickly it can reach your muscles for synthesis and repair. Whey protein has both a high biological value and is rapidly digested, giving this protein powder a great big tick ✔️.  

3. Get enough Leucine

Leucine is a particular amino acid that works as a catalyst for muscle protein synthesis. It’s one of the building blocks required, but it’s also the switch that turns on muscle protein synthesis. Look for a protein that contains 2-3g of Leucine per serve (1). This amount is normally found in 20-25g of high biological value protein (animal protein sources such as whey and meats), but is something to look for when buying a plant-based protein as it can be added.

4. Skip the stimulants

Protein powders advertised to have an ‘energising’ effect can sometimes contain caffeine and other random ingredients. If you’re an evening trainer and plan to use protein powder post-session, avoid a product that contains stimulants. Even small amounts of caffeine can compromise your sleep quality and impact your recovery (check out our previous blog on sleep and recovery).

5. Beware of buzz words

These are the attention-grabbing words that usually sound fantastic but generally just add to the price tag not the quality.

One of our favourites: ‘Weight loss’

Consuming protein in itself will unfortunately not result in weight loss. Supplements with this word generally have an added stimulant or ‘fat-burner’ and we say that loosely as the evidence base on fat burner’s is not currently conclusive (3).

6. Less is more

Remember that the reason you are buying this supplement is for PROTEIN intake, so the smaller the number of ingredients listed, the better. Often cheaper powders contain creamers, emulsifiers, anti-caking agents and other random things to improve the texture of a lower quality product. Also be mindful of random herbs and words you’ve never heard of.

A big one to avoid is “propriety blend”. If the company isn’t open and honest about what a powder is made up of exactly – AVOID IT!

Most protein powders will also have added sugar or sweeteners to make it palatable. If you are choosing a sweetened product, opt for a non-nutritive sweetener like stevia or sucralose to improve the taste without increasing the energy density (2). 

Our Final word

Always try and meet your requirements with real food first! Milk, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, meat, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds are all great food options that provide protein.  

If you’re unsure if you can meet your requirements then sit down with an Accredited Sports Dietitian before going any further! Then if you decide to incorporate a protein powder choose a high quality protein like whey (unless you’re intolerant/vegan). Go for a brand with minimal ingredients and watch out for buzz words that add to the cost but don’t improve the quality.  

 ADDIT:

We’ve had lots of questions about which particular brands we use. In our cupboard at the moment is Venom WPI
Minimal ingredients, provides 27g of protein per serve, 3g of leucine, hormone-free, grass fed NZ cows and cost effective!
Use code TARYN10 to get 10% off at checkout
We don’t get any payment or commission for recommending this product (or any product for that matter), we just like it!

References:

(1)   Burke, L., & Deakin, V. (2015). Clinical Sports Nutrition (5th ed.). North Ryde, NSW: McGraw-Hill.

(2)   Azad, M., Abou-Setta, A., Chauhan, B., Rabbani, R., Lys, J., Copstein, L., Mann, A., et al. (2017). Non-nutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 189(28), 929-939. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.161390

(3)   Maughan, R., Burke, L., Dvorak, J., Larson-Meyer, D., Peeling, P., Phillips, S., Rawson, E., et al. (2018). IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. British Journal of Sports Medicine52(7), 439–455. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2018-099027

How to Beet Your Best Time and Get the Competitive Edge

Beetroot juice was the secret sauce for many athletes competing in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Lots of countries were using it, but it wasn’t until afterwards that the news about beetroot juice became public knowledge.

Many athletes are looking for that performance edge over their competitors. Most athletes have heard about it, but don’t know how to use it. If you’ve nailed the fundamentals of basic sports nutrition and are looking at taking your racing to the next level, it is essential to add beetroot juice to your race plan.

Why beetroot juice?

What is it about this vegetable that gives you a performance kick? The component responsible for the benefits of beetroot juice is Nitrate. It’s produced within our bodies and is also found in some of the foods we eat, particularly green leafy vegetables, beetroot, processed meats and the water supply.

But the nitrate content varies widely even among the same vegetable variety. Freshness and farming practices play a part in how much nitrate is present by the time it lands on your plate. Vegetables grown with nitrogen-containing fertilisers will have higher levels of nitrate. So if you choose organic produce, these will probably contain lower levels of nitrate compared to non-organic produce.

How does it work?

When ingested, nitrate is absorbed and rapidly converted into nitrite. This circulates in the blood and is converted to nitric oxide under conditions of low oxygen availability (just like when you exercise).

Nitric oxide is a versatile little compound that can improve some of the crucial components needed during exercise. It’s known to play a number of important roles in the regulation of blood flow, hormones and metabolism (1, 2). By using beetroot juice, it’s been shown to (1-3):

  • Reduce resting blood pressure

  • Reduce the oxygen cost of exercise - So you use less oxygen for the same amount of work

  • Reduce time trial performance

  • Increase fuel availability

  • Improve skeletal muscle contraction

  • Improve high-intensity performance

Ticking lots of boxes to allow you to work harder and faster before you reach exhaustion!

Who could it benefit?

Some of you may have already dabbled in beetroot juice supplementation and not noticed any difference. Or you don’t know how to properly use it to your advantage. In fact, you probably won’t be able to tell on a day to day basis. Some people are not as responsive as others...

When we look at the relationship between nitrate and oxygen efficiency you would expect the majority of the benefits to be seen in endurance events where oxygen cost is crucial. But in fact, current research shows inconsistent results in longer events of sub-maximal intensity (e.g. an Ironman) (3-5). More research is needed in this space. Whereas if we look at high-intensity exercise (>85-90% VO2max), where our body creates an acidic environment, this is perfect for nitric oxide conversion, helping to improve performance for this type of exercise (5).

Results can also depend on the personal conditioning of the athlete. If you have a higher proportion of Type II muscle fibres that are responsible for powerful bursts of movement, then you’ll likely see more benefit from nitrate use. Also, if you’re more on the beginner/weekend warrior end of the athlete spectrum, you’re more likely to see improvements compared to a highly trained, elite level athlete.

The protocol

More research is definitely needed, but current protocols suggest taking 5-6mmol (or ~300mg) 2-2.5hours before exercise. There are a few concentrated products that help you do this – Beet It (300mg) and Go Beet shots (260mg).

For longer events, e.g. triathlon, road cycling, marathons – 1 shot 2-2.5hrs before may not be enough, so add an additional shot closer to the start of the race (as tolerated).

Potential side effects

Good news here! The side effects appear to be few and far between. With the most common issue reported being temporary and harmless pink discolouration of urine and stools (1,3). Some athletes do report gastrointestinal tract discomfort (1,3) though so this is definitely something to trial in training before using for the first time on race day.

Take home message

In summary, if you’ve got the foundations nailed, want to race faster and improve your performance, make sure you look at introducing beetroot juice into your bag of tricks. If you want more great tips like these to enhance your performance, sign up for our regular newsletter where we share evidence-based sports nutrition tips for everyday athletes HERE.

We’re interested to hear from anyone that has played with beetroot juice supplements already so please comment below if you have and share your experiences!

Remember if you don’t use beetroot juice, chances are your rivals are and will have an advantage over you on race day. When you start using this secret sauce correctly, you’ll reach your full potential!

References

(1)  Burke, L., & Deakin, V. (2015). Clinical Sports Nutrition (5th ed.). North Ryde, NSW: McGraw-Hill.

(2)  Dyakova, E.Y., Kapilevich, L.V., Shylko, V.G., Popov, S.V., & Eanfinogenova, Y. (2015). Physical exercise associated with NO production: Signalling pathways and significance in health and disease. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, 3. doi:10.3389/fcell.2015.00019

(3)  Jones, A.M. (2014). Dietary Nitrate Supplementation and Exercise Performance. Sports Medicine, 44(1), p35-45. doi: https://doi-org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/10.1007/s40279-014-0149-y

(4)  Mcmahon, N.F., Leveritt, M.D., & Pavey, T.G. The Effect of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation on Endurance Exercise Performance in Healthy Adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 47(4), p735-756. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0617-7

(5)  Van De Walle, P., & Vukovich, D. (2018). The Effect of Nitrate Supplementation on Exercise Tolerance and Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 32(6), 1796–1808. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002046

Dietitian Approved Crew - Julie Davidson

“I turned into a Fitness freak and never thought I would learn so much about how my body and mind were connected and what I was truly capable of.”

It all started when I got divorced. Yes, life took a turn I wasn’t expecting but it lead me down a path of health and fitness.  I started doing Body Building as a distraction and yes if you're wondering, it’s the sport where you just eat chicken, broccoli and rice! Well not entirely true, but it definitely was a very strict way of eating. I did feel great, but it wasn’t really a good idea long term as it took me 20 weeks to prepare for 40 minutes of gratification.  I came 2nd in Queensland in my first competition and was blown away with how much my body changed.  I did this a couple of times but it really was a lot of hard work and it taught me some really bad habits about nutrition and flogging yourself at the gym.

INBA Comp 2007 Julie 014-1.jpg
Body Building

I wanted to learn everything I could about health and fitness and decided to make this my life’s passion by becoming a Personal Trainer and Massage Therapist.  I did this for quite some time and even landed a role to massage the QLD State of Origin Team (don’t hold that against me, I’m a Blues girl!)

Being a Leo, I don’t sit still for long so my adventurous side got the better of me when my friend suggested I try Crossfit.  I thought “how the heck am I going to do this?!” but sure enough, I loved it and got addicted!  It was the perfect way for me to keep motivated, be challenged every session and to become a part of a great community that supports you no matter how good (or bad) you are.

If that wasn’t enough, I also had a goal to be a runner.  Yes I know you think PT’s are always fit and can run. Well let me tell you that isn’t true! I didn’t really tell anyone and I joined a running group. The first session I literally thought my lungs were going to fall out onto the footpath! But my coach was so good with me - even though she knew I was a PT and should be fit, she totally got that running is a skill that has to be learnt, fit or not!  And yes, you guessed it, I became a runner!!  I even got up to running 10km at least twice a week. 

 Coming in to finish at New Farm Park Run

Coming in to finish at New Farm Park Run

At that time, my days were filled with running an outdoor fitness business for Mum’s and Bub’s, Crossfit 4 days a week and running 2 days.  And the only reason I was able to do this was with the help of my Sports Dietitian, Dietitian Approved.

Fast forward 12 months and another curve was sent my way… a back injury that absolutely flattened me, literally. Everything that I loved was put on hold.  I am recovering today but I had no idea what my clients had gone through all these years of me training them.  I heard their words, I even saw them cry with such frustration but now ‘I actually get it’. 

I was the only one that had to do the hard work to break through some pretty crazy habits and negative self-talk I had going on.  It was a long journey but after 2 years of seeing Taryn last week, this was the first time I didn’t drive straight to the shops after my skin folds to reward myself with a block of chocolate.  Yes, that’s what I did and wasn’t proud of myself but all I can see now is PROGRESS.

So for anybody that doesn’t believe that nutrition is the key to getting that body you desire or mental stability around food, then think again because it is and I am doing it without no more than 10 mins of walking a day!

Dietitian Approved Crew- Megan Piccardi

Name: Megan Piccardi

Current home location (where you live): Brisbane

Profession/Educational background: Lawyer

Sport of choice: Power lifting & sometimes runner

How many years have your been training for: I have been training for just over 2 1/2 years.

What got you into it? For running, I was never really a runner and decided one day that I wanted to push myself and do a fun run. My first fun run was City 2 South in Brisbane and I loved it! If you are a runner, you will understand that running & fun runs are addictive so I kept looking for fun runs to enter which lead me to the Vienna City Half Marathon & Disneyland Half Marathon. I love running overseas as it is a great way to see the sights and it keeps you accountable while you are overseas.

I got into power lifting as I had just started strength training and I really enjoyed it. I changed gyms and felt a little insecure in the weights area so I got in touch with Alesha Pimm from Building Elite to help me gain some confidence lifting weights. It is here that I learnt what power lifting was and I fell in love with the sport. I have now competed in 4 novice competitions. I love the competition day environment, everyone is so supportive and they just want to see you do well. 

What’s your favourite training session? deadlifts with a conditioning circuit to finish. 

Events for 2018: Pretty & Powerful in October - 3 lift all female novice competition

Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, what are your bigger goals for your sporting career: Although my training has been focused on power lifting lately I still love (sometimes hate) running and I would love to run a full marathon one day. For power lifting I would love to be able to compete at a national level one day. 

What’s your biggest achievement in your sport so far: 120kg deadlift

Do you have a saying or motto you live your life by? The body will achieve what the mind believes. 

What are one or two things you do in your day to day training life that you feel are keys to your success? I train every morning even if I don't feel motivated to. 

Three things you can’t live without?

1. My husband 

2. My puppy, Winnie

3. Beyoncé 

Favourite food: Ice cream 

Favourite post-training meal or snack? Protein oats with berries or a smoothie....... yum! 

What’s the number 1 (or 2) thing you’ve learnt about sports nutrition for performance in your sport?

1. Spreading protein throughout the day is important to promote muscle recovery. 

2. It is important to eat within 30 mins from training to optimise recovery & helps me feel fuller throughout the day. 

Great Southern Run Half Marathon

Eating for Immunity

Now that the colder months are upon us, it’s time to be proactive with our nutrition for the best immune system defence. 

For active people, immune function plays a role not only in fighting off infections, but also in promoting tissue repair to recover from exercise and injury1. To function properly, the immune system requires lots of nutrients – both macro and micronutrients. For an athlete under heavy training load, requirements are even higher putting you at risk of a supressed immune system if you’re not meeting your needs.

To help you stay well over the colder months, we’ve put together a few key points to keep you firing on all cylinders this winter!

1. Rest and Recovery is Key

Regardless of the type or intensity, exercise places stress on the body – meaning your immune system has to work harder to build and repair damaged tissue1. Moderate training loads can be protective against illness by boosting the immune system. Whereas heavy training loads, particularly with high intensity sessions, compromise the immune system. Our immune system is down for up to 72 hours following high intensity training, making this a key time for susceptibility, especially if you train outside where you’re more likely to pick up bacteria from the road3.

This is where rest and recovery is key to prevent unwanted illness and the decreased performance and sick days that follow! Although these effects are transient in the majority of people, if you’re doing continual intense exercise with minimal rest, your immune system can be compromised long term. Sometimes it’s hard to stop, but don’t ever underestimate the importance of rest days!

2. Avoid Low Energy Availability

Energy Availability refers to the amount of energy left available to support regular body functions, (like your immune response), once energy has been expended on exercise1. When we don’t have enough energy available to meet our daily demands, we’re fighting an uphill battle already. Even before injury or infection occurs. If you then pick up a bug, the body is not adequately equipped to fight it off and chances are you’ll get sick.

Endurance athletes in particular need to ensure their energy intake matches their energy expenditure – a true skill where training volumes fluctuate across the week, months and year. You shouldn’t eat the same thing each day unless you’re training is exactly the same each day. Boost your immune function by scaling up on heavier training days and having some strategies in place to eat appropriately for a rest day. A Sports Dietitian is your best point of call for how to do this for your program.

3. Carbohydrate is Protective

Carbohydrate contributes to meeting our daily energy needs but is often the first thing to be thrown out the window when trying to lose weight. However, training in a carbohydrate depleted state, or not refuelling properly can be a contributing factor to impaired immunity.

After sustained exercise there’s an automatic release of stress hormones. These hormones in excess (think cortisol) suppress the body’s immune response immediately following a training session, leaving us susceptible to infectious agents2. When training in a glycogen depleted state (low carbohydrate stores), this stress hormone release is markedly increased2. But by ensuring we have enough carbohydrate in our diet to support the demands of training, we can blunt the release of stress hormones and reduce the stress placed on the immune system2. If you’re constantly getting sick, consider adding carbohydrate during some of your aerobic exercise sessions as this can help to reduce inflammation, support the immune system and decrease recovery time2.

If you are unsure of your individual carbohydrate requirements, meet with a sports dietitian to calculate the correct amount and timing for your training schedule.

4. Eat the Rainbow

Fruit and vegetables contain a wide range of different micronutrients with varying roles within the body. Many of which are involved in immune function such as iron, vitamin C and D, and zinc1,2. Athletes with even mild deficiencies in any of these micronutrients can have an altered immune response1.

The easiest way to ensure you’re getting enough micronutrients is to consume a wide variety of different fruit and vegetables. Eat the rainbow! If you find yourself always reaching for the same two or three varieties, it may be time to change it up! If you’re in need of some serious inspiration, check out our earlier blog on how to make veggies tasty!

5. Prevent dehydration

Unfortunately it’s not only food you need to watch out for, being dehydrated can also contribute to a compromised immune system. During the colder months it’s easy to forget to drink but it’s just as important. One of the front line defences of the immune system is immune proteins in our saliva. When we’re dehydrated, the levels of these proteins decreases, meaning our initial defence to bacteria entering through the mouth is also decreased1,2. So don’t wait to feel thirsty before you drink up, carry a water bottle with you (everywhere!) and keep sipping throughout the day.

Take Home

Like everything else, there’s no magic pill to boost your immunity. Plan rest days and some lighter training weeks, eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, and ensure you’re meeting your energy and carbohydrate requirements. Sleep well, wash your hands before eating and stay well this winter.

Happy training!

 

References

(1) Burke, L., & Deakin, V. (2015). Clinical Sports Nutrition (5th ed.). North Ryde, NSW: McGraw-Hill.

(2)  Gleeson, M., Nieman, D., & Pedersen, B. (2004). Exercise, nutrition and immune function. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22(1), 115–125. doi:10.1080/0264041031000140590

(3) Seher Çağdaş Şenişik. (2015). Exercise and the immune system. Turkish Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(1), 11–20.

(4) Nutrition and the Immune System. (2018). Nutrition Health Review. 118(1), p13.

 

Dietitian Approved Crew - John Alexander

Introducing John! The Fit Chef.

In the last few years, John has literally turned his life around. Peaking at 182kg and getting puffed chasing his daughter around, John knew he had to do something. One step at a time (literally) he's lost a whopping 70kg. He now loves to ride flat out with the CCC boys and is gearing up for 160km at the Noosa Classic this month. Welcome to the #DietitianApprovedCrew Chef!

Name:  John Alexander

Current home location (where you live): Tingalpa (Bayside Brisbane)

Profession/Educational background: Executive Chef

Sport of Choice:  Cycling with a side of Triathlon

How many years have you been training and competing in your sport? I have been cycling for a bit over 2 years now

What got you into it in the first place? When I started riding I was 186.4kg. Cycling was the next step for me to get fit and drop weight.  It was a laugh as I was on a mountain bike to start off with and a 15km ride was an EPIC morning out. Now I regularly clock 200km weeks.

What’s your favourite training session? Group rides with the CCC crew. We go alright for a group with an average age of 43 (I’m not that old), belting out a 60-80km ride at an average above 31km/hr.

Main Competition/Event/s for 2018: Currently training for the Noosa Classic 160km ride (with 2.1km elevation) as I have been asked by Bicycle Queensland and the coordinators of the Noosa Classic to be an Ambassador for the Ride. This is sensational for me as 3 years ago I would not have even bothered with it… now it’s a challenge.

Upcoming Competition: I am booking in for 4 of the Gatorade Sprint Triathlons, in the Clydesdale Category.  First one is in September at Redlands

Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, what are your bigger goals for your sporting career: I will be getting sorted for my first ever Olympic distance triathlon (running is not my favourite thing) but will give it a go.  I’m also looking at the Kraken in Yeppoon 2019.

What’s your biggest achievement in your sport so far: I have completed 4 x Sprint Triathlons and in the last one I competed in I got a Bronze Medal in the Clydesdale division!!! Something I never thought I would be able to achieve as I‘ve never been in a club and I have just had advice from friends in what to do and how to go faster. I have the bike down no worries but transition … oh dear.  

Do you have a saying or motto you live your life by?

Saying: Can’t, Won’t, Don’t are three words that will not be used when training!!!

Motto: “If your legs are hurting tell them this is normal” (James - Head Captain of the CCC) It sounds better when yelled in an Yorkie accent.

What are one or two things you do in your day to day training life that you feel are keys to your success? Always give it 100% when training. It helps clear my head from my work and it feels cleansing when you have put in a great session. It makes it easier to then head off to work for a 12hr day on your feet or when stuck in meetings for a few hours of it.

Three things you can’t live without?

  1. My Daughter Mikayla – She’s also my training partner for swimming and running as she has never gotten a handle on the bike.
  2. My Bike
  3. My Sunglasses

Favourite food: Steak…. Wagyu Steak

Favourite post-training meal or snack? Weet Bix, banana, local honey, milk and a bit of yoghurt

What’s the number 1 (or 2) thing you’ve learnt about sports nutrition for performance in your sport?

  1. Eat less steak and more vegetables, fruits, grains etc …. LOL (You knew that was coming)
  2. The main thing that I have learnt is that healthy foods can also have flavour. You can eat better foods/fuel to keep your energy up longer so you don’t get just a sugar hit and then crash.

What awesome progress you've made John! We can't wait to see you smash the Noosa classic. 

Reflections of a 2 x Iron(wo)man

I feel Ironman is achievable for everyone, don’t be intimidated by the distance, embrace the challenge. You won’t regret it
— Bec Baird

 I never thought I’d do an Ironman. Triathlon was just another way to challenge myself – except my challenges just kept getting bigger and bigger! I believe that every race is a learning experience and I try to find new ways to improve when I reflect post-race. Now that I have 2 Ironman’s (IM) under my belt, here are the Top Three things I learnt from and changed between Ironman 1 in Cairns 2017 and Ironman 2 for Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie 2018. 

  1. Fuel Your Body - In the lead up to IM Cairns I was not consuming enough food during training to fuel my every day needs, cue falling asleep at 2pm during work and lots of hangry moments. IM Australia was much more organised. I followed a periodised nutrition plan from Dietitian Approved to ensure there was no midday drowsiness, even on my bigger training days, only the occasional hangry moment (who doesn’t have those!?) and plenty of energy to smash training.  
  2. Practice Makes Perfect – I did a lot of my training with friends for IM Cairns which made the 5+ hour rides a lot less lonely. But come race day, I got very lonely and fatigued at the back end of the bike - at one stage I wondered if the race was still going! For IM Australia I made a point of trying to do a lot of solo riding in training where possible and I believe this gave me a much more positive mindset come race day. 
  3. Knowledge is Power – Nerves were not an issue with either IM but lack of experience was. How was my body going to hold up during my 12+ hours of racing? My “weakness” is my run leg and after blowing up fairly early on the run in IM Cairns I knew I had to have a better plan for IM Australia. Taryn made some big changes in my bike nutrition to ensure I was getting the right amount of fuel without any gut issues. Combined with a well-controlled run leg, this made for a much happier race and faster, consistent run splits! 

Whilst I was reflecting on the differences, it also gave me time to remember the things that didn’t change. One thing that was a constant between both races was the love and support I received from my friends and family. It was unwavering, and I am truly grateful (you all know who you are). Triathlon is an individual sport, but it takes a team to get you there. Thank you to everyone on my team. I feel Ironman is achievable for everyone, don’t be intimidated by the distance, embrace the challenge - make a plan, build your support team (coach, dietitian, massage, training buddies) and go for it! You won’t regret it. 

Thanks to DA Crew member Bec Baird for sharing her reflections with us!

Nutritionist vs Dietitian vs Sports Dietitian

What is a Dietitian and Nutritionist?

We constantly get asked to explain the difference between a Dietitian and Nutritionist. Yes they're different and yes we will always correct you when you call us a Nutritionist. Read on to find out why we get slightly offended ;) 

 

Australia currently does not regulate the professional titles ‘nutritionist’ or 'dietitian', leaving a wide market for misinformation if you do not do your own research. The media also tends to use the two terms  interchangeably, making distinctions between qualifications increasingly difficult. Read on as we break down the differences between these professions, their relevant qualifications, what they can do for you and what to look for when looking for a professional.

Nutritionist

This term can be the most confusing of the three, as there are varying levels of qualifications that result in the title ‘nutritionist’. Nutrition is a three year university degree, but there is currently no regulation over this title in Australia, meaning anyone can call themselves a nutritionist if they want, even you. Even if they have only completed a 20 minute online lecture!

The Nutrition Society of Australia is currently attempting to clear up confusion with a voluntary registration that requires a minimum three year tertiary degree, or relevant years of work experience, to gain the title Registered Nutritionist (RNutr). Nutritionists have completed study pertaining to community and public health, food science and food policy. They are qualified to offer broad health advice, however are not qualified to deliver individualised medical nutrition therapy. In Australia, every dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist can call themselves a dietitian unless they've gone on to complete further study. Confusing right?! 

Dietitian

A dietitian is a person with a 4 year University education in Nutrition & Dietetics. They are qualified to provide individualised, evidence-based nutrition advice after undergoing a course of study with substantial theory and practice in medical nutrition therapy.  They are classified as the quality standard for nutrition advice by the Australian Government, meaning they are covered by Medicare health rebates and recognised by most private health funds.

Once again the term ‘dietitian’ is not specifically controlled, however you can trust that professionals who carry the title Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) have completed a minimum four year tertiary degree and must undertake many hours of continual professional development to uphold their qualification each year. See a general dietitian if you need assistance with a chronic disease, weight management or just want to improve your overall health. 

Sports Dietitian

A Sports Dietitian has gone on to complete further study to become experts in Sports Nutrition. They must be an Accredited Practicing Dietitian first, with a minimum of one year clinical experience, along with completion of additional study in the field of nutrition for sporting performance. Sports Dietitians are the guru’s on optimising athletic performance through food. Their services aren’t just for professional athletes, they can (and do!) assist everyday exercisers to get that little bit more out of their training. See a Sports Dietitian if you're an exerciser of any level and want to:

  • Develop a plan to help you reach your ideal body composition (fat loss/muscle gain)

  • Get specific dietary advice to get the most out of your training/exercise/sport

  • Maximise your recovery

  • Make weight prior to competition without having to starve yourself

  • Get sports supplement advice for the performance edge

  • Carbohydrate load for endurance events

  • Get tips on sticking to your nutrition plan with a busy lifestyle

  • Healthy athleat friendly recipe ideas
    Plus many many more

Accredited Practicing Dietitians and Sports Dietitians are both fantastic resources and have a wealth of knowledge to assist you in reaching your goals. Our founder Taryn has completed more than 6 years of study and continues to clock numerous hours of ongoing education to maintain an Advanced Sports Dietitian status. Now you'll know why her nostrils flare a little when you call her a Nutritionist ;)

Sarah's Tips for the First Time Ironman

Now that she's an Ironman, we asked Sarah to reflect on her experiences and share what she learnt from the day. Here are her top 5 tips for anyone out there embarking on their own first Ironman journey. 

 

  1. STICK TO THE PLAN!! The days leading up to the race and particularly on race day, you'll be a ball of nerves and not thinking clearly at all. No matter what advice you receive from the well-meaning seasoned athletes who have done a billion Ironman races already... Never, ever, steer away from the plan. DO WHAT YOUR DIETITIAN TELLS YOU. The golden rule of racing - never try anything new on race day!
     
  2. ENJOY YOURSELF. Make sure you enjoy every second of the race because the day goes by way too fast. On the day you are so busy caught up in staying focused that the hours just fly by you. No matter how exhausted you are, take in that finish line chute because they really make you feel like a rockstar.
     
  3. DON'T EVER DOUBT YOURSELF! When you taper, your head will start to try and convince you that you aren't ready to take on this event. You will start to worry about things that have never even crossed your mind. Trust your program, trust your training and always back yourself.
     
  4. THANK THE VOLUNTEERS. Those people are just incredible and the lengths they go to to help you out are just amazing. When it's getting late into the night and a lot of spectators have gone home with their athletes, the volunteers will still be out there screaming cheers for you, giving you water and food and going above and beyond to help get you to the finish line.
     
  5. BE POSITIVE. When it starts to get tough on course, reflect back to all the achievements you have made to get to the start line. Think of the sacrifices, the hours spent on the bike, the laps in the pool and the pavement you pounded every day... You are better than your head it telling you, stay on track and go get it!

- Sarah Leuenberger

Intermittent Fasting: Breaking down the evidence

Intermittent Fasting; the latest in diet trends. Claiming health benefits from weight loss to prevention of chronic disease. Is it really the answer to the world’s health problems? We take a look at the evidence...

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What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting encompasses several different dietary behaviours, all of which focus on controlling the period in which food is consumed. These behaviours dictate a fasting and feeding schedule of various lengths. However, there isn't a restriction placed on the TYPES of foods consumed during feeding times.

Different types of intermittent fasting:

The three most popular methods that are circulating the health and fitness industry are:

  • Time-Restricted Feeding 
    Daily fasting for a minimum of 12 hours (the most common fast is 16 hours, with 8 hours during the day to eat, for example only eating between 11am and 7pm).

  • Alternate Day Fasting 
    Involves cycling between one day of “fasting” and one day of consuming your regular diet. On the “fasting” day, you consume less than ~25% of your daily energy requirements. For an average adult this equates to  ~2175kJ – or roughly equivalent to your lunchtime chicken sandwich.

  • The 5 and 2 Method 
    This involves energy restriction to less than 25% of requirements for two non-consecutive days per week. While 5 days you eat as per usual.

The health benefits

Intermittent fasting has been shown to cause significant weight loss in short-term studies, varying from 4-8% loss of body weight within 6-12 weeks (3-5, 7). However, when this was compared to a constant control of energy intake there appears to be no difference in weight loss between the groups (3-5). Findings did point to less loss of fat-free mass (our muscle) during intermittent fasting, demonstrating that it may be a more efficient method to prevent loss of lean muscle mass during weight loss periods (4-5).

Intermittent fasting has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, however with the current research available it is difficult to observe if benefits are unique to fasting, or if they simply occur as a result of weight loss. These benefits include improvements in cholesterol (lowered LDL and total cholesterol), triglycerides, blood pressure, and inflammatory and oxidative stress markers (3-4). Fat loss also produces changes in circulating levels or certain adipokine’s (proteins released by fat cells) which has a protective effect on the progression of cardiovascular disease and cancer (3-4). Fasting has also shown decreases in fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, good news for the prevention and management of Type 2 Diabetes (3-4). Despite these preliminary benefits, current research remains largely inconclusive, highlighting a need for further long-term human studies.

Is it an option for athletes?

When considering changing up your dietary routine, one of the most important questions to ask is, “is it sustainable in the long term for your lifestyle?”. Whether a recreational athlete or a serious competitor, having enough fuel in the tank is essential to get through long, hard training sessions. Incorporating extended periods of fasting and depleting fuel stores, while continuing to attempt a high training load is counterproductive.

We know that lower intensity exercise draws predominantly on fat as a fuel source. While higher intensities have an increased reliance on carbohydrate as a fuel. With insufficient fuel at high intensities, you slow down to allow the body to utilise more fat as a fuel. In both professional and recreational athletes, VO2 max decreased by up to 12% during an intermittent fasting routine (2).  However, regardless of type or intensity of exercise, all athletes reported feeling higher levels of fatigue (1-2).

So if your daily training routine is more aerobic, slow and steady style, then fasting may not impact too much on performance; although you might not feel quite as light on your feet! Planning rest days or shorter, easier, recovery type sessions on fasting days could be the way around this. If you’re more interested in short, sharp, high-intensity sessions, you would struggle to get the best performance out of your session in a prolonged fasted state.

Recovery is also significantly impacted if you’re not able to refuel after a session. The ingestion of protein and carbohydrate post-exercise increases muscle synthesis and replenishes glycogen stores. If you’re unable to adequately refuel post-exercise or even during the following 24 hours, this can result in muscle breakdown and inadequate energy stores to complete training on subsequent days (8). In summary, it would be difficult to incorporate intermittent fasting with a heavy training load, however, there are certain adjustments you could make to try and minimise negative effects:

  1. Choose time-restricted feeding over other fasting patterns, this allows for adequate fuel intake EVERY day and will have the smallest negative impact on recovery.
  2. If choosing a fasting technique where intake on certain days is less than 25% of requirements, ensure protein intake is adequate to prevent muscle breakdown after training. Intake of 20-30g of protein following a session and regularly distributed throughout the day is a good place to start! (8) 
  3. Plan training sessions OUTSIDE of fasting times if possible to minimise the effect on performance.
  4. Stay HYDRATED to prevent further fatigue on your body. Sometimes when we’re not eating we also forget to drink!

Playing devil's advocate

In our opinion, any form of dietary restriction should come with a big fat warning sign! These behaviours can result in increased hunger levels and overeating outside of fasting times. We commonly see people on the 2 and 5 diet binge eat on their 5 days of “normal” eating, completely negating any effect of the 2 days of fasting! Our body is great at playing catch up. Other negative effects to highlight include irritability and an inability to focus, so proceed with caution as everyone is different and fasting may not suit you (or your family!). Extra effort should also be placed on consuming a balanced diet in the hours of feeding to ensure you are still getting everything you need.

The final word

Although intermittent fasting is praised at times, there is still inadequate research to promote it globally as a superior method for weight loss or prevention of chronic disease. Yes, there are several proposed benefits, however, these could simply be seen as a result of weight loss itself. Fasting also requires significant effort to ensure dietary intake is adequately met and for athletes, alterations to your training schedule so performance is minimally affected. The best diet is the one you can stick to! If fasting is something you want to consider - see an Accredited Dietitian who can ensure you’re getting everything you need across the week, no matter what fasting program you’re on.

 

References

(1) Chaouachi, J., Coutts, P., Chamari, P., Wong, P., Chaouachi, P., Chtara, P., Roky, P., et al. (2009). Effect of Ramadan Intermittent Fasting on Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance and Perception of Fatigue in Male Elite Judo Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(9), 2702–2709. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bc17fc

(2) Chaouachi, A., Leiper, J., Chtourou, H., Aziz, A., & Chamari, K. (2012). The effects of Ramadan intermittent fasting on athletic performance: Recommendations for the maintenance of physical fitness. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30, S53. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1026565523/

(3) Patterson, R., & Sears, D. (n.d.). Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annual Review of Nutrition, 37, 371–393. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634

(4) Anton, S., Moehl, K., Donahoo, W., Marosi, K., Lee, S., Mainous, A., Leeuwenburgh, C., et al. (2018, February). Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity. doi:10.1002/oby.22065

 (5) Harvie, M., & Howell, A. (2017). Potential Benefits and Harms of Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Amongst Obese, Overweight and Normal Weight Subjects-A Narrative Review of Human and Animal Evidence. Behavioral Sciences, 7(1), 4. doi:10.3390/bs7010004

(6) Maughan, R., Fallah, J., & Coyle, E. (2010). The effects of fasting on metabolism and performance. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(7), 490. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.072181

(7) Varady, K. (2011). Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss? Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 12(7), e593. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00873.x

(8) Burke, L. (2010). Fasting and recovery from exercise. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 44,502-508. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2007.071472

Sleep and Athletic Performance

Sleep is essential for general health and wellbeing. 

The more we learn, the more we realise that increased sleep duration and quality is associated with better performance in sport and life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each day for optimal health (1). But it's not clear exactly how much sleep athletes need. It's been suggested athletes require more - closer to 9-10 hours (2). But duration is not the only factor - sleep quality is also important. Getting the right amount of good quality sleep has some incredible benefits for athletic performance. Let's take a deeper look... 

Recovery

 Image source: Getty images

Image source: Getty images

For an athlete, sleep is the ultimate form of recovery. It's like a big sponge that soaks up fatigue overnight. This sponge assists with the recovery process so we can adapt from and absorb hard training. The bigger the sponge (sleep duration), the more water (fatigue) it can soak up. 

It's in the deep sleep phases (Stage 3 and 4 NREM) during the first half of the night that we do most of our physical recovery and repair.

The light sleep stages which make up approximately 50% of a total nights sleep (Stage 1 and 2) are also key to both physical and neural recharge overnight. If we don't spend enough time in these phases, we wake up feeling foggy.

Sleep is a WEAPON
— Jason Bourne

Reaction time, coordination and accuracy

It's in Stage 5 (REM) sleep where our brains recovery, learning and development occurs. We create new nerve pathways to consolidate and repair memories, skills and process information. Side note - it's also where we release testosterone (in both men and women). Research suggests that sleep deprivation delays the signals which travel along these pathways, decreasing our coordination and accuracy (2). So much so that inadequate sleep has been likened to being drunk! Williamson and Feyer (2000) demonstrated the longer the duration without sleep (up to 23 hours), performance in cognitive tasks, motor skills, speed and accuracy decreased to levels equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1%. Twice the legal driving limit in Australia!

The duration of REM sleep increases as the night progresses, with the longest duration occurring just before waking. So get to bed early to ensure you get the beneficial effects on mental performance more REM sleep brings.

Injury & illness

Decreased sleep has been associated with an increased risk of injury and illness. Inadequate sleep is immunosuppressive, increasing our risk of upper respiratory tract infections. In a study of 164 adults administered nasal drops containing rhinovirus, those who slept for less than 5hrs were 4.5 times more likely to develop an illness than those that slept for greater than 7hrs (4).

Being sick or injured reduces training availability and is obviously something we want to avoid. The underlying mechanism for increased injury with sleep loss is unclear but is likely due to cognitive impairment and decreased reaction time, along with higher levels of fatigue. All of which can increase an athletes risk of injury.

Mental stamina and mood

Striving to be fitter, faster and stronger doesn’t just require physical effort, it also requires mental stamina. Feeling mentally drained will impact your mood and we all know that missing out on a good nights rest can alter how we think and feel. People who sleep for less than five hours are often sadder, angrier and more stressed (2) which is linked with low motivation and decreased sports performance (5).

Endurance performance

Not a lot is known about sleep deprivation and its effect on short, sharp, anaerobic power type exercise, but a number of studies have shown decreased endurance performance (6, 7, 8, 9).  Sleep loss clearly resulted in increasing 3km time trial duration in cyclists (7), decreased time to exhaustion in volleyball players (6) and decreased treadmill run distance covered in a 30 minutes self-paced test (9). This appears to be due to an increase in our perception of effort (how hard you feel you're working) (8). It may also be due to an alteration in substrate availability as pre-exercise muscle glycogen (our carbohydrate fuel tank) has been found to be decreased after sleep deprivation (10). 

Improve sleep efficiency

Multiple studies show the significant implications sleep deprivation has on performance. From impaired accuracy, coordination and reaction time, fatigue, inadequate recovery, to increased risk of injury and illness. So what can we do to improve our sleep efficiency - both duration and quality?

  • Get to bed earlier, aiming to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Stop using your phone in bed. The blue light it emits affects our normal sleep hormone production (melatonin)
  • Ensure all of your devises are set up with night mode so they switch to a more warm, orange hue after sunset.
  • Make your sleep environment comfortable, dark, cool and quiet
  • Establish a regular sleep routine
  • Eat foods that assist with promoting sleep - more on this next time!

Next up - we take a look at food to boost sleep performance. Stay tuned!

 

References

 1. Hirshkowitz et al., (2015). National Sleep Foundation's updated sleep duration recommendations: final report. Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation. 1(4), 233-243

2. Bird, S, P. (2013). Sleep, recovery, and athletic performance: a brief review and recommendations. Journal of Strength and Conditioning. 35:43-47.

3. Williamson, A., Feyer, A. (2001). Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57: 649-655.

4. Prather, A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. and Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviuorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep. 38: 1353-1359.

5. Totterdell, P., Reynolds, S., Parkinson, B., & Briner, R. (1994). Associations of Sleep with Everyday Mood, Minor Symptoms and Social Interaction Experience. Sleep, 17(5), 466-475.

6. Azboy, O, Kaygisiz Z. (2009). Effects of sleep deprivation on cardiorespiratory functions of the runners and volleyball players during rest and exercise. Acta Physiologica Hungarica. 96, 29-36.

7. Chase et al. (2017). One night of sleep restriction following heavy exercise impairs 3-km cycling time-trial performance in the morning. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism. 1-7

8. Fullagar, H, H, Skorski S, Duffield R, et al. (2015). Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Med. 45, 161-86.

9. Oliver, S, Costa, R, Laing, S, et al. (2009). One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 107, 155-61.

10. Skein, M, Duffield, R, Edge, J., et al. (2011). Intermittent-sprint performance and muscle glycogen after 30 h of sleep deprivation. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise; 43: 1301-11.

11. Watson, A. (2017). Sleep and Athletic Performance. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 16(6), 413-418.

The Different Stages of Sleep

Many of us think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down, but in fact what happens when our head hits the pillow is quite the opposite. Sleep is a dynamic process – our brain changes its state many times as we pass through the five stages of sleep in approximately 90-minute cycles. The first four stages of sleep make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and the fifth stage is when rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep occurs.

Across NREM sleep we move from very light sleep during Stage 1 to very deep sleep in Stage 4. It’s very difficult to wake a person who is in Stage 4 sleep. Typically, our eyes do not move during NREM and we have low muscle activity, although all of our muscles are still able to function.

                Stage 1 – Very Light sleep: We drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily.

                Stage 2 – Light sleep: Where eye movement ceases.

                Stage 3 & 4 – Deep sleep: We’re difficult to wake and have no eye movement or muscle activity.

                Stage 5 – REM sleep

During Stage 5 or REM sleep our brain waves are as active as when we are awake and breathing becomes more rapid. The limb muscles are temporarily paralysed, our body does not move, eyes can dart rapidly in all directions and we dream vividly.

A typical night under the covers isn’t simply four to six of these 90-minute sleep cycles pieced together. In the first two to three cycles of shut-eye we spend most of our time in deep Stage 3 and Stage 4 (NREM) sleep. During the final two to three cycles we enter more REM sleep which is accompanied by some lighter NREM sleep. 

Cycling through the sleep stages is important for preventing tiredness and irritability the next day and maximising the benefits of sleep. Next up, we’re taking a look at how sleep can boost performance. Stay tuned!

Dietitian Approved Crew - Sarah Leuenberger

Introducing Sarah!

Sarah came to see us in August 2017 with the primary goal to get off the couch and keep Hubby happy on the weekends after big training sessions. She's gone from strength to strength and is gearing up for her Ironman debut at Port Macq in a few weeks time. We're excited to share her story with you and can't wait to see her become an IronWoman next month.

Tweed Enduro

Name: Sarah Leuenberger 

Current home location (where you live): Brisvegas 

Profession/Educational background:  Assistant bean counter studying to be an official bean counter (accounting) 

Sport of Choice: Triathlon  

How many years have you been training and competing in your sport? 3 years since my first triathlon  

What got you into it in the first place? 
I have always been interested in triathlon but was never brave enough to try one (plus I couldn’t run down the street even if a pack of wolves were chasing me :).  My work offered free entry to a friendly non-competitive corporate triathlon which was a nice enticer distance. Even though I thought I was going to have a heart attack during the 4km run, I finished it with a smile and was completely hooked. 

What’s your favourite training session?  
I always enjoy my bike sessions. I love exploring and taking in my surroundings. Rides are always therapeutic especially as they generally end with a caffeine fix.   

Main Competition/Event/s for 2018: Ironman Australia on the 6th May; it will be my first Ironman distance event! 

Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, what are your bigger goals for your sporting career: 
My main goal is to continually improve and always try new challenges. I love the feeling of doing something amazing and I also love getting out of my comfort zone. I haven’t thought too much about what my next event will be, I just want to keep having fun and keep inspiring my kids and friends to get active and involved in fitness.  

What’s your biggest achievement in your sport so far:
Hmmm that’s a tough one as if you asked 5 years ago Sarah if she could do half of the things 2018 Sarah has achieved then she would laugh in your face and tell you that “you cray cray”. I think my stand out moment would be when I rode my bike from Brisbane to Sydney with some friends. We did the trip over 6 days and we had the best time. It was very challenging at times and backing up each day was hard work but we got to see some parts of Australia that you just can’t appreciate as much when you drive through in a car. 

Do you have a saying or motto you live your life by? 
My very favourite quote is one said by Audrey Hepburn and it is, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible”. I try and remind myself of this quote each and every day. The only thing stopping me from being great is the doubts I allow to enter my head. Get rid of those doubts and anything is achievable. 

What are one or two things you do in your day to day training life that you feel are keys to your success?  

  1. Like I said, I never doubt myself, as soon as I let the negative thoughts enter my head then it’s game over.  
  2. Always be open to push out of your comfort zone, no matter how scary it seems. Like they say, out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. 
Sarah Tweed Enduro.JPG

Three things you can’t live without? My family, coffee and my bike. 

Favourite food: Mexican for suuuure! Love it, the more spice the better…now I want some Mexican food immediately…damn it. 

Favourite post-training meal or snack? Sarah’s Secret Smoothie, I would tell you what’s in it but then I’d have to kill you. Let’s just say it may or may not involve a banana, a shot of coffee, a hit of protein and milk.

What’s the number 1 (or 2) thing you’ve learnt about sports nutrition for performance in your sport?  

  1. How to use food to fuel! My number one thing I asked Taryn to help me with when I first met her was, how to prevent myself from becoming a useless heap, asleep on the couch after any big sessions. We have nailed this perfectly!! Yay team!!! 

  1. The right foods to eat to keep me full and stop me heading for those binge sessions at the fridge. Healthy grazing options have been my saviour when it comes to getting down to race weight.  

 Talk about inspirational!

Talk about inspirational!

The Negatives of Alcohol

Yeah yeah, we’re the fun police, we get it. Take it or leave it, but at the end of the day, alcohol is a toxin. Here are three major reasons why alcohol is not your friend.

Increased energy intake

Pure alcohol is energy dense, containing 29 kilojoules per gram – almost equalling fat which contains 37 kilojoules per gram. Alcohols kilojoules are known as ‘empty kilojoules’ as they fail to provide nutrients that our body requires to perform important physiological functions. These kilojoules tend to stack up quickly because they are consumed in liquid form – liquid kilojoules don't elicit the same feeling or level of satiety as kilojoules from food. Because our hunger is not suppressed by alcohol we don’t compensate by reducing our food intake and our overall energy intake can increase significantly.

Altered brain chemistry

When we consume alcohol, our brain responds by releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine into our brains reward centre. The brain typically uses dopamine to reinforce healthy behaviours, however, alcohol triggers the release of very high amounts of dopamine. Excessive levels of dopamine block the expression of our negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, stress or insecurity and as a result, we feel relaxed and uninhibited. Because our inhibitions are lower, assessing our appetite and restraining from unhealthy food choices isn’t a priority. This is why after a drink (or six) you feel more comfortable reaching for a handful of chips or saying yes to that 2am dirty kebab. Far more comfortable than you did before drinking.

Increased appetite

To make matters worse, alcohol is an excellent appetite stimulant. The body reacts to ethanol as a poison, prioritising its breakdown and removal over the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat. Breaking down alcohol is a demanding task that requires the full attention of the liver. This means that the liver ceases to perform other important jobs such as the release of glucose to maintain our blood glucose levels. Eventually, our blood glucose levels dip and we become hypoglycaemic (low blood glucose levels) – triggering intense feelings of hunger.

The combination of alcohols high energy content with its un-inhibiting and appetite-stimulating effects often lead to weight gain in the short and long-term. Reducing your alcohol intake is a small but realistic change which, when combined with healthy eating and regular exercise, will promote weight loss.

Our advice…

Drink in moderation and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with friends in a social setting. If you drink every night sitting at home, perhaps explore why you reach for alcohol at the end of the day. Our Healthy Lifestyle Challenge will help you learn what habits you’ve trained yourself to have in this space.

Noosa Race Recap

It was the night before my first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon. After 10 months of preparation, I was ready, albeit incredibly nervous. Sitting down to a home-cooked dinner with my support crew, I felt like the biggest kid eating my large bowl of pasta, side of garlic bread, all washed down with pasito (dietitians orders). As I forced it down (nerves!) I looked enviously at my friends casually enjoying their pizza and wine without a care in the world. All I wanted to do was grab the Shiraz and neck it myself! I called it an early night and before I knew it, the alarm was going off. With a blink it was race day. Ahhhh!!!

My first thought that morning was, “I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and not feel so nervous”. I knew I was prepared and I knew I would finish, but that didn’t stop the pre-race butterflies. I got myself ready, feeling like livestock being marked up; right arm tattoo, left calf tattoo, left ankle tag… It was soon time to leave for the final transition set up.

I couldn’t have asked for a better race day. Noosa definitely turned on the weather and whilst it was hot, the conditions were in my favour. Time flew that morning and before I knew it, I was standing nervously on the beach waiting for my wave to start, surrounded by my friends and family doing their best to distract me.

The swim, my weakest and biggest concern, unexpectedly turned out to be my favourite. The water was beautiful and clear. We were off and I found my own space, settling in quickly. I kept on course (mostly), made a bee-line for the beach and was stoked to finish in 30 minutes without drowning.

Quick transition (well, as quick as I could without doing a flying mount) and I was onto the bike course. I felt fatigue in my quads straight away so perhaps my taper wasn’t enough in the week leading up. Still, I was determined to maintain an average speed ~ 30km/hr and used everything I could to push through the burn, conscious to save a little for the run. Descending Garmin hill was my highlight and I even cracked a new PB top speed on the bike; it was so much fun! Coming off the bike, I checked to see I had done enough to hit my goal time of 1hr 20. Right on target.

I did some quick maths and realised that sub-3 hours was within reach. Yass! Running is my strength but it was hot (~27°C), my feet were burning, and my body was tired. Learning the hard way in previous run races, I knew I had to pace sensibly…These lessons paid off as it soon became apparent the run was going to be far more challenging than I’d thought. I needed every ounce of energy to make it to the finish line. A friend had given me some valuable advice the day before and this mantra repeated in my head; “Pain is temporary. Glory lasts forever”. I kept to a consistent pace and somehow even managed a sprint finish.

I went into race day hoping to finish around 3 hours. As I crossed the finish line, I sneaked a peep at my watch to see the time 2:55! I couldn’t believe it! I was ecstatic! Thank you Noosa,!

Whilst I exceeded my expectations at Noosa, there is always room for improvement.

Some of the key things I learnt from race day…

  • Go over the entire swim course (not just the first half) in your head before the start
  • Revisit taper week to ensure I’m feeling fresh and ready come race day
  • Stick more to the left on the bike course around tight turns. There were a couple of close calls…
  • Tighten up transitions and learn how to flying mount

I’ve definitely caught the triathlon bug and after having the time of my life on Sunday, all that’s left to decide now is …which race to do next!?

Erin Lawlor

From Beginner to Grinner

I stumbled across triathlon a little differently to most…

Last November my partner at the time encouraged me to sign up for Noosa Triathlon with him. You’re kidding right?! I couldn’t run 5km let alone 10km, could barely swim 1.5km, had never swum in the open water, am a little (OK a lot) afraid of bluebottles AND had only ridden a bike maybe 3 times since I was a kid. He persisted though and promised to help me with training so I thought, why not? Maybe it was time to try something new and with someone to help, how hard could it be? Half nervous and half excited, I signed up.

Three weeks later, he broke up with me. Not only was I completely heartbroken, I now had a $300 Noosa registration with no skills to use it. I deliberated for a few months about what to do. Some of my friends were incredibly encouraging whilst others disappointingly discouraging with comments like “Triathlon?! You can’t do that, you don’t even own a bike!” Gee thanks guys…Eventually after doing some confidence building laps in the pool, I decided it was time to bite the bullet. I was going to do Noosa; and I was going to do it for me.

I had ten months to train and teach myself three sports before putting them all together. Sounds simple, right? As my journey unfolded, it became very obvious I had a lot of work to do and absolutely no idea how to do it. There are shoes that clip you into a bike?!

I threw caution to the wind and entered a 1km open water swim. I nervously stood on the beach waiting for my race, feeling intimidated and out of place. There was an electric buzz in the air as everyone seemed to know each other, chatting away about “the chop”. What that meant, I had no idea and the thought quickly escaped my mind as the person standing next to me just mentioned the ‘B’ word; bluebottle. My Dad had surprised me and come to watch (I think he had to see it to believe it!) and I found myself at the age of 32, standing on a beach in my togs being counselled about what to do if I got stung mid-race. Not my finest adult moment, but thanks Dad…. I swam my little heart out and survived to tell the story. To this day, that swim is my 1km PB in both the pool and open water.

As time went on, I started to realise that there was more to this training than doing a session or two a week in each sport. The terms “double-session days”, “brick session” and “run off the bike” got thrown around. It also became very apparent that doing an Olympic Distance Triathlon as my first ever race wasn’t the smartest idea... My aunty Stacy, a seasoned triathlete, suggested I do a couple of smaller races for practice and exposure. Putting this all together with enduring guidance and support from her is how I found my coach, Dan McTainsh. It’s been the best decision I’ve made.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been so far out of my comfort zone. There has been blood, a couple of tears and a lot of sweat. There have been so many times where things haven’t gone to plan, but people have been there to pick me up off the ground when I’ve fallen, literally. These cleat things are hard! As time has gone on, I no longer freeze just thinking about getting on my bike and cycling has become my favourite of the three disciplines. I’m still pretty shaky and clumsy clipping in but once I’m clipped in, I’m off! I love every second.

If it wasn’t for the incredible support and encouragement from the people surrounding me, I may have thrown in the towel, making up some excuse to pull out. They have answered my endless questions (and I mean endless), helped with nutrition, training programs, fed me when I’ve been too exhausted to cook and given me kudos galore on Strava. This wonderful triathlon community has been so positive and encouraging when my “negative thought committee” has been in full-swing and believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.

I am so thankful to have such amazing people in my life who have helped me get to this point today. All of the hard work has been done and it’s just me and my mental game on race day this Sunday. Whilst I may have started this journey with a heavy heart, some fear, and a lot of self-disbelief, I’m ending it with a massive smile, huge sense of accomplishment, stronger relationships with old friends and family, many new friendships, believing that anything is possible, and a new-found love for this crazy world of triathlon. Honestly, what more could a girl want?

Many of my friends, colleagues and family have mentioned along the way how inspiring they’ve found watching my journey unfold. At first, I didn’t give it too much thought but as time has gone by, I’ve recognised that so many people have dreams and aspirations that they never start or finish because they’re so scared of failure. People worry that they’ll be judged, or are discouraged by others. It’s always so hard taking that first step but once you do, the world is your oyster. I hope to inspire you to take that step and don’t look back. The sense of accomplishment and empowerment is incredible. 

Erin Lawlor

 Game face set

Game face set

Stay tuned for Erin's recap after her first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon at Noosa this weekend!

Good luck Erin!

Role of Water in the Human Body

Our body is made up of approximately 60% water. Our brain is ~85% water, blood is ~80% water and approximately 70% of lean muscle mass is water. Water plays an important role in all of these major systems and without water, they don't function efficiently. Even a mere 2% reduction in body water can decrease performance, affect short-term memory, focus and increase fatigue. 

Some of the most important roles of water in the body include:

Maintaining blood volume, nutrient transportation and waste removal

Water is the main component of blood and essential for transportation of nutrients and removal of waste in the body. Blood delivers nutrients such as glucose, sodium, potassium and amino acids to our tissues for cell life and function. Blood also carries toxins and waste products away from our cells to our kidneys and liver for filtration and removal. The kidneys regulate how much water we excrete or conserve to maintain blood volume and concentration.  

Chemical and metabolic reactions

Water participates in hundreds of important metabolic reactions that occur in the body known as ‘hydrolysis reactions’. These reactions break down the carbohydrates, fats and proteins in our food so that our body can use them for energy and create the building blocks of life.

Protects tissues and joints

Water helps keep sensitive tissues such as your eyes, nose, mouth and brain moist. It also functions like a lubricant and cushions joints like your spine and knee so they can easily move against each other.

Temperature regulation

Water has a large heat capacity which helps control body temperature and allows us to adapt to changes in environmental temperatures. If the environmental temperature increases above body temperature, the body begins to sweat. Sweat evaporates off the skin surface which releases heat and cools the body down efficiently.

Stay hydrated

Consuming water regularly throughout the day is important to prevent dehydration. We lose water through sweat and breathing (insensible losses) and of course, urine. The insensible losses account for ~50% of the total water turnover.

The average adult requires roughly 2-3L of water per day to maintain water balance and keep the body systems functioning efficiently. This will of course vary with different environmental conditions, physical activity and your individual metabolism. 

For ideas on how to drink more water, check out our 7 tips.

Why Diets Don't Work

Diets come in all shapes and sizes.

A ‘diet’ is a restrictive eating program used temporarily to lose weight. Diets are often gimmicky or have a certain theme such as the elimination of particular food groups or assigning points to foods. Some diets can be nonsensical, unscientific and downright dangerous – detoxes or juice cleanses anyone? *facepalm. Yes, these diets are restrictive, yes they may produce short term results, but why don’t they work long term?

We see so many clients with a history of yo-yo dieting. They’ve tried everything! Only to fall off the bandwagon, gaining more weight than they started with in the first place! It’s a shame they only come to see a Dietitian AFTER years of trying and failing at all of these programs…

Weight loss is based on the first law of thermodynamics:

“Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but rather transformed from one state to another”

More affectionately rephrased as “calories in, calories out”. This, in theory, is true. When we consistently consume less energy than our body uses each day, weight loss follows. 

So why don’t diets work?

The human body is smart. It thrives on balance or homeostasis. Our body has inbuilt appetite and weight regulating systems which constantly strive to restore the balance.

The role of hormones in hunger

There are two hormones responsible for regulating our appetite: ghrelin and leptin.

Ghrelin is our appetite stimulating hormone; it is released into the stomach and sends hunger signals to the brain to produce ‘hunger pangs’.

Leptin is our appetite suppressing hormone, it is released by our fat cells after eating to send the signal that we’re full.

When we restrict our intake to lose weight, leptin levels plummet and ghrelin levels rise meaning our appetite soars. You’re up against strong feelings of hunger and it can become very difficult to resist extra snacks (or meals). Especially if you’re constantly thinking about what you can’t eat.

The role of metabolism

Our metabolism is clever and highly adaptable. It will respond to how much energy (calories or kilojoules) we consume. When our energy intake is high, the speed of our metabolism increases to ‘keep up’ with its energy workload. When our energy intake is reduced – our metabolism slows. One of the major reasons why metabolism slows relates to the effects of dieting on our body composition…

Losing weight on the scale doesn’t mean you’re only losing fat

Our body relies on energy from the macronutrients in our food (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to perform lots of everyday body functions such as breathing and digesting. Stripping kilojoules from our diet forces the body to utilise fat from our fat cells to fuel some of these physiological functions – hence the term ‘burning fat’. But poorly planned and restrictive diets can go too far and deprive the body of energy to take care of day-to-day tasks. This forces the body to increase the activity of catabolic hormones and break down muscle reserves to produce energy instead. So while the weight on the scales may go down, this can be a combination of a reduction of fat tissue AND muscle tissue – not ideal. Lean body mass or muscle tissue is very energy-demanding and losing lean body mass decreases your metabolism significantly.  A dietitian can help you with a meal plan to ensure you’re only losing fat with weight loss and not valuable, metabolism driving muscle.

The outcome

When we inevitably fall off the bandwagon due to our insatiable appetite or stop the diet, our metabolism is sluggish and we can gain weight quickly, typically as fat. Cue the vicious cycle of dieting, weight loss, weight re-gain and back to dieting again which leaves most people feeling defeated.

But it’s not all doom and gloom!  Take a more holistic approach to your health which can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight long term. Enter the Dietitian Approved Healthy Lifestyle Challenge! A challenge designed to put in place consistent, daily habits for overall health. Nothing to do with dieting. People do lose weight on our challenge, which is a by product of these healthy habits.

Here are a few tips for more holistic and sustainable weight loss:

  1. Ditch the food rules and concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Incorporate a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meat, fish, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds into your diet and allow yourself to eat foods which you enjoy in moderation mindfully.
  2. Become more aware of your hunger and satiety cues and allow these cues to guide when to begin and stop eating. If you’re full, stop eating. You don’t need to finish what’s on your plate despite what your mother may tell you.
  3. Be patient and take your time. Everyone wants to lose 5kg yesterday. Losing weight slowly is not only more maintainable, it prevents your weight loss from plateauing and allows your metabolism to adapt to its reduced energy workload. It's also far more socially enjoyable than severe restrictions.