Ever wondered how best to use Supersapiens across an entire year?
This right here is your comprehensive guide to using Supersapiens in all phases of training.
In this article, we’re covering how to use Supersapiens in the off-season, pre-season, and competitive season. We’re also covering what you should be looking to achieve in each phase of the season and how to optimize your body using Supersapiens insights.
Broadly, for most sports, training is split into annual cycles. And like any technology or wearable device, glucose has a different utility in different phases of the annual training cycle.
Cycles are broken down into blocks.
These blocks can vary between training periodization models, coaches, and sports. But broadly speaking, there are at least three:
- Off-season – the period of training between the last competition period and the preparation for the next
- Pre-season – the period of preparation prior to racing season
- In-season – the period of racing and competing
There are some differences in championship sports: cycling, marathoning, or long distance triathlon, as races are split across the year and infrequently compared to the shorter counterparts in each of the disciplines. That said, this article and these principles are still relevant to those sports and can still be applied.
During this phase, there is often a lot of focus on the basics – the building blocks for the upcoming season. It’s all about working on weaknesses and setting the foundation from which you can perform at your best.
In endurance sports, this relies on significant volume with much less intensity than the other phases. In team sports, this is often where fundamentals are revisited and conditioning for the upcoming season is emphasized.
When it comes to using Supersapiens, this is a perfect period to (re)calibrate, and set your platform for the upcoming season. It’s also an ideal phase to learn and experiment as well.
Dialing in the Baseline
While in this phase, there should be a period of ‘baselining’ or understanding your baseline levels. This may or may not be the same between seasons. Supersapiens data has shown a significant improvement in stability and decreased time outside of the 70-140 mg/dL range in the first 1-3 sensors of use, so it is important to appreciate what your new normal is. Part of these changes is likely driven by the powerful and tight feedback loop that CGM provides you. Here’s a good example of the impact of using Supersapiens:
Lindsay: “I definitely realized how much things like processed or ‘white’ carbs would spike my glucose. Ryan and I are big bread eaters, but plain white bread spikes my glucose as much as eating candy. We introduced a lot more whole grain carbs, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, etc. We also love sweet potatoes, so we started keeping some baked sweet potatoes in the fridge for snacks.”
There is value in noticing and working to optimize these baseline values within this phase. This is a phase where mistakes and experiments are of very little consequence in relation to the other phases of training, so any unlocks you can achieve here are worth the attempts. This is well illustrated by another quote from Lindsay Webster:
“I found it interesting to learn about pre-diabetic and diabetic glucose levels starting around 110. It’s easy to keep mine sitting around 100, but I found if I could get it down to 90, I would feel generally better. I’d have less crashes throughout the day, and just have better all-around energy. I had to learn how to do this without being hungry, and still fuel during and after my workouts well. I found I would eat healthier snacks to avoid spiking my glucose, but eating things I still enjoyed. We would start making extra big salads so we had leftovers that I could eat as a snack the next day. And I could still eat dessert, which is a big thing for me!”
- Knowing your baseline glucose, its pattern, and your glucose stability is crucial.
- From that baseline, experimentation and monitoring becomes possible.
- Focus on learning the basis for better control of your glucose levels and improving your glucose stability.
Some athletes will use this phase of training to improve body composition, though some prefer to do this much later in their preparation, changing composition just before competing to minimize time with low body fat percentages and reduce risks of underfueling and associated problems.
In whatever phase you decide to optimize body composition, it should be noted that at all times, you should be fueling for the work required.
That said, to aid in reduction of excess body fat there are a number of strategies that help athletes and that athletes are already using.
For example, more stable glucose has been linked to less hunger. This will happen somewhat naturally in higher volume periods of training due to the insulin-sensitizing effects of exercise. Especially coming from a period of perhaps relatively low training volume and intensity and more resting days. But if looking for other strategies, see this article.
Some users are finding that they are seeing benefits in reducing their glucose exposure when it comes to managing body composition. These athletes are reducing their daily average glucose by about 5-10mg/dL from their baseline, it’s another reason knowing your normal baseline is crucial. We recently spoke to Lindsay Webster and Ryan Atkins – fresh of their World OCR titles – and they mentioned similar strategies:
Lindsay: “I hate to talk ‘race weight,’ but the reality is that when running in soft sand for 3 hours, being even 1 pound lighter would be a huge benefit. However, the key is not to sacrifice performance in the workouts leading into the race, so you still want to fuel workouts well and recover well. I found just keeping my average glucose number down did the trick pretty easily. As Ryan mentioned, also eating dinner earlier so we weren’t going to bed on a full stomach helped a lot.”
Ryan: “I noticed that if I ate less and got preoccupied with other things, my average glucose would drop. This, in turn, would affect my workouts. So I tried to only get into these low average glucose periods for 2 days at a time. During this time, I would keep my workouts low intensity. I also found that doing fasted workouts during these times had less effect on performance. Dropping my average glucose from 95 to 85 or 90 for a few days, over 10 weeks leading up to the event was enough to drop 4 pounds. I didn't lose any power during this time either. This has been the most effective and least destructive way of dropping down a few pounds.”
- Improve glucose stability as discussed previously.
- Fuel for the work required, keeping this in the broader context of your training plan.
- There may be value in reducing daily average glucose by 5-10 mg/dL for periods of time if your aim is to change your body composition. *Make sure you work with a nutrition professional.
Be able to Notice Overtraining or Underfueling
During this phase of training, it is not uncommon to go through periods of ‘overreaching’– a period of excessive loading combined with a reduced caloric intake. Hopefully, this is both planned and monitored with appropriate rest following it, to allow for the desired adaptations and subsequent improvements.
If this is the case, or if you are concerned about fuel intake – which can be difficult if doing multiple long training sessions a day – you may notice that your glucose becomes quite low between training sessions, below your baseline glucose level. You may also notice that it rarely rises very high (compared to baseline) even when eating and that is particularly noticeable overnight when sleeping. This is a pattern noticed by some athletes in periods of an imbalance between training and intake as described by Lisa Norden in her use of CGM. In addition, a pattern of lower glucose control after exhaustive exercise might signal a fatigued state or the need to recover.
In these phases of large volume, one strategy that athletes are using to aid in meeting caloric intake requirements, particularly during longer training days, is to fuel during training. This may seem counterintuitive to some, particularly if they can achieve training requirements without the need for taking on nutrition, as may be the case in team sports or in some cases of endurance athletes. But nonetheless, this strategy aids on days where hours of intake may be limited as may be the case when training multiple times a day for extended periods. Similarly, you can take advantage of having continuous visibility and avoid periods of low glucose by feeding with carbohydrates.
- Know your baseline and understand your normal glucose dynamics.
- Watch for changes that could alert you to some early signs that need attention.
- Consider fueling during training sessions to aid in total intake requirements.
Many users tell us that they have a really good understanding of their glucose and what it will do in response to things like training or meals when in a good routine at their home/base. This all goes out the window when traveling though, thanks to the change in circadian rhythms, food, altitude and even climate.
Given the propensity for a difference in climate during the offseason, whether its altitude training camps, training camps in other climates, or just the impact of a different season of weather, it’s worth considering the impacts this can have on glucose. While it can be difficult to determine, the above links will take you to resources with helpful insights, as will the insights below from Ryan and Lindsay. Here, they discuss their time in heat preparation and competition in the UAE.
Lindsay: “Normally, my glucose drops right after I exercise, but like it did in this screenshot, it seemed to stay high until my body core temperature dropped, which would take a while.”
Ryan on heat acclimatization: “I noticed that by training and then immediately getting into the sauna, my HR would stay elevated, but so would my glucose. This really hit home on the effect of heat on the body. I tried to keep my glucose in the 120-140 range during sauna sessions, which lasted 30-40 minutes. This was an effective way to make sure that my workout fuel was sustained after the workout finished. It became apparent that I needed to really focus on intake during the workout to ensure that levels were kept high afterwards. This led to better recovery from workouts too.”
- Consider the impact of climatic changes and travel schedules (or changes in routines) on your glucose.
- Ensure you take note of this to adjust/fuel appropriately.
- Baseline glucose will almost certainly change with any changes in routine, including location and climate, but how is very individual.
During this phase of the season, there is an eye on competition. It’s not here yet, but on the horizon, and things are becoming more specific in regards to schedule and training. Key training sessions are underway and competition, albeit less consequential, is happening.
This phase is all about dialing in the details for the time when those details have consequences. As in, competition. This is about pre-event routines, dinner the night before, breakfast the day of, recovery post event, all of it.
Start Experimenting with more Significant Fueling
The time to start working on event day nutrition is here. You should be looking to use key training sessions, fairly regularly, to make sure all of your event day (and previous day) routines are in place and optimized. Any experiments and learnings from the previous season should be evaluated here. Want to try a new fuel? Now is the time. Changing the timing of your intake? Do it here, if not already done previously.
In this phase, it would be worth considering opportunities you think exist for improvements, and testing them in a progressive manner from less consequential times to have bad outcomes, slowly edging towards more consequential times.
Some improvements to consider experimenting with:
- Previous day’s intake
- Pre-exercise meal and timing
- Timing of intake
- Volume of intake
- Dosing of intake (how you split the intake up)
- Source of intake (changing products)
- Other supplements such as caffeine
- Use the combination of the Glucose Score, its four components, the other event metrics such as stability and the glucose curve from your event to start comparing different fueling strategies.
- Without trying to improve, update or change your fueling it is hard to know what is optimal.
- Even the same nutrition strategy in terms of source and dose/hr can be significantly different in terms of glucose availability if ingested in a different dosing interval (for example 2 gels/hr vs half a gel every 15 mins).
Train the Gut
This is the phase of the season where any gut training should happen. Gut training will help in tolerating and absorbing more carbohydrates to better fuel your energy needs during exercise. In some sports, such as long distance triathlon or marathon running, there is a significant role for increasing gastrointestinal tolerance to ensure this isn’t an issue on race day. Whereas, in team sports, this is less of a concern. In all sports, however, there is the need to be comfortable and confident in what the 24-48 hour period around competition looks like from an intake perspective. This is the time to achieve this; Again, focusing on key training sessions and event simulations to really ensure it is stress tested.
For more on training the gut, see this article.
- Make sure you are comfortable and confident with what you want and need to use for fuel on event day.
- This should include a worst case scenario, generally done via training the gut for more than anticipated intake requirements.
- Use the Supersapiens Dashboard to evaluate fueling strategies and modify them.
Start Dialing in Trailing Average
As part of understanding your baseline, and starting to dial in your nutrition around competition day, you should start taking note of trailing average glucose.
This is a useful guide of your previous day’s intake, and many users are finding that increasing this by around 5-10mg/dL is helpful to ensuring they are well fueled prior to their key events and key training sessions. Anecdotally, some endurance athletes are finding this number correlates with the trailing average glucose they achieve from a traditional carbohydrate loading protocol. It is a little early for this to be considered a surrogate for glycogen levels but the concept of using this as a monitor of carbohydrate loading is promising.
- Experimenting with increasing your trailing average glucose and/or evaluating your trailing average glucose with your current pre-event (24-48h) protocols to notice what this looks like is the first step in optimizing your pre-event intake.
- Ensure you know what numbers you want to hit and use your daily average glucose for feedback.
Appreciate the Piling up of Training
Many people struggle to really appreciate the impact of cumulative training in general and with respect to their glucose levels. This may manifest in some underfueling as a result of under-appreciating carbohydrate and macronutrient requirements that should match your long term energy demand, as mentioned above in the Off-season section regarding overtraining/underfueling. As previously mentioned, during phases of large training volumes and many hours a day of training, there may be a role for fueling during a training session to aid in meeting macronutrient and/or caloric requirements for the day rather than with the sole purpose of fueling any one specific training session better. The impacts of this are illustrated in the below quote from Lindsay Webster:
“I learned to take a lot more fuel DURING workouts. Not only would I feel better during the workout, but also the next day. I learned that if you really have a glucose crash during a workout, it can take up to a few days to dig yourself out of that hole.”
- Ensuring appropriate caloric and macronutrient intakes is crucial for performance in the short and long term.
- Appropriate fueling during any one session may aid in recovery.
- Appropriate fueling may allow better ability to perform multiple training sessions in a day and across a week.
This is it! When the lights are on and the spectators are out. It’s the time of year where you get to celebrate all the hard work you have put in during training. But it is also the period where having routines, understanding your body, and being able to execute is the most important. By this point, those practices are habits and they impact glucose control. It is where recovery is of the utmost importance and anything achieved in previous phases of preparation was all just in service to performing when it counts: Now.
This may be a single event day, where margins are tiny and everything needs to go perfectly, as there is no second chance. Or, it may be a season where any errors start to compile and knowing how best to execute and recover is critical for you to be able to sustain your peak performance over time.
Carbohydrate Loading/Increase Trailing Average
The insights gained from the pre-season and using trailing average glucose start to become quickly valuable once competition season kicks off. Understanding your baseline, what a helpful trailing average glucose is for you and what a carbohydrate loading protocol does to your trailing average glucose lets you really dial in on what to aim for and get feedback on your protocols unlike anything possible previously. This is apparent from the learnings that Lindsay took from her previous experimentation into her Spartan World Championships preparation:
“For a few days leading into the race, I tried to focus on eating more carbs than I typically would, and tried to keep glucose levels around 100 or higher when resting. Typically mine would be around 90, so just a little more fuel in the tank than normal.”
- Know your baseline and what trailing average glucose levels allow you to feel good and perform well.
- Know what carbohydrate loading protocols do to your glucose.
- Use daily average glucose to get good feedback on the success of your protocols.
Of course, the last 24 hours is important, but perhaps more important still is the time closer to the event. This window for pre-event fueling – topping up glycogen stores – is what we refer to as priming. While it is commonly acknowledged that priming is crucial to improve performance via topping up overnight depletion of liver glycogen, there is a lesser discussed phenomenon that could have a negative impact on performance, specifically rebound hypoglycemia during the early stage of exercise when eating too close to it. Avoiding this may aid in avoiding some negative physiological consequences and the poor feeling that can come with it – think, heavy legs, lethargy, etc. This is especially concerning if you are prone to develop symptoms related to it.
Based on user-generated data, we’ve observed that there is a significantly increased probability of experiencing rebound hypoglycemia when eating in the vicinity of 60mins prior to starting exercise, with the risk at its baseline beyond 3hrs or very shortly before starting.
- Topping up glycogen stores on the morning of your competition is crucial.
- Ensuring any meals do not impact performance is also of the utmost importance.
- Try to eat far enough away from exercise that it does not impact your glucose availability and feeling.
Dial in Competition Nutrition
No amount of testing in training and competition simulation will ever be able to perfectly replicate the day of competition. So it is only when competition starts that you can really perfect your competition nutrition.
Ensuring you correlate performance, how you felt, and the feedback Supersapiens gives you will aid in reviewing your fueling and making decisions going forward. Look at your Glucose Score, the four parameters that make it up and the other statistics the event gives you (average, minimum glucose, maximum glucose and stability) not to mention your trailing average glucose.
*Make sure to consult a certified nutrition specialist.
These are powerful insights that Supersapiens provides, giving you the platform for progress. As can be seen from the below insights from Lindsay and Ryan.
Lindsay on her biggest change since using Supersapiens:
“Fueling more often during races! I used to fuel with a gel every 30 minutes, and as a general rule would take 200 calories per hour. I found I felt a whole lot better if I took closer to 300 calories per hour, and fueled every 15mins. Since gels are 100 cal and you can’t really just take half of one, I learned to take more liquid calories. If I took a gel every 15mins I would be way too full, so liquid calories are an easy way to just take what I want when I want.”
Ryan on his pre-race nutrition thanks to insights from Supersapiens:
“Throughout the Spartan games, I was able to really dial in my pre-event nutrition. What I've settled on is utilizing the "dip", post warm-up, to ensure better consistency of glucose during the event. So now, It looks like this: 60-50 minutes pre-event, I eat about 300-400 calories of easily digestible foods like a sports drink. Then, 35 minutes before the event begins, I start my warm up. This lasts about 20 minutes. During it, I include 4x60 second "efforts" of threshold or slightly higher, with 60-90 seconds of recovery. I do this on terrain that mimics the event requirements. This allows my glucose to rise up to about 160. 15 minutes before the event, I stop my warm up, and just walk around and prepare some last minute things. During this time, my glucose drops to about 100. Then, with 3-4 minutes to go before the race, I eat a gel and start doing some breathing exercises to get myself amped up. This brings my glucose up to 200 in the first few minutes of the race. And it stays there throughout the race!”
- Understanding your starting point from the work you have done in the preseason is crucial to setting the basis for a tailored and personalized approach to fueling.
- Use the Supersapiens app metrics, including glucose score and glucose curve to look for opportunities to improve your glucose availability and control.
- Adjust and re-evaluate!
Use Live Glucose Where Possible
The benefits of live glucose visibility are immense in sports where nutrition plays a significant role in the outcome. This includes most endurance sports. The impact of this is even more significant during long duration (> 1h) and intense workouts/competitions. In these cases, many athletes are seeing significant changes to their fueling strategies as a result of live glucose visibility, as was the case for Damian Hall in his Lakes in a Day race.
- Live glucose aids you in fueling to maintain glucose availability, especially when the exercise is long and hard.
- Most users see and feel improvement from the increased fueling as a result of having live glucose visibility.
Induce Post-workout Rushes
For most of your non-exercising hours (or “off-hours”), you should be trying to stay in the blue “Glucose Recovery Zone”. This is 70-140mg/dL.
After a training session or competition, where recovery is front of mind, there may be a role for allowing glucose levels to be a little higher to aid in recovery, as explained in this article, even inducing a Glucose Rush in certain circumstances.
Experiment with getting your glucose up and see how it impacts your recovery and performance going forward.
- The post-exercise window is about recovery and is a key window of opportunity.
- In this key recovery window, a glucose rush may be helpful to drive recovery.
For more on how you can apply CGM to your training, check out this article which focuses on the process of using CGM to make adjustments to fueling specifically.
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