For high performance athletes, it all comes down to fine margins. There is not one part of their routine that has not been thought through, as every little detail can give them the edge over the competition. When it comes to nutrition, athletes understand the necessity of fueling the body with the highest quality range of nutrients they can get.
Here at Science in Sport, our vitamins and supplements are used by the INEOS Grenadiers, a British World Tour cycling team consistently competing at the top level.
The INEOS Grenadiers Performance Nutritionist, James Moran, gives us the low down on the team’s use of our new Vitamins & Supplements range.
As part of our ‘gut health’ strategy, most riders will supplement with either the Pro Bio+ capsules or powder during the season. This will either be as 1 capsule with breakfast, or 1 scoop of the powder mixed into porridge or coffee in the morning. The strains in the Pro Bio+ range have been well researched.
Our riders will supplement with Pro Bio+ to support optimal gut function but there is also evidence of certain strains reducing the risk of upper respiratory tract illness due to positive effects on salivary defence mechanisms.
During hot stage races such as the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana the gut comes under a lot of stress. Supplementing with probiotics has been shown to help reduce damage to the lining of the gut and increase carbohydrate absorption.
As probiotics colonise the bacteria of the intestine, I would recommend an athlete to take daily for a minimum of 14 days. This gives time for the composition of the gut bacteria to change and any gut symptoms to settle down. The prebiotics contained in Pro Bio+ feed our own ‘good bacteria’ and so the supplement helps support our own gut bacteria as well as providing additional beneficial probiotic strains.
There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to gut health and some athletes with a sensitive gut may need to take on alternative days instead of every day.
As well as considering taking a probiotic supplement, elite athletes and the general population should ensure a diverse intake of plants every day. This provides food for our own ‘good’ bacteria and is probably the most beneficial thing we can do to promote a healthy gut.
However, around intense competition athletes may reduce certain vegetables and high fibre foods and so supporting gut health with Pro Bio during these periods is a good idea.
Sleep is a key component to recovery, especially during stage races like the Tour de France where every minute off the bike is focused on recovering for the next day. The Rest+ range was actually designed in conjunction with the SiS Performance Solutions Team and INEOS Grenadiers and based on conversations from my time with British Cycling where jet lag and travel to Rio, Tokyo and various world championships were an area of focus.
Riders will routinely use Rest+ juice before bed either as a warm ‘tea’ or mixed with overnight protein or Greek yoghurt an hour before bedtime. The juice is used to improve the quality and length of sleep as well as the time taken to fall asleep. This can be particularly useful when stages finish late or have a long transfer back to the hotel. The tart cherry also has benefits to reducing muscle soreness.
Ligament and tendon injuries are not as common in road cycling compared to sports like running or team sports. However, riders that have chronic tendon / ligament issues around the knee and ankle will use the Collagen+ range when they are doing any rehab / prehab / gym or torque sessions on the bike. Usually this will be in the form of a collagen shot 30-60 minutes before the session.
When bike riders crash, injuries are common to the collarbone and shoulder joint. When recovering and undergoing rehab sessions from these types of crashes, riders will often use the Collagen+ shot beforehand to help optimise ligament and tendon function.
Most riders will use the SiS Performance Multivitamin throughout the season. Although we are fortunate to have 3 excellent chefs in the team for races and camps, many riders like to take a multivitamin once per day to act as an ‘insurance policy’. We operate a food first culture; however, the SiS multivitamin is well balanced and ensures against any micronutrient deficiencies, helping to support optimal immune function and metabolism across a busy season.
Vitamin C has long been associated with optimal immune function and riders are encouraged to get a variety of fruits, vegetables, soups and juices to prevent deficiency. Riders will take Vitamin C along with zinc at the onset of any upper respiratory tract infection symptoms to support immune tolerance and minimise time lost to training. During travel or intense racing periods, some riders will take vitamin C to support immune function.
Beta Alanine is commonly used among explosive sports and team sports with repeated sprint efforts. The benefits to performance are thought to be in supporting muscle buffering when working at high intensities above the lactate threshold.
We use beta alanine with some of our riders especially those that are perceived to have a relatively higher percentage of type II muscle fibres (fast twitch) such as sprinters and classics style riders.
However, some climbers and general classification (GC) riders may also benefit from supplementing with beta alanine when performing time trials and repeated short duration efforts above threshold in training and races.
We would usually work back and aim to supplement for 8-10 weeks before the target event. We would usually recommend a dose of 6x 0.8g per day = 4.8g beta alanine. Most riders will usually take 2 with each meal to help minimise the ‘tingling’ paraesthesia symptoms but some riders find it easiest to take all 6 capsules with breakfast!
Optimising body composition is an important part of the jigsaw puzzle to performing in the Grand Tours. When riders are working towards reaching their target weight and body composition some will supplement with CLA at 3-6g per day. While the evidence for improving body composition isn’t overwhelmingly strong, some of the riders really perceive a benefit to using CLA to help reduce body fat. Obviously, the biggest factor in this period is a balanced, calorie-controlled nutrition plan to support both training and weight management.
However, our riders that are seeking to ‘leave no stone unturned’ will supplement with CLA as a ‘cherry on top’ to help them arrive at the Tour de France in peak condition.
Well, there you have it; the vitamins and supplements taken by British cycling’s top team. Whether you’re a professional athlete or not, learning about how your body works and what nutrients it needs is the key to staying fit and healthy.
Our Cycling Nutrition 101 blog post is great if you want to delve into nutrition for the different stages of your cycling event, race or training.