May 17, 2017

I wanted to get on board this blog to let you know what I have learnt from Darryl Griffiths. Up until meeting and working with Darryl, there wasn’t a race where I didn’t have a nutrition related issue, even the races I won. This is not a paid advertisement; it’s something I want to share because it matters. Working with Darryl has improved my race day experience more than I thought possible and while I’m all for having an advantage, I also believe every athlete should have a chance to race at their best and I know this information will help you do that.

I’d heard about Darryl from quite a few athletes and it was suggested by my management at BPM Sport that I should make contact. I wish I’d met him years before. I met Darryl at a café in Noosa in 2013, an hour and a half later I walked away with a much better understanding of sports nutrition. He has a unique ability to make it all sound so simple, and what I have realized over the past two years working with him is that it is simple.

I used to think stomach problems were just part of endurance racing. Sometimes my nutrition plan seemed to work ok, with just a few small issues, and other times it was a complete disaster. The frustrating thing was that the plan was the same but the outcomes were very different. I’ve learnt since working with Darryl at Shotz Nutrition why I perform better in hot conditions and why I was having trouble in cooler conditions. This was highlighted by the results of my sweat testing I did with Darryl, which showed a low sweat rate and low sodium concentration in my sweat. We tested the sodium concentration of my sweat at differing temperatures and fitness levels just to reinforce his previous findings that the sodium concentration of your sweat is a number unique to the athlete and doesn’t change.

This immediately made perfect sense to me – I now understood why I preferred the heat. I was able to manage my losses and minimise percentage of loss in the heat due to my low sweat rate and low sodium concentration in sweat. What didn’t make sense were the issues I was having in cooler conditions. In hindsight it all makes perfect sense now but what I was doing, which most athletes do, was relying on getting my calories/energy, at least the majority of them, from my drink. In cooler conditions, I was forcing myself to drink a volume of fluid beyond what I needed at the time and this was causing the bloating and cramping in my stomach.

Darryl taught me how to separate calories from my hydration and has done with most of the top triathletes in Australia, regardless of what sports nutrition company they are sponsored by.

Now I understand what my sweat losses are in varying conditions, I can consume the volume of fluid I need based on the conditions at the time. When I was relying on calories in my drink, I was consuming more fluid than I needed. This was especially noticeable in the early parts of a race when it was cooler. Separating calories and hydration means I can still take on the amount of calories I need through energy gels and alter the volume of fluid as needed based on the conditions. Here I am riding along thinking ‘why isn’t everyone doing this?’

While I am on the topic of energy gels, I think it’s important to tell you that up until working with Darryl I couldn’t tolerate energy gels. I tried so many different brands in an attempt to find one that didn’t turn my stomach into a mess. I was sure Darryl’s plan of relying purely on energy gels for my calories was never going to work. Well, I got a lesson in energy gels and learnt about energy to volume ratio, low thermic effect, low sensory impact and learnt about different grades of maltodextrins used in the manufacture of energy gels and how some of the refined processed ingredients can play havoc on the stomach. The Shotz Energy Gels, up until now, are the only energy gels that I have been able to stomach without any issues and I am consuming more of them in a race than I ever thought possible.

With the nutrition plan in place, my focus in training now was to learn more about my stomach, specifically the maximum amount of calories and fluid my stomach could tolerate per hour. As an athlete you focus a lot on heart rate, wattage and speed, but now I had something else to think about and now have a greater appreciation for how critical the stomach is to your performance on race day.

Fast-forward to Sunshine Coast 70.3 in 2014. Leading into this event I had been contacting Darryl because I was having some issues during my long training runs and having two to three toilet stops along the way. It’s not something many athletes like discussing but I had faith in Darryl providing a solution to the problem. It just so happened that he was in the Sunshine Coast for the event and was clearly frustrated that I was still having some issues.

It was the Friday before Sunday’s race and after asking a whole bunch of questions he went about going through my kitchen pantry and stumbled across a tub of magnesium powder. He held it up and asked how often I take this; my reply was a couple of times a day. He asked why and I said because a nutritionist once suggested I needed to supplement with it. “Do you have a magnesium deficiency?” He asked. I said not that I was aware of. “Did you know that magnesium is a common ingredient in laxatives and that this could be the reason why you are having these issues? Darryl had identified with many athletes before me that while magnesium was important, it’s not something you want to have too much of. He asked if I could stop taking it and see what happens?” Happy to, I said.

I was now armed with a new nutrition strategy, I had been practicing my stomach’s tolerance in training, I had stopped taking my daily magnesium supplement. The result: I ran a 1:18 off the bike, 7 minutes faster than I have ever run the 21 km. No toilet stops, no stomach issues. I knew these stomach issues were slowing me down but I didn’t realize it was this much. Darryl has a saying that if you don’t get your nutrition right you won’t realize your true potential. So true! I saw Darryl the next day and gave him a big hug and wished I had met him earlier on in my career because I know I would have been more consistent, both in training and competition. Just to ensure it wasn’t a fluke I did another 1:18 off the bike again this year at the 2015 Sunshine Coast 70.3 and quickly sorted out finding where Darryl was to thank him again.

I recommend any athlete read the information Darryl has written and try the products he has developed. You spend way too much time and effort on your sport not to. You’ll get some great information from his book Sweat. Think. Go Faster - His commitment to athlete performance is second to none and I cannot stress enough what a difference he can make to your performance.

Combine the knowledge and the Shotz products and you will definitely realise your true potential. Happy training!