What does it mean to be vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or pescatarian? On this episode, resident nutritional expert Dr. Krista Austin overviews plant-based nutrition. Does a plant-based diet result in greater health benefits such as lower cholesterol, better heart health, or faster weight loss? What are some key sources of protein you should look for if avoiding animal products? Listen in as Dr. Austin answers these questions and outlines important considerations for athletes.
TriDot Podcast .59:
Plant-Based 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 Harley: Hey folks, welcome to the show. We've got another great podcast for you today with our nutrition expert, Dr. Krista Austin. We've had her on so many times, and she's been such a help to all of our TriDot athletes that listen to the podcast. You guys know her and love her. We've learned a lot about nutrition on race day, we've learned a lot about nutrition for recovery, we've learned a lot about the different products on the market for triathletes to take, but we wanted to kind of circle back with Dr. Austin on just some podcast episodes that specifically talked about different diets and different ways of eating, different lifestyles of eating. There are folks that take different approaches to their day-to-day nutrition, and so over the next couple of months we're going to be coming out with a couple episodes with Dr. Austin that just really dive deep on how to be a triathlete on certain nutritional dietary eating plans and strategies. Today we're going to start with plant-based diets, so Dr. Austin's going to talk all about how to be a triathlete, how to maximize your performance and training potential while being a plant-based athlete. It's going to be a great show. Dr. Krista Austin is an exercise physiologist and nutritionist who consulted with the U.S. 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, thanks for coming on to talk about plant-based diets!
Dr. Austin: Well thanks for having me, Andrew. I think this is gonna be great for many athletes, and even probably their friends, just because there's a lot of interest these days in plant-based diets, and I think we're gonna be able to clarify some of the questions that not only athletes have around it, but other people as well, so I'm looking forward to this.
Andrew: 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 top age grouper to a professional triathlete. She’s a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, how are you doing today?
Elizabeth James: I am doing well, thank you! How about yourself, Andrew?
Andrew: I'm delightful! I'm ready to talk plants and eating them. Well, I'm Andrew the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People, and the Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always we’ll roll through our warmup question, settle in for our main set conversation, and then we'll wrap up with our cooldown. Lots of good stuff. Let’s get to it!
Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.
Andrew: As we transition from season to season, there's a notable shift in the temporary flavors offered by many food and drink products. Seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice in the fall, peppermint in the winter, and coconut everything in the summer are perhaps the most familiar examples, but Dr. Austin, Elizabeth, what are your personal favorite seasonal flavors, and what product do you enjoy that flavor in the most? Elizabeth?
Elizabeth James: Hmm, well, I actually don't like any of the flavors that you just mentioned. Pumpkin spice, peppermint, coconut, no thank you on all three of those. I just like chocolate, and you can eat chocolate year-round, so I'm thinking chocolate ice cream, chocolate-covered fruit in the summer, hot chocolate, warm, fudgy brownies as the weather cools down. We don't need seasonal flavors, just hot and cold chocolate choices for the changing weather.
Andrew: Yeah, chocolate, vanilla, like just the two go-to's year round.
Elizabeth James: See, NOT vanilla, just chocolate. Yeah.
Andrew: Very specific! Dr. Austin, how about you, do you have a go-to seasonal flavor you enjoy when it comes up on the calendar?
Dr. Austin: You know, I actually like to test all of them out. When I look at some of the flavors you're describing there, it's probably only the coconut one that I don't really engage with, but when we go through the seasons I'll get the gingerbread latte, or I'll get the pumpkin spice this or that, or the peppermint mocha, and really just enjoy the season that I'm in, but I'm also okay with Elizabeth's approach. If people just want to do chocolate fudgy brownies, chocolate ice cream, I'm down for all of it. So you don't have someone who's too picky on this one.
Andrew: Yeah, apparently. That's great to hear. I like that strategy. I do wish I got along with more of them. I'm definitely not a huge pumpkin guy. I very much like the peppermint in the winter, but I think my favorite thing when it comes around is pineapple. There are several companies that in the summertime and springtime will do pineapple-flavored things, and pineapple is just one of my favorite fruits. I love pineapples when they're in season. We go through them like crazy in the Harley household when they're in season, and actually something I've really been enjoying lately is, Scratch has a pineapple nutrition mix, and I've been using that when I go to the pools. I'll mix just one serving of Scratch's pineapple hydration mix, and when I'm in the pool, what I've found, I usually just drink straight water when I'm in a pool session – they're an hour long, you don't need a ton of calories or energy for an hour-long pool session – but I found just that slight fruity pineapple flavor, it's almost like a palate cleanser from the chlorine that I swallow as an average swimmer, right? And so you get to the wall, and instead of taking a swig of straight water, having a nice refreshing pineapple. I've really been enjoying that this summer, so shout out to Scratch Labs for their pineapple Scratch, which is always seasonal, just in the summertime. That's my go-to at the moment, but as we head into winter, yeah, bring on the peppermint. Guys, we're gonna throw this question out to you on our social media account, so be sure to follow us on Instagram, and be sure to join our I AM TriDot Facebook group if you're not already a member there. We're gonna throw this out and find out from you, is there a seasonal flavor you love? Do you live for the peppermint stuff in the winter? Do you live for the pumpkin spice everything in the fall? Is there something that we haven't touched on that you're a big fan of? Maybe a cranberry-apple or, I don't know, there's all sorts of seasonal stuff, and we want to hear from you on what you enjoy throughout the calendar year.
Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…
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So Dr. Austin, let's just start with this. What is considered to be plant-based nutrition, and do I have to be a total vegan to consider myself an athlete or a person taking advantage of a plant-based diet?
Dr. Austin: So I will just tell you that these terms over the last I-don't-know-how-many years, especially recently where plant-based nutrition became more of a popular term, have been kind of constantly redefined, so that it's more encompassing of all the groups that have started to gravitate towards this concept of plant-based nutrition. In fact, someone, I can't remember where it was, talked about being "plant-forward", and really oftentimes when we look at nutrition programs they're trying to induce some type of behavior change. So when they have research that comes out in the nutrition field, they'll utilize what is gained from that to try and help create healthier behaviors amongst populations. So I think a lot of what you're experiencing with all the rise in plant-based nutrition comes from the fact that there's been some more research, there's been more groups developed looking at these different approaches to nutrition, and they then create a term that says, here is what we're going to call this. However, it does not mean that you have to be a vegan, or even a pure vegetarian. And so I hope what we can do today is help you understand more so what is plant-based nutrition, and if I'm gonna practice any aspect of it what does that mean? And first and foremost, what I'll tell you is that if you're going to practice plant-based nutrition, one of the things that you're doing is choosing most of your foods from plant sources rather than a majority of your foods from animal sources or processed foods that are not inclusive of the fruits, the vegetables that naturally come from the ground. The other thing you might do is to gravitate more towards plant-based resources than milk products, protein powders, to not only maybe help support some of the groups that are out there on energy conservation, but also in minimizing the use of animals in the foods we consume. So really it's up to you as an individual to say, here is how I'm going to define whether or not I am a plant-based individual and to what degree is that. Oftentimes the start for most people is a reduction in dairy products. They'll say, "I want to support the efforts that are out there with regards to improving our energy resources, with improving how we approach using animal products," and they'll say, "Dairy is something that can easily be substituted out of my nutrition plan and replaced with a plant-based alternative." The other thing that often triggers this is when people are looking at allergens, dairy is one of the top allergens that people will have here in the U.S. So food allergens like dairy oftentimes lead people down a road, or it's where they start towards more of a plant-based program, but it doesn't mean they're going to truly get there to the fruits and vegetable component like we would maybe hope.
Andrew: Yeah, a lot of tummy aches induced by folks with aversion to dairy.
Dr. Austin: Yeah, and sometimes it's as simple as rotating dairy out of what you consume prior to training or competition. I have some people where I've just made the recommendation of, "Look, you're consuming milk, and specifically it's milk that is triggering a stomach upset when you go train or race," and so we'll remove milk and replace it with something like almond milk, and just simplify the approach to removing dairy, but they'll also stay consuming maybe some Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. So it's just one example of an approach that we can take. The other area that's really been kind of highlighted as a means to be kind of plant-forward is the concept of a Mediterranean diet, where the basis of what you're eating is mainly plant-based foods. So fruits and vegetables, hummus, beans, lentils, legumes are really the plethora of a lot of what you eat, but at the end of the day it still includes everything else in moderation. So that's one of the most popular ones that you will see programs talking about, and really there's a wide variety of approaches you can take, from flexitarian to pescatarian, to just cleaning up your everyday diet to reflect more of the fruits and vegetables, legumes, healthier food options. So really when we look at any nutrition plan, what is it trying to get you to do? Well, it's trying to get you to take foods that are not healthy for you and replace them with something that you truly need.
Andrew: Yeah, I'm glad you've already kind of made a distinguishment between there's being a vegetarian, there's being a pescatarian, where fish is incorporated. There's the flexitarian approach. I've never heard the term plant-forward before.
Elizabeth James: I hadn't either, but I like that.
Andrew: Yeah, which when you hear that, it makes a lot of sense. Dr. Austin, there's always the joke that if somebody is truly a vegetarian, you won't have to ask them if they're a vegetarian, they're gonna have already told you they're a vegetarian. Vegetarians, like Ironmen, are usually very willing to talk about their approach to nutrition. So as we talk about flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian, does a vegetarian diet itself mean that you're always plant-based?
Dr. Austin: No, not necessarily, and that's what's so interesting. You know, I encountered this years ago where people said, "Well, I'm a vegetarian," but at the end of the day they were not focused on really high-quality foods in their diet, they just had eliminated meat and dairy products and were utilizing a lot of processed foods that just didn't contain those two items. And really it came back to where were they obtaining their protein sources from. So they were using more tofu and lentils and oats to try to get it from, but they would incorporate a lot of actually what I would consider to be unhealthy processed foods to do that. So just because someone says, "I'm vegetarian," it doesn't mean that they necessarily have the healthiest diet in the world. It may just mean that they're trying to remove animal products and dairy products, and they have actually turned to more processed foods that aren't quite the healthiest way to create those nutritional plans. And I think what you'll find when you talk to people who are truly dedicated to the extremes of plant-based nutrition is that they have a very high-quality diet. And in fact some people, when you look at the type of vegan that they are, take it as far as to say, "I only want something that is raw," so they're considered "raw vegans", where they will eat vegetables and fruits raw, they'll dry their own fruit, and they really try to avoid anything that doesn't come from the ground, that is cooked, processed, or anything of that nature, and so they distinguish themselves that way. And ironically, they're actually able to do quite a nice job in terms of optimizing the quality if they adhere to what they consider to be the raw vegan diet. And then you have others that will turn around and say, "Well, I can't be quite that committed," and they will use the actual frozen foods and boxed goods and what-have-you to help create, which there's nothing wrong with, it's just that they aren't taking it quite to that extent where everything needs to come from the ground.
Elizabeth James: That's so interesting. I'm glad that you have already been able to make quite a few distinguishments here as we're getting started. Yeah, there are some people that I've visited with that are very passionate about their nutrition, but for good reason. Maybe they've had some issues in the past and have found something that they are now fueling their body with that helps them feel great and perform well too, and that kind of brings me to another thing that I wanted for us to touch on. Recently there's been a lot of media around eating a plant-based diet to improve athletic performance. Is there any evidence to suggest that it can enhance athletic performance?
Dr. Austin: At this point in time, I have not seen anything that says it's going to enhance athletic performance with regards to the research literature. However, what a lot of that revolves around is athletes saying, "Hey you know what, when I shifted to a plant-based diet, it actually made me focus more so on what I was actually consuming, and therefore I did a better job with my nutrition, and I felt better." And that's what I find with most people is that when they choose a specific dietary type that improves the quality of what they take in, they end up improving their performance because they become more conscious of maintaining stable blood glucose values, eating more frequently, really moderating the boluses of the macros that they're giving themselves. And so I think what you find is that when they do take on that veganism, that plant-based mentality, the plant-forward approach, they actually end up improving performance just because they've cleaned their diet up and they feel better on the whole. They're recovering better, and they're not on a chronic yoyo.
Elizabeth James: That makes a lot of sense, yeah. Would there be any negative effects of eating a plant-based diet for an athlete?
Dr. Austin: Yeah, so the biggest thing that I've noticed when people try to switch over to something that's fully plant-based is that you really end up increasing the amount of fiber content if you do it the healthy way, right? And for an endurance athlete that can cause an increase in GI issues. Now for some people, those GI issues don't ever come around, but for others, they will experience it just because they probably have a gut that just is a little bit slower with all that fiber. Although you will see this even in someone who is not full-bore vegan, someone who does use animal products on a day-to-day basis but just has a really high intake of fruits and vegetables. So that's what we mean by they're operating plant-forward. I'd have to go look it up again as to what they're completely meaning by plant-forward, but someone who has a whole bunch of fruit and vegetable in, and driving their fiber content up. Due to that, they are still experiencing the same things possibly. So you've just got to remember that just because you're not full-bore vegan or full-bore vegetarian, you can still result in high fiber content and GI issues, so it's always something that athletes have to be cognizant of. The next thing they've got to be smart about is the quality of their protein sources, and so this is something that can easily be missed if they are on a vegan or vegetarian diet, if they haven't educated themselves about meeting the amino acids the body needs for muscle repair and restoration. The other aspect is dietary iron and B12 intake. Because they don't consume animal products, they're much more likely to have not enough iron or B12 if they don't have a high-quality plant-based nutrition program. And really, that's in the ones, in my opinion, that have gone more towards the vegan side of the curve – they'll end up with low iron. But it's like I tell people, I've had athletes over the years that have low iron just because they don't eat the quality foods that they need anyway, and they might be on the spectrum that they say, "I'm just gonna take an iron supplement." So either way, regardless of how you practice nutrition, you've got to be cognizant of your dietary iron and B12 intake.
Andrew: When I hear plant-forward, I guess my mental notion of that is just somebody who leans towards, who kind of errs on the side of eating more plants than other things, and probably eats your meats, your dairy in moderation, but is more forward-leaning towards the plant side. So whether you're that, or whether you're full-on vegan, flexitarian, for those folks to kind of see what they might be lacking, to see if you are maybe lacking in iron or B12, is it good for those folks to be on a app like Cronometer to kind of see maybe what they're getting and not getting?
Dr. Austin: Absolutely. I think one of the best things any athlete can do regardless of which nutrition plan they choose is to take an application like Cronometer and say, "Okay, I'm gonna input everything I'm eating, and see how my macros and my micros turn out." And so whenever you do that, you really get the wakeup call that plant-based nutrition is bringing to people, which is am I consuming what I need to be consuming. And so you can take the same number of calories and replicate different menus for yourself, and come to find out, "I can fulfill all my micronutrients, or I can fulfill the majority of them on most days. Maybe I'm missing one that isn't at 100%, but on the whole, I can do this." I did that with someone's plan the other day. I took what they typically did, switched it up a little bit to make it more plant-forward, as people like to call it, and all of a sudden, all the micronutrients were hit except for one, on calcium, which is 2,400 calories a day. We had full-bore amino acid profiles from the protein sources, and all the micronutrients had really been hit to help optimize what was being taken in. The omega-3s were optimized, really upped by putting some oatmeal in there. Let's put some this-or-that in there with the salmon. And so by doing that we really do move people forward, I think, just by giving them an analysis tool like Cronometer provides, so that they do know what they're getting.
Andrew: Yeah, and shameless plug for athletes who are listening and think that sounds like a great idea for you, we have a podcast episode. Episode .51 is called "Bite It and Write It: Nutrition Tracking for Triathletes", where Dr. Austin gives us all of her tips and tricks for getting the most out of Cronometer and similar apps that help you track your nutrition, and track what you're eating, and track the nutrients that you're putting into your body. So I would encourage you to go listen to that, and regardless of what your diet is make sure you're getting what you need. So Dr. Austin, getting back to plant-based diets, does a plant-based diet result in greater health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, better heart health, or faster weight loss? Are these things that we can get from being plant-based?
Dr. Austin: You know, for most individuals the answer is going to be no to things like faster weight loss and better heart health, although there is some research that has recently emerged to say that we have the ability to use a plant-based diet for some individuals to help lower their cholesterol without turning to a medication source. But if we take a look at something like lowering cholesterol, oftentimes that comes from exercise in and of itself, and putting in the caloric control and the fiber content to really help people kind of cleave off and reduce the cholesterol. The fiber of a plant-forward or plant-based diet is going to obviously help with that, and to also help them feel full throughout the day. So you can see if someone became plant-based or more plant-forward how they could actually end up lowering cholesterol, more so than if you were on a diet that was just heavily focused on meats and did not have the fiber content that it should. The other thing is when you're implementing a weight loss program it does come down to energy in versus energy out, and a plant-based approach may just help someone adhere to keeping their energy intake under control by helping them to feel full. However, if it's just weight loss you can create equivocal success on any nutrition plan. But at the end of the day you do have to say what's going to allow for the greatest adherence, and for most people they've got to feel full. If they start to get really hungry, they're going to go in search of food. As for heart health, there's some research that suggests a plant-based diet can help lower cholesterol as effectively as statins. And so some may choose a nutrition approach first before ever going over to a medication approach. I've talked to some males, and they said that this is actually crucial for them, because the cholesterol is important for making testosterone, and they don't want the statins to reduce their testosterone if it's given in too high of a dose. And so I thought that was really interesting that they were looking at it as a dietary choice, just so they may not have to move towards a medication or have a medication at a dose that may compromise their testosterone levels. So there's a lot of things that I think you have to take into consideration to know if a plant-based diet is going to help you achieve better health.
Andrew: Yeah, and so you mentioning obtaining protein, that that can be the tougher part of obtaining a balanced plant-based nutrition program, especially for somebody who is vegan. So what are the key sources an athlete should look at if they want to avoid animal product but still get that protein in?
Dr. Austin: Yeah, so if I'm looking at the replacement for the actual animal products when it comes down to the meat sources and what-have-you, I'm looking at things like seitan, tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, beans, yeast, spelt, tef, hemp seeds, green peas, protein powders with specific amino acid profiles. And then there's of course our seeds, our quinoa, our oats, and even things like peanut butter powder. So there's a lot of things you can utilize to create that amino acid profile, and I've done it successfully with athletes and they've completed that. But what you have to remember is you're going to increase the fiber content that you're taking in, and at the end of the day the question is how does that impact you? A lot of them can do it over time, gradually incorporating more of these products, whereas others dive right in, and they do experience the increase in the fiber and the change in where they're getting their protein sources from. But it is possible to do it, and if people want to be on that vegan program, I think we need to acknowledge that there's an equivocal resource out there, and that it's not like you're going to be missing something that is so crucial to the body. So I think a lot of it is just dispelling that myth and teaching people to use those different sources and mix them appropriately to achieve the amino acid profile they need.
Elizabeth James: Yeah, that amino acid profile is so interesting to me, and as we are talking about some of the pros and cons of being plant-forward or plant-based diet, there's a lot to consider, no matter what kind of nutritional approach an athlete is taking. I know that just a little bit ago we were asking about if there were any negative effects of eating a plant-based diet, and we discussed the fiber content, needing to be aware of that amino acid profile. I guess another thing that I'm kind of curious on and I'd love for you to share with our athletes listening, is if someone is going to commit to eating plant-based, even vegan, are there any other cautions that an athlete should be made aware of prior to making that switch, just to ensure that they're doing the right thing to fuel their body?
Dr. Austin: Yeah, I think first and foremost it's to ensure adequate calorie intake and carbohydrate intake so that they don't experience low energy availability or any component of REDS. And we did a session on REDS for both men and women, and that stands for Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome. And I know that for some athletes when they do move to a plant-based or plant-forward dietary program, they end up reducing their caloric intake to a point where they don't realize they may be compromising their health. And so that's my biggest thing to tell anyone looking at different types of nutrition plans: ensure it can meet your caloric needs, and it doesn't leave you in a state of REDS. The other aspect is I just tell people when you do switch to a more plant-based diet or plant-forward diet or you become vegan or vegetarian or what have you, remember that not all carbohydrates are created equal. It's not just about going and removing animal products such as dairy or meat, chicken, things of that nature, but it's about actually creating a very robust, healthy diet. Not all carbohydrates are created equal, and so I just keep reminding them that you've got some carbs out there that might not have any animal sources and that are high calorie, but they're not giving you necessarily what you need. So just always keeping that in mind.
Elizabeth James: And that's where athletes could look at that micronutrient breakdown too, to get a better indication of what would really be in those sources of carbohydrate that they would be ingesting.
Dr. Austin: Yeah, and I look at some of the cookies that people will show up with, and they're like, "Hey, they're vegan!" And I'm like, "Yeah, and so are the fruits and vegetables over here." So if you take a look at people who have been very successful as vegans, they really are on top of the quality of the foods that they're consuming, just like anyone should be.
Andrew: Dr. Austin, what are just a couple, for someone listening who maybe has kind of dabbled in this and has attempted or is actively implementing a plant-based diet, and now they're wondering to themselves, "Oh my gosh, what am I eating? Is it vegan things that are helping me, or is it things that are more just empty calories?" What are maybe just a couple examples of things you encourage athletes to get into their diets throughout the week if they're trying to go for a more plant-based diet?
Dr. Austin: Yeah, so with anyone I've ever worked with I sit down and explain to them the protein profile of everything that I mentioned previously, because that's the biggest thing I find athletes are missing, and then we do an actual analysis of the overall content of what they are taking in. Typically I'll also have to teach them about the appropriate protein powders that they may want to include in their nutrition plan, especially in a smoothie or something like that, and then the other aspect is I turn around and say can you do this, and do you maybe need to test it out with still a little bit of animal product in the plan. And so we'll leave something like salmon, like 4 ounces of it, or 4 ounces of chicken in their plan, maybe rotating sources every other week, and just saying is this something that your body needs. And so that's where I try to just be cognizant that at some point in time they may be getting something from animal products that they actually do need. And some of my most successful, very plant-based/plant-forward athletes, who consider themselves to be practicing a vegan lifestyle, have actually left room for about once a week to have a small amount of animal product in the form of like fish or chicken, just to help themselves a little bit. They said it does make a difference. So I always sit people down and teach them about the quality of what they're consuming, and making sure that they're able to actually take on the true purpose of a plant-based or plant-forward nutrition plan.
Andrew: So I feel like I've learned just a ton about the things to consider. I've learned a lot about the things to be mindful of if attempting to go more plant-based. But I guess my biggest question as we start to head to the end of the main set here is, who is this for? What athletes out there are candidates to benefit the most from going more plant-based, and what are the biggest benefits of plant-based diets for athletes?
Dr. Austin: You know, I think the best candidates for something of this nature are those that have the true belief in wanting to help the causes that have really made it popular, and that is when they have the cause of trying to help preserve the health of animals, to help our overall consumption of animal products and its impact on the environment. I think those are the ones that will give themselves the reasoning and the underlying principle to truly stay with it. Other people who adopt it might be those that are kind of struggling a little bit on that cholesterol side. Maybe they've seen early on that they've got some genetic aspects that are very controllable, and they're like, "I need a good reason to really protect my body. The cholesterol is, and I will adopt more of a plant-forward mentality and message." So those are the ones that I think it's best for. You always have to actually consider what the implications are, though, on the person's life overall. There are those that will try to adopt it, and then because of social circles or the work that they do they end up going back to some animal sources, but what you see is they have a cleaner nutrition plan just overall. So it's a lot to take under consideration, and my biggest thing is if you think it's right for you, start one step at a time. Take a look at one aspect of a full-bore plant-based diet, and say, "What out of this am I willing to actually to begin to incorporate?"
Great set, everyone! Let’s cool down.
Andrew: We have a lot of fun making this podcast, but we hope more than anything that the information that our coaches and experts share truly makes a difference for you and your triathlon journey. You all inspire us. You drive us. And we never get tired of hearing about your adventures and successes in the sport. We have a great story today coming from TriDot athlete Randy Goodson. He is the pastor of New Beginnings Church, and is prepping for his very first Ironman, and recently the TriDot podcast with Dr. Krista Austin both played a role in helping Randy right the ship on a health issue that was causing him to lose energy in his workouts. Here is Randy with the rest of his story.
Randy Goodson: Hi Andy and the TriDot crew! Long-time listener, first-time caller. I've always wanted to say that. My name is Randy Goodson from Hiawatha, Iowa. I've just finished my second season as a triathlete. Well, really, as any sort of athlete at all, I was a band weenie in high school. I got into this sport when I was hanging out with my brother-in-law and his brother, who is a multi-time Ironman, and like any triathlete the conversation turned to what the sport has done for him, and that me and my brother-in-law could do it too. We abruptly told him that we were fat and out of shape, and that he was nuts. Yet here I am. I joined TriDot with the last pre-season project, and I just absolutely love it. I was supposed to do Ironman Wisconsin this last September, but we all know what happened there. Hopefully that'll happen this next year, and I will become an Ironman. Last year I did several sprints, and in 2019 I did several sprints, an Olympic, and a half Ironman-distance race, and this year I just did a few sprints because there were most of them canceled. So hopefully next year I'll be able to claim the title Ironman. Anyway, I'm super excited to be able to share the mic with Dr. Austin today, because she literally saved my bacon. I had my standard annual physical this last January, and I told my doctor that I just wasn't feeling well. I was always tired. She ran the standard bloodwork and said that everything looked fine, because they have high and low and anything that falls between is just fine, and nothing flagged. So she sent me to the sleep center for a sleep study. Everything was fine there. By this time it's like April, and my training is progressing. I was bumping the dot at my assessments up until then, but I just didn't have any energy at all. So my doctor said why don't you reach out to a counselor to help you get some sleep. And I did, and it did help a little bit, but she ordered some more blood tests, and a little more in depth this time, and everything was fine. All were within tolerances, but things were getting worse for me. My energy levels were so low I could barely work out. I still wasn't sleeping well, and now I was falling asleep at my desk. This was not acceptable. And then my life began to change. I listened to Podcast No. .45 and .46, when you all and Dr. Austin talked about the impacts of training on health, and Dr. Austin had explained this thing called REDS, and I forget what it stands for but it sounded exactly like what I had going on, except that my testosterone levels were fine. So I thought what the heck, I'm gonna reach out and see if she'll respond. The long and short of it is that she did respond. She had me do a nutrition log and had me send all of my bloodwork to her, and I had plenty of that. A week goes by and we have our call, and she says, "I see what's going on right off the bat. You're iron-deficient, anemic, and you have a significant calorie and nutrient deficit." So she immediately had me start taking an iron supplement, and we started changing my diet. Now I'm eating a more plant-based diet, and I am using a lot of UCAN SuperStarch products. Being a Type 2 diabetic, the steady release and no sugar spikes are perfect for me. I have since dropped one of my diabetic drugs altogether, and I hope to drop the amount of the other one soon. I've still got a ways to go, but I'm on the right path. I'm sleeping better at night, and I have much more energy than I have had in a very long time. I guess if I was to wind this up with some words of wisdom, I would go to what Dr. Leeper said on last week's podcast. He said, "You know your body more than or better than anyone else. If something's wrong, you know it." So stick with it. My doctor has never worked with endurance athletes and their special needs, the specialized nutrition needs and whatnot. She didn't know. But I knew something was wrong, and I kept pushing it until I found the answer. That answer came through less traditional methods in reaching out to Dr. Austin, but the answer did come. Thanks Andrew and crew, for allowing me to share a bit of my story, and thank you so much, Dr. Austin, for all of your help.
Andrew: Well, that’s it for today, folks. A big thanks to Dr. Krista Austin and pro triathlete Elizabeth James for talking plant-based diets with us today. And thanks also to Randy Goodson for sharing his story with us. Randy, keep doing the right training right, and Lord willing we'll see you at Ironman Wisconsin next year as you make your Ironman debut. Shout out to UCAN for partnering with us on today's episode. As we talk plant-based nutrition, make sure you check out UCAN's Chocolate Energy + Protein mix. With 20 grams of non-GMO pea protein per serving, it has the perfect mix of nutrients for a plant-forward diet, and it's very tasty as well. I love that one. Head to GenerationUCAN.com and use coupon code TriDot to save on your order. Enjoying the show, have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about, head to TriDot.com/podcast and let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it all again soon. Until then, happy training.
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