A discussion about nutrition for high-performance athletes
Image: For Lorraine Moller, four times Olympian, and winner of multiple international marathons, and other races, including the Boston, London and Osaka marathons, nutrition was always an important part of her preparation
We are looking after an increasing number of athletes who are aiming for great heights. Four more have just made their respective Olympic HP squads and all our athletes have passed their drugs testing with flying colours, as was expected - of course! Sports represented include swimming, running, Kayak, cycling, triathlon, Iron Man, mountain biking and rowing.
There have been more successes, some best described as being rather unusual, such as Grant and Charlie who have just completed rowing the best part of non-stop all the way from Singapore to Darwin. Yes, it took them three months while enduring the most extreme conditions, sweating liters and liters of water day and night, while living on freeze dried meals and a few very special nutritional supplements. They made it and both are looking great, despite everything! Grant is about to start cycling across the top of Oz, the Land of Fire, then rowing all the way NZ. Better him than me, I reckon!
Image: sweaty and smelly Grant and Charlie, in the midst of rowing all the way from Singapore to Australia .
We are hair nutrition testing Gant and his small band of intrepid crew mates as the journey proceeds and adjusting their nutrition accordingly to ensure they are in peak condition despite the extremes. It is working a treat so far!
You can learn more about Grant's extreme expedition by going here: https://axeoneverest.com/
Turbo-boosting her performance the healthy way
Here is what one athlete had to say in response to her nutrition programme (she is now on the brink of stardom):
I know I've said things are going well, but I did a session yesterday that I can't quite believe.
I've had a really good week, of all my sessions going really well, and yesterday one of my sessions was a bike (wind trainer) /run brick session. In November last year I did a similar session and the bike part of the session my average for the bike part I averaged 34/35kph for both the bike parts (around 10-20mins for each), and yesterday my bike speed was 47/48kph.
It just seems like such a significant increase in pace that I could hold :) It's such a weird feeling to be feeling fit and have so much energy for session after session :)"
Nutrition is huge when it is done properly. It gives the athlete a big advantage over others who ignore this aspect of health and performance. But, like training, it takes a long time to realise the investment. Unless one cheats with illegal performance-enhancing drugs, the road to athletic fame requires years of investment by way of training, training and more training, and constant attention to one's nutrition.
Nutrition really comes into it's own for older athletes
Young people have the benefit of youthful vigour; they will perform very well regardless of what rubbish they may put into their bodies; but the game quickly begins to change from about 28 years of age. Few athletes are able to continue to perform at their best once into their 30's, regardless of motivation, due to depletion-related fatigue, unresolved injuries and looming health issues, all of which can be countered by smart functional nutrition.
According to the experts, supplements don't work
Drugs Free NZ, nutritionist, Jenny Pierce, and athlete, Elisa McCartney, are teaming up to run a campaign warning athletes that supplements are potentially hazardous and most probably don't work, etc. They are saying that athletes can get everything they need from supermarket food.
This may or may not be the case, for them but my testing of thousands of active, and not-so-active people, tells me otherwise for those I work with. Further, the results of our subsequent intervening with individually tailored functional nutrition programmes yield sometimes gob-smacking results. Please read some of the testimonials here, telling the stories of numerous people whose lives have been turned around by functional nutrition.
The probable reason nutrition fails for these experts is because they are guessing far too much, referring to the least helpful of testing modalities, such as blood tests, and blindly using the extremely restricted one-size-fits-all nutrition formulas that we were all taught at university.
I have since mostly discarded these bland guidelines as being next to useless and often far from unhealthy. These may include measures such as dosing the young athlete to the eyeballs with egg white, sugar lollies, creatine and caffeine! A common measure that is way past it's use-by date is dosing up on sodium bicarbonate prior to a race! That is a ridiculous attempt at bluntly manipulating an athlete's physiology, but still used, even at the Olympic level. Gosh, some experts even quietly endorse the irresponsible use of liver and kidney damaging anti-inflammatory medications prior to competition!
These experts, who are in positions of authority, have enormous influence and can make life difficult for "non-conformists", such as myself. Who does a person believe - Gary, or the Professor in Human Nutrition with the tired bags under his/her eyes and the hint of a pot belly? Of course the correct answer is "Gary!"
Soaring sales of sugar airplanes
One expert in sports nutrition, working out of the University of Otago really liked the idea of eating sugar airplane lollies at half times for sports like netball. Next thing you know, every graduate in sports nutrition from Otago is telling athletes to gobble these lollies. 50-100 graduates per year, all extolling the virtues of airplane lollies at half time is a huge force of influence that is near impossible to counter.
I know, this is a ridiculous, if not amusing example of how experts can end up having a huge influence that is far greater than what their actual experience and expertise warrants, but there is a serious side to what is now a huge health problem in New Zealand and elsewhere - sugar, sugar and more sugar!
Airplanes have no nutritional merits, they rot teeth, set a person up with habits that lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease later in life, and it causes blood sugar to spike and plunge which is just no good for consistent performance as an athlete.
A nutrition expert simply should know and do much better than this.
Image: are you one of those people, out of many thousands of blind believers, who is prepared to challenge the "truisms" that are being constantly uttered by those in positions of Great Authority?
My response to messages from "institutional" nutritionists, and various blow-hard experts who parrot tired old mantras such as "expensive urine", is one of great delight. Let's answer these tired old truths by quietly going about our business, taking our performances to the next level, kicking butt as we go!
Be wary of advice about health and fitness from any person of authority, regardless of title, who appears to be less healthy than you. This includes your nutrition experts.
It has been said that as much as 70% of current health advice will later be shown to be either partially or fully wrong. I have made it my personal commitment to acknowledge without hesitation my mistakes when I find that I got it wrong - and I sure have gotten things very wrong at times!
Being able to say,
"Sorry - I got it wrong",
is a sign of maturity and is the next step for progress.
On the drugs thing, I'm very, very aware of this issue and will continue to ensure that there is nothing dodgy that comes from me that may pass your lips! I detest drugs cheats.
I'm not in the business of juicing athletes with anything that might be described as a stimulant or hormone. Just high-quality nutrient-packed functional foods.
At the most, there may be a little caffeine, here and there, but no more than a cup of tea or coffee equivalent.