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

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!

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

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.

Turmeric – the next big sports nutrition supplement?

As the Turmeric latte surges to the front of the trend list, what is it about this spice that’s causing all the hype? We take a look at what it is, the potential benefits and how to include it in your diet.

Why the hype?

Turmeric is a golden yellow spice that has been used for centuries in Indian cooking. Turmeric contains the bioactive compound Curcumin, which has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s claimed to have a positive effect on heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer and many other conditions. Be mindful though that research for these benefits has been done in vitro (in a petri dish) or in animal models (mostly rats) which is difficult to extrapolate to humans. The research in humans is limited and more trials are needed.

How much Turmeric and Curcumin may benefit?

It’s not as simple as adding a little turmeric to your latte or smoothie. Curcumin makes up <5% of turmeric. In its naturally occurring state, curcumin has very low bioavailability in humans (i.e. it’s poorly absorbed). Partly due to its low intestinal absorption and partly due to its rapid metabolism. Based on research to date, oral supplementation in the range of 80-500mg is likely to be required, however studies have shown doses as high as 8000mg being insufficient to increase levels of curcumin in the blood (1, 2, 3). The jury is still out on exactly how much curcumin and in what form is required to reap the benefits.

Increasing Curcumin bioavailability

Laboratory testing is currently underway to explore better ways to take curcumin so that it’s more bioavailable, absorbed better and delivered directly to the required tissue. Taken orally, it seems to stay in our digestive system and pass through without being absorbed into the blood stream.

It is possible to enhance curcumin absorption by combining it with piperine, a black pepper extract. One study found that 20mg of piperine paired with 2000mg of curcumin increased curcumin bioavailability by 2000% (4).

Curcumin is also fat soluble so it’s possible to increase absorption by consuming with fat soluble components e.g. oils or traditionally gum ghatti. There is also current research occurring to produce water soluble curcumin supplements.

Curcumin – the next big sports nutrition supplement

In the sports nutrition space – it has been suggested that Curcumin supplementation may acutely blunt DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), improve tendon healing and play an anti-inflammatory role in tendinopathy. Preliminary studies however (5, 6, 7) have failed to show a statistically significant difference between curcumin supplementation and placebo groups. There are a number of reasons why (small sample size, curcumin dose and bioavailability, fitness level of participants) and further work is required to develop appropriate protocols for athletes.

Is there any risk associated with supplementing curcumin?

Due to its low bioavailability and low concentration in turmeric, it is unlikely that you can over consume curcumin in its naturally occurring form. However, supplementation has shown side effects when taken in higher doses.

Curcumin has potential interactions with antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, salicylates, and thrombolytic agents which may cause bleeding. Taken on an empty stomach, especially in high doses, it may cause nausea and diarrhoea. The safety of curcumin supplements during pregnancy and lactation is also not established. As with any supplement, speak to your doctor or sports dietitian to see if it is suitable for you.

Take home message

Watch this space. Curcumin potentially has some benefit but it’s not a miracle spice that will cure the qualms of the world. There’s no harm in using it in a normal dose – but be careful with a high dose supplement until we know more.

Tips to include more turmeric in your diet

  • Sprinkle on your oats: this works well with the flavours of coconut milk in particular
  • Add to a smoothie or juice
  • Stir through scrambled eggs, it takes a mild, interesting flavour and gives it a beautiful colour
  • Add to rice during cooking
  • Add to mince mixes: whether it’s burger patties or cottage pie, a little spice will brighten the flavour
  • Soups, casseroles and stews: a curry is not a curry without turmeric, but you can add a mild Indian flavour to soups, casseroles and stews with a little turmeric
  • Sprinkle on roast vegetables, particularly root vegetables such as potato, parsnip and sweet potato
  • Spice up your salads with a pinch in your salad dressing. This works well with lemon based dressings

 

Turmeric Scrambled eggs

References:

1. Lao, C.D., Ruffin, M.T., Normolle, D., Heath, D.D., Murray, S.I., Bailey, J.M., Boggs, M.E., Crowell, J., Rock, C.L. and Brenner, D.E. (2006) BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6(1), p. 10. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-6-10.

2. Cheng, A.L., Hsu, C.H., Lin, J.K., Hsu, M.M., Ho, Y.F., Shen, T.S., Ko, J.Y. and Lin, J.T. (2001) ‘Phase I clinical trial of curcumin, a chemopreventive agent, in patients with high-risk or pre-malignant lesions’, Anticancer Research, 21(4B), pp. 2895–2900.

3. Dhillon, N., Aggarwal, B.B., Newman, R.A., Wolff, R.A., Kunnumakkara, A.B., Abbruzzese, J.L., Ng, C.S., Badmaev, V. and Kurzrock, R. (2008) ‘Phase II trial of Curcumin in patients with advanced Pancreatic cancer’, Clinical Cancer Research, 14(14), pp. 4491–4499. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-08-0024.

4. Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R. and Srinivas, P. (1998) ‘Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in animals and human volunteers’, Planta Medica, 64(04), pp. 353–356. doi: 10.1055/s-2006-957450.

5. McFarlin, B.K., Venable, A.S., Henning, A.L., Sampson, J.N.B., Pennel, K., Vingren, J.L. and Hill, D.W. (2016) ‘Reduced inflammatory and muscle damage biomarkers following oral supplementation with bioavailable curcumin’, BBA Clinical, 5, pp. 72–78. doi: 10.1016/j.bbacli.2016.02.003.

6. Tanabe, Y., Maeda, S., Akazawa, N., Zempo-Miyaki, A., Choi, Y., Ra, S.-G., Imaizumi, A., Otsuka, Y. and Nosaka, K. (2015) ‘Attenuation of indirect markers of eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage by curcumin’, European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(9), pp. 1949–1957. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3170-4.

7. Drobnic, F., Riera, J., Appendino, G., Togni, S., Franceschi, F., Valle, X., Pons, A. and Tur, J. (2014) ‘Reduction of delayed onset muscle soreness by a novel curcumin delivery system (Meriva®): A randomised, placebo-controlled trial’, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), p. 31. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-11-31.

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

5 Tips for Fueling on the Bike

Words by pro cyclist Nicole Moerig

I was out riding with a old school friend the other day and we got chatting about nutrition. She has been cycling going on 1 year now and came from a running background, similar to me. Any runner would know how hard to it is to fuel your body before and during training. 'Runners Belly' is not what I would call the most pleasant experience. For this reason, runners tend to avoid eating around training. However, this is a very different story when out on the bike as you are cycling for significantly longer periods of time. 

Half way through our ride my friend went from tapping up the hills to falling out the ass of them (excuse the French). At the end of the ride we got chatting and she commented on how much food I had consumed. It went a little something like this...

Friend - 'You eat a lot!'

Me - 'ha, what have you eaten during the ride today?'

Friend - 'nothing' 

Mind you we had just banked 80km and it's 11.30am. Convo continues:

Me - 'Ok, what did you have for breakfast' 

Friend- 'Oh nothing, I can't eat before I ride' 

Me -  *face palm

When I reflected on this conversation I realised, I too was once just like this. At times I still get caught out and don't realise just how much food is needed to perform optimally. You think you're just 'struggling' today or your legs are sore from yesterday when really your body is just screaming for food! A few days after this I had an appointment with Taryn at Dietitian Approved and we set some guidelines for training to ensure I'm fuelling adequately on the bike.

Here are my top 5 tips for fuelling on the bike: 

1. Plan

The longer and harder the ride, the more carbohydrates you need to consume from the first hour on. Taryn gave me a table that I regularly refer to that breaks down the carbohydrate required based off time and intensity. I generally spend 10 minutes the day before putting my food together for the following day. That way I'm not grabbing at random food as I'm rushing out the door the next morning.

2. Eat regularly and before you feel hungry 

I know this is an obvious one but it's very easy to get rapped up in your ride and before you know it 2 hours has flown by and you haven't eaten a thing. I often get caught out because I don't feel hungry until my glycogen supplies are well depleted. By this stage I'm trying to play catchup and I generally pay for it towards the end of the ride and often well into the next days session. To combat this I tend to set an alarm on my Garmin every 30 minutes as a little reminder to eat. 

3. The Pre-ride meal is key

My pre-ride meal makes a big difference in how quickly I have to eat once out on the bike. I generally try to take in enough carbohydrates for the first hour of my ride. Being a female athlete in a non-impact sport it's also imports to consume a small amount of calcium before a ride. 

The only time I don't eat before training is on recovery days where I'm out for no longer than 1.5hrs and my focus is on socialising and coffee after training. 

4. Fluids are an easy way to get fuel in

Once you find the right sports drink for you, it can be a lifesaver! My preference is Secret Training, mango and passionfruit flavour. They are an easy way of getting nutrition on board especially during racing or more intense sessions. 

5. Change it up 

I like to enjoy what I'm eating when out on the bike as it can break up a long 5hr ride. Plus, Taryn likes to point out that if I'm going to eat some "naughty" food, why not do it during or just post-training. This is when my metabolism is running at full tilt and I'm burning off anything that's going into my mouth. NOTE: This does not mean I polish off a mud cake post-ride at the coffee shop, as much as I wish it did. More like some sweet Banana Bread with Nutella on top which is contributing to my fuel needs as well and providing nutrients to help reach my daily requirement.

A well deserved cappuccino post-ride

A well deserved cappuccino post-ride

Caffeine - Performance nutrition

Caffeine is a widely used, socially acceptable stimulant.
cappucino

 

It is found naturally in the leaves, beans and fruits of a variety of plants. The most common dietary sources of caffeine include tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks, chocolate and supplemented sports foods like gels and shots. It is rapidly absorbed and transported to all body tissues and organs where it exhibits a complex range of actions. Effects include the mobilisation of fat from adipose tissue (yes please!) and the muscle cell, changes to muscle contractility, lowering the perceived rate of exertion (how hard you feel you’re working), effects on the heart muscle and stimulation of adrenaline (our fight or flight hormone).

The major benefit of taking caffeine on exercise performance appears to be achieved by central nervous system effects, which can help reduce perception of effort and fatigue, effectively allowing you to train or race harder and longer.

Who would benefit?

There is a solid body of evidence that supports caffeine use to enhance endurance exercise performance, with studies dating back to the 1970s. Caffeine has a half–life of approximately 6-7 hours, with peak blood concentrations occurring around 45-60 minutes. Individuals respond differently, some feel energised, focused and ready to perform; others don’t feel or notice any perceptual changes; and, some are affected negatively suffering from nervousness, gut upset, anxiety, irritability, headaches, heart palpitations and an inability to focus. Given the varied response it’s important to trial caffeine in training before any thought of introducing it into a race.

How much and when?

Previous recommendations for caffeine use during exercise were around 6mg/kg body mass (420mg for a 70kg athlete), consumed 60min prior to the start of exercise. More recent evidence suggests doses as low as 1-3mg/kg body weight (70-210mg for a 70kg athlete) are enough to enhance endurance performance.

Caffeine taken before exercise, spread throughout the event, or taken late in the race when fatigue starts to set (i.e. an IM) appear to assist exercise performance. Furthermore, caffeine withdrawal for a few days doesn’t appear to enhance the beneficial effects of caffeine use during exercise for habitual users.

If you currently use caffeine or are intending to use it, start with a low dose (1mg/kg) in training and build up to develop your own protocol that enhances performance using the lowest effective dose for you. Also play around with taking it 30-60minutes before training, part way through an extended session and/or towards the end of a long session to determine the best protocol for your individual needs.

A word of caution

The effects of high doses of caffeine can be negative such as increased heart rate, anxiety, over-arousal and impaired fine motor control. Also be aware of the side-effects of withdrawal such as headaches and lethargy. The other major factor is that caffeine can interfere with sleep patterns, making it difficult to get to sleep and in turn affecting your body’s ultimate form of recovery. And lastly, it’s not a substitute for quality training and race experience – so caffeine supplementation shouldn’t be considered for younger triathletes.

So what’s the verdict?

Caffeine has a proven performance enhancing benefit for endurance sports like triathlon. If you are considering using it as a supplement, try it in training first! Start at a low dose and manipulate the dose and timing to develop your own personalised protocol. An Accredited Sports Dietitian can help you individualise your plan and incorporate other nutritional strategies to maximise your performance for training and competing. 

 

Look out for the full article in Triathlon 220 magazine!