Sunday, June 28, 2015

Will Skipping Breakfast Affect Your Race Performance?

Picture by Michael Coghlan from Flickr
Since young, I've been told and have also heard and read that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It feels like that to me too. Often I'm starving when I get up and I definitely need to eat soon after I wake up.

Research on eating breakfast is mixed though. Lots of studies show that people who eat breakfast regularly tend to be leaner, although this does not mean eating breakfast makes you lean.

Most studies show that skipping breakfast results in lower overall calorie consumption during the day. This may be because you tend to be less active and burn fewer calories.

What if you skip breakfast on race day then? When we sleep, our brain and other vital organs are using carbohydrate to maintain normal body functions. So if you don't eat breakfast, you're bound to be in deficit.

So how would you perform in an evening race if you didn't eat breakfast?

Researchers from Loughborough University in the UK measured exercise performance of a group of cyclists at 5 pm with or without breakfast. The cyclists had to do 30 mins of steady-state cycling followed by a 30 minute time trial.

The cyclists ate as much as they wanted during lunch after skipping breakfast. They had eaten as much as they wanted during lunch since they skipped breakfast (the cyclists ate 200 calories more compared to when they had breakfast).

Despite eating more during lunch when they skipped breakfast, this wasn't enough to make up the deficit.

Their time trial performance was 4.5 percent worse after skipping breakfast.

So if you want to reduce your daily calorie intake, you can skip breakfast, but if you're competing later (even in the evening) it can impair your performance.


Clayton DJ, Barutcu A et al (2015). Effect Of Breakfast Omission On Energy Intake And Evening Exercise Performance. J Med Sci Sports Ex. DOI: 10.1249?MSS.0000000000000702.

My usual breakfast and lunch sometimes

Sunday, June 21, 2015

When Sugar Is Necessary For Runners

Simple sugars (or the white stuff you put in your coffee) generally have a bad rep and are not good for you. You will not believe how your sugar intake adds up easily. It's in sodas and fruit juices, even in bread and salad dressings.

There is evidence that those who consume 25 percent or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease than those whose diets included less than 10 percent added sugar.

Sugar as a simple carbohydrate is necessary for runners, especially if you're running low on fuel while training or racing. Simple sugars are most easily absorbed and processed for fuel. Too much sugar however, will slow absorption.

This means the sugar is trapped in your stomach and does not reach your bloodstream and cells. Now you know why energy gel manufacturers suggest you drink lots of water after your consume energy gels.

You're also aware of the health implications that too much consumption of sugar and not fat causes diabetes.

So how do you balance this information you know now and your need for sugar as fuel?

You need simple sugars when you're doing long, hard workouts or racing in events that last more than an hour. This is when energy gels, sports drinks are absorbed easily for fuel. Numerous studies support this, even the International Olympic Committee's statement for training and competition.

Before training and your races, unprocessed carbohydrates like oatmeal and brown rice work best as they produce sustained energy. You're less likely to bonk or hit the wall as compared to eating donuts, white bread or sugary energy bars.

Sugars that fuel performance during your training/ races are the same ones that get stored as fat when not utilized.

The American Heart Association suggest that you limit sugar intake to no more than 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men. JAMA, 313(9): 959-960. DOI: 10.1001/jama2014.18267.


Dhurandhar NV and Thomas D (2015). The Link Between Dietary Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. JAMA. 313(9): 959-960. DOI: 10.1001/jama2014.18267.

Good during your exercise 


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gluten Free Diet May Not Boost Athletic Performance

If you're currently on a gluten free diet and miss eating bread, pizzas etc well, maybe it's time you indulge yourself.

Current research shows that there was no significant differences in athletic performance, gastrointestinal distress (GI), inflammatory markers, intestinal damage and general well being between those who ate a gluten free diet and those who did not.

This study was designed after researchers observed lots of athletes going gluten free. Their aim was to investigate if being gluten free helps athletic performance.

Researchers tracked competitive cyclists who were initially not on a gluten free diet and they were not allergic to wheat. They ate the same diet for two seven-day periods with a 10-day washout period in between. This was a double blind study, meaning both the researchers and cyclists did not know whether the cereal bars were gluten free or not.

The only difference between the two seven-day periods was that the cyclists had cereal bars with gluten. The other week they ate gluten free cereal bars. All the other food were cooked and supplied by the researchers.

The cyclists completed daily questionnaires on GI distress (after training and daily life) and overall well being. They could eat and train according to their wishes during the 10-day washout period.

They resumed the first week's diet and training with the second seven-day training but with the different bars.

The cyclists did a 45 minute steady state ride at 70 per cent maximum effort and a 15 minute all out time trial on the final day of the seven day trial. This was to investigate if a gluten free diet could reduce damage to the intestines and gut permeability. Previous research indicated so and this was to see if gluten made a difference.

Researchers did not get any changes between those who ate gluten free bars and those who did not.

The authors suggest that other than a strong placebo effect helping the cyclists feel better, the cyclists tend to eat more fruits and vegetables instead. These may all contribute to help them feel better.


Lis D, Stellingwerff T et al (2015). No Effects Of A Short-term Gluten-free Diet On Performance. Med and Sci in Sports and Ex. DOI: 10. 1249/MSS.0000000000000699.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Strength Training Can Improve Your 5 km Time Significantly

Picture by Ving Henson at The Pit
Want to improve your 5 km, half and full marathon times? Well, strength training may be more important than you think.

In a recently published research paper, the research team split their runners into two groups. One group continued the regular run training of running between 18-30 miles (or 28-48 km) a week for the next six weeks. The other group continued their run training while adding two strength training sessions each week. They did four sets of four reps of four different strength exercises. Weight they lifted was 80 per cent of their one rep maximum lift.

Both groups of runners did an outdoor 5 km time trial before and after six weeks of training. The first group of runners who just ran recorded similar times for both runs.

The strength training group ran 45 seconds faster in the second time trial. This is a 3.62 percent improvement, considered a substantial increase in distance running.

The study continued for another six weeks. This time the strength training group stopped lifting and ran only. At the end of the six weeks, the did another time trial. This time, the former strength training group lost 42 of the 45 seconds they gained. Their performance level basically returned to levels before strength training.

The authors suggested runners maintain a lower volume of strength training through the competition phase. They also suggested this strength training program will work well if you're racing half or full marathons.

After reading this far, you're probably dying to find out what the four strength exercises were. Well, they did Roman deadlifts, parallel squats, calf raises and lunges.

Now you know.


Karsten B, Stevens L et al (2015). The Effects Of A Specific Maximal Strength And Conditioning Training On Critical Velocity, Anaerobic Running Distance And 5-km Race Performance. Int J Sports Physiology and  Performance. DOI :