Monday, June 9, 2014

Intravenous Sports Nutrition

There are many schools of thought when it comes to sports nutrition.

Each school contains a lot of pseudo-science, a bit of actual science and a very, very healthy dose of marketing “expertise”.

On this blog, I’ve already detailed the Spherical Diet Plan and provided some interesting vegetarian takes on traditional French cuisine with the Vegetarian Taste le Tour video series, which, although I haven’t actually heard from him, I’m assuming that Dave Zabriskie (the fish-eating vegan) bases his meal plans around.

Professor Tim Noakes, a leading figure in the (actual) scientific world of sports nutrition, is pushing the idea of a low-carb athletic diet, after reversing his opinions on carbohydrate loading some years ago. For some actual informative reading, check out and

At present, most endurance athletes still seem content to fill their bodies with carbohydrate, both prior to and whilst engaged in competition and there are a few different ideas on proper post-exercise recovery nutrition, including The Hops Window approach – a complicated scientific formula that determines the correct amount of beer to consume post-race for maximum benefit.

Energy gels are a popular form of carbohydrate-dense nutrition, conveniently packaged for easy consumption on the bike – and also great for littering (if you are a professional cyclist).

Interestingly, at this year’s Giro d’Italia, Adam Hansen’s Lotto Belisol team was awarded the CamelBak “Green Team” prize for disposing of the most bidons in the Green Zone recycling areas – a nice change from years of TV footage showing riders nonchalantly tossing used bidons in quaint Italian towns or idyllic French countryside.

The CamelBak Green Team prize hopefully led to a little less bidon tossing at this year's Giro d'Italia. 
“CamelBak Green Zones are special recycling areas, approximately 2 per stage, where riders were invited to throw their empty bottles.
These bottles were collected by CamelBak staff and distributed to fans. During the course of the Giro, CamelBak has compiled am unofficial Green Team Ranking, listing the teams that dropped bottles in the Green Zones. Every day, the ranking was shown at the CamelBak tent, at the Giro village.”
On-the-bike nutrition for professional road cyclists, with their team cars and domestiques always on hand, resembles a strange type of rolling all-you-can-eat buffet complete with open bar where food and drink can pretty much be consumed on-demand and with somebody else left to clean up afterwards – similar to many weddings.

But in other cycling disciplines, such as mountain biking, bikepacking or triathlon, where competitors are required to be more self-sufficient, riders have had to develop novel ways of executing their carefully-considered nutrition plans.

This type of carb-loading is not uncommon in many long-distance cycling events, such as the bike leg of last year’s Melbourne Ironman triathlon.

But just what does the future of sports nutrition hold?

On a recent visit to TPC Components, manufacturers of the new Chopper Bar remote handlebar-reducer profiled a few months back, I got a little preview of something in the pipeline of their R&D department that promises to revolutionise the sports nutrition industry.

While details are, at this stage, still sparse, the system can best be described as a backpack-mounted intravenous nutritional delivery system.

TPC Components have brought together professional cycling innovation, medical industry know-how and pharmaceutical industry advancements in a way not seen since the now-famous US Postal Services fake bus breakdown at the 2004 Tour de France. Under the guise of mechanical troubles, the team used the distraction to administer illegal transfusions from blood bags hung from the overhead luggage racks of the team bus. You can read an excerpt from the book Downfall of a Champion that details this intriguing incident at the Wall Street Journal website.

The TPC Components nutritional system is quite simple. Just tap a vein with the catheter, program in a few basic body metrics (via the handy touchscreen interface) and ride. The unit cleverly measures your blood sugar and hydration levels, accurately delivering your nutritional requirements via the lightweight tube and catheter planted in to your arm. All you really need to do is top it up with enough glucose powder, water and electrolyte formula to suit the length of your ride and you can pretty much forget about eating and drinking altogether.

At the time of my visit to the TPC Components R&D lab, they were still tossing around a few names for the groundbreaking nutritional system, with the shortlist including:
FSR – Functional Supplement Replenishment (Nutritional System)
OCLV – Optimized Continuous Local Vascular (Nutritional System)
CTD – Continuous Transfusion Delivery (Nutritional System)
These acronyms all seemed equally likely of landing them in trouble with the intellectual property lawyers at Specialized, Trek or Fox Racing Shox. My suggestion to them was “Tap and Ride” but unfortunately it wasn’t met with much enthusiasm by TPC Components co-founder Rudi van Oosterhaus because it apparently conjures up some rather unpleasant recent memories of using Melbourne's public transportation.

Obviously this idea will need a bit of refinement and it might take a few years to gain acceptance, with the memories of that US Postal mobile transfusion bus still fresh in our minds.

It would also probably require a slight amendment to the UCI’s “no needle policy” that has been used (fairly unsuccessfully) as an anti-doping tool since 2011. It’s for these reasons that we are unlikely to see any not-very-subtly leaked photographs of this must-have performance product before an official announcement at next year’s Sea Otter Classic – it’s still too soon for the industry.

But watch this space, because the intravenous delivery system will likely shape the future of sports nutrition – it’s really just a matter of when the industry is ready to make the leap to Feedback Actuated Catheter Transfer (F.A.C.T.).

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