ketogenic diet for endurance athletes??

I have many many opinions on ketogenic diets for ironman and endurance athletes. I will expand this blog at some point with all the why’s about how I believe there is a better way to become your optimal in health and performance without having to go the full keto.

We call the approach I recommend metabolic efficiencyTM (ME), and it incorporates nutritional periodisation of carbohydrates and an overall lower but not no carbohydrate intake while slotting this into the principles of healthy eating for an athlete and taking their training, racing and individual response into account. Its is all about efficiency, fat adaptation, strength AND performance at high intensities. Not just about efficiency in the lower aerobic zones.

I believe this (ME) works without having to go and do the full keto, the latest extreme after high protein, low carb, low-fat and so on and on.

But hey, athletes like extreme and plough straight in before asking questions. Ask yourself this; do you know any ironman podium finishers doing keto diets? I don’t.

We don’t know all the facts about keto, we don’t know the impact on hormones, the adrenals, the incidence of fatigue in high volume training athletes, or how high intensity performance might be affected, or immune cell function in high volume training athletes, or the impact on anabolic processes for example is keto the best strategy for big gear big work on the bike, or strength and hill running sets? I don’t take risks for my athletes when I already have a strategy that works to not only enhance fat adaptation but also encourage strength, power and speed.

No one has compared a healthy periodised nutrition approach (like Metabolically Efficient eating) to a keto approach. Each has only ever been compared to a carbohydrate containing processed food containing diet (which isn’t that healthy and so you are normally going to see a response). Until I have seen a straight head to head I wont be shifting from the more balanced approach.

And FYI most keto diets show reduced power; not what you want either.

However, if you did want a good article to consume, this is good. Is it technically perfect? No. Do they make big claims? Yes. And is it a little one-sided? Yes. Can you achieve what they claim and more without going keto? Yes. But every diet is going to be promoted this way so don’t hold it against keto. For many athletes with genuine pre-diabetic or blood sugar/ insulin problems or metabolic issues like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome or polycystic ovaries keto may actually be recommended; diet is never a one size fits all. It is about finding what works and generally extreme measure are only needed for extreme cases.

This article is also technically more accurate than others so knock yourself out.

The ironman guide to ketosis

Andrea 🙂

Nutrition advice and resources for triathletes and endurance athletes

Hi folks,

I would like to point you in the direction of this fantastic resource for you all to support you on your journey with food such that you not only become a healthier but also more metabolically efficient athlete in accordance with the principles of Metabolic Efficiency™.

www.metabolicefficiency.org

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I am a certified Level I Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist (METS I-HMP) having trained under Dina in Colorado last year. I wrote more about this here on my Kona nutrition blog.

I am not one for reinventing the wheel, if there are resources to help improve your food choices and cooking skills in addition to the resources and education that I provide you with then I am all for it! Bob Seebohar and his team have done just that for you on their website.

This means that my primary role is to be your health educator, advisor, interpreter, and supporter. I evaluate your health in the context of your life and training, I interpret your training and physiological, functional and medical tests into meaningful and practical advice, I support you on a journey from A – where we are to Z – your race goals.

Every athlete is different in respect to their need for and tolerance to carbohydrates and their ability to oxidise fat as a fuel across the various exercise intensities.

 

It is all good and well to read about low carbohydrate (availability) training and fat adaptation, and high carbohydrate sessions, nutrition periodisation, preparation phase nutrition versus race season, fasted training and so on. But how do you get this right? Without falling ill to coughs and colds, injury niggles, muscle or strength loss, poor recovery or mid to end of season fatigue?

 

Well this is my job; to guide you through it and achieve your best results. The goal is optimal body composition, strong health, an efficient and flexible metabolism such that you are an efficient fat oxidiser and glycogen sparer across all  intensities and yet are still an efficient carbohydrate oxidiser at race intensities.

It is not just about diet; that is the easy bit – there are a gazillion diet plans out there and yet still so many over-weight, under-performing, over-fatigued and confused athletes.

I trouble shoot nutrition problems, health issues, fatigue, recovery or injury concerns and well take the general and most up to date science and make it relevant and applicable to you as an individual. I should make life easier for you, and nutrition more specific for you. Cut through the bullshit so to speak.

I am more than a nutritional therapist; I also have experience as a trained pharmacist since 1998 and am trained in functional medicine, herbal medicine, and have areas of interest in food, holistic health, hard core sports and health science, energy healing and spiritual mind-body connection, herbs and aromatherapy, chronic fatigue, complex heath issues, gastrointestinal issues, female health problems, hormones and adrenal and thyroid problems. I use ALL these skills when needed.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Andrea

 

 

No tolerance for cheats or drug use in sports

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DRUGS IN SPORT, the conversation everyone is having and no one will have properly.

I have been known in my career to have strong opinions and I do; I have just learnt with time that there is no point arguing with closed-minded people and especially closed-minded people in the medical field. So now I do my best to save my energy for where it is needed and keep my trap shut more often now.

There has been a lot of debate in the media of late about performance enhancing drug (PED) use in sports; and also, as always, stories emerging of even more athletes caught out. So I am taking this prompt to add my own opinions on the matter.

I have worked with elite, Olympic and world class athletes for the best part of 13 years and I have never had cause to suspect an athlete. Perhaps my no drug stance has been fair warning to anyone that would consider cheating to prevent them coming to me.

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I have an absolutely ZERO TOLERANCE APPROACH TO the use of drugs in sport and a very low tolerance for the overuse of medication in any aspect of health.

It took me a long number of years in my career to understand that for most athletes sport isn’t about the joy and passion of sport, or health. But winning. It took reading a science paper about 10 years ago, that documented that somewhere up to 85% of athletes (don’t quote the number I have a bad memory for numbers; it is the message that is important) would take a performance enhancing drug (PED) if it guaranteed a win despite a serious and even life threatening consequence.

People would die to win?

THAT BELTED IT HOME TO ME, how naive of me to think others do sport for just passion and joy. It’s about ego and winning at all costs for many.

This concept is a little sad to me, but it is what it is. In life there are cheats, and in my book cheats come with a whole dose of lies too, and finger-pointing, and blame, and a complete lack of personal responsibility and accountability. And a disrespect to sport and all other athletes. It is a selfish thing and ruins sport.

When there are publications out there like this; it makes one question humanity and just how far this all goes.

It is tragic that the first question on a person’s mind when someone wins is did they take drugs? I like to give people the benefit of the doubt; and this is becoming increasingly difficult. If Usain Bolt tests positive I don’t know what I will do; I want to hope and dream that someone is winning on talent and hard work.

That normal amateur athletes are cheating in sport these days is a reality that I find hard to swallow. But it’s there. Even in your typical gym you will find yourself in the free weights section beside a conversation on drugs. I know because I am not dumb. I spent years in a gym doing strength work, I know what goes on, I have been in those conversations but I will not ever accept a client that creates any questions in my mind. It is good to have your eyes open all the same. Drugs in amateur sports happens, drug use in every day gym goers is a reality, drug use in youths involved in sports and body-building is becoming an issue…..

The statistics on triathletes did shock me detailing the high use of medication and drugs use within and around competition. I think most of us will agree that the consumption of banned substances constitutes cheating. However not everyone will agree with my views regarding racing on pain medications. I refuse point-blank to work with an athlete taking questionable products in or out of season. When painkillers are in question then it’s worth an honest chat; I’m on your side but perhaps we have options. Turmeric for example is a more potent painkiller than ibuprofen without risks.

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If you let me explain my reasoning regarding pain medication then perhaps you will understand my stance better. I am charged with giving you honest advice about what science says in relation to health and performance. The nature of who I am will also see past just the finish line when it comes to your health. My views on pain medications may not be in concurrence with everyone’s beliefs; but do correlate with the best of my knowledge in science and as up to date as I can be.

Pain is a sign that something is not right in the body; quite simply pain is information. If you race numbing the pain by use of a medication you risk creating significant damage and perhaps longer term harm. That may result in far more time off training and competition that you asked for.

Furthermore NSAIDS may hinder bone healing and  cartilage regeneration (also here) and increase scar tissue formation in the healing phase. The evidence isn’t clear-cut but from my experience as a pharmacist there is never smoke without a fire and cause for me to warrant advising only the limited use of NSAIDs when appropriate. So there may be multiple risks when you head out and race while medicating pain. And finally, more worrying for the endurance and ultra endurance athletes, there is concerns over the association between NSAIDs and Exercise Associated Hyponatraemia; a serious and often life-threatening condition.

To me health as well as clean sport is important because you need health to perform optimally!

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Kona World Championships swim start

I applaud the professionals and amateur athletes speaking out strongly against drugs in sport; we need more ambassadors in sports demanding change. (read here about one such athlete Sam Gyde; and also Jodie Swallow, James Cunnama and more.)

Gone are the days of innocent until proven guilty in sport; I think people have become so skeptical that it deeply saddens me. But honest athletes should stand tall and proud and with integrity to their truth. The truth eventually comes out. Don’t waste your energy fighting battles you cannot win, but do stand up for what you believe in and bring your message to those that count; the youth athletes of today and tomorrow.

Just how much one cheat can bring down everyone around them has been something I am less naive on and I was given a great reminder of this last week. I have never to the best of my knowledge, nor will I ever, associate my personal and professional life with any athlete, friend, or family member that has or is taking drugs to cheat. No question I will not work with anyone that creates any doubt in my mind and in honesty the only thing I have to go by is intuition; and being a highly sensitive person I can strongly feel what is going on in the body of a client.

There are two reasons I refuse to work with anyone that raises any suspicions about being a clean athlete.

  1. I am the one of the first ones that the finger can be pointed at in blame for a failed drugs test (e.g. if I have recommended that someone take whey protein) and especially if any laws change to remove absolute responsibility from the athlete. I have worked 20 years on a reputation as someone with honesty, integrity, and independence. I won’t even affiliate with a sports nutrition company no matter how much they may wish to pay me. My opinion is my own; always has been and always will be….. loved ones know that there is no telling me once my mind is made up!Coaches are in the firing line too.As best as I can, and I go to great lengths, I am VERY strict on supplement brand quality. I don’t even let artificial sugars in them and I sure as hell demand that when possible they have been screened in a WADA approved/ informed sports lab for sports nutrition products (and for health products a facility with very strong GMP and SOP and certificates of analysis and purity). There are no guarantees; so we have to do our homework here as best as is possible. It is frustrating that athletes must pay more to use these products; but an expense that is worth it.

    Education and experience has seen me return to food as the best approach with limited use of supplements. Supplements are an industry too and any industry standing to make profits is full of lies and deceit and sometimes dubious quality control; this is where my education comes to the fore. I know science, I know medicine and I know pharmacy; I try to always have a good bullshit radar.

    Even chicken breasts stuffed with hormones have been known to spike blood levels of unwanted substances; so you always must be mindful of what goes in your mouth, up your nose (nasal sprays), on your body (skin absorption) and in your water. For me that is a health first reason, but for athletes they should be always thinking about more.

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  2.  I don’t believe in cheating.Cheats should be exposed publicly and dealt with strictly. I don’t believe that athletes that have cheated should be permitted to compete again, in any competitive sport.Yes in real life people can change, yes they can show us that they are different people after making mistakes. But cheating isn’t a mistake it is DELIBERATE CHOICE and it is a slap in the face to all the athletes racing clean. Lifetime ban across all sports.

    How you monitor this, how you catch cheats and the mess that is the cheats Versus the catchers is a political and financial and a debate I don’t want to get in to. I am not adequately qualified and far too naive a person…. drugs in sports is a problem that runs very deep a bit like a rotten apple to the core.

What I do know, with a degree in pharmacy is that those cheating lie in two categories – pun intended – 1. they don’t know what they are doing and are taking great risks and – 2. they have a sophisticated and qualified team of experts around them all involved in the lies and cheating. Equally dangerous, harder to catch.

All drugs come with a consequence.

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A few that spring to mind when it comes to sport:

1. SIDE-EFFECTS for the athlete.

In my life I have a strong view on the use of medications “Avoid unless necessary” (like life-saving necessary). Medication messes people up in general, I see vaccine damaged teenagers in the clinic, persons with more side effects than benefits, the list goes on and on.

Even an antibiotic impacts an athlete negatively in their gut microbiome and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killers (NSAIDs) impact cartilage repair and when taken during a race NSAIDs increase the chance of exercise associated hyponatraemia, a potentially fatal form of over-hydration and electrolyte imbalance.

For me I don’t believe that the medical system is built on truths about how the body works; and I have the same view on PEDS, they come with side-effects. Short and long-term my opinion is no no and no.

2. Don’t start me on the DRUGS BLACK MARKET; injections with a side of mercury, aluminium, plastics and fillers? Cheap fillers in tablets? No thanks. The drug market is an industry trying to profit from low costs and high margins; I don’t trust it as far as I could throw a shot putter. I am not sure that the legit market is any better. When you work as a pharmacist you are dealing with drug recalls frequently.

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3. The body is a delicate balance of simply astonishing metabolic, hormonal and chemical messaging functions; drugs impact this delicate balance and often with unknown long-term consequences. Clinical studies are in my opinion grossly lacking in catching the longer-term and more subtle and sometimes serious side effects. Consider Thalidomide, Vioxx, Fen-Phen (and other weight loss drugs and cardiovascular effects), the great cholesterol con (watch this space), the anti-malarial Larium (another one to watch; for example), and soon our HPV vaccine and a growing list of serious adverse events; the lists grow daily.

4. THE MESSAGE to your children, colleagues, the next generation of athletes…. just what are you saying when you take drugs to cheat? When does a 14-year-old start taking drugs when this is what they see as a necessary to win? What psychological messages are we giving about a win at all costs attitude? What about decent morals and ethics… has the world really gone too far now?

Performance enhancing drug use in youth athletes and teens in school is a very real and serious problem, with very worrying as of yet not fully known long-term health effects.

Reports from China of late are VERY worrying concerning youth athletes; extending as far as concerns about genetic doping never mind documented state-sponsored doping.

Teens and youth athletes bodies are still developing; what exactly happens when you introduce PEDs into their growing and developing bodies?

If we are impacting growth patterns and hormones are we looking at cancer and long-term hormone imbalances or worse still sudden cardiac deaths, cardiovascular problems, disrupted bone and growth patterns, serious hormonally related health symptoms and infertility?

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5. I have no respect for a cheat: zero, nil, nada…..

I have a strong belief that IF you do all the jigsaw pieces correctly that you can optimize your sports genetics and play on a level field with the cheats; if not more.

Epigenetics are the turning on and off of genes by environment; eat the correct balance of essential nutrients, train smartly, rest completely, ease stress in your life, limit environmental anti-nutrients and toxin exposures and optimise hormone balance through natural strategies and you can reap massive improvements in sports capability.

Epigenetics

I know because I see this in the athletes that I work with. THIS IS THE HARDER APPROACH AND SO WORTH IT. HARD WORK THAT CHEATS CLEARLY AREN’T PREPARED TO INVEST IN THEIR SPORTS. Then add in the power of the mind and cognitive strategies to your sports and see where this takes you……

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I am sure I have more thoughts but right now I am starting to feel a little too emotional about it all…….

Rio 2016 will be interesting; but I cannot even trust the who is caught and who isn’t these days. The whole thing is tainted in my mind. sad:-(

Andrea
Further reading:

Sports Nutrition Clinic Services

Hi healthy peeps,

I recorded a quick video blog earlier today to let you know a little bit more about my approach for athletes in the clinic. Mostly because there isn’t really an adequate title to cover what I do and provide to athlete clients.

Firstly my qualifications; I am a pharmacist, Nutritional Therapist, and Senior Associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine.

This means that I have trained in pharmacy and health care, functional medicine and functional and medical diagnostics, nutrition and sports nutrition, and also have been gifted a high level of sensitivity to the energy of people and what is going on in their bodies.

Science and a little bit more!

Some call this being psychic, medically intuitive, an energy healer and so on. I just see it as a nice way to help you even more because I sense what you and your body need on a day-to-day basis. This can come in handy when assisting you reach your goals! I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t want to see anyone’s future; I simply sense what you need in the moment that I am with you or before I meet you which can be interesting.

It can be as simple as just saying hey I think your body will benefit from a probiotic in the month before your race, and then all the facts will point to this. Or it will give me a sense of what is the most immediate concern for you when the paper and science will tell us we need to do fifty things; sometimes it is best to keep it simple and go on what the body needs in that moment… and then work from there.

Something that this does give me is a knack for feeling your energy, and the state of health within the muscles and what you need to do to assist their recovery; so if you are open to it and I sense it is needed I may suggest some energy sessions, a go on the PEMF machine, some healing aromatherapy oils (I use Vibrant Blue oils; here is a nice blog on how oils work and Panaway by Young Living oils is a favourite for those with sore or tired muscles) or some other helpful strategies.

Secondly what I really do?

Well think of me as your support team; regarding diet, nutrition, explaining the ins and outs of health and sports supplements (IF needed and how to determine what is worth your while), your functional health and the monitoring of this, your energy and rest-recovery balance, etc.

Basically I sort of act as that support system that provides more than just nutrition. I prefer to see nutrition as just one of the tools we use as more often that not all you require here is guidance (most athletes and active person know what to eat; and if they aren’t then this is where we must focus!).

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The Female Athlete

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Hi Folks,

I recently put a few thoughts to video blog about the female athlete. Having worked with some incredible women athletes, young women athletes, and also women coaches I felt a need to touch briefly on how it is important to remember that the body of a woman is very different to that of a man, and especially in regard to training. Whether you are an elite or Olympic athlete or someone more normal like me; it is important to remember that your body is not a machine; it is more like the rhythmical ocean of life.

The body of a woman is quite simply different.
And to perform to her optimal physically a woman must honour, respect, and work with these differences.

The scientific literature has done research (but still has a long way to go) in regards to answering some questions about the cyclic nature of woman’s body in relation to training response and performance outcome. We all know that we have fluctuations in energy, strength, endurance and our need for rest and sleep. However things go even further than this notably when we look at metabolic adaptations, the hormonal regulation of fuel partitioning, the hormonal association to energy requirements, blood sugar balance, glycogen loading and fat oxidation, what training is best done when, which phases of the cycle require more sleep and rest, and so on.

I do see a dearth of coaches tailoring training plans in response the specific needs of the female athlete with the result that health problems are very common in the female athlete. I also would wonder do female athletes feel adequately supported in response to their individual needs. I don’t believe that a training block for women should be the same as that for a man; women are not small men, and men have their own unique needs. As a very basic the training macro-cycle should be somewhat synced with the female menstrual cycle and a coach open to feedback about the weekly fluctuations regarding how the female athlete feels.

Fluid and flexible training according to the menstrual cycle should be taught to female athletes at a young age so that there is no shame about having a body who’s cycle creates rhythms that may at times feel a little overwhelming and misunderstood. We must empower young women to honour and listen to their bodies such that they become highly attuned to the bodies needs; and hence optimise their training outcome.

The following problems are not a given for the intensely training female athlete and require some attention and tweaks to be made to the training load, nutrition (and ? supplements), and recommendations for adjusting energy intake, sleep, rest and recovery:

  • Menstrual cycle problems: amenorrhoea, oligimenorrhoea
  • Stress fractures
  • Frequent injuries
  • Large weight fluctuations
  • Fatigue
  • Poor recovery, lethargy and depression or other mood problems
  • Sleep issues and often night sweats

The tricky thing is that no one athlete is the same and the beauty is that no one athlete is the same!

Please do bounce us an email should you like to explore your health, diet and functional nutrition needs further in relation to your sport.

Much love

Andrea

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The extraordinary body that is a healthy and strong woman’s body

“Diets and Weight loss” a manifesto by Brad Dieter of AsgardFit

Hello reader,

Here is an article that is too good to not share; please click the link to a superb review with comprehensive explanation regarding the topic of “Diets and Weight loss”.

Brad gives the low down on many diets trending now and historically and the real science on weight loss and obesity… more relevantly Brad gives his own personal tuppenceworth…. as in he is a scientist that can think for himself. The world needs more of these!

Enjoy

Andrea

ah ha moment

when she realised that the real problem was believing what the media says about weight loss

Eat (some) carbohydrates if you wish to compete fast and far…

The carbohydrate conundrum? I didn’t realise there was one 🙂

(please see the footnote for an article that came under my nose today a day after writing this).

This is a post inspired from the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) forum that I am compelled to share as it speaks LOUDLY about why the ingestion of carbohydrates is crucial during high-end endurance training and in competition.

Two strategies that I practice with my triathlon and endurance athlete clients is flexible carbohydrate periodization with their training regimen and elevated carbohydrate intake for competition day….

Why? Because for most athletes these strategies work. Period.

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The secret is to work with each unique individual taking their metabolism into account as there (seems to be) variance between athletes regarding optimal carbohydrate intake on a daily training basis.

So for athlete X, for example, we may use a moderate carbohydrate intake on most training days. And then switch this around with specific training sessions lower and other sessions  higher in carbohydrate intake (such as very intense and long duration sessions or double training session days).

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