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.

Sports Supplements

Words by Accredited Sports Dietitian, Taryn Richardson, Dietitian Approved

Sports Supplements are everywhere!  I struggle to keep up with the latest products on the market with new brands popping up every week. As many athletes search for that ‘magic bullet’, sports supplements have become a multi-billion dollar industry. In fact, a recent study found that 40-70% of athletes take supplements.

A nutrition supplement, as the name suggests, is designed to supplement the diet and should never replace it. My approach as a dietitian is always “food-first” as your day-to-day nutrition is where you will see the greatest health and performance benefits long term. Supplements are considered the sprinkles, on the icing on the cake. It’s important to get the foundations of a balanced, healthy diet in training right first (the sponge), before adding the icing and even considering the sprinkles.

Supplements typically fall into three main categories: Sports foods and fluids, Medical supplements and Performance supplements.

Sports foods and fluids

These include an extensive list of sports drinks, gels, chomps, bloks, bars, protein powders and recovery drinks. They are easily accessible, portable, convenient and provide concentrated nutrients when real food may not be practical.  In most situations though, real foods can take the place of sports foods if you’re organised. Sports foods and fluids can be expensive, may be completely unnecessary, are energy dense and can cause gastrointestinal upset in some people.

Medical supplements

Are used to treat a known deficiency such as Iron or Vitamin D for a short period of time. They can be pills, potions or powders and should only be taken when recommended by a doctor, accredited sports dietitian or other health professional after a blood test and/or diet review. Taking un-prescribed medical supplements can be dangerous and have harmful long-term effects. 

Performance supplements

Approved ergogenic aids or performance-enhancing supplements have been proven in scientific trials to provide a performance benefit, when used according to a specific protocol in a specific situation in sport. Things like caffeine, creatine and bicarb form part of this list. However there are many other popular supplements on the market promising remarkable super-human powers that don’t deliver. In some cases, these supplements may actually impair health or performance.

Stay safe

A recent study found that 80% of certain supplements didn’t contain what the label said (scary). The risk of contamination with banned substances is real and should be at the forefront of every athletes mind. Especially now that age group drug testing is a common occurrence. The supplement industry is largely unregulated, and traces of banned substances can find themselves in products by accident. You can take responsibility by checking your product on the ASADA website. You can also look for products that have been through a contamination screening process such as Informed Sport or Hasta in Australia. 

Be smart

Be an informed supplement user. Before purchasing anything, do you research and talk to a professional. Ask yourself three questions – Is it safe? Is it legal? Does it really work? If it sounds too good to be true, chances are, it probably is. Everyone has an opinion but be mindful that what works for one, may not work for another. An Accredited Sports Dietitian can help you work out what supplements are best for you and your sport.

Source: projetopedalando.com.br

Happy Training

Taryn

Dietitian Approved

Chocolate & Sports Performance – the next big thing?

There’s been lots of talk in the media about chocolate being good for you. From lowering blood pressure to increasing HDL cholesterol, it’s the new wonder drug (apparently). Dark chocolate in particular is rich in cocoa, which is the seed part of the cocoa tree. Cocoa is rich in a compound called flavanols, a potent antioxidant also found in fruits, vegetables, tea and red wine.

Image Source: hungryforever.com

Image Source: hungryforever.com

Research is emerging in the general population of a positive effect of flavanols on cognitive, visual and brain function. It has also been suggested that flavonoid and polyphenol compounds exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, improve blood flow and insulin sensitivity. There is however limited research of a performance benefit in the healthy, athletic population.

Chocolate lovers may take solace in a new study out of the UK, the first of its kind in fact.
Researchers found that dark chocolate enhanced performance in a small group of cyclists when compared to white chocolate.

Let’s take a closer look…..

A group of 9, “moderately trained” cyclists were put through their paces in the lab. Their baseline VO2max was measured before completing a 20min ride at 80% of their gas exchange threshold, followed by a 2 minute all-out time trial. In a crossover design, they then consumed 40g of either flavanol rich dark chocolate or flavanol deficient white chocolate for 2 weeks before repeating the exercise testing again. After a 7 day washout period, cyclists crossed over and repeated 14 days of the chocolate supplementation (white or dark) and repeated the testing again. 

What did they find?

Dark chocolate consumption resulted in a 17% increase in distance covered in the 2 minute TT compared to baseline (~300m) and a 13% increase compared to white chocolate (~200m). Dark chocolate supplementation also increased gas exchange threshold by 21% from baseline and was 11% higher compared to white chocolate. There was no difference between groups in the 20min moderate intensity cycle, heart rate, blood pressure or blood lactate. 

Dark chocolate/Flavanols seem to act in a similar way to beetroot juice, but through different mechanisms. Beetroot juice is high in nitrates which convert to nitric oxide in the body, assisting to reduce the oxygen cost during sub-maximal exercise. The flavanols found in dark chocolate appear to increase nitric oxide bioavailability. Are you still with me?

Critically thinking - A few things to note:

  • You can’t effectively blind participants to the trial as it would be obvious whether you were consuming dark or white chocolate due to its distinct taste – this may have caused a placebo effect if participants believed dark chocolate would be of benefit.
  • The cyclists were regular punters, within a healthy weight range (just) BMI 23.75-24.55kg/m2, but were far from elite athletes with VO2 max values only 41.90 +/- 5.4ml/kg/min. (A typical cyclists VO2 max would roughly sit around 80-90ml/kg/min; so double this). 
  • Diet was essentially only controlled in the 24hrs preceding exercise testing. There are many confounding food choices that could have affected the results such as nitrate concentration or carbohydrate quality of the diet.
  • Dark chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine – caffeine is well established as a performance enhancing supplement and may in part be responsible for the observed performances.
  • The flavanol concentration of the chocolates were never specifically tested so conclusions can not be based on the flavanol explicitly. 

So where to from here?

The study, while only small, certainly shows some merit and warrants further research in the area. At the end of the day, what harm can come from consuming 40g of dark chocolate each day?

To prevent unwanted weight gain, stick to no more than 40g/day (2-3 squares) and choose chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids to ensure you’re getting the highest concentration of flavanols.

Move over coconut oil, beetroot dark chocolate will be the next big thing– you heard it here first :)

References:

  1. Baker, L.B., Nuccio, R.P. and Jeukendrup, A.E., 2014. Acute effects of dietary constituents on motor skill and cognitive performance in athletes.Nutrition reviews, 72(12), 790-802.
  2. Nehlig, A. 2013. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 75, 716-727.
  3. Malaguti, M., Angeloni, C. and Hrelia, S., 2013. Polyphenols in exercise performance and prevention of exercise-induced muscle damage. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity.
  4. Patel, R. K., Brouner, J. & Spendiff, O. 2015. Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12, 1-8.