Look out Tokyo - here we come (updated 210321)!
Updated: Mar 20
I've been meaning to write to the Olympians and other serious athletes we've been working with to cover a few topics of interest. Assisting elite athletes is interesting, but more of a hobby than a business. COVID has made us far too busy by creating a seemingly endless stream of stressed and exhausted people seeking our help. So, here is an informative article instead of writing and answering a lot of emails to athletes?
The road to the Tokyo Olympics has been long and paved with uncertainty. Many athletes aiming for Olympic glory have had difficulty maintaining their focus, intensity, and consistency. This represents an opportunity for those who have been holding steadfast. While others are fumbling and bumbling through their workouts and feeling sad and confused, this is the time for you to bump your training - your fitness to the next level.
Delays, be they lockdowns or anything else, present the opportunity to get the basics optimised, such as topping up your nutrient tanks, dealing with troublesome injuries and correcting things like muscle imbalances and polishing technical skills. For those of you who have done so and continue to do so, this is translating into impressive improvements in performance.
About Performance-Enhancing Drugs, possibly hidden in your Supplements:
This topic annoys me and gives me a headache whenever I think of it! The first thing to say is this: Never has an athlete under my care produced a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance. And by continuing to follow a few commonsense guidelines I am sure they never will.
What's the problem with supplements?
It is an over-blown threat because most drugs cheats resort to the "contaminated supplements strategy" to either avoid a ban or get a reduced sentence. The possibility of genuine "contamination" is real. Although the risk may be small, we can not ignore it.
Please read this:
As a general rule of thumb avoid:
Weight loss supplements.
Energy-boosters, pre-workout supplements.
Made in China.
Cheap supermarket products.
Anything from a factory where drugs, including things like body-building supplements are manufactured/stored alongside nutritional supplements.
Anything: "Hey, you've got to try this!" offered by the muscle-head in the gym.
I realise you are all under immense pressure to avoid supplements that have not been batch-tested and certified to be clean, but where does this begin and end. Does it mean you must avoid blackcurrant powder packaged as a performance supplement, unless it has been batch- tested? Is it then okay or not to eat the whole berries? How about taking a concentrated broccoli sprout extract (sulforaphane) in a capsule? Sorry, this is not permitted, but how about eating a bucket of sprouts? Its ridiculous!
High performance coaches, trainers, nutritionists and medical doctors can not risk straying into the territory of supplements not certified clean. We understand this. But this means the most beneficial nutritional supplements do not make the list and never will. If I was to stick to batch-tested products only, I could not do my job.
The first rule in preparing an athlete for high performance sports is to ensure they are in perfect health, that there are no lingering side-effects from past conditions like Glandular Fever, to ensure strong bones and joints, to control inflammation, or to better manage PMS and heavy periods, as examples, and to ensure their thousands of "nutrient reservoirs" and filled to overflowing. We cannot do this with the limited range of permitted supplements. Potent nutraceuticals just don't make the list and never will. The high cost and complexity of repeated batch testing and the limited market ensures this.
So, how do you get your nutrients without risking ingesting a banned substance?
First, do some basic testing to determine your actual nutrient needs and take only what you require (You have all done this but, for many, it is time for repeat testing to help adjust your course). The Interclinical Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis is the most useful and the most cost-effective tool. Once you have determined your current nutrient needs (it keeps changing), taking into account your sport, your training and your health - of course - we can then decide on the best combinations of diet and supplementation, using products from the most trusted sources.
Second, use trusted suppliers that either make or source products that are manufactured to the highest quality, including purity. These include NutriSearch, Pacific Health, Douglas Laboratories, Dr James Wilson and Interclinical Laboratories.
A great and enduring athlete is foremost a very healthy person
It may take several months, or even a few years, to get you healthy, full of beans, and with nutrient levels optimum. Once this is solidly in place, the emphasis can then shift to high performance mode, or the icing on the cake, in terms of nutrition. This involves what may be a new range of supplements, layered on top of the basics.
A good rule of thumb is this:
As the intensity, duration and frequency of physical effort ramps up, so should the nutrient-density of your food, including supplementation.
Race horse trainers know this, but somehow humans fail to apply this to themselves. Typically, as energy needs skyrocket, the nutrient-density of food proportionately declines while empty calories increase.
Sure, as workloads increase, you must increase the energy coming into the system, but I want you to ask this of everything you eat: "Where are the nutrients in what I'm about to eat?" Where you can't quite get all the nutrients from food to sustain health and performance, this is where supplementation comes in to make up for the deficit. The older you are, the more important this becomes. Got the idea?
A few last words
Enduring performance comes for those who steadily and consistently invest in their health and similarly in their training. Most athletes have produced their best before 28 years of age, struggling with form or even retired, which is crazy. Don't be one of these. Nutritionally and training-wise, those who fail are the ones who go too hard out, too soon; quit, then go hard-out again, then health fails or injuries happen and heal poorly. A few cycles of this and the quitting is permanent. This is more akin to "crisis management" than sensible planning and investment. While there is a time and place for crisis management, don't make a habit of it!