Athletes Voice

Nutrition Q & A

Sports Nutritional Questions Answered by Secret-Traininguae from the school of thought of ‘Tim Lawson’

Sports Nutrition is complicated and also very personal. Why do some things work for one athlete and not for the other? Everybody’s body works slightly different and there are so many variables: your own metabolic rate, your normal eating habits, how sensitive are your intestines, food allergies etc etc

With this in mind and coupled with the fact that there are different schools of thought amongst the sports nutritionists about the nitty gritty, our advocated nutritional approaches might not suit everybody in all situations. What we can promise you though is that our answers will be based on well researched knowledge and are not merely here to promote the sales of certain products.

If we don’t know an answer, we ask Tim and if we still don’t know it we will tell you so...

Feel free to send your questions to our email address and we will personally respond to you by email. If appropriate and with your permission we will post your question and our answer on this page.

We would love to hear from you!!

David & Rianca and The Sported Team

Pasted File at November 23 2020 12 29 PM 768x768 600x600 - Should I be taking BCAA’s before and during training or racing? Why does Secret Training not have BCAA’s in their energy gels/drinks?

Should I be taking BCAA’s before and during training or racing? Why does Secret Training not have BCAA’s in their energy gels/drinks?

Interesting question as there are many brands with BCAA’s in their energy products suggesting that by taking BCAA’s before and during exercise you will prevent muscle damage and increase performance.

What are BCAA’s

Just some basics, BCAA’s are amino acids, amino acids are compounds that combine to make proteins and are the building blocks for growth and repair of muscle, tissue and skin.

BCAA’s (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are unique compared to other amino acids that are oxidised in the liver in that they can act as a direct fuel for working muscles. When the body is short of energy it will ‘sacrifice’ and oxidise the BCAA within muscle causing muscle break down. The theory is that by providing BCAA in supplements it will protect the BCAA within the muscle and protect the muscle fibers. The oxidation of BCAA produces more energy (ATP) than the oxidation of glucose so it is attractive to think that this extra energy will improve performance.

However, the data on the use of BCAA’s prior and during exercise is ambiguous to say the least, there is very little evidence to support performance improvements, however there is a very real possibility of reducing performance and perhaps paradoxically a real chance of causing more muscle breakdown.

The pitfalls of consuming BCAA’s prior and during exercise

-there is evidence that when taking amino acids during exercise your metabolism might be directed towards metabolizing more from protein i.e. starting to use protein (muscle) as a fuel and that’s not what you want. You want your main sources for energy to be fat and carbohydrates.

-there is evidence that your plasma ammonia levels may rise when taking BCAA’s in combination with carbohydrates during exercise and this would not be a good thing as it will cause fatigue.

-the more complex you make a product (ie add more ingredients), the harder it is to digest and the more likely the product will cause GI distress (stomach upset)

-energy products that contain BCAA’s have not sufficient levels of amino acids in them to make a significant contribution towards recovery and muscle adaptation.

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The Secret Training Philosophy

1 – Optimise carbohydrate delivery during exercise- the most effective way to improve performance + protect muscle protein. Carbohydrates and body fat are your main sources of fuel and need to be readily available.

2 – Use protein/amino acids after exercise to maximise recovery and adaptation.

-We keep our energy gels and drinks as simple as possible so there is minimum chance of GI distress; adding things like BCAA’s adds complications and increases chances of stomach upset.

-Replenish with Amino Acids straight after your exercise(within 20-30 min) to maximize muscle recovery and adaptation, you can then take a substantial amount, enough to make a difference and make sure it contains plenty of Leucine as this is the main switch to stimulate protein synthesis.

In summary, why risk taking BCAA’s before and during – maybe it looks good on a label especially when backed up with the theory, but its unlikely to improve performance, there is equal

evidence and a strong theory that it may compromise performance. Taking BCAA, protein after certainly won’t compromise performance and will likely improve adaptation, also taking extra protein throughout the day with meals is a more beneficial proposition.

stealth gel selection photo carbs no carbs 600x600 - Carbohydrates vs Fasted Training - Planning Smart

Carbohydrates vs Fasted Training – Planning Smart

Your choice of nutrition (or no nutrition) should depend on the type of session you are doing and the desired outcome. When you plan a particular training session decide if this is an easy to moderate session, or one where you are going to push the boat out. There are good reasons to use carbohydrates for racing and some training sessions and equally good ones to go without at others.

Why carbohydrates when you are Racing?

If you want to go hard in a race, or training session your body needs 60 to 90 grams of carbs per hour to perform optimally.

When your body works hard your fuel will come from your own bodies fat and carbohydrate stores. Your body will burn both at the same time; to start with more fat than carbs and after a while this changes to more carbs than fat. After some time you will run down your bodies own carbohydrate stores and hit the proverbial wall and being left with only some body fat is not going to work!! That is why it is needed to have a steady stream of carbohydrates coming in as this will be your main fuel for a great part of your race. If your body does not have access to carbohydrates, your body will likely start to metabolise your muscle tissue and that is not what you want. The harder you push, the longer your race the greater the need for carbohydrates will be.

As it is highly likely that you are going to burn a lot more calories than 90g of carbs per hour and the body won’t be able to digest more than 60-90g of carbs per hour; you do need that steady stream of carbs from the start and not wait until you get tired, or hungry. The advice is to try to be as close to 60-90 grams of carb intake per hour as possible.

The above is just how it works unless you are very sure that you are able to stay in a keto (fat burning) zone, with a low carb intake, (which would require extensive training and knowledge to adapt your body), this requires a lot more than just doing some fasted training sessions and even for those who are serious ‘keto athletes’ there is a limit to this strategy.

Nutrition during Training

Although it is wise to practice with your race nutrition during training, you don’t want to do all your training loaded with fast carbohydrates.

Practicing with race nutrition is a good idea for various reasons. You want to know what you find tasty; do your intestines cope with it; practicing with getting a gel down during a bike and a run, the logistics of how to carry it, can you swim 2k after drinking 300ml of energy drink? Useful to know these things well before a race.

Training with Carbohydrates for the hard sessions

As explained above your body performs best at top level when well fueled on carbohydrates. In order to get stronger muscles, more power, more endurance you need hard training sessions powered with carbohydrates, such as time trial sessions, intervals, track sessions. Well fueled you will be able to push harder and this will stimulate your muscles to become stronger and will increase your cardiac output. Of course you can do an hours of hard training on an empty stomach, but you are likely to be able to push harder when your body has readily access to carbs.

Training without Carbohydrates (fasted training), or with slow release carbs

You do not want to take full on fast carbohydrates every training session. Your body fat is another source that your body will use as fuel during racing. By incorporating several training sessions a week on either

slow release carbohydrates or completely fasted, you train your body to use fat more efficiently as a fuel source. The ability of your body to use fat as a fuel source is extremely valuable when you are racing longer races. This type of training session would be your slower easier rides or runs, not much longer then 2 hours for most people. Perhaps a good idea to have a gel in your back pocket incase you need some help getting back..

Slow release carbohydrates (Isomaltulose) prevent insulin spikes and help with burning fat for longer (Training Mix and Juice Bars).

Fasted training is best done in the morning without breakfast, no food, no gels, no energy drink, just electrolytes (Stealth Hydration Tablets), or an electrolyte drink with a very low dose of carbs (Superhydration mix)

Training for weight loss

If your main aim is weight loss, you could decide to do all your training fasted. However even here there is a case to use carbohydrates for some sessions. You are likely to be able to train for longer, or push harder with carbs and this in turn will help you burn calories. Stronger muscles, more endurance all means that you will create a bigger engine and burn more in the longterm. Slow release carbohydrates will give you that steady stream without spiking your insulin levels, while still allowing you to burn fat for longer.

Tip—     the caffeine in a black coffee (no milk, no sugar, no other food, no carbs) before a fasted session will help you burn more fat!

Staying hydrated Nutrition Sported 600x600 - Staying hydrated while training in hot weather or indoors

Staying hydrated while training in hot weather or indoors

Hot weather and indoor training can make it difficult to maintain optimal hydration, dehydration is not healthy but it is always important to remember it is possible to overconsume fluids during exercise. Too much water during exercise can cause the sometimes fatal condition hyponatremia, (literally low sodium) often known as water intoxication.

One of the adaptations to training is a reduction in the amount of sodium lost in sweat. However, as sweat rate increases the sweat gland has less time to recover sodium so if you are sweating a lot more than usual you may need to increase consumption.

Hyperhydrating prior to tough sessions by drinking 400-800ml of strong electrolyte solution -double up on electrolyte fizz tabs could be a useful strategy and the same after exercise in addition to a good protein recovery drink. REMEMBER water alone will just increase urine volume after exercise, this is one situation where you really benefit from sodium.

Getting hot and dehydrated during some sessions can have beneficial effects. The body adapts by increasing plasma volume, this reduces haematocrit level and EPO is produced to bring the level back up. The net result is an increase in red cell volume. NB Chronic dehydration is not healthy and will have a negative impact on health, performance and adaptation;- ensure you rehydrate properly after exercise.

During exercise, it is important to balance hydration and energy needs. If hydration needs are high and energy needs low then superhydration drink mix is optimised to deliver more hydration to the right body compartment.

For most indoor sessions Training Mix can maintain energy levels without fear of compromising fat burning. The special slow-release sugar used in Training Mix has been shown to work well in hydration drinks (Amano, 2019), making it a good choice for most zwift sessions. OK, if you want to race for several hours it may be beneficial to switch to a regular energy drink like Energy Mix but for sessions less than 90 minutes Training Mix can be a great option. 

How to use caffeine for training - Sported

How to use Caffeine for Training and Race Days

When it comes to using caffeine to help with training and racing, it’s all about the timing. Different people have different reactions to caffeine, but here is our general advice:

Caffeine before a fasted training session

A black coffee before a fasted training session is likely to help your body to fuel from fat, helping direct your metabolism towards fat burning.

Caffeine is likely to make your fasted training more efficient. In this case you only take water, or electrolytes and black coffee and no other carbs, including milk. Training like this should be kept for those easy or medium-paced sessions (not much longer than two hours).

Caffeine for an energy boost

If you’re taking caffeine together with carbohydrates, be it with regular food, a gel, or a drink with carbs, your metabolism is directed to fuel more from carbs and less from fat. 

This strategy is great when you want to push hard in a race, time trials or tough interval session. Having plenty of readily available carbs in your body with some caffeine will give your energy levels a boost.

This strategy can lead to you burning less fat. This is why in a longer race – where you will need to make optimal use of your fat stores, but also need a steady stream of carbohydrates throughout – it is advised to only start taking caffeine in the latter part of your race. 

If you start taking caffeine too early (therefore not using your fat stores effectively) you are more likely to run out of steam well before the finish line. 

Caffeine for pre-session digestion 

Caffeine can also help stimulate a bowel movement before a race or training session If you have breakfast (combining carbs and protein here) three to four hours before your race, you could combine it with a cup of coffee. The three to four hours will allow enough time for the effect of caffeine to wear off and not interfere with your fat-burning metabolism once the race starts.

More from Nutrition Q&A

How do I balance intake of solids and liquids during an ironman?

If I want a stronger energy drink can I just put more scoops in my bottle?

Is Sports Nutrition Safe for Children and Teenagers?

Is Sports Nutrition Safe For Children? - Sported

Is Sports Nutrition Safe for Children and Teenagers?

Tim Lawson, owner and founder of Secret Training, answers the frequently asked question; “Is Sports Nutrition safe and sensible for children and teenagers?

What is Sports Nutrition?

Sports Nutrition is made of real food ingredients in a format that makes it easy to dose and use in a sports context. Using a brand that leaves the ‘nasties’ out and uses natural ingredients will for sure be a more healthy choice than downing a tin of soda or eating a mars bar.

Children’s Bodies Work Like Adults’

Children’s’ bodies don’t work any differently from adults’ in that they need more carbohydrates and protein with increased activity, and that they can perform and recover better when they get the right amount and quality.

Athletic Children Could Need More Sustenance

When children are keen athletes and put many hours of training in, and at the same time need nutrients to grow and develop their bodies, you might argue they need more than adults in terms of sustenance.

A Sensible and Realistic Strategy

For example, a 10-year old participating in a pre-school-morning swim session will be hungry by the end and it will be a lot easier to consume a balanced protein shake next to a peanut butter sandwich than just a home-cooked or packed breakfast with the same quality proteins in it.

When a 15-year-old has a 2-hour rugby training session after school fuelled by some carbohydrate gels, he or she will likely have a more productive workout. Following this with a protein shake without having to resort to some junk food before dinner seems a sensible and realistic strategy.

Non-Athletic Children Don’t Need Extra Carbohydrates

Of course, a child who just does a couple of regular PE sessions a week, is not particularly active or even a little overweight, doesn’t need extra carbohydrates. They just need normal healthy meals, snacks and to stay hydrated with some low carbohydrate-electrolyte drink in warmer weather.

As with adults, what children take in terms of sports nutrition should depend on the situation.

Products with caffeine and creatine are best not taken by those under the age of 16 and extensive fasted training is best reserved until children have finished growing.

Katie Lawson - Is Sports Nutrition Safe for Children and Teenagers?

Katie Lawson, our own Under 10 Secret Training ambassador and a keen cyclocross athlete uses Secret Training Real Fruit Gels and Black Currant and Elderflower Super Hydration – Now with increased training volume using more of the protein recovery products. 

Look out for Katie smashing out sessions on Zwift!

More from Nutrition Q&A

How do I balance intake of solids and liquids during an ironman?

If I want a stronger energy drink can I just put more scoops in my bottle?

How do I balance intake of solids and liquids during an ironman?

You need enough liquids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration, having said this you should expect a 2-4% drop in weight by the finish line, so your aim is never to drink enough to maintain starting body weight.   You need fuel in the form of carbohydrates.  Whether this comes in the shape of solids, or liquids, or most likely a mixture of both is totally up to you.  Aim for a carb intake of 90g per hour, this is a lot more then a lot of athletes think they need.  So do your math and write out a plan with exactly what you are going to eat and drink, look at the ingredients and calculate how many carbs per hour your plan will give you.  Be specific for all stages starting in the warmup, not neglecting opportunities at the swim lineup and transitions.  You will be able to fuel more on the bike then the run, so make sure you use that leg of the race.  Bon appetite!  

If I want a stronger energy drink can I just put more scoops in my bottle?

Do you mean with ‘stronger’ higher in carbohydrates?  This depends on two things. If the drink also contains electrolytes then the prescribed amount will provide you with the right electrolyte balance, it is normally safe to make it a little stronger, however increasing by too much might make the concentration of electrolytes so high that it could have the opposite effect i.e. it might draw liquids from your body towards your intestines where the strong electrolyte mix sits.  

If your energy mix consists of just carbs in theory you can make it as strong as you want, however your body won’t be able to digest/absorb much more then 90g of carbohydrates per hour.  What type of carbohydrates are in your drink also matters as some are more easy to digest as others.  High fructose levels are often the cause of GI distress (Gastro Intestinal).  Equally simple sugars like glucose and Sucrose although quickly absorbed in lower doses are less well tolerated in high doses then more complex mixes with Maltodextrin and sticky rice starch.  Not everybody is the same, so practice with different types and strengths and perhaps slowly increase the amount of carbs if experimenting and try it out whilst training…what works for your training buddy might not work for you!

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