Speaker 1 : Julia Ebbens, Health Editor, Bupa UK
Hello and welcome to Bupa’s Healthy Me podcast. My name is Julia Ebbens and I am a health Editor in the digital health content team. Today, we have an exciting episode as my colleague will be catching up with our Paralympian, Ben Watson to discuss sports nutrition. Later in this episode, I will also be catching up with Bupa dietician, Dawn Wilson, to get her sports nutrition tips for you to use in your daily life.
Speaker 2: Emma Shatliff, Customer Engagement Consultant, Bupa UK
Hello. My name is Emma Shatliff and today I'll be speaking to Paralympian, Ben Watson, to discuss how good nutrition affects their sporting performance. Ben is a cyclist who won two gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and has achieved many medals at road cycling events.
Hi Ben. Thanks for joining me on today's podcast.
Speaker 3: Paralympic Cyclist, Ben Watson
Yeah, thanks for having me and hopefully the start of a great partnership between Bupa and Paralympics GB. But let's start off on a high.
Speaker 2: Emma Shatliff
Yeah, well, let's get started with the first question. So I'd like to start by asking just how important do you think good nutrition is to your sporting performance?
Speaker 3: Ben Watson
As an endurance athlete? So I'm - for those of you that don’t know, I'm purely a road cyclist. I do loads and loads of miles like nutrition really is the underpinning factor on pretty much everything I do. It's about getting not only enough nutrition and actually getting the right sort of food and nutrition and fuel effectively, to train. Training makes you stronger and allows me to compete in racing.
So yeah, I think it's the cornerstone for what I actually do. It's very important.
Interesting. So yeah, it sounds really like eating plays a big role in keeping you going on the bike.
I eat a lot, yeah.
Yeah. And so would you be able to describe what type of things you eat before training?
Yeah. So, it really depends where I am in the season. So, traditionally a week for me is probably about 20 hours a week on the bike. There's a lot of time spent actually exercising. And so what I do is - it’s really high carb, really lots of food full on.
So really, I say the same for four days, probably sort of 5000 or 6000 calories a day and that's everyday and really big days that'll go up, so Sunday breakfast for me.
So let's take Monday, when is that a four hour ride to do. So that is four hours fairly steady like at an endurance zone and it's pretty sustainable. You can easily have a conversation. So pre-ride, I got out the bike at ten, at seven had breakfast with my girlfriend's-- about 120 grams of porridge oats with 400 mils of milk, 2 flat whites.
And then, bit later on, I had three slices of toast with jam and that was it before I went nuts, before you started eating on the bike. And on the porridge, I had some nuts, berries and some honey. So yeah, it's quite a lot of food. And that's just yeah, that's a pretty standard breakfast.
Okay. So that leads me to the subjects of protein consumption. So do you eat more protein than usual on days when you are more active?
That's - the amount I eat. I eat quite a lot generally. So it's something from running into the games, practising nutrition and focusing slightly more, it’s become more and more important.
So, we what we tend to run up now, sort of the nutritional recommended allowance for me generally is like a road rider without much gym – so, I tend to run about two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
So, I’m about 75 kilos at the moment. So, I'm aiming from 150 grams of protein, sort of in a day.
So, yeah, that's just pretty much all the way through, even though I'm trying to sort of lean up and lose a little bit of weight at the moment. The protein needs to be in there, so I maintain the right lean muscle mass.
So, actually the protein will stay the same whether it's a rest day. So, actually I suppose the percentage of protein probably increases on an on a rest day. So that on recovery day.
So, an easy day are probably 3000 calories as opposed to 6000 calories. But a great percentage of that will be proteins. And I do use like protein shakes and things, but that's just in a fairly specialist way, probably after training rides and things like that and not as like a meal replacement. That's just an addition to try to boost that protein.
And I know you’ve got a sense and we know that protein plays a really big role or an important role in muscle repair and recovery. And I was going to ask you, but you just sort of highlighted that, do you take any supplements or protein shakes to boost your energy levels?
So, the protein shakes we take it was sponsored by a company called Lean House. But it's not a pure source of protein is protein on carbs. So you need the carbs to actually sort of stimulate the uptake of protein or to get it into your system. And also, the carbohydrate helps boost your immune system. So, I probably have one on bigger training days and when I’m away racing and when I'm away sort of with competition, it's just something easier to have a gym there.
But generally I’ll get most of my protein through natural sources and then even as much as- I might have like a pint of milk before I got to bed as it's really good source of casein.
So that sort of a protein, it's good overnight if that helps sort of restore muscle overnight.
It's the thing that I'm still really learning about and I think it's really, really interesting. And the gains you can make out of nutrition are enormous, not just in elite health, but sort of within just general life. Like eating properly and eating - I suppose - clean, is the way to do it. Eating good quality food, and eating it well.
There's always will be times when you have sort of processed foods, that's a natural part of life. I sort of tend to run on more of a conical approach. So the moment I'm probably 75% -25, so 75 percent really, really on it. 25 percent not. The closer and closer you get to competitions, the more and more you twist that and you make changes.
So yeah, that's just how I run personally. That's the most sustainable way for me to get myself in the best shape at major competitions. So that covers everything from, Yeah, from eating. So naturally, I'll have pizza, I'll have a takeaway like there’s times and places for it. Like we're not just robots, who eat vegan, clean food all the time.
Like if that doesn't happen. Well, for me anyway that's - I tried - when I first went full time, I was living like a monk effectively. It didn't go very well. I had a massive crack; I'd end up eating loads of chocolate watching rugby and drinking a load beer. So, if I started doing that every three months, it wasn't going to sustainable.
So, I had to think of a different approach. Actually, just bring it into your life and using it as as part of your job, but also something you enjoy doing. Like I really enjoy cooking. So actually, having that there as well is a key part and you can see the benefits as well. These are the benefits of eating well on the bike, and off the bike. It just makes you a better athlete.
And what's your favorite dish to cook?
What's our favourite dish cook? Oh, that's an awful one to answer! I really like making lasagne or like a chilli, and it's not very - I suppose that’s standard meals. I do make a good beef Wellington and make a really good salmon en croute, with like rice and star anise and stuff. But yeah, probably for normal stuff sort of chilli, lasagnes, curries, but it's getting a bit more specialist like a something en croute it's probably the way forwards.
Dinner round Ben’s soon! So, what about carbohydrates? Do you tend to increase these as well to fuel your training sessions?
Yeah, massively - so, cycling and a lot of other sort of endurance sports have really had a big shift in the last couple of years and the research has been saying it for a while. But I mean, like me as it's changed. Sort of like increase in carbohydrate load actually when you're training and racing. So, when I'm training, I tend to aim for sort of 60 to - well, more than that now 80.
So, 80 grams of carbohydrate an hour. So, for example, like a large amount before was like 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrate. So, in an hour I'll have like a bottle of carb drink that's 40 grams and then a banana or I'll make flapjacks or make rice cakes, or I'll have gels. So, take for example, I did a four hour ride I’d aim for 300, 320 grams of carb in the actual ride.
So on a ride on Saturday, I did 4 hours, I had three bottles of drink, four or five flapjacks, couple of rice cakes and two bananas. And that was just it, the ride. And then you refuel again when you get back in. So having two grams of two grams per kilo of protein for me as an endurance rider in a volume is sort of a volume training block.
I'm looking at between 9 and 12 to 13 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram per day. So yeah, so like 800 kilogram, 800 grams of carbohydrate a day. So, it's a huge amount. But I'm also spending a lot of time burning a lot of like I'm burning a lot of fuel as well. And if you don't have the fuel to burn, you can't sort of you can't catch up.
So, if you’re out riding, let's say, for example, you have effectively like 2000 calories worth of glycogen within your body. So, me, I’m an endurance cyclist, for me racing or pressing on hard I'm probably burning 800 calories if not 850 calories an hour just rolling around slowly just the speed and the power and producing, though, that depletes really quickly.
So, you start pulling assets in of that which are really carbohydrate dense with a fast fuel source that's going to deplete really quickly. So, if you if you are spending every day depleted, your body’s got to sort of refill those stores before you even actually start to get some more benefits. You have to keep eating and eating and eating.
It's a bit of an art - like it's hard it's hard work to actually get that amount of food in you and I something I've really focused on the last couple of years and especially this year this year like is my main focus getting to that consistent really heavy feelings is hard to a) carry that amount of food and b) to eat it.
You've got to be really on it. Just eating. It's eating all the time. If anybody watches the Tour de France, Tadej Pogačar, came second this year, won the last two events, if you watch him on a bike and all that good pros, they’re always - you can always see them they're always eating and getting food and getting drinking and it's just becoming a point is becoming more and more focused on just as everything gets better.
Everybody is getting faster. Everybody’s putting out more power because people are fuelling efficiently. People have the actual energy stored and just need to train our body to deal with that. So yeah, my carbohydrate level does go up a lot - my girlfriend hates that. I’m on 5000, 6000 calories a day at the moment, training quite hard but actually losing weight.
So it's yeah it's a point slightly less taking slightly less in, then putting out lose weight. So it's yeah it's good it's not a bad problem to have sometimes it goes the other way you come back from a ride if you haven't filled well you have to get that fuel and so I'll have all that food on the ride.
I want to come back in within 20 minutes. I'll probably have cooked myself another meal. I quite like. Like something like beans on toast is quite simple, but quite good. It's got loads of carbohydrates and a protein or scrambled eggs on toast or some pasta and pesto and some like some salad vegetables, then go out like a Spanish omelette and have that when you come in.
And that's just that might be at 3:00. I’m eating dinner again at 6:00.
The shopping bill must cost a fortune!
Yes, it does.
So, was gonna say, does the type of carbs you include in your diet matter?
No, it’s just carbohydrate itself, like some release quicker than others. And for me, it's just about having access to that carbohydrate, get to that glycogen. So - the rice extra example we have, we always use white rice, it just gets into you a bit quicker.
When I cook rice myself, I have a white rice because I just can't bother to wait for brown rice. Yeah, I - for me personally, it's not a huge amount. It's just just having that carbohydrate into the actual sort of type itself because I'm basically just trying to access energy. I think we've got all this effectively sugars and didn't exercise it would be really bad, especially so the amount of like glucose fructose and so the amount I actually go through in a day you actually just burning it and using it.
If you're having that consumption and just sat around doing nothing, I think that would be really bad for you, you’d just get very fat, but in terms of yeah, it's for me having slow versus quick release, I probably tend to have the more slow release in the morning with like with oats. And then throughout the day I favour quick release with white rice, when I reflect on it it is a huge amount of white rice, we go through kilos of the stuff.
But it is needed. It's a fuel. It's part of what it's like filling your car up, up you put good stuff in and get good performance out.
It is interesting though, because I always thought that whole grain would help you more, but actually is that true, or?
Yeah, that's why it's not. We just use white rice I think because there's just more instant release energy and that's what we need. We wanted to get it processing and utilize it and not looking to sort of keep ourselves full or just and we need energy now.
Interesting. So, what about after an event then? Is there anything you eat or drink to help you recover from cycling?
Yeah. So, if we’re away racing. I'll definitely have like a protein shake or something after, usually given it given to us after a race. And I just have that within five, 10 minutes then like a 20, 30-minute window you finish, and you get the most benefit in the most amount of - and the recovery starts earlier and you get a better recovery.
And other than that, just get back to eating. So the racing might be and odd time so you might actually you start - So if the racing is at say midday then I'm waking up at six, having breakfast then having like a a lunch but at 10:00 and that can be quite hard especially if it’s just rice or something because that’s what you need to eat, you need to eat something that’s very high carb and I don't struggle with it, some people do, I could wake up about 2:00 in the morning.
Give me some food. I could quite happily demolish it, you know, you've got two young boys this basically like that but in human male form it’s great. But yeah, in terms of food after events, I think it's just getting back into that, it’s refilling your body.
So, say you've been racing for 3 hours, you might burn 3000 calories, a huge amount of glycogen deficiency that you've been fuelling and having lots of strong carb drink and gels and things still stuff in there to get the protein any stretch and you need to do the basics and nutrition is one of those.
So, getting the food back in again and starting eating is a key part of actually being professional and getting to the next event.
So, in terms of post-event meals, do you have a favourite?
Pizza. 100% pizza, love pizza. (What flavour?) I’d rather her have it before an event but probably not ideal but yeah, I'd pizza I really like base, so we tend to make after like a World Cup or like a world champs we’ll got out with me when we start doing it more is actually going out for a meal I'll go for pizza or steak or something and actually go celebrate what we've done.
Actually, everyone’s done well. It’s just actually a good team, team building, team environment with me. Favourite food has to be pizza, you always get asked that question because if I have one food for the rest of your life: pizza, I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack all day, every day.
What's your favorite pizza?
I like I like it quite traditional. So very - well, slightly more than that. But just be like very fresh ingredients. Good tomato sauce, like Rudy's is excellent in Manchester, my boss style stuff and then I have a bit of sweet tooth, I do quite like, when we were away in Spain, I have a big thing for dessert pizzas. It's like pizza and like Nutella and chocolate and stuff and it’s really good.
Yeah, something fairly basic like with minimal toppings, maybe some goat's cheese, bit of honey. Yeah, just a yeah, bit of cheese red tomato, I don’t like white pizza bases. Okay, very often I will eat them if they’re there in front of me.
Making me absolutely starving but it sounds good. And I guess getting a good night's sleep and resting your body is also important after working so hard.
Yeah. Huge. Like I said, we were chatting before about so my training day is about 20 training weeks for about 20 hours a week, but actually, oddly, as professional athletes we’re paid to recover, we're not really paid to train. So, training to do is really high quality. So, the basic stuff around there, it's also covered nutrition slightly.
It's all the stretching, it's all the actual planning of routes, planning of food and actually doing your pre-hab work and actually thinking and then actually resting and recovering after your training is no point eating really well, if you’re going to run around, don’t let the food do its job. So, you need to actually think about recovery as well.
So yeah, it’s actually incredibly important and actually sticking to a routine like everybody knows you get much better sleep if you actually set into a routine like I'm asleep by 10:00 every night up or up at 6:00. That's just not that's my routine. That's why I go well off. I literally my girlfriend always takes the piss out of me makes ‘cos it gets to half past 10
It's like as you can tell, I'm a very active, quite animated person. If - at half 10 it’s like someone’s just taking the batteries out or hung me on the shelf, I just have to go to sleep. So yeah, it is a massive part we’re paid, almost paid to recover, not necessarily paid to train which is a quite a weird thing to say.
Super interesting though. And does having a disability mean you need to do anything differently when it comes to what you eat and drink?
It doesn't it doesn't for me. I was thinking about this question, it does work for me. One of the one of the girls in the squad who's eyes are visually impaired. She can't - I was about to call and ask her exactly what it was, but she can't eat, she's not meant to eat vegetables that are orange because they've got some sort of enzyme in that can like deteriorate her sight further.
So she can't eat carrots and squash and stuff. I think it's really interesting if something that innocuous as that is serious. Sophie’s not on the on the orange stuff so yeah so she can’t eat things are orange because yeah it's got enzyme in that affects her sight but I thought that's the only, that's the only example I could actually think of.
That’s super interesting though, ‘cos as a child., you’re told to eat carrots so you can see in the dark.
Yeah. Yeah. Must be something in there that effects that obviously she got a degenerative eye condition effects through there. So yeah, that was really interesting. But generally, no, unless you've got allergies or anything else, they are generally pretty robust, not found any allergies - as you can tell, I eat a lot of food.
So yeah, it's not for me.
Okay. So, talking of drinking, do you have any tips for staying hydrated when training? Because it must be really hard to drink when you're on a bike.
Yeah. So obviously you've got you can only carry finite amount out of water anyway. So, I use large bottles, I use litre bottles and like five hundred, the normal ones you get racing are quite little only to save weight which makes sense because you can’t really carry what you don't need you can take you can take bottles when you're riding either from a car or from feed zones.
You can just pick bottles up and chuck them when you're racing, when you’re actually training, I use two one-litre bottles, I'll stop. If I do a four- or five-hour ride, I'll probably stop after 3 hours either to refill or have a quick cafe stop, which is quite a big part of like the social part of cycling anyway.
In terms of drinking, it's quite hard. But in terms of you've got to be on it like so all like the, like the G.P.S. units like Garmin’s you can basically set it to beep almost. So, my girlfriend actually I've set hers to beep every 20 minutes to drink and every 30 minutes to eat. And it actually getting into that routine of just eating and drinking all the time, little and often you don't get the point where you're hungry or dehydrated.
And I still make mistakes like you go and you've actually done some hard intervals first. Are you going to actually have not eaten anywhere near enough? I need to eat. So, you have to sort of almost it's part of the job. It's part of the Professional thinking. Right, eating and drinking? When can I eat and drink?
It should be almost all the time. Since I have tips, I would just say, set a timer on you. If you struggling to drink whilst exercising, set a timer on you, on your smartwatch or on your Garmin. If you're your life cycle and just get used to just having little often and drinking also need to go into it hydrated if you do what I do which is two strong coffees in the morning.
Right, that's quite it's quite a diuretic and so actually I probably have two pints of water over the morning before I even sort of leave the house. And so yeah, I think it's just getting into routine. I think you're you find they drink loads of water you don't drink much water at all. I'm very much in the “I drink a lot of water” all the time anyway, but especially when I'm training, like for me
I - when I start, I just set a timer - sort of drink, drink, drink and just if you look down, you've been going for an hour. Yeah, you're drunk. And then you also need to get the rest of it down you pretty quickly and then move on to the next one. You can't just leave it again. And it's even harder when it's cold and wet and raining.
Actually, sweat rate is still the same, can still be quite high. Or if you don't, if it's three degrees and raining, you don't really want to be drinking that much. But you’ve just got to try and force it down, get on with it and force it down.
I'm sure our listeners will find that really useful. But does your bladder sort of get trained as you're coming into these habits?
So, your you're sweating anyway so you’re losing water, but you just stop for a wee. Just stop for a wee. An outdoor wee. It's quite easy as a bloke.
So, I know that some athletes can experience digestive issues during an event or race. Yeah. So, do you have any tips for avoiding these when on a bike?
Yeah, I think it's just getting drinking. The same with eating, finding the work for you, eating wise. Like one of my mates did a lot of that long distance stuff. He likes big pork pies. I quite like a pork pie also and like salty and meaty and lots of fat for like long distance low intensity stuff, but like using any drinks, energy gels and they're quite expensive, but you need to train with them as well.
With one of our girlfriend and I’s friends, he did a lot of riding in France earlier in the week and did a lot of big mountains and he said he had stomach cramps towards the end. I was like, “Ah, what have you had to eat?” He’s like: “I’ve had this energy drink” and I ask if he used it before, he says yep, only on big days, but you need to, you need to get your gut used to processing this amount of food which I was saying before like now I train eating a lot with eating a lot of carbs.
You have to do it. You have to get your body used to a) being able to deal with that amount of carbohydrate in your system and then actually process it as well. I think you need to you need to train with the products you’re going to use say if you're running a marathon, need something in you need to train with the products you're going to use.
I think like for me as well, I'll go - I'm lucky in that I don't get really get any GI issues at all. I can just have any drink all day and it doesn’t affect me, but some people get really badly but like I think you need to experiment with different brands, different quantities. As I was saying before there’s a trend having more and more high carb stuff so used to be sort of 40 grams is like a portion of carbohydrate in a gel like 30 grams.
But now like the SAS have a fuel gel, more stuff, a 320 gel and then another company have something called super carbs. And that's really about 80 grams of carb really useful if you can use it. There's no point you get all this really good for marathon from half marathon my 10k If you can't actually take them and you make you feel rancid and then you have to go nip stop, stop and go to the loo and you have all the stomach cramps, so you need to train your body.
It's like training to do the actual event, anyway, train your body to utilize that energy source and actually go through and test loads and loads of different stuff. Were sponsored by Elite Health and I really like their stuff. I really can't remember that else. And I get away with pretty much any energy powder. So, I think it's we're talking about sort of energy products. You need to go and do them.
I think as well. I look at real food as well. I really like training to real food I, I make rice cakes which just rice with a bit of agave syrup and nuts or a bit of like crushed-up biscuits in, or I start making ANZAC slices that are just like flapjacks with flour and coconut and it's just keeping a bit of variation.
And then you need to, you need to fuel, you need to find out what works for you basically. Yep. Real fuel real food. Yeah. Fake or energy fuel or a mixture of both, which works for me the only way to do is to do a mixture. Both, I think is what I need to you need to go into the event fuelled as well.
Like if you're going to do a marathon there is no point in, you are waking up and going Right! Got a big day. So, I've got a marathon. I'm going to have my breakfast 220 grams of porridge oats three slices of toast and a couple of coffees. If what you usually have is 40 grams of oats and an espresso like your body's going to go “right.
What the hell is going on here?” I've got to deal with it. And then. Then you want to run a marathon? Like, think about what the demands of your event are and then prepare for those in nutrition as you would do with your training as well. Just remind viewers to treat it as a key part of training is nutrition.
I think as well don’t get over, say, from my side of it and this my my approach to it as well. I can see people would get people to look at really, really over-anal with like measuring evidence to the nth degree. And I do that at the moment a little bit just to sort of get portions and sizes like that.
But to an extent, if you feel that hungry, you've done a big run or you're doing a big swim, have a bit more food, right? You can get more out of that than you can going “oh I need to lose some weight” like if you do a lot of training, you need to fuel efficiently. So yeah, think about what you're doing or think about what fuelling works for you and practice with that fuelling.
Thanks, so interesting. thank you so much for today. It's been really interesting to hear your experience. So, what's next for Ben Watson?
What I've got I've got a huge training block ahead. So, because I'm only a road rider, the guys who racetrack, they've got track worlds in Paris. There will be Olympic Velodrome in the end of October. I'm now training for some World Cups which two will be in Europe one will be in America in May.
And then there's a world championship in Glasgow in 2023. So, it's the first time that the UCI, which is the governing body of cycling, they've brought every single sort of event. So was para elite man, elite women, cyclocross, mountain biking, cycling, gymnastics, everything under one roof. So, it's like an Olympics of cycling in Glasgow. So, it's over two weeks, the first two weeks in August next year.
So that's my big goal for next year. Hopefully going when I become a world champion and well yeah, win the Rainbow Stripes, which is a big thing in cycling, it's the only thing I haven’t managed to achieve so far.
So, fingers crossed we get that done at home. So that's the next big thing. That's that. It's just a huge amount of like volume training now so volume, volume, volume. And I've got a camp in Spain for three or four weeks, in sort of mid-November to mid-December. So yeah, I'm looking forward to that and warmth in the winter. But yeah, it's just lots and lots of training ahead.
So, it seems that eating and drinking the right to food and drink are going to make a huge difference. And so, we wish you the very best of luck for your future event.
Brilliant. Thanks for having me.
Speaker 1: Julia Ebbens
I hope you found it interesting listening to Ben's experience on sports nutrition and how it's helped him on the bike. But I also think it's important to remember that sports nutrition isn't just for professional athletes. It can also really benefit your own exercise routine, and that's whether you're playing football, walking, biking, or going to the gym. So, I'm now going to chat to a Bupa dietitian, Dawn Wilson, to get her top tips for you
Hi, Dawn. Thanks for joining us today. Perhaps you'd like to introduce yourself before we get going.
Speaker 4: Dawn Wilson, Bupa Dietitian
Hi, my name's Dawn and I'm one of the dietitians at the Cromwell Hospital.
Perfect. So, Ben talks a lot about how important good nutrition is for his performance on the bike. But it can be overwhelming I think, if you're trying to decide what to eat and drink to help you in exercising. There's also a lot of misinformation out there making it hard to know what to do. So, I thought we'd start by talking about carbohydrates in particular.
When is the best time to eat more carbs? Is it before exercise or is it after exercise?
So carbohydrates are our main energy source and therefore it's really important that we fuel our bodies with enough carbohydrates during exercise.
Our bodies breakdown carbohydrates into glucose, which is a type of sugar that our bodies use for energy. It's important that we have glucose readily available in our bloodstream as well as it being stored in our muscles in the form of glycogen.
Carbohydrates will provide us with energy to allow us to participate in exercise and sport. So, they are really important part of our diet.
Firstly, I'm just going to touch on glycaemic index, which is a rating system that shows how quickly each carbohydrate food affects our blood glucose levels after we eat them. Low glycaemic index carbohydrates are digested slowly and cause a gradual rise in blood glucose levels over time, whereas high glycaemic index carbohydrates are digested quickly, causing a more rapid rise in blood glucose levels.
It is recommended that we eat low glycaemic index carbohydrates in the one to four hours before exercise as they enhance carbohydrate availability during exercise.
Examples of foods that we could eat before exercise can include fruit. For example, banana, or could include a smoothie or cereal bar. It is also important that we refuel after exercise and therefore is advised to eat carbohydrates as soon as possible after exercising, ideally within the first hour.
This will help to recover glycogen stores in our muscles between training sessions and will optimise our recovery. This may involve having a meal or snack containing bread, rice, pasta or oats. It is also worth noting that carbohydrates can be useful during prolonged periods of exercise. For example, if you're exercising for more than one hour, carbohydrates in the form of glucose gels, can be helpful.
And so to summarize, carbohydrates are our bodies and energy supply. And therefore, it is important that we have carbohydrates both before and after exercise.
So that sounds really interesting. And I think for a lot of people, when you think about carbohydrates, you assume that whole grains and sort of low GI would or would always be the best option for health. But actually, it seems like what you're saying is when we're exercising, we need to focus more on the readily available sources of glucose, to keep us going.
So, yeah, that's interesting.
Moving on to protein, do most people get enough protein in their diet or if people are really active , so, for example, if they're doing lots of biking or playing football, running a lot, would they actually need to increase the protein by taking supplements and shakes, do you think?
So it is known that our protein requirements are greater for those who are active, and this is to help our muscles repair and reduce muscle soreness.
Unless you're a professional athlete, a healthy, balanced diet should provide you with enough protein to account for these increased requirements as a result of exercise or training. It is recommended that we have protein as part of a meal or snack after exercising to optimize recovery,
We should aim to have between 15 and 25 grams of protein, ideally within 30 minutes after exercise. And this may look like eating three medium eggs, a small can of tuna, a few handfuls of nuts, or a small chicken breast.
Protein shakes such as Huel and My protein that can be very convenient where to refuel after exercise, especially if you do not have an appetite for solid foods or during competitions when food access is limited.
Protein shakes can be useful for those who struggle to meet protein requirements through their diet alone. However, it is worth noting that protein shakes are not any more effective than protein from regular foods. They also tend to be expensive. So sometimes eating a range of animal and plant proteins may be more sustainable.
And I think the last point that I wanted to mention was that nowadays a lot of people focus on eating protein when exercising, but actually in order to gain muscle, the body also needs an adequate supply of energy and carbohydrate from our diet.
And therefore, focusing on a high protein diet alone with aren't enough carbohydrate will only cause the excess protein to be used for energy instead of being used to build muscle. And therefore, protein intake is really important when exercising. But it's important to have it in combination with the right balance of other nutrients.
That's a really interesting point. A lot of people think exercise immediately, you know, think about protein intake, protein shakes. But you're right, you can get fixated on one area of nutrition where it's important to get that balance and definitely getting enough glucose and enough fuel generally to keep you going as well.
So what is the role of micronutrients, we’re talking vitamins, minerals and sports nutrition? Is there any solid evidence that they can actually improve either your performance when you're exercising or your recovery after exercise?
So active people are encouraged to obtain an adequate intake of micronutrients from a well-balanced, varied diet and therefore should aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day to get a wide range of vitamins and minerals that the body needs.
Micronutrient supplementation in well-nourished athletes does not improve performance or recovery. In fact, if water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and the B vitamins are taken in excess, they will be excreted from the body and not stored.
And therefore, there is no benefit of supplementation in excess. However, excess fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K can be stored by the body and can cause toxicities in excess levels.
However, micronutrient supplementation may be beneficial in certain circumstances. For example, if individuals have a diagnosed micronutrient deficiency or when their dietary intake is restricted, for example, due to illness. Micronutrient supplements should be recommended and prescribed by a medical professional, If there they're felt to be a benefit for a specific individual.
With the exception of vitamin D, where as a general population we are advised to take 10 microgram vitamin D supplement on a daily basis as we do not get enough sunlight in the UK, which is our main source of vitamin D as dietary sources are limited.
It's great. So, it sounds like a food first approach is sensible and then obviously if you're at particular risk for deficiency of there's any no reason why you might need extra then always consult with a doctor or a dietitian to make sure you're getting sort of the correct amounts for your needs.
And so, I think digestive issues is quite a common problem during an event or race. Why do so many runners or cyclists tend to find this is an issue and isn't something we can do to reduce the impacts?
Yes. So, it's thought that between 30 and 70% of athletes will experience a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, in particular runners and cyclists. The severity of the symptoms increases with the intensity of exercise and is often exacerbated by dehydration.
These digestive issues can include a wide range of symptoms, such as heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhoea or an urgency to go to the toilet, as well.
The mechanisms which lead to this gastrointestinal distress during exercise is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to a number of different things that occur whilst exercising. This can include a decreased blood supply to the gut as blood is diverted to the muscles and skin which are active, when we exercise. There is thought to be reduced, stomach emptying and as well the position of the athlete during exercise itself can often result in abdominal organs being compressed.
There are some strategies that can be implemented in order to reduce the risk of experiencing these gastrointestinal symptoms.
There is evidence that dehydration can exacerbate them and therefore it is best to start, exercise well-hydrated and maintain hydration throughout. It also may be worth considering keeping a food diary to help detect trigger foods which can then be eliminated from the diet if they are problematic for that particular individual. For example, avoiding high fibre foods which may worsen diarrhoea prior to a race or event.
And lastly, practising, eating and training together to experiment and determine what works and what doesn't work for you. It is important to try this multiple times before a race or competition to ensure that you're eating familiar foods, associated with a reduced risk of gastrointestinal symptoms so that you can be sort of confident when you go into that race or competition.
So, you mentioned the sort of the importance of hydration and sort of being well hydrated. When should people take electrolytes? And following on from that, do you think that the isotonic drinks or the new dissolvable tablets are a better choice?
So normal water, just ordinary tap water is usually the best for optimal hydration on most occasions. But hydration is largely dependent on the duration and intensity of the session.
So extra electrolytes are only required for moderate to hard training sessions that last more than one hour as sweat losses are greater. This can be in the form of isotonic sports drinks such as Lucozade sport or Gatorade, or even a homemade sports drink, which is made of squash, water and salt. Sports drinks helpful as they will replace fluid, the electrolytes that we lose during sweating such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. And they also provide a source of glucose which is lost during strenuous exercise. And that really goes back to sort of having that carbohydrate feel during periods of strenuous exercise.
Whereas the dissolvable tablets provide fluid and electrolyte replacement, they do not provide us with any additional glucose.
So, it really comes down to I guess whether your priority is having that glucose replacement as well, which the sports drinks will provide, but the dissolvable tablets will not cool.
So, I guess if you're doing exercise for longer than an hour, you might need that added or glucose boost could consider having one which provides you with both.
And I think as well as exercise, intensity and duration. It's also important to consider the environment in which you're exercising in. For example, if you're exercising in hot weather in the UK, if we get a heat wave or if you're exercising abroad, then sweat losses can be greater and there is a greater risk of dehydration.
So, I think the best way of monitoring hydration is to check the colour of your urine when you go to the toilet. And if it's dark coloured, then there is and this is an indication to increase your fluid intake. Urine should be clear or pale in colour if we're well hydrated, so it's really good to keep an eye on that.
Yeah, that's definitely handy. Handy way to keep track of things. So, I've read a lot about creatine and also Omega-3 supplements helping people with various different sports. So, I've heard, for example, people using creatine to help with endurance and Omega-3 for muscle recovery. What are your thoughts on using these so far?
So, regarding creatine - creatine monohydrate is a nutritional supplement which is thought to improve an individual’s exercise capacity and increases lean body mass during training and is also thought to enhance recovery and prevent injuries.
Creatine has been shown to improve performance in a variety of sports, from sprinting to weightlifting. There is no established dose for creating supplementation. However, it is thought that a small daily dose of 3 to 5 grams per day is effective and high levels of creatine monohydrate have not been associated with any clinically significant adverse events and therefore they're considered safe to use.
Secondly, omega-3 supplements can help to optimize recovery and alleviate muscle damage caused by exercise. Omega-3 dietary supplementation is thought to increase the concentration of omega-3 in our muscle cells, which increases their elasticity and their flexibility. And this consequently reduces the risk of muscle injury during exercise and reduces delayed onset muscle soreness.
However, further studies are needed to determine the recommended dose, and therefore it's advised to try and aim for at least one portion of oily fish per week, such as salmon, trout or sardines.
So, I think overall I would say that there is some evidence to suggest a benefit of creatine and omega three supplementation in sport. But further research and evidence is needed to support this further.
So finally, if you could choose three top tips for improving sports performance with nutrition, what would they be?
So firstly, I know we've already touched on it in today's podcast, but I would say that one of the most important things is to start exercise well-hydrated.
If you're dehydrated before you start exercising, your core temperature will rise faster, and your heart will have to work harder than usual. And this can affect your overall performance. It can take time for fluids to be absorbed into the body, and therefore it is best to drink steadily throughout the day and aiming for around 450 mils in the few hours before exercise.
It is also important to drink during exercise. It is best to do this by drinking little and often and having regular sips throughout your activity.
After exercising it is recommended to drink fluids to help your muscles recover. So, my first top tip would be to make sure to bring a water bottle to all exercise and training sessions.
My second tip, would be to plan ahead, plan and prepare to fit your eating in and around your training.
If you are training on the go, for example, if going straight after work bring carbohydrate and protein rich snacks that can be eaten before and after exercise as required. If you're unable to prepare a meal in and around your exercise sessions such as a banana for before exercise and a handful of nuts for after exercise.
At mealtimes, it is important to have both protein and carbohydrate rich food on the plate at all times. For example, scrambled eggs on toast or bean chili and rice or any other meal that you enjoy.
And my last tip would be that it is worth noting that there is not a one size fits all approach. No two individuals are the same as we all have different needs depending on our bodies, the sport itself, the intensity of training, the duration of training, and the training conditions as well.
It is important to adjust your intake based on your training schedule, as volume and intensity can vary on a day-to-day basis and a week to week basis as well.
So, to conclude, we need to personalize our eating and feel our bodies according to our training as well.
Perfect. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today. Hopefully people will now be equipped with the information they need to make good choices when deciding what, but also when to eat and drink for exercise.
Perfect. Thank you very much.