Apex Nutrition Boot Camp - Week 5

Week 5 Contents (click to jump down):

Day 1:

Quote of the Week: I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

Although it’s always a good idea to pause and reflect on from where you’ve come, it’s not the end of the journey. In this camp, you’ve complete 4 weeks – this is a huge amount of information…and hopefully, a huge amount of habit change. But habits require repetition, so you’re nowhere near done:). It’s my sincere hope that this boot camp really begets action, and it’s not just another pile of words on a screen. Even if just one habit per week (this is a lot!), that would be 6 solid habits formed at the end of the camp. And then, you can always go back and add more. This week…keep going.  You didn’t come this far to only come this far.

And, this week we’re gonna add some performance-changing habits.

First, you’re gonna want to refer to your Training Nutrition Plan from week 3. It’s difficult to decide when to present information that spans more than one area of nutrition, so you’ve got some of this information already – but we’ll go through it together this week. This week’s topic is:

Performance Enhancing Supplements, Nutrition, & Lifestyle.

Second, it’s important to realize that these strategies are above and beyond the foundation of training nutrition and daily nutrition we’ve discussed thus far.

In fact, the very reason we have the ability to use them to enhance performance is *because* most athletes are deficient in them. It’s true. These are not necessarily miracle nutrition. But, we get used to operating in a slightly deficient state as athletes. So then, when we bring them back up to par, we feel great.

Think of it this way: we all know mostly-healthy adults who are much more sedentary than us. Maybe they workout for 30-45 minutes 3-5 times per week. They go for walks. They maintain a healthy weight.

BUT, they are not burning up the nutrients an athlete is. They are not causing themselves to walk the line of become deficient and even malnourished.

Here’s the funny thing. I often find that endurance athletes give themselves less than these other healthy adults when it comes to nutrition.

We miss meals due to long trainings.

We take the same supplements, if any.

We want to maintain lean weights, so we experiment with skimping on training nutrition, not eating enough, etc. We often don’t get as much downtime, sleep.

And all the while, we expect way more out of our bodies. This is how deficiency, malnutrition, and even over-training happens.

Third, there’s good news! It’s easy to avoid and correct these mistakes as long as you believe you owe your body more! You’re asking a lot. Give it the fuel, specific nutrients it needs.

I will do my best to guide you through the hoopla and marketing, and show you the tried and true nutrition and lifestyle performance enhancers I’ve used with clients and myself…the ones that work and are great for your body.

Today’s Challenge:  Take some moments to think about all of this. Think about what you ask your body. Think about how you treat it in return. I work with way too many athletes who have run themselves into the ground.

And honestly, it’s for no good reason.

Sure, they may have one or two spectacular seasons in this lifestyle. But it’s short-lived. The great, who age well, feel good, and are healthy do it differently. They take care of their bodies and avoid as many deficiencies as possible.

And by doing so, there’s a bonus. You’ll enhance performance. This is an *edge.* Ready? This week’s gonna be great!

(Click here to head back to the Boot Camp Home Page)

Day 2:

Quote of the Week: I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

Our first performance enhancers are amino acids. There are 5 amino acids I use with clients that can really improve your training and performance, and they can provide benefit from the get-go.

First, l-glutamine can significantly improve recovery and reduce soreness during and after a training.

This amino acid becomes conditionally essential in the diet as your body uses more of it than it can make from other substances.  The gut cells and skeletal muscle cells use it the most.

I recommend using 5 grams after any training at high-intensity that is 90 minutes or more.  For training/racing >180 minutes, you can also benefit from 5 grams in pre-training AND 2-3 grams per hour during training.

You can simply add it in a powdered form.  An example supplement is: NOW Brand L-Glutamine Powder (1 tsp = ~5 grams).  This particular powder dissolves well and is tasteless.

Next, for longer training (>180 minutes), branch chain amino acids (BCAAs, made up of leucine, valine, and isoleucine) can help reduce fatigue both physically and mentally.  These amino acids are special in that they cross the blood-brain barrier, and are important for mental endurance.

If you’ve never considered your mental endurance, you may not need these.  But, if you’ve ever hit that point where it becomes more mental will-power than physical strength that gets you to the finish, you know what I’m talking about.  And BCAA’s can help.

Like l-glutamine, I recommend 5 grams before and after, and if you’re able, 2-3 grams per hour during.  Unlike l-glutamine, these amino acids don’t mix quite as well with your drink and can impart a sour taste.  So, find ways to add them before and after, but don’t ruin your “during training” drink if it doesn’t work for you in terms of taste.  It’s a top priority that you like the taste of your drink during training.

An example supplement is: NOW BCAA Powder (1 tsp = 5 grams).  This particular powder only requires a small amount, and so is easier to use than most.

Beta-Alanine is a bit newer to me, both in personal use and recommendations compared to l-glutamine and BCAAs (which I’ve used for years personally and with clients).  It’s also a bit different than the other two powders I’ve mentioned in that its benefits aren’t only in recovery and muscle sparing, but actually in on-the-bike performance and specifically with anaerobic efforts.  In fact, when athletes supplement beta-alanine, multiple studies have demonstrated intramuscular levels of carnosine increase by approximately 45-60%. Carnosine contributes to the buffering of hydrogen ions, thus slowing this pH drop. These hydrogen ions are responsible for producing the ill effects of lactic acid.

And while there’s a great pay-off, the protocol is just a bit harder to follow. It includes a loading phase and maintenance phase, followed by 6-8 weeks time period with no supplementation (but continued results). To use beta-alanine and get results for 18-20 weeks, try this protocol:

  1. Take 40 mg beta-alanine per kg body weight, 2 times per day (with breakfast, dinner OR pre-bed shake) for four weeks (80 mg/kg weight total daily). To calculate kilograms body weight, divide pounds by 2.2. For example, I weigh 110 pounds or 50 kilograms. I would take 2000 mg beta-alanine twice per day for 4 weeks.
  2. Next, reduce your dose to just 1 daily dose of 40 mg/kg for 8 weeks. Now, at 50 kilograms body weight, I’d take 2000 mg once per day.
  3. Then, discontinue dosing and allow time without beta-alanine supplementation. Effects should continue for 6-8 weeks when not taking it.

Here’s an example brand I trust for Beta-Alanine.

Refer to your Training Nutrition Plan for helpful Q&A.

Or, listen in on my podcast:

Beta-Alanine Podcast

Today’s Challenges:

If I had to put these amino acids in order of priority, here’s what I’d recommend:

L-Glutamine. Consider ordering and using l-glutamine after most every training. If it’s a super easy low-intensity workout, you can skip it UNLESS you’re engaging in this easy workout after bigger ones and you’re trying to recover. For long workouts (3+ hours), consider using this one before and during a workout as well. This single amino acid has been one of the biggest game changers for clients in my career.

BCAA’s: If you engage in long tours, workouts or races (often 3+ hours and occasionally 5+ hours), add this amino acid before, during and after workouts, races, and tours.

Beta-Alanine: If you engage in training or races that require multiple bouts of anaerobic work followed by aerobic and then more anaerobic (ie. singletrack mtb or trail running), beta-alanine is a good choice for you. It can reduce lactic acid build-up and its effects, helping your through anaerobic bouts better and with recovery after them.

The challenges today are simply to decide if you want to add any of these, buy them, and start!

(Click here to head back to the Boot Camp Home Page)


Day 3:

Quote of the Week: I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

We are moving onto foods and specific nutrients that both improve performance generally and help specific ailments.

First, please realize that I am in no way encouraging performance enhancing drugs or anabolic aides like steroids.

No way Jose.

These supplements are nutrients or naturally occurring *things* that either offer a bit of natural boost to athletes or are deficient in athletes and thereby need supplementation or special attention.

Second: The list: Many of them are very simple. But overlooked. Here’s my list (it’s not exclusive or all-encompassing – there are many things out there that athletes swear by and use – these are what I use/recommend):

Sodium for Sodium Loading:  If you’re a “heavy sweater,” you likely know it.  If you seem to pour out more liquid from your body during and after training than your friends and partners, if you are caked with crusty salt on your skin after most workouts, or if you have a history of cramping and bonking despite adequate fueling, you might be a…heavy sweater who needs more sodium than most on a ride.  Along w/ the sodium we’re adding during training, you can load up a bit before heading out for more than 90 minutes in hot weather. Try:

Add 500-800 mg of sodium within 2 hours of beginning your training.  You can simply 1/4 tsp. salt (600 mg sodium) to your smoothie, pre-ride drink, or other pre-training fuel; eat a pickle or try pickle juice, put soy sauce on your eggs w/ oatmeal (client favorite), etc. Some like bacon.

Beetroot Juice & Nitrates: There’s a lot of hype out there about beetroot juice and performance, and it’s for good reason. Here’s the short story: Beets are a potent source of nitrates.  Nitrates convert to nitric oxide in the body, and dilate vessels.  This allows for a more efficient delivery of blood, fuel, and oxygen to the muscles.  Nitric Oxide also reduces the oxygen needs of the muscles, so you can get the double benefit of more oxygen and less needed.  In research, these factors have resulted in faster times, less perceived effort for the same results, and more oxygenated muscles.  Sounds great right?  Well, it is, but there is a cost.  The studies used 16 oz. of beetroot juice either for 6 days preceding the test and/or just 2 hours beforehand.  I recommend using 6-8 tsp beetroot powder (organic and freeze-dried) for a cheaper, more convenient option, just 2 hours ahead of a race/training.  Or, you can use the new commercial beetroot powder gels. For more information, check out the post below.

Anti Cramp Tonic: If you’ve ever heard of the Pickle Juice Sports Drink, you’ve heard of vinegar being a cramp-fighter. In fact, researchers strongly believe that it’s the vinegar, and not the sodium, that stops cramps. What’s more, vinegar has anecdotally been a proven remedy for pregnant women, teen athletes, and elderly patients who experience cramps during the night. So, it works quickly and for hours after it’s consumed.

But of course, no one wants a swig of vinegar mid-race.

Here’s where the tonic comes in. You can use pickle juice straight out of the jar. You can use the Pickkle Juice Sports Drink. Or, you can try my Anti-Cramp Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic (below) and receive benefits beyond cramp fighting. For athletes with a history of cramping issues, I recommend 1 serving tonic before training/races, and that they take a small container of the tonic with them along for the ride for a quick swig when needed. And, luckily, it tastes great!

Recipe: Combine 2 Tablespoons “strong-tasting” juice such as grape, cherry, or pomegranate, 1 Tbsp raw/unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV), and about 3 oz. water. Shake well.  A great ACV brand is here.

Caffeine: Caffeine can be an amazing substance for an athlete, as it can manifest into physical performance benefits by first affecting the brain and its perception of effort. For the athlete who consumes caffeine in daily nutrition, caffeine supplementation before/during training and races can be necessary to get back to the athlete’s baseline. For the athlete unaccustomed to caffeine, it can provide a mental mental lift that decreases the sensation of effort. In studies, caffeine-supplemented athletes have shown increased power, stamina, and endurance. You can find my full recommendations and more information in the post and podcast below: 

Post – Caffeine & Athletic Performance

Podcast – Caffeine & Athletic Performance

Probiotics: Beyond everyday health, healthy gut bacteria (probiotics) offer athletes added benefit. If you’re an athlete who suffers from a sour stomach or acid reflux, I recommend probiotics (1 pill) 1-2 hours before training and then every 3 hours of a long training. For all athletes, probiotics can also improve recovery. So, if you’re taking this supplement anyway, or if you want to include yogurt in your recovery, it’s a great idea right after training. In fact, I wrote a full article for Training Conditioning magazine about all the benefits of probiotics for athletes in 2015. And since this writing, more research has been presented with more probiotic benefit for athletes, including better fracture healing of all things! If choosing a probiotic supplement, go for 8+ strains and 5+ billion cfu, making sure to note if it should be refrigerated or not. We’ve covered probiotics in supplements above, but they are so good for you they belong here, too.

Undenatured Whey: Undenatured whey is one of the proteins founds in milk – and it’s the faster-acting protein of the two. For many people, it is well-tolerated and well absorbed. In studies, it has become sort of the “gold-standard” of muscle recovery, providing great amino acids quickly to muscles after training. But when you choose *undenatured* whey, you can take it a step further. Undenatured whey comes from dairy that is not pasteurized at the high heat, which renders many healthy components of cow’s milk useless, and denatures (chemically changes) the proteins. Un- denatured proteins contain the natural forms of L-cysteine, L-glutamate, and glycine that provide the raw materials for your cells to make glutathione. If you haven’t heard of glutathione, it is simply one of the most powerful antioxidants our bodies can use. It is responsible for detoxifying our cells and reducing oxidative stress and free radicals. It increases the activity of other antioxidants in our bodies. If the only type ofwhey protein you’re getting is pasteurized and denatured, you’re missing out on a huge benefit. There are several brands of undenatured whey, and the one I use most often is Natural Factors Whey Factors. Check out my (vintage) video on Undenatured Whey:


Or, view on it YouTube here: https://youtu.be/32umVZUyMAE
Today’s Challenges:


Like yesterday, these performance enhancer options are a matter of picking which may help you most as an individual and which are not necessary (or not necessary at this time for you). Here’s how I help clients decide:

  1. If you want a general performance enhancer that can help you start strong, stay strong during a workout, have a lessened sense of pain and fatigue, etc…and, you don’t have any negative reactions to caffeine, try caffeine.
  2. If you want an enhancer than may help you use oxygen better and have no logistical issues with beets, try beets as above or this product from carborocket. Again, this works for anyone looking to improve performance overall and doesn’t mind a bit of extra prep work or money.
  3. If you have issues with overheating, or live in a place where you simply have to train/race in high heat, consider sodium loading.
  4. If you have stomach issues in general or when training, up your probiotics and see if it helps.
  5. If cramps are an issue, try the anti-cramp tonic. You can use it before or during training/races, as a daily supplement, or before bed.
  6. Lastly, if you simply don’t get in enough protein, have a tough time finding a good recover snack, or simply want to do everything you can to help your cells heal themselves while you train, add undenatrued whey.

Great stuff today!

(Click here to head back to the Boot Camp Home Page)

Day 4:

Quote of the Week: I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

We’ve covered amino acids and specific foods.

Today, it’s about lifestyle  and specifically:

Sleep: Sure, we all need sleep, but a performance enhancer? ABSOLUTELY.

First, in studies, a nap and/or adequate sleep improves reaction time, power, stamina, and more. Most pro athletes try to sleep 10+ hours per night, and many take naps in addition. Sleep has more to offer our bodies than benefits in training and races, and we’ll cover these in whole-body health today as well. But, if we’re gonna talk performance enhancers, sleep has got to be on the list. Check out this infograph:

(image c/o Ffunction and Zeo)

But what else does sleep do? Second, sleep literally heals your brain. So many things in our busy, hectic lives damage the brain. But there is something, and it’s free, that can heal it. Sleep. When we sleep, our lymph systems remove toxins from our brains. These toxins build up on a daily basis in our brains, and it’s only when we sleep that we can remove them (our brains require too much energy when we are awake to operate and remove toxins, so we must sleep to do it).  Long-term build-up of these toxins is associated with all sorts of chronic brain issues – in short term memory issues and over time possibly dementia and related diseases. What’s more, the immune function is also affected as our bodies lymph and the lymph system removing toxins is connected. So, brain toxins affect our overall immune function, and failing immune function can affect the brain.

So, how much sleep? From everything I’ve read, it needs to be seven or more hours, consistently, of good sleep each night for adults. Sure, you may “feel” like you can operate on less, and you may even do it well with or without extra caffeine every day. But this is not really about how you “feel” as much as your real, whole body and long term brain health. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this study, it’s that sleep is not “wasted time” in which I could be doing something more productive. It’s one of the best things I can do, for about 30% of my time every 24-hour day.

Third, if you wanna hear me talk about all this, listen in to this Apex Nutrition Podcast on Mountain Bike Radio:

Brain Health

Fourth, there are a few other lifestyle choices you can make to heal your body and enhance your performance. Check 5 ways to stop being tough and start being stronger today:


Today’s Challenge:

That’s a whole lotta lifestyle performance enhancing, wouldn’t you say? Today, consider your sleep habits. Consider your supplements. Consider your stress. There are so many things that bring us down day to day, and a lot of good sleep and peace can do for you.

It can even make you a better athlete.

It’s simple, but not easy. Figure out how to stop being tough, and be strong. Sleep on that…:)

(Click here to head back to the Boot Camp Home Page)


Day 5:

Quote of the Week: I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

Today’s Tools:

Another week, a lot of content.

While today is mostly review and forum…I’ve got one more.

All it takes is a SMILE.

The crazy part? It can even be a fake, forced smile.

Believe it or not, there is now quite a bit of research that shows an immediate decrease in perceived effort (PE) when an athlete is focusing on happiness or gratitude while performing.

And, one of the best parts of this is that it actually doesn’t have to be authentic. Forcing a smile actually works. The smile (forced or not) sends signals of happiness to the brain = decrease PE.

How much? In studies, a 2.4% decrease in PE. These studies focused on oxygen uptake, VO2 max and other parameters with smiles and happiness vs. stress.

The opposite is also true. When we feel frustrated, mad, or are focused on pain, your PE goes up.

I’ll take it a step further. When you anticipate struggle, even before you start your workout, you stet yourself up for increased PE.

What’s an athete to do?

Force a smile. Before, during, after. Focus on strength. Focus on gratitude. Smile.

If we’re gonna enhance performance, we might as well train our brains to help us out as well.

This week, we discuss amino acids, foods and supplements, and sleep and smiles to improve performance.

What questions do you have for me?

Don’t forget, I’m on the forum today! https://www.apexnutritionllc.com/fuelrightblog/forums/forum/apex-nutrition-boot-camp-forum-march-2019/

This week’s summary & Today’s Challenges:

  1. Look back at the amino acids, foods, and supplements that can improve performance. Do any seem like a good answer for any challenges you’re experiencing?
  2. Is it possible for you to improve or add sleep to your schedule? Can you improve it? Make it more consistent?
  3. How are you doing with smiling and gratitude during training and races vs. stress and struggle? Are you willing to force a smile and see what happens?

(Click here to head back to the Boot Camp HOMEPAGE)