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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

-Ed Maunder & 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?...

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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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Training Ironman triathletes in the real-world: Case study of a heat stress training camp

In Endure IQ LDT102: Training Program Fundamentals for Long Distance Triathlon, we explore the best training methods used by long-distance triathletes that facilitate optimal performance, and in LDT103: Heat and Long Distance Triathlon, we focus on something all long-distance triathletes seeking to cross the finish line at the World Championships will encounter, heat. In this blog, we are going to touch the surface of both of these crucial topics by describing a case study that we published this year on a three-week heat stress training camp in Kona, Hawaii undertaken by two elite Ironman triathletes (10). This case study gives strong practical insight into how a very successful three-week block of training can be performed by two elite Ironman triathletes, and the additional considerations that are encountered when temperatures rise.

 Heat stress training camps: What are they? Why do endurance athletes do them?

The first things to ask, then, are what exactly is a...

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CHO Supplementation for High Intensity Training in LCHF Long-Distance Triathletes: When and How

-Dr Dan Plews

By now, I hope all of our current and past LDT101 course enrolees are convinced of how important it is to maximise your capacity to make use of your effectively unlimited fat energy stores during long distance triathlon. As Prof. Grant nicely puts it during the course introduction in Endure IQ LDT101: The Practical Application of Low Carbohydrate Performance for Long Distance Triathlon, “the devil is in the detail!”.  In this blog post, I am going to describe specific training situations in which using a small “carbohydrate booster” might be a useful tool in getting the best adaptive bang for your buck.

 

Background

As we have discussed previously, one of the main anxieties endurance athletes have before making the move to LCHF, is the possibility of suffering a loss of high-intensity performance. The strategy we set out in LDT101 should go some way to alleviating these anxieties but it is no secret that being able to...

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Why low intensity training needs to be of low intensity

If any of you have listened to Dan’s chat with Triathlon Taren on his podcast recently, you would have heard him talk about the importance of getting your zone 2 intensity right and ensuring that level 2 endurance training is at the correct physiological stress, i.e. below the first ventilatory (or aerobic) threshold. The reasons that this is so important are both from an adaptation perspective (i.e. ensuring we are making the correct physiological adaptations), but also from an overall physiological stress, which effects our ability to train consistently well. This blog discusses why ensuring that your level 2 training is actually at level 2 could be the key to unlocking your ability to train consistently as you pursue your Long Distance Triathlon goals.

Indeed, one of the most important factors impacting the success of training for long-distance triathlon is intensity distribution and discipline, concepts we will cover in great detail in Endure IQ LDT102: Training...

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