Science in Sport: Developing Your Next Fuel
A couple of days in the Santa Barbara sun with Science in Sport to find out how they developed their before-during-after products to provide top professionals (and regular folks) with the nutrition they need to perform.
So Santa Barbara in November doesn’t suck.
Really… at all…
No matter where you’re staying, and especially when you’re getting a few miles in the saddle in the mix, the California coast is a good place to be when the high temps tickle the mid 70’s and the marine fog is at bay so that it’s near 60 mid-morning (and the whole place isn’t on fire, or shaking).
That said, there are different levels of “nice places to stay” and picking out which is which when you roll into the driveway in this case was not difficult.
Attending with the Science in Sport people were a couple of folks from Team Sky in the form of Ian Boswell…
And team Sky’s Dr. James Morton
Celeb status aside, it’s fairly important to consider the feedback from both professional riders and their team’s nutritional specialists.
I would venture to say that proper set up and function of a rider’s food requires more detailed attention than any other equipment, especially in a grand tour.
Consider that a rider will require some place near 110,000 calories to ride a grand tour.
While that will vary depending on the route, rider mass, temp etc., making an error in food intake (and worse yet, repeating that error daily) could leave an athlete several thousand calories short. When this happens, the team will lose that rider. And it happens more than you think.
I’m betting though that Dr. Morton hasn’t lost a rider on those grounds as the detail they keep and track is fanatical.
The question of what Ian ate for dinner on a single night at one specific stage came up from one of the attending media and in an instant; we had a VERY complete answer…
The information is there for every meal for every day during the race, inclusive of recovery as well as main plates.
And Sky is not leaving their riders to roll round after a stage. Their “van” is fairly well sorted to make sure the team is refueling with the most immediate effect.
All that said, neither you nor I are going to get paid well and pampered, but our bodies are still going to go through days and weeks of training (and or racing) and while we won’t likely burn 100,000 plus calories over the course of 3 weeks, we will still benefit from what SiS have accomplished.
For the US, SiS currently brakes down into the basic “GO” and “REGO”. Within those products The GO focus is in Hydration tablets, an electrolyte (with carbs) drink mix, energy gels (with and without caffeine). The REGO product is a powder that is a measured ratio of carbs, protein and fat and a blend of vitamins and minerals (and a spot of fiber).
The SiS product that stands out the most for me is the GO Isotonic Energy Gel.
For both Pros and us mere mortals, the speed and ease of digestion are of critical importance.
The key for the SiS Gel is that it is a mixture with more concentration in high glycemic carbs in a formulation that is isotonic.
That means your body doesn’t need water to absorb and rapidly digest the carbs.
This is a fairly big deal because it means you don’t have to use up your hydration product as a digestive aid for carbs (which is probably the leading reason a lot of other energy gels give athletes stomach issues and bloating). Being Isotonic also means your body isn’t naturally drawing water into the stomach systemically to help digest things.
This product is rapidly utilized by your body and it happens in a fashion that requires very little help systemically so as to leave the rest of your body to focus on performing rather than feeding.
I’ve watched people deal with digestive issues on bike and I’ve had bloating with other products… And because I’m in Arizona, I’ve seen multiple examples of what can happen to performance when dehydration strikes.
A small detail that also helped is that this gel is fairly thin in consistency… There’s still some thickness to it, but it’s designed to be very easily swallowed (and it is).
I purposefully didn’t take a drink for 15 minutes after taking the gel and there was zero issue with dry mouth or that kinda lump-in-your-throat feeling you get after virtually any other gel I’ve tried on the market. I would still take a swig of water with this product, just to get any residue off my teeth, but it’s optional with this product.
The GO Electrolyte Powder has a Carb content of 36 grams per 500ML.
It also includes salt, magnesium, calcium and potassium for those high sweat / high intensity efforts to help the body absorb water and remain properly hydrated.
In the case you’re not needing (or specifically limiting) carbs, the GO Hydro tablets give you a reasonable amount of salt, magnesium, calcium and potassium in a proper ration where hydration is the key (while limiting the carb content to @ 1 gram).
After the effort, SiS has their REGO, recovery focused powder…
This is a combination of protein, carbs, a hint of fat and a multi-vitamin and mineral blend that is meant to be consumed quickly after your workout (inside 30 minutes) and especially in blocks of training where you’ll be doing day after day of training.
You’ll mix this with water rather than milk because milk is made mostly of Casein protein which digests slowly.
When Recovery is the goal, the body will respond much more positively when you get 3 things right; the right ingredients (1), in the right amounts (2), at the right time (3).
SiS makes this quite a bit easier with this blend…
And unlike the latest trend from a few nutrition companies, SiS has allowed their products to taste good.
They actually use a bit of artificial sweetener and before you go bonkers about that, there’s a reason… Sugar is tougher to digest for some people. And in the case of the gels, sugar would also require water for digestion.
All that said, SiS, Dr. Morton and the folks at Sky understand that solid food is important… And the food on hand for this event was also fantastic.
It’s what you would want sitting pool side on the California coast as reports of blizzards are hitting your Colorado media buddies phones…
You’re probably doing it wrong
Perhaps the best part of the time spent with SiS, Sky’s Doc and Ian was in sitting down and hearing how detailed the information available is on feeding. The ability to regulate elite level fueling is better than ever and it continues to evolve.
Not everyone can afford a full time Doctor to monitor every single meal and every single watt produced, BUT you can very likely afford a visit to a nutritionist with sport experience… And you should.
Bike fitting is finally getting the attention it deserves and for those of us that take this sport fairly seriously, if you’ll take the time to spend $2-3-5-10,000 on a bike and $2-3-500 on a fitter, I don’t understand why you won’t drop a few dollars to go see a person that can have a tremendous impact on your training. Once you have that knowledge, you’ll be able to dial in your fuel to max performances. Think of it as an internal wind tunnel session.
And with that education, you’re going to want products built to fairly tight spec in order to do the job you want done. It’s at that level of thinking where you’re going to want someone like SiS involved as you can be damn sure they’ve put in the time and research to give you what you need.
They’re also making damn sure you’re not getting the things you shouldn’t.
SiS are currently the only brand with an evolved accreditation with Informed Sport. This involves full testing of the raw materials going into the products, blind selection testing of final products and unannounced audits (spot testing) of the facility to ensure that no banned substances contaminate the products provided to athletes.
This is an exceptional standard and it’s not cheap, but the net result is that elite athletes well beyond those that SiS sponsor look to the brand’s products to provide the additional nutrition they need without the risk of potentially ending or sharply damaging their career.
SiS is making some excellent products (and they’ll be bringing more of the offering to the US very soon).
The company has built these products one by one to do a fairly specific job and do it at a professional level. While the meticulous prep in creating the products to handle specific jobs was obviously a priority, SiS also paid attention to the fact that at days end they’re feeding people and those people wouldn’t mind it if the products tasted pretty good as well.
Right now, only a portion of the SiS total offering is available in the US and the best place to get it is likely directly from them.
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