A Must Read Article On Nutrition For Athletes And Safe Exercise For Better Health


Hi folks,

Great article on nutrition at Bicycle Lab.

Great article on nutrition at Bicycle Lab.

Nutrition is a key aspect of any exercise plan, so I was intrigued when the following article was drawn to my attention on Twitter by my friend and Bike Guy, Victor. This article by Adrian Hodgson demystifies the issue of incorporation of protein supplementation into the design of power drinks and bars used for intense and/or endurance training or racing. Take a look for yourself, but read it carefully because it’s worth it, I promise.

The article is entitled, “Does carbohydrate plus protein intake improve cycling performance?” and it was published on The Bicycle Lab blog (an excellent source of valuable information). An interesting little table concludes the article.

Recommended carbohydrate versus protein content of foods for intense versus endurance training. From: http://goo.gl/5xv5d

Recommended carbohydrate versus protein content of foods for intense versus endurance training. From: http://goo.gl/5xv5d Key: CHO = carbohydrate; PRO = protein.

Compare this table with one for the ONLY food that has worked for me in the cycling leg of the Lake Placid Ironman, Chocolate-Flavored PowerBars, and I tried everything that I could think of to prevent my usual bonk (low blood sugar) at 100 miles in:

The contents major contents of a Chocolate-Flavored PowerBar the only thing that has really worked for FitOldDog during Ironman races. From: http://goo.gl/GHrrO

The major contents of a Chocolate-Flavored PowerBar, the only thing that has really worked for FitOldDog during Ironman races. From: http://goo.gl/GHrrO

Notice the 45 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of protein, which matches the table by Adrian fairly closely. I must add that other flavors do not work for me, inducing nausea at about 50-100 miles into a ride, and I don’t like them.

The Issue Of Flavor

Different flavors of PowerBars but only Chocolate works for FitOldDog (bizarre!). From: http://goo.gl/CBKNo

Different flavors of PowerBars but only Chocolate works for FitOldDog (bizarre!). From: http://goo.gl/CBKNo

If you go to the Chez Ollie and explore the different flavors of PowerBars, you will find that they are all close to the 45/8-gram ratio of carbohydrate to protein. This is very interesting to me, as only chocolate-flavored bars worked. I discussed this important issue previously, in a post entitled, “Dial In Your Nutrient Flavor For The Race.” The body is an engine, the brain a complex computer-like thing that plays a major role in running the rest of the body, but the brain may also employ memories to trigger bodily events, such as nausea (probably as a protective mechanism). This issue is summed up by the author, Adrian, as follows: “However it should be noted that the use of a [carbohydrate] and [protein] product by athletes maybe highly individualised, depending on taste, tolerance of high amounts of [carbohydrates] during exercise, and duration and type of exercise. It would be advised for an athlete to try out a variety of products in training before implementing nutritional strategies in competition.” Eureka – you have to work out what works for you, and that takes time, patience, and understanding, which is why I have added the last (potentially boring) musing on bioenergetics.

Why this dance of proteins and carbohydrates (and fats)?

The best self help book that you will ever read because it makes you laugh when you want to cry. From: ttp://goo.gl/OLtZa

The best self-help book that you will ever read, because it makes you laugh when you want to cry. From: http://goo.gl/OLtZa

Here comes the interesting part, why does this ratio of carbohydrates to proteins turn out to be so important? The answer lies, at least in part, in the field of Bioenergetics. I am going to resort to a car analogy, as opposed to the car tire analogy used by Rich Hall in his wonderful self-help book, in an attempt to clarify my thoughts on the matter. Gedanken Experiment: I want you too imagine a car with three sources of power, a kind of triple hybrid. It isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad. This car can generate power from electricity in the battery (this is liver glycogen – clean and efficient, but limited in amount), gasoline (this is protein – effective but dirty and you have to keep on refilling the tank), and coal (this is fat – massive stores of energy, very dirty, will last almost forever when you know how to use it, and it takes up little space).

Why is glycogen clean? It produces little waste that is in a form which is readily eliminated, water and carbon dioxide.

Why is protein dirty? It generates nitrogen waste that has to be eliminated via the kidneys as urea, and excess leads to ammonia build up that is dangerous for the brain.

Why is fat dirty? Fat has to be broken down into fatty acids, which in turn generate ketones, and in excess these lead to ketoacidosis (as in diabetes), which puts a strain blood pH (acidity).

Why is protein intake on the bike important for recovery? IMPORTANT NOTE #1: Most of your energy needs can be supplied from fat, BUT your brain needs some glucose (20% of it’s energy) and your red cells (in blood) rely 100% on blood glucose for their energy source because they have no mitochondria. With respect to energy generation, protein has to first be broken down into amino acids, the nitrogen (amino group) is cleaved off, leaving a carbon-hydrogen side chain that can be converted to sugar as glucose (gluconeogenesis), which is then be used by the brain and red cells (this is aided by hormones that prevent other organs taking this precious glucose). If there isn’t enough carbohydrate, protein will be needed to make glucose, which will come from your body (muscle, lymphocytes, and so forth) or your food (power bars and such on the bike). IMPORTANT NOTE #2: you cannot make much glucose from fat (due to the TCA cycle carbon count – a result of truly ancient history), so you have to resort to using protein when carbohydrates are insufficient. This is why protein intake during endurance training helps recovery, because the flow of amino acids from food in your gut spares the use of amino acids from your muscles and other bodily structures for liver (and kidney) gluconeogenesis. Fat is needed to provide the energy to make carbohydrate (glucose) from these amino acids, making protein a very inefficient (and double dirty) source of energy.

Comprehending this metabolic dance will help you to understand and wisely choose your nutrient power sources on the bike.

Great article, Adrian. Very much appreciated, and thank you Victor for sending it our way.

-k @FitOldDog

Today’s workouts:

Workout PLAN Coach: Chris Hauth
Distance: 3900.0 yd
Duration: 01:10:00
400 wup
200 kick
200 pull
400 swim8x100 with 15 sec rest – right into:
16×50 with 10 sec rest – right into:
20×25 with 5 sec rest – right into:
400 steady freestyle200 warm down
Duration: 01:00:00
easy jog – even better on trails or dirt?

I substituted Rich Fee’s swim, which we did together and I was pleased with the result – first sub-1:30×100 yard in 20 years, and I came in a few times really easy at sub-1:35 – all about stroke mechanics (thanks Chris) and conditioning (thanks for getting me off of the wall, Rick).

Rick’s Swim Workout:

Warm-up 400
4 * 500 8:30
    1st just swim
    2nd 250 faster than the first…not broken
    3rd 200-200-100  second 200 faster than the first last 100 harder
    4th attempt to make each 125 faster
100 loosen
12 * 100 pull 3 on 2:05, 2:00, 1:55, 1:50
100 loosen
8 * 50 ez/FAST 1:15
Warm-down 200    (4200 yards)

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.