Episode 127 - Five Triathlon Sports Nutrition Trends for 2024
Five Triathlon Sports Nutrition Trends for 2024
Welcome back for 2024! We are kicking off the new year with a bang and my sports dietitian insights into five of the big trends we’re going to see in the triathlon nutrition space.
Some are new-ish, while others have been trending for a little while now but don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. I’m also calling it on something that I think is going to die in 2024.
In no particular order of importance or performance boosting powers (or lack of), they are:
- Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs)
- Female Athlete Nutrition
- Intermittent Fasting
- Body Composition
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Episode 127: Five Triathlon Sports Nutrition Trends for 2024
Taryn Richardson 00:00
Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. The show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy-to-digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.
Taryn Richardson 00:41
Welcome back to the podcast and the first episode of 2024. I really hope you had a lovely break, celebrated the festive season no matter where you are and whoever you choose to celebrate. I'm feeling really good, feeling way more energised now was at the end of the year and definitely ready to hit the ground running. We have a massive month coming up in January. I'm opening doors to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program for the first time this year between the 15th and the 22nd of January. So if that's something that you're interested in, make sure you have your name on our waitlist at dietitianapproved.com/academy. I will be sending out a very special email to those on our waitlist with a little bit of an earlybird offer in the next few days. So now is your kick in the butt to go and do that if you haven't already if 2024 is the year that you're going to get your shit together with nutrition, make sure you've got your name on our list.
Taryn Richardson 01:38
The other thing that I'm doing through our Academy open week is I'm running a free Fuel School. I've not ever done it before and I'm really excited to bring it to you. But it's a free 3 day live and online nutrition training week with me. Go to fuel.school to check out the details. And what I've done is I've designed it to give you a bit of a nutritional edge and just lay some foundations of your day to day fuelling and race nutrition. It's on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of January at 9am Brisbane time each of those days. So if you're in the northern hemisphere, that it'll be on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of January at 3pm PST, 5pm CST and 6pm EST. So whether you're a seasoned triathlete or just starting out in your journey, this free event is your opportunity to learn some of the good nutrition foundations that I know you need to set you up for the year and just start to think differently about how we approach our nutrition.
Taryn Richardson 02:41
Over the three days, we're going to cover nutrition strategies for peak performance. And I'm going to teach you how to optimise your day to day fuelling foundations to get you on the right track and fast. We're also going to talk about race nutrition 101 so that you can set your 2024 season up for success with some guidance around how to perform to the best of your ability. So I'm going to help you get race ready with some key elements that I know that you need as part of your race nutrition plan. And we're also going to talk about hydration and electrolyte balance because it's really important that you understand how to properly hydrate for you, manage electrolyte levels and all those types of things because we know that it's critical for performance in triathlon. So if you're interested make sure you register at www.fuel.school, so f-u-e-l.s-c-h-o-o-l. Yep, it's a weird one. There's no .com or a .com.au or anything else after it, it is literally just fuel.school. How cool is that?
Taryn Richardson 03:41
All right, let's kick off the first episode for the year with some triathlon sports nutrition trends for 2024. I'd love diving into the trends but giving you the lay of the land from I guess the sports nutrition perspective from an advanced sports dietitian but definitely some of the things that I'm seeing online and around the triathlon community at the moment. So let's dive in with a bang. The first one is definitely CGMs or continuous glucose monitoring. You're going to hear so much more about these devices in 2024. They came into the limelight in 2023 but it's kind of just going to explode this year I think, as we start to have more research papers come out around the application of the use of them in sport because they've been around for a very long time in the diabetes population, but it's only more recently sort of pre COVID time that they started to be seen as maybe applicable or usable in the athletic population. Now, if you haven't listened to it yet, go back and listen to Episode 118 of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast that I did last year with Greg Cox. He is the author on the most recent and the biggest review paper on CGMs and where the research is at with that in the athletic population, because it's actually very much in its infancy, despite what the internet might tell you.
Taryn Richardson 05:07
Now, despite what all of those marketing messages might have you believe, it is not a direct fuel gauge. It gives you no indication of what's actually happening at your muscle level. And I think that's really important that you understand, because you might read something and go, Oh, yeah, that sort of makes sense so that sounds really good. And you know, wouldn't it be really good if we had this tool that could measure how much fuel was left in your tank? Just like in a car, you had like a fuel gauge or a gas gauge so that you could make sure that your tank was full at the start of exercise and you have the ability to see what level it's at so that you can top it up before it runs out.
Taryn Richardson 05:45
But a CGM can't measure glycogen in the muscle. It's measuring our interstitial fluid glucose and that even lags behind our blood glucose levels. So it's not giving us an indication of what's actually happening at the muscle level. And it is possible to have high muscle glycogen and low blood glucose levels, or low muscle glycogen with very high blood glucose concentration so it's not a direct relationship. It's not a gauge to give us an indication of what's going on. And blood glucose concentration is also not a reflection of how much fuel is being used, or even when it's running low. Because higher glucose is not necessarily better and lower glucose is only a problem if we're getting to the hypoglycemic range or low blood sugar levels. There is very little research in this space to date. So be mindful when you're reading things around that. And also be mindful when you're reading research that has been funded by CGM companies, or somebody that has an affiliation with a CGM company. You're looking for independent data with nobody that's got skin in the game.
Taryn Richardson 06:59
But definitely watch this space. They could be useful when we understand a little bit more about it. If you have one, then really, it's about watching and learning your individual response to lots of different things. But you need to watch and monitor for a long period of time. Don't make any really quick, drastic changes if you eat something and your blood sugar levels spike like, that is normal for that to happen. What's not normal, if they remain elevated for a long period of time and your body doesn't work properly to put that glucose into the cell away for storage. I think there could be some good use in managing and monitoring what's happening overnight. We've never really had insight into what our blood glucose levels do overnight unless you are wearing something like this device. But are you going hypo overnight? Or are you maintaining your blood sugar levels? Because if you are going hypo, that tells me you've done a crap job of your nutrition throughout the day.
Taryn Richardson 07:56
But there are very few studies that have published normative glucose values during sleep in healthy athletes. And so it's really impossible to give clear advice based on no data. So it's likely one of the areas that I think we'll see develop really rapidly in the years to come. Because if you're going hypo, low blood sugar levels overnight, you are probably interrupting your sleep and your recovery pathways without even really realising it. And being low in glucose or hypoglycemic might actually wake you up and you might be waking up more hungry as well. The other really exciting space that I think we'll see these develop is in the detection and screening of low energy availability. So in the next few years, we're definitely going to see some papers come out around the use of this device in that space. And it could be a really good screen or an early pickup for somebody that is not eating properly, not fuelling properly, and detecting low energy availability really quickly, which is exciting.
Taryn Richardson 08:59
But the CGM technology is still relatively new in the athlete population, you know, and at least in sport. It's been around for a very long time and diabetes, but its use in sport is going to take us a little bit of time to really understand the best ways to use it and what the data means, like most importantly, otherwise, it's data for data's sake. It's already banned in cycling so whether it does get banned as a device in triathlon, I'm not sure. It probably won't, to be honest. But go back and listen to Episode 118 with Coxy for a bit of the lay of the land around where we're at in this space. And definitely watch this space. It's only going to explode further. But I just want you to keep a critical mind about you when you're reading about them and know that we don't have any data, we don't have any research despite what the internet might tell you.
Taryn Richardson 09:52
All right, number 2, another huge trend in sports nutrition, triathlon but all sports is definitely female athlete nutrition. This area of research is just exploding and we've seen that over the last five years or so. And we're only going to see more and more female specific products and recommendations come on the market from all things like better sports bras, female specific supplements, sports products even and I reckon there's some female specific recovery nutrition products coming, too. But I think it's important to recognise here also that it is a very noisy space. There are some very loud voices in this department, which honestly are doing a great job to put female athletes back in the limelight. But there are some very highly specific recommendations kicking around that are not backed up by science.
Taryn Richardson 10:45
And with all of the reading that I've been doing over the last couple of years, my opinion and my kind of judgment on this is that we do need to watch this space more. And most importantly, you as an individual need to understand you and how your body works as a female athlete. So first and most important thing to do is to track a menstrual cycle and understand your symptomology and how you feel at different phases - that is like step one. If you don't have that data about you, then it's hard to apply these really specific recommendations. There is a lot of new research being published in this space. There's a couple of papers that I've got some early data for that aren't published yet that kind of back me up in the way that I've been thinking around female athletes.
Taryn Richardson 11:33
So one of them is by Rhiannon Snipe and she studied the menstrual cycle phase and hydration status for sweat rate and sweat sodium because there's some thoughts that at different phases of the cycle, our hydration status changes and our thirst drive changes and the way that we sweat changes. But her paper showed that on average, there was no change across the menstrual cycle phases. But if you dive into individual responses there is. So as an example, thirst across the menstrual cycle, there might be times where you might feel a little bit more thirsty and on average, for those study populations, there was no change. But at the individual level, some of those athletes had 180% increase in their thirst from phase one, which is our early follicular phase to phase four, which is the mid luteal phase. So that advice to drink to thirst may not be that useful at an individual level.
Taryn Richardson 12:29
There's another one, there's a paper in review that should come out this year around sleep across the menstrual cycle. And seeing whether women sleep better or worse at different phases, because that's one of the thoughts kicking around as well. It kind of makes sense but they showed that there's no real change in sleep across the cycle. But again, if you drill down to the individual level, those women with worse symptoms at certain times of the month, slept worse when they were symptomatic, which is variable across each of the phases for each different person. So like I said, it's very individual and you need to track your cycle, track your symptoms, how you feel, try stuff out and see if you notice a difference for you.
Taryn Richardson 13:14
But the foundations around female athletes is that you need to do the fundamentals first because it is almost dangerous to do the sprinkles on the icing on the cake first when we are all our own special unicorns. There is no one size fits all with menstrual cycle. There's no textbook 28 day cycle. Everyone is very different and so it's just understanding you and your body and how you work. And making sure that if you are a naturally menstruating female, it is regular, it's not doing any weird and wonderful things and you have optimal energy availability. They are your two big rocks. If you don't have enough energy available to support daily life and daily function in addition to training, then your hormone levels, your bone mineral density, loads of systems in the body start to get affected in a few short days.
Taryn Richardson 13:41
So watch this space with female athletes. I don't think we're ever going to get to really clear cut guidelines around how to manage because we are so individual. So you can be your N=1 and your own experiment and start to track you and how you work and how your body works and how it responds to particular things. I think that is the most important thing when it comes to female athletes. If you haven't listened yet, I have started a bit of a female athlete series on the podcast. Episode 107 from 2023 was Part 1 where I dove into the physiological differences between male and female athletes and kind of where we're at in the triathlon space right now. Episode 113 was Part 2 with coach and female athlete Liz Blatchford and Part 3 Episode 121 was with Dane Baker all about relative energy deficiency in sport and we had a new update to the consensus statement on that at the end of 2023. Coming up soon, I have the pleasure of chatting with author of a mastery book for every female athlete for Part 4 so watch this space for that episode. But I'm gonna keep you updated on the podcast right throughout the year this year. And we're gonna particularly dive deep inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program for all of those athletes as the new information comes out and it unfolds so watch this space.
Taryn Richardson 15:31
Number 3, it has been a trend for years now. And I'm actually going to call it, I'm going to say that it's going to start to die and that is fasting. And you know how I know this? It's because we are starting to see ridiculous commercial products come on the market that allow you to eat in your fasting window. There is bars that apparently, your body still thinks you're in a fasted state and so you can get away with eating in your fasting window, which is absolutely ridiculous. So when things go crazy and start to happen like that, that tells me that it's over commercialised, and that people are not going to have the same effects on the diet because they're cheating. And so it is going to die a slow, horrible death. It's like when Paleo was about. The fundamentals of Paleo are actually really good, like eat fresh food, lean meats, you know, lots of fruits and vegetables. It's when we started to see paleo treats and paleo desserts and all those sorts of paleo cookies and crap come out, that people would no longer effective at reaching body composition goals that they were hoping to achieve by following that diet in the first place. So we're starting to see that in the fasting space. Like what nonsense is eating during fasting and then still expecting the metabolic shift that happens with fasting? Makes no sense to me. So I'm calling it, it's going to die, whether it's in 2024, or the year after. But to start to see products like that come out in the market, it means that it's going to be all over red rover relatively soon.
Taryn Richardson 17:08
Number 4 is a bit of a trend that I'm seeing kind of globally across sport. And I've watched it evolve over the last two years, but I think it is going to really explode more so in 2024, and that is our shift in mindset and thinking and language around body composition. I'm seeing this across all sports, not just triathlon. And we saw it start with say, like Blummenfelt who are not going to give much airtime to his body composition because he's an amazing athlete. But athletes are starting to be stronger, heavier. I hate using that word, but they're heavier because they've got more muscle mass on and they're more robust. And we are definitely seeing a shift away from light and super lean and breakable athletes. I mean, take Lucy Charles-Barclay as an example. She just smashed Kona from the beginning of the race to the end of the race, smacked out a new record. And did you see the quads on her? Like solid effort, but she's so strong and so robust.
Taryn Richardson 18:13
And it is so good to see that emphasis come away from light is fast, because light is not necessarily faster or better. And I really believe that if you understand how to fuel properly and fuel for performance, then your body composition kind of sorts itself out without you having to really drastically chase it. When you know how to adapt your nutrition and your fuelling to the demands of training really closely, that is the hard part, that periodisation piece. But once you've got that sorted out, you won't ever have to feel like you're going on a diet or starving yourself to lean up to get to race weight ever again. We need to focus on our health, right, because our body is the one thing that gets us to the finish line and beyond. And it's something that you have with you for your entire life. So we need to respect it and not treat it like trash if we want to be you know, healthy, robust and not broken athletes. So I'm definitely seeing a shift in athletes body composition but I'm also seeing a shift in the language that we're using around that.
Taryn Richardson 19:19
And also a shift away from really routine and regular assessments of body composition as well. Particularly across other sports like things like skinfolds aren't being done as regularly and the emphasis has been taken off that so that we can get our head around eating properly, fuelling for performance without the side dish of you need to be leaner. So it's January and January after are maybe slightly debaucherous Christmas period is when people start to do weird and wonderful things with their nutrition to get their body composition back under control. So just wanted to highlight that now is not a good time to punish yourself with a whole heap of our exercise, or punish yourself with cutting out carbs or a severe calorie restriction or anything like that. Come and join us in the Academy and I'll teach you how to fuel properly so that you don't run the risk of low energy availability in January, which is really common to see in the triathlete population after that festive period of time.
Taryn Richardson 20:20
All right, number 5, I think we're going to hear a whole lot more about adaptogens this year. Now, I'm not going to dive too deeply into that today. I'll probably do an entire episode on it later on in the year. But adaptogens are things like herbs and roots and other plant substances that help our bodies manage stress and restore balance after a stressful situation. Now, it is not new by any means but it's kind of starting to take off in the commercial sports nutrition space. And we're starting to see products come around that are being marketed to particularly endurance athletes. So if you've never heard of adaptogens, don't stress, don't worry. They are definitely sprinkles on the icing on the cake, they are not going to fix you. If you have something like that before training, they're not going to make you supercharged. It's all the other things that you do that will make you feel supercharged like your pre training nutrition, what your fuelling is during, your recovery nutrition, how you eat outside of sessions. Adaptogens are definitely a one percenter and taking that and wasting your money on that first is obviously a waste of money. You need to actually do some of the big rocks first before taking something magic like adaptogens.
Taryn Richardson 21:36
So there you have it. They are 5 sports nutrition trends that I'm seeing and keeping an eye on across the triathlon space in 2024. Some of them are new, some of them are old, but I definitely think we're going to see an explosion of some of these things this year. And I want you to keep your critical sports dietitian hat on when you're looking at these things and you're getting ads in your Instagram feed for products and you're like, oh, yeah, Taryn talked about adaptogens, add to cart. No, hold the phone. Save your money, invest it in the big rocks first before we start doing those one percenters because remember, I always talk about, you know, building your nutrition pyramid from the solid foundation up. We need to not go from the really flimsy tip back the other direction.
Taryn Richardson 22:23
Like I love me a good trend and I love me a good shiny product but you need to do the foundations first because it is those daily consistent habits that are going to give you the best bang for your buck. It is not the one little sprinkle that you throw in and that you're actually not even really sure if it's doing anything. Save your money, invest it in something that you can keep with you for life like your body and understand how to fuel it properly and then everything else will sort itself out, I promise. And if you are starting to think that you know this is the year that nutrition is going to be your focus and you have no idea where to start, come and join me at Fuel School - fuel.school for my free 3 day live and online triathlon nutrition training. I'm really excited to bring it to you. All right, have a great week. Welcome back to a year of podcasting in 2024 and I'll talk to you next week.
Taryn Richardson 24:07
Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned, email me at [email protected]. You can also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media, @dietitian.approved, so I can give you a shout out, too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition!