Nutrition, Podcast

The Performance Chef – Alan Murchison | EP#366

 November 28, 2022

By  Bernardo Gonçalves

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:

Alan Murchison - That Triathlon Show

Alan Murchison is a lifelong endurance athlete, and one of few athletes to both run under 30 minutes for 10k and ride under 18 minutes for 10 miles. He is also a chef, with 25 years of experience in Michelin starred kitchens. Today he runs Performance Chef, where he works with athletes from amateur level up to the highest possible level in the sports of triathlon, cycling, and other endurance sports. He brings a practical and holistic perspective to food and nutrition for endurance athletes

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • How Alan works with athletes depending on their needs
  • Key principles of nutrition in training and outside of training
  • Energy and macronutrient intake, and thinking in terms of easy, moderate and hard days
  • Should you track your food intake?
  • Supplements - are there any worth taking?
  • Different diets and intolerances, and how to manage them
  • What can amateurs learn from professionals, and what we should not try to copy
  • Specific advice for female athletes

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Shownotes

Alan's introduction

04:17 -

  • My name is Alan Murchinson, and I am confident that I am the least-academic person interviewed in this podcast.
  • I am a Michelin-star chef and spent many years running Michelin-star restaurants.
  • I am an ex-runner. I ran for Scotland, went to duathlon, and now focus on time trials.
  • My role is "Performance Chef" - I work with Specialized Factory Racing, doing nutritional plans for athletes and cooking for them.
  • I worked for British Cycling for three years. Last season, I was with Canyon Sram Women's WT team.
  • I did some work in F1 and also collaborated with some Swiss athletes in the rowing team.
  • In triathlon, I worked with Gwen Jorgensen in the build-up to the Olympics.
  • She was the first triathlete I worked with, and now I work confidently with other pro triathletes.

Performance Chef

06:35 -

  • My role is different for each athlete. I am on the road in World Cups, World Championships, and training camps with Specialized Factory Racing. Here I will do all the food and nutritional planning for each athlete.
  • I might give some consultation with other athletes, teaching them some recipes and how to cook them, and providing solutions for their environment.
  • Athletes' cooking skills are highly variable. Some athletes can take on a new recipe and do it, while with others, you even have to help them do the groceries.
  • Our "home base" work is doing nutritional plans alongside coaching.
  • This plan would consist of sending nutritional plans with your training plan and guiding you through getting proper nutrition every day.
  • If you have to do a 45-min swim and 2-hour bike ride, I will add the food in the TrainingPeaks, so food sits alongside training.
  • The other part of work is guiding athletes as they travel in hotels or Airbnbs.
  • Some athletes will want specific guidance and the nutrition and timing of eating, but this will depend on their knowledge.
  • Athletes are on a journey to learn how to eat and train properly.
  • For some athletes, you do not need to tell them they must eat three hours before a session.
  • We will provide the information athletes will receive.
  • For every athlete that requires much attention, there is another that is happy with a shopping list and a loose plan.
  • I ensure they practice in training what they will do in important events.

Where Alan feels he has the most impact

10:10 -

  • You do two things in life: things you enjoy and the thing you hold accountable.
  • If I can make the food enjoyable and tasty, and it is in the TrainingPeaks (and everyone likes green there), that will impact athletes significantly.
  • Recreational athletes are fantastic to work with because pros do not have anything to worry about in their lives.
  • If you are doing 25-30 hours per week, it is still not a 40-hour job with family and kids.
  • Professional athletes have a clear focus on what they are doing.
  • The challenge is when you have athletes with crunch schedules adapting training and nutrition.
  • Accountability is the key. If it is in TrainingPeaks, people will want to do it. (taking away the thinking part)
  • Most coaches have coaches as well because they need accountability.

Importance of having a guide

12:45 -

  • If you have a shopping list and the ingredients in the fridge, you have all you need to make a healthy nutritional meal.
  • If you finish your 90-min turbo session and go shopping, you will buy the "old rubbish".
  • Reactive eating is probably the most prominent mistake.
  • If you have an 8-9 hour day and need to fill in a session, you prepare your trainer and set up and jump on.
  • If you have to think about it, you have lost the moment to train.

Fundamental principles of nutrition during training

13:56 -

  • The most important is to fuel for the work required.
  • For me, a session is something that involves quality or hard work.
  • Underfueling hard sessions are often the issue, where the athletes deplete themselves and continue on that pathway for several days.
  • If you have the mindset that every training session has a purpose, you will have sessions for recovery, race pace and stuff over or under that.
  • Thinking about food this way, where each ingredient helps with the session, will benefit the athlete.
  • If you have the food on TrainingPeaks and take notes of how specific foods make you feel, it will help you down the line.
  • For example, last night, I was going to do 4x5min.
  • I knew I was going to do the gym afterwards.
  • I had to eat 90 g of carbs for that block to ensure I was not going to the gym depleted.
  • I knew I would need to eat afterwards and knew my breakfast for today.
  • Continuous nutrition planning is crucial because 20min of work is not much, but it is above my FTP.
  • If you were driving from London to Edinburgh, you would not set off with a 1/4 of a tank of fuel.
  • I watched what regular athletes consume when they ride, and I see that they crack because they only consume one bottle in three hours, but it does not work.

Energy availability

19:03 -

  • It is challenging to quantify external stresses on energy levels.
  • If we ride at 300 W, we will burn "x" calories. But we need to find out what impact lack of sleep, work and general life will impact energy levels.
  • My most stressful days are days when I am not on the bike or training, so we do not know the impact stress has on energy levels.
  • We might not have a substantial calorie deficit, but if you have to concentrate much, your brain's only fuel is carbohydrates.
  • In F1, we see a lot where athletes have to decide quickly.
  • There is so much we do not know.
  • Sometimes, you feel exhausted for no reason.
  • An athlete told me today that he had a rest day and was exhausted. He took the kids to school, walked the dog, cleaned the house and serviced the car. That is more exhausting than doing a 6-hour base ride.
  • Everything that takes athletes out of their comfort zone will require some effort that can fatigue people.
  • Training usually consists of easy, medium and hard efforts.
  • We have many apps that measure calories burned and intake. For example, MyFitnessPal is cheap and accessible.
  • We have two ways of tracking metrics: MyFitnessPal as a rough guide and software for recipe development.
  • If I am doing hard work (e.g. Tabata intervals, sweet-spot, over gear work), my regular carbohydrate intake is 70 % of my daily food intake.
  • If I am doing a medium session (e.g. Tempo, LSD session), my carb will change to 60 %. (30 % protein and 10 % fat)
  • I am 40 % carbs, 50 % protein and 10 % fat on race days.
  • When I do my meal plans, I ensure I follow those plans. That works for me as a 50-year-old athlete that burned many carbs.
  • I can take 100-120g of carbs when going hard.
  • However, you have to look at multiple days and residual fatigue.
  • People in training camps are often under-fueling.
  • In stage races, Female athletes usually take 8-10 g/kg of carbs daily. Male athletes take 10-20g/kg of carbs.
  • If you measure that and put it on the table, you will be surprised by how much food athletes need to take to perform in each stage.
  • For example, I returned from Girona, where I did 45 hours in 10 days.
  • I was carb-loading in every single meal. (and taking 70-90 g of carbs per hour during training)
  • Initially, I was fatigued because of the training shock, but ultimately, my Whoop gave me a "green" recovery status.
  • I did my best 20-min power on day 9.
  • You can use an app like MyFitnessPal to get an idea of the required intakes.
  • In cycling, you finally see athletes taking 100-110 g/h of carbs which would be unreal five years ago.

Calibrating your food intake

27:47 -

  • I use MyFitnessPal in blocks.
  • Self-awareness is a crucial skill because nowadays, we can track how many hours we sleep and left-right balance, and a lot of that information is excellent for coaches.
  • However, teaching athletes to have more self-awareness is challenging.
  • MyFitnessPal takes a long time and can lead to obsessive behaviour with food because once you start weighing food, it is the first step to start having an eating disorder.
  • Therefore, I try to simplify that process with each person. 
  • For example, for a medium day, I might give athletes 50 g of oats, 50g of greek yoghurt, 50 g of milk and apple juice. And that is a good breakfast.
  • A good lunch could be a tin of tuna, chopped avocado and a bowl of pre-cooked rice.
  • Your snack could be a bagel with peanut butter and jam.
  • Your dinner could slow-release carbs like rice or couscous with peas and additional vegetables to get the flavour.
  • And that's it. A medium day could be something like that, where you have carbs, protein and fats throughout the day.
  • If you have a hard day, have a banana and a tablespoon of honey for breakfast, and have a banana at lunch or sweet potatoes for dinner.
  • With that, you can take your carb intake up by 30 %.
  • You do not need ten different meals for dinner, lunch or breakfast.
  • People tend to overcomplicate, but you know the food you are eating and an estimation of the amounts.
  • If you put the notes on Trainingpeaks, you can start to correlate your performance in training with your nutrition and improve your choices daily.
  • Moreover, apply the 80/20 rule to food: 80% "healthy stuff" and 20 % "not-so-good stuff".
  • If you can get to the end of the training block and say that 80 % was fit-for-purpose, the other 20 % were about having moderation and having a healthy relationship with food.

Having moderation

32:56 -

  • For example, I like to go out and train with my gravel bike, even without a GPS with no structure.
  • Mentally, that is healthy for you because you can get the joy out of cycling if you only look at different metrics all the time.
  • Yesterday, after my gym session, I went to a new burger restaurant and enjoyed a different meal because I had a hard day and could not get bothered cooking.
  • Within the context of the week, that meal is helpful for relaxation.
  • When you look at a Michelin-star environment with high standards, people come and enjoy something unique.
  • The social element with food is lacking these days because people will sit to eat a pre-made meal in front of the TV, watching people cooking.
  • Cooking seems to be a "classy" hobby these days, whereas our grandparents would do everything themselves.

Fundamental principles of daily nutrition

35:08 -

  • I am more concerned with macros for training.
  • If you have a balanced diet, I would not worry about micronutrients.
  • In the western world, sea fishing is rare.
  • Supplementation is a multi-billion business; there is much out there that might do more harm than good.
  • I have tried every supplement out there and cannot tell what works or does not.
  • If you read the literature, there are few "hard" facts about supplementation.
  • The worst thing that can happen to athletes is if they fail a "drug test".
  • I need an "Anti-doping accreditation", so the general rule for athletes is that if in doubt, do not take it.
  • When I am under high stress, I take a multivitamin, fish oil and a probiotic supplement when travelling. (I could also take it. C or zinc)
  • I need more than the rest of the stuff to convince me.
  • Beta alumina makes me feel weird before a race.
  • Beetroot gives me an upset stomach.
  • Therefore, I would only supplement if you have something wrong.
  • If you fail a drug test, it is the end for you in your sporting and working careers.
  • We have a client that is a teacher at a private school, and she did a test on a race where she finished 4th, and there was a lot of amateur testing.
  • You have to look at risk versus reward: will this make you a better athlete? Maybe 1 %.
  • I take supplements only during travel to ensure I do not get sick.
  • I take caffeine gums and gels and do not see that as a supplement.
  • If you take 5-7 portions of veggies a day and avoid processed foods, you should not worry much.

Alan's view on diets

42:18 -

  • I have been working in the food industry for a long time.
  • Twenty years ago, exclusion diets, allergies and intolerances did not exist. People did not like stuff.
  • Nowadays, you cannot say you do not like stuff.
  • It has become trendy.
  • If you have a medical condition (gluten, dairy or celiac), it is different from a mild intolerance.
  • I take exclusion diets with a pinch of salt. We had two Olympic athletes in British Cycling; one would have a stress reaction when he was at races. There was a diagnosis to have a low FODMAP diet, which is a nightmare.
  • You would put him in a training camp, and he would not have issues, but you would put him in a race, and he would have IBS. (it was stress related)
  • It was challenging to manage because he would have IBS as soon as you put him in a high-pressure environment.
  • There are dairy intolerances. However, in any good supermarket in Europe, you get alternatives.
  • These alternatives do not mean they are healthy. (e.g. butter substitute)
  • You can change almost any product to be egg and dairy free. (despite eggs not coming from cows)
  • Concerning gluten, I have been a runner all my life. When doing hard intervals, I would have a "dodgy stomach".
  • I had a girlfriend who did not eat gluten, so I tried it out and was devastated to learn that my issues were gone.
  • I did not want the diet to work. (anti-placebo)
  • Five days after removing gluten from my diet, my energy and stomach function improved significantly.
  • I do not have a gluten intolerance. But having a high-gluten meal would upset my stomach.
  • For example, I would have a high-carb pasta meal before races, which would be a nightmare.
  • I may not be intolerant to wheat or gluten, but I react to its chemicals.
  • For example, the farming and manufacturing of spelt do not use chemicals. So, I do not react to spelt flour. But wheat flour destroys my stomach.
  • If you have doubts, you can pay many companies for intolerance testing. (expensive and have a solution for a problem that does not exist)
  • Therefore, take it out of your diet, monitor it for two weeks and then reintroduce it to your diet.
  • If you get a reaction, keep it out.

Veganism

47:09 -

  • In the last years, we had "Game Changers" and "Seaspiracy". These are actual factual documentaries, and the rest is marketing.
  • You can try to google ten world-class plant-based athletes, but you can't name any athlete.
  • There is no evidence that a plant-based diet has any performance benefits.
  • In British Cycling, we had unlimited resources. Two hundred forty people worked there, and we could not find evidence that an exclusion or plant-based diet would have any performance benefits.
  • During an Olimpic cycle, there was one vegetarian athlete for ethical reasons because she was a vet.
  • Everyone else ate everything and would have milk and cheese.
  • Ethically and environmentally, we do not need to have that argument.
  • Farming practices are variable, and animal farming is horrific.
  • However, from a performance basis, there is nothing to suggest performance improvements.
  • I suggest that you eat good-quality meat and ensure it is organic.
  • I eat meat less often as a result of social awareness.
  • I have a vegan day 1-2 times per week and another vegetarian day. (only eat meat four times per week)
  • I would eat twice per day, every day before.
  • Suppose athletes invested financially, emotionally and physically to get to the start of significant competition. In that case, they do not want to worry about where the dinner comes from the night before the race.
  • People are aware of plastics and travel but have a "flexitarian approach".
  • When you are at races, go with what you know works.
  • If you go to European hotels, you will be depleted because you will not find good vegan alternatives.
  • During the off-season, make those ethical decisions, but do not make those choices to influence your performance.

Tips for vegetarians and vegans

52:12 -

  • I would supplement with regular blood tests because you exclude prominent food choices. (3-4 times per year)
  • If you go to a supermarket these days, 90 % of the products are garbage.
  • In the vegan section, you can have everything, but once you look at the ingredients, you find a whole range of chemicals.
  • Moreover, these produced have pea protein, which is not batch-tested.
  • Pea protein can get you a positive on a drug test.
  • You may want to check supplementation, but it will depend on the individual.

Other diets

54:08 -

  • Low-carb diets and fasted diets - these diets put bodies under stress.
  • It is a method for reducing weight because you are creating a deficit, but I would be careful with it.
  • You have to be so careful with fasted-training.
  • You would have to do a hard session in the evening and have a pure protein meal afterwards. The next day, you would do a 60-90 minute fasted. Then, you would fuel as regularly.
  • First, you will get grumpy and put your body through a lot of stress.
  • So, I do not see the benefit.
  • Another diet we implement is low-fibre diets for races.
  • I became aware of it in 2012, and Wiggins was doing it when he won the Tour de France.
  • Essentially, leading to these events, you lose the fibre in your diet, and your body can lose up to two kilos of undigested fibre off your gut.
  • Fibre is in all healthy foods you have daily, so fruits, vegs, nuts, seeds and greens.
  • If you take them out during races, you will have a weight benefit, and you might feel more ready.
  • We tested it with some Canyon riders last year in a training camp, and we took fibre out of their diets before they did hard sessions.
  • Of the 14 athletes, 10 felt significant benefits from reducing the fibre amount.
  • The protocol would be 48h before the event, and you would have "white rice porridge for breakfast.
  • You would have rice noodles with salmon for lunch, and for dinner, you would have rice-based pasta, chicken, and basic tomato sauce.
  • Deserts would be watermelon, honey and greek yoghurt.
  • You will see a massive difference if you do that for two days.
  • Wheat pasta has 12 grams of fibre versus almost no fibre in white rice pasta.
  • For stage races, it is not healthy.
  • We had an athlete with water retention issues, which disappeared with the low-fibre diet.
  • If I do it, leading to a time trial, I can lose 1.5 kg even if I am not in shape.
  • Get a rice cooker and risotto rice. Add white sugar and white coconut milk. You have a morning meal that is high-carb and easy to digest.
  • You can buy these foods anywhere in the world. (rice noodles, white rice and coconut milk)
  • You do not need to like it because this is for performance events.
  • Get all the healthy stuff back on as soon as you finish.
  • If you take a benchmark athlete chronically under-fueling and put him with that amount of food, they will not have the best experience.
  • It is something that athletes need to look at in terms of carb intake to perform optimally.
  • However, do not obsess about it.
  • A journal of your diet is something people need to use more.
  • A post-race report should have what they ate and how they felt from an energy standpoint.

Habits of professional athletes

1:03:01 -

  • Professional athletes promote brands and products.
  • Amateurs will look at that and get the hook. (not looking at the broader picture)
  • Chasing excellence is something professional athletes do, and they have an infrastructure supporting them.
  • Unfortunately, I worked in these high-performance environments. To achieve excellence, you need obsessive behaviour.
  • Being average or moderate does not create excellence.
  • If you apply that to food, you can get into a rabbit hole. If you get to a point where you weigh and worry about food all the time, you should seek professional advice.
  • Social media is not professional advice. Social media is free, so it is worth nothing.
  • Renee McGregor wrote an excellent book called: Orthorexia: When Healthy Eating Goes Bad.
  • Professional athletes will have psychologists, physiotherapists, nutritionists, and dietitians who will measure everything. And that is impossible for almost everyone else.
  • If you start focusing too much on food, take a step back.

Measuring metrics

1:05:29 -

  • Weight and body fat percentage should be the parameter people should concern about the least.
  • I have never seen body fat percentages on the results sheet.
  • I typically do not use social media to talk badly about people.
  • There are two cases where people were talking about weight and body fat.
  • If you are an athlete, you will have aspiring young athletes and people that do not understand the requirements of elite athletes watching you.
  • Weight and body are not essential for performance.
  • The most important for athletes is to absorb a high training volume.
  • Training load and consistency.
  • If you are constantly at a caloric deficit and with low body fat percentages, you will not recover, adapt and achieve your goals.
  • There was a case of an athlete who claimed he was at 4 % body fat and lower than everyone else. However, is that relevant?
  • Do you think Kristin Blummenfelt is measuring his body fat at the start of a race?
  • Associating body fat percentage with success is dangerous.
  • There was an athlete with a phenomenal season and 500k followers on Instagram.
  • They posted that she had lost 3.5 kg and was ready to race.
  • She lost 6-8 % of her body weight, and they associated losing weight with being ready to race.
  • It is reckless. The athlete might have done that weight program well, but that was the headline used for it.
  • PTO has done something good. However, they present the athlete's weight.
  • Only three of the top 10 female athletes do not have the weight.
  • The ones that do not have it are the best of this season.
  • If PTO asked me about my weight, I would ask why.
  • Weight is dangerous, and I worry more about the 14 sessions you have to do per week and if you fuel correctly for them.
  • Obsession with weight is a bad thing in sports.
  • In professional endurance sports, there will be three types of athletes.
  • A third of the athletes are under-cooked (they did not do the proper training)
  • There is a third that is over-trained. 
  • For those, food is the issue.
  • The third group is those that race.
  • It is why you should look at training—no more than a third of the athletes race at their peak.
  • If you look at endurance sports, world-class athletes will have probably been doing it for a long time. (huge base)
  • Athletes have no reason to post that; it is dangerous and disruptive.

Athletes with eating disorders

1:15:33 -

  • When someone approaches me, I genuinely think they have an issue. However, it is not my role to fix those issues, and I would send them to a professional.
  • If someone tells me they weigh something and eat specific foods, I work with them to check the "maths".
  • Sometimes, we help athletes open their eyes to their eating behaviours.
  • If someone has acute behaviour, I will send them to a healthcare professional. It is common. (one in two cases per month)
  • Most eating problems have deeper roots.
  • I worry about future generations that judge themselves on what they see on social media.
  • The best athletes in the world do not go through "fad diets".
  • I refused to work with specific athletes until they got professional help.
  • If you looked at the metrics of PTO, you could argue that no female athlete could be successful if they were 60 kg.
  • Practitioners in sports are purely looking at metrics.
  • If a coach is not empathetic and does not understand people, he will not coach great people.
  • If a sports scientist only gives an athlete macro parameters, they are not looking at the person.
  • We had an athlete one year from the Olympics and were on a training camp in Portugal with the British Cycling team. 
  • Athletes were doing two daily sessions (endurance rides and gym training).
  • On day 9, they did six hours with 2500m of climbing in the rain.
  • It was the ninth day with rain, so I made them pasta with cheese, bacon and sweat potato dishes.
  • I received a call from Manchester asking why I changed the meal plan.
  • I ask him if he would want to see the athletes, and they are mentally tired. I can give them chicken with grilled vegetables and white rice, but half will go to soigneurs for Haribos and sugary cereals.
  • So, let's look at the morale of the athletes. (something missing in academics or professionals)
  • The same could be said for a coach. A coach cannot prescribe "the perfect training plan" to athletes with family and life stresses.
  • Professional athletes will have to worry about one thing, so take any advice from them with a pinch of salt.
  • A happy athlete will be a good-performing athlete.
  • I had some arguments with professionals because they only looked at metrics.
  • In a training camp, a quiet dinner table is because dinner is boring or they are broken.
  • If you are constantly doing rainy sessions, you need to have empathy with them.
  • For example, Dan Bigham says that in his new role in Ineos, people accept his ideas more easily.

Good things about elite athletes

1:23:33 -

  • Elite athletes are "athletic self-aware".
  • They know what works for them and are not afraid to do it.
  • And that is challenging for people who are not in the sport for a long time. And those people need help with coaching and advice.
  • If you look at Kristian Blummenfelt and Jan Frodeno, you could not get two more different specimens.
  • If Kristian decided to lose weight, his performance would go down significantly. On the other side, if Jan decided he wanted to look like Kristian, it would probably play out poorly too.
  • While Jan lives with his family, Kristian is more scientific and does many training camps.
  • If you talk with Jan, he talks about "meat and potatoes". He does the basics perfectly.
  • He does his sessions and finds out what works for him.
  • Professional athletes will not "monkey see, monkey do".
  • Professional athletes are also clever in race selection.
  • We had a client from Wales, where it is cold and rainy. However, his primary races were in Central Europe.
  • Moreover, athletes should look to target goals that excite them.
  • For some athletes, an Olympic silver medal is an absolute disaster.
  • Josie Perry (psychologist) stated: "You identify the goal, and you create habits around those goals".
  • If I want to qualify for Worlds 70.3, what are the habits and behaviours of that person? 
  • If you need to ride a 4-hour split, work out what that is.

Examples of identifying what success look like

1:27:54 -

  • A few years ago, Chris Froome was trying to win all three Grand Tours in the same year.
  • In January 2018, Chris Froome uploaded a ride on Strava called "Emptied the tank".
  • He did 270 km at 44.5 km/h with 3500m of climbing.
  • As a coach, is there any sense in doing that ride to prepare for a May race? No
  • However, his goal was to train his gut and improve his carb tolerance under high load and fatigue.
  • Moving to May 2018, after 19 days of racing, he attacked 80 km to go with only one bottle. However, he knew he could tolerate 80-100 g/h carbs. He also had people giving him bottles during the stage.
  • This aspect is relevant for triathletes because athletes struggle in the last 20 km of Kona.
  • Athletes struggle to take sports products because they do not train their bodies for the demands of the event. They did the training but needed to train the gut to take on fuel under load.
  • Another example was in the 2022 Cyclocross WC, in hot conditions.
  • Cyclocross is a predominantly Northern European sport, usually in cold conditions.
  • In 2022, Marianne Vos was racing the women's race.
  • The race was 50+ min, and she did something no one else did.
  • She had a bottle on her bike. Every time she would be on the straight, she took a drink from the bottle.
  • The race is like one hour of over-under.
  • A typical athlete would not do full gas efforts for one hour without taking a drink.
  • She did not follow tradition and adapted to the conditions of the day.
  • The most incredible was watching the most successful cyclist racing with a bottle on Saturday. However, only one male athlete followed her example on Sunday. (it was the winner Tom Pidcock)
  • They are the best in the world because they look at the details.
  • Pidcock weighs 50-55 kg. He is putting 600g on his bike.
  • Therefore, this takeaway is for athletes to practice for the event. So, train your gut for the conditions and create protocols you can follow.
  • Practice drinking on the aero position and eating gels in advance.
  • 1-2 days before the race, you should have everything sorted out.
  • People do not use new fancy kits for primary goals but do it with food.
  • People might try to find excuses not to train, but they should give themselves the best chance to succeed in their primary event.
  • Ironman has become a fueling competition, and it is impressive how precise athletes got in their preparation and execution of the race.

Other considerations about professional triathlon

1:38:50 -

  • To fully prepare for an event, you have to go to the location of the race way in advance, which might only be possible for some athletes.
  • If they lose that paceline, there is no prize money for them.
  • However, we must also consider that if they train to ride four hours at 300 W and, in the race, go at 320 W, the carbohydrate requirements to do that extra power are substantial.
  • Therefore, it is a challenging race to predict.
  • Athletes might also underperform because of sponsorship and media commitments.

Differences between male and female athletes

1:40:41 -

  • The menstrual cycle is difficult to manage.
  • It is challenging already because most coaches and practitioners in sports are predominantly men.
  • Therefore, a 45-year-old coach might need help understanding why a 20-year-old girl does not feel like training on a given day.
  • There is an app FITR woman, that talks about this topic.
  • Guys do not have excuses for failing in a competition.
  • Women can also have significant variations in their performance depending on their menstrual cycle.
  • Moreover, there is pressure for women to behave in a specific way.
  • When working with female athletes, I ask them if they track their cycle and have any special requirements.
  • If a coach has a healthy relationship with the athlete, the coach can change training accordingly.
  • In theory, carbohydrate requirements could increase by 25 % at specific periods.
  • However, there is no specific approach for every woman.
  • Athletes might not be comfortable talking about this as well because it is a personal topic.
  • However, I will not go too deep into it because if athletes need any other requirement, they should seek a professional in the area.
  • If an athlete says she needs to have specific things on her diet, I can help her.
  • It is also complicated for men to understand how they feel.

Takeaways from the topics discussed

1:47:15 -

  • Plan your food alongside your training.
  • If you have your training plan, plan what you will eat.
  • Train your gut and practice race nutrition.
  • Third, learn new skills in the kitchen.
  • Cooking has become a niche.
  • Cooking with Babish: he has a following big community on social media.
  • I am also thinking of doing a performance chef YouTube channel.
  • I could teach how to do simple recipes that would take cooking to a new level for any person.
  • If I get bored of being on the road all the time, I will get my YouTube Channel.

Rapid-fire questions

1:49:17 -

What is your favourite book, blog or resource?

Supporting Champions podcast

The Midlife Cyclist: The Road Map for the +40 Rider Who Wants to Train Hard, Ride Fast and Stay Healthy by Phill Cavell

More Fuel You: Understanding your body & how to fuel your adventures

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

(Academia tends to overcomplicate, so I read sports science books)

What is an important habit that benefited athletically, professionally or personally?

Learning from the different genres of sports. When I left the high-performance kitchen, I set Performance Chef because there was a missing link. Do not sit still. You have to keep evolving as a person and get out of the discomfort.

Once you know everything, you are done.

Who is someone you have looked up to or who has inspired you?

The human element inspires me. There is a diver that medaled in the Olympics called Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix. She went on to talk about body image in sports on live TV at 17.

I loved working with Glenn Jorgensen. She had a winning mindset.

Evie Richards (WC in MTB) did a piece about disordered eating.

Anna Kiesenhofer (Olympic Champion) worked out how to beat the best team in the world.

The whole project sub-7 and the athletes that participated in that event (Joe Skipper and Kat Matthews)

Jan Frodeno's performance in 2017 and Chelsea Sodaro (won Kona as she did in 2022)

However, Jan Frodeno is the one that inspires me the most.

LINKS AND RESOURCES:


Bernardo Gonçalves

Bernardo is a Portuguese elite cyclist and co-founder of SpeedEdge Performance, a company focused on optimising cycling and triathlon performance. He writes the shownotes for That Triathlon Show, and also produces social media content for each new episode.

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  • Can you elaborate on the homemade carb drink? In your podcast you mentioned using maltodextrin and fructose. Links ratios and or a recommended brand would also be useful. Many thanks. I really enjoy your podcasts.

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