Oct. 6, 2017

In this special episode, NBT client Ryan Baxter takes over the mic to ask Dr Tommy Wood, MD, PhD, some excellent questions around fuelling for Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). Whilst Tommy’s answers are somewhat specific to OCR, all athlete may find some helpful tips here.

Below are the questions that Ryan asked, and a summary of Tommy’s response.

Q: Diet can be like politics or religion, how do you effectively communicate your ideas about how athletes should fuel?

  • Be honest about the fact that there is more than one way to skin the cat
  • Start with real food - eliminations and diet subtypes are secondary
  • It’s OK to supplement if needed

Q: What is the most common problem you see when it comes to nutrition and athletes?

  • Undereating and underfuelling
  • Worrying too much about the minutiae
  • Thinking they can eat whatever they like because they exercise
  • Focusing too much on supplements without wanting to get the basics right
  • You need to figure out if you’re somebody that should worry *more* or less about their nutrition
    • Most of the people I work with often need to worry less
      • Over-restriction
    • Most “average” people need to worry more

Q: As far as day to day nutrition what do you think that should look like? Any specific macro recommendations?

  • This assumes no goal for changes in body composition
  • Eat 120-160g of protein per day, in 3-4 meals
  • For OCR athletes, I’d eat at least 1g/lb carbohydrate per day
  • Depends on intensity and can be cycled by day
  • The rest should come from fat, from whole food sources

Q: Chris Masterjohn just posted two videos [1, 2] on fueling athletic performance with carbs vs fats.  My overall interpretation of his analysis was that he feels that if you are doing intense exercise you need to be fueling with carbs.  What are your thoughts on the carbs vs fats debate.

  • Masterjohn has nicely presented the evidence to answer a question that should be obvious but sadly has generated a lot of debate.
  • Simplistically, you need to right fuel for the given exercise or intensity, and if you want to be regularly performing at glycolytic activities, you should be eating carbohydrates.
  • You can still do glycolytic work when restricting carbohydrates, and it may help to mitigate the downregulation of glycolytic pathways, but your absolute performance will probably drop.
  • If you’re restricting carbohydrates, *why* are you doing it?
    • Metabolic health?
      • If so, focus on that rather than performance.
    • “Fat adaptation”?
    • Can be achieved whilst also eating carbohydrates!
    • Fat oxidation rates increase with VO2Max.

Q: Our team is very diverse both in age range and fitness.  We have people who are in their teens and up and we have people who are beginners to those who race in the elite class.  Do you have recommendations about how to someone might go about finding the right nutrition for themselves?

  • An appropriate (and good) multivitamin is usually a good idea
  • Start with the rough recommendations above
  • Older people (40-50+) may need more protein
  • If still hungry, eat more!
  • If poor recovery, or weight loss despite not feeling hungry
  • Eat more carbohydrates
  • Increase calorie density of foods
  • If regular GI symptoms (diarrhoea, bloating etc), consider a period of elimination of the main potential culprits:
    • Grains, dairy, soy, eggs
    • FODMAPs
    • If this is beneficial for you - do more digging!

Q: We have some vegetarians on the team, would you suggest anything specific for them?

  • Don’t fall into the typical vegetarian traps
    • Not eating vegetables
    • Not eating fish (if not vegan)
    • Eating “faux” meat
    • Making bread and cheese dietary staples
  • Don’t usually have as much of a problem eating enough carbohydrate
  • Make sure you get enough protein (may need to increase intake to compensate for lower essential amino acid intake)
    • Controversial
    • May only be necessary if trying to maximise muscle mass

Q: Do you have any supplements that you would recommend every athlete take or is supplementation an individual recommendation?

  • Creatine
  • Vitamin D (if levels are low)
  • Citrulline and beta-alanine for repeated HIIT/Sprint/higher-rep weight training performance
  • Caffeine and nitrates (beetroot shots?) restricted the rest of the time and then used as an ergogenic aid

Q: Everyone always focuses on macronutrients when it comes it nutrition, but what about micronutrients?  Should we focus on them as well?  Can you talk about how they might affect your athletic performance?

  • Micronutrients are essential for all the basic synthetic and enzymatic functions in the body.
  • B6 for red blood cell production
  • Multiple B vitamins for various parts of energy production
  • Copper for proteins involved in iron absorption
  • Copper, zinc, and selenium for enzymes involved in handling oxidative stress
    • Zinc inhibits copper uptake
    • Many athletes both zinc *and* copper deficient
  • Selenium and iodine for thyroid function
  • Chris Masterjohn series

Q: I think every athlete knows about the importance of staying hydrated, but do you have any recommendations when it comes to hydrating during training or racing?  Should we be drinking a specific amount on a set schedule or should we just be mindful of how thirsty we are?

  • All the best evidence says you should just drink to thirst.
  • Tim Noakes “waterlogged” - documents the adverse effects of hyponatraemia in marathon runners and US Army when trying to stay “hyper hydrated”.
  • Where it has been studied, the people that perform the fastest at longer distances (IRONMAN triathlon or ultramarathons) tend to lose the most amount of bodyweight (i.e. are the most dehydrated).
    • Maybe genetic or involve other factors, but suggests dehydration is not the limiting component.

Q: OCR is a unique sport that combines lots of different aspects of physical fitness, so you think there are special fueling requirements for OCR athletes?

  • OCR typifies the need for metabolic flexibility - the ability to utilise all substrates at the right time, and switch between them.
  • Overtly restricting one macronutrient is unlikely to be beneficial
  • Cycle training intensities/modalities and fuel appropriately to get the best of all pathways.

Q: We have a coach who likes to push us pretty hard over the course of a 2hr class.  As an example, his warmup was a burpee ladder which essentially amounted us doing 15 minutes of burpees. And that is the warmup, how should we fuel for training sessions like this like this? Should we fuel beforehand/after/both?

  • I don’t think most people need intra-workout nutrition for this kind of session.
  • Unless struggling to maintain weight or want to gain muscle mass
    • Consider small amount of carbs and amino acids (as during a race)
  • Get a real food meal in as soon as feasible and comfortable
    • Can use a shake if you need more calories or protein or will be a long time before you can eat.
      • Not essential
      • Liquid calories not recommended unless failing to get enough from food.

Q: OCR races can vary greatly in distance, there are some that are 5k in distance all the way up to ultra-endurance races that last 24 hours. Of course, we are doing a lot more than just run during these races. When should we start concerning ourselves with intra-race nutrition? What would you suggest?

  • Probably don’t need intra-race nutrition unless going over 2-3 hours
  • Greater dependence on fat-burning/aerobic pathways at that distance
  • Combination of slow-digesting carbohydrate and some amino acids
    • UCAN, PHAT FIBRE, oats, sweet potato powder
    • MAP, BCAAs, protein powders
  • Fats for longer efforts if tolerated
  • Can be real-food based
    • Nuts (macadamias are popular) and seeds (i.e. chia)
    • Pemmican
  • NAC or glutathione for much longer efforts (i.e. 24h races)

Q: After a tough training session or race, we all want to recover as fast as possible to get back to training or racing.  Rest is important as is mobility etc, but is there anything from a nutrition perspective we can do to recover faster?

  • Depends on how soon you want to/need to recover
    • Antioxidants
    • Cold baths
  • Don’t eat crap food and minimise the post-race beers
  • Eat enough protein
  • If you tend to be nauseated or get GI symptoms after races, consider not eating for 2-4 hours afterwards to give the gut a break.    
  • If “fat adapted”, your body should be better able to handle this

Q Are there signs or symptoms that we might not be fueling properly? What do you see in practice when athletes are not fueling correctly?

  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Slow recovery and soreness
  • Low libido

Here’s the outline of this interview with Ryan Baxter:

[00:01:51] Get this kid some carbs!

[00:02:13] The Loft private Facebook group.

[00:06:10] FDN: Functional Diagnostic Nutrition training.

[00:07:49] Behaviour change. Podcast: How to Create Behaviour Change with Simon Marshall, PhD.

[00:10:19] Testing currently utilized by Nourish Balance Thrive.

[00:11:37] Insulin. Podcast: Poor Misunderstood Insulin with Dr. Tommy Wood.

[00:13:03] Mindfullness. Podcast: How to Think Yourself Younger, Healthier, and Faster with Dr. Ellen Langer, PhD.

[00:14:29] Nutrition recommendations for OCR.

[00:15:58] 120 - 160 g PRO, 1g CHO per lb of bodyweight? FAT?

[00:19:28] Net vs total CHO, fibre.

[00:20:30] YouTube: Carbs and Sports Performance: The Principles and Carbs and Sports Performance: The Evidence with Chris Masterjohn, PhD.

[00:25:31] Podcast: Metabolic Flexibility with Chris Kelly.

[00:33:47] Pre/during/post training nutrition.

[00:35:25] Dr Tommy Wood's Nutrient-Delivery Smoothie.

[00:35:42] Wild Planet sardines.

[00:37:56] Nutrition for Spartan Beast and Ultra Beast events (~6 hours).

[00:39:47] UCAN and Phat Fibre.

[00:39:57] Catabolic Blocker.

[00:41:04] Pemmican.

[00:41:18] 100-200 kCal per hour.

[00:41:38] NAC.

[00:42:49] Podcast: Professor Tim Noakes: True Hydration and the Power of Low-Carb, High-Fat Diets.

[00:44:01] Justin's nut butters.

[00:44:28] Pro Bar Mixed Berry.

[00:45:00] Primal Kitchen’s bars and Ben Greenfield’s Nature Bite bars.

[00:45:48] Supplements.

[00:46:13] Creatine.

[00:46:29] Vitamin D (test 25-OH-D).

[00:46:59] Citrulline and Beta-Alanine: Why and How You Should Supplement with Creatine and Beta-Alanine.

[00:47:12] Caffeine.

[00:47:26] Nitrates, e.g. beet shots.

[00:49:10] Nourish Balance Thrive Highlights email series.

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