Wow, Boston was not what I was expecting at all this year. Seeing the high temperature from last year, was more thinking that it was going to be somewhat warm. And I love hot weather. Alas no. Here is a recap on my day and nutrition. (more…)
Coca-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…)
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…)
This post was first published in the Run Experience in a slightly different version.
*Metabolic Efficiency is too long so let’s call it ME. Metabolic=metabolism and efficiency, well we know what it means. But the two together? How can your metabolism be efficient.
So here we go:
What is exactly Metabolic Efficiency?
It is the capability of burning fat instead of carbs for the same intensity. You can train your body’s metabolism to use more fat at higher intensity exercise so that it results in glycogen sparing and be more efficient. Glycogen is the sugar reserve that you have in your body and is in limited quantity. Does it make more sense now?
How do you achieve that?
Training: The more trained you are, the most able you are to burn fat. In fact there was a recent study that showed just that. They took 9 pro athlete and 9 recreational athlete and compared for the same RPE their performance. They actually consumed the same amount of carbohydrates, the same amount of lactate was produced but guess what the pro athletes were much faster because they burned 3 times as much fat as their counterpart, so more energy generated from fats for same RPE. So they were faster for same RPE.
Gender: Women are usually better at burning fat. Yes, for once we have an advantage. Maybe it has something to do with us carrying babies and having to rely more on our reserve to grow life when food is restricted.
Exercise mode: You burn more fat running than cycling because running is much more a whole body exercise, you recruit more muscle but at a lower intensity for each one. While cycling put a high demand on your legs muscle primarily. That is why you can get away with eating less during running compared to bicycling even when you burn much more energy.
Fasting: When you are fasting your body burns more fat because of lower insulin in your body. Insulin is known to shut down fat metabolism towards carb metabolism.
Age: As we get older we are better at burning fat. Yes really. Maybe that is why older athletes often shine in ultra endurance events.
Day to day nutrition: And that is the big one. Do you boat load carbohydrates on a daily basis or do you fuel mostly on fat? If you fuel mostly on fat your body will adapt and burn more fat. Even if on race day you decide to carb load because you want to go long and fast (and carbohydrates are necessary to do that), this effect won’t just reverse, you will still burn more fat and be able to spare glycogen. This has tremendous consequences on health and performance.
How can you measure your metabolic efficiency?
You can go to lab and get hooked on a metabolic cart. It is a machine that measures the oxygen that you breathe and the carbon dioxide that you exhale. Using an algorithm, it can tell you how much fat and carbohydrate you are burning while on a treadmill or a cycle ergometer.
From there you can derive your caloric needs during training and racing at different paces. As you increase intensity, you will start burning more and more carbohydrates.
Here are two examples on the treadmill with two different athletes. Important to note that both of them report similar RPE for similar speed:
This athlete has a crossover point between 9 and 8.5 min/mile, meaning that they start burning more carbohydrates passed the 8.75 min/mile mark.
In this second example, this athlete has no crossover and is still burning more fat at 7.5 min/mile. Interestingly, this athlete burn mostly fat at rest. Do you think that she needs to eat carbohydrate when working at her desk?
Two totally different pictures. Let’s do a little math and take the 8min/mile mark.
72% from carbs
500 kcal/hour or 125 g/hour of carbs
Approximately 30% comes from plasma glucose (from a classic paper by Luc van Loon et al. 2001)
87 g/carbs per hour
Assuming 300 glycogen reserve, that is 3.5 hours of fuel.
34% from carbs
208 kcal/hour or 52 g/hour of carbs
Approximately 30% comes from plasma glucose
36 g/carbs per hour
Assuming 300 glycogen reserve, that is 8.3 hours of fuel.
OK, I know, this might be an oversimplification. One caveat of this calculation is that as duration increases your body will naturally start burning more fat. Also we have reserves of fat stored in our muscles, the more fat burning you have the more you store. These reserve also can get depleted which leaves you with your bodily reserves which, as you know are pretty unlimited even for the leanest athlete. How easily are those reserves accessed though? It can be more challenging.
Overall this is just to show you the advantage for endurance events. There are other advantages such as health, minimizing bonking, minimizing GI distress and also less acidosis because less lactate produced.
Does it work for everyone?
Most people report feeling great when they train their body to burn more fat: less sugar craving, less bonking, less eating during training and less GI distress. Does it work for everyone? Everyone is different and you might reach a point where lowering carbohydrates too much is too low (unless ketosis is what you are looking for). Listen to your body! And remember that you still need some carbohydrates for long endurance event or even short and fast races, so timing is key! Consult with a good sports dietitian or nutritionist to know what works for you.
PS INprove.ME : the IN stands for Isabelle Nadeau and the ME for Metabolic Efficiency. You can always inprove.me. Get it? Get it?
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…
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!)
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.
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.
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.
Hi! This is a long post and I apologize. If you are only interested in the nutrition you can skip my jabbering and go directly to the relevant paragraphs. That is fine with me!
When I started triathlon 10 years ago, I never wanted, never thought I would do an Ironman. Its too crazy, too much, too hard, not good for your health. So then why did I decide to do one? Just that: it’s been 10 years and I had to try one, no choice. Plus my kids were getting bigger and I had quit my job, so no more excuses. Because let’s not underestimate this Ironman, it is a lot of training!
In order to be successful I hired a coach, JD. It was so valuable I cannot say the least. He really kept me healthy during the whole process. The training was hard for sure. I had to remember to eat well (of course) and sleep a lot (more challenging).
The bicycling part was the most difficult for me as it takes the longest. So far in my life, I had done lots of 60-70 miles bike rides and also lots of bicycling tours but never above the 80 miles mark in one day. I had a lot of work to do, or so I thought. But JD had me do only four rides that were 80, 90, 100 and 90 miles. That’s it.
The running came in a little bit more easily because I’ve always been a runner first. However the longest run I did was only 19 miles with lots of hills which would prove to be much more difficult than the flattish marathon at the end of the IM.
Swimming felt fine, as I had done over the distance several times.
Even with all that, I was not feeling too confident that I would be successful because how can you run a marathon after 112 miles of cycling and 3800 yards of swimming? However I trusted my coach as he said I was ready so I tried not to worry too much.
The Ironman was up in Whistler and we decided to drive there in 2 days. I actually thought that driving was a great idea especially if you have someone driving for you. What better than doing nothing for 8 hours with feet elevated on the dashboard. I had been feeling pretty tired but after that drive up and minimal training apart for the treadmill in the hotel gym, I was starting to feel back in the groove of things.
As soon as we got there we went for a swim to Alta lake, where it was going to start. The lake was beautiful and the temperature was perfect (70F). I had brought a sleeveless wetsuit just in case but I did not think I would need it at that point because the weather forecast said it was going to rain. The swim in the lake was great and freshwater is always so nice to swim in, except for the leeches…My husband told me that the swimmer that had gotten out just before me had one stuck to his leg. Nice. And then my son tells me: Mom you have a leech on your ankle! I jumped and looked down, it was only a leaf. Gosh. What can you do if you have a leech stuck to you during the race? That’s enough to drain your blood by the end of it.. I did try not to think about it, anyway it’s always better than being bitten by a shark.
The next day I went for a short bike ride. By then my legs were really feeling fresh! What a difference as I had been training on tired legs a lot. The road were also wide and well paved. I was finally getting excited.
On the Saturday I did a quick swim and run and started preparing all my transition, special needs bags and nutrition needs. Wow, it’s like planning a wedding. I had a list of all the things to do, where to put them. Then I had to go drop my bicycle at the lake via the shuttles with all my bags except for the nutrition. I was getting a little nervous then. Fortunately I saw my friend Erika in the shuttle bus so that gave me a break from my thinking brain. I spent the rest of the afternoon prepping nutrition and relaxing. We went out for a good dinner. I did not stuff myself, had chicken veggies and potatoes, very safe. Oh and some dessert too that we shared amongst everybody. And a non-alcoholic beer, because I like the taste.
I had set my alarm at 4:00AM, was planning to get on the first bus at 5AM ish. The start was at 7AM but I preferred that since I did not know what to expect. Of course I was awake by 3:00 and could not sleep anymore. Been there, done that so I know that one night of bad sleep would not impact me that much. I got up and made a super strong Bulletproof coffee. I don’t drink coffee regularly so when I drink one, it’s party time. Just that was making my day already (see earlier post). For those of you who don’t know what a bulletproof coffee is, it is coffee with butter and MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride), it is a type of fat that gets readily absorbed and metabolized pretty quickly, and in your brain too. It is derived from coconut oil. With that on board I started to get ready, I also prepared my pre-race smoothie which I would start drinking an hour before the race start. It contained some almond milk, cliff organic food pouch: banana, mango and coconut, some peanut butter, 2 scoops of plain UCAN superstarch and a little whey protein and that is about it! Nothing to weighty.
One of the thing I felt ready for was the swim. But I forgot about the MASS START. The coach told me don’t go in the middle and of course this is where I was. I thought I was in the front, but no. I could see Erika, she was right there at the front, she is a fast swimmer and I thought I should be fine where I was. NOT. It was terrible. I could not swim freely for the whole first lap and I had to constantly find holes and ways to not get kicked. It is only after the first lap that I started feeling that I had more space. But even though just to be safe I stayed pretty far from the buoy. As a result my total distance was 4600 yard and normally it is 3800 yards. Rookie mistake number 1! I don’t know how accurate these Garmins are. My watch said that my pace was 1:34, which would have been a little fast. But overall it took me 1:12, I was a bit bummed but the swim is such a small portion that I did not let it get to me too much.
By the time I was out of the water, it was raining hard! I went to get my bag and then remembered about the wet suit strippers. Where were they? Found them got that taken care of and went in the changing tent. That is one nice thing I must say about Ironman, is the changing tent with all the volunteers that help you get dressed. I had decided to change completely and since it was raining I was hesitating on what to wear: wind breaker or no windbreaker: no windbreaker because I was feeling warm (bad decision). Fortunately I stashed it in my pocket just in case. 12 minutes transition! mmm, need to work on that one. Rookie mistake # 2
It was raining hard on the bike. I thought, it is going to be a long day of wetness, first moment of darkness but swooshed that thought away. I was hoping that the forecast was going to clear a little bit later like the weather forecast was saying. On the first 10 miles, I got cold very quickly and was shivering. I hope I don’t get hypothermia, I thought. Pedal faster to warm-up, I said to myself. And so I did, but it did not work that well. Remember that wind breaker? That is when I stopped and put it on. Even though I was all wet under, it still warmed me up. I could see the pros coming back from the first turn around on the other side and some of them were actually quitting already because of the bad weather…Well that does not look good. However I managed to warm up. The only thing is that my wind breaker is not really aerodynamic and was acting more like a parachute. Not good. Rookie mistake # 3.
When I got to the special needs I was happy to have dry socks there. I finally removed my windbreaker because the temperature was raising and it was no longer raining. Then the boring part started: dead flat for 30 miles. Ugh. That was hard for me. I don’t have a TimeTrial bike and my position is not optimal and it was not comfortable. Which made me thought that after this I need to get a real Time Trial bike or quit triathlon because this sucks. That was my dark moment number 2 but I managed to pushed it away and focused in the moment. That meant thinking that I had to go pee badly and was not going to pee on the bike. Really people? Who does that? Mind you I was already wet. The sad part is that at every aid station there was a long line at the porta-potty. Fortunately I eventually found one which was at the other side of the road and was free!
Then I saw Claire and Erika coming back on the other side and that motivated me to keep the pace. Finally we got to the hills. Yeah! You must think I’m crazy but I was so happy to get out of aero position just sit really straight and push up and up. I was feeling really good at that point, knowing that the bike was going to end soon and that after an uphill, there is a downhill. My legs were getting tired but not too bad. Seven hours and I was done, better than anticipated with those hills!
At least I got the nutrition right!
I got my first dose of UCAN approximately 1:45 hours into the race. I had in it some MCT oil (2tsp) and BCAA (3g) to complement and I would have that every 1:45 or so. I also was eating quarters of BonkBreakers every half hours if no UCAN and alternating with some peanut butter and honey. I really felt good with even energy.
I was really happy to finish the bike and get into the run. Was trying not to think that I had to run a marathon until Claire reminded me as we were finishing the bike together (thanks Claire, shut up Claire, you are still my friend though!)
Again, I got in the changing tent for a complete wardrobe turnover! Applied bunch of anti-chaffing everywhere and was ready to go. The volunteer was so encouraging and she told me she was going to be at the finish to tell everybody it was my first one. How nice!
I started running with Claire and saw my family on the side cheering me on. So nice to see them. In my head I did the calculation: 20 aid stations divided by 4 equals 5. I can still do math! OK, let’s focus on the first 5 ones, first one quarter. I would run like that pretty much the whole time: run to #1 as fast as you can, walk, have a sip, eat maybe and then repeat and start over for the next 4. That got me busy. Walking at each aid station also breaks it up and helped avoiding cramping and injury and really it does not change your time that much if you walk for 10 seconds. My pace was pretty even for the whole race but did slow down a little bit as time went on. Oh and no I did not see any bears. 4:26 marathon, pretty far from an open one but I’ll take it!
About 30 minutes in I had a dose of UCAN again, with some EAA in it that is it. I also sipped on a Peanut Butter GU gel for an hour . No too much fat not to upset my stomach and anyway I did not feel hungry at all at that point and had good energy. Of course my legs were tired but I guess it is normal. I was only drinking water to thirst at aid station and having salt pills for what it is worth, research is not clear on this one yet! At the special needs I was feeling really thirsty fortunately I had put a Perrier can in my bag and gulped half of it which totally quenched my thirst. I don’t know what it is, but the combination of bubbles and slight sodium is just wonderful. At that point I was suppose to take another dose of UCAN but instead I opted to start coking it up. I never drink Coke but this is when I do it because there is always a place for sugar and caffeine! I also started having broth as it was getting cold when it started pouring again.
Hurray, the finish line! I was getting so pumped up and started picking up the pace, I still had it in me. But the villain course designer had us do a zig and a zag in the village before heading to the finish. When is that going to end? Nevertheless, I was so happy and smiling at everyone. I saw my family at the end and high fived everybody at the finish line. This is as close as I’m going to feel like a super star, red carpet and all but definitely not looking too glamorous.
3x27g UCAN orange flavor: 330 kcal, 81g of carbs
1×1.5 scoop plain UCAN: 135 kcal, 33g of carbs
4 tsp BCAA, 2.5 g/tsp
6 tsp MCT oil: 200 kcal
4 Tsp peanut butter: 400 kcal, 28g of carbs
8 tsp honey: 160 kcal, 40 g carbs
1.75 Bonk Breakers: 473 kcal, 58g of carbs
1 GU gel: 90 kcal, 22g of carbs.
app 0.75 can, not too sure about that one: 120 kcal, 30g of carbs
also some salt pills and caffeine pills.
Total: 1908 kcal, 145 kcal/hour and 292g/carbs and 22 g/hour. This is actually pretty good for me and even on the high side as at those pace I am more of a fat burner but since it was my first IM and I did not experience any GI issues at all, why not?
According to my Training Peak files and Metabolic Efficiency data, this is what I burned during the race: 287g of carbs during the bike, 150 g of carbs during the run and let’s say 30g during the swim. 467 g total. Bout 70% comes from glycogen reserve or the equivalent of 300 g. That is pretty close to what I would have stored in my legs. Of course, this is just an approximation and it is important to remember as the duration increases your body start burning more fat, so I probably burned less than that. I still have a lot of work to do if I want to go faster. But what counts at the end is that:
I am an IronWOman!
I really want to thank everybody who supported me. My husband, my children, my coach(es) and all my friends. I was really touched and surprised by all the support I got on in the form of messages and phone calls. Thank you!