The Triathlon Fueling Window

I continue to get asked by athletes and coaches about taking a lower carbohydrate approach to fueling long course events. This concept sounds great on the surface, like Total Immersion-style swimming in triathlon, but as you dig deeper, you discover its pitfalls. I’ll sum this concept up as “Metabolic Efficiency Training – By Nutrition Modification” (low carb approach). I add the nutrition modification piece, as training via proper intensity ranges provides “Metabolic Efficiency” without tinkering with nutrition and is a proven concept. In my mind, there are two major components to the low carb approach: training nutrition modification/impacts and race day modification/impact. The first I discussed in pretty good detail here as “Starvation Workouts” – and the second I’ll discuss in more detail here. I’ll preface this discussion with the experience QT2 has with race fueling. Each year we do about 300-400 detailed race fueling plans for athletes from around the world of all levels. We’ve been doing this for about seven years. I have personally done fueling plans for over 40 PROs (many of whom I don’t coach). The bottom-line is we do a LOT of race fueling plans, see a lot of sweat rates, and most importantly see just about every issue you could possibly imagine come through the door. I would bet that we do more triathlon-specific race fueling plans than any other group in the world. We get the chance to collect a lot of data, and our team works together throughout the year to discuss issues, and experiences. At the end of the year, we can typically count on one hand how many athletes have issues with their nutrition, after working with us. That is an approximately 99% success rate. You get the picture. Below are the major factors related to this discussion and the low carb approach in general.

Training Your Body To Use Less
The low carb approach may train your body to use less over time, which again sounds great – less fuel to carry around all the time, less food to digest on race day, and less money to spend on race fueling. You hear this all the time – the athletes who get to the point where they can ride for 5 hours with only a single Powerbar; amazing accomplishment! Obviously a higher carb in training won’t allow you to develop this efficiency…..but is that a bad thing? I discussed the primary risks in this scenario in “Starvation Workouts”.

Potential Benefits
The potential benefits of training your body to use less are touted as improvements to fat utilization, and therefore performance. I will state that the research I have seen here is very skeptical. Proven benefits of nutrition induced fat utilization are shaky at best, and even if they do exist are on the order of 1% impact on performance in my opinion. Is 1% worth the risks discussed in Starvation Workouts and what I am about to describe below?

Training Your Body To Handle Less
The MAJOR issue associated with the low carb approach for race day is that over time you are not only training your body to use less, but also training it’s digestive system to handle less; typically the latter at a faster rate. This is the major danger for most athletes racing long course – the primary limiter for many, many age groupers is their ability to handle their race nutrition; whatever it may be. Its not about gaining that 1 percent advantage in metobolic efficiency. I consider this a parallel limiter, enhancing performance maybe, whereas the ability to handle nutrition is a series limiter, meaning it can stop you from hitting other limiters such as fitness itself (which you train and make huge sacrifices for). Anything we can do to remove this as a limiter will only help.

The Fueling Window
Below are two figures summering and visually displaying the concept I call “The Fueling Window” which describes what I have discussed above. These figures are based on my experience and not necessarily to scale. This concept is a pseudo-science based on real-world results with thousands of athletes – not a clinical lab study with limited inputs, and limited real-world results.

                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      What this shows is that with a low carb approach, yes, you may improve metabolic efficiency and reduce the amount of fuel your body requires, but it comes at a significant cost! You also reduce your ability to digest and handle nutrition. Overall, you reduce your available “fueling window” (difference between what your body needs and what your digestive system can handle) and likelihood of success.

We’ve proven this concept year after year with some of the fastest run splits across the age group, and PRO levels, including multiple athletes running sub 3:00 and over 27 Kona qualifiers last year. Our athletes have trained themselves to hit the run better fueled than almost all other athletes on the course…..this is the “secret” to how we do it. This is one of our most important concepts used to get results. The primary issue that athletes have with the higher carb approach, if they have any, is that they don’t practice it seriously enough. This would be like doing an Ironman without training at all, and then after DNFing the race saying, Ironman isn’t for me. To be done right, fueling needs to be practiced day in and day out, every single session from 30 minute recovery runs to 6 hour rides – EVERY SINGLE TIME! If it’s a warmer weather race, and you are a heavy sweater, you should likely be drinking 3 to 4 24oz bottles of Powerbar Perform every hour in training. Yes, this is overdoing it, but it takes nutrition off the table as a limiter on race day – you’ve trained yourself to handle more than your body requires, thereby improving your “fueling window”. I can honestly say that I have never seen an athlete who practices their fueling properly have lingering issues on race day. Some need to practice harder and longer than others.

I will say that there is a small percentage of the population that has gotten away with the lower carb approach, even though it is risky. In these cases the athlete typically was born with a fantastic digestive system that can handle a lot of fluid/carbs, and has lower sweat rates. Even at that, it’s a risk they take. By, and large, the primary limiter of age groupers in long course racing is the ability to handle nutrition…we want to practice the ability to digest more, not try and obtain a 1% advantage and instead end up walking the run because our “fueling window” is so small that, we can’t even digest the smallest amount. This is simply not a risk worth taking for 99.9% of the athletes racing long course. This practice in short course racing may have more relevance, because the ability to handle large amounts of nutrition becomes less of a factor, it’s harder to get down nutrition at intensity, and therefore the metabolic efficiency risk may be one worth taking.

~ Jesse

Read Full Story

Detoxing Your Holiday Toxins Away

As we spend the last day of 2013, I bet many people are pondering about the changes they will make in 2014, and they will surely include some sort of health goal. For some, it can be easy to wake up tomorrow and start off on the right foot. But for others, it can be daunting to take that big leap.

Although one of the big reasons the Core Diet is so successful (besides the fact that we focus on real, nutrient dense foods) is that it is realistic. We allow “windows” for those foods that are not on the top of the “eat this” list, as well as a non-Core meal every once in a while (determined by your RD). However, some individuals can go a bit overboard during the holidays!

Read Full Story

Running In Cold Weather: Why You Need To Do This

It’s hard for me to think about bundling up in layers for a run when its still in the 80’s down here in South Florida. But as I pack for my upcoming New England trip, I am reminded of the weather reports in the rest of the country. Snow is trickling down on branches, and runners are seeing their breath before the words “hello” come out of their mouths as they pass a local running buddy. It’s also hard for many to imagine that sweat loss is going to occur when you are about to endure a run in 35-degree weather. But guess what? You still need to hydrate!

Read Full Story

Spooky & Spicy Carrot Salad

Dress up your Autumn dish with this antioxidant packed vegetable! Last week I suggested a new seasonal dish if you were getting bored with your day to day meals, and this colorful salad can do the same thing! Many of us don’t enough raw veggies in our diet, and carrot sticks dipped in hummus can get very old… Try this as a snack or with any lunch or dinner!  It's perfect for this Halloween season! 

Read Full Story

Autumn Fun Recipe

Bring on the pumpkins, Autumn is officially here! Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler, many of you have not yet reached the end of your triathlon season. At this point in the game, you might be a bit tired of your day-to-day foods. This is the perfect time to bring out those “hearty” meals that are still packed with good nutrients to ensure your body stays in peak condition.



Read Full Story

Your Tool Box For Health

People typically eat to satisfy hunger or because it tastes good. But food can serve another purpose. The substances in the foods that you eat can drive different physiological functions. In an effort to understand this, I like to envision the following analogy. Think of your body as a "tool box" and the foods you consume as the "tools". Your body uses the tools in the tool box to "tune it up" and help it run efficiently. So it is important, especially as an endurance athlete, to make sure your tool box is equipped with a large variety of useful tools! Just think, you can't repair a car if the only tools available in the tool box are a hammer and a screwdriver. You might need a wrench, crow bar, blow torch, several different sizes of screws, etc to fix the car.

Read Full Story

How to Hydrate While Running!

One of the many concerns I hear from my athletes is, “I can’t seem to drink while running, what is the best strategy?” The answer to that question is whatever way works for you is the best! The important aspect is just getting those fluids and electrolytes down, and to practice that method day in and day out.

Read Full Story

Hot Weather Running

When the weather gets hot, there are some basic hydration guidelines you should follow before, during and after your training sessions. However, when the summer months kick into high gear and the rise in temperature and humidity cause you to break out in a sweat the moment you walk out the door, it’s time to step up your hydration plan. Read on for some key points to consider during these summer scorchers:

Read Full Story

Hydration Basics For Runners

As the hot weather months approach, we encourage you to move hydration to the top of your athletic priority list. Although hydration is an important factor to your overall health year-round, slight dehydration of even 2% of your body weight can have negative effects, and your chances of this happening in the upcoming summer months are much higher. Staying properly hydrating is the best way to improve your training and race day performance.

When can athletes run into dehydration troubles?

  • More than 1 training session per day
  • Competitions held in hot and/or humid environments (if the athlete is coming from a colder climate, the impact is even larger!)
  • Competitions of long duration such as marathons and triathlons

Read Full Story

The Core Diet Partners With OutRival Racing

Boston, MA - The Core Diet, an operating business of QT2 Systems, LLC and a foremost provider of sports nutrition services, is very excited to announce its recent affiliate partnership with OutRival Racing (ORR); offering ORR athletes nutritional support as a part of their training and racing needs. ORR is a Texas-based coaching service providing comprehensive training plans, group programs, and weekly training sessions to triathletes, runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes. ORR consists of ‘first-timers,’ age-groupers, amateur elites, and professionals led by its founder Michelle LeBlanc, and her experienced staff of triathlon-specific and specialty coaches. ORR is the official coach of the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas and Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas.

Read Full Story

I continue to get asked by athletes and coaches about taking a lower carbohydrate approach to fueling long course events. This concept sounds great on the surface, like Total Immersion-style swimming in triathlon, but as you dig deeper, you discover its pitfalls. I’ll sum this concept up as “Metabolic Efficiency Training – By Nutrition Modification” (low carb approach). I add the nutrition modification piece, as training via proper intensity ranges provides “Metabolic Efficiency” without tinkering with nutrition and is a proven concept. In my mind, there are two major components to the low carb approach: training nutrition modification/impacts and race day modification/impact. The first I discussed in pretty good detail here as “Starvation Workouts” – and the second I’ll discuss in more detail here. I’ll preface this discussion with the experience QT2 has with race fueling. Each year we do about 300-400 detailed race fueling plans for athletes from around the world of all levels. We’ve been doing this for about seven years. I have personally done fueling plans for over 40 PROs (many of whom I don’t coach). The bottom-line is we do a LOT of race fueling plans, see a lot of sweat rates, and most importantly see just about every issue you could possibly imagine come through the door. I would bet that we do more triathlon-specific race fueling plans than any other group in the world. We get the chance to collect a lot of data, and our team works together throughout the year to discuss issues, and experiences. At the end of the year, we can typically count on one hand how many athletes have issues with their nutrition, after working with us. That is an approximately 99% success rate. You get the picture. Below are the major factors related to this discussion and the low carb approach in general.

Training Your Body To Use Less
The low carb approach may train your body to use less over time, which again sounds great – less fuel to carry around all the time, less food to digest on race day, and less money to spend on race fueling. You hear this all the time – the athletes who get to the point where they can ride for 5 hours with only a single Powerbar; amazing accomplishment! Obviously a higher carb in training won’t allow you to develop this efficiency…..but is that a bad thing? I discussed the primary risks in this scenario in “Starvation Workouts”.

Potential Benefits
The potential benefits of training your body to use less are touted as improvements to fat utilization, and therefore performance. I will state that the research I have seen here is very skeptical. Proven benefits of nutrition induced fat utilization are shaky at best, and even if they do exist are on the order of 1% impact on performance in my opinion. Is 1% worth the risks discussed in Starvation Workouts and what I am about to describe below?

Training Your Body To Handle Less
The MAJOR issue associated with the low carb approach for race day is that over time you are not only training your body to use less, but also training it’s digestive system to handle less; typically the latter at a faster rate. This is the major danger for most athletes racing long course – the primary limiter for many, many age groupers is their ability to handle their race nutrition; whatever it may be. Its not about gaining that 1 percent advantage in metobolic efficiency. I consider this a parallel limiter, enhancing performance maybe, whereas the ability to handle nutrition is a series limiter, meaning it can stop you from hitting other limiters such as fitness itself (which you train and make huge sacrifices for). Anything we can do to remove this as a limiter will only help.

The Fueling Window
Below are two figures summering and visually displaying the concept I call “The Fueling Window” which describes what I have discussed above. These figures are based on my experience and not necessarily to scale. This concept is a pseudo-science based on real-world results with thousands of athletes – not a clinical lab study with limited inputs, and limited real-world results.

                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      What this shows is that with a low carb approach, yes, you may improve metabolic efficiency and reduce the amount of fuel your body requires, but it comes at a significant cost! You also reduce your ability to digest and handle nutrition. Overall, you reduce your available “fueling window” (difference between what your body needs and what your digestive system can handle) and likelihood of success.

We’ve proven this concept year after year with some of the fastest run splits across the age group, and PRO levels, including multiple athletes running sub 3:00 and over 27 Kona qualifiers last year. Our athletes have trained themselves to hit the run better fueled than almost all other athletes on the course…..this is the “secret” to how we do it. This is one of our most important concepts used to get results. The primary issue that athletes have with the higher carb approach, if they have any, is that they don’t practice it seriously enough. This would be like doing an Ironman without training at all, and then after DNFing the race saying, Ironman isn’t for me. To be done right, fueling needs to be practiced day in and day out, every single session from 30 minute recovery runs to 6 hour rides – EVERY SINGLE TIME! If it’s a warmer weather race, and you are a heavy sweater, you should likely be drinking 3 to 4 24oz bottles of Powerbar Perform every hour in training. Yes, this is overdoing it, but it takes nutrition off the table as a limiter on race day – you’ve trained yourself to handle more than your body requires, thereby improving your “fueling window”. I can honestly say that I have never seen an athlete who practices their fueling properly have lingering issues on race day. Some need to practice harder and longer than others.

I will say that there is a small percentage of the population that has gotten away with the lower carb approach, even though it is risky. In these cases the athlete typically was born with a fantastic digestive system that can handle a lot of fluid/carbs, and has lower sweat rates. Even at that, it’s a risk they take. By, and large, the primary limiter of age groupers in long course racing is the ability to handle nutrition…we want to practice the ability to digest more, not try and obtain a 1% advantage and instead end up walking the run because our “fueling window” is so small that, we can’t even digest the smallest amount. This is simply not a risk worth taking for 99.9% of the athletes racing long course. This practice in short course racing may have more relevance, because the ability to handle large amounts of nutrition becomes less of a factor, it’s harder to get down nutrition at intensity, and therefore the metabolic efficiency risk may be one worth taking.

~ Jesse

As we spend the last day of 2013, I bet many people are pondering about the changes they will make in 2014, and they will surely include some sort of health goal. For some, it can be easy to wake up tomorrow and start off on the right foot. But for others, it can be daunting to take that big leap.

Although one of the big reasons the Core Diet is so successful (besides the fact that we focus on real, nutrient dense foods) is that it is realistic. We allow “windows” for those foods that are not on the top of the “eat this” list, as well as a non-Core meal every once in a while (determined by your RD). However, some individuals can go a bit overboard during the holidays!

It’s hard for me to think about bundling up in layers for a run when its still in the 80’s down here in South Florida. But as I pack for my upcoming New England trip, I am reminded of the weather reports in the rest of the country. Snow is trickling down on branches, and runners are seeing their breath before the words “hello” come out of their mouths as they pass a local running buddy. It’s also hard for many to imagine that sweat loss is going to occur when you are about to endure a run in 35-degree weather. But guess what? You still need to hydrate!

Dress up your Autumn dish with this antioxidant packed vegetable! Last week I suggested a new seasonal dish if you were getting bored with your day to day meals, and this colorful salad can do the same thing! Many of us don’t enough raw veggies in our diet, and carrot sticks dipped in hummus can get very old… Try this as a snack or with any lunch or dinner!  It's perfect for this Halloween season! 

Bring on the pumpkins, Autumn is officially here! Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler, many of you have not yet reached the end of your triathlon season. At this point in the game, you might be a bit tired of your day-to-day foods. This is the perfect time to bring out those “hearty” meals that are still packed with good nutrients to ensure your body stays in peak condition.



People typically eat to satisfy hunger or because it tastes good. But food can serve another purpose. The substances in the foods that you eat can drive different physiological functions. In an effort to understand this, I like to envision the following analogy. Think of your body as a "tool box" and the foods you consume as the "tools". Your body uses the tools in the tool box to "tune it up" and help it run efficiently. So it is important, especially as an endurance athlete, to make sure your tool box is equipped with a large variety of useful tools! Just think, you can't repair a car if the only tools available in the tool box are a hammer and a screwdriver. You might need a wrench, crow bar, blow torch, several different sizes of screws, etc to fix the car.

One of the many concerns I hear from my athletes is, “I can’t seem to drink while running, what is the best strategy?” The answer to that question is whatever way works for you is the best! The important aspect is just getting those fluids and electrolytes down, and to practice that method day in and day out.

When the weather gets hot, there are some basic hydration guidelines you should follow before, during and after your training sessions. However, when the summer months kick into high gear and the rise in temperature and humidity cause you to break out in a sweat the moment you walk out the door, it’s time to step up your hydration plan. Read on for some key points to consider during these summer scorchers:

As the hot weather months approach, we encourage you to move hydration to the top of your athletic priority list. Although hydration is an important factor to your overall health year-round, slight dehydration of even 2% of your body weight can have negative effects, and your chances of this happening in the upcoming summer months are much higher. Staying properly hydrating is the best way to improve your training and race day performance.

When can athletes run into dehydration troubles?

  • More than 1 training session per day
  • Competitions held in hot and/or humid environments (if the athlete is coming from a colder climate, the impact is even larger!)
  • Competitions of long duration such as marathons and triathlons

Boston, MA - The Core Diet, an operating business of QT2 Systems, LLC and a foremost provider of sports nutrition services, is very excited to announce its recent affiliate partnership with OutRival Racing (ORR); offering ORR athletes nutritional support as a part of their training and racing needs. ORR is a Texas-based coaching service providing comprehensive training plans, group programs, and weekly training sessions to triathletes, runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes. ORR consists of ‘first-timers,’ age-groupers, amateur elites, and professionals led by its founder Michelle LeBlanc, and her experienced staff of triathlon-specific and specialty coaches. ORR is the official coach of the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas and Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas.

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