Close Encounters of the Nutritional Kind
Number 1 – Why a blog and a few thoughts on carbohydrate
I must start my first blog with an apology – the name. Yes, it’s obvious (and a little/lot cheesy) but after lots of thought I could not move away from it. Why? Well this is exactly what I want the blog to be about, sharing some encounters from the ‘glamorous’ world of professional/international sport and from my laboratory and how I combine both worlds every day. I guess this is the reason I decided to write a blog. I feel very privileged that I am in a somewhat unique position of spending half of my life performing nutrition/physiology research in a world class research department (Liverpool John Moores University), and the other half working with some of the world’s best athletes. I am often asked if I can bring people on work placements into both worlds which is very hard to do but what I can do is share some of my experiences with you in this blog.
As an academic I spend a lot of my life writing and publishing research papers (GLC Research Gate). In this world a successful paper may get cited 50 times and perhaps read by 100-200 people – mainly other academics. Some less successful papers of mine have been cited less than 10 times and I hate to think how many people have read those ones. And with academic writing there is little room to add thoughts, feelings and dare I say reflections. There is of course the option of a book but these take time to write and longer to publish and to be honest by the time books are published in physiology/nutrition a lot of the contemporary literature is dated. So, a blog seemed a good answer. An opportunity to share some insights immediately that hopefully will be of interest to a wider audience than those who search ‘pubmed’. Don’t get me wrong I still want to publish research papers but this will be my chance to have more freedom in my writing. And for the fellow science geeks who may be reading this I will attach some hyperlinks to key research papers where possible that have helped to inform my opinion.
A few thoughts on carbs.
I am currently sitting on the train travelling home from 2 successful days working with one of the rugby teams I provide nutrition support to. I must say my job is an absolute privilege and one I immensely enjoy. On the train I gave some thought as to what would be a good first topic for this blog – and a meeting with one of the players’ springs to mind. This player is making amazing progress with their diet (and body composition) and when I asked what the main change was the player stated “I am fuelling for the work required”. This of course made me smile with delight. My work colleague and close friend Dr James Morton (Head nutritionist to Team Sky) came up with this phrase and in fact published it in a recent paper he wrote on carbohydrate periodisation. This is fact the second rugby player that has quoted this back to me in the last 4 weeks.
So, what do we mean by fuel for the work required? In simple terms, we mean carbohydrate periodisation. There is huge debate at the moment if athletes should be high or low carbohydrate athletes, where in reality many of the world’s best athletes work in both worlds. They literally can have their “cake and eat it”. Well maybe not cake but you know what I mean. Let’s say they can have their jacket potato and eat it. The thing is athletes have very different demands day to day, much more so than the general public. Take a rugby player, on a rest day he may expend 2800Kcal and on a really hard training day closer to 6,500Kcal. It makes no sense that these days are treated the same but too often athletes are given diet plans that are the same day-to-day with no appreciation of the work required. So, on low intensity days, or rest days then why is there a need to eat a really high carbohydrate diet – answer there is not, but on hard training days when the body needs carbohydrate for the high intensity periods (yes in 2017 the body still does need carbohydrate for high intensity exercise despite what you may have read on twitter) then it is wise to “fuel for the work required”. And that’s it. That’s carbohydrate periodisation. This way we can work really hard on training days and perform well, we can reduce energy intake on lower intensity days so we don’t over eat, and it means we don’t need crazy diets that start banning certain food groups. And when this is done well we see really great results that are long term sustainable.
I guess as an academic practitioner it is amazing to see your groups research being used in the real world and being effective hence I wanted to share this story for my first blog. I have a few ideas for future ones including…
- DXA versus skinfolds – what’s best in the real world
- Is vitamin D assessment necessary?
- How to engage a player that won’t engage?
- The personality types of elite athletes – and how this changes the consultation
- Why changing a diet is stressful – but what can we do to help?
- Why I embraced SENr and why you should as well
- A rugby player in a football world
- Oxidants and antioxidants – separating fact from fiction
…but I also welcome suggestions. Either in the comments box or on twitter. I will also do my best to answer any questions you may have about this blog or future ones.
Can I finish by saying I certainly DO NOT have all the answers or even think I do. The day you think you know it all in this industry is the day you fall behind. This is such a fast world that what we think is true today may be proven wrong tomorrow – and it is OK to change your mind. In fact, we must change our mind when presented with better facts than we had when we first formulated our opinions. All I can do is present to you my interpretation of the literature at the time of writing and show how I try to use this in my applied practice. I promise you honesty, unique insights and a bit of fun along the way.
My crazy world. One day I can be working with the world’s best sportspeople and
the next day taking pieces of muscle out of participants to study molecular signalling of adaptions. Plus I do some teaching in between at LJMU. Crazy but fun and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
Until the next Close Encounter of the Nutritional Kind…..