Nutrition advice: Fuelled by Science with Ted Munson | EP#41
Science in Sport is a leading sports nutrition company that among other accomplishments and accolades, recently partnered up with the British Triathlon Federation to be the official supplier of sports nutrition for all Great Britain athletes.
Their products are completely "Fuelled by Science" - developed by sports scientists in conjunction with international athletes through partnerships like that with BTF, Team Sky, and others. Performance nutritionist Ted Munson joins us today to talk about hydration and nutrition requirements and products for triathletes.
In this Episode you'll learn about:
- Should you choose isotonic, hypotonic, or hypertonic gels and sports drinks?
- What electrolytes and sodium content should you look for in a gel or sports drink?
- Fueling for a sprint distance race
- Fueling for a full Iron distance event
- Protein requirements for triathletes and different types of proteins
About Ted Munson
- Performance nutritionist at Science in Sport.
- Educated to a master’s level in sports nutrition.
- Has worked with different types of athletes in triathlon, running, cycling, and team sports like football and rugby.
Science in Sport
- Visit the SiS website
- Started in 1992.
- Our manufacturing facility is in Nelson, Lancashire.
- We’re proud to test every single product range which is why athletes come to us for support.
- We are officially fuelling British Triathlon all the way through 2020.
What should you look at when you shop for sports nutrition products like energy gels or sports drinks?
- What I’m really interested in is how the body is affected by certain nutrition.
- The number one thing that all triathletes should consider is energy.
- You get different digestion levels depending on what product you take.
- There are also different solutions out there. Each one of those solutions has a certain tenacity – the concentration of that solution.
- Each concentration affects the body very differently.
- On the bottom of the scale, you get something that is hypotonic. The concentration of a hypotonic solution is lower than the concentration of the fluid inside the body. Water is an example. When you intake water, it goes straight through you, you don’t really get much energy uptake from it.
- On the opposite side of that scale is a hypertonic solution. The concentration of a hypertonic solution is higher than the fluid inside the body. That is why sports gels are thick and concentrated which makes them hard to digest.
- A lot of companies recommend to take these gels with 200-300 ml of water to help in digestion. Why they recommend to take them with water is because the body will draw water into the stomach to turn that hypertonic solution into an isotonic solution – the same concentration with what is inside the body. This is what causes GI problems and stomach issues that people experience during exercise.
- It is really important to take in something isotonic during exercise. We have this kind of gel, the SIS Go Isotonic Gel that is designed to be taken without water and makes it much easier for the running section as well when you might not have access to water.
Is there a difference in energy uptake rate in hypertonic and isotonic solutions?
- The body can take on around 60-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour which is pretty consistent whether you take a hypertonic or isotonic solution. But the hypertonic solution might take longer to digest than an isotonic solution.
- Although a hypertonic solution contains 30-40 grams of carbohydrates in it, if it takes 30-40 minutes to actually get it in the system, then it might be pointless. That is why with our gels we’ve done some research that actually shows that isotonic solutions works faster.
What should you consider in sports drinks or gels in terms of electrolyte and sodium content?
- During exercise we sweat out salt/sodium which varies in amount in every individual and has nothing to do with fitness.
- If you just constantly fuel with water, you essentially thin out the blood (reduce sodium content in the bloodstream) which can lead to hypohydration which is lack of blood salts. And this is associated with a drop in performance, which can drop by 20%, and thinking time .
- I always recommend fueling or rehydrating with a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink or electrolyte drink and not just water so that you can address energy, hydration, and electrolytes in one drink. If you combine sodium and carbohydrate together, it helps increase the uptake, it helps empty the stomach faster which is what we want. We don’t want to be running with 500 ml of carbohydrate-electrolyte drink in the stomach.
- The amount of electrolyte needed is very individual. One thing I always ask someone is if they have salt residue on their arms or face as this is an indication that you are a salty sweater and you need to consider increasing your salt content, whether it's in your meals beforehand or in your drink during a workout.
What’s your take on gels and sports drinks that contain vitamins, BCAAs, antioxidants?
- I think they’re good. However, I wish we get the basics right.
- First, we should consider, can we do it through food or can you train using food? If you think that you need extra energy intake during workout or race, then that’s when you consider gels, bars, and things like that.
- There are products like gels that contain almost everything from carbohydrates, electrolytes, amino acids, caffeine, all-in-one at very small doses. However, you might not need all of these ingredients.
- For example, you need more electrolytes when it's hot, like if you’re doing a half Ironman in Spain.
- Amino acids and BCAAs are great to have in a gel or drink as they can help protect your muscles during training or racing.
In regards to hydration and nutrition supplements to support racing, what are the different considerations for short-distance and long-distance racing?
- With the sprint distance, you would need to consider if you actually need to take energy during the event.
- As a general rule, what we suggest is if you’re working over 90 minutes, then you should really consider taking on extra salts, energy, and water.
- If you’re working under 90 minutes, what you have beforehand is going to be more beneficial for you and the body can pre-hydrate naturally. It can store energy naturally.
- One thing that I think is important because of the high-intensity nature of the sprint is the use of caffeine. It does not give you energy like a lot of people think, it’s actually calorie free. But it makes you feel like you’re not working as hard as you actually are, it essentially tricks the brain. And it can increase endurance specific performance by 10-20%. It lasts around 90 minutes to 2 hours plus in some individuals.
- Having caffeine before a sprint distance triathlon is great. I never recommend going over 300 mg of caffeine in one day. 75 mg of caffeine is equivalent to one cup of coffee. So 75 or 150 mg of caffeine before you start the swimming section is great.
- You can have a tablet or a cup of coffee, it's entirely up to you. 75 mg may be enough but it depends on how tolerant you are. To someone who is not used to taking much caffeine, 75 mg will be sufficient.
- After the swim, during the bike session where it is slightly less intensity and you have slightly more blood in the stomach to help in digestion, this is the best opportunity to take in 1 gel and 500 ml of carbohydrate-electrolyte drink in one full bottle.
- Then in the final 5 km run if you have hydrated well and have taken 30-40 grams of carbohydrate during the bike, then you should be able to see that 5 km run out.
- The full distance is almost the opposite as we really need to consider taking on energy. This is the main priority.
- So we can take on 60-90 grams of carbohydrates an hour which is what the body can absorb. But the body will always use more carbohydrate than it can possibly absorb. So you’ll always end up in a deficit and it’s about offsetting that deficit as much as possible.
- Before the swim, it’s really important to take some carbohydrates. If you have fueled effectively in the days beforehand - you've carbohydrate loaded. The 30 minutes before, I would recommend taking on an energy bar or gel, something that the body is used to. Never try anything new on race day. You should have practiced your pre-race meal or routine many times beforehand.
- I recommend something that is really easy to digest like an energy bar. And something with a little bit of caffeine in before the swim.
- Usually, what we recommend for an Olympic distance for an example is to use caffeine in the last hour because usually you are more fatigued in the last hour of a race. For a full distance triathlon, you would need to dose it depending on the actual course itself. So you would not just save it towards the end but you’d have it before the hardest section.
- It’s really important to take in fluids after you finish the swim. Start fuelling early. Ideally, every 20 minutes taking in 20-30 grams of carbohydrates. Most people make the mistake of waiting until they are tired before they start fuelling and waiting until they are already dehydrated before they start taking in fluids.
- From a fluid point of view, when you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated to at least 2% of your body mass which is when performance starts to decrease. When you’re hungry, you’ve already decreased your carbohydrate stores significantly. And it’s about offsetting that deficit as much as possible because we don’t want to hit the wall.
- Hitting the wall means that you’ve used all your carbohydrate stores up and then you’re just running on fat as an energy source which is a slow burner.
Are there differences between advanced and beginner athletes in the way they fuel?
- There is no chance that somebody could take on a 16-hour event and not take in solids. Slower athletes can take in more solids, for example in the form of bars.
- The most important thing is teaching the body to digest things during your training, whether you’re an elite or amateur athlete.
- On the bike we can use solid foods like bars and rice cakes but when you’re on the run, a lot of people switch to more fluids and gels because running is more high-intensity. You’ll have more blood circulating in the body during the run compared to the bike.
- Again, this is very individual. See what works for you. It all comes down to numbers. It’s about hitting 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour.
- If we combine the energy sources, it is definitely a must to allow us to get to digesting 90 grams of carbohydrate and take on more and that goes for both elite and amateur athletes.
Fueling all workouts with sports drinks?
(See the previous episode with Jesse Kropelnicki for more context)
- I abide by this theory which is called “fuelling for the work required.” So the body is always using extra fuel sources – using carbohydrate as a fuel source through glycogen. And then it is also using fat as a fuel source. It’s always using different levels. If I just walk, I might be using more fat as an energy source compared to carbohydrate. If I would be in an event, I would be using more carbohydrates than fat as a fuel source.
- If we’re constantly fuelling, then our body will become very tolerant. It will really need carbohydrates every single time.
- During the full, we’re really going to need to be using fat as an energy source. It’s very important. We have 90 minutes worth of carbohydrates stored in our body, and that’s if we have fuelled effectively.
- Someone who has 9-10% body fat potentially has hundreds of hours worth of energy stored in those fat stores.
- What athletes often do is fasted training. This training won’t be quality training. It might be as simple as doing a low-intensity training in the morning then having your breakfast afterwards. This is going to train the body to metabolize fat a little bit better.
- If we do fasted training all the time, then our body won’t remember how to use carbohydrates as a fuel source
- It’s about getting the best of both worlds. If you’re going out on the weekend and you’re doing 3-4 hours of training, this is the time when you want to be practicing your fuelling strategy.
Most of the swim sessions in triathlon are always hard. Should you then still do them on fasted training or with fuel?
- It all comes down to what the goals of that session are.
- If the intensity is ramped up, then fuel before, maybe even during, and after.
- The whole point with fasted training is to increase the way the body is using fat as an energy source and maybe improve body composition.
- If you’re after a quality session to get faster, this is when you should be fuelling it.
Which proteins should triathletes use and when should you use different sources of protein?
- There is a misconception that protein will make you gain weight. But this is not really the case unless you’re doing a training program that includes heavy weights.
- For a triathlete, the best way to use protein is to have it post session to make sure you kick start that muscle protein synthesis which can aid recovery.
- Also using it throughout the day and trying to include protein in every single meal, ideally 20-25 grams of protein every 3-4 hours to keep that muscle protein synthesis ticking. Muscle protein synthesis means muscle rebuild which usually happens overnight.
- After sessions, use a fast-release protein like a whey protein shake or soy protein shake. But I recommend to go for a food first approach which includes a lean source of meat, eggs, salmon, and chicken breast.
- If you’re doing a strenuous endurance program, your protein needs increase. To be specific, it is 1.4-1.8 grams of protein per kilo of your body mass per day.
- High quality proteins are whey protein which is derived from milk. What makes it high level is it has low levels of fat and carbohydrate, and high levels of BCAAs (Branch Chained Amino Acids).
What are the specific considerations for the vegetarian or vegan population?
- The options are the use of soy protein and pea protein post session.
- What is important is hitting that 20-25 grams of protein every 3-4 hours for those who are looking to increase their lean body composition.
- Other sources are nuts and fish.
Rapid fire questions
Can you explain creatine in 30 seconds, why should we take it, what are its benefits?
- Creatine is naturally produced by the liver and the kidneys from amino acids and they are stored in the muscle. Increasing creatine muscle content has been shown to increase performance of repeated high-intensity effort. Supplemental creatine enhances the capability of the muscle to create ATP which is the energy currency of a cell that allows more energy production hence increasing the resistance to fatigue.
What about L-glutamine?
- Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino acids found in the muscle. Research shows that glutamine levels reduce following endurance exercise lasting more than 2 hours. If you have reduced glutamine levels in the muscle then you’re more likely to have reduced amino function and more likely to have upper respiratory tract infection, colds, etc. It’s also associated with greater recovery times and is a great addition to your post-workout shake.
Favorite book, blog or resource related to nutrition:
- The ACSM Guidelines which is the American College of Sports Medicine that annually brings out guidelines for nutritionists. This gives us a balanced arguments on hydration, energy, and supplements used based on scientific evidence.
Connect with Science in Sport
- Website: http://www.scienceinsport.com/
- This is where you can find a full range of products based on numerous ranges:
- The GO range includes energy powders, gels, hydration products, energy bars.
- The REGO range is our REGO rapid recovery, one of our most famous products. It is all round recovery product that contains carbohydrates, proteins, and salts.
- PROTEIN range includes our whey proteins, milk proteins, and protein bars.
- And just recently, we brought out our SUPPLEMENT Range which includes L-glutamine powders and creatine powders.
- Our Athlete Advice section on our website is really good as well to help beginners all the way up to the advanced in numerous aspects of training.
- You can email us at email@example.com and let us know what you are training for and we’ll see what we can help you and provide you with individualized advice.
Note from Mikael: Complete 100% banned substance testing. In recent times there has been a lot of age-group doping scandals in triathlon. So if you’re a higher level age-group triathlete especially, then you are at risk of being tested. You might not have taken anything illegal knowingly but you might have got it through a supplement. Please be careful and consider switching to something that is 100% tested like SiS.
- Always look for the Informed Choice logo at the back of anything that you’re considering using because that ensures that it has taken the steps to be tested.
Links and resources
- Science in Sport
- Connect with Ted on Twitter
- SIS Go Isotonic Gel
- American College of Sports Medicine
- ACSM Guidelines
- Athlete Advice on the SiS website
- Triathlon Nutrition Guide from Ted and SiS
- Email Science in Sport at firstname.lastname@example.org