HPN 19: Potato Purée vs. Sports Gels Put To The Test, ‘Cleaning Up’ A Poopy Problem, and Cultivating A Healthy Mindset For A Healthier Body

July 10, 2020


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Welcome to episode 19 of Holistic Performance Nutrition (HPN) featuring Tawnee Gibson, MS, CSCS, CISSN, and Julie McCloskey, a certified holistic nutrition coach who you can find over at wildandwell.fit.


Julie shares with us a bit about her journey with chilblains, and her experiment with a 30-day vegan diet. You may follow Julie along in her journey through her Instagram account. She also wrote a blog titled I’m Going Vegan for 30 Days, Here’s Why

On this episode:

Study: Potato ingestion is as effective as carbohydrate gels to support prolonged cycling performance

  • “The purpose of the present study was to assess the effectiveness of potato ingestion as a fueling strategy to support cycling time trial (TT) performance compared with CHO gel or water in trained cyclists.”
  •  Study dynamics:
    • Highly trained cyclists, averaging 165 miles a week, training for the past 7 years; subjects: 9 male, 3 females
    • Experimental trials were completed during the mid-follicular phase of the menstrual cycle for the female participants. 
    • Randomized crossover design
    • Ingested 60g/CHO/hr during cycling challenge followed by TT to measure performance 
    • Ate controlled meals 24hr pre-tests of macros: 60/20/20
    • Rode 2hr steady states 60% Vo2max combined with hill simulations at a higher intensity
    • Took in 15g CHO every 15min from either potato puree or Powergel (120g CHO over 2hr), then did TT
  • The individuals who chose the potato puree had more GI distress than the individuals who consumed the gels.
  • “The overall GI symptoms were higher for potatoes than for the other conditions after the cycling challenge. Specifically, there were higher levels of abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort during the late phases of the cycling challenge. 
    • But average GI symptoms were lower than in previous studies indicating that both CHO conditions were well tolerated by the majority of the study’s cyclists. It is worthwhile to mention that only two participants had previously chosen potatoes as their personal race fuel, but all participants regularly ingest CHO gels during races and training, and according to the gut training theory, frequency of ingestion could also alter digestibility and perceptions of fullness.”
  • Potato has a different composition breakdown vs gel
    • Potatoes are higher protein and fiber than gel
  • “Potato ingestion reduced gut damage, as indicated by similar reductions in plasma I-FABP concentrations between gel and potato vs. the water condition, throughout the exercise protocol.” 
  • The importance of training the gut
  • Potatoes are a low FODMAP option
    • FODMAPS/Composition for 15g CHO worth of each:
      • Potato is low fructose compared to gel but higher in glucose; both low galactose
  • Potato puree is cheaper to make than buying gels
  • humangear GoToob silicone bottles (great for use as a gel flasks, toiletries, kid’s snacks, etc)
  • “TT performance was significantly faster (P = 0.032) in potato (33.0 ± 4.5 min) and gel (33.0 ± 4.2 min) conditions compared with the water condition (39.5 ± 7.9 min); however, no difference was observed between the potato and gel conditions (P = 1.00).”

Anu R. asks:

Chronic diarrhea (not just when running)

Hi, I am a long time listener of Endurance Planet and I love the work that you do! My question is all digestion issues. Lot of poop talk here! (Feel free to shorten my question, I just wanted to give you enough info about my situation.)

I am a 40-year-old female triathlete, currently training for an Ironman. I have had issues with my frequent bowel movements for years but during this stay-at-home order I have had an opportunity to pay more attention. I poop on average 4 times a day, range between 2 and 6. Using the Bristol Stool Chart my poop is always diarrhea: it’s always mushy blobs or mostly liquid. Sorry if that’s TMI. Some resources say that this is a sign of the stool going through intestines too fast and nutrients not being absorbed. I pay a lot of attention to my diet. I eat a lot of fruit and veggies and whole grains so lack of fiber should not be an issue. I get enough protein for my size and activity but I have a hard time recovering from my workouts, even though I sleep and take care of my body through light activity and body maintenance (yoga, foam rolling, etc.). 

What can I do to make my intestines work at a normal pace? I have tried the Fodmap diet for about four weeks now but I see no change. I might be having a bit less bloating because I am eating less legumes but my bowel movements are still very frequent. I don’t feel sick but I think this is limiting my performance a lot. Sometimes I have so much bloating and discomfort in the afternoon that I skip my workout, especially if it’s a run. But the main problem is the trouble recovering, even though I think I’ve done my best to dial in training and recovery measures. Thanks for your help!

What the Coaches say:

  • Both coaches recommend working with someone to hone in on the issue
  • Specific Carbohydrate diet for 30 days? Book/Founder “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gotschall
    • A diet low in the type of carbohydrates that don’t create digestive problems so the pathogens can be starved out and the damage to the mucosa can heal.
    • If you have gut issues and your not breaking down sugars properly, they will be used for microbes and increase the dysbiosis and damage to the mucosa.
    • Not much science to back it up, but has been shown to help a lot of people with chronic digestion conditions find relief: IBS, celiac, Crohn’s, chronic diarrhea, diverticulitis.
    • Goal: to improve digestion and absorption of nutrients so you feel like a human again. Super restrictive and not much scientific evidence, but if you want to try something new for 30 days, it might be worth a shot.
    • Food allowed:
      • Fresh and frozen vegetables and legumes (soaked)
        • The exception of those high in starch: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips, chickpeas, bean sprouts, soybeans, mung beans, fava beans, and seaweed.
      • Fresh, raw, or dried fruits (as long as no sugar is added)
      • Meats, poultry, fish, eggs
      • Natural cheeses, homemade yogurt, dry curd cottage cheese
    • Not allowed:
      • Canned vegetables
      • Canned fruits, unless they are packed in their own juices
      • All grains, including flour
      • Starchy vegetables
      • Processed meats
      • Most dairy products
      • Sugars and sweeteners
  • GI Stool test
    • For something so chronic and debilitating would highly recommend investing in a GI stool test. Specifically, look for candida overgrowth or infections/parasites like giardia or cryptosporidium. In this kind of situation, probably best to get the GI MAP, not GI Effects. 
    • Open water swimming (OWS) – potential parasites! Was there a time when you had a rather sudden onset of symptoms? Think back.
    • Need to confirm and or rule out one of these issues to target your healing plan.
  • Other ideas:
    • Other life stress and/or a combination of exercise stress
      • Play around with giving yourself some true relaxation! If you ease up on training for 1, 2 even 3 weeks, do you notice a difference in stool quality? As usual, we need to address the stress component and how much it could be playing into this. And if you haven’t tried that at all, scale back to no more than 5-6 hours a week of MAF focus. The only intensity would be some strides (i.e. short non-fatiguing bouts).
    • IgG food allergy test
      • Can be controversial but keep on your list if you keep coming up short on answers and solutions. 
      • From Genova: “The presence of circulating IgG antibodies to foods may be suggestive of increased intestinal permeability, also referred to as “leaky gut syndrome.” When the tight junctions forming the barrier in the gut don’t work properly, larger substances can “leak” through, causing an immune response. This immune response may result in the production of IgG antibodies to foods.4 There are multiple dietary and lifestyle factors that contribute to increased intestinal permeability. These factors include alcohol,13 stress,14,15 chronic NSAID use,16Western-type diet (high consumption of red meat, animal fat, high sugar, and low fiber food),17 and prolonged and strenuous exercise.

Amanda asks:

Athlete struggling with body

As always, loving your podcast and so happy that you continue to release episodes throughout these crazy times. I always am so stoked to see an updated episode come through. 

You featured my question almost a year ago now around athletic amenorrhea but to quickly recap – I am a 26 and am a competitive age grouper. I havent had my period in a few years but have experienced some weight loss that I attribute it to. At my heaviest, I was about 160lbs and am 5’7″ (only sharing numbers because I know it helps tell the full story)- I started training for tris and lost some weight, then I started working with a nutritionist when my weight started to climb back up but my calories hadn’t matched that. I found out I wasn’t eating enough – enough of the right things at the right time or at all. So I increased my calories and really focused on timing around workouts and the pounds came off. At my lightest I was 115 (and admittedly this was way too light) so I bounced up to 125 where I feel like I hit a groove – PRs, felt confident, and was eating very strategically. I got tired of counting calories and concerned that its been almost 2 years since I had a menstrual cycle (they were never regular before but they are now absent). SO recently I’ve just tried to listen to what my body wants but also UP my calories – I try to hit 2500 a day as a baseline I’ve heard that’s the sweet spot to getting your period back. I eat relatively clean – tons of veggies and good clean carbs. I focus on lots of protein and a good amount of fat although I am definitely more of a carb/protein gal. I also rarely have processed foods and I really focus on eating to support my training which is anywhere from 13-20 hours per week. All this to say, I am very discouraged with what my results have been since trying to let go of the tracking and eat more to get to 2500 (as a baseline! so not including the long training days and intensity workouts). I’ve attached some photos (one of when I felt good and one of this week) I am sitting at about 131lbs right now and have gained a pound a week for the last several weeks. Is it stress? Is it eating too much? Would love any advice as it feels very out of control and I love to be in control – HA! I don’t want to have to count calories forever to be at a good healthy weight where I feel lean and happy. Anyway, thanks for listening. Keep up the amazing work, love following this podcast and community.

What the Coaches say:

  • It sounds like a lot of thought (and stress) is going into calories and working out
  • Coaches support not tracking your food any more
  • Have you tried decreasing your training?
  • “Eating clean” is very stressful!
  • Find ways to learn how to trust your body
  • When does the pursuit of excellence in sport and controlling all the variables become unhealthy?
  • Orthorexia – fear of foods that don’t fit the definition as being safe or healthy
  • The coaches recommend working with a professional
  • Get away from the obsession of tracking calories, weighing yourself, etc.
  • Fat is your friend!
  • Healing is possible

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