Training the Gut, with Asker Jeukendrup

Pioneering sports nutritionist Asker Jeukendrup joins us for a discussion on how in-race nutrition is trainable and why you should be training your gut.

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WorldTour peloton racing

Just ask any Tour de France rider who’s frequently burning 5000 calories or more per day about in-race nutrition and they’ll tell you that it’s both critical and tricky to get right.

You can spend months getting your legs ready for your target event, you can be putting out the best numbers of your life, and that can all be wiped away by a poorly timed bonk or intestinal cramping. You have to consume enough carbohydrates to keep the legs ticking over when the race gets hard, but at the same time you need to make sure they are well tolerated and you’re able to absorb them.

It’s a tricky balance and it’s highly individual. Simply buying the newest, coolest sports nutrition product isn’t going to get you there. You have to find what works for you.

But just as importantly, you have to remember that in-race nutrition, just like almost all things, is trainable and while you’re out three doing your big weekend ride, or hard hill repeats, you need to dedicate some time to training the gut.

So, today we’ll dive into nutritional training and talk about:

  • Applying a scientific approach to figuring out your carbohydrate needs and whether you are a fat burner or a carbohydrate burner.
  • Second, G.I. distress. Some thoughts on what causes it and why intestinal permeability may be a factor.
  • Next, we’ll discuss race nutrition and why changing up what you eat on race day may not be your best strategy.
  • Fourth, why most people can only absorb 60g of carbohydrates per hour but we’re still recommending trying to get 90g. That sounds like a lot, but it’s actually only about 360 calories which is still less than what you’re going to burn in an hour during a big race.
  • The best mix of carbohydrates to improve absorption
  • Why you need to dedicate time every week to training your gut – no different from the time and energy you invest in training your legs.
  • Finally, we’ll talk about any potential health concerns with focused race nutrition and briefly touch both on the microbiome and l-glutamine

Our primary guest today is none other than Dr. Asker Jeukendrup, one of the most renowned sports nutrition researchers in the world. He was editor-in-chief of the European Journal of Sport Science. He ran the Gatorade Sports Science Institute back when it was the center coaches and team managers were looking to for the leading hydration research. Now, Dr. Jeukendrup has his own company, Mysportscience, and works with Team Jumbo Visma.

Along with Dr. Jeukendrup, we talked with Katie Compton, the winner of 15 consecutive national cyclocross titles, and a four-time silver medalist at ‘cross worlds. She’s familiar with G.I. problems during races and shared with Chris some of her thoughts.

Next, we checked in with Colby Pearce, at this point our unofficial third regular on Fast Talk. He had some warnings about getting too caught up in traditional sports nutrition products and emphasized the importance of also considering health.

Finally, we touched base with Ryan Kohler, the head coach at the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center. Ryan frequently works with athletes on training their guts for their target events and shared some of his strategies.

Primary Guest Dr. Asker Jeukendrup: One of the most renowned sports nutrition researchers in the world
Secondary Guests Katie Compton: 15-time cyclocross national champion Colby Pearce: Coach and bike fitter Ryan Kohler: The head coach at the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center

Episode Transcript

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