Episode 78 - Sports Nutrition Trends For 2023

Sports Nutrition Trends For 2023

There are some big things happening in the sports nutrition space at the moment. Here are six trends I’m seeing in sports nutrition for 2023. Some are new-ish, while others have been trending for a little while now but don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

  1. Blood Glucose Monitoring
  2. Higher Carbohydrate products and ratios of carbohydrate types in sports nutrition
  3. Gut training
  4. The paradigm shift in body composition for triathlon
  5. Keto or Low Carbohydrate High Fat Diets
  6. Vegan and plant-based eating

If you’re confused about all of the conflicting information when it comes to triathlon nutrition, hit pause for a second and make sure you have the foundations in place first and foremost.

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Episode Transcription

Episode 78 - Sports Nutrition Trends For 2023

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  00:42

Trends in sports nutrition for 2023! Now this is what I'm seeing - I've got six trends for you today. And I'm going to run you through each of them and some of my sports dietitian thoughts. So let's dive straight into it with a bang. The first one, which I'm seeing all over the shop at the moment, is blood glucose monitoring. A lot of the pros were wearing these in Kona last year, and I can see a lot more age groupers starting to dabble and play with this. So what it is - a continuous glucose monitoring device or CGM - it's like a little pacer type thing that sits on your arm typically - but it can sit anywhere on your body really that makes it not so uncomfortable. And it's measuring in one to five minute intervals, your blood glucose concentration.

Taryn Richardson  01:30

So it's capturing it much more frequently and I guess less invasively than traditional measures where you have to prick your finger and then pop your blood on a little device. So the CGM, the continuous glucose monitoring device, it sits somewhere on your body, and it has a little sensor that gets inserted underneath your skin, that sends a signal back to that device. Now these things are primarily designed for use in diabetes - Type One/Type Two diabetics - to help them with their blood glucose regulation. And they are very well researched in this cohort. But use among athletes is definitely a hot trend or a hot topic.

Taryn Richardson  02:12

And I did a dive into the literature and there's really not a lot in this space....Yet. It's coming. It often takes a little bit of time for it to filter through papers to then have them published and available to read. But it's coming because athletes are doing it on the ground. The couple of papers I did read were really interesting. Very small sample sizes, though. So, say, 10 athletes per study - per research study. We're not seeing huge numbers and huge data collected across lots and lots of people. But really good that the research was in males and females - it's not just male dominant for a change.

Taryn Richardson  02:50

And I can see why this is a trend. It would be of interest to know what your blood glucose levels are doing ... sometimes. You could potentially look at it to think about carbohydrate intake or delivery. And seeing what happens to your blood glucose levels when you ate some carbohydrate. And how long it took for your blood glucose level from the device to respond to that. And what that response is.

Taryn Richardson  03:18

So previously, we didn't know if these devices were useful during exercise. It's a totally different kettle of fish compared to if you're sedentary - sitting around doing not much. So there is starting to be a little bit of research done in this space to see whether it is an accurate reflection of what's going on when you're exercising or not.

Taryn Richardson  03:38

And the other research that I was reading was around recovery. Because a lot of triathletes suck at recovery nutrition, and monitoring your blood glucose levels after a massive endurance event like an Ironman or 70.3 distance event can potentially be a really good thing to help athletes understand what their recovery nutrition needs are. And making sure you're not going hypoglycemic afterwards, and you're doing a good job of topping up your muscle glycogen levels and putting carbohydrate back in your fuel tank after a massive glycogen depleting exercise session like a long course race.

Taryn Richardson  04:14

So this type of thing would be excellent for diabetics. One of the athletes inside the Academy program is a Type One diabetic. And this would be perfect for him so that he can have confidence in his fuelling plan and what is going on with his blood glucose levels. That's one particularly important athlete that it could be useful for. But for the rest of you. - I would actually heed a little bit of warning around this type of thing at this point. It is definitely another gadget and I'm a believer in the foundations first.  I think we need to walk before we run.

Taryn Richardson  04:52

And there are so many things that you could be spending your money on and so many things you could be doing before you're heavily investing in one of these devices - because they're not cheap. I think if you are a top tier, elite athlete and you have all of your foundations, right, and we're trying to do those little one percenters and really understand what's going on for you - like you've probably done your carbohydrate oxidation studies and know how much you're burning - then it can be another piece of the puzzle for an athlete like this and another layer of information that can help direct what we're doing.

Taryn Richardson  05:26

But for us mere mortals, us age group triathletes, when is data, too much data? I would warn you against using something like this, so it doesn't confuse you. And I also am seeing a lot of athletes take their watches off when racing, and going by feel. Sometimes if we know too much, then we get in our own head and get in our own way, and don't perform to what we are potentially capable of because we're overthinking things.

Taryn Richardson  05:56

The other thing that I want you to think about with a blood glucose monitor, is that it is only measuring the glucose level in your bloodstream. It gives us no information of how much fuel or carbohydrate is still sitting in your gut that hasn't digested yet or is not moving across our digestion channels into our bloodstream. It also doesn't tell us what is going on at the muscle level. How much carbohydrate are we burning or using at the muscle level? So you need to understand a little bit of basic physiology there to understand what is actually going on. But if you can think back to Grade 10 Biology - carbohydrate and blood glucose levels is only one piece of that puzzle.

Taryn Richardson  06:40

And potentially it can be useful when you have everything else right. And you know, someone like Blummenfelt was using it in Kona - he is doing a seven hour full distance Ironman event. Okay, I'm okay with him using that, in that instance! He knows exactly what he is doing, how much fuel he needs. He's done a whole heap of gut training. And he's really trying to maximize his outcomes down to seconds and minutes, right? If you're out there, as an age group athlete, even at the pointy end, and you haven't invested in a Sports Dietitian, and have really worked on your fuelling strategy, your gut training and everything else that goes with triathlon nutrition, then this would be something that I would look at LAST.

Taryn Richardson  07:25

So I guess, watch this space with this trend. I might do a deep dive inside the Academy program for my athletes.  I'm not going to talk about it on the podcast, I don't want to start fights with people and companies who are doing this sort of stuff. But watch this space - it is a massive trend for this year. And I just want you to keep your wits about you because it will be heavily marketed to you. And I'm okay with you using it if you have a whole heap of other things with your nutrition and fuelling sorted first. And then you're using that as the sprinkles on the icing on your cake.

Taryn Richardson  07:59

Alright, the second trend I want to talk about is I'm seeing all of these products when it comes to sports nutrition, cranking up how much carbohydrate you're getting per serve. And the other thing that's being played with is the ratio of different types of carbohydrates in products as well. Now there's no witchcraft, or wizardry or magic going on when we're talking about higher carbohydrates per serve. All they're doing is putting products in bigger packages. So you take the 90 gram carbohydrate gel, it is literally just three gels all in one in a bigger packet! You can't put more molecules into a molecule to make it more carbohydrate dense.

Taryn Richardson  08:40

The same as the Maurten 160 versus 320 Mix. The 160 Mix is 40 grams of carbohydrate. And the 320 mix is 80 grams of carbohydrate (or 79 if you want to get technical). And the only difference between these two is more powder in that single serve packet. So if you're seeing these products with more carbohydrate per serve, all they've done is put more product into the packet.

Taryn Richardson  09:05

The other thing that we're seeing is the ratio changing. So previously, a lot of the glucose fructose ratios were 1:2. And now we're seeing products like Maurten and the SIS beta fuel and a few others come out with a ratio that is one is to 1:0.8. Now there's a bit of research around the right ratio, and there's no kind of magic number that we've landed on just yet. The 1:2 is a great ratio if we're trying to fuel it around 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrate an hour. And the 1:0.8 ratio is something if we're looking at pushing that beyond that - to 90 to 100/ 110/ 120 grams of carbohydrate per hour. So not something to dabble in. I'm not suggesting you do that, particularly without seeking Sports Dietitian advice, because chances are you're putting this stuff in and it's not really doing anything for you anyway. But just a bit of a trend that I wanted to point out - that you might see these ratios changing and companies playing around with that.

Taryn Richardson  09:59

You can put 10 scoops of sports drink powder into a bottle - you don't have to follow their recommendations - unless we're talking about the hydrogel from Maurten, then to make it work as that hydrogel, then you will need to follow the instructions. But for anything else, do whatever you want. And really dial in your fuelling and strategy, based on you and what you need. A little word of caution though with those really highly high carbohydrate per serve products - you don't want to have all of that in one hit. You're not going to want to take a 90g carbohydrate gel in one go. You want to spread that out so it digests and absorbs effectively and efficiently and you're probably going to want to drink some water to help that process.

Taryn Richardson  09:59

And just be mindful. Some of it's marketing, some of it's science. And really, at the end of the day, your sports nutrition and your racing nutrition, should be perfectly dialled in FOR YOU.  You don't want to get too distracted by what your training buddies are doing or what your coach is recommending that works for them. You really want to work out a plan that is specific and customised and feels great FOR YOU. You also don't need to follow the guidelines for servings on a packet - that's also really important. Alot of, say, gel companies will say "You need to have 3 in an hour, 1 every 20 minutes". You don't need to do that!! You can do whatever the heck you want!

Taryn Richardson  11:29

The third trend, is kind of a trend, but we're seeing more and more research done in this space, is gut training.

Taryn Richardson  11:38

Previously, research thought that we could digest maybe 60 grams of carbohydrate, an hour maximum, and then it moved up to 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour, when we started to learn a bit more. And now we're seeing research done in the space of 120 grams of carbohydrate per hour ... in elite athletes. I did an episode on why probably aiming for 120 grams of carbohydrate an hour for a general age grouper is likely a mistake. I recorded that episode last year, if you do want to dive into the archives and listen to that (click HERE).  I walk you through some of the research in this space. And why it may not be so useful for an everyday athlete.

Taryn Richardson  12:22

But we know that our gut is the rate limiter - we can throw 200 -300 grams of carbohydrate into our stomach, but it just isn't going to digest and absorb and move across the intestinal wall into our bloodstream. We know that that process/those channels are our rate limiting step. And we can train that to increase by doing gut training. Now we don't know specifically how to gut train to the best of our ability ... yet. That research is coming - watch this space! It'll probably take two to three years though, for that to be an actual published paper. There's a lot of research going on at Monash under Ricardo Costa around how to effectively gut train - so watch this space.

Taryn Richardson  13:06

But gut training is something that, as an endurance athlete, we all need to be doing if you want to increase your fuelling. And that's something that I teach you how to do specifically inside the Academy - based on the latest research that we have available to us, plus some secrets from whispering in Ricardo's ear when I get to speak to him. So gut training - bit of a trend but a need if you want to be fuelling more aggressively (rather than just blindly trying to aim for 120 grams of carbohydrate in an hour based on nothing). I love that you're high achieving and you want to do all the things. But there's no point putting that amount of carbohydrate into your gut, if it's not going anywhere - that's only going to end badly, the longer you exercise for.

Taryn Richardson  13:53

The fourth trend I'm seeing is a bit of a broad one. And it's been happening for a while now. But I feel like it's finally filtered down to the age group population - is body composition, and the need to not be the leanest, lightest body that you can be. Now potentially that's a little bit controversial, but think back to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Athletes there, our elite athletes, were very lean and light. And since that time, there's been a big push, in the elite space, for putting on more muscle so that we have more strength and we're stronger and we have more power. The message in the elite space for many years has been increase weight - but muscle weight, not fat weight. We're not saying get heavy by getting fat. We want to have good strength and power for the sport of triathlon today.

Taryn Richardson  14:55

And we're seeing that happen in someone like Blummenfelt, who I do not want to talk about his body composition - oh my god, that guy is amazing! Please do not judge what he looks like! What is wrong with the world? But we're seeing that with some of those other really top performing elite athletes - is they are not tiny, lean little string beans anymore. They've got heaps of muscle onboard. And I can see that now happening in the age group population as well.

Taryn Richardson  15:22

I like to use Jason as an example. Sorry, Jase. But Jase came into the Academy program very carb phobic, under fuelling, because he was constantly striving to be lighter and leaner. Now, it took me a number of months but Jason now understands that carbohydrates are his friend. And he needs to know how to eat them strategically around training to get the most out of his body. Now, he is not in the greatest physical form he's ever been in in his life but he is outperforming himself tenfold compared to any other previous performance. So now that he is fuelling better, and he's put on some muscle, and he's got that strength and power, the next 12 months, we're focusing on dropping some of that body fat, but doing it in a way that he doesn't absolutely smash himself.

Taryn Richardson  16:11

I'm not sure it's a trend, but the body composition message is changing. And I'm excited to see that filter down to the age groupers that we need to be doing some strength training, we need to have muscle. Not just be skinny and have sick abs. Sometimes we perform better if we are a little bit heavier, but muscle heavier, not body fat heavier.

Taryn Richardson  16:37

The fifth trend, which is still continuing, but it will still continue through 2023 is keto, or the low carb high fat methodology. Now I am by no means an expert in this space - I've actually interviewed Professor Louise Burke, who is the expert in this space on everything low carb, high fat, which is dropping into your ears shortly. So I won't spend too long here talking through the details. But we seem to just be obsessed with the low carb high fat diet. And the idea or the premise is that we have endless fuel stored as fat. So how can we harness that potential? And Louise will talk to it more. But if you are a slower athlete, a big diesel engine, you're happy to go at very aerobic intensity for a long period of time and you don't want any speed or intensity, then it could potentially work for you. But as soon as you want to go faster, and the intensity rises, or potentially you do a very hilly course where your heart rate is going to spike, then the low carb, high fat or keto methodology may not be the best fit for you.

Taryn Richardson  17:47

Something I work with my athletes on doing is maybe looking at doing some strategic periodisation of our carbohydrate. And maybe there are some days where there's not a lot of carbohydrate available versus some days where there is loads. And we see that in the literature - that performance is better when you periodise your carbohydrate intake to training and not just eat the same thing all the time. So I'll leave that one alone for now - you get a whole episode with Louise diving into the details of that.

Taryn Richardson  18:17

But keto, low carb high fat is definitely a trend. It's still continuing through 2023. I thought it might go away but it doesn't seem to be going away. We're even seeing people take things like ketone esters as well. So 2023 - keto is here to stay - sit tight for that episode with Louise for more.

Taryn Richardson  18:36

All right, the sixth and final trend, which is another one that has been happening for a little while, but it's probably not going to disappear anytime soon, is the idea of more of a plant based or vegan diet. Now this topic is an entire podcast episode all in itself. And it has been a trend for a while. I think from a diet trend perspective, we went from paleo back in, sort of, 2012. And then there was some Netflix documentaries that came out with vegan athletes. And we went from eating a very meat focused diet to the next diet fad being veganism - which is cutting out all animal products whatsoever. Now I haven't watched that Netflix documentary, I'm not going to name it, I think I'd rather claw my eyes out. But from what I've seen they were eating T-bones the size of my quads and then switch to a plant based diet. So of course they felt better.

Taryn Richardson  19:31

I'm a firm believer in plant forwards - would probably be the way to put it - or plant based  - I have a very plant based diet. It's based primarily on plants. And then personally I do choose to eat animal products, but they form the smallest component of my diet by a long way. There are different types of diets - there is the vegan diet where you exclude all animal products whatsoever - so fish, meat, eggs, honey and even leather products. So you're choosing to wear nothing that has come from an animal.

Taryn Richardson  20:06

And then we have different types of vegetarians where they may exclude particular types of animal products, but not all. So you might still include some eggs. Or you might still include some dairy, or honey from happy bees and things like that. And then this classification of plant based. For me, that means eating a diet that is based on plants, which is how I would eat. Even though I'm technically classified as an omnivore.

Taryn Richardson  20:33

Whichever way you choose to eat, my advice to you is just make sure you're still ticking all the right boxes for what you need. So if you plan on going vegan or plan on making a change to your diet like that, you just need to understand  - what are the things that you will then be missing? And how do you replace that effectively with the plant based alternatives?

Taryn Richardson  20:55

My brother went vegan many years ago, and he was a terrible vegan - he had no idea how to do that. And he switched his diet in a day. So he literally lived on hot chips and McDonald's soy milk coffees! Disgusting!! He's much better now. But I would encourage you if you're thinking about shifting your diet in that way, to do it in a stepped approach, and do it gradually over time, so that you're not going into a massive hole where you don't have enough calcium in your diet, for instance, or enough iron - particularly as an endurance athlete, you have higher needs for both of those two things. We talk about both of those in the first phase of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy, and how to get enough whether you follow a vegan or plant based diet or not.

Taryn Richardson  21:42

I think a lot of athletes would benefit from eating more plant based foods. It's something we talk about at Camp - how to have more plant based foods in your diet and get that diversity. Because we don't eat enough. We know globally, the world doesn't eat enough fruits and vegetables on a day to day basis. So I'm all for a plant forward diet without necessarily needing to put rules around it and restricting it. There doesn't seem to be any evidence that a vegan diet is going to make you perform better from an endurance perspective, despite what some of the documentaries might tell you. But let's just look at the foundations of our overall diet quality and make it high in antioxidants. Make it high and all those plant chemicals that you get from eating fresh food without necessarily needing to label it.

Taryn Richardson  22:33

Alright, so that's six hot trends to keep an eye out, or watch for, in 2023. Some of them are old coming across into the new year, and some of them are newer sort of flavors. What I would remind you of, for all trends, is that you need to do the fundamentals and the foundations first, before you look at layering in some of these more advanced principles, and potentially more sprinkles on the icing on your cake. If you've baked your cake and you've iced it with those advanced sports nutrition principles, then you can maybe look at putting some of those sprinkles on. But until you've done those first two steps, there is nothing for those sprinkles to stick to. If you see any more trends that I haven't come across yet or there's something that you want me to dive into, let me know! Post it in the Dietitian Approved Crew Facebook group or send me a DM on Instagram at dietitian.approved. Thanks for listening today. I'll talk to you next week.

Taryn Richardson  23:34

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! 


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