November 28, 2022

4 Top Trends in Triathlon Nutrition

Sports nutrition is always progressing as the science of nutrition and our understanding of the human body improves. But are some of the recent trends in triathlon nutrition fads that will quickly fade? Or are they research-backed, beneficial changes? Here to sort it all out are two nutrition experts. Today’s episode welcomes back Sports Dietitian Taryn Richardson and Sports Scientist Andy Blow. Should you use sweat patches? Monitor your blood glucose levels? Increase your carbohydrate intake? Listen in to find out!

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TriDot Podcast .166 4Top Trends in Triathlon Nutrition Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together. Andrew Harley: Welcome to the TriDot podcast! Now I just want to say that we have a super-dedicated collection of coaches and guests that come on the TriDot podcast. Many folks make many inconvenient recording hours work with their calendar, all to bring you industry-leading knowledge every single week. And we may have really outdone ourselves this time with our first-time-ever tri‑continental podcast recording. As we record, it is midnight here in Texas for me, it is 4:00 p.m. in Brisbane, Australia, and it is 6:00 a.m. on the southern coast of the United Kingdom. So may the coffee flow freely, and may the conversation be as festive as ever! Joining us from Brisbane, Australia where it is 4:00 p.m. is Taryn Richardson. Taryn is an advanced sports dietician who specializes in helping triathletes unlock their potential with the power of nutrition. She is the founder and director of Dietitian Approved, as well as the host of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. She has worked with endurance athletes for over 13 years, spending six years as the sports dietician for Triathlon Australia. She describes herself as a “retired age‑group triathlete” herself. But we’ll see about that, I’m trying to talk her out of retirement with each episode when she comes on. Taryn, welcome back to the TriDot podcast! Taryn Richardson: Thank you much for having me! I hear that our last episode that we did together was one of the greatest of all time episodes! Andrew: It was outstanding. It set the record, Taryn. I think right now it is #8 on our all-time downloaded list. Right in front of it, in 7th place for reference was our first-ever episode that’s been out now for three years, so it’s catching up and gaining steam fast. It set a new record for the most listens we’ve had for an episode in its first week since being posted. So thank you and Dr. Krista Austin for talking about body weight, race weight, and how it relates to triathlon. Taryn: Yeah, I told you two dieticians are better than one, but good to know that TriDotters are really keen to learn about nutrition, and hopefully we can drop some more nutrition knowledge today with Andy on board. And also, geez, hats off to you recording this in the middle of the night to accommodate our three times. We’re just crazy! Andrew: Yep, this is going to be a blast, I can’t wait. I hope it’s worth it, and I hope everything I say is coherent! And good morning from the United Kingdom, we’ve got Andy Blow from Precision Fuel & Hydration. Andy is a sports scientist with a degree in Sports and Exercise Science from the University of Bath. An expert in sweat, dehydration and cramping, Andy has worked with multiple Formula 1 Racing, NBA, NBL, MLB, and Premier League sports teams, as well as many professional triathletes. An elite-level triathlete in his younger days, Andy has finished in the top ten of many IRONMAN events, as well as winning an Xterra World title. Andy, the last time we chatted we were on the island in Kona for the World Championship. How the heck are you? Andy Blow: I’m really good, thanks mate, it’s good to see you again. Not in person this time, but yeah, doing well. Andrew: Well I'm Andrew the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People and Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always we'll roll through our warmup question, settle in for our main set conversation, and then wind things down with our cooldown. On the cooldown today, Vanessa will be chatting with TriDot coach Jason Verbracken and TriDot Ambassador David Heckmann. Now David is a visually-impaired athlete who just finished IRONMAN California with Coach Verbie as his guide. Hang around until the cooldown to hear about their experience in Sacramento. Before we get too deep into the show today, I want to give a shout-out to our good friends at UCAN. Here at TriDot we are huge believers in using UCAN to fuel our training and racing. In the crowded field of nutrition companies, what separates UCAN from the pack is the science behind LIVSTEADY, the key ingredient in UCAN products. While most energy powders are filled with sugar or stimulants that cause a spike and crash, UCAN energy powders, powered by LIVSTEADY, deliver a steady release of complex carbs to give you stable blood sugar and provide long-lasting energy. I personally fuel many of my workouts with the orange-flavored Edge gel and the unflavored UCAN Energy. Between their energy mix, energy bars, almond butter, and more, there is definitely a LIVSTEADY product that you will love. So head to their website, ucan.co and use the code TRIDOT to save 20% on your entire order. That’s ucan.co, promo code TRIDOT. Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving. Andrew: For today’s warmup question, we are going to do a little bit of a triathlon “Would you rather?”-type question. These always get great debate from our community on the I AM TriDot Facebook group. I’m excited to hear what everybody thinks here. Hopefully I’ve concocted a good one. Taryn, Andy, would you rather: win one free superbike of your choosing, win free running shoes for the rest of your life, or win top‑of-the line wetsuits for you and a dozen of your closest triathlon friends? Andy Blow, what would you rather have here? Andy: There is no contest on this one for me. Free running shoes for the rest of my life would not only take a massive box, but it would save me a fortune, because the rate at which I plow through shoes, running shoes in particular, is absolutely legendary. The other good thing, because the last option of having wetsuits for your friends as well, obviously you’re going to feel a bit self-conscious if you don’t choose something that well. The good thing in our office Precision Fuel & Hydration is we have this industry-standard-sized foot, where half of the office is the same shoe size, which is hilarious. So if anyone’s that interested, it’s UK 8.5, US 9.5 – Taryn: Searching for Christmas presents here… Andy: Yeah. JP, Johnny, myself, and a couple of the other guys, we’re all this standard sized, so I could actually share them around in the office. Taryn: Aw, that’s love. That’s love. Andy: So if Nike or Hoka or anyone are listening – just in case they are. Andrew: Maybe it could be a situation where you give some free electrolytes to a company in exchange for free 8½ UK‑sized running shoes for the rest of your life. Andy: That would be a massive deal for me, absolutely. Andrew: Taryn, kicking this over to you. Andy’s going with the lifetime supply of shoes. What would you want here? Taryn: This is a tough one, because I’m not doing any tri training/racing at the moment, but I’d probably go with the bike! I love my roadie, but that’s the only bike I’ve got at the moment, and a superbike would be pretty cool, that would maybe tempt me to get back on the race course sooner rather than later, if I had a pretty sick bike. Andrew: If you had a pretty sick bike, you could pair that pretty sick bike with some electrolytes from Precision Fuel & Hydration, and with the training plan from the TriDot system. We can hook up all around, all’s you gotta do is win the Superbowl. Taryn: Do my own nutrition, and Bob’s your uncle, we’re all good! Andrew: I’m going to go with the same choice here, Taryn. I thought about it for a little while. I mean, you want to be the good guy, and say that you want to give free high-end wetsuits to all of your friends, but at the end of the day, you just don’t have an opportunity that often to really upgrade your bike. As bike prices keep going up and up and up, it can be really difficult to pull the trigger on a $5K, $6K, $10K, $12 bike all in one go. Andy, you’re being smart and practical by opting for the run shoes in the long run, but to just win one of those sick-looking $10K, high-end superbikes that you see the pros riding, and just instantly have that to race around, that would be the dream. Guys, we are we’re going to throw this question out to you our audience. I’m excited to see what you have to say on this triathlon “Would you Rather?” Make sure you’re a part of the I AM TriDot Facebook group. We’re going to throw this question your way: would you rather win a super-bike, would you rather win free running shoes for the rest of your life, or would you rather be the nice guy or gal and give all of your mates some good wetsuit stuff? Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1… Andrew: With Andy joining me on the show today, I have to lead with the question, have you planned your nutrition strategy for your next race yet? If you’re in need of some help, our friends at Precision Fuel & Hydration provide education, tools, and products to help you personalize your fueling plan. Want to know what Leon Chevalier, Ashleigh Gentle, and Emma Pallant-Browne eat and drink to fuel their races? Check out the Athlete Case Study section of precisionfuelandhydration.com, and once you go there, you can refine your own hydration and fueling strategy like these pros do as well. I use their strongest electrolyte drink, PH 1500, to help replenish my high sweat/sodium losses, while the PF 30, PF 30 Caffeine, and PF 90 gels have helped with my energy needs. Ultimately, the Precision Fuel & Hydration product range is designed to make it easier for you to track exactly what you’re eating and drinking during races, and you can concentrate on just hitting your numbers. Don’t forget, TriDot listeners get 10% off their first order of electrolytes and fueling products by using the code TRI10 at the checkout. Andy, Taryn, before we even talk about the trends, the fads, and the what’s-new, what are a few time-tested, core nutritional truths that we should just always know are true, regardless of the fads that come and go? Andy, what do you think? Andy: I think one of the big ones is – I was actually up in Liverpool yesterday at Liverpool John Moores University with some of the researchers there, and they put a paper out a few years ago which was called, “Fuel for the Work Required”, and it’s a really seminal paper in sports nutrition around fueling athletes. Basically the premise behind it, very very oversimplified, is that we all have a basic nutritional requirement day-to-day as human beings, and that when you do the amount of work that endurance athletes do, you need to supplement that with additional carbohydrates, which is scaled to the volume and intensity of work that you’re doing. We’re going to dig into some of these more detailed questions and debates around carbs for athletes, ketone for athletes, all this sort of stuff. There’s always these very extreme views, but their view, and a science-backed view, is that you moderate the amount of carbohydrate that you’re taking in, and it goes up and down based on the volume and intensity of training that you're doing. If you get that right, fuel for the work required, then it enables you to do the work that you need to do to get fitter and better. It allows you to recover from that work, and it is essentially the optimal way to look at fueling. It is moderation, it’s not “you should always take loads,” or “you should always take none.” It’s not an easy, snappy message to sell, but I think it’s one of the core principles that we always try to apply anyway. Andrew: Yeah, that is definitely a core nutritional truth that is true regardless of what fads or ads or new products come out on the marketplace. Taryn, what would you have to add to that? Taryn: Andy hit the nail on the head. Periodization is like Triathlon Nutrition 101. You have to understand how to do that to survive training for three sports. I think starting this episode about core truths, with some of the fundamentals, is a great place to start. Because we often forget about some of the foundations of what we need to be eating on a day-to-day basis, and we get sidelined by shiny objects, and the latest trends and fads and stuff you can passively hand money over for, but is it going to do anything to make you a better athlete or not? Taking a step back from that before we dive into those shiny objects, and thinking about what are our fundamentals are of what you need to do on a day-to-day basis, because that’s going to have a much bigger impact on your overall health and performance with what you can consistently do every single day. It’s not this one tiny thing that you might implement for a race on race day, or around a race. It’s the small, daily consistent behaviors and habits that you do every single day that will make so much more impact on you. “Carbs are your friend” is a truth that we need to be comfortable with, and not be carb-phobic, and like Andy said, the message is not, “all the carbs” and it’s not “none of the carbs”. It’s understanding how to eat them strategically to best support our training, and getting that right is really key to triathlon nutrition. The other thing that is not very sexy, which I talk about all the time, is eating enough fruits and vegetables. Six percent of the Australian population, 8 to 10% of the American, and I think the U.K. – sorry Andy – is even worse than that, don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables on a day-to-day basis. What is going on? Like we’re too busy worrying about all this weird and wonderful stuff that we don’t actually focus on some of those foundations of what actually makes up a healthy, balanced diet. We’re too busy focusing on ketos and ketones and weird patches like blood glucose monitoring and stuff that we’re going to talk about today. But let’s take a step back from that first and make sure we’re doing some of those key things first. Andrew: It might be the Florida boy in me – I grew up in Central Florida, surrounded by strawberry fields and orange groves and stuff – but I think, Taryn, that fruits and vegetables are very sexy. I’m a big fan of working them into my diet. Taryn: I’m trying to make them sexy! Andy: I was just going to say, I need to apologize on behalf of the U.K. for our appalling fruit and vegetable intake. Taryn: It’s terrible! Andy: I’ve got to say, I’m doing my best on that. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. My children, they’re pulling the average down though. Yeah, Taryn, this is a totally different topic of conversation, but if you can teach me how to get kids to eat more fruit and vegetables, then we should have a side conversation about that, for sure. Taryn: We can definitely do that, it’s all about being sneaky and hiding it, but yes. Andrew: All right, I’m going to get us into our trends. Thank you guys so much for laying that groundwork right there, and making sure that we’re keeping in mind that in addition to all these things that we are talking about today. There are the core truths of fueling yourself for the workouts, for eating what you need to eat, wholesome meals, fruits, vegetables, and making sure you’re fueled for life and for sport. With that, I will move us into Trend #1 that I want to hear about today. This is the pure amount of calories that athletes are starting to take in. Many pros are training their gut to tolerate close to a hundred grams of carbohydrate per hour, a threshold previously believed to be far too much. Andy, as you work with the team from Precision Fuel & Hydration – and you guys work with the pros, you sponsor the pros you work with – what’s going on here with this? Is taking in more carbohydrate for our training and racing, has this been official? Andy: Yeah, it appears to be that way, as a general rule. That isn’t, by the way, me starting out with saying that everyone who’s listening to this should take more carbohydrate when they’re racing and training. But if I look back 20 years ago to when I was getting some sports nutrition advice for racing IRONMAN for the first time, the recommendations on how much fuel you should take in were very, very conservative compared to the numbers that we’re seeing athletes attack now. Interestingly, when I look back, that was coming from the best of the sports science knowledge at the time, and even then, some of the elite athletes that I was training with were doing very, very different things. Some of them were taking a lot, lot more. But to me, at that time I had just come out with my sports science degree. I looked at the evidence, I looked at what people were saying and I thought, “Looks to me like these guys are overdoing it, and I’m going to do less than that.” I can look back for sure and say I probably under-fueled a lot of my long-distance triathlon efforts, because I was probably not leaning into quite enough of what was going on at the coalface with some of the top athletes, and being a little bit more conservative, and being a little bit less organized than I needed to be around that part of my fueling. What we’re seeing now – and we try to bridge the gap between what’s going on and the peer-reviewed literature. Which is important, but it’s often several years behind what’s going on with elite athletes. A lot of people listening know, and you guys know, that we do all these case studies with athletes. They’re not always with elite athletes, actually. A lot of them are, because that’s who we happen to work with. Andrew: Some of them are with very average athletes from Dallas, Texas, who have twelve-hour IRONMAN finishes. Andy: Yeah, well, it’s a fantastic case study if people want to go and look at that one, because we’ve got Harley’s study from IRONMAN Texas on the website. Everything he ate and drank throughout his first IRONMAN. What we’ve done with those case studies, the process of how we develop them, is we do very detailed interviews with athletes pre‑ and post-event, and we do this very quickly. We’ll interview them literally a day or two before the race to find out what their nutritional plan is for what they’re going to take in. We interview them immediately after the race, sometimes we even have Brad, who’s our athlete ambassador guy, in the finish chute basically, with his voice recorder, sticking it in their face, getting the best memory recall that we can, to really understand everything they ate and drank during that race. And we make some pretty accurate determinations from that on the amount of fluid people have drunk, the amount of sodium they’ve taken in, and the amount of carbohydrate they’ve consumed. We use that for two things, really. One is to give those athletes pretty immediate feedback on where it looks like their nutritional plan or execution of that plan might have been beneficial, or it might need working on for next time. So they get some actual feedback. Then what we also do is drop this data into our database. We create these case studies to try and show the rest of the triathlon community, this is what’s really happening with athletes at different levels, to give an appreciation of what people are taking in, and how they performed after taking it in. Andrew: I really encourage people, if you’re not already, go follow Precision Fuel & Hydration on social media. I think it’s so interesting, Andy, when a race is over – whether it’s the IRONMAN World Championships or whether it’s another race around the world – when one of your sponsored pros does the race, often their numbers of what they fueled is up within a couple hours of their finish times. It’s really interesting to see. That’s what we’re seeing, from the case studies you’re pointing out, guys like Leon Chevalier and Fenella Langridge, who just had great races in Kona, as well as some others. Their numbers of carbohydrate they’re taking in are just going up and up and up with every single race. These guys and gals that are taking on more carb, what are they doing in their training to train their gut to handle that much calories while exerting themselves? Andy: Yeah, they’re training the gut for taking in high amounts of carbs is a really important point, because when you see that someone like Leon’s taking in over a hundred grams of carb an hour, that’s probably not something the average athlete can just step up and hope to do or need to do immediately. By taking in more carbohydrate in training, they learn both how it feels, that you get adaptations in the gut and in the body to facilitate higher rate of absorption and oxidization of carbohydrates. So what they’re doing essentially is, as you do in any aspect of physiology, if it’s here, and you want to nudge it to a higher place, you look at where you are and you look at where you want to be, where you feel like you need to be, and you progressively work towards it. So particularly in long, hard, brick training sessions, long hard bike rides, long hard runs, athletes like Leon and Fenella have done a lot of work in terms of making sure that they’re following a nutrition plan, a fueling plan that is quite similar to what they’re going to do in the race. That has, for me, two major benefits. One is it enables them to sort of test and simulate what they’re doing in training, so they know they’re going to be able to tolerate it on race day. It’s going to work for them. The second thing is actually, again, looking back at my own history with this, and having worked with other athletes and seeing the same thing, there can be a tendency to skimp on the fueling in some of those big training sessions, maybe partly because of cost. Sports nutrition products, if you’re going to use those specifically, are not cheap, and you might think you can get away with using a few less gels in a big bike ride than you might do on race day. But if you take that extra carbohydrate, and if you get the hydration absolutely on point, you get more out of the session you’re doing, and importantly, you recover way, way faster afterwards, you bounce back into training. So essentially what we’re seeing now is far, far more emphasis on doing simulation-type training sessions. The reason I was up in Liverpool yesterday was – I wasn’t with a triathlete, I was with an ultra-distance runner who is focusing on the Western States 100, and he was over from the U.S. doing simulation sessions in the altitude chamber and the heat chamber to simulate the challenges of Western States. A lot of it was focused on practicing nutrition in that same environment, because trying to replicate and going to a highly specific level of simulation to make sure exactly what you’re doing before race day, and your body knows exactly what it’s doing is super important. Andrew: What a sport ultra-running is, and the things that those guys and gals put their bodies through. I know we put our bodies through a lot for IRONMAN, but they have a whole different beast of a race that they’re taking on. So it’s very, very fascinating to see the nutritional work that you’re doing with a lot of ultra-runners. Taryn, as you work with triathletes through the Triathlon Nutrition Academy, what are you teaching when it comes to taking on something like 100 grams of carbs for a race? What are the trends that you're seeing with your average age‑groupers? Taryn: I definitely work with much more of the age‑group population these days than in the elite space. For them, they need to focus on doing a lot of gut training to get to those set of levels. The research we’re seeing in this space is in the elite athlete, an athlete that is very fit, very well-trained, and is used to burning carbohydrate and breaking down and digesting carbohydrate when they exercise. That’s a mad skill that you have to train and adapt to be able to do that. So I’m not suggesting pushing intakes up over and above 100 grams an hour unless I’m dealing with an elite nine‑hour Kona‑type athlete. Then we can have that conversation. But for typical age‑groupers inside the Academy, they have no idea how to fuel during a session at all, until they get a bit of education. So it’s just sort of stepping them with some foundations first, around some targets of what they should be hitting, depending on what type of session they’re doing. Then, “Okay, now you’ve got a bit of experience with doing that, and you can tolerate that, I’m going to teach you how to train your gut strategically for a key event.” There’s probably one or two where we’re hitting up 90 grams an hour or around there, but the majority of people are still much lower than that, and that’s just the training of the gut. It takes a little bit of time, we don’t actually really know how long it takes specifically, there’s no protocol as yet. Andy can probably talk to this. It’d be individualized anyway, but it’s getting them to start to think about that. Because fueling is really important, we know that. We burn way more carbohydrate per hour than we can ever tolerate digestion-wise. Our rate limiter is in the gut. You can increase your gastric emptying – that’s the gel, the sports drink or whatever, moving from your stomach further along the gastrointestinal tract for digestion into the bloodstream – that part can kind of be trained, and you can get better at that. But then we still need to get that fuel from the small intestine into the bloodstream, and we know that that’s limited by those carbohydrate digestion channels, or pumps, or whatever you want to call them. We need to do a few things to get our fueling up that high, and we need to be a bit systematic and strategic around how we do that. But whether or not an everyday age‑grouper needs to be aiming that – I actually did an episode on this – I think it’s probably a mistake for the everyday age‑grouper that’s just going out to participate, to think about going that high with their fueling unless they’re well-trained, and they’re fast, and they’re elite, and they are used to digesting carbohydrate when they exercise. Because like I said, it is definitely a skill. It’s something that you need to get used to, and get better at doing that, oxidizing carbohydrate while the blood is not in your stomach is something that you need to train. So just be mindful, if you’re an everyday age‑grouper, that you can head that direction, but give it a bit of time, and be strategic around that. The research we’re seeing in this space, and case studies that Andy is doing, is definitely an elite-level athlete. The more fuel you can get on board, the better. We saw that two‑hour marathon attempt a few years ago, and he bonked at 120 grams an hour in the marathon, because they’re oxidizing – do you know the numbers Andy, like 300, 400 grams of carbohydrate an hour? It’s insane. Andy: Yeah, it’d be well over 300 at that sort of pace. Yeah, absolutely, and I think that’s what we’ve alluded to, it can give a skewed view to people who are not going as far or as fast. Going back to my ultra-runner example from yesterday, this guy’s an elite runner at the front of the field. When you’re running for 15 or 16 hours, your intensity is a little bit lower than it is for an IRONMAN athlete who’s eight hours. We think of IRONMAN athletes as ultra-endurance, but that’s half the time. This guy’s carbohydrate consumption is probably coming down to closer to 60 or 70 grams an hour, along with supplementing with some other food, because although he’s going for a very long time, the raw intensity is that little bit lower. That’s going to be the same for an IRONMAN athlete. When we did our case studies from Kona, the average age‑grouper that we looked at – and to be clear, the average age‑group level in Kona is high already, because people have qualified to be there. We’ve tended to do case studies with those that are at the more pointy end of their age groups as well. But even so, when we averaged it out, we saw I think about 22% less carbohydrate in the age‑groupers than in the pros. Which I guess is what you would expect, because the pros like Leon are out there for less than eight hours. Some of even our winning age‑groupers in the older age‑groups are out there for 12 or 13 hours, so you're not going to need to smash a 110 grams of carbohydrate for 13 hours. That’s very unlikely to be helpful if you do. Just on those aggregate numbers, one thing we’re starting to look at is, now that we’re getting close to over 200 case studies in our database, we’re going to start to publish a page on the site soon with the aggregate data building up in real time for 70.3, for marathon, for IRONMAN and that kind of thing, to give people an appreciation for what those figures look like. Because we’ve found that these sort of conversations are common, and it’s human nature, we all want to focus on the highest and the biggest numbers and what people are doing at the top end. Taryn: You’ve gotta win! Andy: Actually, sometimes showing the range, and showing the lower end of stuff, a really interesting one – if it’s not too much of a digression – is that we’ve been working with Emma Pallant-Browne for a number of years. Emma just got third at 70.3 Worlds in St. George. It was really, really cold. For various practical reasons, that limited her ability to fuel, and she only managed to get 28 grams of carbohydrate in per hour in a four‑hour race. Emma came in third in the world. So you can perform remarkably well sometimes on what would not necessarily be classically seen as optimal fueling. It’s because fueling and hydration are definitely huge pillars that support performance, but there are a lot of other pillars that support performance. In Emma’s case, being insanely fit, and one of the most ridiculously hard-core and determined athletes you’ll ever meet, will mean that you can do some pretty extraordinary things. We’ve seen Emma getting up to 80, 90 grams of carbohydrate an hour in these races, with some benefit, but she’s just gone and managed to perform in some very unique circumstances at 30 grams an hour. So I think it’s important to remember that there’s a big range that can work for people here, and more is not always better. Taryn: Good point, excellent. Andrew: A great reminder for all of us, as we’re seeing the social media posts fly out with Leon taking on 105 grams of carbs per hour at Kona. Just know that for the age‑grouper, largely you can admire what the pros are doing there, you can understand they’re training their gut for that, they’re putting forth the effort that needs that much fuel, and then recognize that we can dial that back something like 20, 30, 40% or more even depending on our own paces. Andy, would you say that these higher end of carbohydrate intake per hour, even if you’re an elite, is this mainly for 70.3 and full-distance racing, or would short-course athletes benefit from more carbohydrate per hour as well? Andy: Generally speaking, short-course athletes are not going to need that high, high level of carbohydrate intake, because you’re much more in the zone where glycogen depletion – we used to race an Olympic-distance race on basically no fuel, pretty much. If it was less than two hours. It was almost certainly not optimal, but it’s very doable if you’re fit. Taryn: And you’re carb loading. Andy: So 30, 60 grams. Yeah, if you carb load, exactly. That’s a huge point, to go back to the Emma thing. Emma does a phenomenal job of carb loading in the day before, the morning of the event. It’s amazing, when you’re tapered and carb loading, it’s amazing how far you can go on no fuel, actually. Taryn: Not a strategy to play with as an age‑grouper, just going to throw that caveat in there. Andy: Yeah, but I think Olympic distance, we’re typically seeing people take one, two, maybe three gels at near the end. But we’ve actually developed a product, which is being used exclusively by some of our elite athletes in Olympic-distance triathlon and marathon, which is basically a much stronger carbohydrate drink. Where the delivery of carbohydrates in a way you can get in when you’re breathing really hard is important, and hydration considerations less important, because as long as you get some liquid in, you can offset some of your sweat losses. Andrew: That kind of begins to transition us, Andy, into Trend #2 that I want to talk about today. This is that there’s nutrition products coming out that just have certain mixes, certain makeups where they are packing in more carbohydrate and more calories per serving than ever before. So I want to talk about this: there’s different carbohydrate-dense fueling sources like hydrogels and complex drink mixes, like you’re talking about, Andy. Many brands have fuel sources that are packing in 60 to 100 grams of carb per serving. Taryn, how are brands able to get this much carbohydrate into a serving? Taryn: Well, the man who makes those products can probably answer this better than me. But if you have a look at those products, how many grams of products are in that packet – take the Maurten drink mixes: the 160 mix has got 40 grams of powder in it, and the 320 mix has got 80 grams, so it just doubles the amount of powder in that single sachet to double the amount of carbohydrate per serving. So there’s that cheat. I know the 90 gram Precision Hydration gel has 153 gram servings, so you’ve just got three gels packed in there in a bigger packet. There’s not a lot of witchcraft to that, just make sizing and servings a little bit bigger. Then we’ve got products like Maurten who have their hydrogel technology, which is just delivering that carbohydrate in a different way. I don’t know if you want to dive into that technology in this podcast, but that is another way that we’re starting to see products change and evolve the way that we are actually fueling ourselves. Andrew: Very interesting. Now Andy, just by having a friendship with you guys, having a brand partnership with Precision and TriDot, I often catch wind of new products coming out before they actually come out, and are kind of aware of certain things that you guys are working on. I didn’t know until this conversation that you had a drink mix that was packing in some more calories that some of your elites were using. Talk to us about Precision’s efforts there, what you’re developing, why you’re developing that. What are the cases in which an athlete might want to use that versus the PF 30 gels and PF 30 drink mix? Andy: Yeah, so Taryn hit the nail on the head. If you want to get double the amount of carbohydrates into someone in a drink or gel or whatever, you essentially have to double the amount of gel you give them, or double the amount of drink powder that you dilute into some water. Because a carbohydrate drink mix is almost exclusively carbohydrate already. You can’t sort of magic more, there is a law of physics here. The molecules that you need to pack in have a certain mass, and if you want 120 grams of carbohydrate per liter, then you’re going to need double the amount of powder that you needed to get 60 gram of carbohydrate per liter. We had a lot of requests from the elite athletes that we’re working with for a more concentrated fuel source. The reason that our standard drink mix has around about 60 grams of carbohydrate per liter is that that’s the kind of theoretically around isotonic, but when we’ve measured ours in the lab it’s actually quite hypotonic still, because we have so few additional ingredients in it. But the osmolality is less concentrated than in your blood, so it moves from the gut into the bloodstream relatively speedily. When you get a stronger drink, when you go hypertonic, you put more mass in the drink than the molecules in your blood, then it can slow down dramatically the rate of transport of the fluids and the carbohydrates into your bloodstream. The thing is, in colder conditions, and when athletes are racing at a very, very high intensity as I alluded to earlier, it can be really hard. You may not need to and you may not want to drink the volume of fluid you need to get the amount of calories that you need, and it may even be tricky to open gels, swallow gels, you’ve probably got to chase them down with some drink anyway. So what we basically observed in the field was that pro athletes were taking our drink mixes, mixing them stronger, and getting on really well with that. So what we’ve done is we’ve developed some very slight modifications to the drink mix, and we’ve actually removed things like the electrolyte content entirely from that product in order to further reduce any additional elements of the mix to make it as simple as possible, so we can get 120 grams of carbohydrate in a liter serving, or 60 grams in a 500 mL bottle. The osmolality is still slightly hypertonic, but it’s not too bad. We’ve minimized the flavor, we’ve minimized as many other features as we can. That’s the strength that we have tested it to, but we know that some athletes are mixing it a little bit stronger, some athletes are mixing it a little bit weaker, and playing around and finding out what works for them. It’s very condition-dependent, it’s very intensity-dependent, but essentially putting more carbs in the drink mix is not something that we’ve found works fantastically well for really long-distance events, because I think you and talked about this on an earlier recording was decoupling our hydration from your fueling. Makes a lot of sense when it’s very hot or when you’re going a very long distance, because as the demands chance and move, if your limited to just drinking what’s in one bottle, you’ve got nowhere to go. If you’re thirsty, you’ve got to drink more, and if you suddenly drink double, then you don’t need double the carbs, and you’re going to make yourself sick and you’re not going to have enough water, and vice versa. As we saw in St. George, Emma had a relatively concentrated drink mix, but it was so cold, she barely touched her drink on the bike. Then, what happens then is you don’t get enough calories. So all that being said, this drink that we’ve got is proving very popular with people who do marathons, it’s been very popular for Olympic-distance triathlon because you can just have one bottle of it on the bike and get quite a lot of energy there. So go full circle, as Taryn said, there’s no magic in it, we’re just packing more in, and we’re tweaking all the little variables that we can to make it as palatable, as digestible as possible. The whole jumping in on the hydrogel thing, the research that a lot of people have done just doesn’t really show much, if any, of a measurable benefit to using hydrogels over having a matched dose of carbohydrate. So you could take 90 grams,100 grams of carbohydrate an hour in pretty much any format, as long as you’re using a glucose/fructose mix potentially, if it’s really high amounts, if you do that, you’re not going to necessarily see a performance difference whether that’s in a hydrogel form or in a regular carbohydrate form. For me, if you get into the race-day stuff, the fundamentals are knowing how much fluid, sodium, carbohydrate you need to take in, getting anywhere close to those numbers. Most people aren’t doing that. If you’re not doing that, banging it into a hydrogel format, or paying two or three times the price for a gel of some other regular form of carbohydrate to take in is just not necessarily all that smart or going to make all that much of a difference. That’s the problem for me, not the problem that the hydrogel stuff is not implausible, that it might offer a very tiny edge to some people some of the time. But when you then take that tiny sliver of evidence, extrapolate it to say this is the best thing since sliced bread, then you confuse everyone, and try to blind them with the science, when in actual fact, they just need to still be focusing on the fundamental, which with carbohydrate is like, “How much do I need, and how much can I tolerate?” Simple as that. Andrew: All right, so those were two trends that we’ve obviously camped out on for a good hot minute here in the main set. Trend #3 has to do with how we monitor our energy levels, and a new trend is blood glucose monitoring. Many of our listeners may have noticed lately a round patch on the arms of their favorite pros and tech-savvy age‑groupers. That patch is made by Supersapiens, and I gotta say, these things were all over Kona this year. There have always been ways to measure glucose, but it’s never been this accessible to the everyday triathlete. We probably need to do a full-length episode one of these days on the Supersapiens patch and what they’re doing here with this, but for the sake of today, as we just introduce our listeners to the current trends in tri nutrition, Andy, what do we need to know about these patches? Andy: Yeah, these patches are not NEW-new. They’re relatively new to athletes. They’ve been around for a while as a means to measure glucose levels in diabetics. That’s where the technology originated from, because obviously diabetics either have a hard time or can’t control their blood glucose levels other than by taking insulin, whereas if you’ve not got diabetes, your body produces insulin to bring sugar levels down in the blood when you consume something sugary. So they give you a real-time estimate of what’s going on in your blood, and you can see that on your phone, or these days you can even see it on your smart watch or your computer head unit or whatever. You can get a real-time reading. Theoretically there’s some really useful information from that, because we know that big disturbances in blood glucose can be symptomatic of over‑ or under‑fueling. They might be able to show you when you’re potentially going to bonk and run out of energy, and that sort of thing. So the theory of what they might do for an athlete, both in terms of learning in real-time is very, very exciting. The downside, if there is one at the moment, is that it’s not as simple as a fuel gauge for your body. Because in the body you’ve got stored muscle glycogen, you’ve got glycogen in the liver, you’ve got sugar circulating in the blood, and the dynamic way in which the body balances and corrects these things when you’re exercising and eating is very complicated. So I’ve used one of these patches quite a bit over the last year and a half now, and it’s one of those things where at first you think it’s telling you so much information, everything you need to know, and then you very quickly realize that it’s more complicated than that. The ways we’ve seen it work really well for people is testing out different food types and products to use, because sometimes if you consistently feel a bit rubbish eating one type of food or product, then you can test it and look at your blood glucose response to that, you can learn quite a lot. The other thing is, and this can be good and bad, but for me there’s a kind of, “What gets measured gets managed” -type approach, so we’ve definitely seen it as a way of encouraging people to focus more on fueling, which then potentially leads to better fueling. But it’s not necessarily as linear as being able to say, “Well you read these numbers, and then if they do this, you do this. If they do that, you do that.” There’s two camps here. One says that, and I’m sort of leaning a little bit towards this camp, is that they’re new, the data coming back from them, we don’t fully understand yet. So it’s really hard, there’s not a book been written yet on how to use real-time glucose monitoring to improve your athletic performance. I do believe that there will be over time, we’ll learn more and more, and the new information will become more useful. But for the average athlete at the moment, if you’re not particularly scientifically minded and into that, are you going to be able to strap it on and have it help you? Unlikely. Andrew: It sounds like that’s the case for me, yeah. Andy: Yeah. Earlier doctors are using it, and some of them are finding it very useful, and a lot of very intelligent people are playing around with these things and seeing some plausible uses, and it’s not a bad thing that they’re in the market by any stretch. It’s a good thing to get new technology out there, but if you’re not careful, like with any aspect of this, you can overwhelm yourself in data. So there’s cases where they’re very, very useful, and cases where they’re not. Andrew: Yeah, it sounds like, from where I stand, I’m going to let a couple other people smarter than me figure it out a little bit further before I spend the money and try to figure out what it could do for me. But thanks for that insight there, Andy. Taryn, have you had any of your athletes ask about this, or start using this to see how their nutrition’s impacting their training? Taryn: Not in the triathlon scene. It’s happening a lot in cyclists at the moment in Australia. I have one client in mind who I think this would be perfect for. He’s a Type 1 diabetic, and we need to work on his fueling first, that’s what we’re doing inside the Academy right now. He doesn’t fuel at all, we need to get that right first. But I think having this data for him will give him some confidence through his training sessions that he can push himself, because he knows that he’s not going to bonk or hit the wall. But I’m with Andy like, when is data too much data? If you see this monitor saying your glucose levels are going below four, like you’re heading to hypo, what are you going to do about that? Is that going to mess with your mind when you’re trying to push in the back end of your race? You’re probably going to survive that. A lot of it is going to be mental at that point, too. But for me, it’s a bit of a shiny object at this point. We don’t have good data, we don’t know whether they’re useful or not. I always go back to foundations: foundations, foundations, foundations. We need to walk before we run. There are so many things that you need to do with your fueling first before we start dabbling in this stuff. But we love to spend money on gizmos and gadgets, because they’re cool, and they’re fun to play with Andrew: Yeah, it’s a problem. Andy: There are lots of companies doing this, and you picked out Supersapiens, and I think that’s relevant, because what Supersapiens are doing is putting a big emphasis and effort around educating people on these products, and my interactions with them as a brand have been fantastic. They’ve got some really good scientists, they’ve got some really good academics on their staff, and I think if people are interested in learning more about it, their website has some useful stuff. It’s a good place to start looking, because this stuff will be coming, and in the future I think that everyone knows that non‑invasive forms of glucose monitoring are probably going to be the norm. Your watch is probably going to be able to do this in the not‑too-distant future. So companies like that getting a jump on understanding how to interpret this data is going to be very useful to us all in the long run I think. Andrew: Yeah, very well put, and good to know that it’s not just a shiny object they’re trying to sell, but it’s actually something they are studying the data of, and wanting to understand and empower athletes with that product. One last trend I want to talk about, and Andy while we have you on, in my mind, Precision Fuel & Hydration IS the trend in the hydration space. There’s a reason why TriDot has chosen to partner with Precision Fuel & Hydration as opposed to some other companies. The way you are trying to educate athletes and empower athletes, doing the one‑on-one consultations with athletes, sweat-testing athletes, and then having products that work and work well for a wide variety of people, you in my mind are the trend in that space. That said, there’s a couple new shiny objects, so to speak, that have entered the space that I want to get your take on. There’s a couple companies, Gatorade is one, I forget the name of the other but I had a Facebook ad for something else that’s a patch that you put on your arm, and it can measure your sodium loss in a certain amount of sweat. What is your take on these new toys in the hydration space? Andy: Yeah, the real-time or patch-based sweat monitoring is definitely coming. That’s a trend that’s been on the horizon for a number of years. I think in some ways Covid set it back, because a lot of those things are still in lab‑based testing format, so there’s a lot of testing that couldn’t go on for a couple of years, and that’s delayed the launch of some products. But we’ve been keeping an eye on them for good reason for a long time. In many ways, I see that as a huge positive, because we have been sweat-testing athletes for over a decade now in order to give them an idea of individualizing sweat losses. Because the whole reason that the debate around hydration for athletes is so polarized is that there is definitely no one‑size-fits-all answer. Some people can get away with drinking very little, and probably drinking just water. Other people need to drink incredible amounts of fluid, and take in incredible amounts of sodium to meet their individual needs, and those needs are all over the map. So being able to monitor sweat loss and sodium loss in real time is only a good thing in my view, because it will allow athletes to understand their individual physiology, in their environment and in their events, so they can get that bit right. Because we spent a lot of this podcast talking about fueling, and although there’s a reasonable amount of individual nuance to it, you can throw a pretty small blanket over the range and recommendations you need to make to athletes once you know a little bit about how fast and how far they’re going. With hydration, you definitely cannot. In Kona, in the small amount of elite data that we got, we saw Sarah Crowley drink only just over one half a liter per hour through the event, and Leon drank over 1.3 liters per hour during the event, and we saw another athlete drink nearly 1.5 liters an hour through the event, so three times what Sarah drank. We saw difference in sodium consumption that were about eight-fold as well. And that is totally what we’d expect, because losses in sweat and sodium are so massively variable. Coming back to the patch and things, therefore I see that all as being really useful, when that information’s available to athletes. The problem with where that technology is at the moment is that I haven’t seen anything that works consistently very well, and the recommendations that software is trying to make off the back of the outputs of those products are really, really poor at the moment. Because the people that are developing them in general appear to be more on the technology side, so they’re trying to develop a piece of tech to give an output, and a lot of them are making the assumption that then taking the output and translating it into a recommendation for an athlete will be easy. You lose X, we tell you drink Y or whatever. I’ve heard one of the companies talking about having voice-activated stuff in your headphones that tells you that you need to drink X amount. That is, for me, absolute nonsense. We are never going to be in a position as far as I can tell where you’re going to have a device that will tell you exactly when and how much to drink. A sweat patch on your arm is not measuring all of the thousands of data points that your brain is constantly monitoring in your body to tell you when you need to drink or not. Andrew: Yeah, great point. Andy: But what these patches are going to allow us to do is get more individualized sweat data, it’s going democratize it so it’s available to a lot more people, and it’s going to allow us to get it throughout endurance events potentially. No one knows what happens to someone’s sweat profile seven hours into an IRONMAN yet. There just haven’t been the studies done. So what we do at the moment, we take baseline data and we extrapolate it. That’s never going to be as good as measuring real-time data in the field. So we’re working with a few companies that – we’re quite agnostic in that space in that we don’t want to be a technology provider here. What we’re going to try and do is work with the companies that are producing data from sweat patches in order to interpret into some realistic recommendations for athletes. Because I think that’s where the magic bit is really. Not to downplay the technological challenge that’s got to be overcome, that’s someone else’s challenge. Our challenge is translating the information so athletes understand how to use it. Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down. Vanessa Ronksley: I don’t know about you, but I love hearing and reading about race reports. So I’m really looking forward to today’s cooldown, because we have two people who not only completed a full-distance triathlon, but they completed it attached together for the whole race. Now if that is not a super-human feat, I do not know what is. Joining me today is Jason Verbracken who is fondly known as Verbie in the TriDot community, and David Heckmann, who is a triathlete competing in the P.C. division for the last few years. These two rocks stars completed IRONMAN California this year, with Verbie acting as David’s guide. So let’s get this started! I’m Vanessa, your Average Triathlete with Elite-Level Enthusiasm! And Verbie, Dave, I can hardly wait to hear about your experience of racing together! Jason Verbracken: Hi Vanessa! Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it. David Hackman: Hey Vanessa, thanks for having us! We’re excited to be here. Vanessa: Great! So how do you two know each other anyways? Jason: I know David from his husband Andrew, is how I originally met him. I met Andrew basically through TriDot and extreme races. Andrew and I have both done Alaskaman, and we both raced together in Iceland Xtreme. So I met David through Andrew. Vanessa: Now Dave, if there is anyone that I would want to do a full tri with, it would be Verbie. Because he’s funny, he’s super encouraging, and no big deal, but he pushes like 5 watts/kilo on his Zone 2 ride, so right there that would be a good reason. Did you train together before the race? David: Yes we did. Not a super lot, but what’d we get in, two bike rides I think? Jason: Yes, two bike rides we got in. Vanessa: That is not very much. Wow. I was expecting that you had trained for months beforehand, but you literally were on the same bike for two rides? That’s crazy. Dave, can you tell us what kind of visual impairment you have? David: Sure. I was born with cataracts, which were removed when I was two months old. That left me with, if you measure it, 22/100, which qualifies as legally blind. I’m actually really lucky, because I have enough sight where I can still function on my own. I can actually ride a single bike, but there’s no way I could do the swim in a triathlon on my own. There’s just no way I could pop up out of the water and actually find the buoys to sight on. That’s where I’m at. So sometimes I feel almost bad, because for the run, as long as Jason’s there to say, “Hey, we got a U‑turn coming up,” or something like that, it’s not like he has to actually guide me through the turn, which is kind of cool. Vanessa: That’s a little bit more manageable than what I was anticipating. That’s great, I’m really happy for you. David: I was just going to say, my ideal bike ride, if I’m out on my own on a single bike, is if we go out in a group, and I’ll just tuck behind somebody about three bike lengths back. That way if it’s a road that I don’t know, then I have a really good idea of what’s coming up. Vanessa: So Verbie, I think this question might be interesting for you to answer, because you have had the opportunity to race on your own, and also with another person. So on the emotional side of things, in terms of the highs and lows, or maybe being at your best or potentially your worst, is it easier or harder to race alongside someone else? Jason: Well, it was easy racing with David, because he’s so easygoing, never complained, never anything, he’s just ready to go. For me, before the race, I was more nervous than usual, just because I didn’t want to mess anything up for him. I have no problem screwing up my own race, great, it’s on me. But if I did something stupid or ran us into something, it’s all on me, and that’s affecting David’s race and how much he’s trained for. So before we started actually going and got in the water, I was nervous like, “All right, don’t screw up anything today, this is on you. Make sure this is David’s race, and let’s do the best we can for him.” So that was obviously a whole new thing for me, where before it’s like, “Run yourself into the ground, run into a tree, whatever. It’s your own fault then, dummy.” But it was definitely making sure David was good and that everything went smooth. Vanessa: That is a lot more pressure. I sometimes play this game with my kids, and I call it best/worst. When I’m trying to pull it out of them to talk about what they had done at school or how their day went, I always say, “Let’s play best/worst!” So what’s the best thing about racing while tethered to another person, and what’s the worst thing? David: Gosh, we already talked about the best part, and that’s being on the bike, because you get to talk to somebody! That, I think for me, is one of the best parts. The worst thing is probably in the swim, sometimes we’ll get too close together so then you get inadvertently smacked in the face. That’s going to happen in the swim anyway. Vanessa: Yeah. I was actually wondering what it’s like to swim tethered to another athlete. What does that feel like? Jason: For me, I was just nervous. Obviously, David’s sighting off of me, so if all of a sudden I feel like he’s getting too close to me, and I would start going to my right, well he’s just going to follow me. He doesn’t know I’m just trying to move over because he’s getting close. Thankfully, Andrew had given some direction before like, “You just gotta physically move David if he’s coming too close, push him away.” There’s nothing else you can really do, so it definitely was challenging. Then there was one point where the two rivers converge on each other, and we were getting ready to miss the buoy. The current was taking David, and the tether stretched out and people were trying to swim in between us. I literally had to get over and grab David and pull him like, “No, we gotta move this way,” because the current was taking us, and people were trying to go in between us then. The rest of the swim I felt went really smooth and went great, that was just the one part where I was like, “Uh-oh! What are we doing here?” Vanessa: Yeah, that sounds like it could have been a little bit of a tense moment. Did you pre‑plan some kind of communication strategy throughout the race at all? David: Oh yes, absolutely. For the swim we had to know, “How are you going to tell me when it’s time to turn?” So we worked that out beforehand, it’s usually just a couple taps on the shoulder or something like that. For the bike and run pretty much it was just, “We got to communicate on the bike,” all the stuff we’d already talked about. “We need to know if you’re going to go for a drink, if I’m going to go for a drink,” that kind of stuff. The run pretty much works itself out, at least for me anyway. But you have to actually do a little bit of pre‑planning for that. Vanessa, can I get I a plug here for a second, mention about people perhaps being interested in becoming a guide? Vanessa: Oh yeah, please! Andrew: I’m in Southern California, and I have a tandem that is sitting in my garage that needs a captain. So if anyone is interested in taking it for a spin, if that’s something that you’re interested in, feel free to get in. Vanessa: I wish I was in California! David: I tell you what, that bike is fast also. Think of it this way, you got two people on one bike, pushing double power. Any flat or slight downhill, and it’s like a rocket ship. Literally, when we were heading out on the bike, before the wind had hit us, we were on a straight with a slight downhill. I think we were both Zone 2 heart rate, I was almost Zone 1, and we were going 27 miles an hour like it was nothing. We were just basically “on your left” the whole time because we were just flying by everybody. Again, it’s a rocket ship. It’s so fast, it’s so much fun. Vanessa: That does sound like so much fun! David: It really goes. Andrew: That’s it for today folks! Big thanks to Andy Blow from Precision Fuel & Hydration, and Taryn Richardson from the Triathlon Nutrition Academy, for talking us through four trends in tri nutrition. Shout out to UCAN and Precision Fuel & Hydration for partnering with us on the show today. Head to ucan.co to check out the steady energy sources of UCAN, and go to pfnh.com to learn more from Andy’s team about fueling and hydrating for your next race. Thanks for listening, we’ll do it all again soon. Until then, happy training! Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot – the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.
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