Category Archives: SPORT NUTRITION


Melbourne Marathon (18th October 2015) Recap

It’s 3 days post Melbourne Marathon today at time of writing this! Here’s a recap of the race, mainly from a nutritional perspective for your benefit and entertainment!
Race morning was Sunday and I was extremely nervous and a little emotional standing on the start line with my good friend and training partner Amanda from GIYA running. It was unusual for me to feel nervous, but I had a time in mind, not just intent to finish. In addition (here’s a confession you’ll love) my nutrition in the 2 weeks leading up had not been ideal. My usual, fairly clean (but still delicious) balanced meals had been interrupted with bouts of ‘picking’ on cheese and biscuits, the odd spoonful of ice cream usually reserved for the occasional dessert and nibbles of chocolate here and there (if you just ‘nibble’ it doesn’t seem as bad right because you don’t really have any idea how much you are eating!?) This was a bit weird for me because I rarely suffer from self-control issues around food and I know the consequences for me when I eat badly (anxiety, misery, absolutely no energy whatsoever). I truly put it down to a little self sabotage and as a result I had been feeling heavier and lethargic in the days leading up to the race. Nevertheless it was race day, nothing could change what I had done and I did feel ready to run.
We crossed under the official start line and I began passing people up the side of the pack straight away. The first 10km passed uneventfully. Except for the fact that I was running fast. For me that is. I needed to average about 6min kms to come in at my desired time but some of my kms were as quick as 5:20. I was arguing with myself in my own head about pulling back, but I didn’t feel as though I was exerting myself so I figured I should just run where I was comfortable.
Once I headed into my second ‘race’ for the day (I had divided the marathon up into 4 races: 0-10km, 10-20km, 20-30km and 30-40km) I made a pact to try to hold 5:40kms and at this point I started drinking (water only) from the aid stations every 5kms. There is so much research around hydration in sport. I tend to focus on drinking to thirst and being conscious of getting some electrolyte in to maintain the ‘balance’ of water to salts. Hyponatraemia (basically too much water, not enough salt) is a more serious (and common) issue than dehydration in running despite the fact that many people drink to the point of being waterlogged. I was disappointed to see that the race ‘electrolyte’ at the aid stations was Gatorade when there are so many truly scientifically formulated sports drinks now available that would be far better than the sugar water provided. I had 2 Hammer Endurolyte tablets on hand that I took at around 25km so I didn’t have to rely on the sticky orange solution. It was lucky I did have these on hand – I was thirstier than normal and drinking from most of the aid stations. I put this down to not hydrating properly in the days leading up the race despite telling my clients to do this themselves; I had been travelling for work the week before but still, that’s no real excuse.
Close to the 30km mark my brain was on overdrive trying to work out whether I would need to take on some sort of carbohydrate fuel and when. My first marathon I had done without fuel, but I had been running faster than intended today so I was wary of churning through my glycogen stores. I was visualising my ‘metabolic fuel burning curve’ (below) and trying to do the math – it was a great distraction! I would normally go into a race with a homemade gel, but again due to logistics leading up to race day this had been impossible. I had a Vfuel gel (one of the most natural on the market) tucked into my sports bra and I had a ‘slurp’ of this at about 30km. Well, I think I managed a quarter of it and then I chucked it – my goodness gels do not float my boat! I grabbed a banana off one of the aid stations at 35km and had 1 mouthful of this. So not a lot of fuel all up – maybe 15g of carbohydrate, but it was enough to get me through and maintaining consistency. Without it, I think I may have hit the wall a few kms from the end. Oh and my breakfast on race morning (5:30am) was quinoa porridge – a balanced meal with quinoa (carbs/ proteins), some raw protein powder (protein), coconut oil (Medium chain Triglyceride; fat) and berries (carbs). A ‘practised’ meal; that is I knew I could run on it and feel fine.

At about 38.5km I felt a ‘shudder’ in my legs and I thought ‘oh no, am I about to bonk!?’ I have only experienced the true awfulness of bonking once in my entire life and that was earlier this year at River Run 100 at 23km (of a 25km leg). I had been exhausted in the week leading up and had not refuelled well after any exercise sessions so I figured my glycogen stores were kaput. It was actually a great lesson because it made me aware of how truly soul destroying and ‘real’ bonking is and more determined to help endurance athletes to preserve carb sources. Thank goodness, the shudder radiated down my body and left – it may have simply been the shock of a small incline as you round the botanical gardens and head for the last 3km.
If I could find the young boy who was handing out mini, lime, frozen icy poles at 39km I would hug and kiss him, because it was lovely to have a mouthful of sweet lime ice melt into my mouth heading back into the city towards the MCG. I always feel devastated for the people who are walking at this point… imagine getting that close to the end and being on track for around 4 hours and then having to walk. That’s the difference between a 4 hour and a 4:45 finish. That’s the challenge of the marathon I guess… is it more physical or more mental? Hmm… another argument you could have in your own end during a race to distract from the pain :).
Through the tunnel and into the MCG we went. When you see the finish you can finally relax and realise you will make it :). My splits were fairly even and I was so pleased to still be running strong all the way to the end. I crossed under at 4:11:38 and my official time was 4:10:16. In Canberra, my first marathon I did in 4:39 so quite a big PB.
I had a H2Pro500 electrolyte tablet (I now stock these) and some more water about half an hour after race finish but I wasn’t in state to eat much besides a little bit of fruit. We did have some champagne in our room around an hour after finish time; not the ideal rehydration strategy but it slid down quite easy all the same.  Lunch was fish and quinoa salad (with lots of salt) and dinner was an amazing Tortellini which I thoroughly enjoyed. Now I have returned to my ‘normal, balanced’ approach although a few extra carbs in there to replenish lost stores. I hit the pool today and I am looking forward to running again, which I guess is the best outcome after a marathon.
This is my race story not yours and your requirements may be different, however there are certain fundamentals I do believe in. This includes the idea that everyone (athletes included) should eat actual food (not ‘food like products’ that contain chemicals not ingredients) and should train and eat to preserve glycogen for as long as possible to get through an endurance event. Sports nutrition companies have plenty of people conned – I overhead lots of conversations during the run that made me chuckle a bit such as ‘oh I need to have my 4th gel for the day (this was at 20km?)’ and ‘I have a banana, 6 gels, a Mars bar and snakes so I should be right.’ The truth is, we have overcomplicated things a little and with GI distress on the rise, bonking still a common occurrence and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) happening during races you do need to think about your nutrition just like you think about your training. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to be well practiced, convenient, palatable, calculated and preferably real. In next week’s newsletter I am going to talk a little bit more about what is actually in these gels that we are told to throw back like there’s no tomorrow
With that in mind, my next metabolic testing day is the 14th of November and if you have big plans for next year then let’s start nailing your plan NOW. Get set up with a training program (courtesy of the sports scientists I work with) and nutrition program that works for you and get educated along the way. Book here and I’ll chat to you soon.



Resting Metabolic Testing: My Results, Then And Now

I know I bang on about metabolism testing with the team at JupiterHealth, but here are three reasons why I love it:

  1. It’s a test that gives us access to heaps of data that relates to your metabolism and your fitness and training ability*. When interpreted by professionals who understand every aspect of it, you can use the data in so many ways to improve your body composition, your performance and fitness, but above all else your health overall.

(*Note: downloading an internet program and entering your height, age and desired weight loss is a generic approach which may offer results for some but not many. Trust me, I’ve seen about 30 different test results now and we are ALL completely unique.)

  1. It looks at overall fat burning both at rest and during exercise. Calorie expenditure is one thing, but high fat burning ability is an indication of overall health. It generally means inflammation is lower, cellular respiration is better, mitochondrial efficiency is higher and overall energy levels will be far greater.
  1. Because the team at JupiterHealth are quite frankly awesome. They offer great service, their equipment is state of the art and Mark and Therese are true pioneers in the sphere of metabolism testing. Their approach is holistic and offers sustainable, long term results not overnight fixes. Mark is constantly updating the exercise programs based on new research; he’s pretty much a walking encyclopaedia of the latest exercise physiology research papers.

Oh and a fourth reason, the reason for this blog, is that I have benefited greatly from having my own metabolic testing done. It’s helped me improve my running, train more efficiently and effectively and most definitely resolve some fatigue issues I have battled since 2013*. (A story for another time: motto of the story, don’t expect to strip back to 10% body fat for competition body sculpting and not pay a large price).

So, I am now able to compare data after retesting my resting metabolism today at the centre. Here are the results from October last year:

Oct results

And here are the results from today’s test, 15 weeks later:

Now results

What’s changed and why is it significant?

The most significant change is my metabolism switching from a 60% carbohydrate engine to a 60% fat burning engine (at rest). My RQ,* a measurement which is increasingly being recognised as an important health marker, has dropped from 0.88 to 0.81. A higher RQ (closer to 1.0) indicates sluggish cellular respiration,* high inflammation and oxidative stress. It may also suggest other more serious underlying conditions including insulin resistance but that isn’t relevant in my case. It may manifest differently person to person but 2 common symptoms include fatigue and difficulty shifting body fat. In fact, JupiterHealth have done extensive work with clients suffering from chronic fatigue and often see carbohydrate burning as high as 90% in these cases. (*RQ: a measurement of the relevant amounts of macronutrients utilised by an individual based on carbon dioxide produced divided by oxygen consumed).

This is a significant change because it has greatly improved my wellbeing in the last 3 months. My energy levels have been far better than they were 3 months ago as has my mental health (read more here). My heart rate during exercise has come down a lot which will show up even more when I redo my exercise test. This in turn has benefitted my recovery and made training far more enjoyable and less stressful on my body. I have actually reduced my training load by 30% in the last couple of months but I am getting much more out of each session. Finally, an added bonus is weight loss of (now) more than 4kg. 59-60kg is basically ideal for me so I’ll be keeping it there.

Besides the HR training program issued to me by JupiterHealth (available to any of my clients who have their testing done) I have changed my nutrition a little by fuelling my high intensity sessions better and focusing on some key nutrients I think I was lacking including iodine.* I have also been taking Lipoic Acid*, CoEnzymeQ10*, 600mg of magnesium* with GABA*, a probiotic* and vitamin C* daily. It may sound like a lot, but there were other factors that I needed to address and this was my personal prescription. Please do not take this as individual supplement advice – consult a qualified Nutritionist or Naturopath and purchase evidence based supplementation, preferably from ‘practitioner only’  ranges (available only on script from a health practitioner – avoid nasty additives and supplements that contain trace nutrients only).

Oh, I can’t leave this blog without mentioning the fact that my resting energy expenditure has decreased from 1536 to 1305 calories per day. Although I am more about nutrients then calories this is still important because it indicates my metabolism has slowed down a little since last testing. My overall mass has decreased so naturally, my body needs less fuel, BUT this decrease of more than 200 calories per day still represents something I need to work on. I am fairly certain it reflects a loss of muscle mass, having only recommenced weight training in the last 10 days after a 6 week break. On Monday, I plan to scan my muscle and fat ratio in clinic and work on building up my muscle mass again to increase this resting energy expenditure.

I have a number of clients getting retested with JupiterHealth in coming weeks and I am looking forward to seeing their changes. This represents just a tip of the iceberg as far as the metabolic testing, but I hope it’s been of some interest to you.

Iodine: required for healthy levels of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones, making up more than 50% of these hormones

Lipoic Acid: powerful antioxidant and cofactor in healthy mitochondrial activity which has been shown in research studies to assist with both fatty acid and glucose metabolism. Specifically very effective in the treatment of Diabetes, often helping to reduce blood sugar levels and overall HbA1c.

CoQ10: Critical nutrient involved in energy production at the mitochondrial level, facilitating electron transport in the production of ATP. A key nutrient for endurance athletes in dosages of 150mg, preferably a mix of the active and inactive form. Recommended for people on statin drugs as statins appear to reduce the availability of CoQ10 in the body and may contribute to myopathy. 

Magnesium: the majority benefit from supplemental magnesium as its lacking in modern farming practises due to depleted soil levels. Relaxant of muscles, blood vessels, nerve conduction and many other processes. Indicated for high blood pressure, stress, muscle pain, muscle cramps, headaches, period pain, etc. Correct form is critical; magnesium glycinate, citrate and chelate show high absorbency. Best to avoid magnesium carbonate as may not be highly absorbable.

GABA: gamma-aminobutric acid. The chief of the inhibitory neurotransmitters, which I appear to be highly deficient in. Excellent for anxiety, stress, ‘calming the chatter,’ night terrors and various mental health issues. Should be practitioner prescribed and compounded carefully with supporting nutrients.

Probiotic: Various strains available (many – so again, get the right one from a professional otherwise you are wasting your money) for gut health.

Vitamin C: for adrenal support and immunity, as well as antioxidant status.

Categories Diabetes, SPORT NUTRITION

Jason’s Story-Type 1 Diabetic Marathon Runner

“The key to living with Diabetes lies in taking responsibility, owning the condition and being accountable. It’s not about blame and it’s not about excuses. It’s not something outside of your own body. You have to own it and be proud of it. Embrace it and live it. Diabetes is a reason to be healthy and fit; it’s a motivation not an excuse.” (Jason Lonergan)

Jason (right) during Noosa Half Marathon (24.5.2015)

This is the story of Jason. Husband, soon to be Father, 3 hour marathon runner and type 1 Diabetic. Jason came to see me about 2 months ago to fine tune his nutrition and his story is so exceptional I asked if I could share it with the world.

Let’s start at the beginning. Jason was not diagnosed until the age of 21, (1992) but his 2 brothers and Mother were diabetics so he was all too familiar with the condition. Growing up, Jason said his family would focus on eating 6 meals per day, all centred around carbohydrates, as instructed. His brothers and mother would eat a set portion of carbohydrates per meal and inject insulin accordingly. The main dietary advice outside of the standard dietary recommendations, was to avoid all sugar and sweets unless treating a low, in which case bread and honey with an iced coffee or cake were generally used. There was no preventative advice offered to Jason because 3 out of 5 members of the immediate family already had the condition and so Jason was deemed unlikely to develop it based on statistics.

Prior to diagnoses, Jason went off to boarding school and distinctly remembers eating a lot of filler foods like white bread with every meal and copious amounts of dairy. His school life was extremely active both mentally and physically, playing every sport known to man and doing well in class. In his early 20s, the habits of a typical bachelor began to set in. Although still very active, something was creeping up on him without his knowing. A weeklong skiing trip with mates turned into an unforgettable occasion for all the wrong reasons. By the end of the week, some tell-tale symptoms had set in including unquenchable thirst, the constant desire to pee, hunger and over the proceeding weeks, blurred vision, a mottle coloured tongue. After a few weeks of this, the penny dropped and Jason suspected diabetes. Unlike many people, Jason understood diabetes and the symptoms, which was lucky. Jason tested his own blood sugar levels using his Mum’s monitor and sure enough the levels were sky high (24mmol/ml). After a phone call to the family’s Endocrinologist Jason had his first shot of insulin, which has been an undeniable part of his life ever since. There was no face to face appointment at this time; simply a verbal diagnosis of type 1 Diabetes and a prescription for insulin.  The family Endocrinologist knew that Jason was in good hands with his Mum. An appointment was arranged a few weeks later and a trial of high carbohydrates with moderate insulin dosage was established. Jason was informed to stay safe and run the BG levels towards the higher spectrum of 8-12mmol/L without concern until he settled into a pattern and learnt how his body reacted to the so many facets of diabetes control. Jason says that everyone is different and all diabetics need to take their own initiative in understanding what works and doesn’t work for them.

Over the following years, Jason continued in much the same fashion. He followed what would have been considered a fairly healthy diet; low in fat, moderate protein and carbohydrates from wholegrains, dairy, fruits and cereals. The whole theme was focused on eating carbohydrates. ‘That’s what we counted at every meal’, Jason says. He felt healthy, looked healthy and was happy. There was never any suggestion to learn more about diabetes, there was no cure and treatment processes were slowly getting more efficient and mobile. That was about it. Just keep on doing what you’re doing is what Jason heard time and time again.

Early in his years of being a diabetic, Jason consulted a diabetes dietician to learn more about the disease and how to manage it better. He was given a basic explanation of what diabetes was and how a diabetic must eat carbohydrates and manage BG levels with injecting insulin. Most importantly avoid quick acting carbs like sugars etc. Recommendations were made to consume diet soft drinks or artificially sweetened foods to compliment the every day diet that was and still is the common way.  He was instructed to eat more carbohydrates before and after training to ‘top up’, keep his fat intake low and bolus with insulin accordingly for the carbohydrates on the plate. Besides ‘eat a slice of bread instead of a donut’ this was the extent of the nutrition advice Jason received and it didn’t help with diabetes management or his overall health. “Nutrition as I understand it now, was never suggested’, says Jason. At this point, his HbA1c* was sitting around 7.5 to 7.8, which is quite good and often meant his advisors didn’t consider providing him with any further assistance, considering Jason as doing everything right. There were far more challenging patients to work with, they felt, so he was advised to just keep on doing what he was doing.

In 2010 Jason’s Endocrinologist reviewed his long term HbA1C results to discover a marker indicating Coeliac Disease. At this point, Jason was unaware this was even being tested and was shocked to see that his Endocrinologist had never mentioned it before. Apparently long-term diabetics are very susceptible to developing Coeliac’s Disease. “I didn’t even know what it was, let alone, that Diabetics are very susceptible”, says Jason.

After a biopsy Jason was officially diagnosed Coeliac. Jason was now challenged with not being allowed to eat glutinous foods such as bread, pasta, cereals, and many, many other foods that contain gluten. Jason had NO SYMPTOMS, no noticeable irritable bowl, lack of energy, foggy brain, bloating or any noticeable deficiencies. But capturing this disease early meant that it was manageable and not health threatening. As long as all gluten was never consumed, Jason could live as well as he had been. “The question is, why wasn’t this ever mentioned before, why was I never told to reduce gluten and manage my diet to protect from developing this disease, when there is a known link between diabetes and coeliac disease?” There were no dietary recommendations given, except contact the Australian Coeliac Society and start learning from there. That’s it.

Jason was convinced that there was still a better way to manage diabetes, and now coeliac disease as well. So he took matters into his own hands. He consulted an open minded dietician specialising in improved athletic performance including aspects such as muscle development, fat loss, eating the right forms of fat, protein and carbohydrates for athletes. This dietician encouraged more balanced meals; including good fats and protein and less starchy carbohydrates. Portion sizes were also reduced and over a period of 18 months, Jason became leaner, dropping 8kg of body fat and gaining 5kg of lean muscle. At 70kg, his body composition was spot on for running fast.  By this stage Jason had competed in many triathlons, half marathons and 3 full marathons. His times were getting faster and faster and it wasn’t because of his training alone. The diet was helping him.

Alongside the work Jason did with this dietician, he began looking for other sources of information to better manage his condition. He stumbled across The Wellness Guys podcast (episode 27 with Mark Sisson to be precise) and a whole new world of wellness opened up. The constant stream of free information available astounded Jason and he began to truly understand complex issues including cholesterol, the impact of saturated fats, the importance of sleep and food quality.  He had an ‘ah hah’ moment, saying to himself that “it’s all got to be simple, life has to be simple, eating has to be simple, it’s got to be about ‘just real food’ and nothing processed, nothing man made.” That clarity has stuck with Jason every since. This was the catalyst for more changes including a switch to mostly organic foods including grass fed meats, more animal fat sources, high quality dairy and fermented foods and a complete shift away from processed foods including cereals.

From a numbers perspective, Jason’s results continued to improve. He found that his blood sugars were more stable with less ‘high’ highs and ‘low’ lows. His HbA1c dropped to range between 6.7 & 7.0 and his blood cholesterol continued to improve; HDL increased and LDL came down. With each visit to his Endocrinologist, he would ask (and continues to ask) ‘what can I do better?’ And despite improving with each visit the answer is always the same; ‘I’m not sure Jason, you are doing everything you can. You are doing better than everyone else. Just keep doing it’. ‘Why, when my results are getting better and better and I’m telling my Endocrinologist that its my diet helping me achieve these amazing results, that my Endocrinologist glazes over and is stumped as to what to say or do?’, asks Jason. ‘There’s no connection between nutrition and better health or better diabetes management it seems….but why?’

The next big ‘ah hah’ moment was when Jason began to consider fat as a potential fuel source for his running, instead of glucose. It made sense from a diabetic perspective and he began experimenting. In 2013 he ran a marathon on nothing but 4 salt tablets and water, finishing in 3 hours 8 minutes. His pre-race fuel was a combination of macadamia butter on Gluten Free toast plus a little salt. His blood glucose reading at the start of the race was the same at the end (around 5.7mmol/L). In 2014 Jason completed another marathon in 3 hours, 1 minute. This time Jason prepared his own gels to fuel himself during the race. His homemade gels were made of real foods like chia seeds, coconut milk and oil, blueberries, salt and a small amount of banana. This is when the idea of fuelling with fat was tested and Jason felt it was working. Jason began working with me in April 2015 and we are refining an LCHF nutrition approach (low carbohydrate high fat) to keep him well fuelled for his exercise and reduce his dependency on insulin. Last week, he ran a total of 100km and did 4 yoga classes. His longest run was 32.5km which he did using water alone. Here are Jason’s comments below:

“This was a big week running wise. In the past month I’ve increased my weekly Km dramatically from 50-55km to 70km up to 82km to 94km to 101km this week. I ran on Sat with very little fatigue and finished the last 8km at my marathon race pace of 4min 5sec to 4min 10sec/km and felt I could have kept running once finished. I felt no hunger, no weakness and still plenty of energy when completed. I tested by BG straight afterward at 7.8mmol/L, it was excellent. I had a simple coffee before another 1hr 15min of YOGA. I have not had as much energy in Yoga for a long time. I was more focused, more in tuned with the movements and held my positions with much better form than I feel I have done in the past few weeks. When I was finished I was not hungry but was looking forward to having something to eat. I had plenty of energy still and felt very clear minded with no soreness in the legs which I usually do after a long run. Particularly in the achilles tendon area. I spent the rest of the day on my feet at the shops and only felt tired from about 3pm onwards.”

Jason’s energy, vitality, mental clarity and running performance have been exceptional for some time and they only seem to improve with each step forward. With the recent tweaks to his diet, he feels calm and confident and well satiated. He hopes to further reduce inflammation, training stress, and his dependency on insulin. We hope that his HbA1c will continue to come down. Still hungry for more knowledge, this month Jason is really focusing on his gut health, aware that a healthy gut is imperative for wellness on all levels. Homemade kefir and sugar free kombuchi are on the brew as are sauerkraut and kimchi.

Jason said he cried when he was first diagnosed, back in 1992, but that was the only time he felt down about being Diabetic. The shock was overwhelming at first as he thought he was eating well, based on the standard diet recommendations, he was active in both work and sports, his weight was excellent and he had a healthy outlook. But ever since then, he has embraced his condition, using it to stoke the fire of desire to be as healthy and as fit as he possibly can be. Jason says some of his piers will comment that he is a little fitness fanatic and that they couldn’t do what he does. Jason simply says with a smile, that he has to, because he is a diabetic.  So rather than use his condition as an excuse to not get out there and do extraordinary things, he uses it as a reason! “That usually shuts them up. But in truth, I do it because I want to live for a very long time. Not only that, I want to live very well for a very long time. There’s too much good out there to miss by being sick and guided into early aging by ignoring the real benefits of eating, exercising, and living intelligently. Everyone can do it, it’s a choice we all have.”

He is disappointed that the information he has learnt in recent years wasn’t offered to him much earlier.  He’s had to find the information himself; no medical expert has ever mentioned that diet or nutrition can help you live well. Like so many of us, he wonders why nutrition and lifestyle are not an integral part of diabetes management. Diabetes is a condition directly affected by the food one eats… and yet a conversation about diet is often overlooked. Furthermore, why is carbohydrate reduction looked on with disdain by so many health professionals, when diabetics are incapable of processing carbohydrates effectively? These are some of the questions that we need to address and implement subsequent changes to achieve effective management of this condition. Managing diabetes is not about the foreseeable development of Coeliac Disease, amputating limbs or laser eye surgery; rather, these are the consequences that we can collectively work together to avoid in the first place.

Please know that this article is intended to inspire you as the reader and open your mind to some new possibilities.  This is not individual medical advice and you should always consult qualified health professionals before changing your diet, lifestyle or medications. This is not intended as a dig at modern medicine on any level; insulin is a lifesaver for diabetics and in some cases, so is surgery. However, it is time to acknowledge that diet and lifestyle education must become an integral part of the health care system. The management of chronic diseases, Diabetes and beyond, will benefit enormously and people’s quality of life can be improved immeasurably. Whether you are a Diabetic yourself or not, there is no doubt that Jason’s story is inspiring and I am sure you join me in thanking him for sharing it with us. As Jason has attested, knowledge is empowerment and will enable you to do some extraordinary things if you see opportunities as opposed to obstacles in your path.

*HbA1c levels are not influenced by daily fluctuations of blood sugar levels; they reflect the average glucose levels over the prior six to eight weeks and as such they are a key measurement for diabetics. Complications are lessened if HbA1c is below 7 and normal is considered to be below 6.

Categories Diabetes, SPORT NUTRITION, SUGAR

Metabolic Efficiency For Athletes… A New World, An Endless Fuel Supply…

My last article ‘I ran a Marathon on a Coffee Bean’ sparked quite a lot of interest. My approach is not exactly conventional and the article was absent of many key concepts in traditional sports nutrition namely carb loading, gels and that magic number of ‘grams per hour.’ In fact, if we have a closer look at the current conventional recommendations listed here, my suggested daily carbohydrate intake is 360g per day. I was interested to see what these recommendations would actually equate to on a plate.  Firstly, I established that in order to meet these kinds of numbers, I would have to include what I refer to as ‘dirty carbohydrates’ from cereals, highly refined grains, low fat dairy, sugary yoghurts and the dreaded sports drinks.

This is what it could look like:

Breakfast: 1 and a half serves of Nutri Grain (40.5g) with 1 and a half cups of low fat milk (20g). Total carbs=60.5 grams

Snack: Smoothie consisting of 1 and a half bananas (34g) plus a cup of low fat milk (12g) plus a tub of low fat yoghurt (25g) and some protein powder. Total carbs =71 grams

Lunch: 1 sandwich with 2 slices of bread (35g) plus an orange (12g). Total = 47gcarbs!

Afternoon snack: 4 x Rice cakes (30g) with nut butter. Total carbs = 30g

Post training drink: Gatorade (30g). Total carbs = 30g

Dinner: ½ a cup of cooked rice (30g) with 2 potatoes (34g) plus meat and other vegetables (negligible). Total carbs = 64g

Supper: Milo 1 serving (12g) with 1 cup of milk (12g). Total carbs = 24g

Daily total of carbs = 326.5 grams (please note that this is for example purposes only and the numbers listed are averages of major brands).

I still haven’t quite hit my daily quota but I am sure you get the idea. I’m honestly convinced that if I followed these kinds of recommendations for just a few short weeks, my fairly consistent 60kg would soon be approaching 70kg and so on. Not to mention the belly bloat from this much wheat and gluten. In addition to daily carbohydrate recommendations, traditional sports nutrition indicates that during an endurance event, I may require up to 90g of carbohydrates per hour. So hang on, whilst I’m out there, pumping blood around my body in order for my legs and arms to carry me to the finish as fast as possible, I am supposed to EAT?

I find this advice difficult to swallow… pardon the pun. Here are just 3 major reasons why I don’t agree with these recommendations:

  • Firstly: In order to come anywhere close to the recommended daily carbohydrate intake, you must include a lot of highly refined carbohydrates from heavily processed foods. These sources tend to be high in gluten, additives, preservatives, artificial flavours, colours, sugar and unfermented processed soy. Every single one of these ingredients is inflammatory to the body, damaging to the gut lining and may inhibit the immune system. Furthermore, I really can’t imagine having much room leftover for essential fats and proteins if I am required to ingest this many carbohydrates.
  • Secondly: When carbohydrates are the primary component of every meal, blood sugar and insulin levels rise and fall like a rollercoaster ride. The constant need for these insulin surges; meal after meal, day after day, year after year; may lead to insulin resistance down the track. This is the pathway to other far more serious conditions including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Yes, even athletes develop these conditions.
  • Finally: when we exercise, our heart works harder to pump blood to the extremities of the body, including the muscles which require nutrients and oxygen in greater amounts. The blood vessels to these outer extremities actually dilate whilst the vessels around the stomach and kidney become narrower. This makes the whole process of digestion extremely difficult. Last time you had an energy gel or a snack during an event…. How did it go down? Did it hesitate half way? Feel like it might come back up again? Is it any wonder?

met_inefficiencyOverall, we know that running a marathon, or doing a triathlon or any type of athletic event is physically stressful – the very process causes a great deal of inflammation within the body. So why then do we turn to copious amounts of highly refined foods that further exacerbate these responses?

Well, traditional sports dietetics is built on the premise that we use glucose (sugar) as energy. Specifically, we use up the glucose that is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver during endurance events. There is approximately 2500 calories worth of energy stored in the form of glycogen within our bodies and this is our ‘gas tank’ if you like during sporting events. The whole premise of ingesting carbohydrate as you move is to prevent the tank from running out of gas, otherwise known as bonking. But 2500 calories isn’t going to get you that far. Whilst we all burn calories at slightly different rates, a 70kg man running at 10km / hour will use up approximately 800 calories per hour. Do the math and this means that he’s got just over 3 hours of fuel in the tank…. Or 30km. Ever seen someone hit the wall in a marathon at 30km? I bet you have…. it’s an all too familiar state of affairs. And unless you have an iron gut chances are you aren’t going to keep up with your own refuelling requirements so there’s a high chance you’re going to bonkville too.

Good news – there’s an alternative. See, what we have been ignoring for such a very long time is that in addition to those 2500 calories of stored glycogen, we have another pretty nifty tool in (or around if you like!) our belt – literally –I am referring to stored body fat. And seriously, who is going to say no to burning off a bit of body fat during an endurance event? Not me. The cool thing is that even a lean athlete will have at least 100,000 calories worth of energy available within stored fat sources and we are able to train our bodies to tap into these reserves. It’s that simple!  Yes… THIS is what all the fuss is about!

fat v carbs for fuellingImagine the potential for athletes who have a continuous fuel source at their disposal? There are lots of athletes out there who are experiencing the benefits; Bevan McKinnon, Sami Inkinen, Bruce Fordyce, Jon Olsen, Zach Bitter and Karyn Hoffman are some of the big names living, breathing and succeeding with this method. But I believe that it is so much more than just performance. I believe that this approach is essential for athletic longevity. It promotes the inclusion of foods in their most unrefined state, with moderate amounts of protein and nourishing anti-inflammatory fats; both of which are essential for hormones, cells and life in general. Interestingly, these ‘real’ food sources are also the richest in nutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. As athletes it is absolutely imperative that we are getting an abundance of good nutrition to promote fast recovery, support our immune systems and dampen down inflammation within the body.

Contrary to what critics may say, fat adaptation for athletes does not necessarily severely restrict carbohydrate intake. For some, nutritional ketosis may be worthwhile considering (more on that later, but this needs to be under the guidance of a qualified health practitioner), but for most people, fat adaptation is about retraining the body so that it becomes more metabolically efficient. In order to explain this effectively, let’s consider the Respiratory Quotient; a method of testing how much energy is coming from carbohydrates and how much is coming from fat, during an exercise session. An athlete with an RQ of 1.0 is solely relying on carbohydrates during exercise, whilst an athlete with an RQ of 0.7 is burning fat exclusively. Obviously intensity of output does play a part here, but can you see the benefits of sitting closer to the 0.7 score as opposed to 1.0 on this scale? An athlete who is able to tap into some of his or her existing fat stores is going to be capable of a higher output for a longer amount of time with less fuel. This is a win / win in my book. Achieving optimal metabolic efficiency for your own sport and your own individual body may make you ‘bonk proof’ and means that your nutrition is no longer left to chance.Tim Olsen

In addition, fat adapted athletes tend to experience advantageous body composition changes and may experience better recovery as a real food diet has superior nutrient density. The information in this article is just the beginning and serves as an introduction to fat adaption or metabolic efficiency for athletes. This is not a blanket approach to nutrition, it is simply a template. Just to reiterate, the absolute foundation of this approach is real food, as unrefined as possible. Once you switch to a real food diet, your carbohydrate intake will automatically lower and your fat intake will increase because this is how real food is designed… for a reason. Beyond that, there are many other concepts for you to consider such as the ‘train low, race high’ approach, nutritional ketosis, electrolytes and fluids and fasted training for adaptation. Start your research and see what you find. There is nothing scary about this approach to sports nutrition… unless you think throwing out the Nutri Grain and Ski D’Lite sugar laden yoghurt is a bad thing. Have you seen what I eat on my Instagram account? I’d take that food over processed, packaged stuff any day of the week.

This article is a thought provoker – I am prodding your mind and asking you to consider another way. If you want some more assistance you can Work with Me here. I can show you how simple real food living truly is.

Good luck on your quest for life long athletic longevity and your journey to bonk proof :).

Sami Inkinen
Sami Inkinen and his wife rowed from California to Hawaii in record time to raise awareness in the fight against excess sugar. Their quest was called the Fat Chance Row, and needless to say they are fat adapted athletes. Read about it here: http://www.fatchancerow.org/
Categories Diabetes, SPORT NUTRITION, SUGAR

I Ran My First Marathon… On Nothing But A Single Coffee Bean!

Before you commence reading, I would like to remind you that this is not individual advice and my own body and yours are very different machines. Please enjoy this post and realise that if your current sports nutrition approach is not working, there are other ways to explore and I can work with you to develop an approach tailored to you.

So Sunday morning the 12th of April arrived in cold, crisp but beautiful Canberra; it was the morning of the 40th Canberra Marathon to be precise! Now, those of you who follow me on Facebook and Instagram know that it had been an epic week. My partner Carl had succeeded in completing the 2015 Anzac Ultra – a distance of 300km over tough terrain on the outskirts of the city. Running; yes that is 300km of running. I will write about his story soon, but this blog is all about me! So the week before, Carl had commenced running on Wednesday morning at 8am and completed the race at 2:51pm Saturday afternoon the 11th of April. Now, obviously I did not physically run the race with him, but mentally I was there all the way. I was his one and only crew member and if you have ever crewed for someone in an ultramarathon you will know how critical this role is. For that time, however long it take your runner to finish, you are there. 100%. You are the coach, the chef, the mindset master, the boss, the physio, the masseuse, mother, partner, teacher, counsellor, hugger. True success in an ultra really does depend on the dedication of both runner and crew and how well they understand eachother. So for 78 hours I was all of these things for Carl and while it was an epic experience I was… tired. To be diplomatic about it. I had slept a total of 11 hours over 5 days. I had showered twice in that time. And to add to this already disastrous marathon lead in, my longest training run in the preceeding 8 weeks had been a total of…. 18.5km. Hmmmm. For anyone who has run a marathon, this is not exactly textbook prep. Despite all of this, when I climbed out of bed on that fateful day I was quietly confident. I simply knew that I could do it. My aim was to come in around 4 hours 30 minutes and this is how the day rolled out:

marathon start....First I ate some breakfast. 2 eggs, scrambled with a bit of strong, hard cheese and some organic butter on a single piece of toast. Probably, if I had been home, I may have had the eggs with a side of spinach on a slice of vegie bread but what I had was fine. A good mix of anti-inflammatory fats (from the butter and eggs, rich in omega 3 and loads of other goodies), protein (also from the eggs, as well as the cheese) and some complex carbohydrates (dense toast). Let’s fast forward now to the race itself where I started slow (6:25am) and conservatively. I sat on about 6:15min/km and was hanging around with the 4:30 pacing crowd. This was a great group to be with and the pacer was Bruce Hargreaves aka Digger – a fearless leader in my own running group in Brisbane. I felt good…. great actually. I cruised the pace up a knotch around the 7km mark and rounded the 10km timing point about 4 minutes ahead of the 4:30 group. At this point, I had drunk a cup of water from 1 of the aid stations and that was it. My second 10km stint passed rather unremarkably. I remained on about 6:15km/hr and power walked up a couple of hills at the 15km mark and the 18km mark. I knew that power walking strongly up the hills would work well for me as a strategy – my couple of experiences doing trail ultraruns (including the North Face 50 and The Most Beautiful Thing in Borneo) had taught me this strategy. Just before the 20km mark I noticed that I was sweating… more than I thought I would to be honest, considering the cold. As I had consumed some more water from the aid stations I had my first cup (about 100ml) of Hydralyte at this point. I was really impressed that the electrolyte provided at the Canberra Marathon was hospital grade and sugar free…. if you don’t know my stance on sugar then you can read my article from a few weeks ago here. 

By the 25km mark I was feeling tired. Not physically (surprisingly) just mentally. I could have happily drifted off the road into a bush and gone to sleep. Exhaustion was setting in. But I had just the thing to help me along in my race belt…. 1 little dark chocolate coated coffee bean! I put that little morsel of magnesium and caffeine on my tongue and let it do its thing. I seemed to perk up a bit after that – it may have been a bit of a placebo affect, but hey it worked. For the next 8km I continued my strategy quite happily; walking up the few big hills in the course and steadily running the rest of it. The only difference I employed at this point was I stopped looking at my pace. I was no longer interested in sitting on a particular speed as I was well inside unknown territory by this point and my goal was to finish comfortably not to finish fast. I had my second cup of Hydralyte during this section of the course as well as some more water as my body indicated it wanted both.

Between 34km and 36km a couple of things happened. Firstly, the 4:30 group passed me, with Digger wishing me his best on the way. IMid runhad no problems with this – my current strategy was working and I was not losing energy, merely remaining conservative for the final 5. Secondly, my stomach felt a little queasy. Now, this did stress me for a moment as it has never happened to me before. I am certain I know why this occurred; it was my first time using Hydralyte for an electrolyte source. Violation of racing rule number 1: Don’t try anything new on race day! Had the lead in been different I certainly would have had my own electrolyte source but I couldn’t change that now. For about 600m I walked briskly, also looking for a bathroom. However, after this brief stint of slowing the pace, my stomach recovered quickly and I was able to continue on my steady jog, with another powerful lesson under my belt. The third thing that happened at this point was by far the most interesting, albeit it upsetting. I began to witness the infamous ‘marathon bonk’ unfolding around me. This is the point in the marathon where runners have used up their stored glycogen sources (around 2000 – 2500 calories) and they start hitting walls. Brick walls. Hard. It was nasty. Some people were struggling to even walk with one foot in front of another, I saw another throwing up off to the side of the race and quite a lot of people stopped around this point to stretch out some painful cramps. I passed many and offered words of encouragement which, understandably, were met with grunts. Whilst I felt a gut wrenching disappointment for the people suffering around me I was really celebrating my own metabolic efficiency. I realised that I really had nailed my nutrition strategy and my body was comfortably cruising along drawing fuel from its own existing fat sources. My energy was remaining steady and I was not contending with the glucose / insulin rollercoaster. Remember that to this point I had consumed 1 single dark chocolate coffee bean only.

By 38km I was on fire. I was inside the 5km to go and I was still feeling strong. This was the time to start picking things up. From 38.5km I ran steadily into the finish, walking only for a stretch of 100m on a final ascent into the ring road near the finish. In the last 600m, I picked up the pace to hit 5:30km/hr and ‘sprinted’ in to the finish – catching the runner in front of me (pictured). A good friend of mine, Sam was just ahead of me and it was great to see her smiling face just after I crossed that line. As I headed through the finishes shoot I collected another full cup of Hydralyte and some water.

sprint finish

Fast forward to 24 hours later and I climbed out of bed on Monday morning. Well, I am being completely honest here, although I know that many people won’t believe me. I felt fantastic. About the same feeling I have the day after a long training run (about 20km). A little stiff through the hamstrings, but the head was clear and I even felt mentally rested. The evening before I had taken some extra Omega 3 anti-inflammatory supplements as well as some high strength magnesium which would have aided this recovery. In addition, I was able to get through the marathon easily and avoid inflammatory fuel sources (sugars, soft drinks, gels) that so many runners rely on. My final time, by the way was 4 hours 39 minutes – not far off my ultimate goal on quite a hilly course. I honestly can’t wait to run my next race. And I can guarantee 1 thing…. from now on, every race I run, I will be sure to carry 1 lucky coffee bean with me along the way!


  • As stated above, this is my story, my approach and my fuelling strategy that works for me. Your body is not the same as mine. Please do not attempt to run a marathon in exactly the same way as I did. Please consult a health professional if you would like to work out a specific fuelling strategy to suit your own requirements. I would love to help you. You can work with mehere.
  • Please note that I did have other fuel sources in my running belt as well. I was carrying some almonds and a Cliff bar (in case things got really nasty) in my belt.
  • Please do not try new things on race day….. I made this mistake and I could have paid a far bigger price.
  • Feel free to leave any positive comments below and share this story if you enjoyed it.



Sugar: Its Place In Sport

Attend any athletic event these days and there is one thing that is present in more liberal numbers than sweaty athletes themselves; GELS! These sugary little ‘life savers’ seem to have no end of uses- it’s fairly normal to see athletes down 1 or 2 before the race, several during the race at regular intervals and then polish one off at the end… with a Powerade to accompany it! I am both an observer and a casual competitor at such events and as a Nutritionist, I struggle no end with this concept. Consider a marathon or an Olympic distance triathlon; both are pro inflammatory in their own right and induce a great deal of physiological stress on the body. So why is it that in the last 30 – 40 years our fuelling strategies have evolved around the use of sports drinks, gels, energy bars and the overall concept of carb loading? This results in copious amounts of refined sugar, added sodium, flavours, preservatives, wheat and gluten being ingested, all of which further contribute to inflammation and are seriously damaging to our health.

In 1945, Willie Honeman (American cycling champion) remarked on the topic of race nutrition; ‘eat whatever foods appeal to you, but be sure they are of good quality and fresh. Avoid too many starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes, pies, pastries etc. Eat plenty of green and cooked vegetables.’ Fast forward to 1996 and the advice was very different; ‘Carbohydrate supplementation is essential to meet the needs of heavy training. Greater portions of pasta, potatoes and breads can help, but many athletes prefer concentrated carbohydrates found in high-carbohydrate drinks’ (Burke, E. Berning, J. 1996). And now, in 2015, you’re probably feeling a bit lonely if you are not following some particular diet. Determined to maintain an open mind and acknowledge that we are all still individuals, last year I began working closely with 14 open minded athletes who were keen to fine tune their nutrition to benefit their performance, but also improve their overall health. This was a 10 week self-directed study that culminated in the participant’s completion of the Tarawera Ultra Marathon; a moderately hilly and technical trail run held in New Zealand across distances of 60km, 85km and 100km. Whilst there were individual differences in diet accounting for people’s own taste preferences as well as their physiology, all participants had to eat only real and whole foods from high quality sources (i.e. no processed sources) as part of their everyday diet and whilst training and competing (obviously allowing for a 90/10 approach). As a result, the macrsonutrient ratio was different from a standard Australian diet; all participants observed an overall drop in carbohydrate intake and a significant increase in dietary fats (only full fat sources were recommended). Some participants did choose to experiment with nutritional ketosis. Here are some of the stand out observations noted during this process:

Those that experimented with nutritional ketosis (male only) very quickly adapted (within 2 weeks) and returned to peak performance in this short time. They noted more stable energy levels and were relieved of digestive discomfort during longer training and events.
Of the females who participated, 5 were at optimal body composition already whilst 3 had heavier builds. All 3 of these women experienced some degree of weight loss (3kg each on average) and a drop in measurements with one losing 6cm off her waist (note: this drop was also accompanied by a reduction in training volume and an increase in daily calorie consumption).
All participants reported more steady energy levels and better recovery. Finally, the most talked about benefit was the ability to simply ‘run longer and fuel less’ with more stable performance overall.
At the completion of my time with these participants, all of them indicated that they would be continuing with their new lifestyle because of the benefits they had seen both in life and in sport. Of course, this is just 1 study, on a very small sample size over a relatively short period of time. But in reality, no study is ever going to be able to isolate diet in terms of nutritional performance and longevity over a lifetime as well as answer all of the questions that we as health professionals and athletes are asking. Many athletes are still struggling with weight management, digestive dysfunction, unstable energy levels, hyper and hypoglycaemia, bonking, excessing injuries and poor recovery. Furthermore, we now see many people coming into the sport of running, cycling or triathlon because they are recommended to start an exercise program due to a health condition; commonly diabetes, obesity or metabolic syndrome. How do we balance the recommendations of the Australian Institute of Sport, who claim that 90g/hour of carbohydrates during long distance events is ideal (source: http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/factsheets/basics/carbohydrate__how_much, 2015), yet the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reduced its recommended daily sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for adults? Add to this the hefty evidence that excessive sugar is downright dangerous to our health. The answer, I believe lies with the foods that we have been consuming for many thousands of years; minimally processed nutrient dense whole food sources. The macronutrient ratio may vary from person to person, but it should always include a variety of natural fats whilst limiting pro inflammatory, highly refined carbohydrates. Whether you are an esteemed athlete or a newbie to your sport, getting your nutrition right could make the difference between a lifetime of healthy movement and a ‘yo-yo’ journey as far as performance, injury and overall health markers are concerned. My upcoming seminar will delve into these topics in greater detail. It may help health practitioners to better support their patients who are involved in heavy exercise programs. I will discuss ways to strip nutrition back to basics and then determine the best fuelling on an individual basis. And now back on the topic of sports drinks… Powerade is a sports drink manufactured and marketed by Coca-Cola. Gatorade is owned by PepsiCo. I rest my case J.