(bright pop music) – Welcome to a very
special edition of Ask GCN with Professor Asker Jeukendrup, who is a world renowned
expert on sports nutrition. He’s literally written the
textbook on sports nutrition, so thanks for making time for us, Asker. – Thanks for having me. – Pretty busy guy. He’s a nutrition consultant for several cycling teams, I believe. – I have been. At the moment I work with
the Team Lotto Jumbo, the Dutch based team. – And the Dutch Olympic Federation, Chelsea, Barcelona, Haile
Gebrselassie, Chrissie Wellington. So you really think you know your stuff when it comes to advising athletes, and you’ve also published
over 200 papers, I believe, in the field of sports nutrition. Tell us a little bit about
the kind of direction your research went when
you were Head of Research at the Birmingham School
of Sports Exercise Science? – We were mostly interested in
the regulation of metabolism, and then the practical side of that is, what is the effect of nutrition on your body’s metabolism and
performance, of course. And that’s really where we focused most. How can you improve performance by giving nutrition at the right times? – Great, thank you very much. So we’re gonna get cracking
with the first question, because we’ve got many to get through. So the first question is from
Ryan Harris, and he says, “I keep hearing more people saying sugar should be totally avoided at all costs. What are Professor Jeukendrup’s opinions, can you realistically
train without sugars?” – I think to answer that
question what is really important is the context in which this is used. Sugars, of course, get
a lot of bad reputation, a lot of bad press, but it needs to be
discussed in the context, and if the context is overeating, and the context is obesity, then that’s a different story than the story that
we’re talking about here, which is exercise and performance. Sugars are actually really good fuel for the body, that’s a a fact. The problem is maybe when
you don’t use it as a fuel, and you just keep storing it up because you’re not
physically active enough. But when we are talking about athletes, cyclists who are going out on long rides, the main fuel is actually your sugars. – Yeah, it’s the fastest to absorb. – It is very rapidly absorbed. You can use it to sustain
very high intensity, something that is much
more difficult with fat or impossible with fat sometimes. So it is actually an
extremely important fuel that needs to be supplied. – So the next question is
related to the sugar question. There’s two questions,
they’re very similar. One is from Paul Beoxn, and he says, “Is gold old sugar water and
bananas still just as good? Also I’ve heard on the grapevine that oats are bad for protein absorption. Thanks.” And then Peter Hitchen asks, “What are the best natural
alternatives to gels or chews? Would love some options
lower in processed sugars.” So what do you think on bananas? (laughs) – Starting with bananas, it’s interesting, because bananas and
bananas are not the same. One is green and one
is yellow and they are fundamentally different.
– Really? – A green banana doesn’t
get absorbed very well. Very little of the carbohydrate in that banana will be absorbed. The brown banana is actually best. That’s the one where the fiber is already converted to sugars and you can use that as an energy source.
– I had no idea, thank you. – So it is very important
to choose the right banana. This is a problem that is general with the more sort of natural foods, that you have to take into
account the ripening process, or you have to take into account how the food was actually prepared. – The variability of
natural products, yeah. – So it’s definitely
possible to find alternatives to the commercially available products, but you have to know what you’re doing. – What would you suggest, though, we’ve got brown bananas, good, what else would you suggest as little, as basically carbohydrate snacks
as an alternative to gels? – Well, there’s people that
like things like rice cakes, that they can make themselves. In the pro peloton you see
that little bread rolls are often used with a little bit of jelly or a little bit of jam. ‘Cause it’s easy to eat and
it’s not a packaged food. So it really comes down to
personal preference a little bit, and then looking at the ingredients. Ideally, you have something
that does not have a lot of fat, does not have a very
large amount of protein, and does not have a lot of fiber. And what’s left is basically carbohydrate. – Because that enables the
stomach to empty quickly and avoids very slow digestion. – All those other ingredients
like the fats and the proteins and the fiber, that will slow
down your gastric emptying and thus the delivery of all nutrients, also fluids, actually. – So dried food, I used to like eating dates on training rides. Assuming the high fiber is
a bit of a problem there? – Yeah, it is a little bit of a problem, but it also depends on your goal. If you’re on a training ride
and the intensity is relatively low you have plenty of time to absorb it. If you’re racing, then that
wouldn’t be my first choice. – We had a lot of questions
about fasted training and whether you need to
eat before every ride, we had so many questions on
it, we can go through it more, but from Jack Caples,
Conor Clarke, Demetre K., Jim Pratson, asking basically, is there ever a good time to ride fasted, or could they do their
morning turbo session without breakfast beforehand to save time? What’s your opinion on that, Asker? – So the idea of training fasted is that you train your fat burning. That’s the purpose of
people do these actions. In all honesty, if you look
at the scientific literature, there is not a huge amount of evidence that this is successful but
the studies do tend to agree that there might be some
benefit, if that makes sense. It’s not a very strong
performance benefit, or not a strong effect on fat burning, but there’s definitely indications that something is happening, and I think the reason
that they don’t show this is that maybe the studies that were done, they’re a little bit too short
to really see these effects. But personally, I do believe that there is something in training fasted. Then it comes to the
practical questions like, what exercise intensity should
you use in those sessions. I think not too low intensity, which is a mistake that some people make. And also, not too high intensity. Where you wanna be is
sort of that sweet spot, somewhere in between there
you’re actually burning most fat. A lot of people think
that you burn a lot of fat at low intensities, that’s not true, because you don’t burn a lot
of anything at low intensities. At the moderate intensities
where you can still have a conversation probably,
but it’s not that easy, that’s where I think fat oxidation is probably the highest
and that’s probably a good intensity to do these trainings at. – The next questions is about
alternatives to porridge which is something I
find hard to understand, given I love porridge, but
anyway, Trevor Holmes asks, “My daughter races National
Elite races and she just cannot stand porridge for breakfast. What would be a good alternative
for a three hour race?” And then similarly we’ve got
many questions about breakfast, but about the best big
versus small breakfast, and rice versus oats, so
can you tell us a little bit about breakfast, which is a big subject. – Breakfast is very, very personal. So at breakfast, breakfast is
something you grow up with. It doesn’t actually vary a
lot over the years, usually. So people are usually used
to one type of breakfast, and usually also have a preference for that type of breakfast, so I think it’s adapting
that to what you’re used to to what you’re going to do. So you can’t say this is the
best breakfast for everyone, maybe, or everyone would
be doing that already. You have to figure out
what works best for you. How much you take really depends
on what you’re going to do. So if you’re going for a one-hour ride, that breakfast looks very different than when you’re going for
a six-hour ride, obviously. And also the timing is important. If you have a small
breakfast you may be able to do that one hour before you ride, but if you have to take
between 100 and 200 grams of carbohydrate, a very large breakfast, then that is something you would wanna do three hours before the start. – And it depends on the ride
intensity, obviously, as well. As a time trial I find that you have to leave a good three hours before… – Yeah, time trials are a
very specific discipline, I think, where you really
wanna feel as empty, as light as possible,
but still have the power. – Yeah, so the body’s personal and it requires you to
practice your breakfast. – Yeah, so it’s very difficult
to give a very specific answer to this question that’s
gonna work for every person. – Okay, thanks. Now we have a question from
Eric Besenius who asks, “What would Asker answer
people promoting low carb, high fat diets knowing that
these are not compatible with high intensity interval training or endurance athletes in general with a few exceptions in purely
slow endurance sessions?” – Well, I think for me, low
carbohydrate high fat diets have very little role in cycling because carbohydrate is an important fuel. I think there may be some events
where you can get away with low carbohydrate but that’s
a slight different story. I think we’re looking here
for what’s the best solution in most situations. I think that means you have
to supply a certain amount of carbohydrate and at least
to have a minimum amount of carbohydrate to sustain
the higher intensities. It’s also in this question
already that it says that you need that carbohydrate for
the high intensity work, and to be honest, I’ve seen quite a few cyclists who’ve tried this and seriously failed and then gone back and actually performed much better with a normal carbohydrate intake. – So the next question is from Alan Bozivic, or Bosivich, not sure. He asks, “Is there any real benefits in drinking isotonic
drink with added BCAA?” And BCAA are branch chain amino acids, the building blocks of
proteins, I believe. What’s your opinion on that. – Branch chain amino acids are just certain types of animo acids. They’re the only amino acids
that can be used as a fuel and sometimes people have said that’s why you need to use them during exercise. But to be honest there’s no evidence that adding branch chain amino
acids to a isotonic drink is gonna do anything. – So we come to a question
that I get asked a lot, and I am not an expert in nutrition so I never know what to say, so I’m really glad someone
sent this question in. It’s from John Barkyoumg, and he asked, “What is the latest thinking
on food to avoid muscle cramps late in a 100 mile Gran Fondo? Does diet or electrolytes
help or is it just a matter of training up the long miles?” So basically, can you avoid muscle cramps through what you eat? – Very good question. A very difficult one to answer, actually, because there is not a
huge amount of research on muscle cramps because it’s so
difficult to do studies where, let’s get some cramp. So what you get are
studies that look at like super small muscle
groups like a finger or, and just fatigue a muscle and then they use that as a model but
it’s very difficult, I think, to translate that sort of model from like, fatigue in the finger muscle
to whole body fatigue. So I think the most important
reason that the cramp occurs is probably fatigue related. – So not necessarily salt lost? – No, not necessarily salt loss. So training is still the
best way to avoid it, but in some cases I think
dehydration can make it worse or may move the cramp
forward a little bit. – If you get your nutrition
or your hydration wrong then you exacerbate the fatigue
on the muscles, don’t you? – Yeah, so it does have an
effect, even if it’s indirect. So I would make sure that
I would stay hydrated. Is it because you lose
so many electrolytes? I think in a 100 mile ride, to be honest, I think that’s really too short still to lose enormous amounts of salt. – Depending on the weather. – There are individuals that, of course it depends on the weather, depends on how much you sweat. Some people sweat a lot, and then also sweat a lot of sodium. So some people sweat a lot, they don’t lose a lot of
sodium in their sweat, but if you are in that
category of sweating a lot, and having highly concentrated
sweat, it’s salty, then you’re a little bit more at risk. But you body stores actually
quite large of sodium, so for a 100 mile ride I
think it’s actually difficult to lower your body sodium so much that that is the main
reason of the cramps. – Now we’ve come to a
question about supplements, dietary supplements,
and this is a question from Ben Holmes who asks, “A lot of pros seem to take
a multivitamin supplement but there seems to be little evidence to support the benefits
of it. Is it worthwhile? I ask because I seemed to
get a lot of small illnesses last year despite a fairly good diet.” – I think he’s good point, there is very little
evidence that supplementing with a multivitamin will actually help or have some benefits, if your diet is indeed
nicely balanced and varied. – It’s a big “if” though isn’t it? – This is a big “if” and
that’s why a lot of people take it as an insurance policy. But to be honest there
really is no evidence that if you take it that it’s
gonna improve performance. There’s maybe a little bit of evidence on the immune function side, that, for example,
taking zinc can actually help to prevent illnesses a little bit. Low dose of zinc so that’s something that you would find in
some of those vitamins. – With any multivitamin
you have to be careful not to take too much of anything, and taking more is not necessarily better. – No, and taking more is
often more problematic, so I would definitely
stay away from all the multivitamin supplements that
have the really high doses. I think we’ve moved away from
that era of more is better. And very often it is about
getting the right doses and also the right combinations, because some of these
nutrients may inhibit each other’s absorption. – That’s a good point, yeah. – Not a good thing to take
them at the same time. – Like with macronutrients, timing is quite important sometimes. The next question is
quite dear to my heart which is about aging. The Unit, which is an
interesting name, asks, “What diet changes should a cyclist, or any endurance athlete, make as we age?” I found that as I age I eat more cheese, but I’m not sure that that’s
a helpful thing or not. (laughs)
– But it’s science-based. – Oh, okay, really. – Yeah, there are some changes. Most of those changes have to
do with your protein needs. As people age, and especially
the more advanced ages, it’s actually more
difficult to make muscle. And you can compensate partly for that by eating a little bit more protein, that is the recommendation. Eat a little bit more protein, make sure to eat high quality protein, which means all of the amino
acids are in the protein. Generally, these are animal proteins that are high in quality. And also, make sure that you
time it right during the day. – And combine it with
training, presumably, to stimulate muscle?
– Absolutely. That is really important.
– Yeah, I know. I’ve heard that strength training is more important as one gets older actually. – Yeah for the same reason.
– Thank you. Now we had quite a lot
of questions came in about being vegan and cycle training, so I’m going to ask two of
them which are sort of related. One is from Cycling Enthusiast to asks, “What are your thoughts
about cycling as a vegan?” And then second question’s
from James Kendrick, who says, “As a vegan, what is the best nutrition or nutritional product
to have during training?” – Yeah, I think the question
that I often get is, is it possible to
perform at the same level as a vegan in cycling? And I think the answer is probably yes. But it does require a
little bit more effort. You need to think a lot more
about what you’re eating, where you’re getting your,
especially your protein from. Because if we take the
protein as an example, animal proteins generally
are higher quality proteins. But in reality what that means is you just have to eat more
plant based proteins to get the same effect that you would
get with animal proteins, so it is something that you can overcome, you just have to eat a little bit more. – And you have to balance
the type of protein as well, presumably, because there’s essential and non-essential amino acids. – Yeah, so what you want
of course is in each meal, you want all of the amino acids ideally. There’s one amino acid that
maybe jumps out a little bit that is more important that is leucine. Leucine is not so high in a lot
of the plant based proteins, so you would need to eat a little bit more of those proteins that
do contain the leucine. – Right.
– That are plant based. So there are ways around this. We have similar issues with iron. For plant based sources iron
is very poorly absorbed. With meat based it’s also poorly absorbed, but a little bit better. – Yeah, I’ve had this
problem with many years of being iron deficient as a vegetarian. So I know about that and I took iron supplements for many years. – It’s very difficult to prevent that. – We also had a lot of questions about people who wanted to
lose fat as part of their training for an event or just
generally for their health, which is very understandable. And this particular
question stood out to me which is from Thiago, who asked, “Is there a meal blueprint
plan to reduce fat percentage?” If there is, please tell me. – Yeah.
(laughter) I like the way the question is asked. First of all, I think it’s always a combination of exercise and eating. It’s the two that you need. Is there a blueprint, well,
probably not because I know people who’ve done this
on a fruit juice diet, people who’ve done this
on the high-carb diet, people who’ve done this
on the low-carb diet, so there’s many different
ways you can do this. The only thing that all of
those diets have in common is that when combined with the exercise you are in negative
energy balance which means you’re expending more energy
than you’re taking in, whether those calories come
from carbohydrate or fat. At the end of the day,
that is what matters. What you can do is maybe
use the macronutrients to make it easier to achieve this. Protein for example is
something that you can use to be less hungry. And then for some people
it’s easier to have a diet that is a little bit more fat
based and reduce calories. For other people, it’s easier
to have a bit more focus on carbohydrates but reduce
the energy and things. As far as a blueprint goes, calories is still the important answer. – So a lot of these specific
diets are ways to restrict your diet so that your
calories are restricted, aren’t they, essentially? – Yeah, so many different diets can work for different people. – Now some questions about caffeine, which is also close to my
heart because I do love coffee. – So do I.
(laughter) – So many cyclists seem
to love coffee. (laughter) Two questions, one’s from
zeveraar2000, who asks, “Does caffeine actually make you faster?” And then related to this one
is Stephen Jones, who asks, “Is it better to use
caffeine from the very start of an event and keep taking
more all the way through, or take no caffeine until
you get towards the end for an added boost when
you’re feeling tired?” – Well, does caffeine
actually make you faster? I think the short answer to that is yes, for most people, so good news there. I think there’s a little, of course, caffeine also has side effects. It makes people a little bit more shaky, a little bit more nervous, so there are also
situations that I know of where caffeine probably
has the opposite effect, where people just got too nervous. And I also know people who just don’t like the feeling of taking caffeine, so it is a little bit personal, but the studies in general
show that caffeine improves endurance performance,
there’s no question. – Yeah, great. – The other question
is when do you take it. Typically the advice is
take it one hour before. The reason for that is that
it takes about one hour for caffeine concentration to
reach its peak in the blood. This varies a little bit, for
some people that’s 45 minutes, for some people that’s an hour and 15, on average it’s about 60 minutes. And then it stays there
for quite a long time, and quite a long time is
like two, three hours. So what I would do probably is if you wanna benefit from the caffeine, take something an hour before and then top if up after three hours. Now studies also show that
if you don’t take anything for the first part but
you start to take it after three or four hours, that also works. So there’s just different
ways of doing it, but there’s no need to titrate it and take something every 15 minutes. – That’s good to know, and
I think how much caffeine you can handle and how
much you maybe should take depends on your regular,
daily caffeine intake. So if you have five coffees
everyday and then you don’t have any caffeine on race day,
or on the day of your event, you’re gonna feel pretty terrible. But if you never drink coffee
and then have five espresso in the morning of your event, then you’re gonna feel terrible as well, so you have to balance
those considerations. – In terms of the studies,
they show that you see the effects with as little as
3 milligrams per kilogram. – That’s not much, no. – So it’s very little for you. – Yeah, well, compared to
how much is in a gel, yeah. – And the effects sort of plateau at five milligrams per kilogram, so taking more really doesn’t
make a lot of difference. Roughly the range is
somewhere between two and five espressos, basically.
– Okay, thank you. Now finally, we had a whole
series of questions about alternative nutrition,
I think I’d call it. Basically on alternatives to
pasta the night before a race. Emily would like to know,
is it acceptable for me to fuel up on McDonalds
the night before a race? And this is related to Kory
Stotesbery, who’s asked, “Any concerns about using
inexpensive junk foods such as candy, cookies, crackers, for in-ride nutrition instead of expensive sport specific food like bars and gels?” So what do you think
about that? (laughter) – Well it’s a really interesting, and then practically
relevant question, I think. A friend of mine in the
US, Brent Ruby, a doctor, he did a study last year that got quite a bit of attention in the press. He actually wanted to
address a similar question, and the question that he
really wanted to address is, does your muscle know where the
carbohydrate is coming from? So essentially if you want
to, the night before a race, the most important thing
is that you make sure that your muscles are loaded
with carbohydrate on race day, therefore you carbo-load, or you eat a carbohydrate-rich meal. So the question that
you’re trying to answer is, does your body know if that meal is McDonalds or some other fast food, or it’s engineered sports nutrition? So they set up the whole
study, they compared it, they tried to match the meal with the sports nutrition products,
same amount of carbohydrates, same amount of protein,
same amount of fat, and then they measured by
taking muscle biopsies, so tiny little bit of muscle, they measured how much
carbohydrate was stored, and found there was absolutely no difference between the two. – Couldn’t you have told me?
(laughter) – The headlines in the
newspaper were of course, “Doctor recommends fast food meals,” actually, fried chicken it said, even though the study had
nothing to do with fried chicken. (laughter) So that’s not the message
that I want to send. I do not want to promote fast food, but, the fact is in that study they showed that your muscle doesn’t actually know the different between the two. – So your muscles don’t know how much the carbohydrate cost, basically. – That’s true. (laughter) And you could probably perform quite well on a one-off fast food meal. – But presumably they balanced
the nutritional content of the meal so the engineered
meal had the same amount of fat as a burger or whatever
the fast food was they were giving to the person, and so, ideally, I think your pre-race meal
would not have as much fat and protein as a heavy,
greasy burger might do. – Yeah that is true and
the other thing I would say is that study, of course,
their outcome measure, the only thing they looked at was how much muscle glycogen is stored. They didn’t look at performance, they didn’t look at any
of the other variables. That’s really important. And I certainly was on
an event racing team once with a guy who’d had a
kebab the night before and let’s just say it didn’t
help his performance ’cause he had to stop several
times during the race. (laughter) Thank you very much Asker,
that was really good to know. And then the final question
is from Daniel Burton, supposedly, and he asks, “Does beer the night before
work for carbo-loading.” And apparently he’s asking
for a friend. (laughter) – I don’t think that
I would recommend beer for carbo-loading,
that’s the short answer. – Okay, fair enough.
– There’s a longer answer. – Good to know, well, Daniel, there’s your answer, sorry Dan. Asker, thank you so much for answering so many of our questions. I’m sorry to we didn’t
get all of them quite, but I think we got so much covered today, and really great to have
such expert knowledge. – It’s great to see so many really good questions on this topic. – Yeah, it’s so interesting
to people, I think, and yeah, it’s really great
to have an expert answering. If you would like to see some
more expert advice on training you can watch this video on busting training myths
with Louis Passfield. Thanks for watching, give us a thumb’s up.