Episode 154 of the Institute of Performance Nutrition's "We Do Science" podcast! In this episode, I (Laurent Bannock) discuss "Muscle Protein Synthesis and Exercise & Nutrition" with "Nutrient Timing: A Garage Door of Opportunity?" withProfessor Shawn Arent (University of South Carolina, USA).
Discussion Topics Include:
Podcast Episode Transcript:Download PDF Copy
Key Paper(s) Discussed / Referred to:
Related Podcast Episodes:
Check out our other podcasts, publications, events, and professional education programs for current and aspiring sports nutritionists at www.TheIOPN.com and follow our social media outputs via @TheIOPN
We Do Science Podcast
FEB. 08, 2021
"Nutrient Timing: A Garage Door of Opportunity?"
withProfessor Shawn ArentPhD
[00:00:00] LB: Welcome to episode 154 of the Institute of Performance Nutrition’s We Do Science Podcast. I am Laurent Bannock. I've just finished an awesome conversation with Professor Shawn Arent. Those of you that follow my podcast, when I've done a number of podcasts with Shawn. He's also a good buddy. It was a really, really fun, enjoyable discussion that we had today.
Our focus was about nutrient timing. Now, you'll know that this is not a new topic to my podcast. One way or the other, I find this topic extremely interesting, because it is such a nuanced area. It is such a complex topic that has been pretty badly interpreted, I feel over the years. That's something that we really get into in today’s chat, where we will talk about the history of nutrient timing, what we mean by nutrient timing and other similar strategies, like nutrition periodization, and simply just feeding, which is an element of timing in itself.
We talk about the history, the science that evolved over time, where it started and where we're at with it now, and how we should be interpreting this information as it relates to how we time our feeding strategies and our supplements around training, for example, or performance, or specific events and the relevance of that and what we should and should not take from the science.
I'll let you learn all about that conversation in today's podcast. Just quickly, please do go check out our website at www.TheIOPN.com, where you can learn all about our various activities, such as our online diploma; a 100% online diploma in performance nutrition, which is a practice-focused program. It is advanced level, but it is actually intended to complement either your existing training in sport and exercise nutrition, dietetics, sports science, strength conditioning, at the master's degree level even.
That is also there for those that come from the professional certification background, such as strength conditioning coaches, nutrition coaches, and so on. Our program helps bridge the gap in terms of knowledge and level up to the advanced level. As I said, it's practice focused. It's all about learning how to be an effective practitioner in the real world, which also relates to something else that we released recently, which is our SENPro platform, which is a suite toolbox, if you like, of tools to enable you to run and operate your sport and exercise nutrition practice, or your nutrition coaching practice, as well as specific nutrition coaching tools, habit and behavior modification tools, new planning tools, and so on.
Anyway, go check it out. There's a free trial that you can have. You don't have to pay for anything initially. You can just go and try it out for yourself and see how good it is. Our podcast, of course, you can also access via our website and learn about us generally, and my amazing team at the IOPN and you can learn about us there. It's not just me, of course. There's a whole group of us.
We are greater than the sum of our parts in that respect. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this conversation that I have with Shawn Arent, all about nutrient timing, as much as I did. Do please come back to the podcast website, because that's where you'll find the transcript of this conversation, as well as the links to the papers and other resources and other relevant podcasts that I refer to. Here, we now go to the conversation. Enjoy.
[00:03:44] LB: Hi, and welcome back to the Institute of Performance Nutrition’s We Do Science Podcast. I am very happy to welcome back. I can't remember how many times I've had you on, Shawn, but welcome back Shawn Arent. Good to see you again, mate.
[00:03:59] SA: Thank you. It's always a pleasure to get to talk to you and beyond this. Thanks for the invitation again. I really, really appreciate it.
[00:04:05] LB: Obviously, it's crazy times, but we're going to bring a sense of reassuring normality to this conversation and talking about –
[00:04:13] SA: We're going to try.
[00:04:14] LB: We're going to try.
[00:04:15] SA:It’s kind of a big reach but we’ll try it.
[00:04:17] LB: We can try. People can just turn this off anyway. They don't have to.
[00:04:20] SA: Yeah, that’s exactly it. We’ll have fun for the next hour. It's all good.
[00:04:24] LB: You can talk for ages on various sport and exercise nutrition and exercise science topics. In fact, you've been an expert guest on this podcast a number of times. We've had a really great chat about test, don't guess. Also, we've delved into nutrient timing a few years ago. I wanted to focus this conversation today, all about nutrient timing for a number of reasons that I'll discuss in a minute.
Before we get into that chat, that conversation, just in case the listeners haven't caught up yet with our previous podcasts, or terrible reason they don't know who you are –
[00:05:02] SA: Entirely possible.
[00:05:05] LB: Give us the quick overview of who is Shawn Arent, Shawn.
[00:05:08] SA: I realized it has been at least a year and a half since I've been on, because I was not at University of South Carolina yet, the last talk. I am currently a professor in the Department Chair of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina. Really pleased to be there. I was at Rutgers University in New Jersey for 17 years prior to that, where I was the Director of the Center for Health and Human Performance. I've worked with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, a lot of college sports as well, some individual players in the NBA and NFL.
We work closely with a lot of our college teams. When I was at Rutgers, we worked incredibly closely with women's soccer, in particular, or proper football, for most of you that are probably listening to this. I'll go back and forth between soccer and football. My apologies. I played, so it’s very –
[00:05:49] LB: We'll put subtitles. Actually, this –
[00:05:51] SA: Yeah, that’s probably it. Yeah.
[00:05:52] LB: We have subtitles.
[00:05:54] SA: We were fortunate, even since we got to the University of South Carolina. We have really created a tremendous relationship with athletics already. There's about eight teams that my lab is working with. We started the U of SC sports science lab here. we're up and running. For those that don't know, University of South Carolina has the top ranked PhD program in the United States. We are the number 13 in the World Sports Science University, and number one in the United States.
It really is an honor to be here. It's a tremendously supportive environment. We've been able to get some really good research done. We've been moving more and more into military research and tactical stuff. Really, it’s taking the lessons we've learned in sport science and applying it at a different level with still, the ultimate outcome being performance. That's a big part. I know, that's something that we'll talk quite a bit about today, with nutrient timing and where it fits into all this.
[00:06:47] LB: You make a couple of points there that I do comment on over the course of the various years that I've been doing this podcast. One of which is we've got this term ‘sports nutrition’, but I prefer performance nutrition. Because nutrition is such a limiting term, and whether – well, thinking outside of that traditional box, whether you think of the performing dancer, the performing singer, the tactical athlete, these are people that are competing in a game as such. Performance is absolutely critical to them. Like you mentioned, the tactical side of things. Something I've got quite a lot of interest in is nutrition, not just for general military, but for Special Forces, for example.
[00:07:29] SA: Yes, exactly.
[00:07:31] LB: There are there are some phenomenal areas of research coming out from your side of the pond, actually, which I know you've played a role in some of that. It is absolutely mind-blowing. Also, I feel, although performance nutrition, sport and exercise nutrition has evolved has come a long way in the last two decades is still stuck in the equivalent of the 80s with the bad haircuts and the dodgy music. That metaphor, I do still think, applies to sport and exercise nutrition.
One of those areas that seems to be stuck in the past is this concept of nutrient timing, which, of course, we can take back to a number of papers that had come out on this topic, which became so popular that even the likes of myself back in the day, but I did not have a mullet, or a dodgy haircut or whatever, back in those days. I would have these situations, where I'd be working out and I'd realized, I'd forgotten my protein shake. I would be having an anxiety attack in the squat rack, knowing I'm not going to have – I'm not going to hit my leucine threshold, or spike my insulin, or whatever.
I mean, I think this is such a fascinating topic for two reasons. Number one, the fact that those myths still persist, particularly on the gym floor. Of course, we're interested in performance nutrition. Of course, that's a different lens, potentially, which I know you're going to expand upon. Also, just this general idea that this actually is another really useful tool in the toolbox that we as sport and exercise nutritionists, or researchers can really impact the training and performance outcomes of really, really, really elite athletes, or any athlete, obviously. That's exciting to me. Anyway, look, you've done quite a lot of work in this nutrient timing area. Why have you gotten so interested in this, Shawn?
[00:09:26] SA: It's funny. You mentioned that we're like stuck in the 80s with some of this. Now I will say, my wife loves 80s hair metal, so she would argue with you that the music was dodgy. There's some good stuff that came out of there. I agree with you about the haircuts. I look back into myself and I’m like, “Holy crap.”
The thing is, were we really wrong? In other words, is it stuck in the 80s? Or did we take too narrow of a lens with it? In other words, and this is where we've moved, and we'll talk more about this that I give the anabolic window, versus a garage door of opportunity. I think that what's happened is recently, I think what really sparked my interest in this to a great degree was certainly the science side of it, but it was also then trying to apply that science in an athletic performance model and realizing that so much of what we're talking about was purely about building muscle and getting strong.
There's a whole different world, if anybody's ever actually worked with professional, or high-level athletes. That is a very minor part of what matters to them, in terms of the outcomes, and recovery becomes a real issue. I started to realize, having been an athlete moving through this, that it's that ability to train again that really starts to distinguish and make these things important.
I think there were some attempts to almost turn nutrient timing on its ear and basically say, “Look, it doesn't matter.” There's almost this overwhelming question to try to dispel a myth. In fact, all it did is created a bit more confusion, because it honed in on one nutrient, in this case. I think, what really sparked my interest is our propensity to confuse nutrient timing with just protein timing. They're not the same thing. Yet, protein is a nutrient. The area of nutrient timing is so much bigger and far less narrow and when we start to look at opportunities throughout a day to improve performance.
I looked at a lot like I look at training load, where training load is a very useful metric for us. It's a useful measure. If you really think about it, I may be getting two hours out of 24, that tells me what the athlete is doing. What about the other 22 hours? Well, nutrient timing fits in that same realm for me, where it's not just about the pre and the post-training, but it's all the pieces of the puzzle that fit together and also understanding what you are trying to drive.
Are you trying to drive optimal performance in that period? Or are you trying to drive adaptation that leads to optimal performance? Because that is part of what's going to dictate what you do and don't eat in a certain scenario, and when, because of what you're trying to force the system to do. I would say, that's really what got me going in this was this very narrow and closed off view. Then I started to see that while the information was very useful, how people were using it started not be ideal from a real-world setting. I think that that still drives the approach that we take with this.
[00:12:25] LB: That’s one of the really fascinating areas about sport and exercise nutrition. When you look at what people have taken from what has been learned in the lab, and they've thrown out that. Hopefully, they've thrown out that, the very best of scientific reductionism, and that that whole approach is to make that as great scientific research as possible. t's still a reductionist approach.
Yet, when we apply that in the real-world, which is the absolute opposite of well-controlled, tightly controlled environment, I mean, what's going on right now in the world is the classic – Things can go a bit crazy in the real-world. There are also very quantitative views of these things, when as human beings, there's also a very qualitative view of the world, to even just basic things like, taste, what's practical. In my case, did I forget something? Is that really the end of the story? Can you even afford it?
I want to get into all of that, because I think that there's so much in this topic that there's so much to be learned for practitioners, for researchers, but also consumers, those that – I mean, most of the audience here are going to be practitioners and researchers, but we still got lots of highly educated consumers as well listening to this. I think what would be useful, Shawn, is if you can, just spend a few minutes on the very roots of this nutrient timing concept and some of the maybe, the studies, but also, where there is a bit of confusion with terminology, where people like you pointed out, people hear the word nutrient timing, and they think they know what that means. Actually, there is confusing terms that actually aren't quite the same thing. The timing of a nutrient is not necessarily nutrient timing, necessarily.
[00:14:15] SA: Yes. If we really look back, you're right. It's funny, especially with this topic going back to the 80s. We look at some of the work that John Ivy and Portman actually did in the first place. That really was the impetus for this whole idea of nutrient timing and this notion of an anabolic window. What this sparked was a real focus on the post-exercise period. You finish your workout, especially resistance training. In that period of time, the human body is primed to assimilate nutrients, repair, regrow, and do these things, because what we're doing during the exercise bout is creating disruption, creating damage, and then we repair, we get stronger, we get faster, we get bigger.
They took this idea, and really that anabolic window really focused in on about the first 45 minutes post-exercise, because this is a period of time where we saw high activation of GLUT4. With GLUT4 being able to pull in blood glucose, restore muscle glycogen to replenish that aspect of it, at the same time, we would see the amino acids being able to be integrated and pulled in. It was this notion of you have this anabolic environment that your body's probably going after 45 minutes, that anabolic environment starts to decline. You may have missed a real opportunity to make progress.
That's where it started. I think then, we started to realize as time went on, that nutrient timing went beyond just that aspect. We started to have to understand that it expanded to before and during training as well and before and during competition. By the way, when I'm talking about this, in many cases, I will use training and competition interchangeably, just for the sake of ease, because we're really are talking about that entire aspect of it, the participation factor in terms of what we're doing.
We started to realize, hey, what you eat before matters too. We've known this in cycling and running for decades and decades, in terms of carbohydrate and some timing aspects, in terms of how closely to the workout. Do you eat carbohydrate? Do we potentially have to deal with rebound hypoglycemia, which it turns out that a proper warm up mostly negates anyway, so it's not a really big issue. It doesn't even affect everybody.
Then oh, hey. Look, if you actually feed during, especially if you're on a five-hour bike ride, that during becomes important. Oh, my God. What about a soccer match, where we can't feed the whole time? Now how do we take advantage of halftime and stuff like that? We started to see this. Then now, that's even morphed into pre sleep feeding. Now we're even seeing the recovery aspects of hey, what about before you go to bed? Now we try to prolong this effect.
I think what we saw was an extension of this whole idea of timing to be about an entire day, not about a workout or a single training session or anything. I think what really started to resonate with me as well is, especially if you take a team in pre-season, where they might be training two and sometimes three times a day, or you take an MMA athlete, where they train in multiple different disciplines. They might have three or four different training sessions. The ability to replenish and refuel between those to make the next one good too, started to really become a consideration.
I think what happened is, we started to see that certainly, there is this anabolic window. It's probably not the right term, right? Because I think what we realized is that window is actually much bigger than we thought it was. This lasts for hours and hours. In some ways, rather than being an anabolic window, it's more like a garage door. It's much, much bigger. I think, where we've gone a little bit astray with that and is people took that notion and said, “Oh, it's more like a garage door. You have all this time.” You don't have to eat right after your workout. You have all this time.”
Whereas, I looked at it, I said, “Well, hold on a minute, though. If this anabolic environment actually lasts longer than we thought, isn't that a motivation to fit more feedings in that period of time? Not fewer?” Why wouldn't we take advantage of that, if it starts to degrade at some point, and especially if I have to train again the next day? Where we start to see this in annual, and I think Schoenfeld did an interesting meta looking at the protein timing effects. I think, people have to understand, it was a 2013 meta.
I think that one of the things that got lost in it in reading it is that there was something like, 23 studies in it, but only four of them actually use trained individuals. Only a couple actually acquainted total intakes throughout the day between the control group and the comparison group. Only two or three of them were actually technically timing studies. Others were just, they fed or they didn't have to work out. It wasn't really a timing manipulation. They basically concluded that the timing didn't really matter. The bigger issue was protein intake in a day. I'm like, yeah. I totally agree. That is the bigger issue. You can time the crap out of your protein intake. If you only take in that time and you ignored the rest of the day, then yeah, no, that's absolutely. It's baking a cake. You got to have the whole cake first. Then timing becomes the icing, the candles, the front, all that other stuff.
I started to look at that and you realize that the other mistake that occurred there, not by them per se, but by the interpretation of it, was the notion that protein equals nutrients. It does, but that's not all of it. There's still the carbohydrate. There’s still fat timing. Where it struck me is there's even research that shows that the order you eat foods in within a meal determines how they respond and how they're metabolized.
You talk about truly nutrient timing at that point, in terms of what that would mean for that. I think that those are real considerations. When we look at it from that standpoint, I think where I really got concerned was coming off that meta-analysis, I started seeing strength coaches go, “I knew it. I knew it didn't mean. You didn't have to drink a protein shake right after your workout. I'm telling my athletes to wait now. It doesn't matter.”
I’m like, no, no. For your athletes, it can still matter. If you take an untrained individual, the training stimulus is going to be the big driver. That's the bus. That's what's really taken us forward. Then your total nutrient intake, especially your protein quantities over the course of the day, then maybe timing starts to matter. I would argue, as we start to see these more high-level athletes, and especially where it struck me was a lot of people don't realize that from a glycogen depletion standpoint, soccer, football is remarkably demanding.
I think, some of the classic work by Bengt Saltin is so awesome. I mean, they showed over a 90% to 95% depletion in muscle glycogen in a 90-minute match. You're going, okay. In college soccer here in the US, especially on the women's side, don't play a Friday, Sunday schedule sometimes. You're talking about this massive depletion on Friday, you somehow have to get ready by Sunday and people go, “Oh, well. Within 24 hours, glycogen replenishes anyway, if you just eat enough.”
It’s funny, because there's recent research, in soccer, in particular, where it looks like it may take upwards of three days. That tells me, if you're going to play a Friday, Sunday, you better get on the ball on Friday after your match, if you have any hope of even being back to about 90% repletion by that Sunday time period. It's little things like that, that I think the nuance of being in a higher level sports setting, it gets missed. We just think of it from a bodybuilding, or a fitness or oh, your biceps don't get as big, or whatever it is.
The reality is from a true performance standpoint, and being able to repeat that performance and avoid injury and hey, at some point, we'll even talk about the effects on the immune system. That's fairly relevant right now. You look at all that, those all play a role. I think that's where we've progressed too in terms of potential understanding. It was really the impetus for what we wrote in this review. It's really the one I've been wanting to write, because it took a little bit more pragmatic approach, and starts to understand that we can't just look at pre, mid, post, and even pre-sleep in isolation. They all fit together.
Because if your glycogen is depleted, your pre-feeding is going to be even more important than somebody who's topped off. In that case, it may not matter as much. If you're engaging in carb restricted training, well, maybe you withhold carbohydrate at the end of that high-intensity session, but you still feed protein. There's still a nutrient intake that becomes important there. It's all about the selection and what you're trying to accomplish. To your point, it's an excellent one, it's part of the toolbox. It's not the whole thing. It's not just timing all of your nutrients is magically going to make you this elite athlete.
I'll tell you what, if you are at that level and you start to ignore it, it may be very detrimental, if nothing else, in terms of the ability to handle that. I think those are important considerations in terms of how we look at it. I would argue that that's really the approach that we took with this paper, more than anything else.
[00:23:13] LB: I'm glad you mentioned toolbox, because that's a term that I like to raise frequently. As a practitioner, as a researcher, this knowledge, these strategies are very much those tools in the toolbox. I've talked about this before, when you look at expert practice, which is my effective practice, which is my area of research interest, you understand that what differentiates success from failure, or at least basic competence from mastery is two areas. One is actually understanding the strengths and limitations of that tool that you're even considering. Do you really understand it?
Then that leads you into knowing when and when not to use that tool or that strategy. Of course, this is a great example of that, because what is evidence is vast numbers of people do not understand this tool that's called nutrient timing. As a result of that, they miss-apply it. They don't know when and when not to use it. That's why it's important that we read these reviews that you've put out, for example and I like to do these podcasts.
I think what's interesting – In fact, the podcast that will precede this one, which is about to be published, so that's going to be really confusing to people if they want to get into their time machine on this conversation. Kevin Tipton and I are talking about muscle protein synthesis and why that is actually a very misunderstood area. Folks, they've just got to listen to that, because it integrates incredibly well with much of what you've just said. Because that misunderstanding in muscle protein synthesis, because of course, the obsession behind this topic is what makes people bigger and faster and what? Bigger and leaner and that thing, is factors like, well, how were those studies actually conducted? Were they methodological? How methodologically robust was that study? You mentioned 2013. That's just the meta. A lot of them were studied well before 2013.
[00:25:16] SA: Correct. That's right.
[00:25:18] LB: Not only is the evolution of knowledge in that time changed, so has technology, generally. Our ability to actually understand what's happening within the muscle is all of great interest. Things like, training status, you've mentioned huge problem. You wrote about this in your paper that there's a lot of attentions being given to this topic, but in untrained individuals. I mean, wow.
[00:25:43] SA: You know what's interesting, Laurent, what's interesting for us is we've been fairly fortunate, I believe, to work with the level of athletes that we've been able to research. It's not an easy thing to do. It's also very difficult to do interventions in that piece. Some of it by default, becomes observational, some of that becomes monitoring throughout a time period.
It's funny, because there's a lot of times where you run into issues with reviewers, like you didn't control this, you didn't control that. It's like, yeah, but we have truly high level athletes. I mean, with the teams we've worked with, we have a number of players that go professional that have won titles, all that. We've been very lucky in that case. It's hard, because I think that some of these training studies and these recreationally trained athletes are useful to get some mechanisms, but it's just different.
When you put a real-world, a true high level, our level division one college athlete. I'm in the SEC now and we were in the big 10 before. For the listeners in the UK and otherwise that aren't familiar with US sports, consider it just a step down from the premier league side of things. It's the next level in terms of what we might be dealing with, with our athletes.
When you look at these recreationally trained athletes, they don't necessarily have the team dynamics they have to deal with, the travel schedules, the other demands that go along with the training itself. Two hours plus of training, all that. It's hard, because it's hard to really truly capture what that means. You're right. Then when we try to take something, a concept like nutrient timing, or even protein timing, if we're looking at the protein synthesis, especially on an acute basis, how does that translate chronically? Are we really even looking at the right thing?
It really makes it challenging, when you then try to extrapolate that to a population who literally trains year-round. In some cases, I've heard people argue against periodization, for example. Okay, maybe for just straight up lifting. If you tell me it's a bad idea to a periodized an athlete, when they have an in-season and offseason, all these other things to accomplish, no, you're missing the boat. We've got to make it clear at the very least, what population we're talking about.
I think, if we at least did a better job of that, there would be far less confusion, because I don't think – We hear a whole lot of this, it depends. That's the favorite phrase of some people. It depends. I agree. It does. Then, let's qualify it. It depends on what? Who are you working with? What's that level? What are you trying to do? I think that if we can make that clear, that would at least set the stage for a more reasonable discussion about how we apply this. At least that would be my take on it. The more I've been around this, the more convinced I am that that's it.
It’s like you said. Do you even use the tool correctly? The reality is, if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It's being able to find that right tool, the proper fit for it. Yeah, understanding what the use of it, but also realizing that some tools actually work really well together too. It's an issue of being able to put multiple together at the right time to fit the needs of what you're trying to accomplish and really achieve peak performance if you're trying to do that.
[00:28:53] LB: That's why for years, I was obsessed with trying to lead the cause, or help lead the cause for context; that whole it depends thing. I was pretty obsessed with it. Anyone that's listening to this podcast, going back a few years, they'll have heard me talk about context, to the extent that –
[00:29:09] SA: I’m huge context. I agree with you a 100%.
[00:29:11] LB: Craig said, and I even did a whole podcast just about context. I have evolved that term, actually. Where I feel if I had to nail it down to one word, it would actually be relevant. Is it relevant? To segue that into what we're talking about, so you can see what I did there, Shawn, is it relevant? Is it a useful term to, I think, look at this concept of nutrient timing? You talked about this in your review. When you look at the literature about nutrient timing, even if you go back a bit, they do infer actually, that there are scenarios and this comes back to your it depends statement. This is pretty much the most important thing. This is not applicable to everyone.
[00:29:52] SA: You're exactly right. Here's the thing is, maybe it is applicable to everybody. The question is the degree to which it's applicable. I think that's what really gets lost is, it will be far more important for some groups and some people than it will be for others. It doesn't mean there's no utility in it for everybody, as long as you're doing the other stuff, too. In other words, it's not exactly like, it's the first thing I would start with from an educational standpoint is, “Okay. Today, before you even understand carbs, proteins and fats, we're going to talk about timing.” We don't do that.
Then when it comes down to okay, so you got the basics, you're hitting your goals for your protein intake in a day, you got your training together. Okay, let's start playing with timing a little bit. Now, let's start working on a few scenarios here.
[00:30:40] LB: Now, you know, there's an interesting angle to this, which I think maybe people – they'll certainly recognize what I talk about. Maybe, just by virtue, I talked about science being very reductionist when it comes to research and so on. We tend not to include the more qualitative things. By this, I'm going into this idea of habit and behavior modification.
Now, particularly with athletes who can be very obsessive about things, one great thing about nutrient timing is it yeah, you don't need to do it, but they want to do it. The reason why they want to do it is because they perceive it to be a high-level and more advanced approach, and they want to do everything that they can to be the best that they can. Of course, it’s like everything, isn't it? We like to upgrade features in our car. We don't just go for the basic thing on the menu, or at least I never do. I'm going to upgrade the menu.
Well, why would we go for some basic approach to nutrition, when we can go for the super-duper, shiny nutrient timing feature? Maybe that's also important, perhaps, is the buy-in, the belief, the way in which that shapes our habits and behaviors, which after all, underpins what we do with food and drink. It's something that we do through habits and behaviors, isn't it? What do you think about that?
[00:31:58] SA: Let me give you an even more practical example than that. Here's one that we've run across. I think there's often an assumption that high-level athletes automatically know about nutrition, or care about it for that matter. There are many that do not. We found over the years that much of what we had to really start with was basic nutritional education. Some of these college athletes who are well-educated, didn't even know the difference between a carbon or protein, in some cases. They couldn't really identify what it was. Heard of it, sure, but they didn't necessarily know how to shop for themselves or anything.
Here's the other thing that hit for us, though. We would make sure that our teams always had a post-training shake. Make sure it had 20 to 40 grams of protein, at least as much carbohydrate and this and that. People are like, “Oh, but they don't have to do it right away.” It's no, but here's the deal, most of the players are about to head off to class now. If we don't take advantage of feeding them now, there is a good chance that they're not going to eat anything for the next three to four hours.
At least, we know they're walking off the field having had something. What happened was, that started to become a behavior. They started to associate, I work out, I eat. I train, I eat. We started to – like you were saying with those behaviors and and the notion that I'm doing something that's important, but it also creates a behavior. In some cases, even with your average exerciser. They leave their personal trainer, they leave the gym, whatever it is. If we're starting to help them identify that I train, I eat protein. What's wrong with that? We're building a good behavior. They're starting to associate nutrients equal recovery. Nutrients equal performance.
I think there's a real value in that. We also don't want to go so overboard. It’s like, “Oh, my God. I didn't eat right away. There go all on my gains.” There you’re working. Let's just go and eat out. It's fine. I think, as long as we don't create that panic. You said, you're in the squat rack and you go, “Oh, my God. I forgot my shake. There goes everything.” I think we don't want to create that scenario where it's so overwhelmingly inundating that they're like, “Oh, my God. There goes everything. I totally ruined it.” No, no, no, no. At the same time, just pay attention to it.
Now it's front and center in their mind. I think that for anybody that's in particular work with female athletes, understand that helping them process the notion that calories are not these bad, evil little beings can be a real challenge sometimes. I think one of the biggest breakthroughs we made, I'll never forget this. We had one of our players, she comes off the pitch. My doctoral student at the time, Bridget, now my post-doc, she's got the numbers up for a GPS and heart rate. We’re using the Polar Team Pro system. The player comes over, looks over Bridget’s shoulder and goes, “Whew! That's going to be a lot of food.”
She's processing, “I need to replace that.” I was like, that was one of the best things that we've done. It was great, because then they started to associate, they would look forward to the post-game meals, because they knew this was their chance to get ready for the next match. It was interesting taking this approach, again, putting it into usable terms for everybody. Before we left Rutgers, the last year we were there, our team, the women's team, set the NCAA record for most overtime matches in the season with 11. We didn't lose a single one of them. Why? Because we had great players and great coaches, first and foremost.
By the way, if you ever want to be a great sport scientist or sport nutritionist, work with great athletes. They really make you look like you know what you're doing. The other part too, is we really paid attention to fueling. We made sure that we were on that, so that we weren't falling apart in the added time and stuff like that. I think those are like I said, from a practical standpoint, if you have these athletes and they're about to leave your venue, leave your practice field, go on and do something else, what's wrong with making sure they eat before they leave? Because you don't know when they're going to eat again sometimes. It's that notion, control the controllables. While you've got them in your care, take care of what you can, because then maybe it sets the stage for good habits going forward.
[00:36:00] LB: Absolutely. I think that is such an important point that you raise, which I reflect on my own work, particularly traveling around with teams, things don't go to plan frequently. Or there are other things, like meetings, or you literally missed the bus, or something happens. You also have to preemptively, if it can go wrong, it will type thought process. If you haven't done that, well, tough titties, as they say, because then you end up with a inappropriately fueled athlete, who's going to have to compete anyway, and they're going to lose, because you didn't prepare for the inevitable. It's like, we had that thing, which is the five Ps, or the six Ps, depending on whether you want the polite version or not.
[00:36:45] SA: That's true. Right.
[00:36:46] LB: Prior preparation prevents performance. You can add an extra P in there. That's from a practical perspective, which is a practitioner, as a sport and exercise nutrition practitioner, we are talking about practice. Of course, that means we need to be practical. Of course, you got a whole section about this in your review. We're going to come back to that in a minute, because I want people to get back to that idea of understanding what these tools in the toolbox are and the strengths and limitations of those.
Of course, that means we need to understand a bit more about the science and also, differentiate the quality science from the not so good science. Also, it might be good science, just not relevant, which of course, brings us back to that idea that while on these studies, we're all done and trained people. It might be done with all the best researchers and best equipment.
[00:37:32] SA: Absolutely.
[00:37:34] LB: Not so relevant. If we look at this body of knowledge then, just to give us an idea, because I know you talked about Ivy and Portman, but just bring us up to date a bit with what studies have been done on these topics that just – I know, you haven't got time to go through all the studies, but just give us an idea of how we come to know what we know at this point. What is fed into that?
[00:37:53] SA: Yeah. I think it's funny too, we really couldn't go to a singular study or something that's been a benchmark. I will honestly say that if nothing else, when you really look at the whole research area of true nutrient timing, it's a very difficult thing to manipulate. Because in some ways, it's very hard to work with high-level athletes if you're going to do that, because when are you going to manipulate it around what training sessions? What are the outcomes you're looking for? We're often left with trained individuals at best. More often than not, it's part of a training study.
Then the training itself will always be the bus driver. That's going to be the big mover in this case. I think that when you start to look at some of the work that's been done with multiple carbohydrate transporters and what we're seeing in terms of the feeding capabilities with that, I think in some ways, where we saw some real strides, it was cool, on the pre-feeding side, as well as the during, especially the during, was the work that had gone into the whole Nike breaking to stuff. We're trying to break the two-hour marathon, because one of the big challenge is how do we get the human body to be able to handle more carbohydrate, if that becomes a limiting fuel in this period of time? How do we get 80 grams plus past the GI system in order to do this?
I think some of those polymers that have been developed and stuff, I think that's been a very unique approach going forward. I think, even from the standpoint of what we're starting to see a bit more on the micronutrient side. Even if we're looking at timing creatine intake. Maybe it doesn't matter a lot, but again, it matters a little. I think the thing that's always struck me too, when we look at any of these studies, it is very, very important to keep in mind the magnitude of the effect within the population you're examining.
For example, general population, recreationally trained. Does a 1% to 2% improvement make a worthwhile difference? I would argue, probably not. That's a drop in the bucket. Elite athlete, 1% improvement was the difference between the gold and the silver medal in the marathon in the last summer games. 1% matters, right? Again, it's that group you're working with and there are room for improvement in certain things as well. I think really, it’s something we have to pay attention to.
There's a practicality that goes with this. I think it's important. Even if you look at some of the protein synthesis work. What kind of training program did they use? Was it even something that people would really do? Because often, we'll use exercise as a tool within that study to create an effect. Is it even the training program that somebody would actually do? I would argue, two lower body exercises is not a typical leg workout. We'll use it to infer what the effects are with the leucine feeding and stuff like that.
I think that parsing through that is important. I think when you start to get to the sleep feeding and some of the stuff that I believe is Luc van Loon and others, but then also that Mike Ormsbee has done. I think those are important studies and contributions to our understanding of recovery. Even many of those have not necessarily been done in athletes. Some of those have been looking at weight loss and metabolic effects. Yet, we do see this anabolic stimulus overnight. That's an easy one to extrapolate to your athletes, because then you got to sit back and go, “Well, why wouldn't I?” In other words, what's the –
I think, it's one of the things. I think the world of Joey Antonio. One of his resonating comments, as always, if it helps or doesn't hurt, why wouldn't you do it? It's one of those things, especially with an athlete, if you have the ability to put a few things together and do that. I think when you look at the depth of our understanding of the knowledge and really, I'll be honest, I really think that I would like to see more in the true nutrient timing area. We're gearing up to do this with a couple of military studies. Because believe it or not, that might be the population where this is most, I wouldn't say easy, but most adaptable in terms of being able to manipulate that a little bit and not really worry about screwing up performance.
There are some things on the horizon for us to try to move in that direction. It's not an easy thing to do, because you get caught in this vicious cycle of okay, well, if we control for our total calorie intake, but then when do we take away from them at other times of the day? A true nutrient timing study is not easy to do. I still think that for the most part, we still – probably the benchmark nutrient timing study in my opinion is the Cribb and Hayes study. We still fall back to that, because it was actually pretty well designed. That was not an easy thing to do to spread that feeding in other times.
What gets really challenging when you're working with performers, and we do need them to – it's funny, when people say meal frequency doesn't matter. Yet at the same time, 30 to 40 grams of protein per meal seems to maximize protein synthesis, and you're going, “Okay, do the math. Because if you have a 100 kilo athlete, you need them to probably eat five times a day in order to do this.” That's the other way. By the way, practically, I've always looked at nutrient timing is it's another opportunity to fit a feeding in that they're going to need to hit their total quota for the day. Because if you've got athletes that are training 2, 3, 4, 5 hours a day sometimes, if you don't do train time, they're never getting enough calories in the day. It's impossible to do.
I think that when we look at it from that standpoint of where the science has come, there's some real promise. I think we certainly know more and I think it's one of the reasons why we feel confident in what our interpretation of literature is to this point. It certainly superseded what we knew at the time of that meta-analysis in 2013 on just protein. That being said, there still hadn't been many protein timing studies. Even with that, it might be a pre or post-feeding.
The one thing that hasn't been looked at a lot very much is, what about both? In other words, I think what is – I don't want to say it's plagued this area, because I think it has been an important mechanistic step. We've often looked at it as an either or. You either feed before, or you feed after. Oh, look. It didn't matter. My way I look at it, especially if I've got a two, two and a half hour training session, or depending on if it's going to be get a meal, I'm like, “Or you feed before and you feed after.” Why does it have to be one or the other? That's something and that I will give to the Cribb and Hayes study. That is something I think they did a good job of is the pre and post, because that's often how it would work in practicality.
I think that's something we need to pay a little bit more attention to going forward from a study design standpoint, is what that really looks like when we start to put it in a real-world type of application for how feeding can occur and stop looking at it as an either or, because so much of what we do from a training and a nutrition standpoint is additive. I would argue, in some cases, multiplicative in terms of potential benefits, rather than trying to look at it piecemeal, in terms of how we do this. To some degree, that's the trap we've fallen into with nutrient timing, is that either or approach, not a both end approach.
[00:45:00] LB: Yeah. I mean, what's exciting is there's still so much more for researchers to research. As I was saying earlier, it's like this previous podcast to this, we'll have discussed the fact that people seem to think – or people are led to believe that we know all there is to know about muscle protein synthesis. That is not true. Again, this nutrient timing thing is it's new. I mean, sport and exercise nutrition is new.
[00:45:27] SA: It is. All things considered. You’re right.
[00:45:29] LB: - other sciences. What I really like about what you just said, going back a few minutes, is I guess, nutrient timing has a use if you flip it the other way and go, rather than trying to use nutrient timing to construct your actual feedings, it's a way of you looking at the fact that you're going to be feeding anyway, but it is going to at least help you understand what you should be prioritizing in those feedings, because it does matter if you didn't eat a certain kind of food, right?
Look, this could go on for hours, of course. What I want people to do is read the reviews and papers. I know you and Chad dedicated a book chapter to this topic as well in the NSCA’s guide to sport and exercise nutrition, which I also wrote a chapter for.
[00:46:13] SA: I know you did. I saw that.
[00:46:14] LB: Yeah. Did my little bit there. Look, we've got phrases like total type and timing, and a lot of the listeners will be familiar to that in terms of how we might want to have some hierarchy of nutrition. Of course, we've got other terms, like food first and all these sorts of things. You made a big point of the fact that we're not just eating macros or calories, or protein. There's other stuff in there and that is important when we don't just think of this from a sports nutrition perspective. We think about it as nutrition, how do we nurture ourselves? We need other things from food.
If we go back to another term that you've used, which people are familiar within the nutrient timing literature is this concept of windows. I guess, there are three main windows, which would be the pre-exercise nutrition window, there's the during exercise and the post-exercise. I think, just in the interest of time and yes, people can read around this and I will put all sorts of links in the show notes and even get them to listen to our previous podcast. Also, with Luc van Loon and Mike Ormsbee. I’ve interviewed all those guys. Fascinating conversations.
Just so we can maybe just focus a bit on from your perspective, knowing a fair bit about this topic and having been able to look at the evidence and filter that to a level of translation into what is going to help make some robust decision-making. All the information, what would inform your practice as someone who would recommend pre, during and post-nutrition? I know there's a lot of it depends and so on, but just to give an approximation.
[00:47:57] SA: I think, one thing we have to keep in mind through all this is what we're trying to accomplish is the end result, right? We talk about performance, but what leads to performance? I would argue that the greatest ability of an athlete is availability. If we can keep them healthy and functioning and on the pitch, they're going to contribute a lot more.
I would say that with the teams we've worked with that have had the greatest success, it was a function of keeping them healthy, reducing injuries, things like that, or they can play, they're not getting sick. We know that carbohydrate, re-feeding post-workout can actually help with the immune response. It helps reduce that viral window of susceptibility in terms of what we're seeing.
Part of it is if we use that as our guiding platform, that what we're really trying to do is facilitate recovery, and I would even argue with the work that James E. Morton and all those guys have done on the carb restricted training and things like that, it's still about availability though, isn't it? In other words, it's this notion of forcing an adaptation. What I always found really interesting in that area was that the only studies that tended to actually produce a performance improvement were not the ones where they trained them in a fasted state, but they train them in a protein fed state.
They restricted carbs, protein fed, but I’ve seen coaches and practitioners take those lessons and they try to train them in carb restricted all the time. In most of those studies, they only did it to three days a week. It wasn't in every training session idea. The other thing too, is I would argue some of that in your understanding of the population things are done in, will dictate how you apply that to your sport. Because for example, being able to do a steady state training in a carb restricted state might work for a cyclist or a runner, will it work for a soccer player? Will it work for a rugby player, an American football player, where you have to cut and turn and sprint?
We don't have that many steady state sessions with them. If they're in a restricted state, are we potentially increasing the odds of an injury? Again, all the things we need to think about. It's how you take that tool and apply it. It may not fit your sport. It doesn't mean it's not a useful tool, just maybe not for you.
[00:50:04] LB: I think that's such an important and powerful statement that we should hang on is availability, because it's not about how can we over-fuel the body. We haven't got problems of over-fueling. There's loads of people that –
[00:50:18] SA: I don’t know, most of the world technically does.
[00:50:20] LB: Yeah. I mean, most of the world is over-feeling. It is this all or nothing approach. You're absolutely right. Someone goes, “Oh, I've read about fasted trainings. I'm just going to do that all day long.” No. I think the availability, because this is something that's becoming better and better understood. I've done quite a few podcasts over the years, and particularly recently, on topics like relative energy, deficiency in sport, even concepts like the male athlete triad that's naturally coming out.
Well, particularly during this pandemic, I suspect that the numbers of people that are getting into endurance, sports, solo ultras is exploding. I personally have worked with a lot of ultra-endurance athletes. You're absolutely right. You can't eat enough. You work with a triathlete, an Ironman, for example, their problem is not over-feeding. Their problem is, where can I get enough food? I think that again, like you say, is actually where this nutrient timing as a tool and understanding where the timing of these nutrients becomes important, if you frame it from the perspective of ensuring availability.
Obviously, and it's a bit of a dirty statement. If it’s not available, it's not there. If it's not there, you're not going to perform. Of course, that leads us into the area that you mentioned, which was something that I've been concerned with for some time. It's the fact that these manipulations that result in lack of sufficient availability and the impact that that can have on the immune system is of particular interest, which I've covered with numerous people over the years from Professor Neil Walsh, Mike Ethan even, and Richard Simpson, a Scottsman, but over your side of the world, is immensely interesting. Sorry, I know that I took us off course.
[00:52:10] SA: No, no. You didn't. You're exactly right. Because my background is endocrinology. We do a lot of biomarker work. I think, one of the really telling tales for us with some of the stuff we've been doing over the last, especially five, six years, is looking at these modifiers throughout a competitive season and realizing how much perturbation occurs to the human system that we couldn't just account for with training load. Welcome to life and competition and travel.
I think when we're looking at that inflammatory cascades, when we're looking at markers of immune function and the recovery aspects that go with it, being able to keep somebody healthy is underrated in my opinion, because we're looking for the bigger packs, the bigger biceps, the faster 40 time, but at the same time, they got to be able to play. We got to be able to keep them ready to go.
I think that really coming back to what your original question had been to me in terms of how do these windows matter and where might it matter, I think by and large, some of it is going to depend a little bit on the time of day. I think, one of the things that I thought was really cool is the work that had just come out, was it last year, showing that skipping breakfast, even if you made up the calories later in the day, negatively impacted performance later in the day. I think that's an important thing to realize.
I think people also have to realize that if you're not a big breakfast food fan, breakfast can be whatever you want. It doesn't have to be high-carb, whatever. I think that if you've got players that are going to train early in the day, you got to find a way that pre-feeding in the morning is going to be important for their training session, because they will have fasted for so long. If their training session’s a little later in the day, you may have a little more flexibility. Maybe that one hour pre-training doesn't become quite as important, because they've eaten a couple times leading up to that.
I think again, that context that goes into well, what have you done to this point? I think for pre-feeding, some of it is going to be dependent on the when. When are you training? During training, I think really starts to matter as well, when you start to look at how long is the session. If it's a 60-minute weight training session or something like that, it's not going to make that big of a difference. If you ate before, or you eat after that's pretty much what you're going to be. You're fine. Oon the other hand, if it's a two-hour session and you're doing some high-intensity work in there as well, yeah, then some re-feeding somewhere in there, and we know this from the work with soccer and halftime feedings. When it starts to go to 90-plus minutes, then yeah, you know what? That total time starts to play an impact, because of energy expenditure.
Then post, really, there's no good reason not to feed after, regardless of what it is. In other words, if you're going to engage in carb restricted training the next morning, then maybe you don't feed a lot of carbohydrates. Still feed protein, for God's sake. There's no reason not to. On the other hand, if you're not trying to recover for another game – let's say for example, you take a tennis tournament, or something like that and they've got matches in back-to-back types of days, or just a couple days apart, then what you do to refuel after that last match really starts to matter. Because how ready are you to go the next time?
The other thing too is people forget, it takes women longer to carb replenish, glycogen replenish than it does men in most cases. That would suggest that for a female athlete, especially where we might be worried about ACL injuries and other factors that we got, feeding becomes really, really critical.
I always laugh when we argued that nutrient timing doesn't matter. Then you look at something like, “Hey, by the way, if you want full iron absorption, make sure you take it with vitamin C.” Hey, guess what? That's actually called nutrient timing too. You're taking two things at the same time, timing, in order to make sure that they're absorbed correctly.
I think too, one of the things that I've seen is we know that carbs don't necessarily help with protein synthesis. Protein can help with glycogen resynthesis, especially if you're under about that 1.2 grams per kilogram of carbohydrate per hour. Now tell you what, for a lot of athletes, much above that 1.2 grams per kilo per hour is a lot of freaking food. To tell you the truth, we err on the side of going ahead and include protein with that then, because maybe they don't have to take in quite as much carbohydrate. They tolerate a better plus, depending on the athlete that you're working with and we've seen this maybe a little more with female than male athletes, but it's not exclusive. They look at the back of that label that's on whatever you're giving them and they go, “Wait. How many calories and carbohydrates?” There's a reluctance there.
Sometimes you're going, “Okay, what can I get in you that you will do?” We try to find these things that work together, like the carb and protein intake together that create as good as scenario as I can possibly create. We never strive to be perfect with this.
[00:57:07] LB: What?
[00:57:08] SA: Yeah, I know. Exactly. People do right and in some ways, yeah, if you strive for perfection, perhaps you catch excellence along the way. That's great. I think the reality is the best approach to this is the one they'll actually do. We have to be reasonable with this. At the same time, set the bar high. Try to do all you can and then where you figure out there are the biggest sticking points, modify those.
I think, and the research really supports the approach for that it doesn't have to be complex to be good. It doesn't have to be complicated. I think, maybe that's where we've gone wrong in nutrient timing. Sometimes we complicate the crap out of it. Sometimes it's like, “Hey, do me a favor. Eat some carbs and protein before you work out. Eat some carbs and protein after you work out. Then do me a favor, eat some protein in particular before you go to bed. Can you do that? Great. We're partway there.”
[00:57:59] LB: It's odd, isn't it? You think, if there's one thing, like if I asked my six-year-old son, for him to describe how complicated he felt nutrition was after giving him some basics, he'd be like, “Well, dad. We breakfast. We eat lunch. We eat supper. We eat snacks. I mean, we eat.” How could it be more complicated than that? You might miss a meal. You might have one another time. Surely, it's not that complicated. It isn't actually that complicated, but we do over-complicate matters to the extent that as we know, you can be doing your bachelor's, your masters, your PhDs on this topic, and you're only barely scratching the surface of how big a topic we've made this. I mean, do you think that's actually even part of the problem here? Maybe we're responsible for this, Shawn. You, me, and some of the others.
[00:58:46] SA: Yeah, we probably are. I think, the other thing too that's complicated it a bit is I don't know, maybe try to make it bigger than it is. In other words, a perfect example is and again, not to harp on the meta, because I think it's a useful finding, but it's the way it's been applied in certain settings is in this effort to debunk or examine nutrient timing, there was one nutrient and all of a sudden, it changed the complexity of the field, because of the way people jumped on that.
Again, it's not a useful finding. I think it told us a lot, which is if you're untrained, then your total protein intake in a day is more important than how you take it in. Okay, great. At least we know the target’s on. Unfortunately, how that was then moved into the athletic realm and the active individual space became difficult. If you really want to have a fun one, go back and look at the meta that was done on meal frequency, where they basically found a meal frequency didn't matter, after taking out the outlier, because at one point it did. You know what the outlier was? It was a study where they also exercise with it, in which case meal frequency mattered.
Now, are we oversimplifying the meal frequency thing, because of what we choose to remove as outliers? When in fact, that outlier is a very important finding when it comes to meal frequency and training. Again, I think it all comes down to making sure you understand what population you're talking about that was used in that study and how it applies. It may never be that that population is exactly identical to who you're working with, or what you want. How close is it and what are the similarities that allow you to derive some conclusions that mean anything in order to do this, and putting it into practice in a relatively simple, but meaningful way?
I think that's probably the approach that I would recommend is we look at this literature and we look at the area and complexity, versus simplicity is. Go for the most bang for your buck. Do the stuff that matters the most first. Get that down, then you can start playing with the other stuff. I mean, it's because like I said, if you have an athlete who's not sleeping, and they're not eating enough, and they're not training well, well I can nutrient time all freaking day and it's not going to make a difference. It's not going to solve my problems. I got to take care of the big stuff first.
Then after that, now something like, how you time that does start to become a useful addition, because it's the next level that you're taking that to. Ideally, yes, especially if you're working with a high-level athlete, which I know you've done quite a bit. By the way, it was funny, you'd said how you have this interest on the military side as well. I know the work you've done there. Sus ops. Sustain operations, right? You talked about availability and your ability to reproduce that at effort over multiple days, or a week, or more on a sustained operation on a sus op.
Yeah, availability. Man, it matters. In this case, it might bring somebody home or not. Those are the kinds of things that we need to start thinking about when we interpret this area. As we look for the next level of study and what questions still need to be answered, we actually have a lot of answers out there. I really do believe that we have some really good research out there that has shown the value of feeding, the value of feeding at certain times and in quantities, but also being able to put that within the description of okay, were they coming in carb depleted, or glycogen depleted, or were they not?
Did the activity they engaged in deplete glycogen, caused significant muscle damage or not? Post-training then, what are we looking to do and when's my next training session, in order to know what I need to do to get ready for that? Do I have a little bit more leeway? Do I have a little bit less? Where am I starting at? Oh, and by the way, here's another one, are they coming off of injury? In which case, maybe this matters even more, because I'm trying to get every little bit out of recovery that I possibly can.
If you start to put those pieces of the story together, now you're starting to frame it in a way that we actually have the research to support it and you are applying it to who you're working with. Again, pay attention to the big movers first.
[01:02:58] LB: Yeah. I think, I mean, an elephant in the room on this is going to be the issue of should you get into this? Should you run with it? Or should you sit there and go, “Do you know what, I actually, in all honesty, can't say I really understand this.” That's difficult, because people have written about this in our industry. Louise Burke. First, Louise Burke wrote about scienceiness, or truthiness. I think it was Stephen Colbert’s thing, wasn’t it, is what sparked this whole thing off.
People aren't necessarily just ignorant of their lack of knowledge in this area. They can be ignorant of their ignorance. That’s an issue, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. That's like you say, these matters come out and suddenly, everybody in the personal training, or strength conditioning industry go running with that, “Well, blah, blah, blah. He's an influencer, or he's a well-known researcher. He's got X amount of publications or whatever.” I don't want to fires, or do whatever, because all this stuff's valuable knowledge. The problem can –
[01:04:01] SA: Oh, yeah. It absolutely is.
[01:04:03] LB: - to interpretation and so on. As a practitioner, or a researcher, you need at least a certain amount of skills in order to filter this stuff. Just from your perspective, because obviously, not everyone can do a PhD. From your perspective, given the troops on the ground, how are they supposed to confront this? Because otherwise, it's overwhelming. What's your advice on that, Shawn?
[01:04:25] SA: Common sense goes a long way. Unfortunately, common sense, isn't that common. I think that sometimes, you need to take a step back and really ask what you're trying to accomplish with your athletes. I think what you need to do probably, first and foremost, is ask yourself how well you know your athletes.
I'll give you an example. This is something that actually Michelle had run into, when she was working at Rutgers women's soccer. We had a player, she was educating them on protein intake. The players are like, “Oh, yeah. No, no, no. I eat plenty of protein.” Does a dialogue and it’s like, almost no protein. Okay. Well, let's identify sources of protein. Player comes in the next week and she was, “You're going to be so proud of me, I got protein in.” She goes, “I had fried shrimp.”
I remember Michelle sat there for a second, she goes, “That is fantastic.” Because it's one of those things where they're – I know a lot of dietitians are like, “Oh, you don't need fried food and fried foods. Not going to help your athletic performance.” The point is, we were trying to help her understand protein and that she wasn't getting any. It was a win for her. You don't crap on that. You don't basically say, “No. Because you know what?” They will give up at that point. They’ll go, “I don't know what I'm doing.”
Even little progress is still progress. I think as a practitioner, as in the nutrition world, in the performance world, whatever it is, and they're not mutually exclusive, obviously, know your athlete and know what a win would be. Where are their biggest struggles and where can you make the biggest difference for them? Because at the end of the day, if they're just not eating enough period, you can actually use nutrient timing to your advantage, because it gives you some places where you can say, “I need you to eat here and I need you to eat here, because it's going to help your performance and your recovery. Oh, by the way, you just fit two more meals in.”
You can use it to your advantage without even getting complicated. I probably would get less caught up. Especially initially, at least initially, in total quantities. You don't have to get your grams per kilogram just dead on. Just try to feed them. Make sure that they're getting in a carbohydrate they can use before their gain. An hour to two hours out, maybe top them off as they get closer. Post, make sure they're getting protein in them to start the repair process. If you know you got some more stuff coming up, feed them some carbohydrate too, because it's going to help with your immune recovery on top of everything else.
It's one of those things where we don't have to get super fancy and we don't have to worry about every little micronutrient here and there. Start with the basics. As you get good at that, now we can tweak it a little bit and start adding in those little extras. They're like, okay, cool. We've nailed this. Now, here's what I want you to do. Until they nail that, for the love of God, don't add the next layer. You're going to frustrate them and you're going to frustrate yourself.
The one thing that we took away doing this and with the other stuff that I've written on nutrient timing, the review we did for ISSN, is within these windows, you actually have some flexibility in what you do. It's not like it's this lockstep. If you don't do this, you massively fail. I think, one of the coolest findings for me was that we often think of caffeine as the pre-training, pre-workout type of stimulant. We've also seen that it can help with glycogen replenishment if you take it after. How cool is that from a timing standpoint? Those are the little things that I think that we can do a better job with, that even if you don't have a full understanding of the area, as long as you grasp what the crucial times are for your athlete, or your performer, or whoever it is, and you understand the value of food, whether it's in supplement form, whole food form, and you understand, especially around that training aspect, it's a little less fat, a lot more carbon protein-oriented, fit the other stuff in throughout the day.
I would argue, don't lose the forest for the trees, where just in your efforts to be so focused on the timing aspect that you forget about educating about the entire day. Because ultimately, that's going to carry the bulk of the work for you. I would just argue, the timing piece gives you a little help to fit the whole day stuff together. Where it's like, okay, hey, at least I hope I'm taking care of this part. I'm halfway there. We've recovered at least two of four or five meals. We're getting there.
I think that's where you can really see some utility in that. Knowing how many times a day your athletes have to train and all that stuff. Even beyond elite athletes, I mean, honestly, even with kids, when you see some of their soccer tournaments in a weekend and they have two and three games back to back to back to back, feed the little buggers. They need to eat. They need to refuel too.
In our efforts to demystify, or demythify, I think sometimes we've tried too hard to show that things aren't necessary. It's less about nutrient timing being necessary and it's more about it being a valuable commodity and tool to make the most out of something. This is where I am a big, big advocate for optimal versus sufficient. There's a lot of things you can do that are sufficient, but it doesn't mean it's optimal.
I would argue that as we go forward and we think about how that fits – as an example, we hear a lot about minimal effective dose. Minimal effective dose. Well, for anybody that works with a high-level athlete, you know that minimal effective dose is not going to get you that far, if you just do the minimum to make some progress. I would also argue on the flip side, minimal effective dose becomes a lot more useful to understand if you also know maximal tolerable dose.
If you know the extremes, now you find your sweet spot for training. Same thing goes with nutrition. Find out what your minimums are in terms of what they're currently doing and then work towards your maximums in terms of what you can ask them to do, but don't expect it to happen overnight.
[01:10:19] LB: Thank you so much. This is been a really enjoyable conversation. It just blows me away, how we can talk for an hour and a half about these sorts of things.
[01:10:29] SA: You and I usually do have a good time, especially when we're in person. It's probably good that this is via Zoom. Otherwise, we’d be talking for four hours.
[01:10:35] LB: It’s been years since we had a drink together, Shawn.
[01:10:38] SA: Yeah. As soon as all this craziness is done, we'll work on that.
[01:10:40] LB: Oh, man. We’ll get back to that. We’ll get back to that alcohol timing.
[01:10:46] SA: Yeah. That's a whole another show. Are you kidding me?
[01:10:49] LB: Yeah. Listen, I hope that the listeners have gotten as much out of that as I did. There's a there's a lot of thought-provoking stuff there. Obviously, folks need to actually read the reviews, read the book chapters, get up to date with where we're at with the evidence. Your perspective is important there, rather than just reading blogs on the Internet and so on. I'll put links to that in the show notes. All these new episodes will have transcripts, so people can read up on that. Yeah.
Although, I'll put the links for people who do want to follow you, your Twitter, or ResearchGate, or website, but what are the ones you would recommend?
[01:11:28] SA: I'm pretty active on Twitter on the professional side. Whether it's Twitter or Instagram, it's @ShawnArent. Fairly easy to find and not that complicated. Then certainly, with ResearchGate, and stuff like that follow along. We try to make sure that that's as updated as possible. Also, feel free to reach out to me. I will say, especially with the garage door paper, with the nutrient timing stuff. First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, because Michelle and I were able to co-author it. It's always cool to get to write with your wife. She has a pretty extensive background as a pro athlete. She's actually working on her RD right now, which I think is really cool.
Anyway, that was really a sweet spot for me. This is really the paper I wanted to write for a while that I presented on. We tried to make it and pun intended, digestible. In other words, it's readable for people. Certainly, the science is in there and we have some specifics for people to be able to follow. Even if that's a challenge for you at times, we tried to provide the take home messages and the conclusions within each section to help people be able to understand where the value in this is something that I feel passionate about, that we found has great utility and who we've worked with, as well as the research we've done.
We're actually in the middle of analyzing some data right now that we have on protein versus carbohydrate post-feeding in female athletes, and what its effects were on biomarker responses. We're looking at even from a timing standpoint with the macronutrient type. Does it matter based on males versus females? Those are some of the things that we have in the pipeline. By all means, feel free to engage.
Your listeners know this, because they obviously know the value of your podcast. I think that what you do for our field is a great service. I love what you guys do and interacting with you over the years, it's been great to see this grow. It's always an absolute honor for me to be on this. It's fun to just get to talk a little bit about the science and the practice all in one, in terms of how we do this stuff. Because at the end of the day, I think the one thing I try to emphasize with my own doctoral students and postdocs is so what?
We do this research, but so what? How does it get applied? What are we helping in this? It's not that everything is directly applicable, but what is the take home message that you're trying to do? That guides a lot of what we do in our work. We're fortunate to be in an environment that very much values that and encourages us to do it.
Again, thank you to you and the institute and what you guys are doing, and obviously bringing Kevin Tipton onboard is huge. Just think the world with that guy. You guys just continue to grow and it's fantastic to see. From my time as ISSN president through all of this now, it's been a big part of my life. Thank you, guys, for that.
[01:13:58] LB: Oh. Well, that's humbling to hear. Thank you. I can't wait to have another chat with you on or offline, Shawn. It's always awesome. Appreciate your time. I, of course, I’m Laurent Bannock and look forward to bringing you guys another episode very soon. Take care, everyone.
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