Nutrition is often referred to as triathlon's fourth discipline. There is undeniable value in properly fueling your body for training, racing, and a healthy lifestyle. Join us in this episode as sports nutritionist, Dr. Krista Austin, digs into performance nutrition and how to establish and maintain proper macro and micro nutrient intake relative to your resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure. She also offers clutch strategies for properly fueling and hydrating for optimal training, racing, and recovery.
TriDot Podcast .14:
Performance Nutrition for Triathletes
This is the TriDot Podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.
Andrew: Welcome to the podcast. Y'all, we have some big stuff happening today. When we first released our early episodes of the podcast, we had quite a few of you reach out, basically saying hey, love the podcast, the swim, the bike, the run stuff, it's all been great. But when are we going to hear about nutrition? We all know good and well that nutrition is a vital part of triathlon training and racing. And so from day one, we had a goal to work in nutritional topics on a regular basis. However, we didn't want to just have anyone talk about it. We wanted an expert. We wanted an industry leader. And most importantly, we wanted someone who shares TriDot’s heart to inspire and educate the tribe and community. So, joining us today, for the very first time, and many, many more times to come, I am thrilled to introduce to you all our Resident Nutritional Expert, Dr. Krista Austin. Krista is an exercise physiologist and nutritionist who consulted with the US Olympic Committee, and the English Institute of Sport. She has a Ph.D in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition, a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Krista, welcome to the podcast.
Dr. Austin: Hey, Andrew, thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to sharing some great information and hopefully, providing everyone with the best evidence-based nutrition that we have available to us.
Andrew: Yes. We are so thrilled for that. Also joining us is Pro Triathlete and Coach, Elizabeth James. Elizabeth came to the sport from a soccer background and quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot from a beginner to a top age grouper to a professional triathlete. She is a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, thanks for coming on.
Elizabeth: Thank you. I am really looking forward to our discussion today. We've had some great episodes so far about triathlon training. But in order to truly maximize an athlete's potential in both training and racing, nutrition has to be a consideration. I know that athletes are just going to get a lot of high quality information from today's discussion, and I can't wait to really dive into some of the areas that I frequently see athletes struggle with when it comes to nutrition.
Andrew: Well, who am I am your host, Andrew the average triathlete, voice of the people, and the captain of the middle of the pack. Today, we’ll take Dr. Austin through her first warm up question, then we'll move into the main set where she will talk us through the basics of nutrition. Then we'll get cool down with Elizabeth and I put in Dr. Austin on the hot seat with some really fun, random get to know you rapid fire questions. It's going to be a great show. Let's get to it.
Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: All right, Dr. Austin, I'm not always going to give you a nutrition-based warm up question. But today, in honor of your first time on the podcast, let's go with this. There are healthy foods that we eat because they're tasty and we like them. And then there are healthy foods that we make ourselves eat that aren't necessarily tasty and we might not like them. So, tell me what is one food that you do not at all like to eat, but you work into your diet on a regular basis only because it's good for you.
Dr. Austin: Well Andrew, I'll actually tell you that I don't ever force anything.
Dr. Austin: Yeah. I mean, primarily because overall, I think I've got a pretty good balance of my macro and micronutrients. And I just don't believe we should ever be forcing something on a person. If it doesn't come naturally to them, it's just something that they sit there and they're pinching their nose, and they just can't eat it. I say why are we doing this? Let's find another way to go about it, and try to make nutrition enjoyable for everyone. Because eventually they usually just stop eating it anyway. So, it's one of those things where Dr. Austin has her foods that she likes and the foods that maybe she doesn't quite like. And so she doesn't really care for anything. I just say you know what, I'll pass and try to make food as enjoyable as possible yet also as healthy as we need it to be.
Andrew: Do you find with athletes that you work with that approach also really helps them keep a healthier diet and not forcing things they don't like but maybe eating the healthy foods they do like?
Dr. Austin: Yeah, I find if we tailor anyone's nutrition plan towards what they believe in, and what they enjoy, then typically they're far more adherent. I do like to challenge people sometimes to try something new if they've never tried it. Or they just say, “Hey it's a foreign of food to me. I'm not big on foreign foods.” I say, “Well, let's just give it a try. Maybe you'll find out that after all, you like it, or you'll grow like it just because your taste buds change.” So, I think it's always good to challenge people though to try new things.
Andrew: Yeah, that's a really good point. Because I know there's a lot of foods that I tried when I was younger, and you kind of mark in your head, “Oh, I don't like broccoli. Oh, I don't like brussels sprouts. Oh, I don't want to eat sweet potatoes.” And then you circle back to those foods as an adult and give it a go and you're like, “Oh my gosh, this is prepared right. This is really tasty.”
Dr. Austin: Yeah, know, our taste buds definitely changed as we get older. So, I think it's always good to give it a second try, maybe even a third just in case you try it in a different light and you seem to enjoy it.
Andrew: So, you guys heard it here first, Dr. Austin has a three strikes and you're out policy on foods that she doesn't like. So, what about you, Elizabeth? Do you have any foods that you kind of just really turn your nose up but you make yourself eat just to get into the diet?
Elizabeth: Well, I'm feeling pretty good about the response I had in my head cuz a lot of it is going to echo what Dr. Austin just said. I'd say that overall, I try to incorporate foods that I like into my nutrition plan for that main reason of ensuring that it's something that I stick to. But also, as she mentioned, like well, at the moment, I don't have something that I incorporate just for the sake of knowing that it's good for me. There are certainly foods that I disliked five years ago that are staples in my day to day nutrition now. I didn't use to care for beets or sweet potatoes or avocados. And now I eat those foods multiple times per week.
Andrew: If you're out there in the listening audience and I asked that question and you immediately thought of a food that you make yourself eat, I'm going to reassure you today because I've done this, Elizabeth and Dr. Austin are both too smart for it. But I, the two examples I'm going to give are bananas and avocados. I was never able to tolerate either of those. And once I really started really, back in college when I started running a lot, I was like man, like just bananas are so there's, you know, they've got the potassium you need there. They're so easy to take with you on the go to class and have a nice little shot of fruit in the middle of the day you don't the wash fruit off. They kind of-- bananas come in their own self contained wrapper, so to speak. Right, with the peel, you just throw away. And so I started making myself even though I could not stand them, eating bananas. And what I found was over time, I mean to this day if a banana is too green or too brown like I'm out. But there's like a two day window where if the banana is just right I myself actually enjoying the banana. But with avocados, I could never land the plane I could never get there. I think part of it’s the texture combined with the taste. It just-- I have found that can have avocado if it's like in tortilla soup where you don't even taste it, right, it's just in there as an ingredient. But that was one that when avocados became super trendy in the last couple years and more and more people are eating them, I just could never make myself do that one. So, those are my examples and but you heard it here from Dr. Austin. It's okay to snub a food that you just don't like and move on to a healthy food that you do like.
On to the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1.
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Nutrition is often referred to as triathlon’s fourth discipline. There is undeniable value in properly fueling your body for training racing, and a healthy lifestyle. So, today, we're going to dig into performance nutrition and how to establish and maintain proper macro and micronutrient intake relative to your resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure. We’ll also offer some clutch strategies for properly fueling and hydrating for optimal training, racing, and recovery. So, Dr. Austin, let's start here, what are considered to be the basics of nutrition, and why is it so important that an athlete understand these foundational concepts?
Dr. Austin: So, Andrew, when an athlete comes to work with me, I always like to take a step back and you know, oftentimes, like, hey, let's do the performance aspects, let's get into the real heat of it. But I always take a step back and say to them, “Okay, tell me about your basic knowledge of nutrition?” And the reason I do this is because today we're given so much information via social media, all the articles that are online via the internet, and just a variety of messages that are being sent to the athlete. And so when they first come to see me, we go over a few basics. That includes one, energy intake, which we consider to be the resting metabolic rate and the calories they burn during exercise and making sure that they meet energy intake for both of those. So, we talked about what that means. Then there's energy expenditure, and I kind of just explained that that it's a function of your resting metabolic rate plus your calories for exercise. And at the end of the day, what we want to make sure is that the athlete has a good understanding that first and foremost, we need to make sure that we understand their energy needs and that we understand what they're actually taking in before we start to try and do any of the far more sexier, and fun things, right?
Secondly, I sit down and say okay, do you know what the macronutrients are and the micronutrients? The macronutrients are your carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. And then the micronutrients are our vitamins and minerals. And we go over things like whether or not they're water soluble or fat soluble, and whether or not they're essential or non-essential vitamins and minerals. The other thing I talked to every athlete about is hydration is amazing. With all the great info we've had over the years that athletes still have not always heard how to hydrate properly. So, we always talk about what our daily water needs are, and what we need to do to replace fluids that are lost as sweat. So, that's where we typically start when an athlete comes to me, and we make sure that we're going to have those foundational concepts there before we go diving in any further.
Andrew: Yeah, no, that's perfect. And I can't wait to unpack all of those basics of nutrition that you just talked about. So, one of the first things you mentioned is resting metabolic rate. What is the resting metabolic rate and what are the various methods you use to determine this for an athlete?
Dr. Austin: So, the resting metabolic rate can be considered the calories an athlete needs to sustain life. So, this is what we need to take in in order to keep our muscles functioning just when we walk around, make sure we're good sleeping at night, sitting behind the desk at the office, and it's what our body needs just to ensure that who we are as a person is maintained in a healthy manner. Now, there's a variety of different ways that an athlete might try to understand their resting metabolic rate. Many of us will use what are called estimated equations, a very common one is the Harris Benedict Equation, you can Google it online and run that equation. But then there's also actual estimates of the resting metabolic rate that can be done today through testing for the actual resting metabolic rate, which is a measure of indirect calorimetry that measures the oxygen we're consuming, and tells us how many calories were burning.
The other thing people may go do is get a DEXA scan. So, a DEXA scan takes a look at the amount of fat mass and muscle mass that an individual has. And through the equations that they've developed, they can say to you, okay, here's your resting metabolic rate. And oftentimes, what I found is that the equations, the DEXA, and the resting metabolic rate, the indirect calorimetry, oftentimes coincide pretty well, as long as we have a healthy athlete sitting in front of us. There's also other body composition equations that you'll see out there through bioimpedance machines such as the embody. I haven't found them to ever be overly inaccurate or what have you. And so sometimes we'll use that value, compare it to a few estimated equations, and then just take the average. These are several methods that you can approach to identify your resting metabolic rate. And on the whole, we can typically ensure that if we've checked a few of them, we're going to be about in the right range, as long as the athlete again is healthy. The other place that we're starting to see these come through is through our favorite sport watches, right? I know I'm wearing mine and on a regular basis, it gives me an estimate of what I am burning at rest. Which is great, because it reminds me that some days, I'm not moving as much as I usually do. And so we'll see that if I'm just sitting behind a desk, it's maybe a little bit lower and it’s just a reminder that we haven't been quite as active.
Andrew: Elizabeth, one of my big takeaways from everything Dr. Austin just taught us is that a DEXA scan can tell me how fat I am.
Elizabeth: That was your takeaway there?
Andrew: Yeah, that was-- Obviously, there was way better takeaways, but that was the one I had to point out because I'm me.
Elizabeth: Well, I actually did have a follow up based on some of that information there. Now, Dr. Austin, I mean, some of these assessments can likely be costly for an athlete. Do you make recommendations of the assessments based on an athlete's goals? Or how do you determine which assessment might be the most appropriate for them?
Dr. Austin: So, what I try to do is educate athletes on their options, and everyone is different. Some people really do want that indirect calorimetry resting metabolic rate assessment. And sometimes that's because they've had issues in the past and they feel like it might be off. However, oftentimes, what I find is that most athletes are okay with actually running the equations and saying, hey, let's just average a few of them and start from there. The next step they will typically take is the DEXA option or like trying to find a device like the embody to see if they just will end up with different measurements than what the estimated equations will tell them. Oftentimes, they Like those body comp assessments anyway. And so because they want to get one, we say, “All right, let's just find out while we're there, what it tells you about your resting metabolic rate.” And in today's world, I'll tell you DEXA scans and assessments via the embody are getting more and more inexpensive. I know the DEXA scan company near myself sends out specials at holiday time where you get four for $125. And so I sit back and go, “Wow, that's $32.50 cents a scan, and I can get that estimate of resting metabolic rate, really use the highest standard in estimating body composition, and I get my bone density reviewed.” It’s really pretty nice. It's a nice way to actually take a look at it all and it's not as expensive as we might think. Although, I will say that in certain areas of the US, we don't always have that option. So, typically, if an athlete is sitting in an area where they don't have access to a DEXA so or an embody or even the indirect calorimetry really easily, the only thing we do have is say their watch and the equations themselves.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, and you gotta think at $125 for four of them, I mean, that is a fraction of the cost of many other things that we buy to be triathletes. So, to empower yourself with that knowledge at that price point is, you hear that it's like, “Oh, that that's actually a lot more practical than I would have guessed, or imagined it to be.” So, Dr. Austin, tell me this, though, why is it so important for us to maintain our resting metabolic rate?
Dr. Austin: So, the resting metabolic rate for most people is their primary source of caloric burn throughout the day. It also is important to maintain it because if we don't consume enough to sustain our bodies, muscle and fat mass and what we do on a day to day basis, it's going to turn around and start tapping into our lean body mass, and we're going to start losing the muscle mass that's so crucial to us as an athlete. In addition, what you typically see with individuals who take their calorie intakes below the resting metabolic rate is that they go through a good bit of what we call weight cycling. And we actually want to minimize that in anything we do with nutrition, mainly because it's not healthy for us, and we don't want to just be kind of fooling ourselves when we get on the scale, because people like to see “Oh, wow I cut back all these calories, and I'm lighter on the scale right away.” And oftentimes, that's just a function of the loss of water and muscle glycogen, because we cut back below that resting metabolic rate. And so what we always want to do also is be honest with ourselves about where does our body truly sit with regards to weight and that gives us the healthiest approach we try to move forward and work on our nutrition.
Elizabeth: Now, Dr. Austin, what might be some warning signs that an athlete is consuming less than their resting metabolic rate?
Dr. Austin: You know, typically, athletes will begin to underperform very early on, even within a couple weeks of consuming less than the resting metabolic rate. I mean, for most athletes, that's pretty few calories. And if they're training, like most do, pretty hard, they're going to start to see their performance go downhill because they won't be able to recover. However, others that have been able in the past to sustain it for longer periods of time, will start to see health-related aspects show up before anything. So, in women, that might be a loss of their menstrual cycle. And many people it could be the inability to sleep well at night. And so what we want to do is always monitor metrics or markers we could say, related to both health and performance to make sure that we're not sending our body downhill whenever we go to change our nutrition and try to alter what it is we're taking in.
Andrew: Now, another key nutritional concept that a lot of us have probably heard of, but don't fully understand is energy expenditure. What are the components of energy expenditure and how do you measure this?
Dr. Austin: So, energy expenditure consists of three components for most people. One is the calories burned at rest, we kind of talked about that. That's your resting metabolic rate. The second is our activities of daily living. And this varies for people today because some of us sit behind a desk and we don't do very much. And then there's others of us that have very active jobs. You might wait tables, you might do a lot of gardening, you might chase after kids all day, whether you're a school teacher or Mom, right? And at the end of the day, those activities of daily living can vary quite a bit. The third component that we look at for most people is their actual exercise. For elite athletes, typically the expenditure that they perform on a day to day basis as a function of exercise is that much greater even than their resting metabolic rate. I know and some of the elites that I've worked with over the years, they'll burn two to 4,000 calories in a day. And they've got to make sure that they're going to meet all of those calories so that they can ensure they recover, adapt and prepare for the next training session. But whenever we're taking a look at how much fuel do we need, we need to account for all three of these.
Andrew: So, Dr. Austin, how would we go about measuring our energy expenditure?
Dr. Austin: So, there's a few different ways to measure energy expenditure. The most common one I see today is through the sport watches that are available mainly because they are heart rate based. And so they're utilizing your heart rate to help tell you how many calories you are burning, and we always have to remember that these are estimates. The second one I see common in triathletes is through their actual power meters. And so it's also good to wear your heart rate monitor while you're doing your physical activities that you can compare it to something, such as the power meter just to see if there's a significant differential there. The other thing that athletes might look up and it's not quite as accurate for them is something known as a metabolic equivalent. And essentially, we call these METS. And the METS are what we know in the research literature to be the energy cost of performing specific exercises. So, there's even websites where you can go and put your height and weight in, and how fast you run, and the grade of the treadmill or the road that you're on, and it will actually kind of spit out an energy expenditure estimate for you based on how long you were out there running. And then the other way that some people go in and have it taken a look at is through actual metabolic testing, where they hook you up to indirect calorimetry. And they measure the amount of oxygen you consume at a given exercise intensity. That's pretty rare, just because it's not readily available, but it is a technique that some people prefer to use.
Andrew: So, for our athletes that have the smartwatches or have a heart rate monitor, and then they kind of-- they kind of see on Garmin or Strava, or whatever platform the amount of calories they burned in that session, how accurate are those numbers that the watches are able to produce? Are they pretty spot on to the amount of energy we’re expending?
Dr. Austin: I think for most people, if they're wearing the heart rate strap to do everything, it starts to become relatively accurate, as long as we're accounting for those heart rate zones where we truly get above kind of that zone one and we get into zone two and above, in terms of getting them active enough where they are burning more calories than what you typically do at rest. And so I typically turn around to people and say okay, maybe you spend a lot of time in zone one warming up, but the second you go to zone two and above, then we know that you're truly burning calories that should be contributing to your energy expenditure. And in most people's cases to the weight loss or you know, the estimate we need to help understand what it takes for them to gain weight or stay weight stable. That's the way I approach it, but then sometimes you also just turn around because the athlete’s so close to it, and just use the information the devices giving you. I found that over the years that approach works pretty well. And so as long as they feel like they're getting a good heart rate reading from their strap, from their watch them then we go with it until we kind of hit a wall and say maybe something's not quite right.
Elizabeth: Okay, so I mean, we've discussed the importance of consuming enough calories to meet the requirements of the resting metabolic rate. And then you were just touching on also that energy expenditure including the exercise that an athlete does. So, what percentage of the calories burned during training do you recommend that athletes replace? Is that 100% of what they burned? Or does that vary a little bit for athletes that are looking to lose weight or improve body composition?
Dr. Austin: So, typically, if an athlete wants to stay weight stable, we say let's go ahead and have you consume everything that comes in via our estimates. And there's a variety of different ways that we do those estimates. Whereas people who are looking to lose weight we sit there and say, okay, we need you to exercise off typically the weight that you want to lose. And so everyone has their own threshold, right, with regards to weight loss. And so if someone's threshold is 250 calories a day of a deficit through exercise, then we say, okay, if you can only tolerate 250 calories of deficit, then anything else you burn during exercise, we need you to actually go in and replace that. Typically, we advise that they not take it greater than 750 calories in a day. And for a lot of mine, I'll say, okay, let's not go past 500 calories in a day. So, if you are burning 1,000, and you can only tolerate 500 calorie deficit, then we want to make sure that you consume the other 500 as well. A big mistake that a lot of people will make when they first start out on weight loss is they'll say, “Okay, well, here's my resting metabolic rate, plus my activities of daily living, I'll just use exercise to take myself into a deficit.” And they'll go out and they'll burn 750 to 1,000 calories a day. And they'll actually start to find that they're chronically hungry, they're breaking down, they're going off the rails from their nutrition program. And typically it's because they can't handle that caloric deficit, it’s too much, and their sleep really starts to go out the window.
Andrew: Elizabeth, that was a really great question. I'm glad I brought you on for this. But it starts taking us into kind of energy intake, right. And so, Dr. Austin is energy intake, basically just the calories we consume?
Dr. Austin: Yeah, I mean, that's how you can look at it is how many calories do we take in during the day. And we have a wide variety of means for assessing that in terms of apps these days. And oftentimes, that's the best way for anyone, if they want to just do a self-assessment or even if they're working with their coach or a sport nutritionist or sport dietitian on things. They're going to take a food log, and oftentimes it's through an app and it's something like My Fitness Pal, or Chronometer or My Plate, that they can do that. There's even apps that allow you to take pictures of your food, and then you can provide it to somebody and let them quantify it. And so that's typically where most people will start to help understand their calorie intake, their energy intake.
Elizabeth: Now, I will say that it certainly took some commitment on my part, but I saw a lot of success personally when I began tracking my nutritional intake. And not only did it make me more accountable for my choices, but it also allowed me to really evaluate if I was meeting the amounts of those macronutrients, the carbohydrates, the proteins and fats that I needed to sustain my training volume.
Dr. Austin: It’s kind of interesting. I will tell you, I have to stop and do that myself on a pretty regular basis. And I'll tell you, in today's world, I would say it's just to also help us really make the best food choices. I'd be amazed sometimes when I sit there and go I don't think I'm eating the best I possibly could. And I'll say let me track what it is I'm taking in. Then all of a sudden, I realized that I'm really off the macros that I should be focused on for keeping my health even in check.
Andrew: Elizabeth, let me ask you this, at what point in your triathlete journey did you start tracking? Because you started as an age grouper kind of just your average age grouper, and then you became kind of an elite race-winning age grouper, and now you’re professional status. Where in that journey, did you start doing that tracking?
Elizabeth: I would say that as I continued to get more competitive, I had a greater understanding of how much nutrition would impact my performance. And so yeah, as I continued to get more competitive, and I started seeking a podium finish, that's when I started tracking nutrition as well.
Andrew: You referenced tracking the macronutrients; the carbohydrates, the proteins, the fats. So, let's talk about those for a little bit. What are the different types of carbs, proteins, and fats?
Dr. Austin: So, when we take a look at carbohydrates typically, we like to divide them into low versus moderate versus high glycemic carbohydrates. And really, we take a look at the amount we’re consuming of those types of carbs, and that gives us something known as the glycemic load. Okay, so you can have something that has a moderate glycemic index, but you consume enough of it, that you end up with a higher glycemic load than anticipated. And the reason it's so important for us to understand that there's a difference in how carbohydrate impacts our body is because we always want our food to serve a purpose. We want to make sure that it's very functional. And so if we just take any carbohydrate, and consume it and think that we're hitting our macros, what we might not realize is that we're not getting things such as fiber and micronutrients that our body really needs in order to optimize its function.
Elizabeth: So, in what situation should athletes be consuming low glycemic carbs or when should they be eating those high glycemic carbs?
Dr. Austin: You know, that's a good question. It really is very dependent on the individual athlete. You know, oftentimes I will advocate for them to eat a low glycemic nutrition plan predominantly because there's a lot of health benefits to that. However, there are some athletes that burn so many calories that they actually do have to say, “Hey, Krista, I've been trying to follow the low glycemic plan, but I just can't get it all in.” And that's when we turn around, we'll start to put in some more high glycemic carbohydrates because they just don't make us feel quite as full. And the whole goal is to help them meet their caloric needs without actually kind of busting at the gut, right? You know, they'll call me and they'll just say, “I feel so full. I just can't eat.” And I say, “Okay, well, let's start to modify what it is you're taking in so that you can get all your calories and you don't feel super full all day long and just don't eat.”
Elizabeth: Okay, gotcha. Gotcha. Now, could you give us just a couple quick examples of like a low glycemic carb or a high glycemic carb food?
Dr. Austin: Okay. So, like a low glycemic carb is something that you would find in like Quinoa, okay. Or like a lot of vegetables are very low glycemic. Moderate, you start to move into something like sweet potatoes, but then high glycemic is more of your sports drinks, it's your candy, things of that nature. And that's why oftentimes, we make suggestions to people that they try to limit the amount of high glycemic carbohydrate they have or ensure that it has a true purpose in their nutrition plan so that they don't over consume carbohydrates that aren't as healthy for them, and providing them the micronutrients or the fiber content that they should have in their diet.
Andrew: So, we already talked about carbohydrates a little bit but let's move on to fats. I know that people when they see food labels they hear terms, saturated versus unsaturated. They know that there's healthy fats and there's unhealthy fats. Tell us a little bit about the difference in that macronutrient?
Dr. Austin: So, fats are interesting. People have asked me on a regular basis, “How do you account for fats in the individual's diet?” And I always just tell them, we need to let fat come in unless you're trying to target a high fat diet or ketogenic diet, we need to let them come in naturally via the foods that we try to consume for our carbohydrates and proteins. And so typically, I recommend people look at fats in a very, I guess, simplistic form, you could say, and say “Are they visible or invisible fats?” And visible fats are the ones that we know are sitting there and they're kind of just sticking out at us like oil and butter and creams and fat on the edge of meats or you know, in a marbled meat, you'll see the fat there. And then there's the invisible fats that are there in nuts, they’re there in avocados and olives and chicken and fish. We don't see it right away, but we know that it's there because we can go and look up that actual food and find out that it has a good contribution of fat to everything that we're taking in.
So, I always say, let's start there, first and foremost and then see where are our levels of omega-three intake, our saturated, and then our unsaturated fats, and are we outside of the range on those or low on those where we need to go in and modify the type fats that we're actually taking in. The other type of fat that usually is of interest to triathletes is what's called medium-chain triglycerides. And these are a fat that you can usually purchase as a supplement that has been suggested to help us build our intramuscular fat stores, restore them quicker, I guess you could say, once we finished exercise. The research is a little conflicting on that, but it is the way that many people will turn around and say, I want to have more fat in my diet, or I want to be more specific with the type of fats I'm consuming. How can I do it in a healthier manner? And so we will pursue things like that, to help put smart fats, I guess you could say into their nutrition plan.
Andrew: Is that something that people should just go to their GNC, go to the grocery store and find and start maybe incorporating on a little bit? Or is that something that should be used or should be prescribed at the discretion of a nutritionist?
Dr. Austin: Some people will do it on their own because they want to go do it. Other people will work with a sports nutritionist or sports dietitian to figure out if that is right for them. I would always recommend the latter. Just so you don't dive into something that maybe isn't quite right for you at that point in time. But definitely MCT's are out there as a dietary supplement, and people can buy them and try them if they want to. I just recommend that if they're going to do that without guidance that they make sure the supplement is batch tested, and that there's no potential for contaminants in it.
Andrew: Okay. So, we've talked about carbohydrates, we've talked about fats, and to round out the trifecta of the macronutrients, talk to me a little bit about the different kinds of proteins that we need to be working into our diets.
Dr. Austin: So, similar to carbohydrates today, we often classify proteins for people when they're trying to manipulate their nutritional intake as also being slow, moderate, or fast. Slow proteins are those that are digested the slowest, right, like casein protein. So, those are dairy type proteins. There are others that are moderate, that might be something like eggs, and then there are protein sources that are the fastest. That's something like whey protein where there's nothing that's really going to slow how quickly it comes into the bloodstream. The method we use to actually evaluate the quality of a protein is something called the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score. And you can always go online-- [crosstalk]
Andrew: What a name.
Dr. Austin: I know, huh? You can go online and actually look it up just to say, okay, how quickly might this protein be breaking down? And what is the quality of the protein that I am getting? It's based on the amino acid requirements that our bodies have and our ability to digest that protein. So, it's something that can help us realize, okay, how fast or slow might the protein be that I'm taking in?
Andrew: So, Dr. Austin, what is maybe the ideal range for athletes to keep each of the macronutrients; the proteins, the fats, the carbohydrates, what is the kind of percentages of ranges that we should try to be incorporating those three or balancing those three into our diets?
Dr. Austin: Well, what we recommend for most people to follow is something known as the acceptable macronutrient distribution range. And this is what the Institute of Medicine would recommend unless they have a clinical reason to do otherwise. And typically, if it's a clinical recommendation it’s coming from a medical physician. In carbohydrate, it is typically 45 to 65% of total calorie intake. For protein, it's anywhere between 10 to 35%. And for fat is anywhere between 20 to 35%. So, the ranges are pretty broad and they’re broad because we want to be able to encompass a variety of different nutritional styles. Once we start to step out of that, though, that's where we typically recommend supervised guidance so that in case something were to occur with regards to your health, you have a qualified professional, making sure that it's addressed.
Elizabeth: Now, as we have been discussing kind of the Ideal range for carbohydrates, protein and fat, are the apps that we mentioned before, the best way for athletes to track the percentage of their macros?
Dr. Austin: That's what I typically recommend that they do. I'm sure they could go through and do it by hand or even set up an Excel Sheet and put their food in, put in the amount of carbohydrate, fat, protein that each item has. But I think the beauty of the apps is that they're linked to such strong databases, and those databases can quickly and readily make it that much easier for them to regularly engage with what it is they're fueling their body with. And so from my perspective, whenever someone asked me, “Is this the best way to do it?” My answer is typically, “Yes.” And there's some of them that gives some pretty advanced analysis. The one that I see the most is one called Chronometer where it will break down every single macronutrient and micronutrient based on the recommended daily allowance, the amount you need for your weight, they look at it by gender. So, there are some ones that are out there that are pretty thorough. I think with My Fitness Pal, if you pay for kind of like a step up from the free one, it also dives in and does that. And so I think it's a way to help athletes do it easily. Or you can ask somebody to actually do it for you. Oftentimes, I would say that most of us that get asked to do that for athletes are utilizing an app like that to help us get the job done if we don't have professional software.
Andrew: So, let's move a little bit in the talking about the micronutrients. Is it important to ensure that these are being met or is this something that you can kind of ignore, let it sit in the background? Maybe go without some of them? Or are they just as vital for an athlete as the macronutrients?
Dr. Austin: The micronutrients are just as vital as are the macronutrients and in some respects, I think they're actually more important. Micronutrients include things such as iron, and we hear about iron for athletes all the time in endurance sport. Because if our iron becomes depleted, then we don't have our red blood cells, we don't have the ability to utilize fat and carbohydrate as a fuel source to the best of our abilities. And so I think oftentimes, the reason athletes need to take a deeper dive into their nutrition past the carbohydrate, fat and protein is to really see what the quality of the food is they're taking in and we can typically tell that based on the micronutrient content of the actual diet of what they're consuming. And so I would say they're equally as important, if not more so, just to ensure that we have everything we need to facilitate those key components of metabolism that help us and allow us to train.
Andrew: What is maybe the best way for us to determine what micronutrients we're getting into our diets, and what are some of the key ones we need to make sure that we're looking for?
Dr. Austin: So, typically I have athletes assess it via one of the apps I was mentioning. A lot of them these days are able at their more advanced end to actually assess the micronutrients that they're taking in. You can do that, but on the flip side, or I guess you could say the back side of that some athletes will go have blood chemistry done to help them assess whether or not what they're taking in is sufficient to maintain their iron stores or their Vitamin D stores or their B Vitamins. And typically, we encourage athletes to go look at key ones like iron and Vitamin D, to ensure that they don't run into any hiccups as they're out there preparing to race and train for the season. Oftentimes, we say that's the key component or the overhang of any macrocycle are the health aspects. And so if there’s two micronutrients that I encourage all athletes go out there and get measured is their iron status and their Vitamin D status.
Andrew: So, I'm going to tease some future podcasts here really, really quick. We've already planned on recording with Dr. Krista what we're going to call supplement week, where we publish two podcast episodes, that's right, a two podcast episode week. The normal Monday episode and then a bonus Thursday episode, in the same week all about supplement options that we can put into our bodies. But real quick, just for the sake of this kind of basic performance nutrition conversation, if someone finds they are not meeting their micronutrient needs, is it okay to use a dietary supplement to fulfill them?
Dr. Austin: Yeah, as long as you're working towards optimization with your food intake, that's the key. If you're not trying at all, then we sit there and say, okay, maybe let's give this a best effort and try to at least do our basics brilliantly. That's what we usually ask athletes to do. But if we're trying our best with food, then I believe it's okay to actually jump in there with a dietary supplement like a basic multivitamin and mineral and supplement the diet to help ensure that we have everything that we need. I know I was talking with someone last night they were asking me about plant-based diets, and they were trying to optimize everything and they said, “I can't seem to get enough B12 in or Vitamin D. I just can't quite seem to meet everything I need on a day to day basis.” Then I said, “You know what, then go ahead and take a basic multivitamin that has those components in it or even the individual components. Go ahead and purchase them and put them in so you help ensure as you work on this that you're not going to run into any deficiency issues trying a plant-based diet.”
Elizabeth: Now you mentioned vitamins and I don't want to dive too far into this as you know to spoil those upcoming episodes. But could you just help athletes define what a supplement is? I mean, is it just the vitamins, is it protein shakes, beet powder, all of the above? What are we looking at there?
Dr. Austin: Yes. So, typically the way we identify a dietary supplement is by the actual label on something that you purchase, right? And you will find food items out there that might appear as a dietary supplement. But when you turn them around, they have a label that says nutrition facts label, okay? According to the FDA, that's actually considered a food even if you are using that food to help quote-unquote, supplement the diet. When we are actually identifying what is a dietary supplement, the dietary supplements have a supplement facts label on them. And so that's when you know that you are picking up a dietary supplement rather than something that's considered by the FDA to be a food because it bears a nutrition facts label.
Elizabeth: So, I mean, there's a lot of great information here. But for some athletes, it can be a little overwhelming. So, when would you suggest that an athlete seek the help of a sports nutritionist or a dietitian to understand their energy intake and their health balancing all of these macro and micronutrients?
Dr. Austin: You know, I think anytime an athlete is trying to take their sport seriously, and trying to optimize their fuel intake, the recovery process, their training adaptations, if you want to really dive into food and say, “How do I use this to optimize performance?” Then go seek the help of a professional. It's always great to do our own mini-assessment. That's why tools are out there, like the Garmins or the apps that I mentioned. But there's a lot that a professional can bring to the table for you and help you get extra insights into how you're creating your nutritional plan. What people need to realize is that there are a variety of different individuals that can advertise with regards to sport nutrition, and they will say, “Hey, I do sport nutrition. Come on by and let me assist you.” And there's nothing wrong with that. However, what I think it's important for people to understand is that there are differences between a sport dietitian, someone who can call themselves that, and someone who may be considered a sports nutritionist or a nutritionist. And first and foremost, you understand that by looking at their credentials. So, if you look at someone like myself, I'm a Ph.D. They consider me a sport nutritionist because I'm a physiologist with a strong background in metabolism and nutrition, and I've done a lot of practitioners work in that area, and a lot of research in that area. And that's what qualifies me to give information, especially educational information on sport nutrition.
A sport dietitian, conversely, may have a slightly similar background but they also bear credential known as an RD, which considers them to be a Registered Dietician. RDs are not all one in the same though. RDs who have specialized in sport also typically carry an additional certification called their CSSD, which distinguishes them as someone who is a Certified Sports Specialist in Dietetics. I believe that's the abbreviation that they use. And so when you're out there looking for someone to help you with your nutrition and you're an athlete, just be cognizant of who it is you're going to. There's a variety of things that can credential someone to work in the area of sport nutrition, but you just want to make sure that whoever you're working with does have the right background to ensure that you're being given good advice. There's a lot of Ph.Ds that work out there. They don't have the RD certification, but they are very, very good at sport nutrition. They can work with an athlete on nutrition, but at the same time they're not RDs, and that's absolutely fine. Then there are others that are specialists in sports dietetics like a Bob Seebohar or Suzanne Kleiner or Doug Kalman; all of these individuals, including Nancy Clark and the rest, are considered sports dieticians. So, just I think, be aware of the differences that are out there and what you're looking for in terms of credentials for helping you with your nutrition.
Great set everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: All right. For our cool down today, Elizabeth and I are going to drill Dr. Austin with a dozen, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 rapid-fire questions. Now, Krista already gave us plenty of nutritional information to chew on. But before we wrap up that was-- Elizabeth’s laughing here at that.
Elizabeth: Yeah, nice little pun there.
Andrew: I did not even intend for that. I didn't, like as I was reading it right now is when I was realizing that it was kind of a pun. But anyway, so just before we wrap up today, I wanted to give you guys our podcast family, just a little glimpse into our newest podcast expert. So, Krista, are you down to maybe answer a bunch of super random and moderately insightful questions just about yourself?
Dr. Austin: Sure. Let's go for it. Who knows? It could be interesting or not so interesting.
Andrew: Yeah. So, Elizabeth, let's just rip these back and forth. So, I'll start. Krista, what is your favorite all-time TV show?
Dr. Austin: Law and Order.
Elizabeth: All right, next up. What sport did you play collegiately?
Dr. Austin: Tennis.
Andrew: From your collegiate tennis career, what is one of your favorite stories to tell?
Dr. Austin: How much we did not know about nutrition and the many side effects that had on us. We knew nothing.
Andrew: That sounds like a whole podcast that I want to hear.
Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. It sounds like a couple stories there as well. All right. So, continuing on with the tennis, do you have a favorite pro tennis player?
Dr. Austin: Serena Williams. She has stood the test of time.
Andrew: She's the goat. She's the greatest. Where did you earn your Ph.D.?
Dr. Austin: Florida State University.
Andrew: Go Seminoles.
Dr. Austin: That's right.
Elizabeth: What are some of the athletic programs that you've worked with?
Dr. Austin: Those have included USA Triathlon, wrestling, canoe, kayak, weightlifting, I've worked NFL combine at groups like Michael Johnson performance, and then the various clients that they have over the years.
Andrew: What part of your job gets you the most excited?
Dr. Austin: I would say it's when clients come back and they're excited about something. They figured out X, Y, & Z that they really wanted to have happened and what we did worked, and that's when I'm really enjoying the work that I do.
Elizabeth: All right. So, non-nutrition related, moving a little bit away from that in this next one, what is your favorite vacation destination?
Dr. Austin: I don't currently have one but I would love to visit the Maldives. That is the next trip on my list.
Andrew: Who is the top artists on your workout playlist?
Dr. Austin: Keith Urban.
Andrew: Little country.
Elizabeth: All right. Dr. Austin, have you ever raced a triathlon?
Dr. Austin: No, but my athletes keep bugging me to do it. Especially all the miles I've logged they said, “Why don't you go race?” And I just haven't done it.
Andrew: Well, just add me and Elizabeth to that list of athletes that are gonna keep bugging you until you do it. So, and then once you do, eventually cave and do one, we'll have to talk about it on the podcast, obviously. Okay, number 11, it's lunchtime, you're going down the road to grab a bite to eat, what is your go-to lunch spot?
Dr. Austin: It's Whole Foods or Chipotle.
Elizabeth: Oh, John just got so happy with that response.
Andrew: Yeah. Coach John Mayfield from TriDot is an avid Chipotle fan. He can't have enough... I love Whole Foods like their little lunch bar area where there's lots of different options to eat. Big fan of that as well.
Elizabeth: All right, one more food-related, great one to close us out. What is your absolute favorite dessert?
Dr. Austin: Right now it is this Blondie Brownie with caramel gelato at a restaurant here near me. It usually switches up, but this one to me has just topped everything I've ever had.
Andrew: I like how she's distinguishing it's right now because you just never know when you're gonna have the next dessert that's gonna blow your mind.
Elizabeth: That's gonna be amazing.
Andrew: That can unseat the champion of your heart.
Dr. Austin: That's right, and that's easy to do with me, just so you know.
Andrew: Well, that's it for today folks. I want to thank Dr. Krista Austin and Coach Elizabeth James for talking over all the foundational elements of athletic performance nutrition. Shout out to UCAN for bringing us today's show. Head to GenerationUCAN.com to find out which superstar products could be best for you. Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to TriDot.com/Podcasts to let us know what you're thinking. We'll have a new show coming your way soon. Until then, happy training.
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