During the 1972 Olympics in Munich, as Frank Shorter prepared to race, he had a secret ingredient up his sleeve: flat Coca-Cola. The US athlete caffeinated his way over 42 kilometers to win gold in the marathon.
Bizarre as it may sound, decades later researchers discovered that consuming caffeine during endurance exercise could give an athlete the edge.
In a new review published in Science, Australian Institute of Sport’s head of sports nutrition Professor Louise Burke and the director of The Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Professor John Hawley, explore nutritional approaches to performance in elite athletes.
They argue there is no “single, superior ‘athletic diet’”. Rather, different tactics benefit different people, forms of exercise and phases of training.
The great diet debate
The developing knowledge about how the body uses fuel helps to explain the high-carb/low-carb debate as well as the myth of the perfect “athlete’s diet”.
“The early sports nutrition guidelines were ‘let’s all eat high carbohydrate at all times because that’s what the muscles are using as fuel’,” Burke explains.
This explains the idea of energy gels during endurance races or the thought process of anyone who ever decided to skol a soft drink or eat a Mars bar right before an event.
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