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 ;)

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.

Dietary Periodisation: What is it but how do you do it?..

We talk about periodising nutrition all the time, but WHAT the heck is it? And HOW do you do it?

Nutrition Periodisation is the use of planned nutritional strategies aimed at maximising the results from specific training sessions to improve performance (1). It is just like having a training plan but for your nutrition, where your nutrition is planned around your training to get the most bang for your buck out of it.

Periodising nutrition primarily manipulates our glycogen stores, or our carbohydrate fuel tank.

There are a few ways dietary periodisation can be used:

1. Train low

This is where you train with low glycogen stores. For example, you train first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or you don’t quite top your glycogen stores back up between sessions. This allows your body to learn to run more efficiently on a lower fuel tank. For athletes that train twice or even three to four times a day, chances are they are probably running on lower glycogen stores for some of those sessions.

2. Sleep low

This is where you sleep with low glycogen stores. For example, you have a hard, glycogen depleting session in the evening and don’t include adequate carbohydrate with dinner to fully refuel your glycogen fuel tank overnight. You’re going to sleep ‘low’. This allows the body to adapt overnight. It’s then important to fuel up before your session in the morning (especially for females) as this has implications on iron and calcium pathways.

3. Recover low

This is where you delay refuelling in that immediate post-exercise recovery window. Not refuelling immediately after training allows us to adapt to changes occurring as a result of training (2).

4. Train high

This is where you train on a full glycogen tank. This not only supports a quality training session, it also trains your gut to absorb carbohydrate efficiently and can maximise the amount of carbohydrate we can use for energy each hour (1).

By manipulating our carbohydrate availability around sessions, we can maximise our training response. Training with high carbohydrate availability, improves performance, especially for the high intensity sessions where top end speed is required (1). By training with low glycogen stores, we force our body to adapt, to utilise fat as a fuel, making this pathway more efficient and improving aerobic performance. However, when we are running on an empty carbohydrate tank, the quality of our training is compromised.

We train to get fitter, faster and more efficient. We spend hours and hours training, but if we haven’t got our nutrition sorted, it can be harder to reach our goals. Invest in some planning of your nutrition, periodised across your training week to get the most bang for your buck. Improved performance was observed after just 1 week of periodised nutrition in cyclists (3).

As Accredited Sports Dietitians, periodisation is our forte! We can help you work out which method to utilise when across your training week as you can’t do them all at once. Nutrition periodisation is most effective when following a plan and choosing the most appropriate training sessions to pair it with based on your goals (2).


Now let’s talk about HOW to periodise your nutrition... 

Here is an example of the same recipe, but adjusted for carbohydrate content depending on the goals of that meal.

Image 1 is our chicken burger patty with an Asian slaw and soy dressing.

Image 2 is our chicken burger patty on a wholegrain wrap with salad

Image 3 is our chicken burger patty on a large Turkish bread roll with salad

You’ll see that the protein portion of each meal remains the same. And the SIZE of the meal is also similar. Yet the carbohydrate content ranges from 20g up to 90g. This my friends, is an example of HOW you periodise your nutrition. You're welcome.

Now we don't want to give all of our secrets away so the detail stops there, sorry :)

Dietary Periodisation

References: 

1. Jeukendrup, A, E. Periodized Nutrition for Athletes. Sports Med. 2017; 47 (Suppl 1): S51-63.

2. Marquet L, A et al. Enhanced Endurance Performance by Periodization of Carbohydrate Intake: “Sleep Low” Strategy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2016; Vol 48(4): 663-672.

3. Marquet 2 et al. Periodization of Carbohydrate Intake: Short-Term Effect on Performance. Nutrients. 2016; 8(12): 755.

Runners Gut. What is it? How can you prevent it?

Are you the type of runner that knows exactly where every public toilet is along your route?

Don’t worry - you're not alone! 30-50% of athletes regularly suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) problems while exercising (1).

Far too common among endurance athletes, GI symptoms include nausea, cramps, bloating, wind, vomiting, diarrhoea and urgency. The frequency, intensity and severity of these symptoms seems to increase as the event distance increases.

So why exactly does it happen?

It’s multifaceted and highly individual but reasons include mechanical, physiological, and nutritional factors (2). We also know that the symptoms are exacerbated by dehydration and hot weather conditions. If you are female, younger and run at high intensity, you may be at higher risk of GI symptoms too (1) (damnit).

Running causes an increase in intra-abdominal pressure which, when combined with our organs bouncing up and down can cause GI symptoms (2). When we exercise, blood flow is re-directed away from our gastrointestinal tract to the exercising muscles, heart, lungs, brain and skin. Blood flow to our intestines can be reduced by as much as 80% !! This obviously compromises gut function and can exacerbate symptoms.

Hydration plays an important role. Dehydrated athletes have reported increased rates of nausea, abdominal cramps and delayed gastric emptying (food leaving your stomach) and associated nausea. Combine decreased blood flow to the gut with dehydration and it can cause increased permeability of the gut (2). In plain English – things are moving across the gut walls in a way they shouldn’t be, causing GI upset.

From a nutritional point of view; fat, fibre, protein and high carbohydrate concentrations (osmolarity) can all be associated with increased risk of GI symptoms. Fat, fibre and protein all slow down digestion – not ideal when you’re running at pace. Large amounts of carbohydrate may not be fully absorbed, leaving residual carbohydrate in the stomach causing GI symptoms during exercise such as bloating, fullness, flatulence and nausea (2).

What can you do to prevent runners gut? Here are our tips:

1.     Train your gut

The gut is extremely adaptable. Research (in humans) shows that you can train your gut in as little as ~30 days to increase absorption capacity (2). Train your gut, just as you would your muscles. Start small and slowly increase the quantities of food and/or fluids you consume while running over a few weeks/months to build your tolerance. Try different types of foods, liquids and gels in training to figure out what works best for you. The golden rule of sports nutrition – NEVER try anything new on race day.

Keep in mind that GI symptoms are usually increased with distance, heat and humidity (3, 4), so you will likely need different strategies depending on the season and the distance you are running.

2.     Play with different carbohydrate sources

We know our gut absorption rate of glucose alone maxes out at approx. 1g/min, or 60g/hour. For the longer endurance events >2hours (i.e. half and full marathons, 50km, 100km and ultra’s), higher carbohydrate intake is recommended, although it's important to find your individual ceiling. You can increase your carbohydrate absorption by utilising different carbohydrates e.g. fructose. This is because it’s absorbed across the gut wall via a different pathway to glucose and can occur simultaneously. Stick to smaller doses, then build you tolerance up over several weeks/months.

3.     Avoid high fibre foods before competition

In the day or two leading into hard training or competition when you bump up your carbohydrate intake, maintain your typical fibre intake to minimise the amount of undigested fibre left in your gastrointestinal tract. Choose white, more refined breads and cereals instead of wholemeal or wholegrain. Keep high fibre veggies and fruits to a minimum. Some lower fibre options include tomato, zucchini, olives, grapes and grapefruit at <1g fibre/serve.

Note: This is not a long-term approach. It should only be followed for 1-2 days ahead of competition. Generally, you should be consuming a high fibre diet to regulate bowel movements and keep you regular.

4.     Go easy on the coffee (sorry)

If you have a sensitive gut, avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach or right before hard runs. I know, I know…coffee is the best elixir and has performance enhancing effects - but coffee is a strong gut irritant and could be exacerbating your problem. Save your brew for post-exercise. There are plenty of other ways to get caffeine in – don’t stress.

5.     Start exercise hydrated and stay hydrated!

It goes without saying right? Yet the number of athletes we see turn up to sweat testing already dehydrated is insane. Without the use of regular USG’s (urine specific gravity), monitoring the colour of your urine can give you a general idea on your hydration status. You’re aiming for pale, straw coloured urine on a day to day basis as a measure of good hydration. Crystal clear and you’re overdoing it. Really dark and you probably need to drink more…

During exercise you typically need to drink to replace sweat losses enough so you don’t put yourself into the red of dehydration where performance is affected. Do some sweat testing to figure out your sweat rate in different environmental conditions, then work to replace 50-80% of the losses depending on the conditions, duration and intensity. Again, something to practice. If your sweat rate is >3L/hour – you will struggle to drink and absorb this volume of fluid without some serious gut training!

Another good tip is to have a good hit of water with your pre-exercise meal (300-450ml) as this will help prime the stomach to empty well and absorb any nutrition you’re using during exercise. Something to practice. Start with a smaller volume (100-200ml) then build up to 350-450ml 2 hours before exercise.

An Accredited Sports Dietitian can help you with an individualised hydration plan for training and racing.

6.     Your day to day diet impacts your ability to absorb nutrients

Studies have shown increased gastric emptying of carbohydrate by increasing daily dietary carbohydrate (8). Interestingly, increased daily fat intake results in faster gastric emptying of fat, but not carbohydrate. How cool is that?

So, if you generally have a high carbohydrate diet, this increases your ability to absorb carbohydrate across the intestinal wall which in turn, allows greater absorption and then oxidation of carbohydrate during exercise (6). This lowers the chance of GI distress.

For those people that follow a low carbohydrate, high fat diet generally, your intestines respond by decreasing intestinal absorption of carbohydrate and increasing fat absorption. If you then try and ramp up your carbohydrate intake just before competition, chances are you won’t absorb this as well and will have a higher chance of running into GI issues on race day (pun intended). It is also unlikely you will be able to increase your carbohydrate intake beyond 60g/hr if this isn’t something you’ve practiced in training.

Ideal scenario – periodise your intake across the week so you have some days of high carbohydrate availability and some days with low carbohydrate availability depending on your goals and events.

Speak to an Accredited Sports Dietitian about the best strategy for you. Research shows that runners who applied a freely chosen nutritional strategy consumed less carbohydrates during the race and their finish time was longer (5).

Want better results and easy to follow strategies that are tailored to your individual needs? Get professional advice.

 

References

  1. de Oliviera EP, Burini RC. Food-dependent, exercise-induced gastrointestinal distress. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2011; 8: p12
  2. de Oliviera EP, Burini RC. Carbohydrate-Dependent, Exercise-Induced Gastrointestinal Distress. Nutrients. 2014; 6: p4191-4199.
  3. Pfeiffer B et al. Nutritional Intake and Gastrointestinal Problems during Competitive Endurance Events. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2012; 44(2): p344-351.
  4. Sessions J et al. Carbohydrate gel ingestion during running in the heat on markers of gastrointestinal distress. European Journal of Sport Science. 2016; 16(8): p1064-1072.

  5. Hansen EA et al. Improved Marathon Performance by In-Race Nutritional Strategy Intervention. International Journal Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2014; 24: p645-655.

  6. Cox GR, Clark SA, Amanda J. Cox AJ, Halson SL, Hargreaves M, Hawley JA, Jeacocke N, Snow RJ, Yeo WK, Burke LM. Daily training with high carbohydrate availability increases exogenous carbohydrate oxidation during endurance cycling. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2010 109(1); p126-134 DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00950.2009

  7. Lambert GP, Lang J, Bull A, et al. Fluid tolerance while running: effect of repeated trials. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2008; 29: p878–82.

  8. Cunningham KM, Horowitz M, Read NW. The effect of short-term dietary supplementation with glucose on gastric emptying in humans. British Journal of Nutrition. 1991; 65: (15–9).

  9. de Oliveira, E. P., Burini, R. C., Jeukendrup, A. 2014. Gastrointestinal complaints during exercise: prevalence, etiology, and nutritional recommendations. Sports Medicine 44 Suppl 1: S79-85.

Muscle Cramps - Part 1

Over the next few weeks we look at the latest evidence on what cramps are, why we get them, how to prevent them and how pickle juice may be able to help.

What are muscle cramps? 

Ah cramps! They make me nervous just thinking about them! Most of us have had one at some point or another but what are they exactly?  

A cramp is defined as a painful spasmodic involuntary contraction of a skeletal muscle which occurs during or after exercise. There are actually two main types of cramps: 

  • Whole body cramping, but thankfully these are not as common;  

  • Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC). This type of cramping involves individual muscles or groups of muscles and is common in the calf, hamstring and quadriceps. Think a calf cramp as you go to push off the wall in the pool. It typically involves the muscle being used.

Cramping prevalence has been reported to be as high as 6-20% during Ironman events, 30-50% in marathon runners, 60% in cyclists and 30-50% in team sports.

Although localised and short in duration, EAMC may lead to musculo-skeletal dysfunction, reduced performance and muscle damage, making prevention key for optimum performance. 

What Causes Muscle Cramps?  

There are many theories on why we cramp...

For many years it's been believed that cramping is caused by dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, in particular, sodium.  This is based on earlier research with underground miners and marathon runners. A heat exhaustion study discovered that miners who cramped were more dehydrated and more sodium depleted than those who didn't cramp. In marathon runners, they found the athletes that cramped were more likely to be saltier sweaters and have lower serum sodium at the end of a race. 

However in contrast to these earlier studies, more recent research has failed to show an association between EAMC, dehydration or abnormal serum electrolyte imbalances.... 

A more recent theory suggests that altered neuromuscular activity in the central and peripheral nervous system is the cause of EAMC. Fatigued muscles disrupt the normal functioning of peripheral muscle receptors, altering the excitability of the central nervous system. This causes an imbalance between increased muscle contraction (afferent activity) and relaxation (inhibitory afferent activity) leading to a decreased ability for the muscle to relax after contraction. This is particularly the case when working in a shortened position such as shortened calves when pointing toes in swimming or quads when pedalling while standing on the bike. This theory also helps explain why stretching out a cramping muscle can be the most effective way to relieve it. 

So which theory is it that causes cramps? The bottom line - we don't know.....cramping is still poorly understood!

Despite exercise-associated muscle cramping being a common complaint among athletes, the exact cause remains uncertain due to a lack of quality scientific evidence to guide management. Perhaps for the heavy and salty sweaters amongst us, doing some sweat testing and developing your own personalised hydration plan will assist in your management of cramping. For others, regular massage, neural stretching, adequate strength and muscle conditioning may assist.

Tune in next time where we discuss prevention and the new kid on the block - pickle juice.

What do I eat before a triathlon race? ....Ask Taryn

A question I get asked frequently in clinic - What do I eat before a race? Check out the first in a line of "Ask Taryn" blogs for Foher Multisport

What you eat before a race depends on how long you’ve got to digest and absorb it. If you have multiple hours (e.g. Byron Bay OD), something more solid will likely be tolerated. Compared to a short timeframe i.e. 1 hour or less, something smaller and easily digestible will work best. In saying that, everyone is different and you need to figure out what works best for you.

The pre-race meal is an opportunity to fine-tune fuel and fluid levels, making sure your tummy feels comfortable. The focus is on carbohydrate to top up muscle glycogen levels (the storage form of carbohydrate), ensuring this is low in fat and low-moderate in fibre to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset.

With the focus on carbohydrate and fluid, below are a few suggestions of things to eat and drink before racing:

* breakfast cereal with milk

* banana and yoghurt

* Up and Go or Sustagen Sport popper

* Muesli bar and a glass of milk or juice

* Toast , fruit toast, crumpets or English muffin with: honey and banana, vegemite, peanut butter and honey/jam

* Homemade smoothie

* 400-600ml Sports drink

If you know you are a nervous racer and food sits in your stomach for a while, I suggest for long races getting up a little earlier, ensuring you have something to eat 2 hours prior to race start. Choose smaller volume and more carbohydrate dense options if this is you (e.g. 1-2 pieces of fruit toast with honey and sliced banana). If you can’t stomach anything solid, try a liquid meal such as Up and Go or simply just some sports drink.

Evidence also suggests having a bolus of fluid ~200-300ml with your pre-race meal helps move food out of the stomach and further along the path of digestion. This will also help you retain the fluid you’ve just drunk. Choose a carbohydrate containing fluid such as milk, juice, cordial or sports drink. After your pre-race meal, just take small sips of fluid to keep your mouth from drying out leading up to race start if required, don’t gulp.

Experimenting to find the timing, amount and make up that best suits your individual needs is key. The best place to practice is in training; Never try anything new on race day!

Happy training :)

Taryn

http://triathleteskit.com/2015/05/21/ask-taryn-what-do-i-eat-before-a-race/

 

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