“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”

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Every day I work with so many different people from all walks of life, who all have different backgrounds and very different goals. Each has an opinion and generally most become rigid in their habitual ways. This is especially true when it comes to my favorite subject nutrition. It’s so true that old habits are so hard to break, but even more so when we do try to break them very often it’s the good habits that are broken and the bad ones that stick around.

I get bombarded daily with questions around dieting, nutrition, supplements, racing and training and the list goes on. I don’t mind the questions at all as this is what I do, I guide people, I make sure they are on the right road, and if for some reason that road hits a fork and they take the wrong route it’s my job to get them back on track. When it comes proper nutrition most people seem to know best that the way they eat is spot on. However it doesn’t matter whether you are a pro athlete or not I can say one thing for certain that we all get it wrong. There is no such thing as perfection in a diet, it’s a lifelong road with many forks, turns, bumps and hills.

It requires constant attention, tweaking decision making and this is based on so many factors that face us daily. As we age our requirements are also going to have to change drastically because our body’s change so we function differently and we need to cater for those changes. There is definitely no one fits all nutrition solution it does not exist unfortunately. Each and every person is unique and has completely different needs.

One of the biggest waves of nutrition globally at the moment is the move towards a paleo oriented diet meaning a move away from modern foods and grains to more natural animal and plant based eating. It’s no secret I am very much an advocate of this type of eating however due to my athletic lifestyle I need to truly be careful of what I ingest to ensure I can stay healthy, maintain my lean body mass and still perform.

Many people who switch to a low carbohydrate higher fat, protein consumption forget to take into account that it’s a completely different method of eating than what they were previously used to and it can take a period of adjustment. Unfortunately society has embarked on this search for the golden pot at the end of the rainbow, the quick fix and if the results don’t come hard and fast then it leads to disappointment and the perusal of a different path. There is no silver bullet and it’s a hard blow when it comes to following a nutrition plan for many weeks and not getting the desired results you hope for.

Well the truth of the matter of a Paleo diet or an LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet is that in actual fact they can work and work very well BUT only if you are meticulous about watching what you eat quite carefully and monitoring it regularly. I often see people going onto this type of eating plan with the opinion that they can eat as much protein and fat as they want, cut the carbs and they are on route to a whole new level of body shape fitness and health. Unfortunately it just doesn’t always happen and leaves them going back to their old bad habits.

Adopting a new nutrition plan should not be an overnight switch from your previous type of eating to the new one. I always advocate a gradual transition into a new type of eating. This means small changes at a time and over a period of time.

So you want to go the LCHF route?

Great but not so fast. The first thing is to look at your current eating routine and I don’t mean guesswork here.

I insist my clients write down a food journal over a weekly period, I want to see exactly what they are eating and drinking from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they go to sleep at night. Most are quite shocked by what they put on the piece of paper, because when we eat the mind has this funny thing of not remembering exact foods and tastes, it’s usually an emotional period of enjoyment which we tend to forget until we actually see it in black and white.

The most critical thing about current eating habits are

  1. Timing of the meals
  2. Type of meals

There is no point in taking note of a meal on its own you need to understand the timing as well, both are vitally important, especially if you are an athlete and need to fit in meals around your training regime as well.

Next is to cut out the bad. I don’t mean do this overnight. If 80% of your diet is bad and you immediately cut that 80% what are you going to put in its place? I mean slowly replace the bad with some good health options. As an example if you eat processed oats, then go with a wholegrain or rolled. If you eat wheat bread then switch to a 100% rye.

 

“But that’s NOT LCHF dieting, you still eating grains!” I was shouted at once. “Seriously? I didn’t know that”J.

There are not many people in this world that unless they have incredible determination and willpower will be able to make the switch overnight. Also I need to say this, if your current eating regime is unhealthy and a mess then no drastic changes will work for you. If you want to adopt a proper sustainable way of eating, then get the meals healthier, get the bad out and get the routine correct. Then only do we move to the next step which is changing the percentages of the eating game.

I often see people who eat 6-8 healthy meals a day then switch to a LCHF diet where they are still eating 6-8 meals a day. This can be a dangerous exercise, especially when I notice that most have upped their calorie intake from 1500-2000 a day all of a sudden to 3000 or higher. This is why habits and changes to the body need to be made gradually for optimum success.

Another bad habit I see when it comes to eating correctly on a LCHF diet is that the amount of protein consumed is sometimes excessive. Let me tell you that over eating protein can cause issues, in an athlete it could cause muscle weight gain which is not optimal when you are talking about power to mass weight ratio for optimum performance.  An over-consumption of protein also puts strain on the organs mainly kidneys and it’s really not the place you want find yourself in. The body building community and supporters of it have pushed this aside as a myth due to their advocating of excessive high protein diets, but then again a body builder does require a much higher protein diet than the average person. I also want to know which big body builders have really lived a very long healthy life with no issues. Very far and few between.
The second thing is under eating protein, can lead to muscle loss, which is also a drop in performance. The protein intake of a person needs to be fairly specific based on the kind of exercise he or she does and it needs to fit in with the goal of what they are trying to achieve.

Carbohydrates in the LCHF diet DO exist. Many people think it’s a complete cut, but there is no chance, they are very much part of this type of eating especially if you are an endurance athlete. Carbs are mainly in the form of healthy vegetables and grain based carbohydrates are pushed aside. However and this is something I advocate to many. To make a sudden switch from a grain based diet to a zero grain, protein fat diet overnight is hard. It’s best to introduce what I call carbohydrate type ingestion based on timing.

I do suggest to endurance athletes that carbohydrate consumption in the form of grain based complex carbs needs to remain in place in the beginning especially for those training twice a day in order to ensure proper recovery post exercise. An Ironman athlete in training who depletes his glycogen levels in a hard session, will not be able to pick it up quick enough for later sessions and I have seen many athletes hit a fatigue cycle which is difficult to come out of. So I do stand firm that carbohydrate’s play a crucial role even in a low carb high fat nutrition plan, however it doesn’t mean that it needs to be excessive but it does need to be controlled.

I suggest my preferred methodology of gradual carbohydrate depletion to find that optimal level of nutrient intake. This will completely vary from day to day depending on the kind of day, whether you are training, racing or resting. It also depends highly on the kind of training you are doing on that given day and that’s where carbohydrate timing and type come into play.

As far as the fat content goes in LCHF, it plays a crucial role and the balance is not always easy to maintain. I always mention to people that in order to lose fat you need to learn how to eat fat, and this is so true. Food selections based on fat content have driven the industry for way too long. Sugar has become the most potent drug the food industry has ever produced and used. We now have the largest global rate of addicts worldwide. Marketing is a powerful tool which has changed the minds and opinions of many for way too long and I fully agree that the world needs to move back to basics, meaning food selection based on its most natural form.
It’s so easy to make these kinds of selections if you really want to and no matter what kind of eating regime you adopt, natural food sources are best there can be no argument there. Educate yourself and learn to read the labels of food items on the shelves and in time you will find yourself making the healthier choices.

When it comes to fat, who said low fat was better? The medical fraternities that blamed it on heart disease? The dietitians that adopted low fat diets to lose weight? The sad truth is that even if you don’t ingest fat, whatever you do ingest in the form of carbohydrates or proteins that are not utilized will convert to fat regardless.
I like to use the example of the low fat yogurt which is low in fat, but sweetened with corn starch, oh wait that’s a complex carbohydrate, OK so I don’t have to add the word sugar on the label. Brilliant a low fat sugar free yogurt  Unfortunately a low fat yogurt with corn starch or whatever other sweetener is used will of course get the excess fructose metabolized by the liver and converted to fat. What happened to the low fat yogurt  well it turned out it wasn’t so low fat after all. Taking a high fat product is really the way to go for a variety of reasons. Firstly it satiates you far better and will not leave you feeling hungry afterwards causing you to overeat. Secondly fat is required for better breakdown of carbohydrates in the system and if I were to eat a boiled potatoe I would rather load it with a lot of nut butter to provide a better food combination for the digestive process.
In the words of Dr Robert Lustig (renowned Endocrinologist) “Which is worse the sugar or the fat? The sugar a 1000 times over!”

 

Many people worry about cholesterol when consuming fats however cholesterol plays an important part in every cell membrane. Cholesterol supports the brain and without it, the human body cannot produce certain hormones such as cortisol, oestrogen and testosterone.

Cholesterol is needed to produce vitamin D which is one of the most lacking Vitamins in people globally these days regardless of sun exposure we just don’t get enough. Across the globe the bad perceptions of saturated fats are disappearing.

Major studies have failed to find proper evidence that reducing your intake of fats reduces your risk of heart disease or cancer. They have even failed to prove that consuming saturated fat is the reason for weight gain.

Butter has also been shown to be one of the best sources of vitamin A which is known to protect against heart disease, help vision and support thyroid and adrenal gland function.

Cholesterol-lowering spreads in all honesty need to be tossed in the trash! These well marketed goods contain plant sterols or stanols a naturally occurring compound that forms part of the cell structures in plants and have a similar structure to cholesterol in humans. They are said to be a healthier choice due to their lower saturated fat content. However the medical fraternity is not convinced at all that lowering the cholesterol in the blood is necessary for good health. Unfortunately plant sterols have also been linked to the body’s inability to absorb certain vitamins, such as vitamin E.

So now that we have discussed why fat is good, let’s talk about the low carb high fat eater who actually battles to lose weight but gains weight. It’s quite simple there are areas that are completely repetitive when it comes to observing the eating habits of people that stand out.

  1. 1.    Overeating nuts
  2. 2.    Overeating dairy
  3. 3.    Overeating fat

It’s that simple. When you embark on an LCHF diet meal consumption actually is reduced. If I eat a high fat protein breakfast, it satiates my hunger for hours and I might not have my next meal until lunch time, meaning no mid-morning snack. Wait a minute but shouldn’t I be eating consistently and frequently. Well if you are on a low fat eating patter yes you will need to as hunger sets in a lot quicker.

However on a higher fat diet not at all. You need to take into account that a gram of fat is 9 calories as opposed to 4 for protein and carbohydrates. Meaning that if you consume an excessive amount of fat too frequently your calorie consumption can land up being excessive. I have witnessed people going over 3000 calories a day due to this and it becomes a disappointment when trying to achieve certain results.

The type of fats you consume are also important. I always advocate MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides) as brilliant fat to consume especially for an athlete, because these fats are not stored but utilized for energy. Take into account though if you are eating some blood glucose spiking carbs during a training session, the body will not be given a good enough reason to rid you of these nice fats that are waiting to be utilized  So do yourself a favor and watch what you consume during training because you might be doing yourself a disservice to what you are consuming daily.

Healthy fats such as Omega 3’s should definitely be consumed not in excess but sufficiently to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. Omega 6’s don’t always have a great name but there is absolutely nothing wrong with my favorites Spirulina (also an Omega 3 source) and Sesame Seed (tahini). You need to just take into account that when you eat fats the portion consumed should be carefully verified that in the term of calorie consumption it’s not in excess but within a decent daily allowance. As an athlete that has been consuming a low carb high fat diet for over 8 years now, the one thing I can honestly say is that calorie consumption on a daily basis for me has been only between 800-1800 calories on a given day. When I am consuming a lower fat diet my calorie consumption increases significantly due to the eating frequency cycles.

 Whichever route you decide to take, whether low carb high fat, low fat high carb, low carb/fat high protein, you need to be aware that there is a compete difference between all these types of nutrition regimes and requirements will be completely different. If you do attempt to bite the bullet and make a switch to a healthier form of eating understand what you are wanting to achieve, set yourself realistic expectations and let someone guide you to ensure you don’t set yourself up for failure.

“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”

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Recently I have been receiving a lot of questions on training and racing nutrition. My last blog was focused on becoming more fat efficient, keeping your fuel intake to a minimum and adapting the body to using its natural fat stores as a predominant source of fuel in an endurance session. It’s an awesome position to be in when you can just get up and go long and not worry so much about fuelling yourself.

As mentioned previously in sessions under 2 hrs you can perform extremely well at a high intensity on no fuel at all, if you do consume anything it’s purely to make your brain happy and give you that extra mental boost to up your performance. This has been shown in the famous “Carb taste not swallow test” where athletes purely rinsed the drink in their mouths without and a percentage increase in performance was demonstrated (The Effect of Carbohydrate Mouth Rinse Cycle Time Trial Performance-Jeukendrup) It shows that the mind has a lot to do with an athlete’s ability to perform and Prof. Tim Noakes has often presented the central governor theory where the brain is completely in control by the body and understands all physiological feedback mechanisms. It determines based on conditioning and ongoing readings it gets from the body during exercise as to what point it will control your ability to perform or under perform in a means of ensuring you are protected. If you are not trained to go out and race at a particular effort, the central governor will surely tire you with feelings of fatigue under those conditions in order to slow you down and ensure the body is safe. There is of course opposition to this theory, but there is one thing that both sides still agree on and that is the body needs to be trained to perform.

Last week on a whim I decided to run 42km’s to celebrate my 42nd birthday. Maybe not a normal thing to do, but my running coach said go easy and get it out the system. Even if he said no I think I would have been stubborn enough to do it. With no race pressure, and not the best night’s sleep, I got up early had a cup of strong black coffee, took a waste belt with two 250ml water bottles and headed out with a friend. I ran at a very comfortable and evenly controlled pace, I got back home in 3h19 minutes with a little water to spare and felt great.

The big question I get asked is how you can go and run for that long and not eat anything, and the answer is simple I had all the fuel I needed for that long run inside me BUT more importantly my body was conditioned and gut trained extensively to do that quite comfortably.
That run probably didn’t touch much glycogen at all, it was primarily fuelled on fat. Also the time of running was way less than say some of the rides I do on water only which can go anywhere between 5-6 hours so it wasn’t a worry.  The point is the body is trained over a long period of time with proper nutrition consumption to allow for this. The brain and body work together to understand the body’s ability and limitations and with time you will understand as your body gives you constant feedback. (Check out a previous blog “Listen to your messages”)

The big questions I got after that is if this is how I will race? My answer to that is absolutely not. This is where the title of this blog comes into play, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.  It’s very critical to properly prepare for racing conditions as well, and even though I do a lot of water training, I definitely set aside time for what I call racing “nutrition training”. It’s an important area of being able to race at your best. There is no ways any athlete can go into a race not properly prepared for what he has to consume and under which conditions to ensure that he performs at his or her best. Racing is done at a much high pace for a longer period of time than a training session and it requires a different type of fuelling.

It’s not a difficult aspect of training but I need to stress that it’s a critical aspect and something that cannot be left to the last week or two before a race, because you will want to have your race nutrition down packed way before that in order to make sure that you have a plan and you can habitually stick to it.

My recommendation is to choose a day where you test out your race nutrition. This means waking up in the morning eating a pre-training meal as if it was your pre-race meal going out for a few hours at a fairly intensive pace (slightly slower than race pace) and checking the following:

  • Digestive Comfort  
  • Palatability
  • Energy Levels
  • Ability to Perform

I generally do a session like this once every 10 days and know a few elite athletes that will do this once a week. Sessions like this must be planned, well thought out and think about mimicking it close to your race day as possible.

Nutrition of course will vary for each sport discipline and it’s important to understand that what you do on the morning of a 10km race, marathon, triathlon and cycle race can all differ and should be planned, checked and re-tested to ensure you are on track.

If you can finish that session strong and feeling good with all the check marks in the boxes you are definitely on the right track. This does not need to be done too often as you would not want to try and mimic race day efforts too much, but you need to find a winning formula.

If you are doing a stage race it requires even more effort to test your nutrition as you will need to test your day nutrition first, and once happy with it move on to testing your stage racing nutrition. The critical area of stage racing is recovery in order to be able to keep consistent performance’s each day and keeping those energy levels constant. It would be highly recommended to do at least 3 repeat performances each day including pre, during and post racing nutrition which will give you an idea of exactly how you feel day to day and whether your nutrition strategy is working for you.

Each person is unique and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another so you need to experiment and see what is the best for you.

As a general guideline in deciding what you are going to eat on race day I can suggest the following:

Avoid any Food Consumption that can cause Digestive Issues
There a few foods than entirely ruin a race. You might think they don’t affect you generally so when you are racing they should be fine. However you need to understand that blood i.e.: oxygen is needed to perform digestion. If you are running very fast, oxygen will be diverted away from your stomach to your heart, brain and leg muscles to cater for the exertion. The stomach needs an adequate amount of electrolytes, roughly equal to that of the body tissues outside of the stomach, to perform digestion. If digestion doesn’t occur and the contents of the gastrointestinal tract don’t move, the muscles in the walls of the tract may begin to spasm, bringing on uncomfortable stomach cramps. Triathletes tend to experience more digestive issues than most sport as the positions of 3 disciplines vary. The swim is a lying down position not very conducive to easy digestion and there is buoyancy on top of that, this is usually the setup for cramping that occurs later on during the bike or run. Secondly a triathlete cannot consume during the swim or hydrate so if he or she has consumed something not suitable to that discipline a fair amount of time will pass before the first bit of water can be consumed to try to create some form of balance. In long distance events like Ironman very often consuming a glucose spiking product at the onset will cause GI distress pretty early on. A common mistake that many endurance athletes make.

Running moves the bowels around quite a bit more as the body’s movements gets the organs bouncing and shaking nicely. I am emphasizing that what you eat that’s generally comfortable will still need to be tested during exercise which is what I call digestion under stress.

The main foods to avoid before a race are definitely anything that is high in fiber as this is a certain way of getting your bowels to work nicely and that’s the last thing you need before a race or during it, especially while pre-race nerves are finding their way into every part of your body. Another recommendation I make it to avoid high lactose products. Dairy is a very common cause of digestive problems. Even if you are not lactose intolerant you don’t know what it can do to your body while under stressful conditions. Heavy meats or cheeses are a big no. You want to consume foods that are easy on the digestive system and leave you feeling comfortable.

Size of Meals
Another issue is that many athletes over eat and over hydrate pre-race leaving them feeling bloated heavy and uncomfortable. That is a guaranteed curse under racing or exercise conditions. You need to play with your portion sizes to see what your comfort zone is. I generally recommend a +-300 Calorie food portion pre-race.

Timing and Type of Meals
The timing of your pre-race meal is also critical. I can use a personal example for this one. A few weeks ago, I had a 25km trail race. I made a BIG rookie mistake. I though the start time of the actual race was 7am. There were two races that day and I for some reason just never read the details properly which is not like me, but I was chilled about it nevertheless. I woke up at 4:30am had a nice rolled oats and nut butter meal. I got a lift to the race and on route I get told the race is actually starting at 6am. I was thinking in my mind this is going to be even harder and it was. The timing of my meal to my 7am race was perfect, but to the 6am race it was not. I had to suffer some serious heart burn through the event and I expected to. At least the pain could mentally be bypassed and allow me to come out on top. I am just using this example to stress the importance of meal timing. Preferably minimum 2hrs before the race you want to be done and dusted with your pre-race meal, only requiring some top ups in between. To be honest in this case I shouldn’t have had a pre-racing meal maybe just a small shake or drink before, it wasn’t required at all especially at that time of the morning and I hadn’t run a trail race in years so my nutrition prep was not exactly where it should have been.

I guess this leads into another question. When should I eat a proper pre racing meal and when is it not absolutely necessary. In this case I always look at the type of the event, my pace and expected time. Generally any race for me taking less than 2hrs I won’t eat. I might take a small shake but I certainly don’t require any food. These shorter events as I define them will generally be raced on water. If the pace is extremely high and is closer to the 2hr mark then chances are I will consume some sugary stuff on route to keep my brain a little happier and ensuring a little bit of glycogen sparing on route.

Race Fuel
When events get longer 3hrs or more, you need to understand that at a very high pace you will deplete your glycogen levels and will need to eventually rely on fat as the predominant fuel source. Your body will naturally slow down to cater for the fuel change as fat burning requires oxygen and at too high a pace that’s not going to happen. However this is where fat efficient training plays a massive benefit, because if you have trained your body to adapt to this sort of fuelling it can be trained to do it a slightly higher intensities and this is a great benefit. Also the switch from glycogen to fat caused by glycogen depletion is a shock for some a feeling of fatigue and not being able to move any more. The trained athlete will move through this quite a lot more easily. There is another way around this and that’s to try to pace yourself properly in an endurance event where you won’t burn your glycogen completely and have saved it towards the end where you really need it. In a cycling race it’s sometimes very difficult as the effort or intensity is determined by the bunch and this is where most people get burned, as they are forced to perform at a high intensity to stick with it even if they don’t want to. The wise thing is to try to stick it out in the middle and draft as much as possible to conserve your energy stores. However in an ultra-distance triathlon or long running race you have the ability to determine your own pace and control your intake and predominant energy fuel based on that.

It’s important to remember that if you are going at a controlled pace or intensity consuming a blood glucose spiking product will mitigate you from being able to use your fat stores as energy, so keep fuel intake to lower insulin spiking products which allow for this. When performing under very high intensity conditions you are best suited to taking a blood glucose spiking product as fat is not easily accessible. There of course is a combination of both glycogen and fat being used when doing long events, as pace varies through the event, but fuel intake will ultimately determine this as well, and can upset the balance.

Another point I want to enforce is that endurance fuelling should never be complicated. The simpler you keep it the better. I advocate drip feeding in endurance events. This means smaller more frequently timed feeds as opposed to feeding every hour. It’s easier on the digestive system and it keeps the body and energy levels in a nice equilibrium. I generally will feed every 20-25 minutes in a long endurance event.

Plan and Train the Gut
I was invited to chat to the participants of Ironman 70.3 Western Australia this year as we were event sponsors. The first question I received was shouldn’t we be consuming between 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per an hour of exercise during the event. My immediate response to that was has your gut been trained to consume 60-90 grams of carbohydrates per an hour. The amount of carbohydrate consumption per an hour during exercise is not based on the number of carbs you are consuming, but more importantly how much of those carbohydrates your body is capable of absorbing and using. If your body is only capable of absorbing 50 grams of carbohydrate per an hour because that’s the food you use and that’s what you are used to, then how would your system cope under excessive intake meaning, your gut completely under-trained to deal with the increased consumption. The answer is it won’t. In long endurance events I can easily get away with between 20-50 grams of carbs per an hour in an event. I have never needed to venture into the 60-90 range ever and I don’t feel I would cope in that range either. Another thing that is important to note is the 60-90 gram carb intake is based solely on the fact that you are fuelling with carbs only which means racing at a very high intensity, its doesn’t take into account controlled pace and fat usage. Scientific studies have shown that a combination of specific carbohydrates in unique ratios can maximize the absorption rates however I have witness many an athlete opt for those test results only to be left with severe stomach issues on route. Another thing I don’t agree with is relying on drinking ones calories. I definitely feel that food solids are a far better form of fuelling. Dr Allen Lim well known scientist especially with his involvement in premier Tour de France cycling teams has shown a lot of science behind this and you can view it here.

There are many ways to approach nutrition when it comes to training and racing. It’s something that always needs to be taken into consideration and never left on the side. So the next time you sit down look at your training and racing schedule. Plan your workouts, your swims, cycle and runs, but add another training session into that called nutrition. Train your gut, get on track and make sure you give yourself the best opportunity to perform well and hassle free at your next event.

 

Keep at it 

all the best

M

“With all thine offerings thy shalt offer salt”

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This quote is a famous text straight out of the bible. In biblical times all sacrificial offerings had to include salt. This was a covenant conceived between the Israelite’s and God.

In today’s times the sacrificial salt offerings have reappeared in a huge margin in the sports industry where an athlete feels if he does not consume a certain amount of salt during an event he will become the sacrificial offering along route.

The energy drink providers have certainly ingrained that into the minds of most athletes and today a covenant exists between sports drink manufacturer and athlete where salt is part of the parcel of their products. Any endurance sport newbie I bump into especially triathletes and ultra-marathoners the first bit of advice they seem to be given is to take salt tablets. As far as carbohydrate drinks go I often get questions on why has this drink only got 60mg’s of sodium yet another has 500mg’s of sodium and so the search for salt continues.

Why is it that athletes feel the need to take salt? It’s quite simple they are all looking for that cure for cramping or prevention of cramping. No wants to land up in an event which they have prepared so hard for and then succumb to the dreaded muscle cramp which is debilitating, and often ends ones event.

A few weeks ago I was watching Ironman Mont Tremblant, as one of our awesome athletes Liz Blatchford was doing her 2nd ever Ironman in hoping of qualifying for Kona which by the way she did in style. While watching the race another story was unfolding and that was of Luke Bell who came into T2 with three other well-known athletes Guillaume, Ambrose, Berger. The first 10km’s saw Bell losing time to Guillaume & Ambrose who were running at an incredible pace more like a 10km. He slowly began pulling back time and eventually landed up 1:25 ahead of them and then started to grow a nice gap on the run. Holding this pace would surely see him winning the North American Championship in style. Luke Bell is said to be the most talented Ironman athlete never to win an Ironman however he took his first win in May of this year at Ironman Australia.
It was awesome to see him so comfortable at the front of the race looking for that 2nd victory and then the trouble started at the 20km mark. Suddenly Luke Bell stopped with a cramp in the leg. He tried to walk it off and then went into a stretch mode to release the cramp. He lost some time during this episode but then eventually carried on running and held a nice pace again. Kilometers later the same thing happened but this time the cramp was worse and he had to stop a little longer, stretching it out and walking a fair amount. In the meantime some top marathoners from behind were starting to gain momentum and slowly ate into Luke Bells gap. The cramps kept reoccurring and at one stage the stop and stretch took such a significant amount of time to release the muscle that even the crowd was beginning to wonder if he would be able to continue.

In the end Luke Bell won the race and in a record time of 8:26:06, an incredible performance. He actually never panicked at all when cramping just handled it like a true professional and worked through it properly.

The story above provides a lot of insight into cramping and we can learn from it.

Where was Luke cramping? In his right leg.

How did he release the cramp? By proper stretching technique and slowly getting back into a running rhythm.

Was the cause of his cramping sodium depletion? Absolutely not.

If an athlete cramps due to loss of electrolytes how would it be possible to stretch out the cramp and continue. Electrolytes don’t get recreated by stretching unless there is some new physiological breakthrough we have not yet been informed of.

The other thing that is worth mentioning is why a single muscle would be targeted if when there is electrolyte depletion it occurs over the entire body. If an athlete had to tell me he was cramping all over from his hands down to his feet I would sit up and take notice. However any athlete I deal with mostly cramps in a localized area and this is certainly not due to sodium depletion as many tend to believe.

It’s a fact that the main cause of cramping is due to an undertrained muscle. It does not mean you have not trained properly but it means you have pushed your muscles passed a threshold which you were comfortable with during your training. I have a simple example which I see all the time. An athlete does an Ironman distance race where usually his pace for a 180km ride would see him finish in say 6 hours, of course terrain and weather dependent. However all of a sudden in a particular race his pace is much higher than in training probably due to competition and ego. It can even be a time difference of 15 minutes faster which his legs are just not used to, and suddenly the dreaded cramps set in.

In the particular example of the Ironman above Luke was pushed beyond his comfort zone by his two competitors at least in the first 10km’s he just could not keep their pace and he had work to do to catch them back. A good chance that the first 20km’s were harder on his legs than what he was expecting and that was also after a tough bike course which Mont Tremblant is known for. So muscle overuse was definitely a major factor in his cramping.

It’s important to understand in any race of any nature what your body is capable of. If you don’t put it through the paces and train the muscles properly to cope with the intensity and time on them you can land up in trouble. I often hear athletes saying you must never race when you train. I cannot agree.
If you you don’t do any race pacing when you train then how can you race? You need to train your muscles to cope at any given pace.

Now let’s take a look at the electrolyte facts which have been scientifically demonstrated through experimentation and research.

The first factual statement is that sweat itself is hypotonic. This simply means that you lose more fluid than sodium when sweating. In actual fact when you sweat your sodium levels become more concentrated triggering the mechanism of thirst. Drink some water dilute the concentration of sodium, thirst disappears and your body is happy.

Your body is an incredibly finely balanced machine, it knows exactly what it needs and when, you just need to learn how to listen to it. In order for a person’s body to have a proper equilibrium the normal blood sodium level should be around 135 – 145 millimoles/liter (mmol/L). If a person’s sodium levels drop towards the 130 zone or under you are at severe risk of hyponatremia.
This is actually quite common in endurance athletes and in common terms it’s what’s classified as over-hydration. Over-hydration has become quite common among athletes who drink not to thirst but who drink an amount per an hour because they have been told to in order to prevent dehydration. Any athlete trying to consume the exact amount of fluid that he is losing to sweat could be a contender in the over-hydration department.

Let me make one thing clear, an athlete that dehydrates can still perform and at a very high level. You will find every elite athlete at the end of a marathon or ultra with fluid loss and slightly dehydrated, that is quite normal. However over consumption of liquid will see your demise and very quickly. It’s easy to resolve a dehydrated state by taking in fluid, but to get rid of fluid when you over drink in an event is not simple and the world of sport has seen a number of deaths related to hyponatremia.

Another thing to take into account is that symptoms for dehydration and over-hydration can be similar and in certain cases athletes have mistaken the symptoms and then over consumed liquid to try to reverse the situation they thought they were in. This only made matters worse and put them into a dangerous situation.

So what does a sports drink that contain fairly high levels of sodium do for me?

Actually it does not do much. The carbohydrates play a role in provisioning energy and helping maximize the absorption rate of the fluid ingested. The sodium simply makes you drink more and will slightly help increase the absorption rate. It will cause that thirst mechanism to be unnatural and remain there for a long period of time causing you to drink more because you think you are thirsty.

A sports drink that has a nice high sodium content will surely prevent dehydration, BUT you still run the risk of over-hydration. Actually more so than just drinking plain water because with drinking water your thirst trigger is accurate, but with salt thrown into the equation it now tricks you and this needs to be monitored carefully. I always recommend a drink with a lower sodium content for an athlete which makes it easier to manage their fluid intake more naturally.

The next question I get asked is surely if I consume sodium in a drink, my sodium levels rise substantially in order to justify additional fluid intake? The answer to that is no. The differential is actually so insignificant it won’t play a role at all.

I did a lot research on the matter a few years ago and two sports scientists I have a lot of respect for are Professor Tim Noakes and Dr Ross Tucker. Professor Noakes has published a book called Waterlogged which is an incredible read for anyone that is fascinated by the subject of hydration. Dr Tucker did extensive research on the causes of cramping, which was documented in 2007 and you can gain a lot of insight at the following link at his “The Science of Sport” website. Over and above my own studying and research into the subject I have worked with many athletes over the past few years and seen their ability to perform while managing fluid intake properly, including myself.

Another issue which sometimes causes athletes to over-drink is heat. It happens often where an athlete will attempt to cool down their body by drinking fluid, especially if it’s cold fluid. Unfortunately this does not work well at all. You not really cooling down your core temperature and you are in a situation where over consumption of liquid can occur. The most efficient way to cool down your core temperature is to actually get cold water or liquid into the lower abdomen or groin area (a future blog ;-)). Throwing over one’s head is not as effective but it’s still better than consuming liquid in an attempt to stay cool.

Another fact I want to mention is that of course training in cool conditions will get your body used to fluid loss under those cool conditions. Suddenly moving to a much hotter more humid climate will of course put you under far more stress during exercise. Fluid loss will increase and you will need to manage it a lot more carefully. Its always good to acclimatize and mimic training conditions to predicted race conditions. I actually have a training partner who when he races in the overseas summer while he is training in our winter does a number of indoor treadmill and bike sessions with heating in the room in order to ready the body for temperature changes.

In conclusion I would like to mention that each and every person is unique in the amount of liquid they require for proper hydration and electrolyte balance. Some athletes can run 30km’s without any water while others cannot go more than 10km’s without a drink. This comes down to getting to know your body and understanding how much fluid consumption is perfect for you. It will of course vary under different conditions as weather will determine our fluid loss in the form of sweat.

The only accurate trigger that we have and it’s a brilliant tool that we are born with is called thirst and if we listen to it properly we cannot go wrong. Remember that water is best or a low sodium drink if you really want your thirst trigger to be hitting the bull’s eye constantly. Lastly the next time your friend suggests he has a cure for cramping please do me a favour and turn to him and just say, yeah we know “just train properly”.

Keep going

M

Minimalistic Fuelling

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As far back as I can remember its always been very rare to cycle or run with a group of athletes who don’t have some form of colored drink in their water bottles or some spare change for that awesome sugar stop at the petrol station at around the half way mark. It seems that dependency on some sort of fuelling has not become just a necessity, but also the norm and I battle to find an athlete that even has the confidence to exit home without his or her fuel stash for fear of hitting the dreaded wall.

Now before you think here comes another weirdo who advocates keeping it all natural and only train and race on water, which I admit I am ;-), I am also the director of an endurance supplement company which provides fuel :-).

So how is it that on one hand I market endurance supplements yet on the other I am giving you a hard time for using them? It’s quite simple, supplements have a time and a place when they are suitable but they are not something to be completely dependent on. In actual fact the less dependent you are on a supplement the better the effects when you do use it. 

So firstly lets talk simply about how your muscles get their fuel to function. Muscles need energy to contract and this is done utilizing a chemical called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is primarily produced by our mitochondria. Carbohydrates, Fats & Proteins all get converted to ATP under a variety of conditions. Carbohydrates are more easily converted when exercise is done at a high intensity while fat is converted at lower levels of intensity. Protein is not a nutrient that is generally used to power muscle activity. Simply its a poor form of fuel and primarily used more for tissue repair.
So lets keep the focus on carbohydrates and fat. 

Glycogen (natural carbohydrate stores) is the quickest accessible fuel in the body and a person who has topped up glycogen stores will be able to provide anything from 90-120 minutes of energy to their system while performing at a high rate of intensity. Fat is a longer access path, but a truly desirable one as a gram of fat has twice the power as a gram of carbohydrate. Have you ever seen fat fall off a grill into a fire, it bursts into flames, this is very similar to what happens in your body, it fires the muscles extremely well when harnessed, it’s an incredibly strong form of fuel and if you are efficient at using your fat stores it will see you a long way. 

Now the next question is how do you tap your fat stores? This is really dependent on the type of athlete you are, what you consume before and during exercise and the rate of intensity you are performing at.
Fat requires oxygen to be properly utilized (aerobic level of activity). If you can picture someone racing at a high intensity and he can barely breathe well then you are not tapping into your fat stores as you are not able to take in sufficient oxygen to be utilized for fat conversion. In this case glycogen will primarily be used. At this high rate of intensity an athlete will on average see 90 minutes of fuel, if he is really in a good condition up to 120 minutes of fuel. Lactic acid build up takes place at the same time that glycogen is primarily used and its really very difficult for the general athlete to sustain an incredibly high rate of intensity for such a long period of time. So what actually happens is a combination of glycogen and fat become your energy sources, as pace will land up varying.

This just demonstrates the importance of pacing yourself during an event in order to ensure you are able to spare as much glycogen as possible by using fat as the primary source of fuel if you are able to. The above is just a general idea of how the concept of fuelling works based on intensity.

Now lets throw fuel or supplements into the picture. If an athlete is performing at an extremely high intensity for longer than a 120 minute period you will want to try and spare the glycogen levels by consuming carbohydrates which are co-utilized for fuel as opposed to glycogen only. A percentage of glycogen is spared but not continual sparing, it will still deplete in time. The carbohydrate intake will just extend its rate of depletion, and the sugar to the brain will give that “feel good” feeling which assists performance perception. A carbohydrate dependent athlete actually has to have that brain feel otherwise he goes downhill :-). 

Fat on the other hand is an unlimited resource, you could easily do 50 marathons on your fat stores alone, even if you are lean its incredibly powerful. There are some issues with using fat though. The first is most people are carbohydrate lovers, and the brain will be magnetized towards sugar intake 🙂 and the second is that he rate at which fat is burned for fuel is too slow to support an extremely hard effort. 

The issue of wanting carbohydrates during exercise can obviously be resolved easily by consuming carbohydrates during exercise, however if you still want to harness your fat it would be in your best interests as an athlete to train your body to utilize fat as a fuel source at a higher rate of intensity which can be done. That way when your glycogen stores are depleted and fat becomes your sole fuel source you will not have to slow your rate of performance down too much in order to stay in a zone where you don’t bonk (hit the wall). 

 

What are the advantage to becoming a fat efficient athlete:

1. Definitely you will  notice a difference in body composition and lean muscle mass which will bode well for performance as you might be at a very optimum race weight which previously might have been too heavy.

2. Health – Preventing the excessive carbohydrate cravings and endurance athletes truly do fall into this trap of excessive sugar cravings post exercise. This causes pendulum swinging of blood glucose and insulin levels and you do put yourself at risk later on in life for weight issues, cholesterol or diabetes. Pendulum swinging leaves athletes especially endurance athletes eating inconsistently, I see it often. Lindt Chocolates become the order of the day. 

3. Performance – I can tell you this, you will start to perform far more consistently when you are fat efficient. The longer the event the far better you will manage. Your nutrition worries will be quite easily sorted and your focus will be mainly on effort. You will become an expert at managing your training and training nutrition where your energy levels will be far more balanced. When an athlete experiences sudden dips in energy levels its a terrible feeling and leaves you feeling fatigued and weak, however when you are fat efficient these peaks and troughs are so much closer together on the height scale that you don’t go through that personal hell most athletes tend to find themselves in at some point in a long endurance event.

4. The dreaded bonk – What bonk??? seriously if you are fat efficient chances of you hitting that wall are so slim. The transition from glycogen depletion to fat fueling is so transparent you wont feel it as much as an athlete who really has to have his glycogen because he is not fat efficient. 

5. Time – Yes you will have more time :-). Imagine waking up in the morning and having a cup of green tea then going out on a 3 hr run or a 5 hr ride and all u needed was water. No prepping your food intake or bottles etc and having to stress about things that much. 

6. Save Money – Yes, you will save a lot of money. OK, the fact that I own an endurance company means you will buy less of my product as you will use it more sparingly :-). However your health is far more important to me and I mean that sincerely. No need to live on a supplement, use it when you need it. You will also save money on food expense. If you are fat efficient you definitely wont eat as much as you do when you are pigging out on carbs and Lindt chocolates ;-). You eat less frequently so its a savings. I have run the numbers and even though carbs are cheaper, lets face it sugar is cheap you will save. You will also save on medical bills in the long run ;-).

So how do you become more efficient at utilizing fat for energy. Its actually quite simple, BUT I will say this you need to be consistent and disciplined. It also takes time, its not something that changes overnight but with time you will notice differences in your ability to fuel efficiently and you will start to find a zone of awesome balance, without the big roller coaster ups and downs experienced by most endurance athletes.

How do I become a fat fuel efficient athlete?:

1. Nutrition, Nutrition Nutrition 
I cannot stress nutrition enough. It does not help to have a very high carbohydrate diet, especially consuming carbohydrate foods which cause blood glucose spikes. You are doing yourself a complete disservice not just from a performance point of view but also from a health point of view. The way to naturally become fat efficient ie: burn off fat through proper nutrition is to reduce your carbohydrate intake, and when you do consume carbohydrates ensure the timing of consumption but especially the types of carbohydrates that you consume. Ensure they are stability carbs and not those that send you on roller coaster rides, so stick to low GI carbs its far better, only use higher GI carbs post hard workouts, unless you are racing.

I always tell people if you want to use and lose fat you need to learn how to eat fat. Its amazing how many people avoid fat, however fat is good for you don’t be persuaded into thinking the opposite. Paleo is a very big diet path these days and I don’t object to anyone going the low carb high fat route, I actually do myself however with slight modification.

An endurance athlete putting in around 20 hours or more of training a week will find that time for glycogen replenishment on a low carb high fat diet might be a little longer than usual and this is because of frequency of training which will ultimately lead to fatigue and decreased levels of performance. So I generally recommend two types of modifications and either one is actually OK.
My preference is to increase carbohydrate intake dependent on training days, time and intensity based. As an example on a single training session day my carbohydrate intake could be around 75-100 grams of carb intake, but on a double session day it could go as high as 175-200 grams. With experimentation over the past 12 years I have found this to work best for me, however some of my clients require as much as 300-400 grams and some can get away with less. Each person is unique and my advice would be to deplete carbohydrates slowly and then find that point where you feel performance and balance is achieved. The type of carbohydrates consumed and the timing of those types of carbohydrates are also significant.

The second method is what is called periodization so this could be following a low carb high fat diet for 6-8 days, followed by a carbo-loading period of around 3 days. This still allows the body to be fat adapted so that even during exercise your body will be trained to utilize fat very efficiently. The problem with periodization is of course timing, if you get it wrong especially before a race you might land up in trouble and flat. The second thing is that when you are consistent on a diet and you suddenly make a change expect some digestive issues and some discomfort. Some athletes still like it, I tend to avoid it. I rather focus on fat efficient eating based on the kind of training day and I find this to work best.

 

2. Training 
If you want to burn fat during exercise then you need to train accordingly and this means watch your fuel intake before and during training. The only reason to take on supplements during a training session is to for three things.

1. Very long hard session and you need to keep your glycogen stores topped up as you have another session shortly after.
2. The intensity and duration of the session is very high and without a supplement you will not achieve your session goal.
3. Training your gut (You cannot race on a supplement you have not tried, tested and gotten used to and I always recommend setting aside one or two sessions a week to mimic race nutrition to ensure you have it down packed). 
My advice is quite simple, and this is what I follow which works for me, but time periods will vary for many people depending on how efficient they are and how good their nutrition and fitness levels are. 

  • Up to 2 hrs of even a very hard session there is no need for fuel water is sufficient. However you HAVE to ensure a quick intake of carbohydrates and protein immediately afterwards in order to start the recovery process right away. Secondly you need to then consume a proper recovery meal which I suggest is balanced, complex carbs, protein and fat. A hard 2 hr session will deplete glycogen so you want to recover for the next. If your next session is only a few hours later than you might want to pre-fuel or fuel during this kind of session.
  • Long Slow Sessions -Whether cycle, run or swim, if this session is at a fat burning intensity then DONT fuel it with anything except water, if you are able to. Confidence will come with time, BUT the worst thing you can do on a session like this is take in gels or other spiking carbohydrate products because you are completely mitigating your ability to burn fat and you are most likely just gaining weight as opposed to losing.
    Make these session productive. I have done many rides of 5 hours or more on water alone, even 36-40 km runs BUT I have been doing this for years and my body has become very adapted over time to using fuel as fat at these intensities. People often ask me whats low intensity and that really needs to be perceived effort, or within a comfortable HR zone. As an example, my run pace over 36km’s on water can be 4:40 pace BUT for someone else it might be way to hard and they would need something slower. Some of the elite athletes I deal with can run on fat at 4 minute or just sub 4 minute pace which is incredible, BUT that is a very comfortable pace for them and they are in a fat burn zone.
    Last week I did a 5 hour water ride at 31 km’s/hr average, but just to demonstrate that I did not weaken as I often get told but you battle to finish without proper fuel its not actually true. On the way out on this out an back ride, I was averaging only 27-28 km/h on the way back I had to ride significantly harder to average out that pace but was fine. I was still within my limits. 15 years ago if I tried something like this even for a 2.5 hr ride I probably would have hit the wall so bad someone would have had to come and fetch me ;-).
    So I understand there is a start to this, it is a process but in time you will definitely become a fat efficient athlete.
  • Now lets say its just NOT possible for you to go on water, you are not adapted and not confident. It’s quite simple. Fuel yourself on your session BUT with a difference, fuel with non-glucose spiking products. Something that’s low to medium GI something that keeps your insulin levels low enough to ensure you are still burning fat yet making your brain happy and there are products that allow you to do this. 32Gi Endure I have to mention is exactly designed for that. It releases glucose at a slow enough rate making your brain happy and allowing you to still tap your fat stores. The other thing you can do is only take on water for 2 hrs and then introduce your nutrition so that your body has moved into a fat burning zone before you start consuming and this is done by many elite athletes, until they can increase the time on water.
  • Lastly I don’t suggest water training like this every single week and every single session. Start with a one or two and slowly build up, remember you need to recover you need to also understand what your next workout is and you need to fuel yourself accordingly.

In conclusion I just want to emphasize that at first glance maybe you think this is crazy or not for you, but I can tell you from personal experience and from the many people I deal with on a daily basis, this is certainly the direction to take, not just from a performance but from a health point of view. Remember baby steps get you there it does not happen overnight.
Get stuck into this journey and you will never look back.

Good luck

m 🙂

 

“Life is a tragedy of nutrition”

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That is  quite a statement made by Arnold Ehret but so true. If there is one thing that is consistent in life its that we eat. 

We eat & drink for so many different reasons for desire, survival, delight, energy, immunity, health, comfort and celebration. Whatever the reason we make a decision on a food and consume it. In my opinion most food selections are emotionally challenged or challenging, you know its not good for you but you don’t care, you know its good for you and you make a selection based on what you think will be good, or you are ill and forced into a healthy eating regime against your wishes. 

The last thing you want is to be forced to eat certain foods based on ill health, you never want to get to that stage. The other stage I often see people in is the wish to look and feel good and base food selection according to the goals they are trying to achieve. This is where I am going to put the focus of this blog because the majority of people that I interact with are trying to get into shape or trying to improve their performance. 

The most amazing thing I see and hear with people I come into contact with is, so and so lost this much weight on this diet, and this person managed to drop so much body fat on this diet or this person is going for these injections or freeze wraps or laser treatments and the list just goes on and on. It is of course the same in the sporting communities, a guy performs in a race and everyone wants to know what he is doing, what is he eating etc. The variety of options of diet plans are so vast that the choices can sometimes be so overwhelming. I will often hear of someone who has tried at least 3-4 different diets in a period of a year with not much success or excellent success followed by a plateau then failure. 

So let me make some things a little clearer and lets no sugar coat (excuse the pun) the facts. Firstly quick fixes don’t exist, neither do diets, detoxes or temporary meal plans. You might think they do, but you are mistaken. These quick fixes that people go on and excessive diet plans only mean one thing changes in physical appearance but the problem is that people forget about their internal appearance. Our internal physiology our organs run our entire system mistreat them in anyway and you will pay for it if not in the short term then definitely long term. The problem is because we lose sight to our physical appearance we don’t take notice of whats happening on the inside. There is only one thing you should be aiming for and that should be a nutrition strategy for life. If you get it right life will be good to you, from a health perspective. If you get it wrong life could be tragic and I mean this with all sincerity. 

So the next question is how do you know which nutrition regime to follow, which direction should you take. Its actually not such a difficult thing in the beginning but it takes some planning. I have put down what I think are the 10 steps to a better you from a nutrition perspective of course :-).

1. Go for a complete medical
If you have no idea of your health status you are wasting your time by attempting to eat certain foods when you have no understanding if they are beneficial or harmful to you. Get a snapshot of your body, meaning blood works organ function etc. Go for a thorough medical.

2. Set your goals
Set a realistic goal of what you are wanting to achieve and make sure its realistic. Telling me you want to lose 10kg’s in a month is not realistic at all, but over a few months that’s a different story. 

3. Review your current eating
I love it when people tell me “I eat very healthy, but its doing nothing for me”. I make them write down a food journal over a 7 day period of every single thing they consume over that period from morning until night. Once you see whats written down its actually quite shocking. Perception of food intake is very often completely different to what is really happening. Once you understand what it is you are doing wrong then you understand what you need to do to make things right.

4. Elimination
Many people introduce new foods to their eating regime without actually making the changes first. My recommendation is to take a look at the meal journal you made. Identify the bad stuff, and start an elimination process, meaning get the bad out of your weekly eating or reduce it significantly and also get it out the house as once its not there its not accessible. The basics of elimination are definitely the sugars, instant and processed foods that’s a good start.

5. Food Replacement
Once you are in a routine of not eating the bad stuff now you should start to introduce the good stuff. First look at what you currently eat and see if there is a healthier replacement for it. As an example, do you eat white rice or processed oats? If that’s the case then swap it for a short grain brown or wild rice, or quinoa or amaranth instead. Swap that processed oats for a rolled or whole oats. There are many healthier options for what you are eating if you do your research and get some good advice.

6. New Food Introduction
How many of you get so excited when you walk into a health shop and walk out with every new food you have never tried promising so many different results. My suggestion here is start off slow, only introduce one or two new foods a week and test them properly. You need to make sure they agree with you. If they don’t then you need to eliminate them. Even a “health” food might cause digestive or allergic issues, fatigue etc and this is your body’s way of saying don’t give me this stuff please. Most people don’t listen so you need to train yourself to become sensitive to your body’s needs. The new food introduction I would focus on would be variety of healthy proteins & fats, vegetables and good fruit. 

7. Meal Frequency and Timing
Now that you are on your path of the ultimate nutrition regime you will need to try and monitor eating frequency and timing of the meals. As an athlete you need to see if you are fatigued or if you are properly fueling and recovering from a workout. If you are trying to lose weight, starving yourself wont do the trick, but eating well and watching what you eat will make a difference. Ultimately your lifestyle and the types of foods you consume will determine how many times and when you eat during the day. If you have hunger cravings, or energy dips you need to re-look at your intake and timing. You truly want to make sure your energy levels are balanced throughout the day. 

8. Build the Base
The process above is not an overnight process. It will take weeks and months to get into a routine and build on your base. Don’t ever give up and don’t think this is a quick fix, this is a recipe for long term healthy nutrition choices. The stronger the base the more you have to work with. If your base is weak you cannot expect to succeed.

9. Tweak your Nutrition
This is the part I think most people are aiming for. The problem is a lot of people skip steps 1-8 and jump straight to 9. So this is where I would say if you want to try a LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet, rather do the previous steps and slowly move into it. A lot of people have been forced into it following diabetes or cholesterol issues etc in order to provide a quicker fix to the inevitable medical issues. However if you are fairly healthy or don’t have any major medical issues then move towards it slowly. Do it in a way that it will not impact you significantly so you don’t rebound backwards. I find those that jump into it too quickly are the quickest to jump out unless you have amazing willpower. Slowly make changes to your nutrition regime. As an example look at where you are eating carbs and gradually cut out until you get to a level that suites you. Then tweak over time. If LCHF is not for you, it does not mean you will not be healthy if you follow another nutrition program that is healthy with the appropriate carbs which suite your body type. We are all unique and we all respond differently to different foods.

10. Enjoy your nutrition
This is such an important facet of eating. If you don’t enjoy it then whats the point. I mentioned earlier that foods definitely play on our emotions. You can still eat healthy foods that make you feel good, smile and cause you to crave. You need to experiment and find those foods. Experimenting, cooking and eating can be an adventure and a lot of fun if you try it. Don’t get despondent there are so many good healthy meal recipes out there and I am sure there are plenty just waiting to satiate your palate. 

 

Remember eating healthily is a percentages game, if you do it right most of the time, treating yourself once in a while is enjoyable and fun. If you treat yourself too often then in the long run its disastrous. Learn how to make every healthy meal a treat and that way you will never veer off course.

 

Good luck

all the best

M

“A good archer is not known by his arrows but by his aim”

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To live a life with direction and purpose one has to set goals. It is not good enough to take a couple of steps which will one day ultimately lead to a goal, but every single step and decision you make will need to be a goal itself. Small goals & baby steps ultimately lead to long term achievements.

As a health, nutrition, fitness and wellness coach I frequently get approached by various kinds of people with completely unique goals, seeking my assistance in helping to achieve them. Goals that I often see are weight loss goals, sports or athletic achievements, general health whether for a family or individuals and even some whose goals have completely shifted due to illness or injury where I assist in getting them back on track.

Reviewing a goal that anyone sets requires an element of responsibility and I don’t always agree to assist a person in achieving their goal. I need to review the goal, review current health & lifestyle status and then decide if the goal they are aiming for is realistic.

I can honestly say that more than 90% of the time, the goals are completely unrealistic. Not in the sense that they are not achievable but in the sense that they are just not realistic to do in that space of time. The general person aims extremely high, and if you understand archery you know that aiming to high causes you to miss your target, of course in the same token if you are aiming to low that’s also not good.  If you are aiming to high you are not only setting yourself up for disappointment but potentially ill health depending on what that goal might me.

Let me enlighten you a little more, and then it will make it easier for you to follow ;-).
A person that has spent the last 10years eating unhealthily and completely letting themselves go cannot realistically expect to turn those 10 years around in 6 months it’s just not going to happen. That kind of a goal is something that does not have an end, it’s a lifetime of consistency and smaller weight and health goals on route to ultimately help achieve the long term goal with complete sustainability and good health.

Another example is the amount of people that approach me and say “I want to do Ironman next year”. Well that’s all well and fine, then my next question is “have you ever done a triathlon before?” and the answer in short is no or yes a sprint distance. Wow so in 12 months a person who has never trained for an ultra-triathlon suddenly wants to do an Ironman. No chance, not on my watch. It’s not that I don’t want them to achieve it. It’s more the point that this is an event just like an ultra-marathon that puts a lot of stress on the body, not the event itself but the entire volume and intensity of training leading up to the event. I was once doing an ultra-distance triathlon overseas, and a woman approached me the night after that race while I was standing at the entrance of the athlete’s hotel. She asked what the event was and I explained to her. She then asked me if I thought that such an event was “healthy” surely no she insisted. My answer was pretty clear, in agreeing that for most of the people the event is by no means healthy, however for some it’s absolutely fine.

The two groups of athletes I am speaking about are clearly defined. There are those that have in a utopic world have  been active their entire lives and over many years have built up endurance slowly and properly over a decent period of time, watching their nutrition, health and pretty much leading a healthy lifestyle consistently. An event like this is hard, but their bodies well equipped & serviced to handle the journey.

The second type of athlete is the kind that has gone out on a whim decision to fast-track himself into an endurance event which he mentally might think he is ready for but his body definitely is not yet his mind will drive him through thick and thin to get him to the finish line. This is the high risk individual the one that does the damage, the one that will go beyond his capabilities achieve, achieve some more, but then eventually it all caves in and believe me it actually does, illness injury, emotionally, it’s way too much too soon and life is not a 10 or 20yr period, its life. Most of these kinds of athletes are around 20-40yrs old, the problem is they are not looking to 50, 60 and beyond.

It’s when I analyze these individuals I need to reshape their goals, explain the risks and if they insist I would rather turn them away then play a role in their ultimate demise. I am not interested in taking on an individual for the sake of it, I need to know that the path I am guiding them down is one of health, comfort and achievability.

The same goes for a person who is a carbohydrate junky and in one day he switches to a LCFH (Low Carb High Fat) diet. Good luck, thousands succeed, but it was not a success overnight it was a process.

Goal setting really requires thought and wisdom, not irrationality and compulsion. It’s an element of life that has no quick fixes. It’s a process that guides our short term decisions in long term achievements and it’s a crucial driver for happiness, fulfillment and accomplishment.

Remember to aim that arrow well, don’t just look at the target but assess the wind direction and speed, stay steady in the pull and release with intended purpose.

All the best

M

LCHF friendly pancake meal (Gluten,Wheat & Dairy Free) :-)

 

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This is an awesome recipe on days where you just feel like a treat, snack or something of change but yet keep to your diet goals.

I put this together to give you a nice simple and tasty meal which will keep you on the right path 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Lupin Flour (if you cannot get it try almond, coconut or soya flour)
  • 2/3 eggs, I use 3 eggs to raise the protein/fat content and give it a little more bind, but works well with 2 eggs as well
  • 1 tin coconut cream/milk (400ml’s)
  • 1tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 1tsp Baking Soda

Blend all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix to a nice smooth batter is formed.

Take a pan and using coconut oil or full cream grass fed animal butter (dairy) grease it well. On a low heat use a tablespoon to pour the batter into the pan, making 3-4 at a time. This mix should make anywhere between 20-30 small pancakes suitable to feed 4-5 people ;-).

Add a table spoon of almond butter on top with some raw cocoa paste if wanted, or if you want to make it more of a meal fry and egg or two and eat it on top :-).

Calorie Content for Entire Serving with Almond Butter & Cocoa paste:

Assuming 4 servings: (3 egg option)
Protein:  25 grams
Fat: 30 grams
Carbs: 12 grams

CALORIES: 418

BREAKDOWN
Protein: 24%
Fat: 65%
Carbs: 11%

An athletes palate 😉

YUM

 

 

 

Listen to your messages……………..

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I am a very military oriented personality, just the kind of life I have lead since birth. A naval officer father, nutrition strict mother and then my own life experiences which followed very much similar routes. My clients know when I take them on there is black and white, tolerance levels are low and I demand results.

I travel quite a bit and come into contact with all types of cultures and personalities on many different levels. South Africans generally I see as quite a soft sort of courteous kind of nation, mainly rule followers and breaking them will definitely command some sort of reaction but generally in a very subtle kind of a way to start. In Israel where I currently am it’s a completely different ball game, you can be sure people will be telling you what to do on a daily basis, because they always know better, yet the rules are consistently broken by the big mouths.

It often gets my back up and I am often in a defensive mode which in military terms means strike them down before they even get close to doing or saying something, that way you won’t have to defend. It’s an aggressive approach but generally one that has won many warsJ.

So my resistant personality wherever I am is constantly ready to go to war, don’t tell me what to do or else, because I know my boundaries, I know what I am doing and if I need your advice I will ask for it. Most people tend to similar so I am not unique ;-).

Yesterday I was out on a training ride, I was around 80minutes into the ride, in the country side and just started a climb out of the valley, music in my ears and really just soaking up the view when all of a sudden a car slows down next to me the window open and I can see muttering and hands waving. The sound completely drowned out by some Armin van Burin ASOT in my ears.

My instinctive thoughts was to tell her to shut the hell up and leave me to my training session, I know the rules of the road and I am within my right to ride here. Instead I just ignored her completely she tried several times to shout at me, but Armin kept me calm. Eventually she just drove off and I carried on with my ride.

This is not an unusual situation for me, when running, swimming or cycling, I get told why you riding here, why you running without a water bottle, where is your hat. I know sometimes they mean good but geeeez most of these people have never trained in their lives and they talking to someone that lives it. The frustration of being told what to do just wants to put me into war, sometimes I long for it hoping it will result in vented anger and then some more peace of mind.

Just the other day I was doing a swim session, I did my warm ups and some drills. By the way in South Africa 2 swimmers to a lane is like max, unless you are group training, however in Israel you have to swim counterclockwise, and if you need to overtake then do it with caution because 3, 4 or 5 people can get in your lane without warning, because it’s their right and they know better. I have had many head bashings here and the fast lane means nothing. Even though it’s labelled for fast swimmers you get back floaters, because they consider themselves fast. Anyway back to my story on my swim session. So I get into nice rhythm and start with some clockwork intervals. I was focused on my set, however at around the 4th interval I noticed something strange. Each time I swam passed a woman in the other lane “slow lane” she splashed water on my face as I turned to breathe. I thought ok she is doing some sort of exercise creating splashing, giving her the benefit of the doubt. However as my session continued I realized this was intentional splashing she kept shoving water in my face every time I did a pass. I just ignored her put my head down and finished my set. While taking a breather at the end of the pool I waited for her to reach my side. When she arrived, I asked her why she was splashing me. Of course sniper rifle in my hands ready to take aim and blow her away. She said to me I was splashing her eyes when I swam????? WTF, you in a pool lady wear some goggles and learn to swim. You afraid of water I asked. She said no but my splashes were irritating her and I must get out the pool, and she threw more water at me??

I went a little mad, I unleashed my M23A4 on her, it was locked loaded and I sent a couple of waves in her direction ensuring the water bullets hit her right between the eyes. Of course she carried on throwing water at me. I took a step back and thought no ways, is this what I am resorting to a water fight between 40 and 50yr olds in a pool no ways I was like in shock, like kids having a tantrum in a pool.

I just motioned the rest of my unit “The Lifeguard” and said tell her to stop or get out I need to train. He did just that, war over. I felt an empty victory, thinking could I have handled this slightly differently, but then I thought no screw her, I was within my right.

Anyway back to my training ride. I kept wondering about the car stopping next to me screaming and shouting at me and here I had made judgment and executed her. Something just did not seem right, but I kept on going. Eventually it hit me, I reach around to my rear bottle cage and there it was, the reason for my insubordination. My 600ml water bottle had been flung out of the cage. Leaving me with only 600ml’s of water in 33degrees of heat on a long ride. I should have maybe listened to this driver, however I was stubborn, in attack mode waiting just waiting to unleash my ammunition once again. How mistaken could I have been this time as it was a call to help.

I kept riding conserving my water, and thinking over and over about what had just happened. How stubborn I was and how I had made judgment without listening and giving someone the benefit of the doubt. Eventually at the turn around point I made my way back to that climb out the valley and tried to climb it again from the halfway point and reenact what happened to see if I could track my bottle. There it was lying in the ditch just where that lady was attempting to inform me of the incident. In the end I listened to my message, however the lesson learned was I needed to listen a lot earlier.

I guess you are wondering why I am writing about this?

The truth is most of us are very much the same. Every single day, messages come our way and each and every single one has a meaning. The thing is how many of us actually listen to these messages. We don’t we ignore them because we know better.

I especially see this when it comes to health and wellness. When injured we don’t listen we always know better we focus on the race, on the end goal and absolutely nothing will stop us from getting to the start line. When sick, we brush it off as a head cold, we can’t stop training we cannot lose fitness we just push through it. The overweight will keep eating their pizzas because a large stomach or a double chin is not a strong enough message to make them change their ways.

So which messages do make us change? It’s the messages that come with severity or shock when it’s a little too late to listen and we need to face the consequences of our actions.

When an injury becomes unbearable and crippling, when an illness becomes severe and bed ridding, and when weight issues lead to organ, heart problems or blood pressure and cholesterol worries. Why is human nature generally so stubborn as to know better when it comes to interpreting messages?

A wise man once said ” The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them”, and another

“Big egos have little ears”

The basis of this blog was to instill some thoughts into your minds and get you to understand the importance of listening. Listen to your messages whether from the mouth of another or from your body signaling your brain. You cannot go wrong you can only become wiser stronger, fitter and healthier.

Keep Going……………………..

all the best

m

“Health is not a sacrifice but the most important tool for an enjoyable journey called life”

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The more often I listen to people the more I learn and the more I realize that the general perception of a healthy lifestyle is actually seen as a burden by the majority. Frequent comments revolving around cost, effort, time, stress and then the most common sacrifice seem to be at the top of the list. The unfortunate thing that we are confronted with in modern society is that yes, lifespan of the human being has increased and mainly due to modern medicine. 

I often question the logic behind it though. Did we not create illness? Did mankind not run after wealth in order to sacrifice health? I firmly believe this is the case. Thousands of years ago, a fraction of the diseases that we experience today existed and with the industrial revolution and man’s lust and greed to become powerful and rich brought us to our own downfall. Most will not acknowledge it and keep doing as they please because hey you only live once right, take what you can, have fun and make the most out of it.

 The amazing thing is generally it’s the young that have this attitude, maybe because they are too young to have experienced joint or organ issues, blood disorders or severe illness. Nature has this strange yet wicked way of knocking on the door later on for most. But even now we are still seeing very young beginning to suffer illness and as parents there is always the question why?

I don’t have all the answers but, sometimes I wonder if what we did when we were young, what we ate, what we experienced or experimented with came back to haunt us later in life, with possible, disorders genetic modifications and then passed on to our new born. I always tell my clients once it’s passed your lips you have no control over what it’s going to do to the body and this is the point of control and decision. It’s not always our fault. Food manufacturers use genetically modified produce, load foods with sugar, create a bad name for the word “fat” and tell us what we should be eating in order to guide our money into their pockets with little concern for our health. The wellness industry exploded right along with it, as a result of what was created, we now are supporting a trillion dollar industry of quick fixes to get back to health, control weight, feel more energetic and become superhuman but that’s a separate debate.

I once met a scientist abroad who won a Nobel Prize for his research in Biotechnology. I distinctly remember a reporter asking him if this was the happiest moment of his life as it was such an achievement. His answer completely struck a cord and put a lump in my throat. He said not at all, the happiest time of his life was when he was still herding sheep on the mountain plains of Ethiopia. Life was simple then, not complicated, far less stressful and worry free.

As a nutrition expert, I can honestly soak that up and say simplicity is absolutely key. Health is not a complication, it’s merely the opposite, its avoidance it’s keeping it simple, keeping it clean and not getting caught up as another cog in the wheel being ground over and over. I always consider health to be risk management, meaning the more you extend yourself towards unhealthy options, the higher the long term risk, the more in favour you are of healthy choices the far lower the long term risks. So with all this in mind, I just want to provide you with some key thoughts which I hope will get you thinking and on the right path to ensure your life is a quality one.

EDUCATION
As I mentioned earlier the youth do silly things, not because of anything except they don’t know any better. I was blessed with parents who ensured nutritional health was very strict, Fanta and Coke were never ever seen, except maybe one day of the week. Water was the only choice we had. My mother is a chrones disease sufferer and was on weigh-less so her general diet rubbed off onto us, it’s no wonder I landed up in this business later on in lifeJ.The point I am trying to make is that educating the youth when it comes to nutrition, is so critical in how their lives will pan out. As an example a simple understanding of the effects of alcohol and sugar will go a long way especially as they grow older. Of course education without example setting is futile!

Giving a child money for school tuck shop because you are too lazy to make a healthy lunch is basically saying go and buy yourself some diabetes. Then one can look to the schools and say why do you even stock the unhealthy stuff and blame will go around and around. It’s up to us to set an example and try and create a healthier next generation, only we will suffer in the long run when our youth are falling ill due to our wrong doings.

WISE PURCHASING
Firstly if it’s in the home it’s accessible, meaning you are going to consume it for sure at some stage. If it’s not in the home, you cannot miss or indulge in what you don’t have. The choice begins at store level. Look for the healthy options and make sure only those go into the trolley. Keep the majority of your purchases, natural and unprocessed. Microwave dishes are not healthy, neither are ready made or instant soups. Low fat produce is loaded in sugar, learn to read the labels and understand the contents of exactly what you are purchasing. Remember convenience & emotional buying is just going to lead you or your family down the wrong path.

NUTRITION ADVICE
Not everyone understands nutrition properly, not even a lot of the dieticians today. Text book theories are forever changing, especially in today’s age, and out of the box thinking and experimentation is required constantly. You need to find an expert in the field you can trust and who can guide you on the right path when it comes to understanding what type of eating is best suited to your particular lifestyle. It’s also up to you to read and gain the knowledge required to be able to help further your own health goals.

SIMPLICITY
This is truly the key to a healthy eating lifestyle. Meals never need to be over complicated, thousands of years ago a five course meal with sugar loaded deserts and tons of mashed or grilled potato, salads, focaccia starters & don pedro liqueur’s to finish did NOT exist. Seriously is this the way the world has shifted? What happened to good old fashioned fried eggs, avocado, olives, and grass fed animals? Water has been replaced with colorants, acid and sugar. Coffees have been chemically purified, processed and dried, and even the naturalness of it being removed with caffeine free which is in my words pure poison, just to satisfy the emotional dependency of a craving.  Anything you make that’s quick, or processed has already been completely over complicated in order to make you addicted to that specific taste or flavour, making you want more of the unhealthy combination each time you visit the store.  Get real think about what you are actually consuming and don’t think for a second it won’t impact you. Invincibility does not exist, not even for an elite athlete or a fitness freak. Keep your meals simple, no need to overdress over cook and over flavour. One simple easy meal at a time is more than sufficient.

I am sure a lot of what I said will spark a lot of debate. There will be the deniers, the agreeable and those that just don’t care. The one thing I can say is that if you or a loved one falls ill, you will care very quickly, but by then the damage will be done.

Acceptance is the First Port of Call

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I often get inundated with requests on how to deal with illness or injury, It is something that every person will eventually have to face whether an athlete or not. Even the healthy get sick :-).

One of the most noticeable things I always see, is that whether injured or ill, especially when it is an athlete they are living in complete denial. They are focusing on the next workout, a day or two away, even if bed ridden and the chances of that are close to zero. This is what I call the stage of complete denial, the person refuses to acknowledge they are ill or injured.

“How can it be, I am in the best condition of my life, its not possible”. When there is refusal to accept & acknowledge illness or injury it makes the road to recovery that much longer. The person wont accept and deal with the situation to find a solution to overcome it, instead they wallow in their own misery thinking about lost training sessions, or missed races and it completely demotivates them causing far more setback than wanted.

Recently a colleague of mine was extremely ill, I told him he needed at least 7-10 days rest & even then he might not be ready to start training again. He was so impatient that after 5 days he was back on his bike, needless to say this resulted in 6 weeks of reoccurring infections & he is far worse off now. He caused a complete loss of quick & proper recovery due to stubborn inclination.

I myself have been through severe illness and in a positive light I think the heavens put me in these situations in order to use my own experiences to be able to help others :-).

At the beginning of this year, after an awesome start to the first half of the racing season, I was in top racing condition.
A week out from a championship race with eyes set firmly on a podium spot, I fell ill. Thinking it was flu at first I took complete rest.
After a week I was still not getting any better, and decided this is not a normal feeling & decided to have some blood tests run. Behold my liver function was elevated which for me is usually a sign of viral infection. Unfortunately I had to miss the race that I had prepared so hard for.
However my complete focus had shifted, I had to accept what I was going through and get to the bottom of what was causing this. It took about 8 weeks before a choice of several doctors managed to figure out what was going on. A parasite infection!

Never dreamed of that before but this was the case. The immunologists involved wanted to pulse me with a variety of antibiotics every month for 8 months, which to me had zero credibility, and I sought out other opinions.
Generally the human immune system is capable of keeping these little bastards under control, however in my case there was no control at all.

I was recommended an incredibly good sports doctor who was a thorough diagnostician.The thing I liked about her was that she never knocked ideas or those of the immunologists she actually tended to agree that they were possibly onto something. However she would run additional testing before coming to any conclusions.

Examinations were very granular from ultrasounds & blood tests, to ECG’s & lung function testing. Finally the puzzle started to piece together. 

At age 41 I was diagnosed with chronic asthma, a lung function of only 50%. I was dumbfounded questioning the authenticity of her diagnosis. My reasoning was how can an athlete who trains, races & also gets to podium every now & then suffer from chronic asthma. Her answer to me was quite simple. “You have been training & racing by breathing through a straw your entire life, you  never knew any better, you thought this was normal”. 

It turned out the parasite infection was very real, and the reason my immune system was not dealing with the infection was due to the fact that it was completely run down because of my asthmatic condition. I was always putting in a major effort during training & racing without realizing it at all, and this was the trigger to immunity suppression.

16 weeks in and 2 courses of antibiotics down, with 7 to go, asthma treatment, an incredibly strict eating regime & proper rest, finally I could start some mild exercise. I began slowly and very gradually. Within 3 weeks my running was up to around 20-30km’s a week, and in between only focused on some core and strength training. A far cry from where I was 4 months earlier. 

A 3rd course of antibiotics, and more improvement, running increased again now to around 50-70km’s a week & started swimming again. What I noticed now was my lungs were not tiring, it was the body first. I guess in a way its amazing that once you can utilize your complete lung capacity you are in a totally different space. Month 6, and swimming & running is now back to where I was, however with a difference, my speeds & times are faster than I was at peak fitness 6 months earlier with less effort. 

Its got to a stage where I can honestly look back now and say, the rest was completely worth it. It enabled me to focus on the issue at hand and not side track myself with thoughts of misery & denial of not being able to train. I appreciate the fact that the body just shut down and said time out friend, you need to recover. 

I always tell my clients, you can only come back stronger from illness & injury if you rest & recover properly. For me a huge black hole in my life has finally been filled with an answer as to why I tended to get run down, even though I am so completely focused on nutrition & health. For me its a lifestyle and in my case it was probably even a harder pill to swallow. But acceptance was the key to dealing with it properly.

The reason I am using myself as an example is to really emphasize the fact that many people are out there, not feeling 100% yet they often think it was a bad nights sleep, or they ate something terrible or they have a slight cold. But do they really completely understand exactly what is going on. Most of my clientele never really understand what its like to feel on top of the world. Their definition is only the best day they have ever experienced, but whose to say that experience can not be a better one. Below are some thoughts on how you should understand your health status and know how to deal with it when it takes a turn for the worst.

Do you understand your health intimately. 
It is important to have a snapshot of your health, a starting point from where you are working. This means knowing if your blood is 100% normal, or are you lacking any vitamins, minerals etc. Do you know your cholesterol, blood sugar levels, are your heart and lungs functioning correctly. Do you know if your body is in a condition where you can sleep at night and have peace of mind that everything is in good working order. If not then you need to have a medical, and get yourself knowledgeable with your own physiological state in order to ensure your journey is a transparent one. The interesting thing is I have a thorough medical examination every year before the onset of racing season, but I have never ever had a lung function test done. It shows how thorough a medical actually needs to be.

Listen to your body
I know many people that when ill, injured or fatigued they just don’t listen to their body. This is the first thing you need to accept. You not feeling 100%, you wont be able to give a quality workout, then why do it. Remember training is what breaks us down, recovery is what builds us up and makes us stronger. You wont lose any fitness, trust me I know I was out for many months, a few days to weeks is a weak excuse in comparison :-). As a rule of thumb, I take my Rest Heart Rate when I get up in the mornings, if its slightly elevated and by that I mean around 10%, I will not train. It can mean recovery needed due to fatigue, it can also be a sign as to the onset of illness.

Fear of the Doctor
There are a majority of people out there that fear doctors. They wait until the last possible moment, when infection or injury is at a pinnacle. This only means one thing, longer recovery time. If you are ill or injured don’t wait for it to get worse, pay the relevant medical specialist a visit as soon as possible, before it gets to latter stages when it will be too late and you will truly be setback.

The Fear Factor
The two main fear factors of illness or injury is loss of fitness & weight gain. This is very common among athletes specifically. Well the good news is neither should be a worry.
When a person is ill or injured it gives them the opportunity to actually focus on their nutrition, whereas previously they would not. Many just figure if they are putting in so many hours of training, they can eat pretty much what they feel like weight is not an issue. However stop training and you cannot just keep eating what you want. This is where you truly have an opportunity to train your gut instead of your muscles. Its an area that requires discipline, but is even more important than training and is often an area that lacks focus. The truth of the matter is that when a person is ill or injured it should be associated with weight loss not weight gain, however many people eat emotionally due to the stage of denial they are living in and over do it. Monitor your intake, plan your meals, get an expert to help you if you require it. Certain illnesses & injuries can be more quickly eradicated with various nutrient intake. Remember calorie consumption will need to be adjusted as you are now burning less.
As for fitness, I mentioned earlier you will come back stronger and that is a fact don’t worry about that at all.

Knowledge is Power
When ill or injured, you need to understand everything there is to know about the illness or injury. You know your body better than anyone. You will understand if a treatment is working or not, and how you are feeling at any given time. A doctor is a human being and they do make mistakes especially when it comes to diagnosing correctly. The more information you can give a medical specialist the better it will enable him to make a more informed decision to get to the bottom of what is causing your ailment. Do the research speak to people, use the internet.

Staying Motivated
This can be very difficult especially when you have missed your big race or you know that you will not be prepared for something down the line because illness or injury is too close to the event. I completely understand how a one feels under these circumstances. However in life our goals are forever changing and shifting. We also don’t just have one goal we have many, and on route to our bigger goals are smaller ones.

Once you understand the extent of the illness or injury and the time period you are going to be out of action for, you should set aside time to plan your future goals. This can be exciting and help motivate you even more especially since it gives you something else to look forward to. Make sure the goal is realistic and achievable you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment. 

Finally I just want to stress that we are all human, life often throws curve balls at us which are unexpected. How we deal with them will ultimately determine the outcome. Failing to deal with them will leave you with an unknown which is not a space that you want to be in.

Everything we experience in life on a physical level does happen for a reason, its up to us to listen to those messages our body is giving us and not ignore them. Get rid of that stubbornness for a short period of time, it will be well worth it in the long run.