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How Periodization Works… for Your Nutrition

We speak with Dr. John Hawley, one of the leading experts in sports nutrition, about this cutting-edge trend.

Nutrient Dense Fruits and Vegetables

Forget what you thought you knew about sports nutrition. New science shows that cyclists should consider periodizing their nutrition, much like they periodize their training. We speak with Dr. John Hawley, one of the top experts in the world about the cutting edge trends in sports nutrition. Hawley also debunks myths about ketogenic diets and explains the difference between race and training nutrition.

Plus, we talk to Toms Skujins, who rode for Cannondale-Drapac when this was recorded in 2017, and then national champion Joey Rosskopf about how they use nutrition in the real world.

Primary Guest
Dr. John Hawley

Secondary Guests
Toms Skujins & Joey Rosskopf


  • Bartlett, J. D., Hawley, J. A., & Morton, J. P. (2015). Carbohydrate availability and exercise training adaptation: too much of a good thing? Eur J Sport Sci, 15(1), 3-12. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2014.920926
  • Burke, L. M., Ross, M. L., Garvican-Lewis, L. A., Welvaert, M., Heikura, I. A., Forbes, S. G., et al. (2017). Low carbohydrate, high fat diet impairs exercise economy and negates the performance benefit from intensified training in elite race walkers. J Physiol, 595(9), 2785-2807. doi: 10.1113/JP273230
  • Hawley, J. A., & Burke, L. M. (2010). Carbohydrate availability and training adaptation: effects on cell metabolism. Exerc Sport Sci Rev, 38(4), 152-160. doi: 10.1097/JES.0b013e3181f44dd9
  • Hawley, J. A., & Leckey, J. J. (2015). Carbohydrate Dependence During Prolonged, Intense Endurance Exercise. Sports Med, 45 Suppl 1, S5-12. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0400-1
  • Lane, S. C., Camera, D. M., Lassiter, D. G., Areta, J. L., Bird, S. R., Yeo, W. K., et al. (2015). Effects of sleeping with reduced carbohydrate availability on acute training responses. J Appl Physiol (1985), 119(6), 643-655. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00857.2014
  • Marquet, L. A., Brisswalter, J., Louis, J., Tiollier, E., Burke, L. M., Hawley, J. A., et al. (2016). Enhanced Endurance Performance by Periodization of Carbohydrate Intake: “Sleep Low” Strategy. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 48(4), 663-672. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000823
  • Marquet, L. A., Hausswirth, C., Molle, O., Hawley, J. A., Burke, L. M., Tiollier, E., et al. (2016). Periodization of Carbohydrate Intake: Short-Term Effect on Performance. Nutrients, 8(12). doi: 10.3390/nu8120755
  • Perry, C. G. R., & Hawley, J. A. (2017). Molecular Basis of Exercise-Induced Skeletal Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis: Historical Advances, Current Knowledge, and Future Challenges. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a029686
  • Pinckaers, P. J., Churchward-Venne, T. A., Bailey, D., & van Loon, L. J. (2017). Ketone Bodies and Exercise Performance: The Next Magic Bullet or Merely Hype? Sports Med, 47(3), 383-391. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0577-y
  • Torrens, S. L., Areta, J. L., Parr, E. B., & Hawley, J. A. (2016). Carbohydrate dependence during prolonged simulated cycling time trials. Eur J Appl Physiol, 116(4), 781-790. doi: 10.1007/s00421-016-3333-y
  • Yeo, W. K., Paton, C. D., Garnham, A. P., Burke, L. M., Carey, A. L., & Hawley, J. A. (2008). Skeletal muscle adaptation and performance responses to once a day versus twice every second day endurance training regimens. J Appl Physiol (1985), 105(5), 1462-1470. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.90882.2008

Episode Transcript

Intro  00:00

Welcome to Fast Talk, the VeloNews podcast, and everything you need to know to ride like a pro.


Caley Fretz  00:03

Fast Talk is sponsored by Quarq, maker of next-generation power meters, including the SRAM Red  DZero power meter, built specifically for SRAM groundbreaking Red groupset. The SRAM Red DZero parameter is compatible with all of SRAM’s red group sets. Find out more at


Caley Fretz  00:34

Welcome back, dear listeners to another episode of Fast Talk. I am Caley Fretz, senior editor here at VeloNews, sitting across the table as always from our good coach, Trevor Connor. How are you doing Trevor?


Trevor Connor  00:45

I’m good, Caley, how are you doing?


Caley Fretz  00:46

I am excellent. We also have a special guest today on the line via Skype all the way from Australia, I believe, Dr. John Holley. Dr. Holley, your titles a bit of a mouthful, why don’t you introduce yourself really quick.


Dr. John Holley Introduction

Dr. John Holley  01:03

Hi, good day, good afternoon, or good evening, whatever it is where you are. It is morning here in Australia, I have just returned from Europe. So, a little bit jet-lagged, but nevertheless, we will press on. The official title, I’m the director of the Center for Exercise and Nutrition here at the MacKillip Institute of Health Research in Melbourne, as you say in Australia, so a bit of a mouthful, but basically, the role of the lab is to study exercise and nutrition interventions with the sole aim of improving exercise capacity and exercise performance. So, that is probably enough, as far as an introduction goes.


Trevor Connor  01:38

So, I’m actually going to interject because I’ve been very excited to get you onto our podcast. As somebody who spends way too much time reading the research, Dr. Holley, for the last 20 years has been right at the top of the stack in terms of putting out the research on how our bodies adapt to training, and what is the best approaches to nutrition for both training and for racing. Pretty much anytime I have tried to research the physiology of adaptations in endurance sports, his studies always come to the top of the list. So, this is really an exciting one for me.


Why Nutrition Is Critical in Racing and Training

Caley Fretz  02:17

We are absolutely excited to have Dr. Holley on and the topic today is perfect for actually both of you, both Trevor and john, because we’re talking nutrition today, and this is right up your wheelhouse. So, I am kind of excited for this one, I always learn a lot when we go into these ones where Trevor is an expert in his own right. The topic today is broadly the differences between race and training nutrition, and what you should be doing differently in races versus in training. We are going to go into a whole bunch of other things beyond that, but that is sort of the overarching theme of today’s podcast. Trevor, let’s start with you, let’s start with a 10,000-foot view of why nutrition is critical to both racing and training.


Trevor Connor  03:07

I always want to put that bullet on the board, and I am regretting it because to try to explain the importance of nutrition, and Dr. Holley, please feel free to save me here, but to try to explain it in one minute is next to impossible. But obviously, this is how we fuel our bodies. We can’t perform without that fuel; we also can’t recover without that fuel. I see a lot of cyclists as a coach who really focus on what interval should I be doing? How should I be training? But don’t really think about, am I feeling my body so I can get through this training workout?  Just as important to be able to do the workout the next day, and how can I optimally get myself through the race? I am differentiating the race end of the training a bit here because that is really what we want to get at is, is the solution the same for both? So, Dr. Holley, I guess that is the first question that we’ll throw at you, what are your goals nutritionally for both racing and training? And are they the same?


Dr. John Holley  04:09

Well, that’s a good place to start. I think you did well there Trevor, so I didn’t have to rescue you there. The way I look at nutrition is it should support the training, it’s an adjunct to the training, and as you correctly pointed out, there are a lot of athletes who I see you know, think it’s a little bit of an add on. They are quite preoccupied with you know, how many hill reps they have done or how many miles have got in the diary at the end of the week. Only when they fall apart generally do they think of nutrition or pick the phone up and try and you know, see someone like myself or a nutritionist. So, I think it’s very important to get the message across to serious athletes, and by serious athletes, I mean people are training on a daily basis and upwards of an hour to several hours, the nutritional support is absolutely essential. Back to your original question, there is a difference between nutritional support during training or to support training, and competition nutrition, as we’ll call it, and you know, one is really concerned competition nutrition that is with optimizing the availability of fuel and maximizing that type of approach, whereas the other now as we’ve heard the term and it’s not a new term, but we tend to think of training in terms of dietary periodization, and, again, periodization is not a new concept to athletes as far as training is concerned, but certainly it’s a new concept, I think, relatively new, as far as nutrition is concerned.


Periodization Within Nutrition

Caley Fretz  05:35

Actually, Trevor and I were discussing this before we turned on the microphone as something that is relatively new, I think, to the world of sports nutrition is this concept of periodization within nutrition. Why don’t we dig into that a little bit more? We’ve talked about periodization in your exercise before, but maybe we should just redefine really quick, let’s go all the way back to the beginning here and redefine what periodization would look like in a nutritional context, and I’ll throw to you, Dr. Holley?


Dr. John Holley  06:04

Okay, well, that is a fair enough question to start with. If we think of training, it is easy to do the training model first, because most of the listeners relate to that. It would be rather ridiculous to assume that everyone goes out and rides two hours each day, every day of the week at the same pace at the same intensity on the same course, there is no periodization there, there is no differential between sessions, and you know, you’re not going to get tremendously race fit by doing that. While the same applies to nutrition, you do not eat the same on a daily basis, day in and day out, we eat to either fuel the demands of the training session, or in some cases, as I’m sure we’re going to get into in a few minutes, we can periodize nutrition by absolutely taking the opposite approach, and that is driving the training adaptation further by actually removing some nutrients. But the concept of periodization is exactly that, that not every training session will be the same in a week, or in a given macrocycle, and therefore these are the not every dietary recommendation, or macronutrient intake will be the same on a daily basis. So, it’s really just the manipulation of nutritional support to actually match the training demands of any given week or month, or whatever the session happens to be. So again, periodization just really refers to the manipulation of your diet around certain training sessions, in some cases to support them with optimal nutrition, and usually, we’re talking about carbohydrates, but actually removing some carbohydrates to push the training adaptation even further.


Examples of Periodizing Nutritionally

Trevor Connor  07:40

So, what would be some real-world, practical examples of nutritionally periodizing to optimally support performance versus periodizing to potentially optimize adaptations?


Caley Fretz  07:55

Okay, well, let’s perhaps do this systematically, and I know if we can talk about the training first, rather than the performance, I think, you know, that we’ll be sequential and logical, and it’ll be easier for all of us to comprehend. Certainly, regarding training, we used to think that basically, one size fits all, and what do I mean by that? Well, if you look at the sports nutrition guidelines, and these are written by myself by Louise Burke, by other authority people in the world, we basically said about five or six years ago that we should be ingesting, that these endurance athletes should be ingesting a reasonably high carbohydrate diet, you know, six to eight grams per kilogram of carbohydrate for body mass almost every day. What this failed to recognize was that training differs on a day-to-day basis. So, that’s historically where we’ve come from, we’ve come from this point where we said one size fits all, we’re now recognizing very clearly, and athletes have probably known this longer than the sports scientists, at least of those working close to, to the coaches in the field at the coalface so to speak, is that athletes don’t do the same thing every day, and therefore their nutritional demands are completely different. I’ll give you an example if a cyclist was going to do a high-quality intense training session, we know that high-intensity training sessions done at 85% of maximal heart rate, 90% of VO2, such a session might be after 30- or 40-minutes spinning warm-up, something like six times five minutes at your best 4 k race pace. We know from our studies that that depletes about 40% of your muscle glycogen. Therefore, you need adequate muscle glycogen to start such a training session, and therefore carbohydrate availability before the training session, and to some extent during this training session, and certainly perhaps after the training session should be high. On the other hand, let’s say you are taking an easy recovery ride the next day done it 50-60% of your peak heart rate, very long ride, three, four hours, where the main aim of the session is to perhaps increase rates of fat oxidation in the muscle. We know that the provision of large amounts of carbohydrates may be actually detrimental to push those benefits. So, here’s a day where you might actually go as low as three to four grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass, and again, there is more than adequate substrate in the muscle to support such a training session without exogenous supplies of carbohydrates or drinking or eating gels during a ride. So, two examples thereof where a quality session demands carbohydrate availability, and where a less intense session for a more prolonged period, which relies not on exclusively but predominantly on fat does not require the same degree of carbohydrate supplementation.


Trevor Connor  10:40

So I know you did some research, it seems that there was a lot of excitement about 10 years ago, this idea of training in a glycogen depleted state or eating high fat, low carbohydrate diet, and you saw a higher response and PGC-1alpha, and I’m going to tell you our very first podcast, I tried to say that the full-term, and how many takes did I have to do?


Caley Fretz  11:05



Trevor Connor  11:06

And I took that right out of one of your reviews. So, thank you for the tongue twister. But you were seeing that increase in mitochondrial biogenesis, a lot of different adaptations that you were very excited about before, but then when you started doing the studies looking at how it affected performance, it seems like that doesn’t seem to be playing out. Is that correct?


Dr. John Holley  11:30

Yeah, that is a pretty good summary of where we’re at the moment. I guess there has been an evolution of this. So, let us be quite clear about what we’re talking about here. What we are talking about is commencing a training session, and a reasonably intense one at that is what we used in our studies, in a state where you’re probably already lost about 50% of your glycogen. Now, there is one really important caveat here, Trevor, and I think we need to make this quite clear. The studies of high-fat diets and lowering your carbohydrate availability by merely displacing carbohydrate calories with fat is totally different to train low paradigm. So, I want to make that quite clear for your listeners, a high-fat diet, by definition is a low carbohydrate diet, but where we’ve done our train low studies, it’s very important that we realize that the low glycogen state is induced by training, not by diet, and there’s a big, big difference mechanistically there. So, let me just walk you through very, very slowly. I am aware that I’m talking far too long here. But the first studies that we looked at, we did ask subjects to actually train twice a day, we do what we call a glycogen depleting session, a long ride of 90 to 120 minutes in the morning, and then we get subjects in the laboratory for several hours and just fed them basically placebo, even though they thought they were ingesting carbohydrate, and then ask them to commence the second session of the day with low glycogen. So, it’s only the second session of the day, which was commenced with low glycogen availability. What we did find was that, despite power outputs being seven or 8%, lower, and we did these studies, initially over three to four weeks, using three or four training sessions a week in this low glycogen state, that as you correctly pointed out, all the training markers were massively increased Now, this was remarkable to us for several reasons, and the main one is because these were already well-trained cyclists or triathletes doing 15 to 20 hours a week of training. So, what this showed us, that was quite clear, and now we’ve repeated it several times, and so several other independent laboratories is that even with well-trained athletes who supposedly have already maxed out their training adaptations, it was possible within a very short period, that is just three to four weeks of training, perhaps only three times a week, so a total of nine to 10 sessions in those three weeks, to actually push some of the mitochondrial adaptations that you talked about PGC 1 and citrate synthase and various other markers, up to already higher levels. Now, that was phenomenal to us, but it came as a cost, and you clearly outlined that. We were unable to detect a clear benefit to performance. So, that was a quandary to us, and that’s probably a good place to stop and pause and say, well, those studies were very interesting, but for the athlete, it’s all very well to increase lots of these, what my wife calls alphabet soup markers in the muscle, but if it doesn’t translate into performance, then the coach and athlete isn’t really interested. So, that became the I guess the point for us to start thinking of what we were doing wrong and trying to think of different strategies.


Defining Training Response Markers

Caley Fretz  14:36

Just to really quickly, could you guys define some of those alphabet soup markers? Because we’ve gone through them in previous podcasts, but just in case listeners are showing up here for the first time.


Dr. John Holley  14:46

Sure, sure. I guess the main market that we looked at as an outcome variable was resting muscle glycogen, and by training in a lowered state, literally just for 10 sessions a week where we’re able to increase its resting muscle glycogen. Now, in theory, any intervention, which gives you more glycogen at the beginning of a race should actually lead to an increase in performance. So, that was one main outcome marker, and we were surprised by that. Other markers of what we call mitochondrial biogenesis, and that is basically the generation of new mitochondria, which is obviously very good in the muscle of endurance-trained athletes because this is the powerhouse of the cell for generating adenosine triphosphate, the energy which the muscle uses. All the markers to do with mitochondrial biogenesis were up. So, we looked at markers such as citrate synthase, which is a marker of the TCA cycle, the tricarboxylic acid cycle, and every such markers such as that, and markers of fat oxidation, were also up. So, anything that we basically looked at, which was to do with either liquid or carbohydrate oxidation, these markers were up. So again, on that side of the balance sheet, you would say that performance should be improved, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.


Caley Fretz  16:07

Do you know why? I mean, I’m assuming that you’ve, you’ve spent quite a bit of time since then trying to figure out precisely why you didn’t see obvious increases?


Dr. John Holley  16:17

We spend a lot of time thinking about this. The simple answer is, we don’t really know why. I’ve got a few theories on this and one of them is really quite incidental to some of the outcome measures. I really honestly don’t think sometimes we can measure performance as accurate as we think in the laboratory situation. There are so many variables out on the road, whether it be in a triathlon or a road race that we cannot simply replicate in the lab, the wind, the draft, the bike handling, and various other aspects, and when you put someone on a laboratory cycle ergometer, and even if you put a screen in front of them and try and simulate a course, it’s not quite the same. And apart from that, I have no real answers. Of course, one answer, which I often get thrown at me at talks like this is, well, maybe the muscle was already stacked with enough mitochondria and the enzymatic machinery to do the business anyway, and that’s a very good point, perhaps adding to the, if you like molecular soup in the muscle, once you reach the point, you’ve reached saturation point, and you know, adding more units doesn’t necessarily equate to performance. But again, I’m not convinced of either argument there, and my honest answer to that is, I think it’s somewhere a little bit of both.


Caley Fretz  17:30

Interesting, or maybe just a point of diminishing returns sort of thing, right? Once you have so much,


Dr. John Holley  17:34



Caley Fretz  17:35

Doesn’t really help anymore. Yeah, fascinating.


Trevor Connor  17:38

But going back now, you did say that it’s different when you’re talking about nutritional changes, where you’re eating a very low carbohydrate, high fat for an extended state, and it seems like there does seem to be a very clear mechanism for why you don’t see the improvements in performance, and as I remember, one of those is, you see a decrease in glycolysis, you simply can’t do the high-intensity efforts as well. I’m trying to keep this in simpler language.


Caley Fretz  18:09

I appreciate that. He does it for me, John. I play the village idiot on this podcast. I’m mostly hanging on just by my fingertip so far. So, I appreciate you guys dumbing it down a little bit for us.


Dr. John Holley  18:23

Obviously, read the literature very well, and I don’t want to get into the old high fat low carbohydrate argument which certain other people are publicizing at the moment, although we can attach on that stage, I guess a little later. One of the things that we did find is that when we look at these high-fat diets, there’s no question that you start to use a lot more fat, and by definition, if you can use fat from that depo in your muscle, you can spare some of your glycogen. And the question to us was, you know, why wasn’t it turning into a performance benefit? And the simple answer is, as you’ve correctly pointed out, we weren’t sparing glycogen in a positive way, we were actually impairing the ability of the muscle to use glycogen. So, there’s a quite different system here, instead of being able freely to put the pedal down and use glycogen when the intensity is on, here the high-fat diet actually put the brake on that, so it has the opposite effect. So, we have given the muscle all these benefits would increase the capacity to oxidize fat, and it was almost like riding with half your brake pad on all the time because we are impaired the ability of the muscle, as you said, Trevor to go through glycolysis and break down glycogen. So, this was a bad sparing if you like and not a good sparing. And again, I might add that the mechanisms by which high fat diets do that are completely different and unpolarized from the fact that when you train low, it’s a completely different mechanism. But yeah, good point. Glycogen sparing as we thought of it, as in the old days of a good thing here was not a good thing. It was actually glycogen impairment.


Trevor Connor  19:56

So, essentially you gain the ability to go forever, he just couldn’t go forever very fast. Is that a good way to put it?


Endurance Capacity

Dr. John Holley  20:04

That is a nice way of putting it. It’s an interesting point you raise here, because in the studies that were done very, very early on 1983 by Phinney, published in Metabolism, where they did feed athletes at a very low carbohydrate diet, less than 50 grams a day, and basically a ketogenic diet for four weeks, how they test so-called performance is completely different, in my view, from real performance. They ask athletes to merely ride to exhaustion at a very low percentage, 63% in the case of their study of their VO2 max, in other words, about 70% of maximal heart rate. When you test endurance in inverted commas like that, yeah, you may be able to go longer on a high-fat diet, but to the best of my knowledge, there aren’t any races where you set out on a line and say to people, well, rider to fix submaximal workload, and the one who falls off the bike last is the winner, that’s not how real races are won. So, you’re absolutely correct here. It improves endurance capacity, but endurance capacity is not the same as performance.


Ketogenic Diets

Caley Fretz  21:05

So, you just used a term that I definitely know, which is ketogenic, and it’s one that we’ve heard, thrown around quite often, I’ve had it used at me, probably because the person that was using it at me just assumed I had no idea what he was talking about. We have heard it particularly in relation to Team Sky, and some other teams using apparently ketogenic diets to pull additional performance out of their riders. I’ve just been interested, as an expert, and somebody who pulled that word out of a completely separate conversation, what you think of those sort of diets for somebody like a Tour de France rider? If I’m understanding you correctly, it sounds like the performance benefits you get from that sort of diet are not the sort of performance benefits you want in something like the Tour de France.


Dr. John Holley  21:52

Well, again, maybe a good podcast is to talk to Dr. James Morton, who’s a good friend and colleague from Liverpool John Moores University, who worked very closely with Team Sky. He can completely debunk some of the myths surrounding mainly, Chris Froome as we know who’s, you know, supposedly not eating any carbohydrates and riding the Tour de France, and able to put out power outputs, you know, 450-500 watts, you know, while climbing. This is not done on fat metabolism; I can assure you that emphatically. So, let us just back off, and again, I like to talk science here rather than anecdotes and anything else. If you go back to the original paper in Metabolism in 1983, you will find there that the conclusion of the paper reads and I am paraphrasing from memory here, that ketogenic diets may be beneficial for athletes involved in endurance events lasting two or more days. The message becomes completely diluted, and we have members of the Ketogenic Brigade, but we had a tour recently in Australia by certain figures who I will not mention by name, but it was called the Low Carb Down Under Tour. And we had these people, so-called experts, talking to football teams. Now, if you know anything about Australian rules football, you will know that it is a game played at very high intensities with high running velocities, which is glycogen dependent. I was shocked and stunned, you know, to see headlines in our paper that certain of our Australian Football rules teams were following the ketogenic diet because I can assure you if they weren’t at the bottom of the ladder, because the demands of those team’s sports is so different to prolonged endurance events. Now, getting back to your question there about Tour de France. I think this is an issue of dietary periodization once again, and I think the message has been lost, and here I would like to really make quite clear to the listeners that extremes of anything but diet or training or weight loss or whatever are dangerous. The ketogenic diet is extreme, it is less than 50 grams of carbohydrate a day, any athlete who is trying to compete unless it’s in an event such as riding across America or something which is performed at such very low intensities, that carbohydrate is not obligatory fuel, it is nonsense. I mean, it literally is nonsense, and again, just had a study published on this, and I am not sure if you want to go into this Trevor, but we can certainly discuss it, a paper which has just come out in the Journal of Physiology using world-class athletes who we placed on a ketogenic diet, and guess what? Performance was impaired and walk-in economy in these elite race walkers was impaired. So again, ketogenic diet, I’m not sure why all the fuss has been created. I think there has been a lot of fuss with little science in my honest opinion.


Performance Benefits and Myths

Trevor Connor  24:47

That paper, what actually surprised me was the fact that they were less efficient burning more fuel or less economical. I was actually surprised by that because I always thought that burning fat was more efficient, you produce more ATP per mole of fat than you did carbohydrates. The explanation in the paper made a lot of sense, it was the NAD versus FAD.


Caley Fretz  25:12

A lot of alphabet soup happening.


Dr. John Holley  25:21

So, what we did very briefly paraphrasing this study, and let us make no mistake about this we used elite athletes, that term gets bandied about we had Olympic gold, silver, World Championship medalists, European medalist, this was an elite squad of around 29-30 very elite race walkers. I must be honest, until I’d seen these guys train and being part of this training camp, working for me and I shouldn’t say this was a little bit like you know, who can whisper the loudest type thing. It is a strange event and they’re perhaps unrecognized athletes. After watching these guys train upwards of 200 kilometers a week, and do cross-training or weights and everything else, I tell you now have the utmost respect for them. These are true athletes in every sense of the word. What we did was we placed them on three different diets, roughly 10 in each group. One was the ketogenic diet, which as I said, under 50 grams of carbohydrate a day. The point here I want to make is that this study was done at the Australian Institute of Sport with a staff of more nutritionists than subjects in this case, and we fed and weighed everything that went into the athlete’s mouth. One thing and I know it’s a little bit of a sidebar, but my phone ring rings regularly with athletes saying, I’m on the ketogenic diet, I’m on this diet, I’m on that diet, when I actually refer them to a nutritionist, and they list what they’re eating, they’re generally eating, you know, 200 to 400 grams of carbohydrate a day. So, when athletes say they’re having a ketogenic diet, and what they’re actually doing, usually two completely different things. So, in this case, everything was well controlled. Cutting to the chase, the athletes train intensely for weeks, we tested them at midpoints, before, during, and after, we took various blood markers because they were elite athletes, we weren’t able to take muscle biopsies. But as you correctly pointed out, we did notice a deterioration in the walking economy, the oxygen cost of walking was higher. We also noticed a drop in 10-kilometer race performance, and again, this wasn’t a stage race, this was a sanctioned race where we flew out officials with proper rules and regulations, with aid stations and everything else, the point where I want to make is that we’d carbohydrate restore them at the end. So, even when you have a ketogenic diet, and you restore carbohydrates in the last 48 hours before a race, in this case, the economy and performance were still far worse. So, there were no benefits to the ketogenic diet. Aside from that, and just finishing on this one, the subjects reported just feeling absolutely terrible on the diet, the mood changes, the almost aggressive behavior from some of these very mildly mannered walkers was absolutely apparent to all the investigators, and again, you know, they weren’t pleasant people to be around if we’re on the ketogenic diet. So, one thing that’s often missed out in the literature is that it’s all very well to say on the ketogenic diet but being around people who are hypoglycemic and trying to train at a reasonably high level, wasn’t a fun aspect of the study. I can assure you.


Caley Fretz  28:21

Whole bunch of hangry athletes, that sounds fun.


Dr. John Holley  28:24

Hungry and angry.


Trevor Connor  28:25

I think we’ve established that likely, Team Sky is not eating a ketogenic diet.


Dr. John Holley  28:33

When any intensity is required carbohydrate is the go-to fuel. We’ve written a review on this in sports medicine, and we basically say for any Olympic event, you know, three hours or less, your carbohydrate dependent. To win those races, to compete in Olympic level triathlons, Olympic distance triathlons, even to run three, three, and a half hour marathons, the main fuel required is carbohydrate, and not necessarily obligatory use of fat at those workloads. Just as a sidebar again, it’s interesting I’d love to get data on the recent attempt at the two-hour marathon record, my bet is that these guys have very high RER values, which basically means they’re burning almost exclusively carbohydrate to run at that pace. You don’t run 21 kilometers an hour for two hours on fat, I can assure you.


Trevor Connor  29:25

Let’s take a quick break. Fast talk is sponsored by Quarq, maker of next-generation power meters, including the SRAM XX1 Eagle power meter. The XX1 power meter unites Quarq’s Dzero platform with carbon-tuned crank arms for robust, intuitive power measurement in the lightest ever mountain bike chassis. It’s compatible with all the SRAM 1X mountain bike drive trains. Find out at


Training the Low Glycogen State

Trevor Connor  29:56

So, I know you’ve had some recent studies that have taken a very unique and novel approach to this training the low glycogen state to hopefully get some adaptations. So, can you tell us a little bit about that? And my understanding is it involves, the time of the day when you train and sleep?


Dr. John Holley  30:18

Yep, that is great. Well, as we pointed out earlier, I guess that the disadvantage with the twice a day training session, it was some athletes, it was quite impractical to do this, in other words, lower glycogen initially, and then follow up. So, we are trying to come up with a practical way, which everyday athletes who, you know, most of them have a job could actually incorporate the train low strategy without some of the disadvantages, and what we came up with was actually sleeping low.


Train High and Sleep Low

Dr. John Holley  30:44

So, we trained high and slept low. And let me just define that very quickly. In order not to compromise a quality session, we had athletes train in, late afternoon, early evening with high carbohydrate availability. This, to some extent, almost negated every negative effect of training low before, and if you remember when we training low before is that the power outputs in the work were really, really low, 7 or 8%. So, we train the guys in the evening with high carbohydrate availability, good quality sessions, and here’s the twist, we then put them to bed, and this was done in the lab by the way and fed them, we then put them to bed with low carbohydrate availability. There were two reasons for this. First, that we wanted them to get up in the morning, and do an easy session with high-fat availability, their capacity to oxidize fat. But secondly, we also wanted the best of both worlds and by giving them a low carbohydrate diet for that night, we were basically able to prolong the period in which the muscle was exposed to low carbohydrate availability. So, let’s say they finished their workout at seven o’clock, they then ate a meal, which was high fat and high protein, very little carbohydrate. They didn’t do the next session until seven or eight the next morning, thus giving the muscle 12 hours of exposure to low carbohydrate availability. What did this do? Well, it enabled them firstly, on the night of the high-intensity training session not to compromise the power output of work, but secondly, quite surprisingly to us, without carbohydrate availability did not disturb their sleep. Thirdly, it gave the muscle exposure for a longer time period and in our previous studies, namely 12 hours to the low carbohydrate availability. And fourthly didn’t compromise the easy ride the next day a two- or three-hour ride, which was done in a low carbohydrate state with high-fat availability. So, this is something on a practical basis that the athlete could incorporate. The next question, and one I am asked frequently is, how often should you do this? Well, probably a couple of times a week, I would say using it in the buildup stages, rather than the competition stage. So, we find that if athletes do this more than twice a week, they generally tend to have a lower overall training quotient if you like volume and intensity for that week. So, I would probably recommend doing this a couple of times a week. That is sleeping with low carbohydrate availability, given the proviso that you’ve done your intense session the night before, and that you can go out the next morning and do a relatively easy ride. So, this is a twist on the train low and something that is practical and take home for most athletes.


Trevor Connor  33:28

Just great. Sadly, I do this all the time without even knowing it because I tend to work late and then hop on my bike, do really hard workout and go to bed without eating.


Dr. John Holley  33:36

Well, it’s funny you say that just as a sidebar here, he can use this not, but when we were actually presenting this, first of all, it was at a meeting in Europe, A world-class athlete there who’s actually won Ironman said, “Well, Dr. Holey I’m so glad you’ve said that, you’ve legitimized something that I’ve been doing for four or five years, and I’m like, “Well, you’re World Champion, you certainly don’t need me to legitimize your training habits when you’re winning World Champs and Ironman. So, it was amazing that the athletes again, several light years ahead of the exercise scientists, merely came along and merely confirmed what the athletes were actually doing in the field, or at least some of them.

Trevor Connor  34:14

I wish I remember who it was, but a physiologist I quite respected said, “If you ever want to be a great exercise physiologist, go see what the top athletes and coaches are doing, because they’re always 15 years ahead of the science.”


Learning About Nutrition From Coaches and Athletes

Dr. John Holley  34:27

Absolutely. I’ll actually concur with that. I learn a lot from just hanging around with these guys, talking to the athletes talking to the coaches, and again, some of our best ideas for studies have actually been proposed by coaches. I think that’s no coincidence that they’re leading the field to be honest.


Optimizing Training Nutrition

Trevor Connor  34:44

So, let’s get to the real practical. In training, what should our listeners be focusing on in terms of their nutrition to optimize their training?


Caley Fretz  34:55

And then also in terms of timing because that seems to be a major piece of what we’re talking about here.


Dr. John Holley  35:00

Given you’ve got listeners have varied ability and competition level, it’s a hard question to give a one size fits all answer. But I would say that athletes who are serious about their training, need to start thinking about the periodization of their nutrition. And by that, as we said earlier in the podcast, we mean, not throwing carbohydrates in massive quantities at every training session, per se, that would have been the old philosophy, you know, perhaps a dozen or so years ago. What is envisaged now from a practical viewpoint is, is the deliberate undertaking of some training sessions with low or lowered carbohydrate availability, and when we talk about carbohydrate availability, we don’t just mean muscle glycogen, we sometimes mean supplementation during rides. Having said that, if you want to put your foot down, and you are doing a quality workout, a track workout, or a hard hill session, or whatever it happens to be, you need carbohydrate onboard. How often should we be training with low carbohydrate? Again, I would emphasize that this isn’t something you want to be doing day in and day out, I probably only do this a couple of times a week. And for the most part, I do it in this sort of, you know, the base phase of training, well before competition phases. Again, as you get nearer and nearer competition, the intensity needs to be high, and therefore carbohydrate availability needs to be high. When we talk about training strategies about nutrition, again, I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that it isn’t a one size fits all, and that we do need to be making a conscious and deliberate effort to if you like, nutritionally support the demands of training, but also be very aware of what the goal of that particular training session is required. And I think if you sit down with a coach or an advisor and devise a program such that you really have an idea of what every training session is, then the nutrition to support that is pretty logical and comes out in the wash type thing.


The Focus of Nutrition During Training vs. Racing

Trevor Connor  36:57

And sorry, I should have clarified, because I essentially just asked you to give the complete answer to nutrition in two minutes, which obviously is impossible. So, I was asking the question more in the context of how should the focus during training be different from the focus during racing?


Dr. John Holley  37:15

All right, that’s a good question. You know, the focus during training should be to optimize training adaptations, and what do we mean by that? We mean the adaptations, which are absolutely prerequisites and necessary to support racing. So, for example, if your event is a 40-kilometer time trial, that you’re trying to break an hour or 65 minutes, or whatever the time goal happens to be, you have to spend a certain proportion of your training at that intensity and to do that, you need to be tailoring your nutrition to support that particular workout. So, as far as training goes, there are times when carbohydrate availability will need to be high, and there are times when it needs to be low.


Dr. John Holley  37:59

As far as competition strategy goes, it’s almost one size does fit all, it’s a case of you want to increase carbohydrate availability in their muscle before, by a dacha manipulation in the last 48 hours increasing carbohydrate intake, you want to be having a pre-race breakfast to increase carbohydrate availability not only in the bloodstream, but also in the liver, and if the event is lasting over an hour, you certainly need to be supplementing with carbohydrate during the event. As far as post-race strategies are concerned, again, it depends on an athlete’s race schedule, and what they have to do as far as backing up the next day or the next week. But carbohydrate availability should be high before, during, and to a large extent, after competition. And that’s how it differs from the training strategy where again, we’ve talked about periodizing in nutrition and having periods where the nutritional intake of carbohydrate is either high or low or moderate.


Trevor Connor  39:02

As you were saying that I was thinking about what I do, and I very naturally have over the years fallen into what you describe. If I’m heading out for lower intensity, five-hour ride, which is usually in the morning, I’ll just have some eggs beforehand, and even the food I’ll have on that ride, I personally love Kind bars which have a little higher fat content and some carbohydrates, but I’m not focused on the carbohydrates. Where if I’m going out to do some intervals or I’m going to go out to the weekly training race, I’m making sure I’m getting some good simple sugars in my system right before the ride, and I’m taking along the simple sugars for the ride.


Dr. John Holley  39:40

Absolutely. I mean, and again, going back to your first scenario of the long ride there, I mean, the basic object there is not to become hypoglycemic. So, as long as you’re trickling in carbohydrates at a rate, which means that you can maintain glycemia and by that we mean that you don’t bonk on the bike, then you know you’ve got more than adequate fat to carry on for many, many hours. So, you’ve hit the nail on the head there again, you’ve come up with a practical strategy, which ensures that basically, you’ve got enough fuel to carry on the activity at the duration intensity that you want, without going into a state of hypoglycemia, because make no mistake, if you do go hypoglycemic, you do have to stop and you do have to get to a carbohydrate source. So, again, to the opposite scenario, when you go out for an intense session, carbohydrate availability, by simple sugars should be high.


Trevor Connor  40:32

Dr. Holley has given us a lot of the cutting-edge science behind nutrition today. But as he said, a lot of that science comes out of seeing what the pros and coaches are doing. So, we thought we should talk with a couple professional cyclists and see what they do with their nutrition. Just remember though, that nutrition is a complex subject with a lot of conflicting opinions. Ultimately, as both of our pros recommend, you have to experiment and find what works for you. We have pro tour rider and Fast Talk regular, Toms Skujiņš, one these days I’ll actually pronounce that right. But first, let’s talk with BMC rider, Joey Rosskopf, who this year alone rode the Giro d’Italia and won the US National Time Trial championships. If you listen, I think you can hear him packing for Nationals in the background, I wish I had known at the time.


Trevor Connor  41:20

Do you eat and drink the same way on training rides that you do and races? Or is your nutrition different?


Joey Rosskopf: What Does He Do With His Nutrition?

Joey Rosskopf  41:29

It’s a bit different. Well, generally more hearty, healthy foods when I’m just at home training. Not afraid of vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and all that healthy stuff that people recommend for a balanced diet, which is not really the case at races. Depending on how I’m feeling, I usually opt for like, super simple, like a bunch of white rice and eggs. I mean, I’ve got no science behind it, but I just imagine it as being pure fuel when I’m at a race.


Trevor Connor  42:09

Well, there is some science saying that when you’re training that hard, your digestive system doesn’t function as well, so you actually want the simpler foods, you don’t want lots of fiber, your body can’t process it.


Joey Rosskopf  42:26

I don’t have a problem with training, no matter how hard I’m training, because normally it’s not as hard as, as five hours a day, at a race for a week or three weeks.


Trevor Connor  42:37

So, what about when you’re on the bike? Is that the same thing? Do you tend to eat a little more complex and nutritionally when you’re training and a little simpler when you’re racing? Or? Do you do the same thing?


Joey Rosskopf  42:50

Yeah, I’m pretty, pretty open while training. I mean, I’ll have stuff with more fat in it or fiber. Yeah, that’s kind of what I have around the house plays a big part in it. But the races, I try to do rice bars, and pretty good with the power bar products also, and when you’re just taking gels, or I go for the power bars with low fat, low fiber, little bit per game.


Trevor Connor  43:24

So, with your team, everybody eats a little bit differently?


Joey Rosskopf  43:31

Yeah, some people are almost only pasta, or some people are almost only rice. Everyone’s got to have a bunch of carbs, obviously. So, that is the base of every meal, either pasta or rice, and some people eat two steaks at dinner.


Trevor Connor  43:52

How did you find out what works for you? And how would you recommend to the readers, they figure that out?


Joey Rosskopf  44:00

I mean, a big part is, whenever you have success, try as best you can to remember the entire build-up to that. I mean, it’s not going to work every time but maybe you can catch on to some, some trends, or likewise if you have a terrible day on the bike.


Trevor Connor  44:19

You talked a little bit about what you eat when you’re racing. What do you eat on your training rides? Is there any consistency or was mostly what’s lying around the house?


Joey Rosskopf  44:29

Yeah, there’s consistency. I mean, there is just a big variety, but this week, got a couple packages Stroopwafel’s at the grocery store, so I’ve been packing them in my pockets. If I get really motivated, I’ll make some rice or oat-based bars at the house, package them up for the next few days of training. That usually only happens if I really have a few rest days and I’m getting bored around the house, and like cooking, my girlfriend will make banana bread sometimes.


Trevor Connor  45:07

But it’s a lot of more solid, traditional type food when you’re doing your long rides?


Joey Rosskopf  45:12

Yeah, it doesn’t bother me any. I do not really feel the need for gels.


Trevor Connor  45:16

What about interval days where you’re going shorter but harder? Do you change up what you’re eating on those rides at all?


Joey Rosskopf  45:24

Oh, yeah. I mean, I’ll still eat a lot on interval days, because you’re, especially if they’re intense. I won’t start the interval with any meat in my stomach.


Trevor Connor  45:35

Have you ever played with your nutrition or gotten any advice on modifying your nutrition to aid your training?


Joey Rosskopf  45:45

Yeah, a big thing that our nutritionist pushes is protein before bedtime, after dinner. Like in the form of a drink mix, or yogurt, something a little bit more readily digestible than meat. If you’re feeling a little hungry after dinner, and apparently, protein does good things if it helps you repair during the night.


Trevor Connor  46:14

There’s a lot of people who are now talking about this idea of nutritional periodization and doing some rides with no food. Is that something that’s ever been proposed here that you have given a try? Or is that something you’d rather avoid?


Joey Rosskopf  46:29

It’s definitely something I would rather avoid. I have avoided it. The team doesn’t push it, but so if some riders are interested in trying the low carb or whatever all these theories floating around, resources are there like the nutritionist wants to help with that also, and she’ll try to figure out the best way for you to do it without completely sacrificing your training quality. I’ve never tackled that kind of thing. I feel like you want to make it through every training ride feeling decent. I try to cut down on this struggle, just eat the carbs and feel good. Feel like I can go out and smash it, and do some hard riding. I mean, it’s definitely a trend. I don’t think it’s the secret anymore that Team Sky has been doing that or I don’t know what they do now, but a lot of their guys were doing it for a long time, and they’ve all ended up pretty skinny and successful.


Caley Fretz  47:37

We’re here with Toms Skujiņš, Cannondale Drapac Professional, and we’re going to ask you about ride versus race nutrition.


Trevor Connor  47:47

Do you eat the same foods? Do you have the same focus in your training as you do in your racing? Or is your nutrition different?


Toms Skujiņš: Ride vs. Race Nutrition

Toms Skujins  47:55

My racing and training nutrition definitely is a little bit different. However, I do consume, I definitely try out the same stuff in training as a will in races, just because to see how it fits with my stomach and stuff. But in training, I will go slightly less carbs. Maybe more on the protein side, I would not make rice cakes, which the team does, for example, and those are mostly carbs, like I don’t know, 90-80% carbs. And in training, I’d use either my own made dried food or, which is a lot of the times not butter based, just because it’s more protein, I don’t get hungry, and I can ride but at the same time, I ride with fewer carbohydrates available to the body, which I feel like helps develop my endurance a little bit more.


Trevor Connor  48:55

So, there is actual reason in terms of training and strength for this? It’s not just,


Toms Skujins  49:00

Yes, if I do race-specific intervals, if I do more pacing, if I do really hard 40/20s, if I do five minutes for gas, I will use some gels in the ride. I might even use a caffeine gel if I am cracked.


Trevor Connor  49:14

Okay, what do you use in racing? And what’s the focus there?


Toms Skujins  49:19

In races sometimes in long days, which not necessarily applies to weekend crits, I would start with a protein bottle actually, with a bottle of mix and a bottle of protein, which has 20 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbs. As I feel that it helps me extend the amount of time to like really to fatigue. And in racing, I will definitely focus on having enough carbs, enough mix, I don’t really drink that much water unless it’s really hot, and in the last two hours, I will definitely switch to, or at least an hour-and-a-half, I will definitely switch to gels. And as caffeine works, it takes a while to kick in fully and it doesn’t stop working for a while, I would usually take my caffeine gel an hour-and-a-half before the race finishes.


Trevor Connor  50:19

Okay. And is this purely focused on performance? Or is there especially for somebody like you who does a lot of stage racing, is there some thought about I need to be able to race tomorrow as well, so it’s not just about getting to the finish line today?


Toms Skujins  50:34

It is both, definitely the main focus is performance, but that protein bottle in the beginning also helps with the recovery the day after.


Trevor Connor  50:43

Out of interest, was that something that you got from your team or from somebody else? Or has that just been your experience?


Toms Skujins  50:47

The protein bottle is from the team, yeah.


Trevor Connor  50:49

There has been some recent showing that the belief that having a little bit of protein with carbohydrates improves performance, that’s been mostly debunked, but they’ve been saying there’s still a benefit to some protein when you’re racing, because it will speed recovery after the race.


Toms Skujins  51:06

I can totally see it.


Trevor Connor  51:07

Any other advice for our listeners in terms of things they should or shouldn’t be eating, both in training and in races?


Toms Skujins  51:16

The biggest advice would be just not to change anything before race. What you do is, what works and stick to what works. As long as you feel comfortable, as long as you can perform, sure, do it. But try new stuff out in training before you do it in races.


Trevor Connor  51:36

For somebody who’s brand new to this, and they haven’t found what works for them where would you recommend, they start?


Toms Skujins  51:43

You can definitely try and start with bars; they are commercially available all around. We have great sponsors on the team, and they provide us with everything, and those bars are delicious, even though you have to eat them 365 days a year. No, not really. That’s actually why I make my own bars, because I always have the team bars when I go with a team, so I do like to make my own bars. If you’re, if you like to cook, try something out, try making some energy balls, there’s loads of recipes, I would suggest the ones that are if you’re going along ride, ones that are maybe more nut butter-based, if you’re going on shorter rides, try the date based ones, those are really good too.


Dr. John Holley  52:25

It’s funny, guys like you do a great service because you know, I come back from a conference, have just been to Sweden and Denmark and talked about, you know, all this alphabet soup and stuff. But at the end of the day, I get such a buzz out of talking on these sort of things, and you know, the phone ringing and talking to coaches. These sort of things are really providing a service to bridge the gap between you know, what happens in the labs, and, you know, in the research arena, and what really, really happens out down on the road, and not until you sit down and try and get a consensus on what we should be doing and giving practical guidelines that you realize it’s not just a science, there’s a lot of art in this. As you say, Trevor, you naturally find out that something works for you, well, pretty much that most of your listeners probably fit into that category, and all I do, or we do is come along and merely confirm what probably they’re already doing in most cases.


Trevor Connor  53:13

We’ll see if the listeners,


Caley Fretz  53:15

They’ll like it. They never cease to amaze us in their ability to take in this sort the real science is really what we go for here. So, there’s a whole bunch of really good tips and tricks in there. Actually, we like to always sort of send people home with some takeaways, and there are some things out of this conversation that people can definitely do, you know, in their own training in their own eating, in their own nutritional intake.


Caley Fretz  53:39

Dr. Holley, I want to finish this off by asking you to look forward a little bit. So, both what you’re working on right now, what’s interesting to you right now, and then what you see kind of coming down the pipeline in the nutrition world.


Dr. John Holley: The Future of Sports Nutrition and Areas of Interest

Dr. John Holley  53:52

Okay, well, then, if I tell you my secrets, I’d have to shoot you guys.


Caley Fretz  53:57

Keep it at 10,000-feet, that’s fine.


Dr. John Holley  54:00

I’ll let you in on a few things we’re doing. We’re really centering on the moment on the timing of nutrition. The timing of nutrition has massive benefits on whether we can enhance the training adaptation and performance. So, around a lot of macronutrients and some supplements as well, looking at the timing of nutrient intake, I think that’s very important to maximize the training adaptation. I guess the thing that we’ve got going for the next two or three years, we’ve got some very good grant money to look at, to look at circadian metabolomics, and what do we mean by this? Kind of like alphabet soup again. Again, looking at the timing of nutrition around training sessions and exercise habits, not just with a view to looking at athletic performance, but also looking at health and how the timing of meals can, if you like, control glycemic control, and prevent some of these chronic diseases. So, perhaps not in your listeners vote for that, but something as you get older and sometimes a little fatter, you have to start thinking about so time to nutrition to optimize performance and health, that would sum up my life’s work for the next five years.


Trevor Connor  55:01

So, now you’re touching on something that’s been a huge pastime of mine. Are you also looking at the whole concept of intermittent fasting?


Dr. John Holley  55:11

Yes, yeah, what we’re looking at now is something that has been absolutely flogged to death in the animal literature, but I can assure you there’s not one ounce of human data. We’ve just finished the study as I speak. We’re looking at circadian metabolomics, and the time and feeding. One of the things we’re looking at is this issue of time-restricted feeding. So, very quickly, in the literature, at least, if you’re an animal, if you restrict your food intake to about eight hours of the day, in other words, you prolong the fast, it’s associated with a whole host of metabolic benefits. If on the other hand, you’re a grazer, as they’re called, you nibble your nightie and you spread your food intake over 15 or 16 hours, your metabolic health profile is not as good, again, that’s at least if you’re an animal. So, we’ve just done that in humans, and we’re really excited about the muscles, so to speak, we haven’t analyzed it yet, but a whole host of analyses would be undertaken to determine if this is true in humans. So, the whole issue of fasting for longevity, fasting perhaps for performance not quite as clear there, but the whole issue of timing of food intake and the period over which you eat, yeah, very interesting area indeed.


Trevor Connor  56:24

It’s absolutely fascinating, Caley, to fill you in on this I mean, the research coming out is, you rarely see research be this one-sided. You’re just seeing benefits and almost every major chronic disease they’re showing its effects on longevity are unbelievable. Was it yeast studies where they increased their lifespan by 40%?


Dr. John Holley  56:49

Yep, and worms as well. And as I say, it’s good news at the moment, if you’re a lower organism, want to show this in humans, and there is some human data out there, but it’s largely, you know, epidemiological or cross-sectional. But you’re right, there isn’t a variable at the moment, which seems to be negatively impacted. So, this is a really fascinating area. So, the whole biology area and of time and of nutrition, and how, how exercise can rescue some of the deleterious effects of messing up the circadian clock, and one of the best examples is feeding a high-fat diet. We know that messes up the circadian clock, and we’re asking the question, can exercise actually rescue that? So, yeah, maybe a podcast in two or three years on circadian metabolomics will be of interest to the listeners then.


Trevor Connor  57:32

That’s where I was gonna take us is, hopefully in a couple of years, we can get you back in and get an update on all this research. I think these absolutely fascinating.


Dr. John Holley  57:42

Sounds good. And it’s always good to talk to you guys. I’m actually going out to ride now. So, it’s about four degrees here, it’s actually cold in Australia.


Caley Fretz  57:52

I’m going to go find some dinner pretty soon. We really appreciate that. That was just a fantastic chat.


Dr. John Holley  57:59



Caley Fretz  58:00

Okay, Trevor. So, Dr. Holley has actually just went for a bike ride is what he told us. He is off the line. I want a real quick translation of everything we just talked about. Maybe not everything, I won’t ask you to sum up 45 minutes of chatting in just a couple of minutes, but there are a couple sort of important points that were made that may have gotten lost for some listeners in some of the scientific jargon. So, let’s talk about timing, first and foremost, that was really what Dr. Holley was focused on. What were the takeaways that we ended up with there on the timing front, in terms of what our listeners can go to, in their everyday training?


Timing and Nutrition

Trevor Connor  58:43

So, I think to answer that question, you need to take a step back and look at where we were at probably 15-20 years ago, where really the belief was both training and racing, you should be focusing on getting carbs, you cannot get enough carbs, just eat carbohydrates. What a lot of Dr. Holley’s research has been on it, and really what we are talking about throughout that conversation was the idea that no, that’s not always true. When you’re in a race, and you have to compete and you have work at high-intensity, yeah, you need those carbohydrates, you need to be eating them beforehand, you need to make sure your glycogen is fully repleted, you need to take them with you in the race. But it’s not always best when you are training. So, if you have to do high-intensity intervals, yes, again, you need some carbohydrates in your system. But if you’re doing lower intensity work, you might actually see better adaptations to consume less carbohydrate, to not take the Clif blocks or the gels on your easy three, four-hour training ride, and not focus on loading on carbohydrates beforehand. Where he’s been going really recently with the research and a lot of what he talked about this getting exciting is manipulating this, figuring out ways to allow it to train at high intensity, but still get the benefits of that, what happens when your body’s in a low carbohydrate state? So, that was when we were talking about that alphabet soup, and you see, in higher levels of that whole alphabet soup, when you train in a low carb state.


Caley Fretz  1:00:17

We’re talking about the markers that would indicate training response.


Caley Fretz  1:00:23

Thank you. A better way to say it.


Caley Fretz  1:00:25

Yeah. But without necessarily the training? Or more of them for the same amount of training?


Trevor Connor  1:00:32

The issue they ran into is when people are in a low carbohydrate state, training hurts more.


Caley Fretz  1:00:38



Trevor Connor  1:00:38

You can’t go as hard. So, in a couple of studies, they found that yes, you saw higher marker levels, you weren’t seeing the performance improvements, and part of that was because they couldn’t train as hard. So, sleep low, train high idea was, let’s have them do a hard interval session in a completely glycogen loaded state so that they can do the full workout, full intensity.


Caley Fretz  1:01:06

So, enough food basically.


Trevor Connor  1:01:07

With enough food, but do it close enough to bedtime that they are going to deplete a lot of their glycogen in that exercise, and then you don’t restock it afterward, and you have them sleep in that glycogen depleted state. So, then you get that bump up of those markers.


Caley Fretz  1:01:23

So, you get this boost in the markers, but you still get a quality training session?


Trevor Connor  1:01:27



Caley Fretz  1:01:28



Trevor Connor  1:01:29

And then you get up in the morning and you do a low-intensity training session in a completely glycogen depleted state.


Caley Fretz  1:01:35

So, just like zone one, zone two kind of ride?


Caley Fretz  1:01:38

Right. Base miles ride.


Caley Fretz  1:01:38



Trevor Connor  1:01:39

So, that’s where a lot of his research has been going is manipulating these effects. How do you get these bumps in the markers but still get the hard training workouts and ultimately see both a rise in the markers and an improvement in performance? That’s where he’s been heading.


Caley Fretz  1:01:57

I think it’s fascinating stuff. I love when we get people like Dr. Holley on the show, and I love it when we talk nutrition because Trevor gets all excited. He gets super excited. I could see his beady little eyes lighting up over there.


Trevor Connor  1:02:16

And it’s certainly fun to get somebody on the podcast who I have been reading for many, many years. And yes, I get excited about meeting researchers. Where I think other people if it was the author of Harry Potter, they’d be very, very excited.


Caley Fretz  1:02:32

So, in the nutrition world, Dr. Holley is J.K. Rowling. Is that what you’re saying?


Trevor Connor  1:02:36

Pretty much.


Caley Fretz  1:02:37



Trevor Connor  1:02:37

He mentioned his wife, his wife is Louise Burke, who’s actually done a lot of research with him. She is also one of the top respected researchers in world sports intuition.


Caley Fretz  1:02:48

So, like if J.K. Rowling was married to Ernest Hemingway.


Trevor Connor  1:02:51

Kind of.


Caley Fretz  1:02:53

All right. I think that is a good place to cut it off. Trevor, I think you’re doing the outro this week.


Trevor Connor  1:03:02

I will do the outro.


Caley Fretz  1:03:04

Outro away.


Trevor Connor  1:03:06

Well, that was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. While you’re there, check out our sister podcast, the VeloNews podcast, which covers news about the week in cycling. You can also hear Caley shares thoughts on that one as well.


Caley Fretz  1:03:30

It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.


Trevor Connor  1:03:31

Yes. And let me just point out that since this is one of my first times doing the outro, I really sound like I’m reading it.


Caley Fretz  1:03:37

You are definitely reading it.


Trevor Connor  1:03:41

All right. Become a fan of Fast Talk on Facebook at And on Twitter at Fast Talk is a joint production between VeloNews and Connor Coaching


Caley Fretz  1:03:53

That’s you


Trevor Connor  1:03:54

That is me. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. For Caley Fretz, and Dr. John Holley. I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening.