Fuel for Thought – Nutrition and Studying, By Alice Kemp for The Athletes Kitchen

photo from Pixabay

photo from Pixabay


It’s that time of semester, when  thirteen weeks of university all comes down to two to three weeks of final exams, major assessments and a whole lot of stress. With all-nighters, 60% final assessments and exam timetable from hell, nutrition is probably the last thing on your mind. While you may currently be surviving on mixture of coffee, fast food and chocolate, a lot of these convenient foods are high in fat, sugar and caffeine which can leave you feeling sluggish and jittery. Fuelling your body with more nutritious foods while studying can help you feel more alert and sustain you throughout the entire day. Here are some foods to focus on to help you stay focused and alert while studying:

Fruits and Vegetables - Your mum was right, fruits and vegetables are good for you. They provide us with array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that nourish your body and fibre which helps you stay fuller for longer. They are also very budget friendly and easy to prepare. Apples and bananas make great snacks on the go, while berries and grapes are good option to have on your desk if you like to eat while you study. Need a more filling snack? Dip celery, capsicum and carrots in some hummus or try roasted chickpeas, both options are tasty and super filling.

Wholegrain Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates are a really important macronutrient as the provide our bodies with glucose, which is the main fuel source for our muscles and our brains. In order to focus and concentrate, our brains need a steady supply of glucose which wholegrain and low GI carbohydrates provide. Try having a serve of wholegrain carbohydrates at main meals to keep you fuelled throughout the day. Some good options to have include oats, wholegrain bread, brown rice, quinoa or wholemeal pasta. Most supermarkets sell single serve microwaveable options which are affordable and easy for busy students.

Protein – Now it’s not just the body builders that need protein.  Protein is an important macronutrient for our muscles and it also helps keep us full after we eat. Including some protein at meals can help prevent snacking and keep you sustained while you study. Some easy and convenient protein rich snacks include tins of tuna, nuts and seeds, hard boiled eggs, baked beans and yoghurt. Making a sandwich or combining some of these options with some wholegrain carbohydrates and some vegetables is an easy option for more substantial snack or a meal.

Water – It is super important to stay hydrated while studying. Studies have shown that dehydration can significantly impact concertation and cause headaches which can leave you feeling tired and irritable. Be mindful that caffeine rich drinks like tea, coffee and energy drinks can worsen dehydration as they act as mild diuretics. Aim to drink 1.5-2L per day. Having a water bottle on your desk while studying is a great way to increase your water intake through the day.

The end of semester is an intense and stressful time for many students. While fuelling your body adequately will help you study more effectively it is also important that you are getting adequate sleep and exercise. Adequate sleep is essential as it helps your brain store the information you’ve spent all day learning while also helping us feel renewed, alert and focused. Exercise is also important during study as it is great stress reliever that helps clear your mind and makes you feel better thanks to the endorphins it produces. Breaking up your study session with exercise can be an awesome way to relieve stress and stretch out those cramped shoulders!

Now it time to stop procrastinating by reading this article and put some of these tips into practice while you study. Good Luck!!

Open water swimming by Sam Lewis

Our Accredited Sports Dietitian, Sam Lewis, grew up as a swimmer, and competed at both a state and national level. In her final years as a swimmer, she came to love open water swimming, and medalled at both state and national championships. These days, due to previous injuries, Sam tends to keep active in dry environments, however enjoys a monthly swimming session, and a yearly open water swim.

Summer is just around the corner, and in practice, I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of swimmers training for an open water event. I have to say, as an ex-swimmer myself, there is nothing that excites me more, than observing this trend. While there is so much to love about open water swimming, at the very least, it is social (not while you’re underwater though, of course), allows you to enjoy training outdoors, is exceptional for your fitness, and demands a whole new set of athletic skills.

What sets this sport apart, however, are the complexities involved with fuelling and hydrating the body. As an endurance event, nutritional intake is a critical factor, and similar to running, walking, and cycling, open water swimming requires the execution of a specific nutrition plan… though while in the water. The practicalities of fuelling and hydrating during an event of this nature require specific planning and consideration, so in my experience, both as a sports dietitian, and an ex-open water swimmer myself, here are some pointers which may prove useful:

-       As a starting point, it is a good idea to have a nutrition plan for your event, particularly if your swim will be longer than 90 minutes.

-       Events shorter than 60 minutes are less likely to require nutrition support, while events lasting 60-90minutes may require a quick top-up of fuel and/or fluid.

-       The process of ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’ while swimming can be difficult, so your nutrition plan should include strategies for carrying/storing food and drink as well as practical approaches to consuming these.

-       Try EVERYTHING in your nutrition plan in a training swim prior to your event. On race day, there is nothing worse than taking in a big gulp of ocean water with your much more palatable, prior planned fluids!

-       In the week/days leading up to your event, strategize food storage options! I have found that some good storage locations are down the top of your swimmers (secured by a ‘cozzie’ strap), and tucked into the leg of your swimmers!! Depending on what you’re carrying, tucked into your cap can also work!

-       In terms of what you will be carrying with you, I’ve found that sports gels, and small sports bars tend to work best. They are small, can be squashed, and are easy to open! If you have a support crew following you, bananas, cereal bars, and even small pieces of a honey sandwich can also work well.

-       Fluids can be tricky during longer events. If you have a support crew alongside you, water and sports drinks can be kept with them for you to sip on regularly. Aim for a few hundred millilitres every 20-30 mins if possible. If your event is slightly shorter in nature (i.e. less than 60 minutes), aim to start your event well hydrated, and re-hydrate ASAP post-event.

-       What about actually consuming these? In my experience, flipping onto your back and kicking for a short distance is easy enough and still keeps you moving forward!

-       Above all, have fun and don’t be afraid to try new things (first during training, though!!).

So, leading into your next open water swim, what can you do to support improvements in performance? While these strategies may seem simple and easy to execute, it is a good idea to work with an Accredited Sports Dietitian to devise a plan that’s suitable and tailored to you. As with any scenario, individual requirements will vary, and thus, finding your individual solution is important.

Happy swimming!

Sam is available for appointments as The Sports Clinic at Syndney University and at SESMO in Double Bay. Check our locations page for details.


OXFAM Trailwalker Sydney- Part 2

“We’re not in Kansas anymore” Team 249

Part 2

Written by Rebecca Hay

So there we are......crossing the finish like 30hours and 37min after we started (it says 31 hours in the photo...but we were in the 2nd start wave, which was one hour after the first wave left). It was a long, long walk. As a Sports Dietitian and a veteran of many endurance events, like Ironman triathlons and 3 Peaks Cycling Challenges, I figured I had the nutrition portion pretty much under control. Well planned with amount of energy needed calculated and packed neatly into my snap lock bags for each of the 8 sections. What I was not prepared for was what my appetite would do after that 12-13hour mark, and how I would respond to being sleep deprived and just so ridiculously tired. For the first 20hours I was pretty happy with the food selection....but beyond that I was getting fussy and tired and a bit sick of everything I had laid out in front of me in by food box and in my food bags I put in my pack. There are things I would do differently with the experience gained from completing this event.

We would not have been able to do this event without help from our very generous support crews. We had help from our colleague Stuart for the first half, and my husband Steve for the second half of the walk. Along the way there were more work colleagues, friends, parents, wives and children coming along to cheer us on at aid stations. This had such a positive effect on us - it just "lightened" the whole mood.

In our training walks we tested all our equipment. This included everything from bags, shoes, poles, socks, head lamps and clothing to what pain killers and band-aids and blister blockers we were going to need. I had a test run with taping my feet to prevent blisters by a colleague who is a podiatrist (Thanks Joel Urban). I have to say the taping really saved my feet!  I did end up with a few blisters on parts of my feet that were not taped. Sadly I think this may just come with being on your feet for 30+ hours.

We had pre prepared some simple meals to be consumed at each of the checkpoints that support crew were permitted. A selection of items in each bag were: crushed potato crisps, Promite sandwiches, Cliff blocks, Cliff bars and Scratch sports drink powder and SHOTZ electrolyte tablets.

Our pre prepared meals included - fried rice, a pasta with tomato based sauce with some grated cheese, and savory bread cakes (recipe from The Feed Zone Portables). We also had 2 minute noodles in our food boxes and had fresh fruit salad at the last 2 checkpoints. Emergency cans of coke were also in my food box and I carried a small can in my pack as well....because you never know when you are going to need one!

Lesson 1: Don't get dehydrated.

Know how much you should be drinking each hour while walking in a variety of temperatures. Simple way to measure this is to do some pre and post body weight measures on shorter walks.  Have a variety of fluids on offer. I used sports drink and electrolyte drink and water. One of our team members became quite dehydrated by ~65-70km mark. The feelings of nausea and dizziness got the better of him at the checkpoint at Frenches Forrest and he was close to withdrawing. With a pretty impressive display of will power he worked to bring himself out of this really dark hole. Our stop at the aid station was longer than planned but I am so pleased we took the time to allow for enough fluid, salt and some energy to be consumed by our team mate to recover from this. Small sips of fluid, a little salt, and food only when the nausea had passed.

Lesson 2: Keep eating. Don't stop eating.

We all knew this. Me better than most. But there does come a point where what your body needs and what it wants are completely at odds. This hit me at around the 80km mark. I knew I was not eating enough as I had got lazy with my food - I was a bit sick of what I had on offer even though I had on hand food in a variety of flavours and forms. I was just sick of what was there. My feet were also cramping and I could feel the every growing blisters getting worse with every step on my heels and toes. This was about 24hours in. I just had to stop and sit. I could hear one of my team mates calling my name and asking if I was OK. All I could think to do was grab my "emergency coke can" and drink it. I called back to her that I was "just having a coke!". I could hear her have bit of a chuckle at this. This helped me catch up to her where I immediately dissolved into tears as I knocked my glasses off my head. Ah the joys of fatigue and a food flat!

Lesson 3: More fresh, plain food at aid stations.

I think my favorite food over the whole walk was plain brioche rolls with butter.  Stu, our support crew for the first part of the walk, had bought for us at the Bobbin Head checkpoint (around 42km in). It was so nice to bite into these fresh soft rolls. They were easy to chew and just plain - just what was needed.

The savory bread cakes were also a winner at Checkpoint 6 (just over 80km in and just after my food flat). By this time my husband Steve had taken over head support crew duties. He heated a couple of bread cakes up for me on the camp stove. The fresh fruit salad that Danni's mum had prepared was also a winner at this point too.  I enjoyed this at the final aid station as well - just wanted simple and refreshing food by that stage.

The pasta and rice were great at the overnight stops. The pastawas hard to heat up and avoid it becoming a sticky ball of pasta, cheese and tomato. On reflection keeping the pasta and sauce separate and mixing these just before eating would have made a more palatable and easier to eat option.  The fried rice was great!

I think we all had different requirements and desires for foods at different times - which was a challenge for our support crew. There was not a lot of clear communication from us, the walkers, about what we felt like. The more fatigued we became the less decisive we were about what we felt like eating. Having a number of options available for small meals, particularly at the latter aid stations, would be a better approach. Given we were snacking along the way the volume of food consumed at the stops did not need to be large - just fresh and different to what we were carrying in our packs. And variety, and simple.

Lesson 4: Instant coffee is not as bad as I remember.

There was "real coffee" available at a number of the checkpoints. I am not sure my stomach could have coped with that much caffeine or even that much milk in one hit. A good old instant coffee with a dash of milk was just perfect at midnight! Perhaps the most important word here is INSTANT.

Lesson 5: Never Again

Well that is what I said when I crossed the finish line ..... I have softened a bit on that stance. Stay tuned for 2017.

We would also like to thank all everyone who so generously donated to our team for this event. We reached 125% of our fund raising target. Thank you!

OXFAM Trailwalker Sydney - Part 1

“We’re not in Kansas anymore” Team 249

Part 1

Written by Rebecca Hay

It has taken me close to weeks to have the energy to think and write about my experiences in OXFAM Trailwalker.  As our team crossed the finish line I did say that this was a one time only event for me. Never again!

It took 2-3 days after this event till I really felt like walking any further than from my bed to the bathroom, kitchen or couch. I think I have recovered pretty well – a few blisters, a couple of pretty black toe nails and knees that are still at times angry at having walked for 30 hours non stop.

This event that started on early on 19th of August for our team “We’re not in Kansas anymore”, and finished mid afternoon on the 20th – 30 hours and 37min after we started!  Our team consisted of 3 physiotherapists, Danni and Dave from the Sports Clinic at Sydney University and Shane who works with the Warratahs,  and one sports dietitian ( that’s me!).  Knowing this you would think that there would be no injuries and we would have food and nutrition spot on.  In reality this did not mean we avoided any issues but were well placed to manage them. More on that in Part 2.

Things I am most proud of are that:

·      we all finished together with smiles on our faces and that we all looked out for each other.

·      we were patient when we each one of us took our turn at hitting rock bottom.

We did a number of 10, 15, and 20km walks as a group of 3 or 4 when we could arrange our schedules on weekends.  These walks were done on sections of the trail we would be on for the OXFAM walk. I did a lot of shorter walks with my dog during the week around the streets at home. In hindsight a lot shorter and less frequent than they should have been. 

The night training walk I did with Danni was particularly challenging. We set off in pretty high spirits at 7pm all set for our 20ish km walk that was planed to take 5 - 5 1/2 hours. Things were going pretty well until about 2/3 of the way through the first of 2 sections. We got a bit lost! Well to be more accurate we knew where we were, we just could not find the trail! After much scrambling through bushes, a climb up one waterfall and down another we found our way back to the trail! We were a little crazy towards the end of this particular walk - as evidenced by our faces in the rather blurry selfie taken.  Also to be noted was the stick I had picked up to brush away spider webs as a sword Danni had picked up was Harry Potters wand!  We finished our walk just after 2am, about 2 hours over schedule. The most successful thing I tested on this walk was the Savory Bread Cakes I made as a snack – a definite for the event.

We completed our longest training walk of 50km a couple of weeks out from the actual event.  Danni was unable to join us on this one due to work commitments, so it was Dave, Shane and myself. This was an opportunity to do final tests on nutrition, hydration, clothing, walking poles, backpacks …. Everything really.  My anxiety levels after this walk were pretty high… and I was totally exhausted!

I know they boys felt the same. Shane was battling with a knee issue and Dave had the realization that he drank about half the amount I fluid I did over this walk – he did have times where he said he was light headed and feeling pretty low. Our 50km walk took just under 13hours. 

Some of the discoveries from the 50km walk were:

·      Potato crisps are a nice change to the sweet pre packaged sports foods,

·      Promite sandwiches are a great snack,

·      Coke is great when you are feeling flat,

·      2 min noodles are a great salty meal after 37km of walking,

·      We would need to tape up our feet for the actual event,

·      Knees were going hurt (for some of us more than others),

·      It is easy to not drink enough and get dehydrated,

·      Walking poles are actually pretty handy,

·      I am going to need to change my socks at each aid station,

·      We figured we would need 20-30min at each ckeckpoint to change socks, clothes, top up packs and bottles with water and eat.

·      There was a lot of chaffing in areas we hadn’t imagined!

We started a spreadsheet after this walk to list all the gear we each felt we needed along with the foods we were going to eat along the trail and at each checkpoint. This was to help our support crew with their duties at the checkpoints as well as us in our preparation in the days leading up to the event.

We ended up with 2 plastic boxes each that contained clothes, snacks and other gear we would need on the trail. So things like head lamps, spare batteries, first aid gear, hats, gloves, socks, jackets, blankets, spare shoes and more were included. Also on our list was a camp chair for each of us to use at checkpoints. Our support crew were looking after cooking equipment, water and meals. Meals on the menu were fried rice, pasta, noodles, savory bread cakes and fruit salad.

Nutrition plans were to have 30-60g carbs each hour we were walking. I initially imagined we would require less as we were walking, not riding or running and I did imagine my heart rate would be low enough that I would be utilizing more fat stores for fuel. I realized very quickly on the training walks that clambering up and down rocky hills was like doing long interval sets on my bike.  Concentrating on every single step was also mentally draining. Food is also important to keep mental alertness.  Foods we included in my box to take on each section were: Cliff bocks, Cliff bars, Promite sandwiches, potato chips, sports drink powder, electrolyte tablets and small cans of Coke.

So this was the plan!

This is Part 1 of a 2 Part blog on my experience in the 100km OXFAM Trailwalker event held in Sydney over the 19th to 21st of August 2016. We had 2 goals upon entering this event - the first was to finish in 28hours (which we later revised to 30) and the other was to raise $5000 for OXFAM. The walk starts at Brooklyn, just north of Sydney, and wiggles through the some of the most beautiful and challenging bush tracks and through some suburban streets to finish at Tania Park in Manly.  Part 1 discusses training and preparation for the event and Part 2 is about the actual event, what worked, what did not work and what we would do differently.

Nutrition and Biomechanics

Last Wednesday night, the 29th June, Sam Lewis from The Athlete’s Kitchen, in conjunction with expert Exercise Physiologist John Quinn, hosted an event on the Nutritional and Biomechanical considerations for running. This was a first for The Athlete’s Kitchen, and what a successful evening it was! With a good turnout of runners, triathletes, cross-fitters, personal trainers and sports coaches, we discussed how to establish a good training regime, analysed the biomechanics of running styles, discussed recovery and injury prevention, looked at nutritional considerations for health and exercise, and considered a nutrition plan for training and competition.

While the biomechanics component is best left to the exercise professionals, some key take-home points nutritionally, were:

-       Carbohydrates, protein and fat are all important dietary components, for energy provision, recovery, and general health and well-being.

-       While athletes and very active people do have some varying nutritional requirements, the underlying principles for healthy eating remain the same!

-       Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source, and thus, during periods of intense training and competition, they are critical for provision of fuel pre-training, and for recovery post-training.

-       The duration and intensity of your training/competition run will determine your fuelling requirements throughout. Carbohydrates can be beneficial during long bouts of exercise, as a way of fuelling both the body and the brain, and decreasing your perception of effort!

-       Carbohydrate loading can be an effective way to improve performance, by ‘loading up’ the body’s stores of glycogen (fuel) in the muscles and liver. Carbohydrate loading is, however, hard to do correctly!

-       Never try anything new on race day! Always trial new products or regimes during training first, to avoid surprises on race day.

-       Hydration is a critical consideration for sports performance. Thirst is a poor indicator of hydration status, however the colour of your urine is a good way to check your level of hydration. Aim for pale yellow.

-       Sports drinks, if used correctly during exercise, can be an effective way to refuel and rehydrate at the same time.

-       Sports supplements do have a place in sports nutrition, however a strong baseline diet MUST be established first. Sports supplements should always be commenced and used under the guidance of a Sports Practitioner or Sports Dietitian.

-       The Australian Institute of Sport and Sports Dietitians Australia websites contain excellent information on sports nutrition topics. Always check the validity and reliability of your nutrition source prior to applying its principles!

So, are you ready to get running now? While the information presented above is more general and broad, The Athlete’s Kitchen, can assist you with developing your own training and nutrition plan in preparation for your event! Let us know how we can help, and keep your eyes open for more events of this nature in the future!

Written by Sam Lewis APD AccSD

Posted by Rebecca Hay APD Acc SD



Peaks Challenge Falls Creek 13th March 2016

By Rebecca Hay, Accredited Sports Dietitian and Cyclist

Rebecca at the top of Mt Hotham - a 30km climb!  Photo courtesy of SportsFoto

Rebecca at the top of Mt Hotham - a 30km climb!  Photo courtesy of SportsFoto

I am not sure if I was brave or silly to attempt this event again.....but with a number of friends I ventured down to Falls Creek again last weekend to tackle this epic ride for the third time. There were ~1500 other competitors aiming to complete the 235km course with over 4500m climbing in under 13hours. There are many highs and lows experienced in endurance events like this one. There is a lot of self talk both positive and negative. You can see in the photo above catching up to a friend at the top of a mountain is one of those highs!

I have completed this event before, once in 40+ deg and the other in freezing conditions with rain and hail. We got lucky this year with clear conditions and light winds. It got pretty warm for the second half of the ride and this seemed to be where many competitors came undone. I saw many competitors walking , throwing up, lying down with dehydration and heat exhaustion. The event organizers did a fantastic job with medical support for those that needed it. There were many volunteers, ambulances and paramedics on the course to help those out where needed.

Planning your fluid and food intake is crucial in an event of this type. Practicing to work to this plan in training is also crucial.

Steps in developing a nutrition strategy:

1. Know your sweat rate to determine fluid needs.

  • Understanding how much fluid you need to consume each hour is the first step. Practice taking in what you need in small amounts regularly on training rides.
  • Decide what you are going to drink in the event - will you use sports drinks provided on course or bring your own.
  • Sometimes thirst does get the better of you - it hit me this year at the very last aid station where I wanted a cool drink and all that was left was apple juice - I drank it too fast putting too much sugar into my stomach in one hit. My stomach became slushy and I was close to bringing it all back up for several kilometers. So my strategy to overcome this....see point 4.

2. Be familiar with foods and fluids be be offered on course.

  • Is there a sports drink? Is it a carbohydrate containing sports drink? What foods are provided on the course? Is this food you have used in training?

3. Aim to consume ~60g of carbohydrate per hour.

  • This seems to be the limitation for the gastrointestinal (GI) system for the amount of glucose that can be absorbed in an hour. Using multiple transport carbohydrates (like fructose) will allow for more carbohydrate to be absorbed - it can also aid those that experience GI upsets in longer events.
  • This is pretty conservative but given the intensity that most of us would ride at an event of this length it is plenty.
  • Examples of 30g carbohydrate - 1 sports gel, 2 slices of bread, 1 sports bar, 500ml sports drink, 1 small slice of fruit cake, 10 dried dates, 7 jelly babies, 350ml soft drink.
  • You might wonder why I have listed soft drink.....to be specific I am referring to Cola drinks. This basically got me through the last 50km of this event! Caffeine and sugar!! Magic!! Don't forget that Coke gives you carbohydrate - ~40g in a 375ml can. So keep track if you have a can - too much carbohydrate can cause GI upsets.

4. Know that what your body wants and what it needs don't always match up.

  • There may be points in endurance events like this where you feel you should have more food and fluid as per your plan - but if you do eat or drink anything else you will bring it back up .
  • Sometimes it is time that is needed for food and fluid to be absorbed - so back off the pace and wait until you feel there is space for more. Sip on small amounts of fluid and introduce food when you are ready. Remember - SMALL AMOUNTS OF FOOD AND FLUID REGULARLY.

5. Don't do any thing new on the day of your event.

  • I pack my food bags for events like this several days in advance with foods, gels, bars and sports drink powders that I have used in training. There is always variety in what I pack so I do not get sick of having the same thing for the whole event. I had a vegemite and cheese sandwich in one bag and different flavoured bars, gels and gel lollies in others.
  • No new medicaitons or products on event day - this applies to products like pain killers and caffeine.

6. Practice, practice, practice again.

If you need help planning a nutrition strategy for any sporting event make an appointment to see one of our Sports Dietitians. Don't leave it to the last minute though, you need several months to work on developing the best strategy for training and the event itself.

Check locations for a clinic near you.



Our kitchen is getting bigger!! We are now practicing at Sydney East Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics (SESMO)


Great news for all of our Eastern Suburbs clients - We are very proud to announce we have a new practice location on New South Head Rd in Double Bay!!

This week we open for business in a brand new clinic in Double Bay.  SESMO is a leading purpose built sports medical clinic providing evidence based treatment from multiple medical disciplines in a cutting edge high end facility. Services at the clinic include: Sports Physicians, Orthapedics, Physiotherapy, Sports Podiatry, Sports Psychology, Hand Therapy, Exercise Physiology and of course, Nutrition.

Our sports dietitians are available for consultations every week. Appointments can be made by contacting the clinic:

E: info@sesmo.com.au
P:0421 963 108

WEBSITE: http://www.sesmo.com.au/

Posted by: Rebecca Hay

Sports Supplements …. Friend, Folly or Foe?

The Australian Institute of Sport in conjunction with Sports Dietitians Australia recently held a 2-day symposium on Sports Supplements in Canberra. The Athletes Kitchen attended on mass, keen to be across the latest information for their clients and athletes.

The presentations were very entertaining and informative. Some were real eye openers, particularly those looking at the use of supplements from a coach and an athlete perspective. They highlighted the need to manage the use of sports supplements as a team and to look after the health and well being of athletes as a priority. Vigorous discussion around this topic highlighted the passion of those involved but also showed the need for awareness of the health, psychological and performance issues surrounding the use of sports supplements.

So what is a sports supplement?

A good question, but not one that is easily answered.

One definition put forward is that of a product used to improve or enhance athletic (and in some cases psychological) performance.

Most athletes, and any anyone involved with sport, would agree that the world of sports supplements is overwhelming. There are walls of supplements in supermarkets and in an increasing number and variety of shops selling these products that promise so much.

Speakers highlighted the size of the supplement industry and the growing marketing efforts on packaging, in magazines and on websites all aimed at encouraging vulnerable people to buy these products.

How do I decide if Supplements are for me?

Look very carefully at what the product is claiming it will do for you and ask your self a few questions:

  • Will this hurt me? Are there risks to my health if I take this?
  • Is this relevant to me? Does it promise to deliver something useful to me?
  • Who is telling me what the product does? Is it anecdotal or has it been tested in a more scientific manner?
  • For elite athletes: what is in the product? Is there a possibility it contains banned substances?

What is the ‘Belief Effect’?

The symposium highlighted a ‘belief effect’, which meant that just believing a supplement will make you feel better or perform better often leads to improvements.  Research has supported this finding, using ‘placebo’ medication (or sugar tablets) versus the supplement medication. Participants receiving placebo medication but believing they were receiving the supplement performed better than those receiving the supplement but believing they were receiving the placebo. Multiple studies support this finding and highlight the power of ‘belief ‘ for performance.

The ‘up shot”

So what does all of this mean for athletes and any active person looking at using sports supplements?  Think about using food first and then “supplement” with supplements if you need extra nutritional support. Ask questions about what it does?, where it comes from?, what it is made from?, what are the ingredients?, are the ingredients safe/banned?, is it relevant to you?…before you spend your money on something that does not deliver what it promises.  And in the case of elite athletes, seek the advice of your team doctor or dietitian to reduce the risk of testing positive to a banned substance.

Rebecca Hay, Accredited Sports Dietitian, The Athletes Kitchen

Hydration….not such a dry topic. By Rebecca Hay

Over recent years there has been much debate about the fluid and electrolyte needs of athletes. Many questions have been raised about the dangers of not drinking enough and the dangers of drinking too much. There has been more debate and much research on cramping and is this due to lack of fluid or lack of electrolytes…or something else?

Why is it important to get this right?

  • Fluid maintains our blood volume.
  • It aids in muscle contraction.
  • It aids in body temperature regulation. Sweat evaporating from the skin how the body cools itself.

What effects sweat rate?

  • Changes in temperature and humidity
  • Increases in exercise intensity will increase sweat production.
  • Varies with genetics, body size and fitness (so regular changes need to be considered as your fitness increases and body composition changes)

Following is more specific information on hydration while training and competing.

  • Dehydration WILL cause a decrease in exercise performance as well as mental performance. Body temperature increases, heart rate increases, perception of effort increases, rate of gastric emptying decreases leading to stomach discomfort – none of these good in a competition situation.
  • Start your training session or race in a well hydrated state. This does not mean overloading yourself with fluid. This means making sure you are drinking small amounts of water regularly, not getting a dry mouth through out the day, passing urine 5-6 times a day.
  • The colour of urine is a good guide to hydration levels (assuming you are not taking a multivitamin that makes your urine orange, or have eaten asparagus to make it really yellow, or eaten beetroot to make it pink!). Urine should be a pale straw colour. If not you should be aiming to increase your fluid intake over the day.
  • One of the simple strategies you can employ to help remember is to have a glass of water or two with every meal and snack. On hotter days you will drink more and on cooler days less.
  • Simple measures can be taken to compare pre and post exercise body weight to determine how much sweat, and therefore fluid is lost, in specific conditions and
  • Best advice is to work out what is right for you.  

Great general resources are the Sports Dietitians Australia website (www.sportsdietitians.com.au) and the AIS Website (www.ausport.gov.au). For more specific advice you can contact any of the dietitians at The Athletes Kitchen to help you work out an individual plan.