If you ask any coach what the most crucial aspect of training is they will tell you the recovery. Training breaks you down and proper rest and nutrition build you up and make you stronger.

Athletes very rarely get nutrition correct for recovery. Most of the time I either see meals which are overloaded in calories because they “earned” it or the macros are completely incorrect based on the kind of session that has just been done.

In my last blog  Prepare to Perform we briefly touched on the topic of pre-workouts which I will be expanding on, however the element of recovery is far more important in the big scheme of things.

Recovery needs to be looked at from a few angles. Giving the body what it needs to recover is of course the main one, but what about the goals of the person. As an example, what if you are trying to drop body fat, and increase lean muscle mass? Then the type of meal you select post session will either be to your advantage or detriment. I can honestly tell you that most of you select meals which are to your detriment.

Why do I say this?

It’s simple not many people take the time to truly evaluate their sessions and understand what the body is going to go through on a physiological level which ultimately would get you planning your recovery meal prior to the session. When I go into a training session I already know what my body is going to go through in that session and then I have already planned the post exercise recovery meal. How many of you do this? I bet not many! Even if you do plan your meals its most likely based on convenience but unlikely to be based on exactly what the body needs.

Now you are wondering how the heck do I know what I want to eat after the session based on the session structure and what my body is going to be experiencing?

The truth is you can plan, it might not be 100% spot on but then all it will require is a minor modification to get it correct.

So now that you understand that recovery meals can be planned and the importance of them lets focus on how we go about strategizing our recovery nutrition.

The athletes I work with know very well that I look at sessions based on time and intensity. Why do I do this? Simple, your energy system is impacted differently based on these two main factors. We have a few fuel tanks in the human body, the two main ones being glycogen and fat. Intensity and time will determine which of these fuel tanks are mainly utilized and depleted. To understand this a little more do yourself a favor and check out my Get in the Zone explanation on You Tube.

To get recovery correct I break down sessions as follows:

Low Intensity

Medium Intensity

High Intensity

If you watched my video you will know a low intensity session even over a longer period doesn’t really touch much glycogen at all. What this means is that you wouldn’t need to take in a high amount of carbohydrates post exercise. Why? You haven’t depleted your carb stores and so why would you need to load the system. If anything, overdoing the carbs post exercise when it’s not necessary will just mitigate your fat burn zone and most likely lead to weight gain. I have very often caught athletes post exercise just before they are going in for their “deserved recovery” meals. I carried out both glucose and ketone testing on them and then asked them what they were planning on having to eat. Number one they hadn’t planned, number two they were nowhere near the correct meal selection. Glucose was stable they were not burning much fat and they were dreaming of a large bowl of oats or a large peanut butter bomb from Kauai.


Not needed at all. The idea of proper recovery nutrition is to give the body exactly what is needed to recover from the session and to prepare for the next. No less no more.

What exactly I am looking for is quite simple it’s these 3 main aspects I analyze from a recovery point of view.

  • Glycogen Replenishment / Blood Glucose Stabilization
  • Muscle Recovery
  • Re-Hydration

Let’s break this down a little further and I will start with the muscle recovery.
Your muscles require protein to rebuild the question is how much and when. I am not going to get too in-depth here as this can be a thesis on its own. I will just say this. Protein needs to be consumed according to your body’s requirements. As a simple example an endurance athlete should be eating anywhere to 1.1-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight, body builders even more. This value will depend on whether you are maintaining or needing to build more muscle mass and or drop some weight. Another factor that needs to be considered is if we are working on say 1.4 grams to a kg of body weight and you weigh 60kg it means you will require around +-85 grams of protein per a day. Many people think this can be consumed at once but you couldn’t be more mistaken. Protein intake must be split through the day and preferably around 20-25 gram maximum serving at a time with around a 3 hour gap between. Protein cannot be stored it needs to be processed and if you overload on it, it will be converted to blood glucose and eventually stored as fat, assuming glycogen stores are topped up. As far as a window period goes for an athlete no not really, your windows are through the day. Taking in protein post exercise can also help curb hunger cravings depending on protein consumed. Now you know why excessive meat eaters are anything but lean 😉.

As far as rehydration goes you need to replace loss of fluid through sweat. This does not mean sugary drinks it means fluid, so something like a hydration drink without calories or just plain water is fine. I will be writing a few separate blogs on hydration as its quite a big topic of discussion.

Now let’s look at my favorite topic, carbohydrates. Probably the most over consumed macro post workout because you earned it right? Wrong!

I will return back to what I mentioned earlier about time and intensity and ultimately this is one of the ways I determine the timing and volume of carbohydrate intake post exercise.

The rule of thumb is:

Low Intensity = Low Carb

Medium Intensity = Medium Carb

High Intensity = High Carb

Of course you need to be realistic here as intensity can be perception. I use heart rate effort as intensity and this doesn’t lie. Over and above that if you do a high intensity session for only an hour then you really haven’t “earned” your high carb meal because taking into account warm up, warm down and time of intensity you might not have really chewed up much glycogen and in that case a lower to medium carb meal might be a way better option. However a 2.5-3 hour high intensity session could certainly earn a higher carb meal but it also depends on what was consumed during the session.

Now you don’t want to get this meal wrong, so how do you mitigate that.
This is where one of my real secrets about recovery is about to be revealed. It’s taken quite a few years to master it properly, as each individual is very different from the next. But I have developed what I call the Double Nutrition Recovery System. The actual breakdown will be discussed in complete detail in the book I am writing. However, in short, I do two things. I look at the time and intensity of the session and then I combine that with the human element. In other words, how are you feeling directly after the workout, because sometimes the body speaks to you and those messages are so critical to understand. It might have been a short hard workout BUT what you did the day or days before could have brought your world down on this day due to what I call gradual tank depletion. I see this often by the way., mainly due to nutrition neglect or and over training.

Back to the Double Nutrition Recovery System. You start with the lower to medium carb meal first rather less than overdo it, as once you have over done it there is no turning back. So, have your first meal in a low to medium carb format and then wait 30 minutes. At this stage, your body will be speaking to you, if you are under cooked you will feel it and then all you do is take in a second recovery meal within the hour of the first one BUT I need to emphasize the macros MUST be correct. This system works extremely well and sets up a proper recovery which will leave you feeling stable, strong and recovered for the rest of the day. Understanding the type and timing of the meals are crucial to its success. Of course, also knowing which foods you require are very important, it’s not just carbs you need, there needs to be a balance of protein and fat with your recovery meals and again it’s such a big topic, but my book will be discussing recovery options as well as food tolerances and intolerance’s. Stay tuned.

Once your recovery meal is down packed and you have it spot on the most incredible thing is going to happen. You won’t have energy dips during the day, you won’t have unwanted hunger cravings, you will get stronger faster and best of all you will have the body you desired.

Remember the least amount of food to achieve the greatest possible result is what we are aiming for and most importantly, it needs to taste good and be enjoyed. Health is not a sacrifice its heavenly 😉.

Marks Mochaccino Recovery Shake (Medium to High Carb-Depending on Session)

– 4 scoops of 32Gi Chocolate Recover
– 1 serving TrueStart Coffee (95mg of caffeine)
– 400ml’s of water or milk (I use almond or rice milk but dairy is also good if you are not intolerant)

Carbs (Medium GI) 48grams
Protein 18grams
Caffeine 95mg
Wanting this shake you can get it online here click on links below or at your local Dis-Chem
To get 32Gi RECOVER

Mark Wolff is an endurance, nutrition and physiology expert with over 20yrs experience.

An endurance multisport athlete with a triathlon, mountain biking and powerlifting background Mark works extensively with professional and amateur athletes in a variety of sports disciplines.

He firmly believes that an athlete can only reach their full potential when their health and nutrition is down packed. Marks focus on nutrition and physiology is not just on training and racing, but he places major emphasis on recovery, immune system health, emotional stability, stress management and performance. Mark is co-founder of 32Gi a sports nutrition company focused mainly on health and endurance nutrition. He is a certified sports nutrition expert as well as a marathon, track, triathlon and cycling coach. He spends most of his time guiding athletes with a very holistic approach to blending training and nutrition for performance and health.




No matter what sport you participate in from gym goers to endurance junkie’s preparation for a session require not just a wake up and go but an actual strategy for how you are going to fuel yourself before during and after your session.

I often get asked the question of what and it ultimately depends on a few factors which need to be seriously taken into consideration.

These are:

What time are you training?

How long are you training for?

What intensity are you training at?

When are you training again?

Without clearly understanding the objectives of your workout how can you possible achieve the desired outcome. Secondly, what is your main goal?

Weight loss?

More lean muscle mass and a better physique?

Better fitness and endurance?

More muscle mass?

Less body fat?



Did you know that just training without the proper nutrition around it is just a complete waste of time? You really need to take this into consideration if you want to achieve your goals especially from a health point of view.

I have often used the analogy of comparing a human body to a vehicle. So, you want the body of a Ferrari which is awesome. But instead of having high performance fuel you use a very low-grade petrol and oil. You don’t take care of the engine yet you expect the “Ferrari” to perform. That is ridiculous. You think you can treat your engine like a VW beetle and perform like a Ferrari. Sorry friend it isn’t going to happen. If you look at it from a health perspective imagine placing really bad fuel into the engine and then trying to get it to accelerate to an extremely high speed, with barely any water in the engine. Yes, that’s you, the athlete or lifter who thinks they can eat KFC in moderation and then push out huge weights or high wattage. Eventually the pipe will burst, the engine will blow something will have to give and it always does. Maybe not immediately but certainly over time.  If you have a high-performance vehicle you will go out of your way to make sure that the best fuel, oil and tires are used. Same with your own body, if you treat it with high performance fuel and give it the best, you can only expect it to perform at its best.

Do you know what the advantage of being human is?

We might not look like a high performing vehicle or have that lean muscular or fast physique, but one thing we have which a vehicle doesn’t is we can change our shape. We can completely reshape ourselves inside and out and that all boils down to the fuel we place in our engines. It should be the best. I am not talking about illegal substances and quick fixes which impact your health. I am speaking about proper nutrition which will keep you on the journey from a health and performance perspective to reach your goal.

I often hear people saying everything in moderation. What rubbish. If I ate everything I enjoyed in moderation it would be disastrous. Imagine I drank wine, coke and beer in moderation, ate pizza in moderation and the followed that up with some chocolate in moderation. My eating week would be hell. Moderation is an absolute excuse for the lazy to sacrifice their health and goals for emotional attempts at making their serotonin levels rise to fill their minds with awesomeness. In the end it’s a losing battle. You are what you eat and it couldn’t be more accurate than that.

Now with all this in mind I have completely drifted away from the discussion of actual fueling and now that we know how important nutrition is let’s go back to that awesome topic of where to start.









Today we are going to focus on the pre-workout nutrition. It’s going to be critical when trying to achieve a certain training goal.

I asked many questions above? Let’s review them and decide how to tackle our pre-training nutrition.

Time of the training session:

This is crucial as if you are waking up at the crack of dawn and going straight out on an exercise session do you really feel like eating so early on. Is it absolutely necessary to consume something at 4am. Well the truth is it depends on the next question.

How long and how intense is your workout going to be.

Only 60-90minutes long or maybe up to 2hrs or longer. This will certainly make a difference.

Now look at the objective. Weight gain weight loss, body fat burn, fat efficiency for endurance. These all play a part of the puzzle.

Considering the above scenarios, I would suggest any workout lasting up to 90min does not need much fuel at all. The human body has natural energy stores which can keep you going at a high intensity for that period and you can pretty much do a fasted training session.

Check out my video explaining the Fuel Tanks of the Human Body this will explain clearly how your own natural energy stores work.

Training fasted will allow you to burn off body fat quite early on depending on the session you are doing and simultaneously allow you to become a fat efficient athlete. Many people battle mentally with this. They don’t feel so great and this is only because of habit and what I call the brain train. You have trained your body in a certain way, and its adapted to that. Attempting this is confusing and a shock to the system and so it takes shorter sessions over time building up to longer sessions to become better at it.

If you ever do a fasted training session you must know how to recover properly from it. Without proper recovery you will battle to make the gains you need and if there was a second session later that day you will be fatigued to turn out another quality workout.

I often get asked about muscle catabolism as opposed to anabolism with fasted training. My answer to that is for a session this short you certainly won’t catabolize your own muscle you have plenty of other fuel to work with. If you are a body builder and require a minimum daily protein intake which is much higher than an endurance athlete then a protein is most likely required at wake up and again later after for recovery however that is a different topic completely.

So, I threw a spanner in the works now telling you to train fasted. I am not saying it’s a must. As I do advise athletes on pre-workout nutrition prep to increase fat burn, naturally of course, make the brain happier and provide far better mental focus.  There are many meal ideas and natural supplements which can be used to enhance the workout and allow you to perform very well while being rewarded with the same benefits.

I bet your next question is what are these and what I will do is give you a little insight into how I fuel my sessions to explain it a little further.

Not many people know but I did come from a weight lifting background into endurance sport, I once weight 112kg now only 66kg. So, I understand both worlds quite intimately, and how the body suffers in both. Each is unique. I train for endurance but I also do strength and both have their challenges.

At wake up my primary objective is to ensure I am alert and focused. Early morning sessions often sacrifice the final sleeping hours of major hormonal release and final deep sleep cycles. I won’t get into discussing the science of sleep now, however I can say this. Waking up in a deep sleep cycle can leave you feeling fatigued and tired. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

What are my goals as an endurance athlete?

Maintain a lean healthy muscle mass
Keep my immune system strong
Make sure I am a fat burning machine (fat efficiency is an endurance athlete’s best friend)
Ensure my energy levels are consistent

Wow what a list you might say
They are in no order of preference. Each of these are important to overall health strength and speed.

So, I will tell you how I do it.

It’s quite Simple. Firstly, for any athlete, the mental aspect plays a critical role. Strength of mind can get us through almost anything. However, this requires mental focus. This is where my favorite friend caffeine comes into play. This doesn’t mean any caffeine it means measurable caffeine. I use TrueStart performance coffee for this. It carries an accurate 95mg of caffeine per a serving and it’s a natural caffeine releasing for close to 6hrs which completely covers my workout. The best thing is its completely natural and as anyone knows I hate synthetic products.

I know per a kilogram of bodyweight how much caffeine I need before a workout and how long it will last me in order to provide me the right amount of focus to cover my session. TrueStart Coffee does the trick.  What else does caffeine do? I free up more free fatty-acids which allow me more access to free energy floating around my body in simple terms more fat for fuel. I also like to load myself with green tea in the mornings. Research has shown that green tea can assist in decreasing fat storage and assisting with fat burn BUT to achieve this quite a fair amount needs to be consumed. I can drink anywhere from 6-20 cups a day depending on my mood. One cup is not going to do the trick but I love waking up to it. I like the taste and use it as a form of hydration.

Generally a session of up to 90-120min for me will be covered by the above due to my fat efficiency. However on slightly longer sessions. I make a little energy bomb and generally this is concoction of pure MCT oil, caffeine, nut butter and vanilla powder. Oh its s a BOMB and a tablespoon kickstarts my engine rapidly, of course I could add some BCAA’s and Beta Alinine to add more fuel to the fire, BUT that’s again for another discussion. I keep it simple depending on my goal. If I don’t feel like eating then I just add pure vanilla flavoured MCT oil or MCT oil with Vanilla powder to my TrueStart Coffee and that’s enough fire to get me going from the mug.

Another product I use when I am on the go is the 32Gi G-Shot, 60mg of caffeine per a serving in a simple snap sachet and easy to stack in my wallet, makes it a very convenient carry and use.

This type of pre-workout ensures I can churn out a quality session with-out compromising what I need. It is so effective you won’t believe the results after a few weeks. I often get asked what about carbs before your workout? Why?

I have natural carbohydrates stores in my body 2000 calories worth and they will easily see me for up to 2hrs of a high intensity exercise (Check out my video link I mentioned earlier) I use what I have no need to douse my flames. Raising my blood glucose levels before a session will just mitigate my fat burning ability so if my goal is to burn more fat why would I start my session off on the wrong foot? It doesn’t make sense. If workouts are much longer then that’s a completely different story and we will get to that in another blog. As for strength training the above would work just as well. So, weight lifters go crazy.

This is just a small share into my morning routine before a session, I will cover more topics of longer endurance sessions, fueling during and post exercise recovery. But for now, keep training hard, sleep well and eat even harder 😉

             The Fitness Freak


If you are keen on TrueStart Coffee there is a great deal at the moment Just Click Here 

32Gi’s GShot is available online at the 32Gi Store Just Click Here

As far as MCT oil go there are a few, but Battle Brew and Natures Choice are two I have used which are awesome Dis-Chem stock Natures Choice and Chrome Battle Brew. Natures choice has a Vanilla flavour which is pretty decent.

As far as my nut butter bomb goes well I will certainly be giving you a recipe in the near future as I make it all myself 😉



MCT’s for Energy



MCT’s (Medium Chain Triglyceride’s) has been of quite a large debate lately.I assisted Pedro van Gaalen editor of Fitness Magazine to put this informative article together for the publication. It will hopefully provide you all some clarity in understanding MCT’s. Fitness Mag is an excellent publication so do yourself a favour and next time you see the magazine in store take a copy home with you the topics are usually quite interesting and  diverse 🙂


Click on the link below to open or download the PDF

MCT Article – Pedro van Gaalen & Mark Wolff

Burn the Fat for better Endurance & Health


Sunday morning 7:30am my alarm goes off and that signals my time for a long training run. Today’s goal is around 2.5hrs which should give me around 33-34km’s at a comfortable pace. An easy no complicated morning preparation involving a nice hot cup of green tea, running shoes on and off I go. Around 11am my session is complete a comfortable 33km run and feeling good. Only now is it time for my first meal of the day.

“Wait a minute” I get asked. “How do you get up so late, don’t eat anything at all then run that distance at that pace comfortably without any need for fuelling before or during???” My short answer is that I am fat adapted. I am predominantly in a fat burn mode, meaning I can go a lot further on less. Whether it’s a 42km training run or a 180km training ride, at the right pace one can go for hours on his natural fat stores if properly trained. If you think about it in terms of motor vehicles, some vehicles require huge amounts of fuel to power them over distance while others are so fuel efficient they pretty much reach the same destination at the same time just on much less.

Over the past 20 years a huge legacy of massive carbohydrate fuelling has been entrenched in the latest generation of performance athletes. However more and more this is being shown to be less of an importance to making the body more fat efficient to be able to maximize the use of natural fat stores for fuel and rely less on carbohydrate intake in order to gain a massive performance benefit in a long endurance event. I often use the Kenyan or Ethiopian marathon runner as an example of this. A predominantly high carbohydrate diet, topped up glycogen stores and a 20km/h average speed for a marathon is all in order, for a 2hr performance that is.
Then we take a look at something like a Two Oceans Ultra Marathon where course record money is up for grabs and the Kenyan & Ethiopian runners appear with force to match their speeds against the Lesotho, Zimbabwean and South African ultra-runners. They just don’t stand a chance at least for now. The ultra-distance runners are so much more adapted to running at a higher pace on less. Yes, far more fat efficient athletes who spare glycogen on fat fuelling and go further on less.

As performance requirements demand more time so does your energy system need to be completely adapted to that time. Topped up glycogen stores are completely limited even if slightly spared with carbohydrate intake so yes smashing out a very high pace for a short space of time is perfect when it comes to carbohydrate fuelling. However the longer the event the fact is the more the fat efficient athlete will have an advantage. Let me just clarify that this doesn’t mean no fuelling on carbohydrates, by all means yes you should be, the brain will function far better on carbohydrate fuelling when the body is under stress and this will make a huge difference in performance however being fat efficient means you will require less than the average carbohydrate dependent Joe.

The Comrades Marathon which is a 90km Ultra run each year in South Africa has incredible winning times of around 5h30 roughly a 3:40min/km pace for this time over a course with huge elevation changes and lots of climbing. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the gold medalists (top 10) in nutrition advisory and on route seconding them. All race fuel is ready and prepped in various forms from liquid feed to food solids, gels and protein. Each year I measure intake of athletes on route in the form of carbohydrates, protein and fat as its being consumed along the route. What is quite amazing to see is that the elite runners actually consume anywhere between 20-40grams of carbs per an hour yet they still perform at an incredible pace. Most people I speak to are convinced these runners are consuming anywhere from 60-90grams of carbs per an hour, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. These runners run on their own natural fat stores and they are so fat adapted they are able to perform at a fairly high intensity with fat being their primary fuel source.

The next question is how do you become a fat burning machine of an athlete?
There are quite a few steps that need to be taken however most importantly is that it doesn’t happen overnight it takes time to become fat efficient and it takes effort and commitment but in the end you will reap the rewards.

Before we go into how to become an athlete that burns more fat for energy, let’s understand what it actually means. There are various physiological structures in the human body which can be “trained” to increase the amount of fat that is utilized for energy. Lipolysis is the process of breaking down subcutaneous fat and converting it into triglycerides which will ultimately be converted to energy and used by the muscles. This process takes time and there are other areas of fat which are more quickly accessible.  Upregulating Beta Oxidation, so that you can convert as much fat as possible and at the highest intensity as possible into Acetyl-CoA which of course is introduced into the Krebs cycle to allow for ATP production and fuelling of the muscles is one way. Also by increasing the amount of fat available to the body, to be utilized for energy not just in the form of ketones but in the form of intramuscular triglycerides is another way. In actual fact athletes can derive around 20% of energy from IMTG (intramuscular triaglycerol) depending on diet of course. Women generally have a higher IMTG than men and utilize more during exercise which begs the question are women generally more fat efficient athletes than men? Based on my experiences with female athletes I would tend to favor that opinion.

Increasing ketone levels is another way of providing internal fat fuel sources. However instead of worrying about being in a state of ketosis to make yourself a “fuel efficient” athlete, more steps should be taken to train the mitochondria to utilize more fat as fuel and this can be done in a non-ketogenic state. The focus should be training the body to convert fat to glucose to be used as energy internally without relying too much on external glucose sources. Many athletes try to shift into the LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) dieting phase to try to become fat adapted, however I don’t firmly believe this is where to begin. It’s a very difficult place to start if you are an athlete that suddenly wants to make this switch. I also get many people insisting on going into a state of ketosis without actually really understanding their own body’s requirements before doing such a thing and in many cases it’s not required.

Becoming a fat adapted athlete does require a key focus on nutrition. This is critical to any athletes performance however to make yourself a fat adapted athlete you need to start with your diet. There are some key points when selecting appropriate food types to make you more fat adapted and these are:

To Burn Fat you need to Eat Fat
This is a very important point. The general population fear eating fat, but in actual fact by eliminating fat from your diet you are limiting your body’s ability to be a fat burning machine. Introducing healthy natural fats into your diet is important to become more fat adapted. You don’t have to make huge changes overnight, but definitely have no fear of eating fat as it is critical to fuelling a fat adapted engine. Introduce a higher amount of fats into your diet in order to benefit from them. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) are an excellent example of quickly accessible fuel in the form of fat which can be immediately utilized by the mitochondria as an energy source.

Carbohydrate intake needs to be Monitored
Fat adaption doesn’t mean cutting carbs it means being selective of the carbohydrates you take in. Dropping carbohydrates to under 50grams a day for most individuals will be an extremely difficult thing to do. I would suggest selecting carbs from more fibrous, low GI and vegetable based options as opposed to grains, breads and starches. It’s all about insulin management and by keeping insulin response very low you can be assured your ability to burn fat will be a lot higher.

Train the Brain
One of the biggest issue with carbohydrate limitation is that most people have a sweet tooth and are sugar dependent or tweaked to crave sugary foods. That’s one of the reasons why I am against “natural” forms of sweet such as honey. Yes, honey is natural however it is completely sugar and breaks down into glucose and fructose which means your brain is still trained to crave sweet and you are still playing with insulin. The same with sweeteners in coffee or tea or diet cold drinks, they might be low calorie but they are training the brain to stick with sweet.

Carbohydrate Timing
The timing and volume of carbohydrate intake is critical. If you wake up in the mornings and take in a higher carbohydrate meal, and then go and train you have completely mitigated your ability to maximize fat burn as you have already raised the blood glucose in your system which will be utilized as a source of energy before the body resorts to fat utilization. If the higher percentage of your daily carbohydrate intake is taken post exercise after a long or hard session due to the low insulin response you will again maximize your body’s ability to remain in a fat burn zone.

Over and above nutrition requirements there are other considerations that you should take into account when it comes to being a more fat adapted athlete.

Fasted Training
Training in a fasted state as mentioned earlier will definitely engage your body to utilize more fat as a source of fuel. By not providing any external sources of fuel, the body will have to adapt to relying on its internal sources primarily being glycogen and fat. Many people I deal with fear going on a session without an energy drink but if the session is 2hrs or under you will manage perfectly on water. If you are still very nervous to attempt it then take a sports drink with you and delay the consumption of it for the first hour in order to kick start the burn in that fasted state. The other option is to take a sports drink which does not cause a big rise in blood glucose so that you can still derive benefit for fat burn.

Training Intensity & Time
Something I need to stress is that training at an extremely high intensity can mitigate fat burn due to the fact that oxygen is required to convert fat ultimately for use as energy. In this case glycogen will mainly be depleted. However, training at a high intensity in a fasted state with shorter workouts and slowly building up will help train the body to utilize a higher percentage of fat at higher intensities and this has been shown in many fat adapted elite athletes. If you can talk while training then no need for high calorie drinks, sufficient oxygen is getting into your system to burn fat assuming you haven’t spiked your blood sugar. If you cannot talk at all during training and are puffing and panting then this is more your glycogen depletion state and these workouts should be kept to under 90min in a fasted stated and you can slowly build on them with time.

So with all this in mind what about racing? Yes we do race on carbohydrates, we definitely feel a great benefit from carbohydrate consumption even in lower amounts than the average person who is completely carbohydrate dependent. If our glycogen stores do deplete at some point in a long endurance event, for us fat efficient athletes it’s a transparent transition from glycogen to fat usage where no major pain or slowing is felt just a gear adjustment needed and the game goes on.

I could go on and on about the benefits of becoming a fat adapted athlete, it really doesn’t take much major effort just some healthy lifestyle, nutrition and training modifications and the benefits will be rewarded long term.

To Organic or Non-Organic ?


I often get asked about organic food consumption and there is always a lot of debate around organic and non-organic selection. Does it actually makes a difference?

Recently there was a nutritionist on the radio debating that organic food was not actually beneficial, and everyone that approached me that day had something to say about it. I never actually heard the debate, maybe she was speaking strictly from a nutrient point of view, which is highly debatable anyway. But I would rather stick to as natural as possible regardless of what anyone says.

I have my own personal reasons for favouring organic products (assuming they are credible) and decided to share this little story to open some eyes. My decision to select organic is purely from a point of view of what I term deselection or risk management i.e.: not ingesting nonsense.

Many years ago while living abroad I worked in banana plantations. I had exposure to all the goings on in the fields from banana seedling to fruit to market. I won’t get into the science of how a banana tree is grown to produce fruit, but basically through the growth stages there are multiple trees growing around the main fruit bearing tree.

In order to ensure maximum energy transfer to the fruit bearing tree the other smaller surrounding trees are killed. This was done by injecting benzene into them. Yes benzene. In other fields in I was exposed to in central America there was also a chemical blend of this nature.

Of course it does not just disappear into thin air but seeps into the ground and eventually gets absorbed into the main fruit bearing roots. Bottom line, those bananas definitely contained traces of benzene, and lab testing did produce some shocking results. So when they say fuel up with bananas they truly are not lying.

My point however is that as consumers we are never exposed to the processes of getting food to our shelves, and if we were we might land up starving ourselves for fear of being poisoned. Yes, organic produce is highly expensive, and most will go for non-organic produce. I just advise you to think twice when you have the choice, because the evidence of composition for many non-organic foods , is as I put it quite shocking. My advice to you is, take a look at your weekly menu and switch the most eaten produce to organic, and then move to the next. In this case, it’s not about what you are wanting to take in, but what you are wanting to avoid taking in.

There is so much misunderstood disease going on in this world and one can only think that 90% of the time we eat it. Keep it natural keep it clean.

The Guilty Athlete

A new day dawns, signs of first light begin to show and a sudden rush of endorphin’s begin to stimulate my brain. The mind is on a mission, to go out and train and put in another solid workout to get keep me on track with my racing goals. This day is different however, as what the mind wants the body is actually fighting.  I lie there in an awkward state between reality and want. The want being to get out and train and the reality being that my body just won’t move in that direction. Inner conflict and emotional turmoil begin to take over with a hint of frustration and depression. The questioning starts and in the end it’s either a victory for foolishness or wisdom.  This however is where experience counts, and with a wry smile on my face I go back to sleep and decide to listen to my body.

Comrades 2014 was exactly the same. I had prepped for many months for a race I was determined to participate in and silver status my goal. Everything was on track, perfect build, perfect qualifying marathon and all my focus on the main goal had paid off completely in race readiness. However 10 days prior to the race an infection hit my system which got worse with time and eventually a strong antibiotic course and not feeling great forced me to make the wise decision to withdraw. Many people I spoke to said run anyway, just see how you feel while running. My answer to that is its not worth the risk, there will always be another Comrades and its just a matter of shifting the goal posts and targeting something else. Just yesterday I heard of the sad passing away of an athlete from this years Comrades Marathon and the cause pointed to viral infection.

Everyday across the globe athletes whether professional or amateur are faced with difficult decisions on whether to train or race based on how they feel. The biggest problem is that most of the time they don’t listen to their bodies and put themselves at risk. It’s the most painful experience when you have worked so hard towards a racing goal and when that day approaches our bodies tell us that it’s not to be.

So in light of all of this how do we know what signs to look for and how do we cope with emotional stress of dealing with what we seem to feel is failure and embarrassment. Let’s face it no one wants to be a race dropout.

The first and most important advice I can give is that no matter whether you are a professional or amateur athlete, your health always comes first. It is not ever worth putting yourself at risk for something that will always be there for you to achieve. Listening to your body’s symptoms is the most unbelievable struggle between good and evil, and a number of very important factors if ignored can put you at serious risk. The big question of course is when is it alright for me to train or race, and when should I avoid it. Once you understand this we can discuss how to cope with it.

Illness aside, when did you go for your last medical check up? Are you 100% sure your body is ready for stress? I make it a priority to have a complete medical before racing season and then after my racing season is over I go for another medical. Firstly to ensure that my engine is in good shape to actually train and race and second to ensure that after my season it is still in good working order and that no damage was done. Remember the body undergoes extreme physical stress especially when training hard and racing. Once you have a solid foundation of knowledge about your physical well being you will have a peace of mind when placing your body under stress and also be in a position to understand your body very well when it communicates to you. Its amazing how a person who is going on a drive down to the coast on a holiday will take extra special care to service the vehicle and have the tires checked and changed if needed to ensure the journey is a safe one. However most people will neglect to service their own engines when embarking on a tough endurance event.

The first consideration you need to take into account is to understand how you feel the second you wake up. Simply put you need to do a self health check upon waking. When you open your eyes are you experiencing any strange symptoms which could include pain, fever, dizziness, nausea, cramps or are you feeling good and on top of the world, without any suspicious signs of illness. If any of these symptoms do exist then you really need to think twice before doing any form of exercise. If feeling good then perform another check, which I have been doing over the years and its shown me how valuable technology can be. I take my RHR (resting heart rate) as I open my eyes in the morning, and if there are any signs of elevation I return to sleep. An elevated resting heart rate can pinpoint a sign of fatigue or overtraining as well as illness. Get into a habit of measuring your rest heart rate over a period of time, and once that is done use it as a baseline to determine RHR elevation. Its of course not very convenient to strap on a heart rate monitor at the crack of dawn, so take it manually with your fingers and a clock, or if you are one of the lucky few that possess an iPhone or Android Smartphone, they have a neat little app called Instant Heart Rate ( it makes it even easier and its very accurate.

If you are ill in other words failing the checks above and still wanting to train think again.

A major risk that can emerge when putting the body under stress while ill is organ failure, the heart specifically. Ever wondered how it is a person who has a high level of fitness can just collapse from heart failure. Over the years I have witnessed and heard of many athletes who have ended their lives by not listening to their bodies and the signs and symptoms were definitely there.

The heart can definitely provide you with sure symptoms and if recognized it should force you to rest and visit your medical practitioner. Shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations and dizziness are the most logical signs that something is not right. However sometimes the symptoms can be more subtle, and in the case of myocarditis, which is basically an infection of the heart this can very much be true. Myocarditis can be onset due to a viral illness. An athlete that has a viral infection and yet insists on training will be the most obvious suspect at risk, and it’s an unnecessary gamble. Another type of heart attack which does not have any symptoms is referred to as a myocardial infarction, this is usually predominant in those suffering from diabetes which is why we should always know our health status and a regular medical checkup is something that should never be delayed.

Something I have never believed in is training for the sake of training. The experts call it “junk mileage”. If you enter into a training session it’s to achieve a certain training goal, if you are not able to achieve that goal then why train? Ask yourself am I feeling up to achieving my training goal, if your body is fatigued or ill then best you avoid it until such time as you can. Giving up training for a few days is not critical, no fitness will be lost and you will return to strength in no time. The worst disappointment though is the onset of a viral infection which could plague you for days or weeks. The first reaction of the person experiencing the illness is total denial, and the hope that it will only be a day or two, but as time wears on and the symptoms get worse you eventually start to fall into an area of depression, resentment and frustration.

Emotionally and physically how do we cope with this, and overcome the illness period in the best way possible? It’s not simple, but here are some suggestions which over the years I have used as a coping mechanism. The first thing you need to do is just accept you are ill, accept the fact that your God given body has a way of voicing its opinion and this is it. If serious of course a doctor will need to guide you on the treatment options and there should be no delays getting into this immediately.

There is a famous quote by Edward Stanley that says “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” This is an area that will specifically be able to get attention when ill. Immediately assess your daily nutrition and with steadfastness make the best possible changes you can to it. Clean out the bad and bring in the good, it’s the one time where you can push your training goals aside and give full attention to your nutrition goals. Your nutrition should be guided by a focus on eating for immune system strength, balanced energy levels and overall health. If you are not sure where to begin consult with a proper nutritionist who understands your needs and requirements and can guide you in the proper direction. Along with improving your nutrition you should be resting and when I say resting I mean feet up and flat on your back. Your immune system only functions at its peak when you are not putting your body under any stress. This means staying out of the office environment for a while. Working while ill is not going to help at all, in actual fact it will most likely increase the illness period and you also run the risk of making others sick which is selfish in its own right. Bottom line, stay in bed.

While pursuing this rest and recovery stage, set yourself some post recovery goals. Each day take your body’s feelings as they come don’t get despondent or down, as there will come a day when your eyes will open and you start to feel like a human again. Your body will let you know when it is ready and if you pay careful attention to its needs you cannot go wrong. Remember to value your health more than your desires, because without it you cannot pursue them.

Below is a small checklist of items that I recommend to ensure good health status for placing your body under physical stress:
There are of course many more but these are what I personally go through.

Self Examination
Energy Levels
– Fatigue
Sleeping Patterns
– Digestive Function
– Mood (Stress, Depression, Hyperactivity, Disappointment)

Medical Examination
ECG, Heart Ultrasound, Lung Function, Thyroid, Cholesterol (LDL, HDL), Blood Sugar, General Check Up

– CBC = Complete Blood Count (Including Hematocrit, Whites, Platelets)
– Liver Function
– Ferritin
– Red Cell Magnesium
– Allergy Testing
– Inflammatory Markers
– Glucose Tolerance Test






Comrades Marathon 2014 – The Nutrition Factors (Post Mortem)

Comrades Marathon Post Mortem

Comrades Marathon this past Sunday as usual did not disappoint. The elite men’s race was exciting from beginning to end and in the ladies the twins 11 year domination came to an abrupt halt with Eli Greenwood completing an amazing final 10km split one of the fastest on the day. Many viewers looked at the twins walking for the first time and initial comments were that they are past their prime, they are too old and their days are numbered. I also heard many stories of nausea and cramping.

I was supposed to run Comrades 2014 but due to a chest infection and a prolonged course of antibiotics I had to unfortunately withdraw, remember health always comes first no matter what. However my day was incredibly good. I did what I do best, I got into the official Nedbank seconding vehicle with Nick Bester and made sure our athletes were fed & hydrated from start to finish.  I work with Mr. Price Maxed Elite and some of the Toyota athletes as well and I supported and advised all that I could on the tough 90km route. I often get asked what did the elite athletes use, how did they feed and what did they hydrate on. It’s always a very interesting discussion, and in previous years when I have seconded them I have measured fluid and carbohydrate intake along the route to see exactly what goes into a gold medalist’s body. The day itself was an extremely difficult one for most and I will expand in more detail on the pitfalls and reasons many saw nausea, dizziness and cramping on the route.

Let’s first start with the main rule of thumb. If you train a certain way then you race exactly the same. You never ever attempt to try new tactics or nutrition on race day. If you do you only have yourself to blame when falling ill. Not only is race day nutrition critical, BUT the entire week leading up to the event. Eat what you would normally eat, don’t suddenly decide a few days before or the morning of to try a new food or drink that you have never tried before you are truly asking for trouble. Since Comrades I have spoken to 5 athletes who had a very hard first half during the marathon and all 5 had one thing in common, their pre-race meal was not something they had done before. In actual fact it was severely impacting they tried a new beverage or meal on race day. When you prepare so hard and long for a race and in 5 minutes completely throw it out the window it just doesn’t make sense. Train how you would race I cannot emphasize this enough.

What else went wrong on Comrades day?
Race day fuelling was a big factor. Many athletes take in a whopping load of sugar during the first half only to succumb to it later on. I have always said this and will continue to stand by it. Comrades Race is a slower paced race, meaning you will predominantly use your fat stores for energy. There is no need to over consume blood glucose spiking products such as gels early on, if you do well then you are just asking for trouble. In my buildup to the race, my 38-40km runs were done purely on water. I would wake up have a cup of green tea and go out. I would only have some water if I felt like it. There was no need for taking on major fuel, my pace was around 4:45/km – 5:00/km way slower than my marathon pace of 3:45 – 4:10. This only can mean one thing fat is king glycogen is spared :-).

For many however the biggest factor of the day was actually the temperature and humidity factor. I stood at the city hall in Pietermaritzburg at the start of the race knowing this was the warmest race start temperatures I have ever felt. I hate the cold and I recall 2010 while seconding at Ashburton where it was so cold I had 3 layers on, a beanie, gloves, wind proofs and I couldn’t keep warm no matter what. Aside from that my volunteers who were injured sub 6hr Comrades runners were also dressed in thick clothing and running up and down the road just to stay warm. We were all in agreement it was a really cold day.
At 2010 Comrades Marathon the average temperature in Durban was 19ºC (min 14ºC; max 24ºC) with 63% humidity and 3 km/h wind speed. In 2012 the temperatures were around 23ºC with a humidity of around 38%.

On Sunday I stood in a t-shirt with a thin long sleeved top and I was perfect and that was Pietermaritzburg where the temperatures were 8 degrees. Immediately I advised the elite athletes I managed to chat with on the morning to really focus on their fluid intake and drink to thirst not more, because core body temperatures were going to rise and so would the temptation for major fluid intake. Most novices and even some pro’s land up drinking excessively to try to keep cool, however all this does is overload the system with fluid and can lead to over hydration or hyponatremia. By midday the temperature in Durban had soared to a peak measurement of 33ºC with the humidity increasing from 38% – 76% to Comrades cut off. (see below)



From the onset I knew today was the day people would complain of bad water on route, cramping and nutrition used. Basically pointing the finger at anything to try to explain what happened on the day. In the last 20km’s of the race when our elite athletes came through our feeding zone, one in particular was complaining of leg cramping and a little surprised because he never cramps. We assisted him with a quick resolution to try to get him going again and it seemed to work. Post-race analysis showed over consumption of fluid. Bongmusa the Comrades winner took around 30 water sachets in the last 18km’s of the race. However of the 30 water sachets, 28 went over his head only around 2 in the mouth. This was incredibly smart, he was using the water to try to cool his core body temperature from the outside and definitely not on the inside. At that time of day, and taking in excessive fluid, it would have spelled disaster but there was plenty of wisdom in it.

Why should consuming too much fluid cause issues?

Its quite simple, in hot especially more humid conditions a lot of fluid is lost in the form of water and sodium. Taking in excessive fluid at this stage actually starts a process of what is called Hyponatremia which is basically serum sodium concentration of less than 135 mEq/L as a result of an accumulation of total body water greater than the body’s accumulation of electrolytes (sodium + potassium).
In simple terms due to the heat losing a lot of fluid in the form of water and sodium, and then consuming large amounts of water, can lead to low plasma sodium (salt level in the blood)

I was told by one group of athletes that they had been training in hot conditions for the race. However the hot climate they were training in was nowhere near the humid conditions they were racing in and they also succumbed to fluid consumption for core temperature cooling and potentially caused major issues. Another group of runners contacted me stating that with around 30km’s to go they consumed some gels and immediately began vomiting. I had some news for them it wasn’t the gels. With 30km’s to go these runners were in the thick of peak day temperatures and had also landed up over consuming fluid after careful analysis.

The symptoms for over-hydrating are crystal clear:


Generally in athletes nausea and cramping are what is first experienced.

One of the issues with Comrades Marathon is that there are far too many water tables spaced too close to one another. It would be far more beneficial to space them out a little more. When running a marathon or an ultra, one tends to forget about when he consumed last how long ago, and often the mind just goes into a see and grab situation which leads to trouble.
A conversation with the Russian twins afterwards had shown excessive fluid intake. One of them landed up in hospital with close to renal failure symptoms which were declared to be a result of low blood sodium.  What’s incredible from the majority of the cases is that at the line they were diagnosed with dehydration, however results later showed this was completely incorrect. Very often dehydration symptoms are confused with hyponatremia symptoms. Athletes can perform dehydrated quite easily, but slightly overhydrate and you are toast.

During a long event such as Comrades Marathon weather conditions play an extremely critical role. The key elements are always drink to thirst, don’t over drink. If you are feeling very hot then cool from the outside not the inside.  If you are taking in a lot of fluid try consuming the water with carbs and minerals to maximize the fluid uptake. If you train in cooler climates and then suddenly race in a hotter more humid climate you could potentially look at additional sodium intake to try to mitigate this from happening.

Lastly and this is a topic that completely irritates me to no end. The runners that take NSAID’s with them. Yes you, the ones who carry myprodol, ibuprofen or any other pain killer or anti-inflammatory with them during the run. Its a fact that more athletes that have landed up with renal failure, which also starts with major symptoms of nausea, dizziness etc have been a result of consuming these types of medications during an event. In the words of my running coach “If you need to take a pain killer or anti-inflammatory during Comrades, then you should NOT be doing Comrades”. If this is you then understand you are putting your life at risk and what you are doing is absolutely nothing less than very stupid.

Its always tough on the day especially in 90km’s of running and anything can potentially happen. However the more prepared you are and the better you know your body the less chance there is of having any major issues.


“Taper to Success & Not to Failure”

One of the most critical periods prior to a race is what’s known as the taper period. In longer distance events such as marathons, Ironman distance events, ultra’s or stage races, a peak in training volume is reached. Then comes the time to reduce volume, recover, sharpen and arrive at race day fresh. This is known as the taper period.  Many athletes put a lot of focus on the actual training and recovery aspects but completely miss the most fundamental aspect of the tapering period and that is nutrition. Another misunderstanding is the type of quality training that needs to be maintained until race day. Many athletes drop volume but then tend to neglect proper sharpening which involves speed and strength work. The focus of this blog though is nutrition during the taper phase.

The kind of nutrition you take in the 2-3 weeks before a big event can make or break your big day. There are a few areas that nutrition play a very critical role in when it comes to the taper period and very often these can get the better of an athlete and these are:

  1. Immune System Strength
  2. Weight Management
  3. Muscle Recovery
  4. Race fuel preparation

Immune System Strength
An athlete’s biggest fear is falling ill prior to race day. Let’s face it when we hit peak training volumes 3 weeks out from a big event our bodies are fatigued, immune system is low and we are very susceptible to infection. Even more so when we are exposed to children or closed work spaces on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief athletes are quite weak at fighting illness during volume periods of training.

Weight Management
Heavy volume training periods only mean one thing, cravings. An athlete requires food to fuel the body not just from an energy point of view but also from a recovery perspective. Many athletes also feel the need to eat because they deserve it after long hard sessions. Sugar highs and sugar lows causes appetite triggers and as disciplined as athletes are when it comes to training, they often fail when it comes to eating. Once training volume is reduced one of the toughest things to be able to do is reduce the eating volume accordingly. Many athletes arrive at race day a lot heavier than they were during training and this is a common athlete mistake.

Muscle Recovery
A taper period is there for one thing. Muscle recovery and strength gains. It’s time to repair and recover and build. Remember training breaks you down, proper rest and recovery builds you up and makes you stronger. How you recover physically has a large dependency on nutrition not just reduced training and rest.

Race Fuel Preparation
The way you prepare your body from a nutrition perspective in the weeks and days leading up to an event will either make or break your fuelling strategy on the day. What you eat can either make your race fuel strategy very effective or completely the opposite and this is something you need to constantly have in mind as you approach the big day.

With all of the above in mind, I felt it quite good timing to discuss these aspects especially with Comrades Marathon approaching fast.

Where your focus should be on a training perspective should be pretty well understood in terms of quality sessions leading up to the race. If you are not sure how to properly taper from a physical point of view towards your big race its best to consult a knowledgeable coach. The focus of this blog as mentioned earlier revolves around the nutrition aspects leading up to your big day.

With a few weeks out of the big day, it is not easy to focus on nutrition. You have to make a conscious effort to make the right decisions when it comes to eating and drinking, because whether you like to believe it or not, you can make a big difference on the actual day by taking the best nutritional approach.

Where to start is quite simple try to adhere to these few simple rules as a start.

Don’t Eat Out
Eating out firstly is not necessarily eating healthy unless you are completely sure of exactly what is on your plate. Just because it’s a grilled chicken breast or a fillet doesn’t mean it is basting free, not loaded with trans-fats and has the correct nutrients. The risk of falling ill is one aspect as well as the issue of irritating digestive symptoms and then weight gain. Rather know what you are ingesting, keep it clean, keep it lean and prepare your own meals that you can ensure the nutrients you are taking in have a benefit and not a detriment.

Reduce or Cut Sugar Intake
Cutting sugar intake is one of the smartest things you could possibly do in leading up to a big event. By sugar I don’t just mean physical sugar. I am speaking about the large anti-nutritious carbohydrate portions that most people are so emotionally attached to in the form of instant cereals, noodles and grains. Rather take in carbohydrates which have excellent properties not just from an energy point of view, but also immunity strengthening. The better your carb selection the stronger you will arrive at race day. Opt for carbohydrates which are nutrient dense, so your vegetables such as the greens, spinach broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, Swiss chard and the likes. Reduce fruit intake to a bare minimum and stick to the immune boosting fruits such as the berries.
Sugar just plays with blood sugar unnecessarily, and during the taper weeks it can only assist with contracting illness (the bad guys love to feed off sugar) and of course unnecessary weight gain due to the bouncing ball effect, not to mention emotional highs and lows which play on pre-race nerves as well as sleep. Cutting it will certainly benefit you on race day.

The Protein Factor
Depending on the type of nutrition plan you are on whether LCHF, or HCLF, Beach, Paleo and the likes ensure that your protein intake is of quality and not quantity based. By this I mean don’t overdo the protein, eat according to your requirements. Even though I predominantly follow a low carb higher fat diet, I generally opt for proteins which are leaner and measure my fat intake with known fat measurements. I also find consuming leaner proteins is easier on my digestive system. I stick to chicken, turkey, fish and eggs to keep my digestive system happy, I also generally eat a fair amount of vegetable proteins such as pea and hemp. Red meat is 100% fine as long as you are used to this type of eating. Keep the preparation clean and preferably keep dressings to an unprocessed form. Simple things like lemon juice are good enough to cook chicken in to give it a nice flavor and texture.

Fats are so critical to any diet. They are an incredible source of fuel, and the only reason to keep fat intake very low is if your carb intake is very high. Try to get some good fats into the diet, Omega-3’s such as salmon, tuna, sardines, pilchards as well as the vegetable forms of flax and chia seeds make for nutrient dense good foods. One of the things I advocate in taper weeks is to up the MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides). They are fats that are not stored but more utilized as a source of energy and these are the types of fats you want in your system during a long endurance event. Coconut oil is my favorite and something I am not shy to use in meal preparation especially in the week leading up to the event.

I cannot stress enough the amount of fluid you should be consuming on a daily basis especially in the taper period. Try to aim for 30ml’s per a kg of bodyweight, it might sound like a lot of fluid but it’s not at all. If you want to ensure you arrive at race day properly hydrated, in good health, topped energy levels and on top of the world then put some focus on your fluid intake. Whether in the form of water or herbal teas both are perfectly fine. If you are thinking in the form of fruit juice and coffee my answer to that is no chance. If you are wanting a flavoured water, take a ¼ grapefruit and squeeze it into a liter of water, or a lime would be perfect. Sugar in fruit is very high and a fruit juice is just loaded with sugar. As for coffee check out the next section.

The Caffeine Effect
Caffeine can be a benefit or drawback. Caffeine is a mild stimulant that occurs naturally in a variety of plant species. There are people who view caffeine as a useful stimulant that increases ones concentration and awareness as well as many other physical traits.  The important thing to remember is that caffeine affects each and every individual very differently depending on the amount consumed, the frequency of consumption, and a person’s individual tolerance levels.

Let’s get to the facts. Scientific proof of caffeine and sports performance is actually inconclusive and it’s not shown to improve performance. In actual fact no health claims to this extent are allowed in European Health Claims for food legislation. However there are some advantages that caffeine has which I will go into a little bit of detail shortly. One thing to remember though and this is from a health perspective. Caffeine is a stimulant and it does have addictive properties. In a healthy diet your consumption should be limited and health professionals will recommend around 0-7 cups of coffee a week as a limit. Unfortunately the majority of people consume a much larger amount. One thing is certain caffeine does stimulate and it plays with one’s emotional and energy stability. Stimulant drinks such as coffee are also known to be one of the biggest role players in a person gaining weight and affecting emotional stability. Another important consideration is that caffeine impacts the ability to sleep properly and this is a critical element of endurance recovery. Caffeine also causes a rise in acidity in the digestive system, and from a health perspective one should try to consume a diet that is more alkaline, acid of course can lead to issues especially in sport. Finally caffeine has diuretic properties causing loss of fluid, and the last thing you want to be is dehydrated during a sporting event. An athlete that consumes caffeine consistently is actually doing himself a complete disservice.

So with all this negativity in mind, how can caffeine really help me as an athlete? Well there are two major benefits that caffeine has, the first is that consumed on its own without sugar has shown to raise the amount of free fatty acids available for use as a source of fuel. Fat of course is an incredibly powerful form of fuel and the more free fatty acids you have available for use in an endurance event the more you are able to benefit from it. There is one slight consideration though? That in order for this to work well, a person should be caffeine intolerant, meaning at least no caffeine 7-10 days or more before and event, my recommendation is to cut it for longer. The second thing is the timing of consumption before an event. In scientific testing it’s been shown a consumption of around 1-2mg of caffeine per a kilogram of bodyweight around 3-4hrs before an event is best. It gives the body time to mobilise free fatty acids for use as well as being long enough before the event to remove the acid from the system, reduce the diuretic effect and of course negate the risk of dehydration.

The second major benefit is caffeine for recovery. Yes, believe it. It’s been shown that having caffeine with a complex carbohydrate after exercise has shown to speed up the time taken for glycogen replenishment. Under testing it’s been shown to speed up the process by as much as 60%. As an example a rolled oats meal and a very strong espresso or two as a recovery. Thought you would like that one. Just remember to hydrate yourself consistently afterwards. As I often recommend one cup of coffee = two glasses of additional water intake to keep you properly hydrated.

Finally, there is another slight benefit, and this is the wake up effect. If you are feeling tired or fatigued caffeine has the ability to wake up the brain a little. Of course it’s a temporary effect, but during a sporting event this slight feeling of euphoria can give you a lift. The downside though is that an athlete who consistently takes in caffeine will not feel this affect as much as an athlete who stays away from caffeine. Caffeine also plays with your acid levels and can affect your fuel intake by affecting digestion and absorption rates of nutrient intake possibly minimizing those benefits, and even potentially causing stomach distress. If during a race you are wanting a caffeine boost, save it towards the end of the race, taking it too early on can be a detriment.  One thing I have to stress is if you are planning caffeine intake on race day you better play with it during training you need to know how your body is going to respond to the amount of intake.

Caffeine is mostly abused, reduce and treat it as a luxury more than a necessity and let it work for you not against you.

Race Day Nutrition
This is a very important mention. During your taper weeks you have a last few chances to check out your race day nutrition strategy. It keeps me confident and in check with what I am going to do on race day. The two aspects to look at are the pre-race meal, and this can easily be checked by getting up early eating a pre training meal and going out on a training session at tempo pace to gauge how you feel. The second type of testing is to fuel during a training session. This is also quite simple to do as all you need is at least 90min or longer and go out fairly fast (tempo) pace to test how your stomach and palate will cope with intake during the session. The other aspect’s to look out for are convenience form a carry and consumption point of view.

To conclude this little blog I want to stress the importance of nutrition during the taper weeks and in the days leading up to your big event. It is often overlooked but yet it plays a vital role. Follow these simple guidelines and reach your race day, feeling energetic, healthy and at the proper race weight to give it your all.

Stay tuned for more blogs surrounding other issues such as pre racing nutrition, carbo-loading and more ;-).


Performance vs Health & Convenience – The Energy Gel Debate

Most people that know me well know that I am not entirely a big fan of sports or energy gels. The main reason I have been critical of them is more from an education point of view than anything else. Consuming a very high concentrate of “glucose” requires a very specific reason and more often than not gels are used and abused under conditions that do not warrant consumption. Gels are very much not always healthy and one of my other main reasons is the fact that I see it as a massive litter item, when tearing off the top and tossing it. Let’s first look at some key sports nutrition facts to make all of this clear.

When training or racing there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account with gel consumption and these are:

  1. Type of Event
  2. Duration
  3. Intensity
  4. Digestive Impact & Palatability
  5. Temperature


The type of event you are doing more often than not will limit the type of fuelling you will be able to use during the event. Swimming, Cycling, Running and Track and Field Sports all have their technicalities, etiquette, timing, rules and regulations. Supplementation is there for convenience and an athlete will need to decide if the type of fuel feed he is looking at is simple and convenient under those conditions.
Doing a trail run or ride doesn’t make it easy for a gel feed as you cannot simply throw the tear off on the floor as this can lead to penalization and in some events disqualification. The environment needs to be taken into account.
Doing a long open water swim falls under the same category of what are you going to do with your litter. Cycling vests have pockets and make it more convenient to carry but again the used gel sachet needs to be kept intact and not just thrown away in the middle of nowhere, so from a convenience point of view they are not always ideal.

Secondly how long is the duration of the event? Is it a fast 10km run or is it a long slow ride or run. If you are going to use a gel feed for a short fast distance race it’s easy to feed prior to the event or run with one sachet and take at a later stage, but if it’s an ultra-marathon are you going to carry your big gel supply in sachets squashed in between your shorts and waist, or an additional race belt to carry them on route.

Then palatability comes into play in that the sweetness can be tolerable a couple of times but if an athlete would try to consume many gels over a long period of time the taste and feeling can become nauseating and intolerable.

Intensity plays a key role in the decision to use a gel during an event. If you are performing at a controlled pace where you are breathing quite comfortably consuming a gel might not be the best idea. Intensity often determines the feed. At a lower intensity a stability feed would be better suited to providing balance and sustainability as opposed to very high intensity where a quicker fast releasing carbohydrate feed would be required.

Taking a gel which will spike your blood glucose levels is a terrible idea when you don’t need the spike, as your digestive system won’t easily process all the glucose and this can lead to GI (gastrointestinal) distress. Another big reason for GI distress with gel consumption is often not consuming a sufficient amount of water with the gel. Consuming a large amount of concentrated carbs in a single gel dose requires a certain amount of water to be consumed with it in order to lower the osmolarity of the combined solution assisting in an increase in the absorption rate. The number of times I have seen athletes consuming gels without adequate simultaneous fluid intake has been numerous and it often leads to gastric distress.

This is why temperature plays an important role. In hot conditions it’s pretty easy to consume the amount of required fluid with a gel which I recommend to be at around 250-280ml’s of water. However on a cold day where hydration requirements are a lot lower one needs to be careful to consume a gel and then avoid the fluid consumption so as not to cause bladder discomfort. In cases where the temperature is lower I often recommend splitting the gel feed over a period of time as opposed to once every 45 minutes to an hour, to help lower the impact on the digestive system and provide a little more comfort and stability. Of course it’s not easy to open a gel and then not use it as it has the property of leaking once open which is not ideal, but I would take gastric comfort over a mess any day.

Now let’s take a closer look at the properties of a gel. Most gels are made up of a combination of carbohydrates and a few contain protein. The majority of gels use glucose, maltodextrin and fructose. Many times the straightforward name of fructose is often masked with the fancy wording of fruit juice concentrate, and in some cases they will even go as far as saying mango or apple juice concentrate, but let’s keep it simple this is fruit sugar and is fructose bottom line. Maltodextrin is not classified as a sugar due to its complex carbohydrate bonds, but a closer look at maltodextrin will tell you it is truly a blood sugar spiker of note and can reach up to 135 on the glycemic index. One of the biggest issues I have with maltodextrin is not the spiking properties but the fact that most brands use genetically modified (GMO) corn starch for maltodextrin. If I see a gel with maltodextrin in it I advocate complete avoidance unless one can ascertain 100% that the starch is not genetically modified which is rare. I haven’t found a maltodextrin based gel locally that is GMO Free.

Aside from the carbohydrate content which is the foundation for any gel, there are other additives which need to be considered. Protein as an ingredient often forms a small percentage of some sports gels on the market. Although protein is not there to provision energy during exercise, it can certainly assist with stability and a sense of fullness to keep those hunger cravings at bay. In long endurance events I always advocate some protein specifically for stability and during stage racing I am a fan of it during an event especially towards the end of the stage so that the protein in the system can immediately begin to assist post stage with the recovery process.

Flavoring, colorant and preservatives all form part of gel to provide taste, texture and of course shelf life stability. In Europe non-nutritive sweeteners in a high calorie product such as a gel are restricted and this is something to keep in mind when deciding on a gel purchase. The research into non-nutritive sweeteners such as Aspartame, Acesulfame-K has shown to be detrimental to human consumption and its best to limit intake if not completely avoid. Gels are one of the most consumed endurance sports products on the market and careful scrutiny of contents should always be in mind to ensure you put health and safety before performance.

32Gi’s new Sports Gel
I cannot even begin to tell you how many times over the years I have had requests for a 32Gi energy gel. It’s not that we never wanted to launch one it’s just that with all the above in mind it was important that we did the proper research and then extensive testing with our athletes. We had to ensure it was good from a health & performance perspective and of course made sure that the packaging we decided on was suitable to all types of sports and more specifically environmentally friendly.

Let’s review this unique gel which is going to be launched this week. Upfront I need to state that the 32Gi gel will form part of the Accelerate performance series. It is a performance gel which does cause a blood sugar spike and it has been designed this way specifically.

The 32Gi gel base we selected is natural brown rice syrup. The reason for selecting this as a base was very straightforward. We wanted a product which is as natural as possible, which in no way contains any genetically modified ingredients and is gluten free and fiber free.  Brown rice syrup (rice syrup) is the well advocated as the quit-sugar/sugar-free lobby groups. It consists of around 45% maltose, 3% glucose, and 52% maltotriose (a trisaccharide consisting of three glucose molecules joined together). The Australian GI institute has tested brown rice syrup to contain a GI of around 98 which is slightly below that of glucose but perfectly suited to high intensity exercise fuelling.  The carbohydrate itself breaks down into the 3 carbohydrate components of maltose, glucose and maltotriose which have varying properties, allowing for excellent absorption and lowered risk of GI distress. Rice syrup naturally contains a tiny portion of protein which allows for some stability. The gel contains over 90 Calories of glycemic carbohydrates which is a completely adequate feed.
What I really like about brown rice syrup is that the actual taste is not overly sweet, the texture is not too thick and not too fluid making it fairly easy to consume and of course it is very natural.  The only other components to the 32Gi gel are that of sodium in its natural salt form and potassium which assists with mineral loss and of course fluid absorption. The gel is being launched in two flavours at first which is vanilla and coffee. The vanilla is a natural flavour and it contains no colors whatsoever, so in short it’s an extremely clean product from a health perspective.

What about the packaging?

Gel packaging is legacy and has been for many years. Most gels use a pouch packaging method which involves a tear at the top and squeezing it out. Some gel manufacturers do offer dispensing containers for those athletes that use gel bottles which can be quite convenient. We will be providing bulk gel packaging for dispensing in the near future.

We looked around in Europe, Asia and the US reviewed many variants of gel sachet packaging which we felt to be not just costly but not very convenient or environmentally friendly. We were approached by a company that does liquid packaging in a unique patented sachet format which requires no tearing at all, and once we took a closer look at this we realized this was definitely the way to go.
It’s a simple packaging which in short can be described as flat as a credit card and similar in size. It’s a one handed snap, squeeze and eat, no tearing with the teeth at all and no worries if you have gloves on a cold day, it’s simply ingenious. The best part of it is a runner can shove a fair amount around his waist on the inside of his running shorts or tights and it won’t bother him and won’t fall. A triathlete can easily carry a few in the suite without it irritating. It also easily fits into a top tube bag on the bike for those long Ironman rides when you want to carry fuel on the bike.
When we did our athlete testing we asked a number of ultra-runners to do a 56km run with at least 5-6 of our gels on them. The feedback was unanimous from a convenience point of view. It’s a runner’s dream carry.

When the cycling community tested it, we got great feedback on it being environmentally friendly and in the mountain biker community it was even more widely adopted as not just environmentally friendly but also easy to open especially on a technical terrain where focus is required on the route and not on the feed. A big thumbs up was also given on the fact that with one hand all the gel could be squeezed out of the packaging with no remains left behind. This is due to the even pressure applied by the package fold forcing the gel to exit the packaging once opened.

We have often prided ourselves on not just succumbing to the mainstream and the copy cats. We like to be innovative and we want to make sure that when we put a product into the market it has been properly tested from a functionality, taste, texture, packaging and convenience point of view. We also don’t just test our products on cyclists, we ensure the testing is carried out across a wide variety of sports, we listen to the athlete’s feedback and we go back to the drawing board if required. I personally feel that the 32Gi Sports Gel is going to make many athletes very happy in that from a health perspective there is no nonsense, from a functionality perspective it works well and from a convenience perspective it simply delivers and of course from an environmental perspective it’s definitely a brilliant no tear and drop option to keep the planet clean.




The Protein Factor

There is one aspect of nutrition that traverses all sports conversations and that is the topic of protein. No matter what kind of athlete you talk to and even non-athletes there are always discussions revolving around protein supplementation and meal replacements. The protein market is one that is incredibly misunderstood and highly over marketed with so much sugar coating that any consumer will automatically feel there is a benefit to consuming it without really knowing why, how much and when. The entire idea of type of protein intake is completely misunderstood by most and I decided to write this blog to provide the necessary facts so that you as the consumer can make the right decision for yourself.

There are two main types of protein sources and these are animal based protein or plant based protein. The most common animal based proteins are dairy and egg. We can further break down the dairy based proteins into:

Dairy Proteins
Milk Concentrates
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey Protein Hydrolysate
Casein / Caseinates

Whey protein is a milk derivative which has a very strong amino acid profile. There is a major difference between whey protein isolate and concentrate. The concentrate is derived from a simple filtering process which contains a varying amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats in the form of lactose.The structure of whey concentrate is that it is not denatured and therefore provides health benefits in its natural form.
Whey isolate is derived from further processing and purification of whey concentrate. When this is done most of the biological structures that exist in whey concentrate are broken down and only the protein chains and amino acid structures remain. This makes whey protein isolate a higher concentration of pure protein. It also generally lands up being more expensive due to the further processing involved in getting it to this stage, however it does lack some nutritional benefits due to the denaturing process.

What about whey hydrolysate or hydrolyzed protein as its called. Unlike whey concentrate or whey isolate hydrolysates are enzymatically predigested for maximal speed of absorption. There are a few methods which are utilised in breaking down the whey into a pre-digested state. Personally I am completely opposed this type of protein as its completely unnatural and as humans with a digestive system our bodies are completely capable of breaking down and digesting protein in  the unique manner for which we were created.

1. Acid Hydrolysis
Acid hydrolysis is a fairly harsh process, usually carried out at high temperature. This process attacks all peptide bonds in the protein substrate, destroying some of the individual amino acids.For example, tryptophan is usually totally lost in an acid hydrolysis. Cystine, serine and threonine are partially broken down and asparagine and glutamine are converted to their acidic forms. Vitamins are mostly destroyed by acid hydrolysis. Salt may be formed during neutralization of an acid hydrolysis, resulting in a product with high salt content.

2. Enzymatic Hydrolysis
Proteolytic enzymes hydrolyze proteins more gently than acids, do not require high temperature and usually target specific peptide bonds.The material that results from a proteolytic digestion is a mixture of amino acids and polypeptides of varying lengths.For example, the enzyme pepsin will cut an amino acid chain where there is a phenylalanine or leucine bond. Papain will cut the chain adjacent to arginine, lysine and phenylalanine. Pancreatin shows activity at arginine, lysine, tyrosine, tryptophan, phenylalanine and leucine bonds.

3. Microbial Hydrolysis
Microbial proteases, proteolytic enzymes secreted by microorganisms, are becoming more widely used in peptone production. Proteases from bacterial, algal, fungal and yeast sources offer a wide variety of enzyme activities, can be produced in large scale, and usually require only simple purification. As far as I am concerned hydrolyzed protein is a chemical treatment process. Its completely unnatural and from a health point of view its completely struck off my personal list of animal proteins.

Casein protein is another milk derivative. Its not very water soluble and the attractive property of the casein molecule is its ability to form a gel or clot in the stomach, which makes it very efficient in nutrient supply. This means it is able to provide a sustained slow release of amino acids into the blood stream, sometimes lasting for several hours. It is often recommended as a pre-bed time protein snack or for weight loss when that keep you full feeling lasts for many hours. As a post exercise recovery it is too slow as far as digestion and absorption is concerned and would serve best if it was blended with a faster digesting protein to provide some post exercise stability and reduce the hunger cravings.

Plant Based Proteins
There are a number of plant based proteins on the market. The most popular vegetable proteins are of course soy and wheat protein which make up for more than 90% of the plant base protein market. Soy protein being the most popular is a vegetable protein made from soybeans. While most vegetable proteins are “incomplete” proteins, soy protein is a “complete” protein, and it is comparable in quality to many animal-based sources. Soy protein is low in saturated fat, and it has powerful antioxidant properties that have been shown to play a role in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease. Soy like Whey comes in a concentrate and isolate option. The soy isolate of course provides a much higher and purer form of protein content as opposed to the concentrate version.

The Soy / Whey Debate
For many years there has been an ongoing debate on which protein is better soy or whey.
There is no doubt that whey protein has a slightly stronger amino acid profile than soya. It is a faster digesting protein and quicker absorbed. Soya digests slower than whey but is 100% digested and absorbed. There has always been a lot of conversation and reference to phytoestrogens in soy however over the years this has never actually been shown to be an issue based on any solid scientific evidence. One of the things to be concerned about around hormones is actually often missed in the whey protein industry which also needs to be highlighted. Whey is a derivative of milk, which comes from cows which means high hormone levels. Its a fact that cows produce milk while pregnant which is over a large portion of the year, but moreover cows have been treated with hormones A large percentage of milk comes from cows injected with bovine growth hormone (rBGH), along with a vast array of antibiotics and other drugs. There is an expression which states a cows milk is for calf’s not for humans. Just take a look at the size of a cow. Cows milk is there to help their calf’s grow and strengthen. It was uniquely designed for a calf but not uniquely designed for a human.

Another critical element which has been pointed out is that whey of course contains IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor). IGF-1 has been shown in a number of medical studies to be a major contributor to cancer risk and cancer cell growth. Ref sites: ( &

Personally I avoid dairy. I suffered the affects of dairy without realizing it for so long and once I eliminated it from my diet I began to see major benefits.

Another shadow hanging over the plant based proteins like soy was the introduction of GMO (Genetically Modified) version. Again this was another huge minus in the case of soy’s fight to stay credible as a vegetable protein in the market. Once the anti-GMO organizations began to expose the risks of GMO food (specifically soy and corn) consumption and the possible health risks, soy again became a protein to cast aside. I actually agree in that if a food is genetically modified then it should be completely avoided. This is not to say that all soy products are GMO, there are many on the market that are GMO free it just needs to be researched before purchase.

Both whey and soya have their issues and neither is perfect from a protein source point of view. In short I have provided some insight on the benefits of the major animal and plant based proteins and at the same time I have basically said avoid them.

What options does that leave us with from a protein perspective?

Well to be honest your major source of protein should be derived from proper and healthy nutrient consumption. What you consume in the form of protein from the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night will play the most major role in ensuring you are getting enough protein in your diet.

However as active people or someone looking for a quick protein fix, especially in the form of post workout recovery what other options are available since both whey and soya leave me with a lot of questions in my mind.

Well this is where I am headed and you can join me if you like.

For the past 18 months I have been heavily engaged in testing a vegetable protein, which has none of the negative connotations of whey or soya associated with it. No hormone or GMO debates, no issues with lactose intolerance or digestibility.  In fact its a plant based protein which has an incredibly strong amino acid profile. With high concentrations of BCAA’s Glutamine, Lysine and Arginine. Its profile is very close to that of the ideal protein for humans as recommended by FAO/WHO
It also has an intermediate fast digestive rate which is exactly what is preferred especially for an endurance athlete.

What protein am I talking about?
Pea protein isolate 
is what I am on about. As a plant based protein it is genuinely  a very powerful, clean and healthy protein for anyone whether  pro-athlete or just a gym bunny. Aside from its strong amino acid profile, it is not unnaturally processed, it has a smooth texture and actually tastes great. It is superior not just in using it for a natural recovery shake but also in a pre training or racing meal. I feel this is the most complete protein and there can be no questions asked around allergens, hormones or food safety.

Once I was happy with the certificate of analysis from the supplier and my own testing phase. I gave it out to a large number of athletes to do some testing for me as well. The feedback was unanimous the pea protein isolate needed to come to market to provide a healthier option of protein to the health conscious consumer. It was very well received across a variety of amateur and elite athletes in various sporting disciplines. Pea protein is gaining a lot of momentum globally and it fast becoming a protein of choice.

The NEW 32Gi Recover Formula
32Gi has decided to re-formulate its 32Gi Recover. Over the next few weeks we will be rolling out our new 32Gi Recover formula to all 32Gi retailers globally. The new Pea Protein formula will be replacing our previous vegetable based protein recovery shake.

At 32Gi we are continuing to strive to provide the healthiest supplement choices to our consumers and we will continue to pioneer and innovate to ensure that all 32Gi users can be assured that we are a trusted brand in which health always comes first.

About 32Gi Recover Pea Protein Formula

32Gi Recover is a high quality ratio blend of 100% organic pea protein isolate combined with carbohydrates. 32Gi Recover contains all the essential and non-essential amino acids to maximise muscle recovery

Recover is an excellent protein supplement with no unnecessary ingredients only those critical to muscle and glycogen recovery. Recover can also be consumed as pre training or racing meal or even as a meal during a long endurance event. Recover is suitable for vegans and diabetics.

Recover Facts:

  • Assists with Muscle Repair
  • Assists with Glycogen Recovery
  • High Protein absorption rate
  • Cholesterol Free
  • Naturally High in Glutamine
  • Wheat, Gluten, Soy and Lactose Free
  • Improves Strength and Recovery
  • Strong Amino Acid profile
  • Digestive Friendly
  • Vegetarian
  • Kosher / Halaal Certified
  • Recover is available in Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla flavours