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  • Benefits to a Vegan Diet

    Veganism is on the rise and with documentaries such as the ‘The Game Changers’ you can see why. But importantly what are some of the things to consider and what is the practicality of a vegan diet for endurance athletes? The Science: A vegan diet – eliminating all animal products from your diet – is growing in popularity due to many factors, however, one of these reasons are the health benefits associated with the diet. These include a reduced risk in heart disease, lower Low-Density-Lipoprotein (the bad cholesterol) and type II diabetes to name a few. Furthermore, a vegan diet may even result in a 15% reduction in cancer. The cholesterol from high fat foods such as meat products causes damage to the inner lining of the artery walls (the endothelium), in turn, causing an inflammatory response (similar to damaged muscle fibres after exercise). This triggers monocytes to travel to the area of damage. However, the monocytes overtime turn into macrophages (due to stimulation of oxidised cholesterol) which converts to plaque. As a result of the plaque, atrial walls thicken causing turbulent blood and eventually serious health issues such as blood clots. On top of this meat is considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) a carcinogen, cause of cancer, therefore avoiding meat may be necessity. But how does this apply to the athletic population? When training you are reliant on blood flow for oxygen transport. Therefore, supporting good vascular health is of critical importance. Unfortunately, literature regarding the effects of a vegan diet on athletic performance is limited, which makes it harder to draw meaningful conclusions. However, below are some of practical elements to going vegan while being an athlete. What about protein? Typically, endurance athletes need between 1.2-1.6 grams/kilogram of body weight worth of protein per day. However, the quality of the protein must also be considered. What is meant by this is the amino acid profile of the protein. Plant proteins do indeed have a significant reduction in amino acids when compared to animal products. Resulting in less protein synthesis – meaning animal protein is better for repairing damaged muscles. However, by combining two plant-based proteins in one meal can result in a full amino acid profile (soya beans and cashews for example). Therefore, the lack of essential proteins gained from meat can be made up for with plants. Do I need to supplement? Yes. But, you may need to even if your not vegan. This is referring to Vitamin B12, and it is believed that up to 15% of people are deficient of it, including meat eaters and vegans. However, particularly if you are vegan, supplementation is crucial as plans do not provide any VB12. VB12 is important for keeping nerve and blood cells healthy. In addition, VB12 prevents cancer through cell replication. Furthermore, generally, it is recommended we need 2.4 micrograms per day (2.6mcg if you are pregnant). In case you feel you may suffer from a deficiency, symptoms include fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Conclusion: A vegan diet may be of great benefit to you and certainly worth a try (although always consult a doctor), assuming you don’t just eat Oreos. Especially when considering some of the negative health aspects to meat consumption it may be the difference you need to have a great season. If you have tried/currently on a vegan diet send in your experience as we are interested to hear how your performance changed as a result. Further Reading: Health Benefits and Risks of Plant Proteins – Krajcovicova-Kudlackova, M.

  • How Much Sleep Do Athletes Need?

    Getting the right amount of sleep is of vital importance, as it is believed human performance is highly dependable on the sleep-wake rhythm. But, how much sleep is the right amount and how can sleep quality be optimised? Science During the first phase of sleep the body produces low frequency waves which results in a synchronised neuronal activity. Throughout this phase, growth hormone is released which stimulates protein synthesis. Resulting in muscle growth and repair, fat burning and bone building - three key factor contributing to the improvement of athletic performance. Importantly, when athletes lose low waves sleep the growth hormone decreases significantly. Furthermore, when sleeping the body experiences REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep - high frequency waves. Indeed, studies has shown a lack of REM sleep also results in poor memory and motor skills. Continuously, the immune system is negatively impacted 4-6 hours after a bout of exercise. This is known as immunosuppression and adequate sleep hours can reduce the immune systems decline post training. It seems clear that sleep is important but how much is the right amount? Recommendations Typically people need 8 hours sleep per night to maintain good health. However, studies have shown extending sleep can enhance performance in athletes. One study pointed out performance (defined as sprint speed) increased by 4% when sleep was extended to 10 hours per night (subjects were getting between 6-9 hours prior to the study) for a 5-7 week period. On the other hand if getting the necessary sleep hours (it seems 10 hours is suitable for athletes) is not practical then consider naps during the day. However, naps are split into two categories, short (15-20 minutes) and long (30-60 minutes). A short nap results in poorer long term cognitive function (decision making) but better short term function. Whereas long naps have the opposite effect and is believed to engage the brain in REM sleep. Additionally, one study found hour long naps were beneficial when supplementing athletes’ night-time sleep. As a consequence it would seem a long term nap is the ideal strategy to ensure better sleep quality and performance. Moveover, to further increase sleep quality consider de-stimulating the brain 45-60 minutes before going to bed. During this period avoid electronics and social media. Completing flexibility work at night is also beneficial as the muscles are more relaxed. Lastly, wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day. As this increasing the efficiency of the body's sleep-wake cycle - including hormone production. References: Mah, C., Mah, K., Kezirian, E. and Dement, W. (2011). The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players. Sleep, 34(7), pp.943-950. Bird, S. (2013). Sleep, Recovery, and Athletic Performance. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 35(5), pp.43-47. Lastella, M., Lovell, G. and Sargent, C. (2012). Athletes' precompetitive sleep behaviour and its relationship with subsequent precompetitive mood and performance. European Journal of Sport Science, 14(sup1), pp.S123-S130. Reilly, T. and Edwards, B. (2007). Altered sleep–wake cycles and physical performance in athletes. Physiology & Behavior, 90(2-3), pp.274-284. Romyn, G., Lastella, M., Miller, D., Versey, N., Roach, G. and Sargent, C. (2018). Daytime naps can be used to supplement night-time sleep in athletes. Chronobiology International, 35(6), pp.865-868.

  • Using Periodisation to Structure Your Season

    It’s that time of year when you have a chance to rest and recuperate from the season. However, importantly it’s also the perfect time to plan the structure of your next season. Accumulation Phase # 1: The accumulation phase focuses on building a base endurance. Therefore, a large percentage of training focuses on aerobic workouts (with oxygen). As a result, some of the adaptations that occur during this phase include. Mitochondria density Blood volume Heart efficiency The purpose is to make sure the body is fit enough to complete the event specific training (Transformation Phase # 2). This means improvements may increase at a lower rate but should mean the body is fresh for very high intensity work. The TID during phase # 1 follows two methods, pyramidal and polarized training. Pyramidal training follows a split of 80% - 15% - 5% (low intensity – moderate intensity – high intensity). The emphasis on tempo workouts builds an endurance without fatigue spiking. However, as phase # 1 progress more high intensity training is including – polarized training – which follows a split of 80% - 5% - 15%. In addition, often featured in BCA plans are block training (BT). BT is when training focuses on improving specific aspects to an athlete’s attributes within certain micro cycles. Science has shown completing blocks of high intensity training during the accumulation phase improves performance more than not including block training. Recommendations: Don’t be tempted to increase the intensity of workouts/intervals. Have the wisdom to show patience through the plan. If you find long low intensity rides boring, ride with groups/friends. Practice holding the wheel and how to stay safe in a group. Transformation Phase # 2 The Transformation Phase focuses on event specific workouts. Therefore, this often means training intensity increases to match or supersedes event demands. The phase is shorter as event specific training causes a lot more cumulative fatigue (chronic fatigue that builds up over time – both physiological and psychological). Moreover, adaptations made are considerately harder to maintain due to fatigue. Adaptations that occur during the phase include. Lactic Threshold ATP Storage Glycogen Sensitivity However, event specific training changes for different events. For example, if your event is a Gran Fondo that is expected to take 4-5 hours, consider completing a 5-6 endurance ride during phase # 2. Each training plan has broken down the demands the event to make sure training takes you to the next level. Often the TID changes to focus on moderate to high intensity workouts. In some cases, training make even be split 50%-0%-50%. Generally, during phase # 2 all high intensity workouts a match with very low intensity training – the hard workouts are harder and easier workouts are easier. Recommendations: Don’t try to lose weight during the Transformation Phase, since energy demands are very high. The quality of the workout must take priority, so fuelling with the right amount nutrients is critical. Realisation Phase # 3 The Realisation Phase focuses on tapering for the main event. Tapering determines whether an individual is going to be under-trained, over-trained or just right. For optimum results total training volume should decrease between 41-60%. However, shorter taper periods < 1 week can be more. Adaptations include: Exercise Economy Glycogen Storage Heart Thickness The purpose is to allow the athlete to realise their new fitness through recovery, while maintaining the important adaptions that have been made. Similarly, to the Transformation phase, different events have different tapering lengths. Generally speaking, the shorter an event the shorter the taper. For example, a marathon taper may be 2 weeks while a short time trial may be 4 days. Training accommodates for both a Saturday and Sunday event. The Monday of event week has an attached screen shot providing you with the alternate week plan. The default plan sets the event to Sunday, but the alternate plan is for Saturday. Recommendations: Even if you feel a little under-training due to illness etc. that does not mean you should skip the realisation phase. Instead, shortening by up to 50% (1 week instead of 2) would be far more appropriate. Conclusion To conclude training should be broken down into three main segments - Accumulation # 1, Transformation # 2 and Realisation # 3. With this structure you will not peak to early or burn yourself out before event specific training.

  • Meet BCA Ambassador Actor James Melville

    Actor James Melville who has appeared in films such as A Monster Calls and The Favorite staring Emma Stone has celebrated a successful period at Breakaway Coaching and Analytics. BCA: How did you get into triathlon? James Melville: I wanted to do a sport that wasn’t technical, just fitness. Not too long and not too short of an event and to not be monotonous. Since triathlon has three events in one and isn’t short like decathlon, it was the perfect event. You are also an Actor, that must mean you have a busy schedule. Sometimes it can be tight, but BCA is able to adjust my training in accordance to any short notice auditions, which happens a lot. What made you chose BCA? It gave detailed analysis on why I had the output I did and gave insight that I couldn’t get elsewhere. There was a reason for every session and the way it was conducted, that knowledge made you know it was all worth while. This was much more trustworthy as opposed to trusting someone who didn’t me as much depth in their advice and training. What advice would you offer to someone looking for a coach? Go to the BCA website and contact them, let them know what you want to achieve and start a dialogue, they’ll take it from there. Looking forward to next year, what are your goals? Winning my category in Brighton and getting under 1 hour and 2 minutes. Instagram: IMDb:

  • Phenomenal Podium Place

    At the beginning of July BCA was approached by actor James Melville who wanted to complete a Sprint Triathlon (750m Swim, 20km Bike, 5km Run) before the end of the Summer. After the consultation we agreed on a target time within the 1 hour 10 minutes bracket at the Brighton and Hove Triathlon in September. Considering James had no earlier experience in triathlon, had not exercised in months prior to summer plus, only 76 days to prepare for Brighton, this was a big task. However, James was showing excellent signs of improvement throughout the summer with a PB at Leybourne lakes triathlon, placing 7th out of 28, with only a month before Brighton. To plan for James’s training, BCA took into account the demands of the event, his current fitness, his target time and his available time to train. His progress continued all the way to Brighton which showed in the swim were he put out his fastest ever time of 0:12:40. A strong effort sustained during the bike, which set up James perfectly for the final run which he attained a PB of 0:20:30. He secured his target time (1:10:21) plus, finished 3rd in his category. James enjoyed his experience so much he is aiming for another PB next season. If you are inspired by this success story then please get in touch, BCA is happy to help anyone! Official Times: 1:10:21 - 34/345 (overall placing) Swim: 0:12:40 T1: 0:01:35 Bike: 0:34:12 T2: 0:01:24 Run: 0:20:30 Check out the results in the link below:

  • Benefits of Strength Training in Your Program

    Often athletes can shy away from strength training due to the fear of increasing fatigue excessively. But could this be a pivotal aspect to your training program that’s missing? The Science: It is considered by current literature that strength training can increase endurance performance. One study conducted by Rønnestad et al (2013) suggested the improved endurance performance causes a delayed activation of less type II muscle fibers. Signifying, a better efficiency and conversion of fast-twitch fibers to more fatigue-resistant fibers. Conclusively, Rønnestad et al (2013) also determined power output at VO2max increases. Furthermore, Hickson et al (1988) address the physiological mechanisms and justifies the above by stating strength training three times a week increases time till exhaustion, while also affirming short term, endurance is similarly benefited. How? Joe Friel recommends in ‘The Cyclists Training Bible’ reps to percentage of 1 Rep Max (1RM) ratio, which follows the below pattern: Reps - Factor (% of 1RM) 4 - .900 5 - .875 6 - .850 7 - .825 8 - .800 9 - .775 10 - .750 Furthermore, when planning your exercises, you should consider two main types of contraction, hypertrophy and explosive movements. Hypertrophy is typically more suited to building muscle mass, stability and getting used to movements. Plus, hypertrophy training has a speed of contraction of 3 seconds concentric contraction and 3 eccentric contraction. Whereas explosive contractions are generally with a higher weight load but lower in reps, and best for building strength and activation. Along with, a speed of contraction of 2 seconds concentric contraction and 1 eccentric contraction. Example: During winter strength training can be as high as 3 times a week, while during the season its typically best to keep to 1-2 times a week. Below is an example of a gym workout BCA gives to their athletes. WO: - Plank ------------------------ 35 s x 4 - Goblin Squat ------------- 6 r x 4 - E - Bulgarian squats ------- 10 r x 4 - H - Leg Lifts -------------------- 12 r x 3 - H - Mountain Climbers ------ 30 s x 3 - E - Press Ups ------------------- 10 r x 3 - H YouTube: BCA is excited to lunch its new YouTube Channel with helpful training tips and exercises. Check out the link below to see how you can do strength training at home. (Coming Soon) References Hickson, R., Dvorak, B., Gorostiaga, E., Kurowski, T. and Foster, C. (1988). Potential for strength and endurance training to amplify endurance performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 65(5), pp.2285-2290. Rønnestad, B. and Mujika, I. (2013). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24(4), pp.603-612. Friel, J. (2018). The Cyclist's Training Bible. 5th ed. Boulder: Velopress. YouTube. (2019). How to: climbing strength exercises for cyclists. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Aug. 2019].

  • BCA's Special Offer!

    BCA have expanded its pre-built training programs and for a limited time only is offering FREE training workouts PLUS, 25% off some of the available programs. Use the coupon code BCA25 to get your discounted training program. Hurry as offer ends soon! Link: Keep checking the BCA blog as more content about how to improve performance is coming soon!

  • BCA Athlete Showing Great Progress

    Well done to a BCA triathlete for achieving his personal best at Laybourne. This PB (off over 2 minutes!) demonstrates excellently the hard work that has been put in to training. BCA plans each training session meticulously around the demands of the priority competition, target time and athletes current fitness level is proving a great way of planning. The progress is building perfectly towards the athletes target event, Brighton - Sprint Triathlon in September. Keep up the good work! Previously time - 17 July 2019 - 38:45 Swim | 14:22 T1 | 1:24 Run | 22:59 New time (PB) - 14 August 2019 - 36:01 Swim | 13:27 T1 | 1:13 Run | 21:19 Get in touch if you are keen to improve or just want to get fitter!

  • How to Boost Performance with Beetroot Juice

    It is well know beetroot juice can enhance performance but why and how to use it to best effect? The Science: Beetroot contains 250mg per 100g of Nitric Oxide (Hord, 2008) which is a vasodilator. Vasodilation causes the lumen (the area were blood flows) of the blood vessels to expand. This is of benefit as it increases the blood flow of oxygenated blood to the working muscles. In addition the increased blood flow increases stroke volume (amount of blood pumped in one beat of the heart) consequently this decreases heart rate therefore making the body more efficient. Who? Research has demonstrated that beetroot does not always help performance. Studies show that the intake of beetroot before anaerobic exercise (sprinting) has no impact on performance. However there is evidence to suggest that during aerobic or sub-maximal exercise (endurance) beetroot can lower oxygen consumption. This is good as it means breathing and heart rate does not need to work as hard for the same result. Partially due to the increased blood flow beetroot causes as mentioned earlier. When? Beetroot juice is considered a ‘medium’ on the Glycemic Index. Meaning the body will not metabolise beetroot quickly. It has therefore been suggested by Jones (2014) and Webb (2008) that consumption is best 2-3 hours prior to exercise for optimum benefit. References Hord, N., Tang, Y. and Bryan, N. (2009). Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(1), pp.1-10. Webb, A., Patel, N., Loukogeorgakis, S., Okorie, M., Aboud, Z., Misra, S., Rashid, R., Miall, P., Deanfield, J., Benjamin, N., MacAllister, R., Hobbs, A. and Ahluwalia, A. (2008). Acute Blood Pressure Lowering, Vasoprotective, and Antiplatelet Properties of Dietary Nitrate via Bioconversion to Nitrite. Hypertension, 51(3), pp.784-790. Jones, A. (2014). Dietary Nitrate Supplementation and Exercise Performance. Sports Medicine, 44(S1), pp.35-45.

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