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Episode 030: Charlotte Saunders: Nutrition Habits of Triathletes

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Charlotte Saunders is a noted nutritionist who specializes in the unique needs of triathletes. Hear a little bit of her story and get her perspectives on triathlete nutrition in this episode of Triathlon Research Radio.

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Summary

Developing a Winning Discipline with Food

Podcast Intro
Sam Introduces the Show
Triathletes and Nutrition
Sam Introduces Charlotte Saunders
From Law to Nutrition
Transition to Triathlon
Experimenting with Courageousness
Pursuing Your Passions
Having a Good Plan
Moments of Doubt
Triathlon Training and Nutrition
Confidence Comes with Age
Relationships With Food
Food Habits and Personality
Changing Your Attitude About Food
Sources of Food Relationships
The Accountability Factor
Being Accountable to Yourself
Keeping a Food Diary
Preparation for Food Needs
Pre- and Post-Training Food Intake
Nutrition Habits of Triathletes
Pre- and Post-Race Nutrition
Weight Control for Triathletes
Post-Workout Nutrition
Individual Responses to Diet
Nutrition as a Discipline
Charlotte’s Plan for Training Camp
Body and Diet Analysis
Training Nutrition Theories
More on the Boulder Camp
Wrap Up
Mark Allen Promo
Podcast Outro

Transcript

Intro
Welcome to Triathlon Research, the podcast that brings together the best of the world’s coaches, athletes and medical professionals to give you the right information that you need to race past your personal best and get more enjoyment out of your Triathlon journey. Triathlon Research, where we teach you how to train smart. Here’s your host Samuel Cook, Founder of Triathlon Research.

Sam
Hello, Triathlon Research podcast listener! My name is Sam Cook, your co-host of the show along with Suzanne Atkinson and I’m also the founder of Triathlon Research, and I’m doing this show today because it’s one that’s very interesting topic, and also, pertinent to what’s coming up in some of the events that we’re doing with Triathlon Research. So the subject for today’s show is Nutrition and triathletes and their relationship to nutrition and food and how we can evaluate how we view food and potentially make changes to increase our training effectiveness, our race-day performance. But also to just come to a better overall understanding of our relationship with food and how it effects us.

So the guest I have today is Charlotte Sanders who’s a fascinating nutritionist that I’ve come across recently, was introduced to me by Siri Lindley who’s Mirinda Carfrae’s coach the world champion herself, and also the coach of multiple world champions and Olympians. When I decided to do the Boulder Camp with Mirinda Carfrae and Siri Lindley, she told that I had to get this nutritionist over all the way from England to come meet with all the athletes individually, and I’m doing that. And Charlotte has a fascinating background and I’ll let her introduce herself and tell her story a bit. She’s a former lawyer, and is now turned into a nutritionist and coach and got some fascinating insights. So, without further introduction I’m just going to launch into and welcome her to our show. So, welcome, Charlotte to Triathlon Research Radio! How are you?

Charlotte
I’m great, Sam. And thanks for having me on the show today. It’s really exciting to come, to come here, and I can’t wait to be a part with you in Boulder in May. I think it’s going to be awesome I think.

Sam
Yeah, well, I’m really excited to have you. And the great thing about working with someone like Siri and Mirinda and some of the other great athletes and coaches we have the privilege of working with is they have great supporting staff and you’re part of that and… So, before we get into deeper in nutrition tell the lister a little bit about how you actually went from being in law to getting into nutrition and coaching because there must be an interesting story that led you down that path. That’s not a traditional career path.

Charlotte
No, it’s not. But interestingly when you speak to quite a few people in the industry now – quite a few of them have done law or accounting, similar professions in the past and switched over to things that they find more enjoyable and, more rewarding. Say, as you rightly say I studied law in university specializing in shipping law, and was fortunate enough to gain a place working in the city of London, on one of the graduate schemes, working for marine insurance company. So we did 4 sits of rotation as you do within law, say, within cargo and then liabilities, and at the end of the two years you do six months in each team and they offer you a full-time position which I took and was working within the cargo team in the company which I was enjoying. But I kind of always thought that there was something missing from the job, it was very paper orientated and there wasn’t a great deal of contact with clients. And I’ve always had a huge love of sport, and training and running, and I used to compete quite a lot. So I decided that I would pursue having allocate personal training and seeing whether that was something that I thought about I’d like to do.

At the time I was really fortunate that one of my friends was a fitness manager at one of our day crew gyms. So I speak to her about switching my career and I also speak to the company that I was working for in the city, and I was really lucky in that they let me work for three days a week for them and two days a week in the fitness industry to see whether it was something that I thought I would enjoy long term, which was an offer that you can’t really turn down and very kind of both employers at the time. So I pursued the personal training and really loved it and left the marine industry, and insurance and my full-time doing personal training. And we’ve spoken before about triathlon and I’ve always been a keen triathlete myself. And at the time I was competing for the Great Britain Age Group Team and doing personal training gave me more time to be able to train, but we say train other people in sport is what I loved, which was just awesome.

Sam
That’s a fascinating move that you decided to make and congratulations for taking that leap and also you’re very lucky that you did have an employer that you could be transparent with about what you wanted to do, and I think that a number of listeners listening to this probably have the same. I’ve spoken to many doctors. I don’t know what it is about these hardworking professions that people just use triathlon to escape and after a while realize that I’d just rather do this for living even if the pay might not be quite as good. Would you mind talking a little bit about how you got up the courage to ask for that arrangement and whether it’s this tough as you thought it would be or you kind of how that went?

Charlotte
And it’s interesting really, because as I said I always loved sport and was training for triathlon to quite a high level. So when I was still working in London I was also living in London at the time. So I could run before work and then swim after work and different things, but as I was trying to make the switch. Living in the city is really expensive and so I moved out of the city and was living down on the south coast and coming back to London every day.

So I was getting up early and doing some training at home, and then I decided that I need to be able to run at lunch time at work. So rather than being framed upon going out running for an hour and a half each lunch time I decided that I form a running club within the insurance company where I was working. So I formed this running club and luckily my boss and quite a few others signed up for it so we end up running together along, come back, have a shower, have some lunch.

That was one way that I managed to fit my training and as I say, kind of develop my love for helping the other people achieve their running goals. And I think I left there probably 8 years ago now and the running club is still going. And some of the people that I kind of got into initially is still taking part in races and stuff. Just now it’s so brilliant. So we did it at lunch time and then I get to come back to the coast in the evening, and have my wet suit in my car, and then get down to the sea, go for a swim, go for run along the seafront and then go home in the evenings.

So I think the people I was working with always new that my, kind of primary love, was within sport. But as you ask, kind of building up the guts to go up and ask if I could, you know, pursue this career change, was really hard. And I remember walking with my letter of resignation, walking and exit. I never thought they’d let me do three days for them and then two days for something else. So I was walking with my letter of resignation, saying that I’m really sorry, you know, and I have to turn down the full-time position, it’s just not for me. And they were the ones that turned around and offered me this two-day/three-day split to see how I got on with it. And they said I could do it for about 6 months to see how it went which was just brilliant. But, yeah, it was on them that they offered it to me which was really kind.

Sam
That’s fascinating that you had the courage to go and do that. And, probably.. How long did it actually take you to work that up? I mean, what was the time frame from understanding “OK, this is what I wanna do” to actually walk into the office and give them the letter?

Charlotte
It’s quite a long time (laughs). It’s quite a scary thing to do when you studied for four years full-time at university to get a law degree, and work really hard to do to then turn around to yourself and say “Actually I’ve made the wrong choice”. But equally to your family and your friends and the people within that company who have supported you and given you huge opportunity just to turn around and say “I’m really sorry guys, it’s not for me”. But you’ve spent the last three years, you know, backing me and giving me the support. And especially to my parents and family who put me through school and through university to turn around and say “Actually, mom and dad, I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore. I want to go and work in a gym”.

It’s quite hard I think for people to understand why you want to do it. But I think, you know, it’s time to come by they can see that the change you can make to people and, you know, the impact that you can have on people’s lives, and, especially, with the great of triathlon and the importance of nutrition and training within that field, you know, it’s what I love doing. And it makes it a lot easier for people to understand why you’ve done it I think. And people now kind of say you are really lucky with what you do, but, you know, a lot of changes and a lot of hard work is how to go into getting to where you are.
Sam
That’s one of the things that I emphasize in my research, and in triathlon I’m not a coach. I make that clear to everyone I speak to. I’m a recovering triathlete, and I said that joking because it’s such an addictive sport. I think endorphins are the best drug in the world (laughs) but I also am very interested in.. Triathlon to me is a very safe way too, and I’ve talked about this a number of times, it’s very safe way to be courageous. It’s a very safe way to experiment on yourself in something that, well, it seems important when you’re doing it and its stakes aren’t that high compared to life. And, you know, the question I’d like to ask you next is: Without all the running and triathlon and the other stuff, do you think that you would have even ever worked out the courage to quit your job, or did that journey in the sport give you some confidence at other areas of your life, not just in your work, in terms of pursuing what you wanted to do in life which is in general?

Charlotte
Yeah, I know. I think that participating in Endurance sport particularly the longer distance stuff. Some of it is just, say, is mind game, and you’re playing mind games to yourself the whole time and makes you very headstrong in what you want to achieve, say. I’m not one of.. Some people could just go into a gym and do 20 minutes on something and 20 minutes something else, and really enjoy it and get satisfaction from just having some escapism. But I like to have targets and set sessions. Say, for me to go into triathlon and training for each day was structured and I had a goal of what I was to achieve in that session. And I was fortunate to be coached by some pretty good people.

They gave me amazing sessions to do. So they gave you the things to do, you went out and achieved them. You were put back to them with what you’ve done and I think then transferred it into your everyday life and it gives you confidence to go ahead and get things that you thought maybe were impossible. You know, you might get your training for the week and look at it, and you’ve got some horrific intimate sessions that you think that you never ever be able to do. You speak to your coach and they tell you “No, no, of course you can do it”. And then you go out and do it and it makes you believe that you can achieve things that you didn’t think were possible to be achieved, and I think that does transfer, yeah.

Sam
Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve read some books from people outside of the triathlon field. I can’t remember who said it, but it said, you know, if you’re a man and you wanna master life learn how to fight and dance because no man or woman will ever scare you (laughs) if you could do the same. I was lucky because, well I don’t know if call it luck, but I spent some time in the army in military and it was interesting to be through some of those tough experiences and understand that, you know, that there are other things in life, that they could contribute to confidence and work and other things. I’m also not only a recovering triathlete but a recovering army officer (laughs).

So at the end of the day you have to kind of deprogram yourself. But I think that endurance sports give people.. I spoke to Craig Alexander and Mirinda Carfrae about this, and a number of professionals, but it’s nice to hear an age-grouper story of someone who has not made it pro but the benefit of triathlon in your life has allowed you to pursue your passion in life which happens to be related to this sport. And that’s very similar to my story, and I just love hearing about that and want to encourage everyone listening to this that if you have a passion whether it’s in or outside of triathlon, you know, just pursue it and you don’t have to quit your day job right away.

And I think that the strategy that you stumbled upon is a great one, where you go to your boss and you say: “I don’t wanna be doing this for the rest of my life and I’d like to look at something else, and do you wanna help me with that?” And one of the things that I want to accompany and I actually live here now in Poland, and the first thing I do with all of my employees over here is say “What’s the next job you want to have after this one?”, because let’s be honest, in the digital age no one works for the same company for 40 years and retires anymore. So let’s put all our cards out on the table and say “Well, what do you wanna do when you grow up, or what’s the next thing?” And the reason I do that is, and it kind of threw a couple of my employees off, but the reason I do it is I want them to know that, at the end of the day I understand that in this economy and this world there’s so many opportunities that you just need to be realistic about it.

And also you get a little bit more, I think, loyalty and hard work out of the people while they are with you if you are supportive of their long-term ambitions. So I guess I just went on that tangent to say that if you are in the job, and I know tons of triathletes who’re doing triathlon because they are in a stressful job. If you’re in a job and you are in that situation or maybe you wanna to get out of eventually, I would work up the courage like you did, Charlotte, to make that, have that conversation with your boss at some point. And I did it. I did it before I left the army and it was a very tough decision to make and to come to terms with that I was going to live that profession I’ve spent 13 years in and, logically should have kept going until retirement but I just didn’t want to do it. So, I think that’s a great story that people can learn from.

Charlotte
Yeah, it does take some courage to do it I think. I think you have to have a plan of where you’re going to go. Once you decide it’s not for you, you should have definitely a plan where you want to go before you’re taking the action. So that you’ve got somewhere to go straight from where you’re coming from. So I think if you live somewhere where you’ve currently got income and comfort to go to nowhere is a really hard thing. But as long as you’ve got a plan lined up and place then I think, you know, it’s something that you should definitely address.

Sam
Yeah, and I think that’s the other key thing about your lesson is don’t quit your day job too soon (laughs). So in that six months while you were doing your nutrition company was there a moment of doubt that you thought that “Maybe I should go back” and “I didn’t quite do the right thing by going down this path”. Or did you just never look back?

Charlotte
So, initially, when I left work for a chain of gyms over here in the UK and worked for them initially as a fitness coach because obviously I had no qualifications in the field at all when I left my current job having studied law and worked in a city for a few years. So the company that I went to, again, I was very lucky they were very kind and put me through my qualifications of fitness coach, and then personal trainer and then into personal trainer, kind of expert level with sports coaching. So I did that and progressed through the ranks within the gym chain over here. And then about 6 years ago probably I realized that personal training is brilliant and I was loving doing it.

But as time goes by you need more qualifications and you need to increase your knowledge, increase your understanding. So I put myself back through university to do a BSD in Nutrition which I did there for 4 years instead of the three, well I was working full-time as well. That was why I’ve done and from there on I’ve been setting up my nutrition practice working with triathletes and runners, and kind of normal day-to-day nutrition questions as well. But more recently focusing predominantly on triathlon and endurance sports with nutrition which has just been brilliant. But I think the need to continue studying and learning is key in this industry. And you just need to keep upping your game and knowing what’s around.
Sam
Yeah, that’s fascinating that you have this desire to go back to school after having completed law degree, quit that, some would say “throw that away”, but I’m a huge believer that if you’re not doing what you’re passionate about then it’s never too late in life to start pursuing that passion. And nothing that you did in your legal profession or education, I’m sure, is wasted in what you’re doing now in terms of your attention to detail, your ability to research, your ability to just logically come to some conclusions about things that maybe other nutritionists haven’t looked at. So, talk a little bit about how your past training was not wasted in the nutrition and the personal training space. Because it sounds like you’ve been through a bit of a journey and in that field which might have been informed by what you did before.

Charlotte
Yeah, I think it was interesting going back to university for second time obviously I was considerably older than my colleagues in the course. They were still going out and drinking phases of their lives, you tend to do more work a bit and you realize that a four year degree could probably be done in three if there were more lectures, but people are going out a lot of the time.

Sam
Exactly!

Charlotte
You know in terms of time commitments and getting your work done on time, once you’ve been to University, once you’ve done the fun side of it. And get everything done. I think the older you are the more questions you ask and the more confident you are in asking questions. So I think I made much greater use of the lectures and the facilities within the University second time around than I did the first time because I think when you are younger, you think that you should know everything, and if you don’t know everything it shows as a sign of weakness. Rather than when you are older, you can go and appreciate, you just kind of understand everything.

So if you need help, you are more likely to ask and make use of the knowledge of the people around you. I think the same goes for triathlon, for anything you know. People, walk around assuming that they should know everything about the sport, but you turn and you have to go to other people to ask them and there’s people with so much experience out there that you might learn from everyone around you rather than just be afraid of asking questions. Just ask people and as much knowledge as you can who have been in the field for a long time. I think that is one of the key things that you learn by going back to university, just ask questions to gain more knowledge.

Sam
I love that point that you made. Which was “As you get older, you are more confident with the fact that you don’t know everything”, and it’s such a great observation I just like to hit on for second the term Sophomore in College is designed for exactly that phenomenon of someone going off, leaving home and getting the first year of education and all of a sudden they think they are wise, and Sophomore just means wise fool (laughs). And I think true wisdom – I studied History and undergraduate school, at a very good school of the US Military Academy and I think that I’d probably thought that I knew quite a bit and then I went out and experience the world and lived a little bit of the History in the army and realized, “Men, this is really more complex than what they write down.” (laughs)

And you know, being in the guts of the machine and the US Army during the Iraq war and just seeing, knowing my limited perspective from a very complicated situation that I had a much better understanding of anyone else who have not been there than I knew so much, so much less about it than I knew was actually there. And it’s just impossible and everything and when I went back to graduate school to teach History, my second stint was in my early thirties, and I just realized, “ Wow! There’s so much history out there that I just don’t even understand anything.”

At first was a little bit demoralizing and then when you come to grips of the fact that you’re never going to know everything, and actually the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Then you can start a little bit of a fun with it.

What I love working with the greatest triathlon coaches is, there are always the ones like Bobby McGee and Mark Allen, and they’re all the people that just say, “ You know, I barely know anything about the sport, now that I’ve really been at it for a while.” And it takes a while, first come to terms with it then be comfortable admitting that.

Charlotte
Nothing is, it’s just much that you can remember everything in different school of thoughts, when it comes to how to train, how to eat, how to recover and you just have to find what works for you and what works better for the people you are working with, and what you feel you’re comfortable with. As long as the person that you are working with has complete faith and trust in what you’re telling them, in what you believe in then things will work, but there’s always different ways of doing things and if doesn’t work out then there are different ways of doing it.

Sam
It reminds me of that saying in marketing or advertising which I am in, it says “Well, I know half of my ad dollars are being wasted,but I just don’t know which half.” (laughs)

Charlotte
Just carry on.

Sam
It’s like a coach, I know half of the things I’ve done here are going to be wrong, when we figure out the best way to do it, but just go with it and we’ll see how it goes, right?

Charlotte
Yeah, I know it’s about right!

Sam
Well you’re in the field where that’s really been I think born out recently which is nutrition,so lets take into that a little bit. i mean you remember the great food pyramid that The United States Drug Administration published which many people now blame for creating an epidemic of unbalanced diet and some obesity in America. I think the reason why I love this topic and want to dive into with you is nutrition is such a huge part of the sport and why triathletes get into the sport in the first place. A lot of them have body image issues and complicated relationship with food and I used to joke, and I’ll be totally honest about this. I love triathlon because, it was the first time since my late teens – early twenties where I could eat like a fat kid and get away with it. (laughs)

There was nothing like that, awesome ride and you just get out and, well my body needs calories and I’ just going to pick whatever calories are out there and strike my fancy that I haven’t had the courage to eat since my metabolism slowed down a little bit after I started getting more mature metabolically I guess. So, I think everyone at that point where they’ve all experienced that relationship with food change and when you join triathlon.

And then there’s other triathletes, I think who are very very concerned about their nutrition and triathlon is augmenting with healthy clean eating lifestyle and they really want to get the race day nutrition part of it drill down, but also just looking at their overall nutrition in terms of body composition management the whole season and we would just like to optimize that. I think people are in a whole spectrum of the nutrition curve.Will you just talk a little bit about of what you observed and what motivates triathletes relating to food, that will be a great starting point for this.

Charlotte
I think, one of the first point you made is one of the common thought is that, when you said that you’ve worked with some pretty triathletes, oh my god they so lucky they must be able to eat whatever they want, they burn up so many calories but they don’t, they don’t eat whatever they want. And they don’t see food as kind of a reward for what exercise they’ve done, they see it more a fuel to power, to power their performance and basically just do the job and earn the money they need to do. So food for them is a kind of a key ingredient and part of their day to day performance, whereas you say some people would go out biking for three to four hours and come back, “oh man i’ve done so much, I can eat whatever I want and I’ll pick up the sweetest, biggest dinner or whatever there is that is available.”

I think what you are saying about is the first time a fat kid and maintain your weight is true, because suddenly you’ve gone maybe from being or doing a little of exercise, a little bit of running, a little bit of biking, and suddenly embracing swimming, biking, running probably some cool work, maybe some resistance work, and your training aids probably gone up 3 – 4 forward from what it was before. Your caloric expenditure will have gone up and even if you reigning your ET a little bit you’re going to create a negative energy balance, so you would be burning more calories than you’re consuming and your weight would change – your body composition would change, your body fat would reduce and you start to feel better, metabolism will increase slightly, you will become more efficient calorie burner.

You do have that window to be able to eat some of the things that maybe were considered not so healthy before. But I think the thing that you’ve got to look at is what food is it that you want to refuel on, if you want to refuel on lets say not so healthy foods and enjoy them then that’s fine, but it’s not going to give you the best performance going forward, whereas if you think more curiously what you have pace training session or during your sessions and on the days when you are resting, than looking at the fuel rather than a reward from what you’ve done then it’s going to make a big great impact on your performance for the next session, the following session, through the following weeks, months, and then ultimately your races that you’re targeting.

So I think the way you view it, is the key factor whether you view it as a reward as you do triathlon to enable yourself to eat more or whether you eat to enable yourself to perform better and the other kinds of 2 camps that you’re speaking about is interesting but some people fall into one, and some fall into the other, but the difference between which can fall into will impact your performance.
Sam
That’s a great point, and I think there’s people who eat to live, then there’s people who live to eat, and I’m wondering is that a personality trait or a type that you always stuck with or is that something that you can change?

Charlotte
I think it’s probably an underlying personality trait and some people may think that food is a reward, or maybe it’s the way they were brought up, somewhere when they did something well when they were a child they were given food as a reward, but I think you change the way the people see food, and they way that they view it. For example, I worked with some guys before who would have pretty shocking diet, they do triathlon, they lose some weight they feel better so they continue not eating very well, and you sit down with the and you’ve got iron man coming up if you fix on your food then maybe you will have a better race, can we just try it? Then it will take, I always say kind of 3 months time frame to give something a test, so should we try it for 3 months and see if it make a difference. And so they try it, then they start to perform better, so then they start to think more about their food is way they can improve their performance rather than a reward but ultimately I think the food is their reward and always be there but if you change the way they see it, then it would definitely help improve their performance in the meantime.

Sam
Yes, it is interesting that you talk about that, and I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture but I do know that for me, when I was growing up – I was in the family of five and we would literally fight for some of the food on the table and it wasn’t like a fist fight or dramatic but it was. Mom would cook this amount of food and then there’s this amount of potatoes circled around and they’re rolled out based on your age, and my dad would always make sure he had his part and it was pretty interesting that, I think that those early years – and my father actually he is English and he grew up in Potsworth, Britain, right after world war 2. He was growing up and chocolates were rushing, so to this day he loves his chocolates.

Charlotte
And hides it away?

Sam
He hides it from my mom and it’s a big issue. I think some of this things can be traced back really early. I was wondering, do you dive into that with your clients about some of the sources of their relationships with their foods and how they use it to get through life or to enjoy life?

Charlotte
I do to some extent. I think some people you can talk more openly and more freely with that about another some very close and don’t really want to discuss and things like that and you can gather a picture or gain a picture yourself from talking to them about how they talk about food rather than talking to them directly about how they experience things in the past and some people will be more open about what they eat and why they have certain things at certain times of day. You can see a major attachments to food in a lot of people whether it be positive or negative.

And I think that’s something there is key some people can make changes but ultimately they’re underlying beliefs and emotional attachments to foods will remain and more you can tap in or can make people aware either directly or indirectly be aware of them and trying to steal away from it is a key thing to help people to make changes. People have really strong beliefs about foods because its such an important thing of the day to day life, the attachment to it is so great sometimes takes a long time to change, and for some people I think it’s quite painful and transition to make the change.

Sam
Yeah, it’s one of the things and I was actually talking to you about this before, I did triathlon at a very I will call it interesting period of my life and then recently and in the last few years a number of events happened that took me out of the sport. The first one I was getting ready to leave the army and starting a business and all kind of different things were going on and after I left the army I had a number of stressful things happen to me a couple years ago and as I was leaving the army. It seems like everything in my life was changing at once – relationship I break up that time. Actually I was engaged and to be married and broke that off and then also my little brother passed away right before I got out of the army and it was a incredibly stressful time. I remember specifically that during that period I was using food as a medication where some people I think may have opposite reaction when they stop eating. My stress reaction to food – my reaction stress to eat more and so that actually has gotten me a bit out of shape, and I’ve been traveling and doing other things and the other thing I found while I was traveling all over the world was how hard it was to maintain a consisting diet one of the reasons I stopped traveling because I wanted a routine and consistency.

And then the period before I got into triathlon where I had some weight gain periods was actually when I was in the army I was a commander of some soldiers in Iraq, and the U.S. army was the best fed army in the history in Iraq because we had great supplies system and they want to keep the soldiers that are far away from home and I actually gained weight even though I was working all the time. It was fascinating to me to watch the heaven flow through my life of relationship with food. I actually asked you before the podcast beside Siri to the camp was, you know I’ve never a had a nutrition coach and I am about to start because I think that it’s a great – not only to learn but I think more importantly, and I tell this people when they’re considering business coaching.

And triathlon coaching is you’re really paying to hold yourself accountable, and that coach is just there, the better you have the relationship with that coach the better results you have, but even you payed your mom to coach in triathlon or nutrition really payed her and not just say you’re going to, you’re going to get results because you value what you pay for in life and if you get someone like you who really knows what they’re doing – you can have I mean not just the accountability but actually advice that will give you that edge really falls you forward in that pursuit that you’re after.

Charlotte
I think you’re right, getting someone aboard to help you is one of the key things in accountability factor which you mentioned is something that whether it be in nutrition or training or personal training is one of the things is one of the key indicators of people staying with the plan or not. The fact that they have to report in and say what they’ve done and maybe the embarrassing factor is saying I haven’t done at all what they have eaten is one of things that really gets people back on track again.

And it is just to increases self awareness, because if you’re writing down every time you eat something. So when I start the phrases I start to get back a little bit, when I start the phrases with someone, I get a part of where they are now and medical and what they want to achieve in relation to triathlon. What they experience in races before and what races they got worked for them and what has not worked for them. I think that just by writing it down and going through it in your mind, it makes you aware of the things that work for you and the things that don’t work for you.

From that point on I ask people to keep a 3- 5 day food diary and ask them the key thing they must take it with the and write down the time of eating, the thing that they’re eating take the details as that they can. And I think the fact that having to write down maybe 1 o’clock you had a chicken sandwich for lunch, and then at 2 o’clock you’re having something else and in 3 o’clock, and when you get to 4 o’clock you’re writing down something else I mean you’re eating at 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock which may be you might have done completely absent mindedly in the past, suddenly you’re being aware of the things that you doing and making yourself accountable for times and the things you’re eating at that point in time. I think it’s a good way of identifying one of the reasons why people – are they bored or it’s just habit or did they walk passed in the same shop everyday at the same time and they can’t not go in there and it just makes you aware of the patterns and the things that you are doing, accountability for yourself and having someone look at it is one of the key things to success.
Sam
Yeah. It’s fascinating that you mentioned that, because you actually had me doing that this past week and it took me a while to actually get around with it, and one of the reasons was I wanted to wait until I was getting a little bit better (laughs). And then I started it and I just went through one of the most – we’re rebuilding the entire Triathlon Research website right now and I’ve got some new coders on board, and designers and then we’ve got this at the time of recording you’ll get this after it’s been out and we’re about to introduce some exciting issues with Craig Alexander and the Sansego Coaching Group, and I was just like so embarrassed, I’m like you know i might get in trouble but I guess you just explained to me the point which is to give yourself that accountability which is I guess even you just don’t want to admit it where you’re at and that’s one of the interesting part of it, but I guess I’ll do my homework now.

Charlotte
Yeah, you have to do your homework and write it down at the time that you need to.

Sam
Exactly! Well that’s great. We should build you and app for this and I think you and I were talking about this and one of the obstacles to triathletes are they’re so incredibly busy. The projects I’m working on right now is thinking of some apps, not just for the iphone but maybe potentially for the Iwatch, and I think a great idea would be is to take a food diary app for triathletes where you could photograph your food, put it in there and mark the time, and restaurant. It would be a cool tool for people like you do.

Charlotte
That would be really cool! Lets do it. I think you’ve got a notes page on your phone or of if you got a piece of paper or wherever you’re recording your food on, you can just make a note on your phone and then transfer it at the end of the day, but if you forget to write things down when you’re eating – it’s the active writing once you’re eating it I won’t able to do so they don’t forget. Because if you forget a biscuit here in the morning, and maybe a hand full of nuts in the afternoon, then something else, it all adds up and makes a difference in every results. So writing down everything at the time is the key. If we had an app that we could use – that people could either photograph their food or just literally input what they’re having base around their training and everything would be a really cool tool to make. It makes it much more accessible to people to be able to do it, and be more accurate because they do it at the time.

Sam
I have to put that in development calendar here.

Charlotte
To do list!

Sam
Exactly! I am fascinated by- on our charter here is research what are the best coaches and athletes in the world doing and then how do you translate that for the athletes out there who want to emulate that, and I think you just gave me a great idea, that is why I love these podcasts – to get ideas.

Charlotte
I think just going forward to the food diary, you are talking about what the best people do and how you can improve what you do, I think coming from the food diary, once you done it eating to making really good changes to your food is preparation and being aware of what’s around you and where you’re living and what you can buy, and what you can make to make it readily available so you don’t get to the point where – a day to day life where you get really hungry and you just go grab something that’s available or when you are going to races is that you’ve got no plan and you don’t know where you’re staying, or you don’t know what’s available at the hotel and you’ve got your big race the next day. So preparation is the next thing I think people have to look at, so they look at their accountability and their awareness, and moving forward they look at their preparation, how they can make themselves be the best that they can be in what they’re trying to achieve.

Sam
I think you just brought up a great point about having a plan and when people make mistakes in life – always in my life that I’ve been in whether it’s military or triathlon or just business, it’s always good to start with a plan. Everything changes because of life and circumstance but at least you have something to deviate from rather than just an open book or you just wake up and say, “I’m just going to do whatever I think I need to do today.”

I think that that for me is really interesting, also another good thing to put in the app is some prompts about, “Heres the plan.” (laughs)

Charlotte
Yeah! There was a great article written just shortly after Kona, Sebastian Keena and they were talking to him about nutrition and preparation and how he plans and prepares everything, and he kind of go to the extremes of looking what supermarkets where available around the hotel where he’s staying or the apartment where he’s staying so he could plan what he’s going to eat the night before, what he is going to eat in the morning, the brands that would be there and what he likes, and he was talking about his preparation for the races, and how he catch his biscuits into 5 pieces in his bites into 6 pieces and keeps them in the wrappers, and the preparation for his nutrition during the race, and before and after. So precise and so well monitored by, that is why he gets the success that he gets, he’s just ready for everything. And he kind of looks at every possibility that could happen and tries to eliminate the rest of things going wrong. And preparation for that is the key to make sure that the things that you need are readily available and ready for you when you get there.

Sam
Yeah. I think Charlotte that’s a great thing that you brought up. As I understand you not only help people on their overall nutrition plan and their body mass composition, but tell me a little bit about why Siri brought you on board in the last year to work with her and some of her athletes and her squad, because what Siri told me and the reason why she wanted you in the camp is specifically to focus on in take pre and post training. So talk about why Siri trust you to do all that, and why that’s such an important part of the value that you bring to your athletes and especially the pros that you’re working on?

Charlotte
My week to meeting Siri was interesting. I was based in the UK and Siri in Boulder for Mays of the year, but one of my good friend over here is one of Siri’s training partners when they were racing together and being coached by Brett Sutton, and Annie Amazon who’s my friend over here said, “Oh my friend Siri is coming over here from the states, and we are going to go out for lunch.” and I said, “Annie can I come?, I’d love to meet Siri.” then she said, “Of course you can, of course you can!.” We arranged together for lunch and we were sitting down the three of us having lunch, and we were talking about some recent races that just have just gone and talking about nutrition that some athletes had followed during the race. And I say, “You need to do this, you need few more to be prepared, they need to think about this and this.” And she was like, “Charlotte? Do you like to come work for my team?” And I was thinking, “Yeah! Of course. I’d love too.” So it kind of went from there and we were speaking and emailing and it went from there.

But the key thing that we were talking about at that lunch was making sure that you have a plan to follow primarily in the race is what we were talking about. And at that time having kind of set things that you’re going to eat to set times and all planned and prepared so that when you go to the race, it’s not really something that you have to think about, it’s something that second nature because you have done it over and over again.

And interesting I was reading a study the other day where they took 2 groups of runners that were training for marathon, and they set them all for 10K and timed them, kind of predicted whether it would be for their marathon, and one group was giving nutrition training and they were told what to eat, when to eat, what to drink, when to drink during the races, and the other group was told just to eat and drink during the race as they normally did. And the group with the A plan prepared and practice and strategy run averaged 4.7% faster than the group who kind of ate and drank as they pleased during their race. It kind of traced their planning and preparation can have a huge impact with your outcome.

Siri put me on to do that with some of her athletes, and look at what they were eating day to day because, clearly to achieve the results that has quite achieved, they have to train a lot and they got to recover from the sessions that they do to be able to put out their performance on race day. So what they eat before and after their sessions is key to ensure they got the energy to be able to do the next session well. And also always on race day to know what they’re doing and how they can do it without thinking about it on the day, so that they can concentrate on the race in hand. And so what I have been doing with some of them, and some of her age-groupers is we practice the stuff that they’re going to do on race day, and their key sessions during the week, and if they got a B-race follow up A-race we do a mock around of what they do on the A-race, and work on that and getting that done. So that on the day that they are going to the race, they’re packing they just got a list, right at this time you do this, this time you do this, this and this. And list of everything they need to take with them, something less of what they need to think about when their packing and have all these gestures of media in race preparation.
Sam
Yeah and I think the thing that you – and one of things we’re really researching and getting deep in right now is the habits of nutrition and triathlon in general it prose – they don’t train 80 hours a week I mean they have limits right? They makes those 30 to 40 hours a week that they train so incredibly efficient because their nutrition is dialed in before every workout and after every workout and they understand what’s going on so, I think that what people are experiencing in nutrition and I myself in this category is a just lack of a plan and based on that plan the proper habits developed, and if you could walk me through the pre and post race rules or general guidelines that you use with your athletes just specific habits or someone listening to the show I wanted to just implement couple of habits around their nutrition. What would you tell them to do pre and post race very specifically?

Charlotte
I think the pre – race is one of the key things to really think about and there’s something that again the preparation is key, you’ve got to test out what you’re going to do in the races before. Some people can eat quite a lot and the evening before some people can not eat so much, some people find if that they eat too much the night before they really suffer the next day, so it’s very very individual and trying out for each person what works best for them.

From myself in the past, I wish I had to set dinner I had prepare for my dinner the night before my races it should be kind good quality source of protein like a lean steak with some potatoes and some sweet potatoes, and for some reason I’ll have a little bit of ice cream which from textbook, there is something that I found that always work for me. So different people respond really well to different things. Some people waste and have the same meal every time before they race and make that a set routine and find out it works for them and stick to it because they know it’s successful for them, but I would say keeping it kind of quite plain, quite simpler days they leading out to race. If you traveling abroad make sure you don’t try to test out new foods for available not just because they look nice and they look different and anyone who try something new because you’re on holiday, you know stick to the things you know that will work well for you obviously is what was you need and a good source of carbohydrates to give you the energy for the race and some protein as well, but it’s working out what works well for you leading up to what probably be the biggest and toughest days that you’re facing, especially if you are doing an Ironman, you need your nutrition to be on point before you start.

Sam
Yeah, definitely! So let’s talk a little bit more about weight control because if – and I think that a great advice for people it just really understand what pre and post race nutrition and you actually if I’m hearing you right, you have to kind of figure out what you’re own best strategy is but pre-workout or pre-race. People are going to have to fuel up. Is there a specific 1 or 2 hours before or caloric make up or caloric quantity that you generally give people for guidelines?

Charlotte
People respond quite differently especially if you’re talking about the morning of the race. Some people can eat really close to the race start and some people just really really can’t, some people find they can eat 45 minutes before a race and then they start racing they finally experience feelings of a low blood sugar really soon into the race so you have to find out what works to each person pre-race, but before something like and I recommend someone have high carbohydrate breakfast about 2 to 3 hours before the race and maybe some protein, but also they make sure they take some snacks for them to have kind of hour 45 minutes before the race depending on what they tried and what works for them when they tow the start line, their energy level is top top best they can possibly be because obviously especially an Ironman for the swim is quite considered with a chunk of time, they are racing for initially so you need to have the fuel to be able to get you through the initial phase before you come out onto the bike. And then again once you come out onto the bike the first come 30 minutes on the bike where you’ve been in the water and you and your bike obviously your body position changes, you see you could be really very careful with the volume of food that you can take come with the first 30 minutes and it should be minimal amount of food, so making sure that you’ve got enough energy before you start is the key factor before the race itself.

Sam
Yeah, it’s I think really interesting post workout when someone’s on a training session. What’s the rule? I’ve heard different things, within 30 minutes you need to get a high volume of carbohydrates into your body to replenish glycogen stores. What do you generally advice or is it different for every athlete in that respect?

Charlotte
I think historically people have always thought that straight after session you need to just get protein and the majority of gym especially over here in the UK. A lot of the delicatessen or the cafe’s or the gyms sell just pure protein shakes. I think more recently you the thought has been that you need both protein and carbohydrates within the 30 to 60 minute window straight after training and generally around the region about 20 grams of protein is kind of ideal in take immediately per session but more more. Now it’s coming forward that can combine some carbohydrates to top up your glycogen immediately per session. So, I think the initial old school protein thoughts are being shifted more to just getting a good balance immediately per session, especially if you’re looking at triathletes you got another session possibly later in the day with energy levels remain top they can repair and recover from the 1st session and be ready to attack the 2nd session and get started if they can.

Sam
OK great! I think that’s great and I think you just kind of reinforce something we talked about at the beginning which was, there are principles but you’re hard and fast rule and I think you’ve refused to give rightly because you coached people as it depends on you and how you respond to different food fuel sources and fats and carbohydrates and protein, I think everyone reacts a little bit differently on their mix..

Charlotte
Yeah I think everyone responds very differently we’ve got a group of 5 guys that were here training for marathons and tomorrow they got their 20 mile run, a big long run in the morning, and it’s interesting to watch the ways they all respond when they come back because they all got their felling plans, they have their breakfast in the morning, they hit their jaws out when they’re running. When they come back and one of them will sit there and be able to eat which is a great example we could have per session you got your carbohydrates and your protein coming in, and with some water and probably a coffee you have, whereas another one will sit there and will let you just be able to take sips of coffee because they feel so unwell, take same miles and immediately post training that they just can’t eat that time since working out, what works for each person and trying to get the person that can’t eat so much the things they may have onto stomach churning or they think that they could tolerate. Whereas the other guy consider quite happily and eat a big meal that will be ideal.

As you say, it’s so individual working out what each person 1st come through with but I think as long you can find that, and that’s why working with someone close is a really good way of doing it and as we came back to where we started from the food diary and reporting it in each day with the times and the exact details that you’ve eaten enables you to see patterns of what people can’t tolerate, what people can tolerate. So when doing the food diary and people are training a lot, I always get to write down how they feel and how they feel they have kind tolerated the food or reacted to the food during and per session, then you can get picture of what works and then from that you can create your plan of what works for them going forward.
Sam
And that’s something that we decided to do as a body analysis, using weight and body fat and we’re going to give that to you as well as their general food diary and food patterns. You can sit down with every athlete and do 20 minutes individual consultation to discuss their needs and questions and really help people get start in personalizing their nutrition planning, because there’s so many diet books out there and there’s so many different pieces of advice flying around and nutrition is one of the things that everyone does, and everyone knows something about, and then no one really knows the hard and fast rules. I think what I’m hearing you say is, you have to figure out with an expert if you can or at least experiment on yourself and be informed in your education, what’s working for you just observe measure and react based on the way that you respond to different applications of nutrition in your training and then your racing, is that what I’m hearing?

Charlotte
Yeah, I think that you’ve said is right. The theories are out there and you’ve got loads of stuff in numerous books saying different things, that you should have 60 grams of carbohydrates or when you’re racing or a gram. The kilogram of body weight of carbohydrates per hour when you’re racing and you might look at it and think, “How on earth I can achieve that?” Whereas if you look at the content of the different foods, staff that you can have like the gels and the energy blocks, you realize that you can actually achieve that much. And if you try it people fear that they’re going to GI issues or stomach upsets whilst their training, but it’s like everything if you look at marathon and you think, “Oh! I could never ever run that far.” But you don’t stop turning the marathon by running a marathon. You start doing a 5k, 10k half marathon including up. And the same applies to nutrition, you can read that theory and look at the end goal of maybe achieving a gram or kilo gram of body weight of carbohydrate when you’re looking at longer races with 60 grams per hour. The two different kinds of theories and maybe start at 30 grams per hour and 40 grams an hour, or 50 grams an hour so you build up until you can tolerate the high level. But I think people can tolerate more when they’re racing than they believe that they can.

And also I think the other thing that we kind of touch on in the past is, the people coming to the sport to lose weight or to achieve body composition goals and therefore they maybe reluctant to fuel whilst their training or to fuel for their sessions because they see it as a negative thing, because they’re training to loss weight. So, why would I want to fuel during the sessions, when putting calories in when I want to be burning a load of them? So I think it’s talking about things goes and the reasons why fuelling during you sessions will ultimately help you achieve your weight loss goals and will help you improve your performance. So overcoming all these hurdles and obstacles that people put in their way or in their minds and kind of dispersing maybe some of the myths that people have, so that they can go home with a plan that they can put together and happily achieve their triathlon goals with obviously the help of everyone else in the camp, it should be amazing.

Sam
Yeah and thank you Charlotte for providing us summary and just for being a trailblazer in the field of nutrition of triathlon, because there’s just not a lot of people out there doing it and certainly not at your level. Which is why, if Siri has picked you to do nutrition for her team, then I know that you’re in the top class in this field and I just want to encourage you to be a leader in that field, and I appreciate you to coming over and getting more involved with us in the United State in our Boulder Camp.

Charlotte
Oh I can’t wait, that would be brilliant!

Sam
Yes! And everyone will listen to you just a little bit more because the accent. I know my dad is English and I like to joke that he got a much better reception. He should be in America because he has a cool accent so.

Charlotte
Yeah!

Sam
The Queen is English. There’s something about it. Well Thank you Charlotte and just on behalf of the triathlon Research Listener, I’d like to thank you for sharing with us your insight and wisdom along the topic of food which no one ever talks about. But it’s the big thing that I think anyone in triathlon struggles with, and maybe we could talk about it more and thank you for opening up back conversation. And finally thank you Triathlon Research Listener for taking another hour to invest in your own education and I hope this was helpful for you, and looking forward on having you on the next podcast. If you enjoy today’s podcast I encourage you to leave a review on iTunes and tell us want you liked and what you want to hear, and also I would like to encourage you to – if you’re interested in working with Charlotte, she will be at the Boulder Camp with Mirinda Carfrae and we do have some few spot available for that camp. If you want to go to the triathlonresearch.org, you can find out about the Boulder Camp and our other events coming up which I think you’ll get a lot out of if you’re able to join us for that. Thanks again for being a part of the community and for pursuing your dreams in triathlon, and look forward to hearing from you and also look forward to having you listen to our next episode with that, this is Sam Cook the founder of the triathlon research with Charlotte Saunders and that a wrap for today, so go train.

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