6/24/18

Want to know what the pros eat?


Coffee....lots and lots of coffee. Only kidding.....

Well, not really.

In addition to coffee, professional athletes put a lot of focus on nutrition as they train to perform because it's their job. Unlike the age grouper who participates in triathlon as a hobby, the athlete who gets paid (when ranking high at a race or from sponsors) is likely going to explore any and all opportunities to maximize fitness in training to ensure race day excellence. And this means putting a focus on nutrition.

Although professional athletes are not immune to body image struggles, I do find that age group athletes expend an extreme amount of energy on the "look" of the body versus how the body performs during workouts. In other words, whereas a professional athlete will eat for fuel, an age grouper will train to lose weight - often restricting calories/carbs in an effort to maximize the fat-burning process.

Whereas the professional athlete will often utilize a sport dietitian to help personalize nutrition to maximize performance (or spend a lot of time on trial and error to figure out the best fueling practices to keep the body performing and functioning well), it's not uncommon for age groupers to train for a race with little attention or focus on nutrition but instead, trying to achieve a certain body image - the "look" of a fit athlete. Again, this isn't limited to only age groupers but the professional athlete who recognizes that an underfueled or undernourished body can't adapt well to training is going to make every effort to meet personal fluid, fuel and nutrient needs to feel strong, healthy and fit during training. Having said this - I know this isn't true for all professionals and only hope that those who are struggling with their relationship with food and the body (or lack a good understanding of how to eat/fuel/hydrate to adapt well to training stress) reach out to a Board Certified Sport Dietitian for help.

I was recently asked by Ironman to give my feedback on "what the pros eat." For the most part, I wasn't surprised by their answers as the ones featured in the article are top-notch athletes who appear to have put a lot of energy into nutrition before and after workouts. While I can't speak on behalf of all pros and this was just a snap shot of what the pros eat, I was pleasantly surprised to read the typical fuel choices of the pros.

To check out the article, click HERE. 

6/22/18

Benefits of wearing a hydration belt featuring Naked Running Band


This is a typical picture of the gear we use during an outdoor run. As you can see, there are two flasks for both me and Karel, with our respective hydration belts. Let it be known that Karel and I run with our hydration belts for every single outdoor run. It doesn't matter how short or long, a hydration belt is part of our running gear.

It surprises me how many athletes undervalue the many benefits of a hydration belt/pack. We have been long-time supporters of hydration belts and packs because we feel they bring so many great benefits to athletes when running outside. Interestingly, hydration belt/pack acceptance is sport dependent. For example, hydration belts are not very popular among stand-along-runners and many refuse to wear them in training and racing. Furthermore, some races prohibit the use of bringing nutrition (belt/pack) with you on race day for safety reasons. In the ultra-running community, hydration packs are popular and widely accepted and encouraged. Ironically, stand-alone runners complain heavily of dehydration, bonking and other health/injury issues yet fail to realize that lack of accessible hydration/fueling could be to blame. In the triathlon community, triathlon belts/packs are sometimes worn but are not extremely popular. The number one complaint for not regularly wearing one is that "it's not comfortable" and I get it - nothing is comfortable when you are fatigued and exhausted when running off the bike and it's absolutely more freeing to run without anything wrapped around your waist. But for those who have learned to accept the hydration belt/pack, they have learned to appreciate it and become one with wearing something around the waist/chest.

Sadly, with live in a time where many athletes feel that "less is best." It's almost a badge of honor for some athletes to brag about how little they consume during long workouts as if those who fuel (or hydrate) during workouts are weak, inefficient or too fuel/fluid dependent. Well, we are dependent on sport nutrition because it serves us well - it keeps us healthy, strong and fit so we can adapt to training without impacting our health. We are proud to say that we fuel and hydrate during all of our workouts. 

Karel and I have worn hydration belts for many years and we require all Trimarni athletes on our team to wear a belt/pack in training and in long-distance racing.
While not every athlete that we coach always enjoys wearing a hydration belt/pack, it has provided value in terms of helping to keep athletes healthy and consistent with training. As coaches, our first priority is protecting the health of our athletes which means using gear that will keep the body functioning well, especially in stressful situations - like running in a fatigued state. We also find great value in having our athletes consume sport nutrition while running to train the gut for race day, familiarize them with products that will be effective on race day and to minimize the stress response from running.

Here are our top reasons why we wear a hydration belt when we run:
  1. We are self-sufficient when we run as we can drink when we want to drink without needing to rely on others. This helps us drink on a schedule to prevent overdrinking (and a sloshy stomach/GI issues) and to help delay fatigue and meet electrolyte/fluid/carbohydrate needs.
  2. We can test out different sport nutrition products that we will use on race day - in every single training session. We can also train our gut to tolerate nutrition/fluids when running (it's a skill to be able to drink and digest nutrition while running). 
  3. We can utilize well-formulated sport drinks instead of gels, which provide us with the correct formulation of electrolytes, fluids and carbohydrates to optimize gastric emptying.  Just because you are taking in calories, this doesn't mean it's actually emptying from your gut and being used by your working muscles. For a sport nutrition product to work, it must have the correct formulation to clear the digestive tract and to be absorbed by the small intestines - otherwise, it's just sitting in your gut, potentially causing distress. 
  4. Research shows in spite of depleted muscle and liver glycogen stores, the consumption of sugar (ex. sport drink) acts as a source of "energy" for the central nervous system to delay fatigue. 
  5. Reduced risk of injury and health issues by never starting or finishing a workout in a dehydrated or depleted state. Thus, we can bounce back quickly from our runs (regardless how short or long) to train consistently. 
  6. We build confidence in our race day fueling regime by practicing nutrition over and over again in training with similar products for race day. Come race day, our run nutrition is not an unknown but instead, a performance-enhancer because we have fine-tuned it in training. 
  7. It's become part of our running attire. Because we find it practical, necessary and important to wear a belt when running, we never leave the home without one when we run. 
  8. Carrying hydration in a hand held bottle has shown to affect running gait as the arm holding the bottle does not move freely like the hand without the bottle. For efficient running, the arms need to move with the hips. This can also cause neck tension and affect running form. 
  9. You never know when blood sugar will suddenly drop or when fatigue will set in. Having a properly mixed concentration of sugar with water (and electrolytes) can help keep blood sugar levels stable - especially in the later part of long runs and when running off the bike. 
  10. There are so many belts/packs on the market. Find one that works for you so you can enjoy the many benefits of being a self-sufficient, well-fueled and hydrated runner. The biggest benefit we have found with our belts is being able to run with well-formulated nutrition (fuel, fluids and electrolytes) to keep the body functioning well so that it helps us adapt to training stress and so we can perform to our potential on race day. Running is very corrosive and brings the greatest risk for injury to athletes so we want to do everything we can to reduce the risk for a setback. Wearing a hydration belt has helped us become resilient, efficient and healthy runners.
I have been very happy with my hydration belts. Currently I am wearing the Nathan Sports Trail Mix Plus 2 which I like because of the bottle placements and adjustable straps. It also has a large pouch in the back to store my phone and any other nutrition/gear.


Although Karel has worn many different hydration belts over the years since starting triathlons, he hasn't found one that perfectly works for him......until this season.


To check out Karel's feedback on the Naked Running Belt, check out this video. If you are interested in trying out a belt, you can use the discount code MARNI15 for 15% off your order. Any questions just send us an email.


6/20/18

Nutrition tips for training in the heat


Triathletes and endurance athletes are very susceptible to dehydration and even more so, a heat-related injury at this time of the year.  Whereas in the cold/cooler months of the year, athletes can get away with haphazard fueling and hydration strategies, now is the time in the year when a poorly planned (or early-season) fueling/hydration regime will negatively affect training sessions, racing potential and health.  

Let it be known that training in the heat is incredibly stressful for the body. Seeing that training (in any environment) already creates difficulty for the body to adequately digest and absorb nutrients and fluids, you can imagine why so many athletes experience harmful health issues, GI struggles, extreme fatigue and so many more issues during the summer months when training for an event.
If you think about those who succeed well in endurance events, every athlete is getting tired from glycogen depletion and dehydration and central nervous system fatigue but those who can minimize these performance-limiting issues the longest (ex. proper pacing, great fitness, excellent nutrition/fueling/hydration), is the one who slows down the least and keeps the body functioning in good health and thus, the one who is the most successful on race day. It's also important to note that each athlete will have his/her own threshold for when the body begins to experience a decline in health and performance from dehydration and glycogen depletion - particularly in the heat. 
To keep your body functioning well (in training and on a daily basis), it's extremely important that you do your part and not let your fueling/hydration regime become a game of guessing - especially during the times when you feel your health/performance suffering during training.
Why athletes struggle to stay in good health and perform well in the summer months:

-Not staying well-hydrated on a daily basis (before/after workouts and during the day)
-Not bringing along fluids/nutrition when running (especially off the bike)
-Not comfortable drinking while running/riding 
-Rationing fluids to avoid stopping (or not enough places to refill bottles)
-Not enough hydration bottle cages on the bike (or if they are on, not easily accessible)
-Not using sport nutrition products properly (not enough or too much carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes)
-Afraid to use sport nutrition products or not planning ahead and relying only on water (or nothing at all)
-It's only a "short" workout - you feel you don't need it

I could go on and on and on. 

There are dozens of excuses and reasons that athletes have as to why fluid/electrolyte/calorie needs are not being met during training and racing and not only is it holding you back from training consistently and executing well during workouts, it is also extremely damaging to the body - placing you at risk for injury, sickness, burnout and other serious health complications. 

Common side-effects of dehydration: 
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • loss of focus
  • chills
  • no appetite post workout
  • excessive sleepiness
  • extreme weakness
  • low blood pressure
  • stop sweating
  • dry mouth
  • dark urine
  • dry skin
  • no/little urination
  • extreme cramping
  • bloating/puffiness 
  • excessive thirst/lost of thirst
  • rapid, elevated pulse (despite effort slowing down)
  • muscle spasms (during and post workout)
Are you currently experiencing any of the above? If yes, your current fueling/hydration strategy is NOT working for you. 

Every human body is different but we must pay very close attention to our body signs/symptoms/signals when it comes to training and racing in endurance events. If you do not make the effort to keep yourself in good with proper fueling and hydration (and pacing), you will be forced to spend a lot of time getting your body healthy again before you start even thinking about training again. 

To help you out, here are a few very simple tips to ensure that you are staying hydrated during your workouts (and races): 

  • Be sure to have a sport drink with you for all workouts lasting more than one-hour - this should contain a mixture of electrolytes, carbohydrates and fluids in an appropriate concentration to digest well and to be efficiently absorbed. I suggest a hypo or isotonic solution with no more than 10-14g carbohydrates per 8 ounces but at least 120mg of sodium per 8 ounces in the heat to optimize gastric emptying.
  • For intense or very sweaty/hot workouts lasting less than an hour, you should still use a sport drink with at least 10g carbohydrates per 8 ounces and at least 120mg sodium per 8 ounces.
  • Aim for 24-32 ounces of fluid on the bike per hour and at least 10 ounce fluid per 10-15 minutes while running (this should be in a sport drink - not plain water in the heat!).
  • Aim to sip your bottle on the bike every 10-12 minutes (you need at least 3-4 gulps to ensure that you are getting in around 3-4 ounces of fluid) and 1-2 sips every 5-8 minutes while running. Frequent drinking on a schedule will not only help to delay fatigue and prevent dehydration but will prevent overdrinking on fluids (particularly ice cold water).
  • While keeping your insides hydrated is critical, consider ways to keep your body cool on the outside. Suggestions include exercising early morning or in the evening and avoiding workouts in the heat of the day (10-5pm). Choosing indoor workouts over outdoor. Using water/ice to cool yourself while exercising. Wear a cooling towel/cooling sleeves. Use a visor over a hat. Choose shady areas over direct sunlight. Wear sunscreen to prevent burning.
  • Always plan ahead with your bottle refill stops. Be sure to STOP before you really need to stop so you are never rationing your fluids or going without.
  • Be sure you are setting yourself up for good hydration behaviors. Cages/hydration systems on the bike should be accessible and easy to use in ALL conditions (ex. bumpy roads, rain, technical courses, etc.). Your run courses in training should allow you to refill bottles that you bring with you OR set up bottles on your course. Everything you do in training should be practice for race day.
  • Wear a hydration belt/pack so you can drink what you drink, when you want to drink it. There are many types on the market - find one that works for you and never run outside without it.
  • Do not wait for thirst to kick in during endurance workouts/racing to start drinking. Start drinking/fueling early. An athlete who waits to drink until he/she is thirsty is already behind on fluid requirements and many times, this will cause an athlete to drink an excessive amount of water (as it may be more palatable as a race/training continues) and may cause hyponatremia (very serious) or may cause a sloshy stomach/bloating/stomach cramping by trying to drink too much at once (often a hypertonic/concentrated amount from guzzling a lot of drinks at aid stations or stops at gas stations in training).
  • Make your fueling/hydration strategy during workouts as simple as possible. You should not be using several different methods of consuming electrolytes, calories/carbohydrates/sugars and fluids. Also, DO NOT overconcentrate your flasks/bottles.
  • Pace yourself and be OK with slower paces but a higher RPE. Even mild dehydration can negatively affect performance and can cause drowsiness, irritability, loss of concentration and headaches - none of which are performance enhancing or healthy. When dehydration worsen, serious issues occur which affect the heart, brain, muscles and organs (ex. kidneys). Successful athletes know how to pace an effort so that nutrition/hydration is helping to fuel and hydrate the effort. If you overwork your body, it is not possible to overfuel/hydrate the body to meet your training/racing demands. 

And lastly, you have to be respectful of your body in the heat. If you are feeling any changes with your body that concern you, first slow down and don't be afraid to stop. Remind yourself that when your body starts to shut down or gives you signals/signs that something is wrong (ex. headache, chills, vision changes, etc.), your body is no longer trying t adapt to training stress but it's trying to protect you. Never get upset at your body for a bad workout or race if it is simply trying to protect you from a serious heat or other-related injury. 

 There are far too many athletes failing with workouts and experiencing negative health issues from poor fueling/hydration strategies before/during/after training and improper pacing. Sport nutrition is a complicated area with many misguided tips and suggestions that are not always practical or healthy. If you know someone who can benefit from this blog, please share.