Sports Nutrition

Sports Nutrition

Best Sports Nutrition News vol. 1


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If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter and I hope you do (hint,hint, wink, wink), you know that I like to post about the latest news in Sports and Nutrition. These are the stories that were the most popular in the last  4 months. It’s always interesting to see what stories strike people the most from celebrity players, getting older to losing weight, calories and gluten-free diet. Because at the end of the day what we really, really want is to feel good and look good. It’s just human nature after all!  Enjoy!

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Sports Nutrition

Is Coca-Cola a Sports Drink?


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dc5c0d03-b772-4779-9596-cb85415fc190Coca-Cola is in deep sugary bubbly waters. Its sales have dropped and so did other colas. A group called the Global Energy Balance Network, led by scientists and created by Coca-Cola, announced this year that it was shutting down after months of pressure from public health. This supposedly research based group was promoting the fact that obesity was created by lack of exercise and not diet. Of course, that meant that if you did exercise you could drink all the Coke you want!

But Coca-Cola is still everywhere. It was a partner of the Rio Olympic games. It is also prevalent in triathlon where it sponsors teams and some very good athletes such as team Bravo with Rachel Joyce. It also sponsors the HITS triathlon series, and the list goes on.

Now to answer the question: is Coke a Sports Drink? Well believe it or not Coke has been the subject of multiple scientific papers. There are three things that makes Coke interesting: sugar content, caffeine content and carbonation. Let’s look at these. (more…)

Sports Nutrition

What is a Performance Nutritionist


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Screenshot 2016-07-05 14.31.16
What is in Cavendish recovery shake…

I have heard it all from endurance athletes:

“I felt great on the bike but then my stomach started bothering me on the run”

“I totally bonked”

“I had to stop at the porta-potty five times”

“I did not feel like eating at all”

“I had never tried that bar before and it was disgusting”

“I had to slow down because of a cramp”

“I bought Dura-Ace components so it could save me a pound of weight”

“I was light-headed and ended up in the medical tent”

“I missed my goal by 2 seconds”

“I’m tired all the time!”

Do some of those sound familiar to you too?

Whether it is gastro-intestinal issues, blood sugar imbalance, body composition goals, training adaptations optimization, this is what a Performance Nutritionist, like me,  can help you with. (more…)

Daily Nutrition, Sports Nutrition

Dumb DOMS


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This post was originally published in The Run Experience in a slightly different version.

Today I’m feeling sore. I was fine yesterday, exercised and then I woke up this morning feeling old and grumpy. Dumb DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

So what is DOMS? There are many theories but nobody knows for sure how it happens. It’s biology so it is probably a mix of things. Among the popular explanations are : connective tissue damage, muscle damage, accumulation of calcium inside the muscle and in between fibers and inflammation. It mostly happens doing eccentric exercises. Basically anytime you lower a weight in a controlled fashion or when running downhill in a races.

What can be done?

In theory DOMS is a minor injury, so RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) should apply here. Rest: It will go away in a couple of days. However you can still exercise and the pain will disappear temporarily but come back shortly after. Ice: The idea is to reduce inflammation and it has definitely mixed results in the literature. It could also blunt the training adaptation, more on this below. I don’t know about you but ice is torture to me. Compression and Elevation: From what I’ve seen it has some potential, and I’ve tried it myself. I love the 2XU pants and I’ll wear them at work sometimes under everything. It removes some of the pain and makes my legs feel lighter.

Nothing works for me better than a hot bath with magnesium salts. And from the literature, it looks like two days before an event would also benefit recovery after. Last but not least: massage. Ouch! My husband always think that I’m having a leisurely relaxing one hour massage. Let me tell you the truth. It hurts like hell and is even more painful than the training. I usually do not like to get a massage when I have DOMS, same reason as ice bath, why create more pain? But after a couple of days, it is always a good idea to remove the remaining knots in your muscle.

What about nutrition?

A lot can be done there too. The key answer: proteins and carbohydrates together. That is how the Got Chocolate Milk campaign was born. It is a bit of a big FAT scam or I should say a big SUGAR scam since most of these studies supporting milk chocolate for recovery were founded by the milk industry…

Don't get me wrong, I love Mirinda. (Go get them Mirinda!)
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mirinda. (Go get them Mirinda!)

They are not wrong but try this option with less sugar: blend together milk, whey or plant protein (half a scoop to 1 scoop), a banana and some cocoa powder (of good quality)! Tip: You can add whey or plant protein to your milk to make it higher in protein content, about half a scoop!)

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Milk has the advantage of having the electrolytes compared to the whey. None of the sugar and same effect. Plus the chocolate powder might have some good recovery properties because it contains quercetin a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

But beware, more on this below.

After a hard session, papers report that in general 0.8g/kg of carbs + 0.4g/kg of whey protein works magic or 2:1 ratio carbs to protein to replenish your glycogen stores and keep protein synthesis up and running. That is between 20 and 35g of protein depending on your weight.

Above that amount there is probably no significant impact.

Ideally you’ll want to have this in a meal with real food within 2 hours of your session, but if you can’t, try a protein bar as a snack. (ProBar or Quest as examples) but there are many on the market.

Protein and carbs together work synergistically, as both will increase insulin and promote cellular uptake of nutrients for repair. Instead of whey you can use casein before bed time as it will release more slowly overnight.

Other supplements?

Anti-oxidants of course: Vitamin C, E and NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) are among the most popular anti-oxidants out there. They scavenge free radical (ROS) and help you recover faster. However research is showing that ROS are actually needed for signaling training adaptation. You could totally blunt that response by using too much of them. So use if needed only when no training adaptation is required perhaps during a taper, recovery or the week after a race.

Anti-inflammatory compound are also very useful. Of course, there is the popular over the counter anti-inflammatory Ibuprofen, part of the NSAID category. If I can not sleep,  I will go for it since sleep is one of the most proven way to recover.

But do not abuse.

It has a negative effect on muscle growth and therefore could undermine all your efforts a little bit like too much anti-oxidants. Plus it can give you gastrointestinal issues and other nasty side effects.

A more natural compound would be curcumin or turmeric. It has a similar mechanism of action than NSAID but does not cause thinning of the stomach lining. A recent study has shown that ingesting 2.5g of curmumin twice a day a couple of days before and after the exercise bout could be beneficial. But could it impair training adaptation? I don’t think this has been studied yet but since it acts similarly as NSAID I would not be surprised if it did.

Finally, tart cherry juice has also been studied a lot and here is a good paper. Like many fruit and vegetables, tart cherries contains a lot of anti-oxidants and flavonoids which have anti-inflammatory properties. Using around a marathon would not be a bad idea but during training could potentially inhibits training adaptation. We don’t know yet. Be careful with this one though. Tart cherry juice consumed in the quantities that are suggested contains a lot of xylitol a sugar alcohol that can ferment and give you the runs so definitely test beforehand.

Feeling adventurous?

Have you heard of HMB?  It is a derivative of leucine, one of the most potent amino acid in terms of muscle growth. It has been reported that HMB (Beta-Hydroxy-MethylButyrate free salt) can help alleviate symptoms of DOMS but results are still mitigated. HMB is however safe and worth trying if you know that you will have multiple hard work-outs during the week. It works at reducing protein degradation. A dose of 3 g before exercising would be recommended in that instance.

Then in the same line of thought, amino acids and BCAA, which stands for branched chained amino acid (leucine is one of them) have also shown to reduce DOMS in some instance. Doses vary from 5 to 12g, once or twice per day, 7-10 days before. But since most proteins (in particular whey and casein) contains those, you probably have your grounds covered already.

And then you have Citrulline-malate which at 8g could alleviate DOMS and also L-carnitine, which has to be loaded with 3g/day for 3 weeks for an effect on reducing muscle damage. The good thing about that one is that it also can increase fat metabolism and make you a better fat burner at the same time. Who does not like that?

Beware though, a lot of these studies use muscle damage as a marker which is most likely correlated with muscle soreness but not always and is individual. So see if it works for you.

No Pain No Gain?

Unfortunately, it might be a little bit true.. So my advice go slow and build up, and try some of the strategies listed here. Be aware that some of them could impair training adaptations, so time them carefully.

Daily Nutrition, Sports Nutrition

Eat This! Not That!


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This post first appeared on the Run Experience in a slighter shorter, modified version. Have fun trying new things!

If you are like me, one of the first thing I do before a race is check out where the porta potties are along the course. Just in case. Or if you are like my friend, you are packing on the Imodium before also just in case. Most often I do not have to deal with such issues but the idea of eating food as your stomach shuts down.  Here are some ideas on how to tweak your diet before, during and after races so to minimize GI issues and be healthier.

Before the Race

Instead of a big bowl of pasta the night before a race try a couple of sweet potatoes.

Carbohydrate loading before races as long been the practice of endurance athlete. For 2-3 days before the race we were told to eat boat loads of pasta, bread and the likes. This practice can bring its own problems such as bloating, water retention and even GI issues during the race. It has been shown that this practice is not necessary. Especially if the week before an event you are taking it easier and eat a healthy diet. The day before an event you can increase your carbohydrate ingestion a tad bit. Some suggestions would be to include the day before a bowl of rice, sweet potatoes or just plain potatoes. If these don’t fancy you try something sweeter like a bowl of ice cream but don’t overdo it.

Instead of a big bowl of oatmeal 3 hours before a race sip on a smoothie  90 minutes before.

Why would you want to lose precious sleep and get up 3-4 hours before the start of a race to ingest an enormous amount of oatmeal? I remember doing that before my first marathon, If you have done things correctly, you glycogen tank should be full from the day before. If you are getting up early anyway because you need to travel, have a light snack, such as a banana or a sport bar. Now to tank up your system before the start, sip on your own smoothie made with the following ingredient, mix and match as you like. The smoothie will keep you hydrated and empty from your stomach pretty rapidly. Start sipping on it 90 to 75 minutes before your race.

Mix and match smoothie:

1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup frozen fruit you like (blueberries, mangoes, banana)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or a third of a scoop protein powder
1/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats or you can also substitute with a slow release carbohydrate powder such as UCAN or Carbopro
1 tablespoon chia seeds or even a nut butter of your choice.With 30-40g carbohydrate and 10g protein, you are good to go.

During the Race:

Instead of Gatorade try a drink with electrolytes only.

Gatorade is very popular among athlete and the reason is clear, it has the right amount of electrolytes and carbohydrates to keep you going. Nowadays the recommendation is to drink to thirst during racing or training so that you don’t overdrink as hyponatremia could ensue. The problem with using Gatorade is that anytime you drink you also ingest carbohydrates which could lead to GI issue. A better practice is to separate your electrolyte fluids from your cabohydrate consumption (see next paragraph for recommendations. Use an electrolyte powder in your water such as Nuun or Base Salt or bring electrolyte pills with you if you plan to drink water instead at aid station. (Salt Stick). Salt intake is very individual and for shorter races we probably do not need to take any, however it is not a bad practice to prevent hyponatremia.

Instead of gels try nibbling on real food.

Gels are a quick fix to maintain your blood sugar level during a race. But it can also bring you on the sugar roller coaster. You feel good for 15 minutes than sugar levels go down and you reach for the next gel resulting in gel overdose. You know that feeling in your stomach that too much stickiness is in there. Another alternative would be to nibble on real food every 15 to 30 minutes instead whether it is a sport bar, your own nibble or a food pouch such as these from clif bar or munkpack. Make sure that you don’t ingest more than 10g of carbohydrate at a time to get your blood sugar in control. Look at the label to give you an idea of how much you should eat at a time. If that seems to complicated, you can also use a slow release starch as mentioned above and sip on a dose every 60 to 90 minutes. Again for races shorter than 75 minutes you won’t need to take anything in really.

After the Race:

 

Instead of chocolate milk try your own recovery drink.

Chocolate milk has a good reputation these days thanks to marketing wizards and studies that the milk industry sponsored that shows that milk is excellent for recovery. And it is, it has a good amount of proteins, carbohydrates, electrolytes and antioxidants from the chocolate. However most of the carbohydrate comes from the sugar added. Try your own recovery drink instead, similar to the pre-race smoothie just add some extra protein by using milk instead of almond milk or add up to 1 cup of greek yogurt or up to one scoop of your favorite protein powder. Drink within 2 hours of completing your event earlier if you are doing back to back hard effort (crazy you).

Instead of a beer try a non-alcoholic beer:

There has been a lot of press about beer as a recovery food. It is definitely not bad at all because it contains carbohydrate, electrolytes and vitamins. However, it is the alcohol that hurts and can blunt adaptation signals in your muscles.  Also too much alcohol could act as a diuretic and impairs re-hydration. Try a non-alcoholic beer instead and add a bratwurst with it for some protein. I know it is not the same thing but now you know…

Instead of fast-food burgers try fast-food burgers.

No this is not a typo. Recently there was a study that looked at the effect of fast food on recovery. The reality is that if you analyze a fast food burger on a macronutrient level (fat, carbs, protein) it is not bad at all. However at the micronutrient (vitamins, mineerals, antioxidants) level it might not be the best and it would not be advised to do this everyday but if you are traveling and that is what is available, go for it!

One last note, it is never recommended to try something new during a race so practice before during training and see how your stomach feels with those recommendations.

Guac, Ink.

Sports Nutrition

Trail Sushi


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I’m on my way to Ironman soon, and my training is definitely ramping up. While Bonkbreakers with protein have been one of my favorite staples as it is available during Ironman races, I am just getting tired of them.  So I’ve been looking around for some homemade alternatives. A while ago,  I found this book called the Feed Zone Portables, it contains recipes for excellent hand size snacks that you can put in your pocket for the long ride or run. Even though they taste good, I find that these portables are in general too big and too dense in carbohydrates. I really don’t want to spike my blood sugar because I don’t want to blunt fat burning during long outings. Also most of them need to be wrapped and that provides a challenge during the ride as I’m not very good at letting go of my handlebars… So what would be a  small portable yummy snack that has just the right amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats? I came up with the Trail Sushi.
Here is the recipe for one whole roll (8 servings):
1 bamboo mat (to roll the sushi)
1 nori sheet (I like this one)
1/4 cup uncooked sushi rice (I like this one)
10 g of vanilla whey protein (I like this one)
2 tsp of grass-fed gelatin (I like this one)
4 tbsp of full fat coconut milk (I like this one)
2 tbsp almond butter
2 tsp honey
First cook the rice in a rice cooker or as directed on the package. Cooking 1/4 cup of rice is not always optimal so you might want to cook more in one time for making multiple rolls. Once cooked, wait until it cools down a bit and then spread it on your nori sheet like this. It is OK if it does not cover everything.
Photo May 21, 10 53 28 AM
Mix 2 tbsp of coconut milk with the almond butter, honey and whey protein in a small bowl.
Mix the other 2 tbsp of coconut milk with the gelatin in a bowl and heat it up in the microwave until it gets hot, not necessarily boiling. That should take less than 30 sec. depending on your microwave. Once heated, stir the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved.
Mix the gelatin mixture with the almond butter mixture quickly to make a paste. Then you want to spread this mixture over half the rice in a layer, but don’t wait too long as it tends to thicken as it cools down. Now you are ready to roll your sushi.  Once the roll is done,  put it in the fridge for an hour before cutting it into 8 pieces. Always cut starting in the middle, it is easier. There you go!
 Photo May 21, 10 57 25 AM
Photo May 21, 10 58 22 AM
Photo May 21, 11 00 25 AM
For each piece of an 8 servings roll, you have 72 kcal with 7g of carbohydrate, mostly high glycemic rice starch with a bit of fructose to maximize carbohydrate absorption, 3 g of protein comprising lots of good amino acids to stave off fatigue and prevent muscle breakdown and 4 g of good fats as an excellent energy source when the ride/run is looong. Also you have the benefit of the nori sheet which contains iodine, good for thyroid function and the gelatin which keeps your joints healthy!
I hope you like it!
Photo May 17, 6 50 10 PM
PS: Still working on my sushi rolling skills!
Sports Nutrition

Are You High on Caffeine?


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End of January 2015, are you still on track for your new years resolution? For some it might be losing 5 pounds or stop drinking, for me it is to quit caffeine and write my first blog ever on caffeine effect. I’m still on track to post my first blog ever but did I totally quit caffeine? Not really and here is why.
Photo Jan 15, 2 55 09 PM
Maybe you don’t know it but caffeine is highly addictive for certain people. And that applies to me. Caffeine is everywhere. Apart from the obvious, coffee, it can also be found in colas, energy drink and a lot of sports bars and gels.  A cup of coffee can have up to 200mg caffeine, Gu gels vary from 20mg to 40 mg, one of my favorite Pocket Fuel Cold Brewed Coffee Gel has 70mg and Clif shots have a more decent potency with their double espresso at 100 mg. Caffeine can also be hidden in the form of other ingredients such as yerba mate, kola nut, green tea extract, just to name a few.
Caffeine is a plant alkaloid similar to what is in cocaine, nicotine, morphine. All of these being classified as stimulant. The difference is that it is legal, like nicotine. Why? It does create a dependance but it is not life threatening, it can however be life disturbing when you don’t have your cup of joe in the morning. For me, if I did not have access to coffee for a couple of days that would mean seriously bad migraine.
So what makes caffeine so special. A couple of things you might be interested to know without getting too much into the rocket science. First and foremost caffeine stimulates catecholamines. What it means is that it releases adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine, and also indirectly cortisol. This hormonal mix creates the fight or flight response and it is believed that this is why it decreases RPE or perceived effort. It also lowers the threshold for muscle excitation. Adrenaline stimulates lipolysis and glycogen utilization, your whole body metabolism gets primed. It is not surprising to see caffeine in most weight loss supplements, as it also decreases appetite through the mechanisms I just mentioned. Most studies show very favorable effect for caffeine. It reduces the time trials in endurance sports in general and increases time to exhaustion during strength training. Who would have known that something so ubiquitous would have such nice effect? Yet I feel it is pretty underutilized.
But studies do vary in their results. And it has something to do with the subjects and how naive were they to caffeine. Because the more used to coffee you are, the less effective it is, you get a blunted output of cathecolamines. Therefore most studies use 24-48 hours with no caffeine or even up to 4 days to desensitize subject. It probably works, but it might not be enough for certain people and it is also probably why such high doses of caffeine are needed, that is 4-6 mg/kg, 30 to 60 minutes before exercise or 200 to 300mg of caffeine for me. For some people it can take up to a month to get rid of the habituation and then caffeine can only be used once or twice a week to really see the benefits.
Another important point is that most of these studies use a placebo but between you and me it is pretty hard not to know that you just had the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee. And as I will explain in another post the placebo effect is a really strong one. If I convince you that caffeine works and have a cup of coffee before your ride, you WILL go faster. Crazy.
So why did I decide to quit caffeine? So I could try it as an ergogenic during training and racing and really know if it was working. It took me a month to get off it. For some people going cold turkey might work but it did not for me, for the reason I mentioned earlier. I gradually decreased my amount to finally go caffeine free coffee. I really like the taste of coffee and it is some sort of ritual so I still have it in the morning in the decaffeinated form. I use this decaf bean from Bulletproof. They claim that they use a mycotoxin free bean and they use the Swiss water process to take out caffeine, which is a chemical free process compared to decaf you can get at Starbuck and the likes. It is more expensive though…
So now here I am caffeine free! And I feel like I’m in rehab, some days it is hard. But being caffeine free made me realize how sleep deprived I was. Also, I realized how caffeine was making me nervous and gave me the jitters. Now I have a large cup of coffee usually on Saturday morning before my big ride of the week, it is probably at about 150 to 200mg. Sometimes I do the Bulletproof thing, which is no longer a secret as Runner’s world and The New York Times published articles on this. It consist of coffee, a tablespoon of butter and MCT oil. Good stuff. After that I feel like superwomen. 6:30AM Saturday morning and I am ready, I start jabbering so much that my husband asks me what is wrong with me, I feel euphoric, I am hot and sweaty (literally). Hop on the bike and I hammer those pedals. Zone 3 feels like zone 2, my watts are up the roof, it is working. After 2 hours, I feel a little bit of a slump, I go for another dose (Pocket Fuel Cold Brewed Coffee Gel, 70 mg). I’m a junky. I crank up the music in my ear buds and smile for the rest of the ride. Is the effect real? Is it placebo? Maybe a little bit of both
Here it is my first blog. Hope you like it!