Dr. Krista Austin cuts through the noise of sports nutrition marketing as she offers insight about what a triathlete needs and the guidelines for using nutrition products. Join the TriDot team as they discuss shopping for sports nutrition products, sweat testing, electrolyte replacement, and determining the best use of particular products based on their molecular weight, osmolality, and carbohydrate oxidation rate.
TriDot Podcast .20:
The Triathlete’s Guide to Sports Nutrition Products
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 TriDot Podcast. We have a great show on deck for you today. We have Dr. Krista Austin back in the house with us for another jam-packed nutrition episode. There are so many nutritional products marketed to us as athletes that sometimes it can be difficult to know what we need to use to help our fitness endeavors. Today, we are going to cut through the noise and talk about what our bodies need and what to look for in a product. Our key guide to the nutrition product market is our Resident Nutritional Expert, Dr. Krista Austin. Krista is an Exercise Physiologist Nutritionist who consulted with the US Olympic Committee and the English Institute of Sport. She has a PhD in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition, and a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology, as well as being certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Krista, welcome back to the podcast.
Dr. Austin: Well, thanks for having me again, Andrew. We're gonna be covering one of the most asked about topics today, so I'm excited.
Andrew: Very good. I'm glad we're excited to get to it as well. Also joining us is Pro Triathlete Coach Elizabeth James. Now, 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 back on.
Elizabeth: Yeah, you bet. Just as Dr. Austin mentioned, this is a topic that many athletes have questions about, so I'm thrilled that we have our nutrition expert to guide us in today's discussion.
Andrew: Well, who am I? I am your host, Andrew, the average triathlete, voice of the people, and the captain of the middle of the pack. Today, we're going to get warmed up before moving on to our nutritionally helpful main set. When we're done, we’ll cool it all down with a nutritional question for something we call Triathlon Mythbusters. It's the part of the show where I pose a question, a commonly believed topic to our Resident Expert and they either confirm it as true or busted as a myth. It's going to be a great show. Let's get to it.
Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: Today's warm up question takes us out of coach mode and into the spectator seat. All three of us on the podcast are not just triathlon enthusiasts, but general sports fans as well. So, today's question just as a fan, if you could get tickets to any sporting event in the world; what would you choose and why? Krista, what would you choose?
Dr. Austin: The French Open. It was the Grand Slam that I always wanted to see growing up, and I had a poster of it from my coach going and watching. And I've watched all these hardcourt matches over the years, and I am dying to see an up and close clay-court match. So, it's the French Open for me.
Andrew: So, is it the style of play on the red clay that you're drawn to? Is it just because you know, for us in the States, so full disclosure for our listeners, I also have a tennis background. Dr. Austin and I have talked about that a little bit. Is it just that here in the States, we don't have a lot of red clay, and so it just looks a lot more interesting and exotic to watch on TV? Is that the draw versus maybe some of the other opens?
Dr. Austin: You know, it's just such a different style of play because of all the footwork they have to put into it and just you know, being there to truly watch up close what they're having to do to get themselves into position, and it's just it's so different. And so I just really want to watch it up close at least once in my life. And the hardcourt is fun, but at the end of the day, the footwork is just that much different on the clay.
Andrew: I think it's an outstanding pick. I really do because A, you get to go visit a foreign country and B, you get to see just the best in the world, you know, on the red clay of Paris, and just a fantastic pic. Elizabeth, what would you want to go see?
Elizabeth: I would want to go see the World Cup. My first sport love was soccer. I played soccer from kindergarten through college. Now, the United States will be joint hosting the 2026 World Cup. So, gonna hint-hint to my husband Charles here just to-- that would be epic to see in person.
Andrew: I'll be sure to make sure Charles listens to this episode.
Andrew: Just so you can catch that--
Elizabeth: To drop that hint there.
Andrew: Yes. Make sure he catches the hint. I have to go super similar to Dr. Austin. I've always wanted to go see Wimbledon in person. It is just the, in a way, tennis kind of has four Super Bowls with the four grand slams. But of the four, Wimbledon is perhaps the most historic. We don't really have a lot of grass in the States just like we don't have a lot of red clay in the States. So, just to see, you know, the greats and the best of the best I would love to fly across the pond to Europe and catch Wimbledon in person.
Dr. Austin: All right. I got a tennis buddy. I can tell.
Andrew: Yes. It's too bad they’re not the same time of year. We could just fly cross and catch them boom, boom after the other, but we'd have to make two trips out of it to see the two.
Elizabeth: Oh, bummer, two trips.
Andrew: I did get to see-- I had a work trip in a previous job, a television network I worked for. We had some broadcasts live from Melbourne, Australia and so I got to see the Melbourne tennis grounds. It wasn't around the time of the tournament, but I did get to see where the Australian Open is played. So, I feel like I've already seen that somewhat. So, French Open, Wimbledon we're going to book a trip, we're gonna do, we're gonna record a nutrition podcast live from Paris.
Dr. Austin: Hey, I'm down.
On to the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1.
Andrew: Our main set today is brought to you by our good friends at UCAN. Here at TriDot, we are huge believers in using UCAN to fuel our training and racing. In the crowded field of nutrition companies, what separates UCAN from the pack is the science behind their SuperStarch, the key ingredient in UCAN products. While most energy powders are filled with sugar or stimulants that cause a spike or crash, UCAN energy powders, powered by SuperStarch deliver a steady release of complex carbs to give you stable blood sugar, and provide long lasting energy. UCAN also offers tasty and refreshing hydration mixes and energy bars for when you are on the go. When I was new to UCAN, my first purchase was there perfectly named Tri Starter Pack. It's the best way to discover what SuperStarch power UCAN products are best for you. So, head to their website, GenerationUCAN.com and use the code, TRIDOT to save 15% on your entire order.
Dr. Austin, when athletes ask you how and what to use from all the sports nutrition products that are available on the market today; what do you tell them?
Dr. Austin: You know, I tell them three key things. First and foremost know the rules of using them. Okay. And one of the things I think we ought to make athletes aware of is that there are current guidelines for especially during exercise that they need to be cognizant of. All too frequently, one thing I do see athletes doing is using sport nutrition products that are intended for in training inappropriately. They'll snack on them, they'll use them afterwards when maybe they don't really need them. And so what I think is really important for athletes to know is when should they be using something. The rules of using them is pretty much related first and foremost to duration of exercise. And then secondly, intensity of exercise. When we're just out there hanging out on the bike, putting some volume in not going really too fast, we actually don't need any of the carbohydrate products that you see out there on the market today. Because typically, we're not out there for that long and it's not that intense. When we start to need carbohydrate related products during exercise, is typically once we get past 60 to 75 minutes of moderate to high intensity activity. And that's when the recommendations to athletes are to in fact, consume 30 to 60 grams per hour if you're going up to two hours of exercise. And if going past two hours of moderate to high intensity exercise to consume 90 grams, or to consume up to 90 grams if they feel like they can tolerate it, mainly because of the huge energy deficit that the body is going into.
Secondly, I try to teach athletes to shop their options. Okay. And what I'll be honest with you about and this is true for just about any, even elite athlete that I've worked with is that most of them are never going to use just one line of products. And typically, you benefit from incorporating a variation into your strategies, rather than sticking with just one. And then thirdly, learning to read the label and understanding the difference between their ingredients. All too frequently athletes show up and they've never even turned it over and said, “Okay, what's in this energy gel?” Or “What's so uniquely different about this carbohydrate powder?” So, I think those are the key things for actually getting athletes engaged with all the sports nutrition products that are available to them today.
Elizabeth: So, with the availability of all of these nutritional products, what percentage of an athlete's nutritional intake should be from those products, and how much should be from whole foods?
Dr. Austin: So, the majority of any athlete’s diet should come predominantly from Whole Foods. And I will tell you that before and after exercise, the only times that I don't recommend people utilizing whole foods is when one, you know, they've had a really, really high level of energy expenditure. And they would probably struggle to get all those calories in if they just tried eating whole foods as they’d feel too full. Secondly, we have some people that will do multiple intense sessions within the same day. And that's when we will try to tap those products to help fuel their body through those workouts and help them recover from the first one and get ready for the second one. But on the whole, the majority of the athlete’s nutritional intake should be coming from whole foods.
Elizabeth: And just to kind of clarify for our listeners, today, we're mainly focused on the use of nutritional products in the day to day training, not necessarily the specifics of a race day nutritional strategy, correct?
Dr. Austin: Correct. But we will say that like the guidelines I just stated about how much should you take in terms of during training, that's actually intended for racing as well. So, they can use those numbers as a reference point. They're very general, they're not dialed in for the individual. But typically, we manipulate those numbers for people's training and then dial it in during races.
Elizabeth: Which makes sense because I know that you know, as a coach, I certainly recommend that the athletes I'm working with are practicing their race day nutritional strategy in those training sessions as well. And so even though we're talking about day to day and the training part, there is a correlation to that race day approach as well.
Dr. Austin: Yeah. You know, you always gotta practice what you're going to be doing. And very rarely do we have enough training sessions that athletes have the opportunity to truly know how their body's going to respond to products, and make sure that it's consistent that way. Most people get into trouble if they don't do enough piloting prior to going out. I mean, even I can get into trouble with that.
Andrew: So, let's start talking about just the different products that are out there and what we as athletes, when we're trying things, when we're buying things, when we're looking at the store shelf, or that online Amazon cart. When you start to take all of the different nutrition products out there and you line them up, how do we even begin to sort through what we should be buying?
Dr. Austin: So, what I tell people to do is to start with the characteristics of the carbohydrates, proteins or fats that are there. What are the innate characteristics and to move from there? If we start taking a look at just carbohydrates, on the whole, let's say, typically I asked the athletes to identify, or I'll tell them the molecular weight, the osmolality, and what can they find out about carbohydrate oxidation or how quickly that carbohydrate can provide them with energy? So, we typically start there with the innate characteristics of what it is they're presented with.
Andrew: So, when we're looking at a label and we're trying to differentiate between those things, the osmolality, the carbohydrate oxidation; how do we know kind of-- how can we distinguish, you know, between different-- What are we looking for in distinguishing between those differences?
Dr. Austin: Well, that's where we've actually got to turn the package over and go to the ingredients themselves. We need to find out does it have cane sugar in it? Does it have SuperStarch? Does it have you know, something from potatoes or honey? And we need to take that, and oftentimes, if you just actually Google it, believe it or not, that's what I'm recommending you do. You can find the molecular weight of those actual products. A lot of them are very similar, though, when you do ask the internet, I guess you could say. That's what my mom always says. She says “I'm going to go ask the internet.” What the molecular weight is once you get into certain types, because we have ones that are high molecular weights, and all of those tend to have very low osmolalities. And then we have ones with low molecular weights or lower, and they tend to have higher osmolalities than the high molecular weight carbohydrates. So, you know, like my mom says, she’s gotta ask the internet. But typically, you can also ask Dr. Austin as we go through this here, what are the molecular weights of those carbohydrates?
Andrew: So, talk to me about, let's just kind of define those terms really quickly. What is molecular weight?
Dr. Austin: So, molecular weight of a carbohydrate is measured in grams per mole. Okay? And typically we do that because it's giving us information about whether or not we're looking at a carbohydrate that is a monosaccharide, a disaccharide or a polysaccharide. And essentially, every carbohydrate that we ingest is going to get broken down into glucose, okay, because that's the common currency that our body's going to accept. The other is fructose, but glucose is the main one that comes in and does the job. And so when we buy a monosaccharide, what we're getting is something that says here, here's a molecule of glucose. If it’s the disaccharide typically, they've taken two simple sugars, like glucose and fructose and combined it to make something known as sucrose, okay, also commonly listed today as cane sugar. Conversely, if you take some of these higher molecular weight carbohydrates, they've got a whole bunch of glucose chained together. And depending on the one you buy, it's chained and linked up in a different manner with different breakdown rates, and it's very dependent on the enzymes used to do that. But it's a huge benefit to triathletes, by the way, so we'll have to get into those.
Andrew: Yeah, we're definitely going to dive into that in just a moment. Because I mean, you were talking and I just had so many follow up questions, but I want us to just kind of define some of these terms first. So, the next one was osmolality. Some people might be familiar that term already, but for those that aren't, what does the osmolality of a product mean?
Dr. Austin: So, it's a measure of the number of dissolved particles in a fluid. And the lower it is, the faster it's going to empty out of the stomach, okay, which I think every triathlete can probably relate to. I mean, I know when I go out running, and I'm consuming fluids and I take something that has a higher osmolality, I can feel it kind of sitting in my stomach, and the fact that it's not emptying, and especially when I'm running downhill. Whereas if we have something that has a really low osmolality, what I always notice is that I barely feel it. I can't even, you know, I don't know when it's come and gone from my stomach, because typically it has the ability to empty so much faster than a higher osmolality beverage.
Andrew: So, then the third one I want to ask before we start moving on is, what does carbohydrate oxidation mean? I actually stumbled over that word in an earlier question. So, it's obviously a word that we need to break down. What does that mean?
Dr. Austin: So, essentially, it's the metabolism of the carbohydrate into energy. So, the question is, how fast do you want that energy? Sometimes we want it to seep out really slowly, but other times we want it to break down really fast and easily for us just because we need the energy that quickly. So, as we go through the high molecular weight carbohydrates that we're going to talk about in a bit, that's one of the things you'll hear me use to help differentiate them is that it's oftentimes something we can use with triathletes to manipulate the metabolic effects that they want in their body.
Elizabeth: Starting with those carbohydrates that you refer to as the high molecular weight carbohydrates, what are they and I mean, how do you differentiate between them?
Dr. Austin: So, if you take a look at the high molecular weight, carbohydrates that are out there on the market, there's four of them that I'm aware of. And they all have about the same molecular weight, which is about 400 to 600,000 grams per mole. Those include the Vitargo, Karbolyn, Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin, and a product known as SuperStarch which is made by a company called the UCAN company. And the difference between them really is how fast they break down. What I can tell from the research literature, what I've been able to gather is that the one that breaks down the fastest, and can oxidize the fastest is the Vitargo. Okay. That's something that typically, people use during sessions where they really want this high rate of energy delivery to their body. People really liked that during cycling, typically, because you're so much more dependent on carbohydrate. Conversely, on the very flip side of that, is one called SuperStarch, which is made by the UCAN company, and is intended to very slowly break down and just provide you with steady give of essentially glucose into the bloodstream. Now, people will use it for a variety of different reasons, but one of those might be to help fuel those more prolonged training sessions they go out for where they're not working at the most in sense level where they have to have the fast-acting once.
The other thing we've seen it used for is in someone like Tim O’Donnell, they'll use it as a base to help support their fast-acting carbohydrates so they don't feel the ebbs and flows of the fast-acting carbohydrates. And then sitting in between those two high molecular weight carbohydrates is one called Karbolyn, and the Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin. They are much more similar to the Vitargo. They break down pretty readily, with the intent to quickly provide fuel to the body. They're just not quite as fast as the Vitargo is or at least that's what it appears based on the research we have on them. So, you would consider them more so to be sitting towards that end that Vitargo sits on.
Elizabeth: I'm so glad that you were able to provide some of those concrete examples. What form do these high molecular weight carbohydrates come in?
Dr. Austin: Most of them come, well, all four of those come in a powder. Now, the thing is you can make them into gels, or at least I know you can take the SuperStarch and the Vitargo and make them into gels. I've played with them a good bit. And if you're out there trying to transport your items, you might want to consider that just because you can't always get everything you need into a bottle. One of the things that's tough about transporting sport nutrition is that the more you concentrate it, the sweeter it tastes. And so most athletes will try to figure out how they can take multiple forms of fuel out there, especially on the bike and the run to help, you know, kind of give them some variety but also make sure what they're taking in doesn't taste too sweet, or get too thick.
Andrew: So, what are some of the types of carbohydrates with a lower molecular weight? And what forms do they come in?
Dr. Austin: So a lower one would be like a maltodextrin. Okay. Those are about 500 to 8,000 grams per mole. So, the osmolality in a maltodextrin is much lower than others such as sucrose or cane sugar, which has about 340 grams per mole and versus fructose and glucose. Okay. So, the osmolality or sorry, the molecular weight is much lower in these as we get into the more simple sugars themselves.
Andrew: And so, when people are looking at different products they can maybe buy that have glucose, fructose, maltodextrin, cane sugar, what are some of the products that they might be familiar with that include those ingredients?
Dr. Austin: So, there's a wide variety of brands that are going to pop up right away that they're going to be familiar with. So, for the maltodextrin, and even the blend of glucose to fructose, the real popular one that's been out there for years is the power bar gels or the power bar powders. You will also see companies like GU produce a maltodextrin base. They've also mixed in fructose into their product. And then you've got a variety of other companies from Infinite to Cliff and Honey Stinger and NUUN that are providing glucose, fructose, or even sucrose combinations that you've got to turn it over and say which one am I picking up, and what does it have in it? At the end of the day, a large majority of them even if it's tapioca or the honey is going to be broken down into glucose though.
Elizabeth: Is there a best way to use some of those lower molecular carbohydrates?
Dr. Austin: You know, everyone is so different. I always say let's understand what goes on in your, and typically, I'm you know, rubbing the stomach area, right, in your GI system and what you can do best. But what I've always found is that most people are going to go out there and use a highly varied mixture of products, okay, especially as they work towards optimizing fuel intakes for these longer coursed triathlons. So, you know, I had a guy the other day for his cycling workout, he was doing one that was like three and a half, four hours, something like that. And he started out with a couple servings of UCAN and he's trying to keep his weight ups, that's one of his big goals. And then he followed it up throughout the ride with the serving per hour of the Vitargo and a gel. And at the end, he finished off with some more fuel, but this time in the form of a bar. He has some bars that he really likes. And so what you see most triathletes do is they learn the products that work for them and that fit their nutritional goals like in his case, he’s trying to keep his weight up, and they find the best ways to use it for them and to pack in the calories.
Andrew: So, is there any difference between the simple sugars or more importantly, is there a reason for an athlete to choose one over the other?
Dr. Austin: You know, typically, the athlete will choose it based on what they need it to do for them. So, when they're out there, they're looking for a few different things. One, is the product going to oxidize well enough for the level of intensity that I'm getting ready to engage in? Secondly, does it ever activate the brain's reward center? Okay. And then third, is it going to help fuel me without coming back up on me? Right? And does it also help do things maybe like hydrate me because we mix it into water and serves to do that? So, the question is, what do you want the product to do for you? And that's why so many people will actually engage with multiple products during a triathlon just because they need multiple things. If you take the SuperStarch, for instance, it can't activate the brain's reward center, and just because it's not a sugar, right? So, people will say, you know what, I'll take a serving of that, and I'll take a gel just because I need a good bit of fuel, but I don't want GI distress. And I need the gel to give me the calories, but also to activate the brain's reward center and increase my rate of carbohydrate oxidation. So, they try to go in and get the best of both worlds is what most triathletes are trying to do.
Elizabeth: Now, we've talked through I mean, quite a few nutritional products. I know that some athletes prefer actual food over those. Do you have any recommendations of foods that also would provide those simple sugars?
Dr. Austin: Yeah. So, there's a variety of whole foods that athletes like to actually tap into from my experience. And those start out with, you know, homemade pureed gels almost, I guess you could say that they take with them including sweet potatoes and bananas. They also might make things like rice balls. And then there are products out there today as gels that are coming from whole foods from brands like Spring, MUIR, Untapped Maple, and 33 Shake. So, we're seeing a variety of products because people have a variety of preferences while they're out there. At the end of the day, they need to go with what they want to embrace in terms of their culture for nutritional intake because we all have these transporters in our body for glucose and fructose, that are highly mediated by sodium content. And that's why they all tend to have sodium in them. And they're going to transport that glucose and fructose through your gastrointestinal system and deliver it to you. The question is, what type would you prefer to put into your body based on your own beliefs?
Andrew: So, as athletes are maybe trying out some of these different products and different gels, different bars, after this talk, they're going to start paying attention to the labels and figuring out what the source of energy is, what is actually in that product. But tell me this, how can an athlete tell when a certain product is a good fit for them? Because we keep talking about everybody's preferences are different, every body responds to different products differently. You know, if I'm playing with maybe this brand of gel and that brand of this and this brand's energy drink mix; how can I tell when a product is working for me, and when I need to move on and try a different product?
Dr. Austin: Well, first and foremost, I always tell them to evaluate it by GI distress. If it's not giving them any GI distress, we know we can put it in our sport nutrition arsenal. The second thing I advise them to do is to look at an actual measure of work output. So, in cycling, you've got a power meter that you can use if you want to take a look at it that way. The other thing you can do is have a criterion course with your bike that you can go out there and say, okay, how well do I usually do this? How fast do I usually go on this course? You can do the same thing for running. And that's what I always tell athletes is go out there and see if it's actually making a difference. I know it makes a difference for me, even if I can't feel it, I'll be using one of the high molecular weight carbohydrates, and all of a sudden hundred and zipping down the road, and I'm running that much faster, predominantly, because I chose one with a high oxidation rate during exercise, and I'm doing something that specifically calls for it. So, that's how I recommend people do it. You've also got to be able to take it in regularly. And so if you've got to take it in regularly, you've got to be good with it. Okay. And if people taste something, they're just like, oh, this might work, but I just can't stomach it, then you know, we're kind of, you know, we gotta shelf that one, it's not going to be in our arsenal at that point.
Andrew: So, when should an athlete-- We've talked a lot about different products and the simple sugars and carbohydrates sources, but tell me this, when should an athlete consider the use of protein in conjunction with carbohydrate as it relates to training? Maybe do we want to have some protein before training? Is it best after training? Is there any purpose for having it during training? Talk to me about protein.
Dr. Austin: Yes. So, protein just based on the guidelines that we have in sport, we say at least in the one hour before exercise, we hopefully have people consuming one to four grams of carbohydrate. And with it, we recommend to optimize pre-training fuel for them to have a small amount of protein. We're not very specific about it because it does sometimes take a good bit more to digest. But we recommend that you put it into the snack or meal that you're having in that window prior to training to help fulfill some of your protein needs. And optimally, we're typically trying to get people to have 20 to 25 grams of protein every three hours throughout the day for the hours that they're awake. And so if we miss one of those windows, typically they start to get behind. So, we always like to see them have it at least somewhat before they exercise. During exercise is really debatable. But commonly what I'll see athletes incorporated are some branched-chain amino acids, especially during prolonged work in which they want to actually see if it helps them from a more cognitive perspective. Like, does it help me focus when I'm out on these really long bikes or runs because I'm the person out there with ADD, right, and can't you know, stay focused and I just don't want to stop. So, we'll see athletes use it for that as well. And then after, typically we say, hey do I need this because it's been three hours and I'm going to have a little bit of a delay maybe before I get my food to help me start muscle repair. And they'll go and have you know, 20 to 25 grams of protein from a single or multiple sources to help them start to repair the body.
Andrew: So, what are the differences in the different protein options that are available to us as athletes? We hear about, there's whey, there's casein, there's plant-based soy; what kind of are the differences between those different types of proteins?
Dr. Austin: So, the overall goal is to have a complete protein source that contains all the essential amino acids. You can receive this through plant-based protein powders, because today, they're creating them much like the same composition that you see, for whey protein. And I think even in some instances, they're trying to manufacture ones that have everything with casein. In the case of soy protein, on the other hand, it doesn't have all of our central amino acids, but that doesn't mean that it can't be combined with other protein sources to provide a complete source. So, sometimes it's about integrating products rather than just looking at a single one and saying, am I getting everything that I need. So, it can be a little bit more of a challenge for those that want to stay purely plant-based, but we can do it just by integrating the different products.
Elizabeth: So, a question I frequently get from athletes is what protein source should I use? How would you answer this?
Dr. Austin: Well, choosing a protein source is very dependent on what you want it to do. You know, typically we say how fast or you know, how slow can it be for you? So, something like casein is very, very slow, it’s the slowest of the proteins that we could consume. Whereas something like eggs is more moderate and whey is far more-- far faster. So, the question is, do you need to try and repair that muscle as quickly as possible, or can you allow for a slower response? And typically, that's dependent on the other fueling the athletes going to do throughout the day, their fueling strategies, and then also, how soon they'll be training again. You know, what foods do they like with regards to protein consumption. And what I find even for myself is that you know, I'll have something right after a prolonged session that has whey protein in it. And it might have like 20 grams, but then I'll follow it up with something that has casein protein from something like yogurt. So, a variety of different ways you can combine those just depending on your own timeline, and when you got to perform again.
Andrew: So, my keto and fat-adapted crowd would just absolutely get onto me if I didn't ask about fat. Is fat an important part of a recovery product as well?
Dr. Austin: The goal of fat is first and foremost, to help be there to support your caloric needs, regardless of what nutritional plan you're on. However, if you are on a high fat diet, you are keto athlete, you'll definitely need it to help you maintain a state of ketosis, especially because during exercise, it's not only uncommon that those athletes will consume carbohydrates, even if it's what we call kind of a keto-friendly carbohydrate. And so, typically their recovery process will include a significant emphasis on fat. So, it's all about meeting your caloric needs and if you are that keto athlete or the high-fat diet, you're gonna have a good bit more as part of your actual recovery process like a keto bowl or keto smoothie.
Andrew: So, how do products focus on electrolytes fit into the equation? I know a lot of gels, a lot of cell tabs, a lot of energy drink mixes advertise, “Oh, you know, we have this electrolyte profile built-in. We have this much salt, this much sodium.” Is that something that we should be considering when we're looking at our products?
Dr. Austin: Yes, absolutely. You know, at the end of the day, you can always add sodium into your products. I mean, I have definitely done that over time. But the reason we want to take a look at the sodium is because our body needs sodium to help it get through every single component of what it's trying to do during exercise. So, sodium is responsible for helping to transport the carbohydrates through the gastrointestinal system through these transporters that are utilized. It’s there to help with muscle function, it’s there to optimize blood flow, and making sure that we don't ever become hyponatremic. And so at the end of the day, I always encourage athletes to really take into account how much sodium is this going to give me. Now overall, it also needs to fit into your sodium intake for the day that you're going to receive through food. Some athletes take in that much more sodium through food so they don't have to be as cognizant in the recovery process with regards to how much sodium is there. And so they say to me, “Well, Krista, if I like chips and guacamole and salsa for recovery, do I need to just sit there and drink a whole bunch of electrolyte beverage while I do it?” And my answer is no, you can actually drink water because you've got these salted chips sitting there. You just want to make sure though, that you're getting enough. And that's where that nutrient analysis really comes in handy. Because you can say, am I meeting my needs for daily living, and my getting at least 500 milligrams per liter over time with what I'm consuming? And I say over time, because if you're doing it sufficiently through foods and other processes, you don't necessarily have to have that much in your electrolyte beverage itself. So, athletes will get there by a different means typically.
Elizabeth: With the emphasis here on electrolytes, particularly sodium, would you recommend that athletes do a sweat test?
Dr. Austin: If they feel like they need it, then yes, absolutely. I mean, I think the more serious they get, the more likely they are to go and do it. But we also have to realize that in a sweat test, you need to be in a steady-state nutritionally, predominantly because your body is going to turn over more sodium in sweat if we actually alter the amount that we have in the diet, But the typical ranges we see in sweat is anywhere from 86 to 343 milligrams. That's what's reported in the research literature. So, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that for every liter of fluid an athlete consumes during or even post-exercise, they're getting at least 500 milligrams per liter, okay. But that can also come in food or electrolyte beverages.
Andrew: So, you mentioned just how critical sodium is to performance and how quickly it can become depleted, specifically in hot conditions. Are there specific products that you recommend athletes use to account for this?
Dr. Austin: You know, I mean, typically, I always turn around and say what is it going to take to rehydrate you and get you to give your body what it is you need, okay? For some people, they can do that very easily through homemade sports drinks, the food they eat throughout the day. But what others will turn around and use hydration products that are highly focused on just providing them with electrolytes. And the whole purpose behind them is to help replenish the body. The other thing we’ll start to tap into typically, in racing is electrolyte capsules, or will start tapping into products like base salt, which can be used just on the tip of the tongue, and it is really good for psychological report. But at the end of the day, I think some of the favorite things that people really do love is just salty foods. So, if you're in the recovery process, I’d like to see how much can be relied on from salty foods. But when you're racing and trying to optimize recovery, we typically do incorporate the hydration products and the electrolyte capsules.
Elizabeth: Now, I've got to ask here, what about pickle juice? This was something that was a new thing to me when I moved to Texas, but participating in the hotter than hell 100, I mean, cyclists left and right, we're just swearing by pickle juice. What do you think about that?
Dr. Austin: Yep, absolutely. I mean pickle juice has a lot of sodium in it. And so it's very concentrated and can give you just like a good shot and dose of sodium when you really need it. Same thing for bone broth, okay. And I never thought I would hear athletes saying this, but they said Krista, in the middle of a race, some cold bone broth, because it's been sitting in my bag for so long, you know, they’ll go to their special needs or what have you, taste phenomenal. And so it's another avenue that athletes can use to help get that sodium in. And I think you can relate to this. I mean, when you're out there for so long, you need that stimulus from a variety of different products to help you get through the race. So, it might be pickle juice or bone broth that makes or breaks your day when it comes down to just cognitive function and keeping your sodium in you.
Elizabeth: Yes, something that just hits the spot.
Andrew: I've seen some snow cone stands here in Texas that serve pickle juice flavored snow cones. I don't know, Elizabeth, the next Ironman race we go to, to support our TriDot athletes maybe we should set up a pickle juice, snow cone stand.
Elizabeth: There we go.
Andrew: See if it helps get them through the race.
Dr. Austin: Yeah. No, I've definitely had those athletes that have asked for things like that.
Andrew: I believe it. Yep. A lot of folks out there with different needs. So, there's so many hydration products to choose from, and you touched on some of them with base salt and capsules and different brands have tablets you can drop into your drink. How should athletes know which one they should choose for training and racing?
Dr. Austin: Yeah, I typically suggest to people unless they've got, you know, a reason where they don't want the sodium too high. I say try to find one that has about 120 milligrams per eight ounces. Typically, most athletes will actually rotate their products because they do tend to get what we call palette or flavor fatigued. So, when they're looking at them, just try to make sure it's got about 120 milligrams per eight ounces unless you've been directed otherwise by a professional. And choose, oftentimes, your particular brands that work best for you. You know, the question is how well usually can you manipulate the dose of electrolytes that the product is providing to you? So, they'll come in powders or tablets, and people will say, “Well, can I just like break the tablet in half and like have half of it?” And I'm like, “Absolutely.” There's no rule out there that says you have to take the whole tablet all at once. So, break it in half or just take half a stick of the powder and manipulate what you've bought in the manner that you desire to. And don't forget, we also have some homemade versions out there on the web that you can use, including ones that are sugar-free. So, know that you can make ones at home if you say, “Hey, Krista, this kind of gets a little expensive because I sweat a lot. Is there a cheaper way to do this?” There are homemade versions that we can always include into our arsenal.
Andrew: All right, y'all. So, just to land the plane today, we've talked a lot about just the science behind what we actually need to be putting into our bodies. We've talked about the different types of products that are out there that are available to us as athletes to try. But just to give the people just some concrete ideas if someone at the out there has been listening to this conversation, they've heard the information we've given, they maybe want to go on Amazon or go on, you know, get down to the store and kind of look at some different products and consider what they want to try next for themselves; maybe if we all just kind of give maybe one suggestion of hey, I've been using this lately and really liking it. Just kind of some, a concrete example, almost a personal endorsement, if you will, of something you're really enjoying in your own training right now. So, Elizabeth, I'll start with you. And longtime listeners of the podcast are going to know what you're about to say.
Elizabeth: Yes, they're like, all right, we know Elizabeth’s gonna talk about UCAN. But yes, I will. UCAN has been a wonderful product for me in my training. And kind of as we've mentioned a couple things throughout today's information, I just kind of want to go back and say that yes, like, it does come in that SuperStarch powdered format. But I also use it in a very concentrated way and make my homemade gels with it. Additionally, when you know, I'm in some very warm conditions, especially living right outside of Dallas, I will kind of make a homemade version of that SuperStarch with some additional electrolytes, some additional sodium in there as well, and kind of make that homemade blend of a nutritional product.
Andrew: Dr. Austin, what is a product that you would recommend our athletes give a try?
Dr. Austin: You know, I've been playing with all these high molecular weight carbohydrates here recently, and the one I actually tried the other day, in preparation for Olympic Trials for the marathon, I wanted to see if I could actually pull this off was a dose of Vitargo like every 5K. And I will tell you, I was pretty impressed by that product. I could not feel it whatsoever. But kind of like Elizabeth, I’ve used the UCAN over the years. I use that usually before and after because of my goals. But I've had a lot of fun with the high molecular weight ones. So, I'm trying to play with all of them at the moment. They seem to work well.
Andrew: Would you say that Vitargo would work for Ironman athletes, or is that specifically for okay, if you're going hard for a marathon, you're going to take it every 5K, does it need to be more regularly taken?
Dr. Austin: You know what, it would work really well in a triathlon as well. I was trying it out because I have athletes right now who had been playing with it for Olympic Trials, and the big question to me was they said, “Krista, can, you know, this stuff, I can't feel it.” Right. “And I'm doing pretty well on it. Should I try taking a full serving every 5K?” And so what does Dr. Austin do? Well, she kind of guinea pigs herself, right? She says, I can't run as fast as they can. But I can put out a good effort if I rest for a few days. And so I was like, you know, what does it feel like to do that? And then I'm testing it out, what does it feel like to take a dose probably every 16 minutes or so? And does it cause any issues? So, I've been playing with the concentrations a little bit for those that are using it.
Andrew: Now, I'm going to give a shout out to two different nutritional products that I've been using and loving lately. The first one I want to talk about is a company called Picky Bars. Pro Triathlete, Jesse Thomas and his wife, Lauren founded Picky Bars and produce their products in Bend, Oregon. Their bars are super tasty, I find them light but filling, and I pair them frequently with some carrots or some fruit as kind of an in-between workout snack. But the Picky Bar product I absolutely love is their Picky Oats. Their How ‘bout Dem Apples Performance Oatmeal has become my go-to breakfast for just heavy training days, race morning. And the best thing is, using their Picky Club System, I get a fresh batch of oatmeal delivered right to my door every two months. So, guys, if you can deliver a hearty, tasty nutritional breakfast right to my door, you've won my heart forever, and that's exactly what Picky Bars does.
The second thing I want to plug is Science & Sports energy gels. I've taken a lot of different gels over the years but once I tried Science & Sports, I won't go back to anything else. Like most companies, they have a wide variety of flavors. So, you're going to find something that you like. But what really sets them apart is the consistency of the gel itself. Instead of being a thick paste that you have to have alongside kind of some water, or another fluid, Science & Sports gels are more like a fluid that you drink from the packaging. So, they're easier to take, they don't require water. And when I pop one of those bad boys out on a run or during a race, I feel the effects just immediately. I also really like that several of the flavors have electrolytes or caffeine in the gel itself. Those 5 am swim days go a whole lot better when I take my espresso flavored, double caffeinated Science & Sports gel right before the main set. So, thank you both so much for kind of giving some concrete examples of the things you're using. Those are some of the things I'm using right now. So, just a shout out to Generation UCAN, Vitargo, Picky Bars, and Science & Sports. Go give those companies a look and see if maybe some of their products might be a good fit for you.
Great set everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: We're going to cool down today with something we call Triathlon Mythbusters. This is our segment where I pose a commonly believed principle from the multi-sport world and ask our experts to either confirm it as a fact or bust it as a myth. Dr. Austin, for a little extra nutritional info today, I have a nutrition-based mythbuster question. Are you up to the task?
Dr. Austin: I'm up for it.
Andrew: All right. A principle widely accepted in the fitness and general dieting world is the cheat meal. Where after a week or so of eating really, really healthy, we allow ourselves one meal to splurge on maybe a certain entree or a dessert or just something that we've been craving. Some see it as a reward for all the good work, and the diligent eating, while others suggest that caving on just one meal helps you keep the diet clean the rest of the week. Krista, is this a fact or is it a myth that a cheat meal could be a beneficial part of a nutrition plan?
Dr. Austin: I believe that having a fun meal, and that's what I usually call it is essential to helping us stick to the plan for the rest of the week. And I think we all kind of need to have that something that we just go out and enjoy. But you know, if you're somebody that says, hey one, one fun meal, and that's that I'm off the rails, then we got to know how to rein that in, and we always have to be smart about our fun meal and make sure that we're not going too crazy and undoing all the great work we did in the week.
Andrew: Elizabeth, what do you think about the perspective of calling in a fun meal and not a cheat meal?
Elizabeth: I like that a lot. I haven't heard that term, but I think it gives a much more positive connotation than cheating on the diet, and the cheat meal.
Andrew: I do too. I think on our social media account, we need to have a fun meal post of the week.
Elizabeth: Ah, there we go. Yes.
Andrew: But hey guys, you heard our expert, Dr. Austin, do not go overboard with a fun meal. Because I would argue that would be the point that it makes it a cheat meal.
Dr. Austin: Okay.
Andrew: So, keep it a fun meal and not a cheat meal. Well, that's it for today, folks. A big thanks to Dr. Krista Austin for talking with Elizabeth and I about what to look for when we are choosing nutrition products to fuel our training and racing. Shout out to UCAN for partnering with us on today's episode. Head to GenerationUCAN.com to see what SuperStarch products can power your training. Enjoying the podcast? Have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to TriDot.com/Podcasts and click on submit feedback to let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training.
Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot Podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great Tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot, the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.