Pre-exercise nutrition: What do we know and how should we use it?

-Dr Dan Plews

All endurance athletes eat, and all endurance athletes train. Whether consciously or not, all endurance athletes therefore have to make decisions about what they eat (or don’t eat) before training. Pre-exercise nutrition has the potential to impact the substrates we utilize to fuel training (i.e. fats and carbohydrates), our performance in training (i.e. the watts or pace we put out), and also our adaptive responses to the training stimulus (1, 2).

Pre-exercise nutrition is therefore a fascinating and highly relevant area of study in sports science. Recently, my PhD student Jeff Rothschild, AUT Professor Andrew Kilding and myself published a large review of the effects of pre-exercise nutrition on a range of metabolic and physiological responses in the open-access journal Nutrients (3). We pooled the results of 125 studies, which included data from 1245 athletes (~13% females) to assess the effects of pre-exercise carbohydrate (CHO) ingestion and...

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Interpreting Shifts in Blood Lactate Profiles

Dr Dan Plews & Ed Maunder

 

In this blog, we are going to provide a little detail for athletes and practitioners on how to interpret changes in blood lactate parameters and profiles derived from serial laboratory-based lactate threshold assessments. These assessments typically involve exercising initially at a very low workload, considerably below the aerobic threshold, with heart rate and blood lactate concentration recorded prior to an increase in workload every 3-4 minutes (although these ‘steps’ can be longer). These steps are repeated until exhaustion. Expired gases may be collected throughout, and these can provide insight into movement economy, substrate utilization, and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max). The tests are typically performed for (i) training zone identification and (ii) monitoring adaptations to training.

 

Classic rightward and leftward shifts

Below we have a textbook rightward-shift in the blood lactate vs. power output curve, which we...

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Hill reps and overgearing: What does the science say?

Image by Rook Media 

 

We’ve really been enjoying watching the return of road racing after the pandemic (or somewhat ‘after’), like we're sure many of you are too, and are particularly enjoying watching the athletes at Le Tour grinding up the Alps and Pyrenees in big gears and at massive power outputs. Hill reps are a common part of many endurance training programs, whether that be for running, cycling, or triathlon, and at Endure IQ we are big fans of riding up hills and doing specific overgearing work on the trainer in preparation for a long-distance triathlon (in fact, we dedicate a whole module to this type of training in our three disciplines in our online course LDT 102). We thought now was as good a time as any to review some of the key studies in this field, and whether the available research backs up this type of training prescription.

 

Specific strength training for endurance athletes 

We call this type of work –...

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Are Carbohydrate-hydrogels the next great product in sports nutrition?

- By Dr. Dan Plews & Ed Maunder

From time-to-time, there is a flurry of research interest into a new product in sports nutrition, as researchers seek to determine if they have discovered the next great ergogenic aid. Recently, that product seems to be carbohydrate-hydrogels (1, 2, 7, 8, 10). In this blog, we are going to review what is a growing literature on this product, and assess if hydrogels are something you should consider adding to your race-day bottle.

 

What is a hydrogel?

First things first, what is a hydrogel, and how does it work? A carbohydrate-hydrogel is a regular carbohydrate-containing sports drink, only with pectin and sodium alginate added. Pectin and sodium alginate have little effect until the drink reaches the high acidity of the stomach, where it forms a gel-like mixture. Supposedly, the gel-like mixture allows for faster pass through the stomach into the intestine – what is called ‘gastric emptying’ – and speeds the rate at...

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Recovery from a Zwift race: A physiological perspective

Dr Dan Plews

We, as endurance athletes in the world of the COVID-19, indoor-training dominated world, are perhaps more than ever having to make day-to-day decisions on how and when we should train, and how and when we should race. Many of us have had our A and B races canceled this year, or have had to shift our training environment indoors, and, almost inevitably, onto Zwift. Zwift is an awesome tool for keeping us motivated and occupied from within the confines of our indoor pain caves, and Zwift racing is an exciting means of keeping those competitive juices flowing while the finish line in Kona seems further and further away. 

Imagine an athlete setting up on their trainer for an after-work spin on a Friday. They have a swim and some intervals planned on the bike for Saturday, followed by a long endurance ride on Sunday and an 8-km run-off-the-bike. They see that there’s a Zwift race starting in 20 min they fancy having a crack at. Should they do it? How do they make...

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Should I train my gut? Both sides of the coin on preserving endogenous carbohydrates

 - Dan Plews and Ed Maunder 

 

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, during ultra-endurance events lasting ~8-15 hours like long-distance triathlon, the preservation of endogenous carbohydrate (CHO) stores is one of the key determinants of success (25). As humans, we possess a finite capacity to store CHO energy as glycogen, typically <3000 kcal, of which ~80% is stored in muscle and ~10-15% in the liver (7). Assuming typical running economy values observed in highly-trained distance runners (1.07 kcal.kg-1.km-1) (6) and a body mass of 68 kg, these endogenous CHO stores would not be sufficient to support even one marathon alone (~3070 kcal), let alone a marathon following a 3.8-km swim and a 180-km bike ride. Accordingly, exercise of sufficient duration and intensity – such as an Ironman – will deplete these endogenous CHO energy stores to very low concentrations, and this glycogen depletion has been linked to the fatigue we feel in the late stages...

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The Role of Myofascial Slings in Triathlon: Part 1 – Understanding Our Sling System

- Adam Storey, PhD

 

How “easily” we can perform a specific movement or task is a critical determinant of  Long Distance Triathlon (LDT). For example, to run a 3-hour marathon (an excellent running time in an Ironman Distance Triathlon) the average pace is  4:16 min/km. There are many athletes who can run 4:16 for 1 km; the issue most athletes face is that they simply can’t do it easily enough to do it 42 times back-to-back. In their online course Endure IQ LDT 102: Training Program Fundamentals for Long Distance Triathlon, Dan and the team at Endure IQ go through the rationale regarding how, for LDT, it’s likely better to focus on “specific strength” rather than lifting heavy weights in the gym. However, gym-based exercises where the main focus is to improve movement efficiency are still likely to be very beneficial, and, moreover, can be completed is less than 20 minutes; a key consideration for the time-poor long distance...

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Exogenous ketones: Something to add to your recovery drink?

We all love a good "pain face" and we all know how much those high intensity interval sessions hurt! Such big sessions, require big recovery; and recovery optimization is always a key question for athletes, sports scientists and coaches looking for a performance advantage. With media reports circulating that many elite road cycling teams are investing huge sums of money in exogenous ketone supplements for their athletes (7), many of us in endurance sport – including the scientists – are asking if exogenous ketones are the next magic bullet in sports nutrition (4). We blogged about exogenous ketones recently, specifically using some of our own data and a recently published review (8) to survey the evidence for supplementing with exogenous ketones during a long-distance triathlon. In this blog, we are going to focus instead on the possible benefits of exogenous ketone supplementation for recovery.

 

Background

Before diving into specific original studies assessing...

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Plyometrics: Free speed for endurance athletes

 

Most people can generally understand training specificity, run more, and I’ll get better at running. Simple, at least until you can’t go running as much as you’d like - maybe because you have a busy work week, family commitments or there’s a global pandemic. Then you must get more creative. One of the more under-utilized concepts of training specificity is training for the adaptations beneficial to the event, rather than just training the event itself. Essentially, if I want to get better at long-distance triathlon (LDT) performance, what metabolic, structural, and neural adaptations do I need to make me stronger, last longer, and ultimately perform better? While you don’t need to start squatting 400 lbs (in fact please don’t!), plyometric training falls into this specific strength category (i.e. hill running, big gear cycling, core training, posture, etc.), which can be valuable to target adaptations directly beneficial to endurance...

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Should we take exogenous ketones during a long-distance triathlon?

- Dr Dan Plews and Ed Maunder

 

A review of the review by David M. Shaw et al. Sports Medicine 50(4): 641-656, 2020

In this blog, we are going to summarize a recently published review by former AUT PhD student Dave Shaw on the evidence for and against exogenous ketone ingestion (11), as well as some of our own personal experiences. Dave’s PhD included studies on both the ingestion of exogenous ketones in a sports drink and longer-term adaptation to a very low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet (10, 12), with one of the main purposes of this review being to highlight the stark differences between these two interventions. In this blog however, we are going to focus on studies of exogenous ketone supplementation for endurance performance. Ed (PhD student & Endure IQ LDT102 guest instructor) was fortunate enough to be part of the team of authors writing the review.

  

Exogenous ketones 

A point here to note is that when we discuss exogenous ketones, we are not...

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