There is SO much information in the media and in magazines about what to eat to enhance running performance….but how much of it is actually evidence-based and factual rather than just being sensationalist?? This plethora of information can lead to confusion for many runners on what to eat to fulfil their running goals.
Karen, one of your Podcast hosts, attended the ISENC (International Sports and exercise Nutrition Conference) in Manchester in December. This conference is dedicated to outlining and discussing the most up to date science and research in the world of sport and exercise nutrition.
So, in this episode we share some of that information with you so you feel informed when making YOUR food and nutrition choices to support your run training. The two principle topics we focus on are:
- Overtraining Syndrome and Relative Energy Deficit in Sport and how they potentially overlap
- Dietary Fibre and its potential role in sports performance
Defining Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) and Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S):
Overtraining syndrome: is viewed as a condition associated with a long-term imbalance between training and recovery and is generally characterized by:
- Reduced sports performance
- Mood disturbances
It is thought to affect between 20% and 60% of athletes throughout their careers.
It is grouped in with functional and non-functional overreaching, but compared to these conditions OTS is the most severe and reflects a chronic accumulation of training and non-training stressors that can take months to years to fully recover from.
Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport: In 2014 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) defined RED-S as:
“….a syndrome resulting from relative energy deficiency that affects many aspects of physiological function…..”
and this is thought to be as a result of inadequate energy intake (EI) compared to energy expenditure of exercise (EEE) and daily living, resulting in poor health and reduced sporting performance
Establishing the possible overlap between these two conditions:
Current research is focusing on low energy availability (LEA) being what underpins both conditions
Note: LEA = inadequate energy intake (EI) compared to energy expenditure of exercise (EEE) and daily living
There also appears to be symptoms common to both conditions including:
- Poor performance
- Poor recovery from training
- Mind/mood symptoms
Uncovering the latest research on the use of dietary fibre to enhance sports performance.
Studies have revealed that limiting fibre intake could reduce the diversity of an athlete’s microbiota as well as reducing the health of an individual’s gut bacteria.
Additionally, current research has shown that Short Chain Fatty Acids (produced from the fermentation of certain dietary fermentable fibre by the gut bacteria) appear to support sports performance both directly and indirectly.
Note: Fibre is fermented into SCFAs in the large intestine by specific bacteria called Saccharolytic microbial species. The 3 key SCFAs produced are called Acetate, Proprionate and Butyrate and produced in a ratio of 60:20:20 respectively.
Outlining ways in which Short Chain Fatty Acids are thought to support sports performance:
- All three are thought to increase overall energy expenditure
- All three are involved in altering substrate oxidation (increasing fat metabolism/oxidation and reducing CHO metabolism) therefore possibly helping preserve glycogen stores
- It has been found that Acetate is the most important of the SCFAs as an energy source in skeletal muscle (during endurance exercise)
- SCFAs are thought to help protect muscle mass…again Acetate is thought to be the most important SCFA here. As we age muscle mass reduces, therefore an increased intake of fibre in older age may help protect SCFA status, thus help protect muscle mass as we age
- Some lactate that we naturally produce during exercise is returned to the gut where it is converted back into SCFAs by Vioenella bacteria…so, helping provide additional SCFAs!.
Highlighting some additional ways in which fibre may support sports performance either directly or indirectly. It may:
- Lower body mass
- Increase lean muscle mass
- Improve glucose balance
- Increase muscle strength
- It is important to remember that the information on nutrition in sports and exercise is forever evolving, which means we need to keep up to date with the latest evidence-based data
- For many, this constant change can lead to confusion on what is the correct food and nutrition choices for their individual health and running needs
- There is SO much information out there in the media, but how much of it is evidence based and factual rather than being sensationalist?? This can add to people’s confusion and potentially lead to them making the wrong choices!
- Remember OTS and RED-S are conditions that any runner could inadvertently develop due to a lack of understanding of their energy needs, resulting in Low Energy Availability for health and training
- Dietary Fibre is known to have many general health benefits, but for sports performance: it may support some individuals, but be detrimental to others. When consuming any fibre rich foods around training: start low and build up to help reduce the risk of any detrimental effects on training and performance
- If you are feeling confused about much of the information out there on social media and magazines about what you SHOULD and SHOULDN’T be eating for your running then get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org where we can have a conversation with you and try to alleviate any concerns you may have
The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and
advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.
If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact
your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.
Aileen Smith and Karen Campbell host RUNNERS HEALTH HUB. A place for like-minded female runners who are looking for simple ways to support running performance, energy, endurance, and general great health.
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