MST Highly Scientific Experiment No1 - Nutrition

Posted in The Sweat by Matt Ward on Mon 01 Dec '08

© Google images

'Beaner forever!

Are you a high tech re-fueller or an old-schooler? Time was when a nice cuppa was all that a champion needed. Alf Tupper ate fish and chips before a track race (but he wasn’t real), Dave Bedford liked the odd ale (he is real) – all good.

Well not really, especially of you live in the food-obsessed world of 2008, and any ‘new schooler’ will tell you that’s its all about the gels these days. So is it really old school vs new school, and are there really two separate schools out there? MST set off with cheese and gels in hand to find out…


Gels are the thing if your a 'fueller'

The phenomena of sports nutrition has really taken off in the last couple of decades. Market leaders across the pond Gatorade are over 40 years old, with UK-based, and relative youngster, Science in Sport now over 15 years in business. You wont have to look far in sport these days either to see high-profile athletes with bottles in hand, ‘re-fueling’ and laying it on thick for their sponsors.


Sammy loves it, like

Sports like triathlon, cycling, American football and tennis have long been backers and advocates of energy drinks and associated nutritional products, but it’s when likes of Coca Cola (Powerade) and Lucozade get involved you know that there is going to be some serious investment into the sector.

It hasn’t always been like this. There are still thousands upon thousands of runners around the world to whom the term ‘sports nutrition’ is a bewildering concept. Of course there are many nutritionists that will tell you that good natural hydration (that will be water then!) and a healthy balanced diet is all that the body needs. Then there are those that include good old ale as a sports supplement of choice – something that MST would never advocate. There are also those that will tell you that chicken nuggets and fries, washed down with a litre of sugar will do you good too, but lets face it that’s getting silly now!

© Ron Chapple/Corbis

Brian was glad his Powerbar deal had ended amicably

Being a very straight writer (ahem) I am not about to plagerise a dozen articles and present it as my own. Neither am I going to do a Spurlock and eat my weight in fat for a month then try and do a hill rep session. What I did was very simple.

The Experiment
Over the period of one week I embarked on three training runs, with a days rest in between. (The reasoning behind this will become clear). The plan was simple, to see what effects would be on my running by consuming a. a normal days intake of food and liquids with no supplements, b. pre-run / during run / post run regime of SiS sports nutrition along with my daily intake and c. a day of, to put it kindly, junk. To make this a little more ‘scientific’ I also rested the day after to allow my body to release any affects of the previous daily intake and return to relative normality.

So the plan was to run 7 miles on each training day, running at the same time of day (to the nearest hour), the exact same route, timed, with my heart rate taken at the start and finish of the run, and one hour later. Although the external factors in my life (bedtime, work, traveling) may have affected things a little I did also try to keep things as consistent as possible, and lets face it this is MST not MiT

Day 1 – Normality


These'll keep you wide-eyed


The king of slow-release

Day 2 – The Science


Rocket fuel

Day 3 – The Stuff

© Google Images

It's still a Marathon...

© Google Images

The healthy option

The runs
Day 1 – Normality
Run: 7 miles
Time of day 11.52
Run time: 51 mins
Av. Hr: 134
Heart rate 1 hour after run: 55

Day 2 – The Science
Run: 7 miles
Time of day 13.08
Run time: 53 mins
Av. Hr: 129
Heart rate 1 hour after run: 51

Day 3 – The Stuff
Run: 7 miles
Time of day 11.15
Run time: 50 mins
Av. Hr: 140
Heart rate 1 hour after run: 66

I have to say that the results were surprising. I felt at my best on the stuff day run. Why? Well you tell me! It was the third run of the week and I should have been tired, I should also have perhaps been a little depleted of energy as I had a bowl of cornflakes, a Fruit Shoot and a Snickers bar for breakfast and a packet of crisps 1 hour before the run, then followed the run with a bottle of Coke and some water.

BUT that was on the run – half the story.

On both the science and stuff days I experienced amazing highs, followed by a deep low, especially on the stuff day. In fact I seriously felt a buzzing feeling after eating my breakfast on the stuff day. Additionally my resting heart rate remained above normal for a lot longer than I would have hoped and almost 2 hours after the run was still 10bpm above average.

The science day was more stable, and I certainly felt that I was being ‘aided’ by my intake – I felt strong on the run, although I was slower, however my heart rate was significantly lower on the run and I felt in control. I also topped up on SiS ReGo after the run, and felt great until the late afternoon when my body craved greens and bread, for some reason. It could have been the ‘gloop’ overload, I really don’t know.

The normal day was, well, normal. Coffee and muesli with yoghurt for breakfast, a banana and some orange juice around 1 hour before the run, with a pint of water sipped for the 30 minutes prior to the run. Afterwards I had a jacket potato with some salad.

The verdict
Well I have to come clean and state that I am a new schooler, but I do balance it. I eat a sensible, healthy intake and use electrolyte drink and gels – in measured amounts, and not always. I do feel that they aid my running, albeit sometimes psychologically, and feel that they have now formed part of my training. Could I do without them? Yes, of course, my running times don’t trouble the judges these days so the odd minute here or there wont win me a medal, but like heart rate monitors they have just become part of the 21st century running landscape and I have to admit to being a ‘user’.

This article wont knock the world of it’s axis, and is hardly a scientific experiment, however what it does show is that advancements in science and sport can go hand in glove, and one thing is for sure – you wont win gold in 2012 on Fruit Shoot!


Reactions so far
  1. Paul Hughes Dec 1, 03:22 PM

    I have used Maxim gels and bars for the last year and believe they have help me. But the additional cost can be prohibitive, I mean 1.49 per gel, you need 6-7 for a marathon. Thats almost as much as the entry fee in itself!

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