A Professional Athlete on Nutrition

‘Recovery’ is the focal point of my last post, but this week I’ll delve into nutritional strategies in the life of an elite endurance athlete. It’s safe to say that nutrition and energy availability play a significant role in adaptation, growth and success in preparation for performance. Without the proper nutritional and supplemental intake, an athlete can become vulnerable to injury, illness and counteract all the hard work put into a specific training session or cycle.

I recently learned that this was, in fact, one of the possible contributing factors to my recent diagnosis of a stress fracture. My nutritional support team had a look at two-weeks’ worth of food intake aligned with training sessions and found that I was operating in a deficit. Although I generally felt that I was getting in enough carbs, proteins, fats, etc., it turned out that I was continually missing the mark to offset the physical demands and training loads. The deficit may have been small at the end of the day, but over time, all those days add up to a larger, more impactful loss. Take a look at this food-log example pre-stress fracture:

Although this generally meets most daily nutritional needs, it still does not cover the calories burned over the course of a 4.5–5-hour training day in addition to the calories burned by my resting metabolic rate. Doubling the amount of sports drink, upping the morning orange juice, and adding in a peanut-butter & jelly sandwich or cereal bar mid-ride are all strategies to help offset some of the deficit and actually help the body recover quicker for the next session on tap. And while a PB&J might not be the ideal food for a non-endurance athlete, I often rely on these foods because of how easy they convert to sugar and energy during a training session.

Likewise, it’s also important to consider supplement value-adds for optimal vitamin absorption. As a female endurance athlete, iron, vitamin C and vitamin D are some of the most foundational to maintain health under training stress. I also find Calcium and BodyBio’s PC to be valuable in enhancing my bone and cellular regeneration, especially in recovery from injury. It’s challenging to get all of the nutrients and energy in during a day so I find it helpful with some assistance by trusted supplements.

Timing of intake, nutrient density foods, supplements and flexibility around managing food strategies are all key components in the creation of a healthy, balanced & fortified diet as an elite athlete. It’s important to alter your diet relative to the physical demands of the day — whether you’re an athlete, working a desk job, or an active retiree. I know I’m continually working on improving my strategies in order to optimize those 1%-ers that make all the difference in performance on the day. And I’m a strong believer that everyone can do the same in order to optimize those 1%-ers in life!

What is a Liposome?

(lĭp′ə-sōm′, lī′pə-)

Not discernable with a light microscope, a nanoliposome can be seen under an electron microscope as a sphere. Just as a water balloon has a thin outer layer with a water-filled interior, a liposome likewise has a thin outer wall — similar to a membrane — made of a phospholipid bilayer and an interior containing a water-soluble material. First identified in the early 1960’s, liposomes have undergone extensive research, the aim being the optimization of encapsulation, stability, circulation time and targeted delivery of its cargo, which may be a drug or a nutrient to a specific site of action. Until recently, the use of liposomes as a carrier of nutriments was limited, the delivery of drugs being more the focus. Their versatility is now being realized in other domains.

A few companies are pioneering the benefits of this unique science. It has long been the case that absorption and bioavailability rates of oral dietary and nutritional tablets and capsules is low and unreliable. Now, the natural encapsulation of lipophilic and hydrophilic nutrients within a liposome has created an effective method of bypassing the destructive elements of the digestive system, allowing the encapsulated nutrient to be delivered directly to cells and tissues.

To make a suitable microscope image, the liposomes are frozen and then sliced into ridiculously thin layers. This “freeze fracturing” will open some, but not all, and you will be able to distinguish the intact spheres from the concave surfaces of the incised liposomes. If this arrangement fails to emerge, you most likely do not have liposomes. But most clinics and manufacturers do not own electron microscopes. So, how do you determine that you have liposomes? Mix your material with water. Solid globs of amorphous matter are not carrying anything inside them and are not liposomes. If this happens, the phosphatidylcholine (PC) content is either too low, of poor quality, or is non-existent. If what you think is a liposome appears to be floating in foam, you are stuck with a mere emulsion, not a liposome. The liquid around a liposome should be clear.

Liposomes do not form spontaneously, typically needing energy applied to a dispersion of PC in a polar solvent, such as water. Heat, agitation and the aqueous province of the human body afford the right conditions. Sonication of phospholipids in water does the same thing, but likely will form layers like those of an onion, with progressively smaller liposomes. The inclusion of ancillary lipids facilitates the preparation. Microscopic vesicles — nanoliposomes — of PC can trap desirable payloads and provide controlled release of various bioactive agents at the right place at the right time. Here, otherwise volatile, reactive or sensitive additives become stabilized. Liposomes are bioresponsive because they and cell membranes share a common constituent — the lipid bilayer. As liposomes and cell membranes sidle near each other, they become conjugated and meld into each other, allowing the liposomal cargo to be deposited in the cellular cytosol, where its ameliorative destiny can be fulfilled. Liposomes with target specificity offer the prospect of safe and effective therapy for challenging clinical uses.

A Professional Athlete’s Road to Recovery

Hey everyone, Renée Tomlin here to talk about ‘recovery’. For a bit of background information, I’m a professional triathlete and member of Team USA in international competition. I’ve been competing in triathlon since 2014 with an Olympic focus, and ran competitively in college and at the elite level before moving over to endurance multisport. I’m fortunate to live, train and compete all over the world representing the USA.

So, you might be wondering what my background has to do with ‘recovery’. Well, quite simply, I wouldn’t be able to do my job — compete and execute performance — without the proper tools in my recovery tool box. Generally speaking, I’m out training 7 days a week, usually clocking 20–28 hours of exercise at various volumes and intensities. Between swimming, biking, running and gym work, recovery is the most crucial component in creating fitness, competitive edge and in maintaining health. For me, recovery includes nutrition, sleep, physical and massage therapy, hormone balance and the ‘switch off’ of all things triathlon.

In terms of nutrition, I’ve recently started working with a specialist from my Australian support team on strategies to maximize my training gains through food and energy availability. Having an understanding of carbs, protein, calcium, electrolytes, (just to name a few) plays a significant role in optimizing a nutrition plan to match the demands of training and competition. As an elite athlete, it’s challenging to keep up with all of stressors placed on your body — and that’s why I rely on vitamins like iron, vitamin C, and vitamin D to contribute to my nutritional intake. Sports drinks that contain carbs are also essential, as well as sport-specific electrolyte drinks, like Elyte-Sport, for pre-loading or between sessions. Both supplements and sports drinks act as ancillary agents in encouraging my body to prepare for training demands, recover from them, and foster training adaptations. They directly impact energy levels, nutritional absorption and healthy blood counts.

True life confession: it’s impossible as a professional athlete to always maintain an optimal level of ‘recovery’ as you’re always pressing physical and mental boundaries. Somewhere along the way you slip — that’s called being human. Just this past week I was diagnosed with a navicular stress fracture, barring me from early competition and resulting in a quick return back to the US for doctor appointments and to start, yes, in broader terms, the ‘recovery’ process. Now just as ever does ‘recovery’ play a significant role in achieving future goals. Fortunately, I have an incredible support team behind me in outlining these next-steps, many of which include a re-evaluation of nutrition and supplement intake. That being said, recovery — specifically in the field of nutrition and supplements — is an evolving space. As the body changes, grows, ages, heals, dietary requirements can shift. Stay tuned for an update of what this unfolding recovery process looks like and what tweaks are made!

Follow Renee’s journey on Twitter @ReneeTomlin