David and Mikkel are joined by Damian Soong and Dr Adam Collins to talk about performance nutrition. Damian is the Co-Founder and CEO of Form Nutrition, Dr Adam Collins is a world renowned nutritionist, his ongoing interests lie in obesity, exercise nutrition, body composition and energy metabolism all as can be applied to weight loss/maintenance and metabolic health, he is also the principal advisor to Form Nutrition.
TIME TRAVELLER | 04
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are” is a famous quote by the French author and lawyer Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who in 1826 wrote a book about the science of taste and cooking. He aimed to make gastronomy a science.
This week is all about Nutrition
Cooking and gastronomy didn’t become a science, but nutrition did.
We are in week 4 of the time traveller challenge, and this week we are turning our attention to the science of food – also called nutrition. If we are what we eat, what should David eat if he wants to become a lean, mean speed machine for his time trial on the 14th of May? Can he still follow the lessons he learned as a professional cyclist a decade ago? How has the science of nutrition changed in the last ten years? What can David do to lose weight and keep energy levels to train hard at the same time?
David, how was nutrition when you started as a professional athlete?
“Well, it was not structured at all. We didn’t have a chef or a nutritionist on the team and pretty much ate whatever food the hotel we were staying at was making, often lots of overcooked pasta. A lot of the nutrition was based on gut feeling, with the idea that nutrition was all about fueling your body with lots of carbs for the race. I have noticed that today every professional team has a chef and a nutritionist, and the food is an integral part of the training and performance. But nutrition feels like a black art. You are supposed to eat less to lose weight and at the same time use more energy to perform harder; how does that even work?”.
To answer that question, we met with two experts in the field. Damien Soong is the founder co-founder of Form Nutrition, which makes vegan plant-based products and responsibly sources nootropics for your brain. Dr Adam Collins is a world-renowned nutritionist and Director of MSc and BSc Nutrition at Surrey. His current research includes exercise intensity, intermittent fasting and timing of food around exercise.
Adam tells us that nutrition tends to be oversimplified to one type of diet or food trend, but nutrition is a complex field that needs to be adapted to each person and their goals.
“What we are learning is that nutrition shouldn’t be just about energy deficit like counting calories. Instead, you need to fuel for what you are doing, optimise your intake of food to the activities you are doing instead of just fueling yourself with carbs or reducing your intake of energy.”
Nutritional scientists are putting much effort into adopting nutrition to the specific period you are in in your training program and teaching the body to optimise its energy systems like carbs and fat to the particular activity:
“If you are loading your body with carbs before and after your exercise, you are training your body to use carbs for energy, and you will not get the results you are looking for, whether that is weight loss, endurance or power.”
Instead, Dr Collins advises athletes like David to moderate their nutrition to exercise and train the body to use both carbs and fat as energy reserves.
“Sometimes you want to deliberately not fuel your body to train it to use fat reserves as fuel.”
One way to optimise the nutrition to get better results from your training is to follow a low fuel, low training approach where you exercise on very low fuel to teach your body to use its fat reserves as an endless energy reserve.
“I often do my workouts in a fasted state, and that has been a game-changer for me. So many people are over-fueling”, Damien tells us.
“You don’t need to load your body with energy gels or drinks for doing a park run or a weekend race.”
Another aspect of nutrition that we rarely think about is how food affects sleep.
“We all know anecdotally that we perform better after a good night’s sleep. But there is a lot you can do to prepare your body to sleep better. At Form, we make a natural supplement that can help you sleep and recover better”.
The key learning is that nutrition does not have to be a black art. You can lose weight and improve your performance simultaneously if you moderate your food to the type of activity you are doing and teach your body to use all of its energy systems instead of just using carbs. But according to Adam, David must be careful not to focus too much on weight loss.
“You need to think less about weight loss and think more about weight maintenance. How can you maintain your weight, and what made you gain weight in the first place?”
A part of that is to notice what you eat and your habits and find ways to change practices sustainably.
It sounds accessible, and really, the insights from the science are already practised intuitively by many cultures:
“Look at the Kenyan runners, they fast and run, and it’s a perfectly natural way of adapting their nutrition to their training. We are already doing many of the things science is telling us”, Adam says.
Maybe you, like David, feel like you're at a crossroad right now, where it's time to get yourself motivated.
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