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January 18, 2021

Carbohydrate Periodization for Triathletes

What is carbohydrate periodization and how can you benefit from this nutritional approach? On this episode, nutritional expert Dr. Krista Austin overviews the role that carbohydrates play in both your daily and training nutrition. Get examples of how to periodize your carbohydrate intake to optimize performance and health and learn if ‘carb-loading’ is a must or a myth for endurance athletes.

TriDot Podcast .069 Carbohydrate Periodization for Triathletes 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:  Hey folks welcome to the show!  In our most recent podcasts focusing on nutrition, we have been talking through different types of diets and nutrition strategies to learn all about the pros, cons, and the best ways to implement them.  If you missed our first few in this series, go back and check out episode 59 about plant based nutrition and episode 64 about high fat, low carb nutrition for athletes.  Today we continue the nutrition approach series talking about carbohydrate periodization.  Our key guide for this talk is our resident nutritional expert Dr. Krista Austin. Krista is an exercise physiologist and nutritionist who consulted with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the English Institute of Sport.  She has a PhD in exercise physiology and sports nutrition, a master's degree in exercise physiology, and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Krista, thanks for coming back on to talk about carbs!  Dr. Krista Austin: Hey good to be back with you Andrew and I'm always down for talking about carbs.  I have to make sure I carbohydrate periodize on a regular basis or else I can get into trouble. Andrew:  Yes, yep.  I’m right there with you.  Also joining us for this talk is pro triathlete and coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth came to the sport from a soccer background and quickly rose through the ranks using TriDot from a beginner to top age grouper to a professional triathlete.  She's a Kona and Boston marathon qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014.  Elizabeth, how are you today? Elizabeth James:  I am doing really well thank you.  How about yourself? Andrew:  I am great.  I have had my carbohydrate rich breakfast and am ready to talk about my favorite of the macronutrients with you and Dr. Austin today.  I am Andrew the average triathlete, voice of the people, and Captain of the middle of the pack.  As always we’ll roll through our warm up question, settle in for our main set conversation, and then we’re going to wrap things up with our cool down which we have a great question from an athlete for Dr. Austin today.  Lots of good stuff.  Let's get to it! Warm up theme:  Time to warm up!  Let’s get moving. Andrew:  If you could take one indulgent, non-nutritious food and kind of just wave a magic wand and poof, now it is super healthy and super nutritious what food would you choose to make healthy and nutritious?  Elizabeth, I will start with you today. Elizabeth:  Well it's probably gonna be no surprise what my answer is.  Our listeners know that I am quite the ice cream lover.  So absolutely ice cream would be the thing that I would say and I'm talking like the chocolate fudge brownie, add in some extra cookie dough type ice cream there. So if we can make that super nutritious, that would be fantastic! Andrew:  So not just your average scoop of chocolate ice cream. You're talking like decked out, topping-ed out.  Go down the Cold Stone or the Marble Slab and have them just mix in as many different types of sugar as you can get.  If you could take that ice cream and pack it full of nutrients, that would be your pick? Elizabeth:  Yes!  Like our chocolate peanut butter mix in masterpiece.  That would be my go-to. Andrew:  Yeah, can you imagine that fulfilling like the same nutrients that you would get from like one of your salads for lunch?  That would just be your dream scenario right? Elizabeth:  Man yeah.  That would be fantastic. Andrew:  Dr. Austin, what is an indulgent food item, something that you have maybe from time to time as a treat that you really like, that is not super healthy that if you could make it healthy you would just have it all the freakin’ time? Dr. Austin:  Well, that would have to be some really good churros with vanilla ice cream and chocolate topping.  Every once in a while I go and I get that Andrew and I just love it. Like it's gotta be my birthday or something, but I have a real thing for desserts a lot like Elizabeth.  So I would say that probably would be the number one item on my list. Andrew:  Yeah, I mean it's hard to argue with that.  One of these years Dr. Austin, you’ll have to travel to Texas for the Texas State Fair because they have all sorts of vendors with different variations of churros and different toppings and I imagine you can get some of that in San Diego as well, but that's definitely a staple of the Texas State Fair is the churros that are offered there every year.  That's a great pick and not one that I necessarily would have thought of.  So that's kind of your go-to birthday treat dessert then? Dr. Austin:  Yeah, at this point that's what it is.  It hasn't always been that.  I've had a lot of phenomenal desserts over my lifetime and I would just say that right now that's the one that is a go-to and I just…I use birthdays as the reason to go and enjoy it because otherwise I'd be there every weekend; you know enjoying that dessert. Andrew:  Yeah. Dr. Austin:  I’ve got to put it in check. Andrew: Yep, gotta make it a special occasion thing.  For me this– I've got to just go with a cookie. It's fun that we're all picking different desserts today.  Just a good chocolate chip cookie, a good peanut butter cookie, sugar cookies– I'm not picky.  If it's sweet, it's got chocolate in it, I'm all for it.  Here in Texas, I know these are kind of spread out throughout the country, there is a cookie chain called Crumble Cookies where every week they'll release six new cookies.  When you go they’re absolutely massive and they just have a variety of toppings.  So me and my wife, we’ll check every Sunday. They’ll update the menu for our local Crumble location and it'll say here's the six cookies we have this week and they're always like a peanut butter cookie or a chocolate cookie or a sugar cookie but then they’re topped with different things; you know Butterfingers and Oreos and Nutella.  They just have so many different variations of cookies and so we’ll pull up the menu and see, okay, what six cookies does Crumble have this week?  And we'll wait for a week where there's just one on the menu that we just can't say no to and that's when we'll drive out and get a Crumble Cookie and make it kind of a weekend treat.  We're gonna throw this out on the I Am TriDot Facebook group. If you're not a part of that group make sure you go and join it on Facebook.  We have thousands of athletes there that just talk swim, bike, and run all week long and you'll see this question today.  You'll see the question, if you could take an indulgent food and make it super healthy with a wave of a magic wand, what would you choose? Main set theme: On to the main set.  Going in 3…2…1… UCAN:  Our main set today is brought to you by 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 their SuperStarch, the key ingredient in UCAN products.  While most energy powders are filled with sugar or stimulants that cause a spike or crash, UCAN energy powders, powered by SuperStarch, deliver a steady release of complex carbs to give you stable blood sugar and provide long lasting energy. UCAN also offers tasty and refreshing hydration mixes and energy bars for when you are on the go.  When I was new to UCAN, my first purchase was their perfectly named tri starter pack.  It’s the best way to discover what SuperStarch-powered UCAN products are best for you.  So head to their website, GenerationUCAN.com and use the code TriDot to save 15% on your entire order. Andrew:  Everyone's dietary preferences are a little bit different, but for me it seems like everything I love in this world is a carb.  Some folks like me probably love carbs a little bit too much while others avoid them in favor of other macronutrients.  So in the end, what role do carbs play in our fueling and how can carbohydrate periodization offer a balanced well-thought-out approach to taking in carbohydrate.  Krista with all the many nutrition plans marketed to athletes, some of which we’ve already talked about on the podcast, it can be hard to know which way to go as an athlete.  Is there an approach to choosing your nutrition plan that allows you to kind of have the best of all of these approaches using carbohydrates? Dr. Austin:  Yeah, so what we've learned to do over the years Andrew, with athletes is something called carbohydrate periodization. Essentially it allows you to go meal-to-meal or maybe even just day-to-day and manipulate the amount and type of carbohydrate that you're taking in.  The goal is to have a mixture of low, moderate, and high carbohydrates available based on the type of training you're doing and really the metabolic environment that you're trying to create because for many people that varies throughout the day and it's dependent also on their health not just on their training.  Oftentimes we utilize what's called nutrient timing or principles of nutrient timing to help provide the strategy to athletes.  Even with the other macronutrients we will combine them with carbohydrates to enhance the concept of carbohydrate periodization and really create the metabolic training adaptations that we're looking for. Especially if we want athletes to have a greater reliance on fat metabolism. Elizabeth:  This has always been something that's really interesting to me.  I know that last year when our staff attended the Endurance Exchange Conference I went to one of the breakout sessions and within that particular session one of the speakers had worked with a professional cycling team on their nutrition.  He was discussing how he had worked with each rider on their nutritional intake and just kind of exactly what you were talking about, the manipulation of carbohydrates either session-to-session or day-to-day based on their training.  Then he also discussed how he then applied that to working with the cycling team as they were riding in each stage of the Tour de France.  So that was just fascinating to me the level of detail that went in there and kind of the manipulation of the carbohydrates based on what each rider was doing.  But since most of us don't quite have that same level of service with all of our meals being cooked and portioned for us and just available for our consumption based on our energy needs, how do we go about creating or thinking about manipulating our carbohydrate intake? Dr. Austin:  The first thing I recommend to athletes is to understand everything based on the actual training sessions or the competition, maybe that you're going to need to fuel.  Once you understand what you're fueling then you can create the actual strategy and oftentimes this means not only understanding energy expenditure, but also understanding how you're going to do it.  At what level of intensity should you be burning fat and carbohydrates? Should you be relying more so on carbohydrates predominantly to get the session done or should we be relying on fat predominantly to get the session accomplished?  Those are factors that will actually help us create that performance approach to nutrition, but also implement the concept of periodization. So it takes, oftentimes a good understanding of what it is you're going to do in that training session and how you best need to fuel it.  Then on top of that, you need to understand your overall goals for body weight and composition.  The reason this is so important is that oftentimes we use periodization overall throughout the year to manipulate weight, to manipulate the composition, the muscle mass and fat mass that an athlete carries.  The question is what do we need to do at a specific time of year? For example in the pre-season that's often when we're going to actually work on body weight and really start to identify where that weight is or if we know where that weight is we're gonna say, hey this is where we need to get.  Then throughout the rest of the year we keep working on composition. Sometimes it's about giving the body a gradual twist with regard to carbohydrate periodization so that we can achieve the weight and composition goals.  I know for myself and you guys have probably seen this too Elizabeth and Andrew, that if you change just even the type of carbohydrates you're consuming your body composition starts to change.  When they're healthier carbohydrates or the more low glycemic, you end up with less body fat as long as we're not too much of an energy deficit or not too much over our energy intake that we should be consuming.  It's a huge part of looking at periodization globally and saying, when do I need what?  When do I need to be where?  And that's where a plan is actually really crucial to help us ensure not only the health of an athlete, but to get to our desired weight, our desired body composition, our desired performance goals at the right times of year and not try to be there all the time. Andrew:  The first example I think of Dr. Austin, when you're talking about just how depending on what we're eating more of, our body composition changes.  I mean everybody goes into the holidays just knowing, okay I'm going to eat a little bit more sweets than I probably normally do.  I'm heading into winter time so I'm probably gonna eat some more warm soups and warm breads and warm savory meals to cope with the outdoor cold and so everybody kind of just knows when you do that and you give in to that, your body composition in the winter time you're gonna put on a little bit of that winter weight. Then the summer comes around and a lot of people tend to drop a little bit in the summer because now instead of eating all those Christmas and Thanksgiving desserts and extra foods, they’re sliding kind of more into the summer salad mode and the summer fruit mode and getting on board with that.  So is that kind of a normal ebb and flow for most athletes or is there a little bit more to it for athletes? Dr. Austin:  I would say there's a little more to it for most athletes.  It all depends on what stage of competition, or your competition level that you're actually at, and also what were you just kind of given genetically?  For some people genetically they automatically have the metabolism.  They automatically have the insulin regulation and carbohydrate utilization rates, fat utilization rates that make everything just kind of tick along and they can be a lot looser I would say.  Then there's others of us that we have to clamp down a lot earlier in the season. We've got to be far more conscientious and we need to be cognizant of how we respond as an individual.  How cognizant do you have to be?  You also see that with age.  You know, I'm a little bit older than the two of you and I would tell you that when I was younger I got by with a lot.  I mean I got by with a whole lot.  But as you get older, guess what happens?  You don't get by with quite as much and that’s for a variety of reasons.  I think we have to take each athlete as an individual and be cognizant of not only their genetics, but also the age and stage of development that they're at and design the plan based on that. Andrew:  Well, we're going to have to circle back around and get it on the calendar to do a kind of race weight, seasonal weight manipulation episode with you to kind of talk through some of those seasonal ebbs and flows that athletes go through and why we do them and how we do them and how to determine what your ideal race wage should be.  But for today, you said something just a minute ago in just talking about the different types of sessions there.  You can go into a one hour long run and not every one hour run is the same. You know sometimes you're going to have some more hard intervals and some days you're running all of zone 2 and so what we're doing in a particular session can have an impact on how we fuel with the carbohydrates and how we periodize that food intake.  So let's kind of talk through some of those different types of sessions and kind of learn as athletes, okay what should I be eating before I go into a hard run?  What should I be eating before, during, after a zone 2 swim or zone 2 bike. Let’s kind of start with the days we have a low interval training session.  Can you give an example of how we might periodize the carbohydrates to help optimize performance and health on a low intensity day? Dr. Austin:  On a low intensity day a lot of the goal is to actually do something such as recovery or to just build aerobic metabolism. What you want to look at there in terms of carbohydrate intake is what type are you taking in that can maximize what I call fiber content.  These are your low glycemic carbs and we need to maximize our use of protein and fat to further help slow down the effects of those carbohydrates.  Oftentimes before those low intensity sets we need to get calories in, but the question is how are you going to get those calories in? Oftentimes for athletes who are looking to have better metabolic control we’ll use protein and fat.  It might be something that comes in eggs, right, and we just put vegetables into the eggs to have a nice omelet to give them a good breakfast with the calories they need, but to also then optimize the metabolic response.  It also helps them with things like hunger and satiety.  Most athletes tell me they're hungry on a very regular basis. With all the training that they do sometimes the hunger signals can override what they really need to be taking in and so we will use macronutrients intentionally to help control the hunger and satiety aspects and help them stay in line with what it is they're trying to achieve.  We want to control on those days their insulin levels far better than we would on maybe a moderate to high intensity day just because they're not going to burn the calories.  They're not going to be depleting carbohydrate stores.  So we need to think about it from that perspective.  And the question is how low glycemic do we need to go? I think that's something that everyone has to ask themselves.  People who are on a high fat diet typically are on the lowest glycemic you can possibly get and so in their instance we might actually on even a low intensity day intentionally provide them with some carbohydrates to help them get through it. So they're kind of the flip flop. So like if we’re going to send them out for let’s say a three to four hour ride, maybe they're a long course athlete and expect them to keep going even if it is at a really low intensity, we may get them some low glycemic carbohydrates to actually help them get through it.  So at any point in time when you're looking at intensity of exercise and how to fuel your body you’ve got to take into account the overall nutrition plan that an athlete's on.  We can't just say, hey this is the one thing that's right for everybody. Elizabeth: I love those examples that you gave.  Just as you were talking I was thinking, oh yeah.  I mean there’s days where I have low intensity training, but I am just super hungry that– Andrew:  Starving! Elizabeth:  Yeah, like it’s when is my next snack?  And oh my goodness, I feel like I could raid the fridge even though I've just done you know a zone 2 run and an hour swim and my appetite is through the roof. So yeah, being able to really think about how we can manipulate some of those macronutrients to support us is amazing. Then I mean on the flipside there, the other example you gave of yeah it might be low intensity, but how long is the duration and so kind of looking at that too of it might be low intensity but if you're out there for a couple hours you still may need to support that training session with some lower glycemic carbs too.  I think this is just a great way for us to kind of go through and really provide athletes with some examples.  I know we've just talked through low intensity, so let's just kind of move up the scale.  How about on a day when there's a moderate intensity training session?  How might we periodize carbohydrates there to optimize performance? Dr. Austin:  In that instance typically what I'll have athletes do is to utilize a low glycemic carbohydrate prior to the session and typically it's combined with both protein and fat.  So in that instance we might take– let's say it's breakfast in essence prior to your first session of the day, some oatmeal with some almond milk that's fortified with protein, some almond butter, put some banana on top and you've got a very low glycemic meal at that point.  The question is how well do you need to actually fuel the session? So we make sure that the calories in that instance are sufficient to supply the session.  Then of course immediately post, we would look at something more so like a moderate glycemic carbohydrate such as a sweet potato and to help refuel and just give you some more complex carbohydrate and then go back for the rest of the day if we're not going to be doing other training and move back towards the low glycemic carbohydrates that you incorporate into each meal or snack.  Now if you're going to continue training, then you might want to say, hey I've got two moderate training sessions.  Let me replicate what I just did with the first and continue that through the other session.  It might even be a third session.  So you need to be cognizant across the board if it's going to be a moderate day on the whole, what are you doing throughout the entire day and not just at the one training session?  For the high fat athlete, what we would do is probably have them consume a greater amount of carbohydrate pre, during, and immediately after training and focus on increasing their calorie intake post training to help address their calorie deficit, but also make sure it's appropriate for putting them back into ketosis which is often where they want to be. Andrew:  In that example you mentioned kind of back-to-back days that have two or more training sessions and it made me think of some of the examples that we've already talked about.  We’re talking about breakfast.  What somebody might have for breakfast before a training session and it’s making me hungry for breakfast right now just thinking about vegetables and an omelet. I actually had an omelet with fig in it for the first time about a month ago and I haven't stopped talking about it to my wife since then. Elizabeth:  Oh, so good! Andrew:  Right? Elizabeth:  Yes, delicious! Andrew:  I think it was fig and bacon.  I don't remember.  The fig was the standout.  I don't even remember what the other toppings were, but anyway.  Dr. Austin, for athletes that maybe they have one moderate workout or one low intensity workout, whatever the intensity is, if they're doing that session maybe later in the day– after work or after some other obligations, would they just approach lunch or would they approach a snack later in the day kind of in the same terms you're talking about approaching breakfast? If that makes sense. Dr. Austin:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think what you have to ask yourself is, does lunch cover down on what I'm getting ready to do?  I mean they can eat a low glycemic lunch three hours before that training session and at the end of the day it can fuel the training session they're going into. It's just really up to how long will that session last?  So continuously asking yourself where am I throughout the day and that's what's important. If you train later in the day the question is do you just need to give your body calories period to get through that training session and learn to differentiate between providing it calories and providing it a certain type of fuel.  What I find about a lot of athletes that go into training later on in the day is that they just haven't eaten enough going into the training session so they rely on the wrong type of carbohydrates to fuel the session and so we need to be thinking about our timeline.  What do we need to be eating, when do we need to be eating it, so that we don't get to that afternoon session and all of a sudden have a donut right before it and maybe impede what it is we were trying to do.  So I think it's just about planning, Andrew, and making sure we're cognizant of how long in between our last meal and that training session we're actually gonna be because that meal may be able to suffice for whatever it is we're trying to accomplish in training.  It's just about always thinking about the time point before that training session. Andrew:  Yeah, see a donut would be a prime example of something that we wish was more nutrient rich than it actually is, kind of how we were talking about the warm up question.  If I could have a donut an hour before workout and have that fuel me with proper nutrients that would be amazing.  For me I think in that instance, if I need just a little bit of energy before a late afternoon workout, for me it's a UCAN Almond Nut Butter Bar and I'll have one of those about 45 minutes out from my afternoon workout.  If I know, okay it's been three or four hours since I had lunch or maybe I had a small lunch and that usually does it for me.  What are a couple other kind of quick examples of something we could use in that scenario trying to get some energy in before a late in the day workout? Dr. Austin:  I always go back to my low residue foods and try to figure out how to make them– even though they don't have a whole lot of fiber– how do I make them low glycemic or moderate glycemic?  What I usually use as a default is either a peanut butter or almond butter and honey sandwich or putting it on a tortilla and making sure that that tortilla or that bread doesn't have a lot of fiber in it. Making sure that it's very low fiber and it gives you a nice blend because honey is still low glycemic and if you blend it with the peanut butter it keeps bringing the glycemic index down and then even if you put it on like a plain white tortilla, you’ve still got probably a moderate glycemic snack right there.  That's one of my go-tos.  You can also fold up the tortilla and put it into a backpack or something and carry it with you pretty easily. Andrew:  Nope, that sounds delicious.  I love honey, I love nut butters, and we always have tortillas in our refrigerator.  So I'm gonna remember that one for sure. Elizabeth:  Well and let's be honest.  Andrew's not getting up for workouts.  So he’s thinking more along the lines of what can I eat before my workout cause I'm not getting up in the morning. Andrew:  That's why I'm asking these follow up questions, Elizabeth.  It’s for me, but then it's also for athletes who are like me and they’ve got that session in the afternoon.  Right?  That's something a lot of people face.  We’re not all morning birds.  But anyway. We’ve talked about kind of low intensity sessions, moderate sessions.  So let’s kind of round it out with those high intensity training sessions. Is there anything different we should do in our periodization of carbohydrates to optimize our performance in a high intensity training session? Dr. Austin:  For any high intensity training session, you want to make it count, okay.  So that's when I do ask athletes if it's going to be sufficient enough, a prolonged enough session to turn around and rely on some moderate to high glycemic carbohydrates to optimize what they're able to do during that session.  For example, they might turn around and have some cream of rice rather than oatmeal if it's a morning session and you're having breakfast beforehand.  Then to fuel with that type of carbohydrate during and immediately after training. Most people will say, oh there's all those high glycemic carbs, Krista.  But I say, yeah but how frequently do we do this in the week? You know maybe two to three times and the question is for how long.  So what I ask athletes is to focus on it when they do have these really intense training sessions and then throughout the rest of the day focus on complex carbohydrates that fit the rest of the day.  Most people can't do high intensity training for the rest of the day. They're gonna have easier sessions. So again we need to adjust so that it fits appropriately the intensity that we are operating at.  The other aspect to that when we do look at high intensity training is understanding the calorie needs that someone might have as a result of doing that session.  The better you become at long course triathlon, what you notice is that that demand increases.  So oftentimes we use high glycemic carbohydrates that don't have a whole lot of fiber to actually help restore energy from workouts that have been done and a lot of it's because it's just that much easier to digest.  It's going to oxidize very quickly, but underneath that scenario that's okay.  For the high fat athlete, oftentimes we focus on an increase in high glycemic carbohydrates just before and during the session and then resume back to their standard intake.  As soon as they stop they might have a serving of low glycemic carbohydrates, but overall they’ll go back to it. So it does differ a little bit if they are a high fat athlete.  They will use it before and during, but they go as close to back to ketosis as they possibly can; the keto based nutrition as soon as they stop.  They may have a low glycemic carb just after that. Elizabeth:  I think those are all really great examples of kind of how to fuel for various intensities of workouts.  I'm curious, kind of what you would recommend or what you would say for how this changes when you have back-to-back sessions.  I mean, triathletes are frequently doing their brick workouts. So as they're going from bike to run and extending the duration of that, how might that change with those back-to-back sessions? Dr. Austin: So typically what I advise athletes is to look at the total duration of the training sessions that they're getting ready to do.  Especially when you may not have time in between sessions to fuel yourself.  So if they're actually doing a brick session that's a great example or if they just have an hour in between maybe the bike and the run.  What we do is rely on those easy-to-digest carbohydrates and that really comes down to the individual themselves; the type that they will use, and the type that they know they can take on board and not compromise themselves from an energy availability standpoint of view.  For many athletes that's turning around and saying, hey what feels good to you right after that moderate-to-hard bike.  Oh, this is what feels good, you know you'll put this into your system, okay let's go with that.  Then turning around and making sure they fuel the run with something equivocal to that in terms of digestibility, ease for ingesting during training because usually at that point you've gone and trained for more than an hour and they’re into their second hour, maybe even third or fourth hour of training when it's a triathlete. Andrew:  So we talked about kind of snacking a little bit earlier. Specifically we talked about Andrew Harley snacking about an hour before he does an afternoon workout, but just beyond that one example, just kind of thinking about snacks in general.  You know people go for that afternoon snack. They're trying to get some calories, some energy in between lunch and dinner or whatever time the snack is occurring. Do we need to adjust what we're snacking on for these different types of training days?  Should it be different if our sessions are zone 2, zone 4, really hard, really long when we’re just snacking in between meals? Dr. Austin:  Snacking in between meals should oftentimes be low glycemic.  When I say low glycemic, I'm not just referring to carbohydrates.  I'm referring to making sure you incorporate protein and fat into the snack as well because typically most snacks do need to have a combination to keep the glycemic load low enough.  The exception to that, however, is in those athletes with that really high calorie burn.  That’s where I will say, look you're an exception to the rule or this is a particular day in your training that is an exception to the rule in which maybe we do turn around and have some Trix cereal.  People are like, “why are you having Trix cereal?”  And I said, “well, it tastes good to them and it’s easy to digest and they can consume a good bit of calories that way.”  Sometimes athletes will message me and they’ll say are you sure this is okay?  Are you sure having whatever it is– Andrew:  I can have a Pop Tart? Dr. Austin:  Yeah that’s right!  Are you sure I can have this?  And I said, “Yes.  On a day like today please feel free to go ahead and have it.”  And what you realize is that those days are not overly frequent for most of us.  Now at the more advanced levels, maybe like where Elizabeth is at or other pro triathletes, those days become more frequent predominantly because they are burning 5000 to 6000 calories a day and they've got to get the fuel in so they don't compromise their training or their recovery.  So it’s something where we have exceptions to the rules, but I will say for most of us everyday people it's got to stay pretty low glycemic. That's why you'll see a lot of the snacks that I put together for people have combinations.  They don't just have a one off macronutrient.  They’re filled with both protein, fat, and carbohydrate and I like to focus in on that protein for athletes, especially endurance athletes, because oftentimes they forget about it. Elizabeth:  Well I just heard I can go buy a box of Trix cereal again.  This is awesome.  I have not had that in– Andrew:  You’ve been given permission. Elizabeth:  Gosh, I don't know how many years.  So I might have to incorporate that in again.  I'm liking this. Andrew:  Elizabeth, what was your favorite childhood cereal?  Was it Trix? Elizabeth:  No, it actually wasn't.  It probably sounds super plain, but do you remember Kix? Andrew:  Yes I do! Elizabeth:  Yes!  I loved Kix! I don't know if that relates to the former soccer player in me too.  Maybe there's a little correlation there, but Kix was absolutely my favorite cereal as a kid. Andrew:  I’ll nominate the chocolate version of Kix which was Cocoa Puffs. Essentially the same thing just with a little bit of fake, very fake chocolate flavoring in there.  But yeah, I mean too what Dr. Austin said like just as your average athlete, normally one training session a day, every now and then you have that brick or every now and then you add a strength session in there. I don't usually have workouts that are long enough in duration where I'm burning enough calories to have a massive snack like that unless I get into a 70.3 or a full Ironman race prep phase where the runs get up to two, three hours, the long bikes get up to three, four, five hours.  That's when suddenly I need more from my snacks than just a little bit of energy in between meals.  It makes sense, Elizabeth, that you need a little bit more than I do. Elizabeth:  So where do sports nutrition products factor into all of that? Dr. Austin:  You know that's always a good question because I will say if there is one thing that triathletes are hit up with over and over again, it is so many different options out there on the sport nutrition industry side of the coin.  One of the biggest questions I always get is, when do I use these and how much do I actually rely on them?  So what I want to make a good point of is that if you're using sport nutrition products it's because you're putting yourself into a caloric deficit that is significant enough that you have to fuel not only during training, but also immediately after training to make sure you can come into energy balance.  For most triathletes I will tell you it is only during training that we have to rely on those products.  Some of the long course athletes tend to get into sessions that are significant enough that food alone does not allow them to meet all of their needs, but for most of us we will need it predominantly during prolonged training sessions that are greater than an hour.  And really I try to move that needle more and more so these days towards 90 minutes and making sure that the session is I'd say moderate-to-high intensity.  Sometimes it's a long session for a long course athlete that's five, six hours and of course you'll use it there even if it's at lower intensity.  But really we need to be judicious with our sport nutrition products and make sure we're only taking them in to supplement what we cannot meet through food.  So typically for most of the athletes I work with if their session is longer than an hour they will for sure get some sport nutrition products whether low or high glycemic during the session.  Then if it is a session that is a significant calorie deficit and I know they have issues getting all the calories in, we will supplement with carbohydrate especially afterwards and maybe even some protein powder.  Really we need to leave that sport nutrition product side to achieving everything that cannot be met through food and I can't emphasize that enough. For most of us we need to rely on the food and the micronutrients we get from it. Andrew:  So Dr. Austin, based on that concept and just that line of thinking, is carbohydrate loading before a race or before a big workout session– is that a necessity for endurance sports to kind of be able to have the energy you need through loading up on carbohydrates before the session or is that more of a myth? Dr. Austin:  So loading up on carbohydrates before a session oftentimes is dependent on what you've been doing prior to that.  In some instances we will have athletes come in and training, and they'll be underneath the state of low carbohydrate availability and so we will then load up prior to performing the training sessions.  So that’s a very acute loading.  Conversely, you may have people that believe they've got a carbohydrate load just to go out and actually do their actual competitive event. For the most part this is actually a myth unless they are on a high fat diet in one of their strategies is to acutely in the few days leading up to the race increase their carbohydrate availability. For most people though who are eating a standard nutritional plan, they are going to get plenty of glycogen restoration just by consuming their standard nutrition.  They're gonna cut back on volume and intensity of training and the muscle glycogen stores as long as they are consuming adequate nutrition will become replete anyway.  So they don't have to be so concerned about going out and carbohydrate loading.  The taper in and of itself allows for glycogen restoration.  For those high fat athletes, if they want to carbohydrate load, I would just tell you be careful about the type of carbohydrates and how much you do use because it may actually bump you too much out of your adaptations from going on to the high fat diet side and then you end up compromising yourself in competition. I would say for many high fat athletes to just go ahead and work on carbohydrate intake immediately before the race and during the race is usually sufficient.  Even in that instance I would say that consistency is a better answer leading up to the race than to do something that is out of your norm. Andrew: We've covered a lot of different facts and just talk through okay low intensity sessions, medium intensity sessions, high intensity sessions, snacks, different times of day, double workout days, and so we've pretty well covered how to approach carbs as an energy source and how to kind of periodize that.  I guess my final question to kind of wrap us up today Dr. Austin, is just, for an athlete– because in some instances we can only get so specific when we're talking about this because everybody's different.  You know there are athletes that need more calories.  There are athletes that need fewer calories.  There are athletes that are taking a high fat approach.  There are athletes that are not taking a high fat approach.  So we've been able to address that a little bit.  For some athletes out there if they're hearing all this and if they're listening to the facts you've given, the advice you've given, a lot of folks will be able to kind of tinker with the approach they currently have to kind of take in the advice that you gave.  But for somebody that this sounds complex, they're not quite sure how to approach this for them, what encouragement would you give them to maybe consult with a local nutritionist or even to reach out to you and to work further with you on really nailing down how to periodize the carbohydrate intake? Dr. Austin:  I would just encourage them from the health standpoint of view– I guess as America continues to change and the world continues to change, I think just getting a good understanding of you as a human being and what you look like on paper and how you can optimize for yourself. That's the encouragement I would give them.  Because carbohydrates are important for performance, but they also have impacts on health.  So I think reaching out to them and understanding that for yourself is the biggest thing first and foremost.  If you want to try something on your own I would say, hey just take a look at in training carbohydrate use.  Try to master that before even knocking on the door of myself or someone like myself and say how do I go about this?  Can I figure it out for myself?  And I think that's a number one step that any athlete can try to start to take with regard to carbohydrate periodization.  It’ll help them learn to take carbohydrates in and out of their nutrition plan based on their training and I think that's one of the biggest steps forward that we can get an athlete to take with regard to carbohydrate periodization. Cool down theme: Great set everyone!  Let’s cool down. Andrew:  One of my favorite ways to cool down just our shows at the end– you know I get to ask a lot of questions, Elizabeth gets to ask a lot of questions, and I love getting athlete questions on the podcast.  Today's cool down is a great chance for us to do that.  We get a lot of great questions for Dr. Austin and today's question comes from Sam from Salt Lake City, Utah.  After listening to episode 45 about women's health and REDS, Sam just had a couple really great follow up questions for Dr. Austin kind of along the lines of that topic.  So let's hear what Sam has to say. Sam:  Hi my name is Sam.  I'm from Salt Lake City, Utah and I just finished listening to episode 45 again; The Impact of Triathlon Training on Women's Health with Dr. Krista Austin talking about REDS.  There was a lot of conversation about women prior to menopause, but how does it affect women that are in the menopausal state, and say maybe women who are taking synthetic hormones.  For example, I had a complete hysterectomy when I was 28 and have been taking synthetic hormones ever since.  I'm now 56 and my general practitioner wants me to start coming off of the synthetic hormones.  A little bit nervous in doing this because I know that there's going to be another big change in my body and I know that hormones play a huge effect.  So I’m just curious how this could make changes and if there's any suggestions when I talk to my doctor about it.  He says, “Well maybe you should just stop doing triathlons then.”  So a lot of curiosity there.  I’ve tried to find and do some research on synthetic hormones and going off of it, but I know there's a huge group of women out there that are absolute incredible athletes that are over the age of 50 that are in that menopausal state.  So a lot of curiosities there Dr. Austin. Thanks! Dr. Austin:  When we're talking about women that are in a menopausal state– and I'll just say that this can vary in terms of when this occurs for a female because they can end up in a menopausal state shall we say with regard to their hormones at a variety of different ages– what we need to do first and foremost is remember that REDS in and of itself is not solely assessed and determined based on hormone concentrations.  That's what's really important is that we remember it has to do with a wide variety of factors including bone density, caloric intake, energy balance, carbohydrate availability, and even an athlete psychological perspective on their body image and where they believe they should be with regard to body weight and composition and how they manage that. Now that being said, when we go through menopause or when we think about menopause we automatically think, oh they've lost their hormones right.  What will happen when someone does go into menopause is that they're not going to make all of the hormones that they used to and the one that comes to mind for most women is estrogen.  So typically what we associate estrogen with is actually bone density.  Now the concept of bone density is multifaceted.  It is not just dependent on estrogen.  It's also dependent on things like energy intake, our ability to strength train and utilize that to help us increase bone density can impact those factors.  So when we think about REDS we need to think about it in a very multifaceted manner. If doctors are saying, hey we've had you on some hormone replacement therapy we want to try and take you off of it, they need to be equivocally multifaceted in their assessment as to whether or not that is going to be right for you.  I would say first and foremost the REDS assessment needs to be done. Maybe they reach out to a physiologist or a sports nutritionist and ask for help with that particular area because REDS is not just about your hormones.  It's a multifaceted assessment and I think that's what doctors need to remember first and foremost.  It can occur at any age and under any state of actual hormonal status.  I think it's important regardless of where a female is at or even a male, I should say that it's on both sides of the coin there for men and women, that we say, where are they overall and not just look at the hormones themselves. Andrew:  So Dr. Austin, what would you say to Sam just in regard to what was she was talking about with the use of synthetic hormones and her doctor's recommendation that she kind of start to come off of those synthetic hormones? Dr. Austin:  I think when we talk about synthetic hormones we have to think about women at all levels.  Synthetic hormones are even utilized in birth control and when Sam asks this question it's good because we need to think about it very broadly and the first thing we need to think about even before we put a female on synthetic hormones is why are we going to do that?  Are they doing it because they're not having a menstrual cycle and the question is why are they not having a menstrual cycle?  You know in Sam's case, she talked about having a hysterectomy and oftentimes when they remove the ovaries as well they don't produce estrogen any longer.  So in that instance they may turn around and say, hey we're going to give you synthetic hormones because you're not producing estrogen any longer underneath that state.  Whereas in other females when we think about giving them synthetic hormones and they come to us and they say, hey we don't have a menstrual cycle, if it's not a situation like what Sam has talked about, we need to dig a little bit deeper and say why is that menstrual cycle not there and actually try to figure out that before we provide the synthetic hormones.  The other reason athletes may come up and ask for synthetic hormones is because maybe they're having a lot of menstrual symptoms prior to their cycle or they're having to compete on their menstrual cycle and it's not working out so well for them.  The question that doctors should ask is, okay why is this and is there anything outside of just synthetic hormones that can be done to help alleviate what they're reporting?  We used to work on this years and years ago– at least I started it years ago– where we would manipulate their nutrition during certain phases of the menstrual cycle to help control menstrual symptoms and even if they did not want to be on synthetic hormones when they competed and there was potential for the athlete to compete on their menstrual cycles we tried to prepare for that.  Maybe it was through the periodization of training so they did not have their menstrual cycle come on all of a sudden when they went to go compete or even just trying to utilize nutrition to minimize the impact of their cycle on their ability to go out and compete.  A lot of times that was dependent on the symptoms that they experience themselves and also the type of sport and the duration of the sports event that they would have to compete at.  So there's a lot of factors to take into consideration when you're looking at synthetic hormones.  I think Sam’s is one example where you will see it.  Then if doctors are going to take women off of those synthetic hormones, again if they are an athlete you've got to think about a very multifaceted approach like are they training?  Is there any potential that I need to have them stop training and make sure that they don't just cause a whole endocrine response by continuing to train when I take those hormones away?  Do we need to change anything nutritionally?  How might taking those hormones away alter what they need nutritionally?  So there's a number of factors that need to be considered and what I would encourage doctors to do is to incorporate a physiologist into the process because there are many factors that an athlete has to consider and say why are we taking away the synthetic hormones?  What are the potential consequences?  What are the potential benefits of doing so?  I would just tell Sam, look this is a multifaceted question.  You need to take a multifaceted approach to understanding whether or not coming off that hormone replacement therapy or any type of synthetic hormone for a female is the right thing to do much like you would do prior to going onto it. Andrew:  Well that’s it for today folks!  I want to thank Dr. Krista Austin and TriDot Coach Elizabeth James for talking about carbohydrate and endurance training.  Shoutout to UCAN for partnering with us on today's episode. Head to UCAN.co to see what SuperStarch-powered products could be best for you.  Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Do just like Sam did and head to TriDot.com/podcast and click on leave us a voicemail to get your voice on the show asking one of our coaches or experts your question.  We’ll have a new show coming your way 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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