5 questions with Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., RD, about Power Eating and fueling your training


Dr. Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., RD, FACN, CNS, FISSN is the Owner of High Performance Nutrition, LLC and author of the book “The New Power Eating."

Susan Kleiner sports nutritionist
Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD, FACN, CNS, FISSN

Interviewer: Mike Roberts, Ph.D. Q1: I had the opportunity to see you give a great presentation at Texas A&M this year on “power eating” for athletes. In a nutshell, could you define what “power eating” is?

This answer is not brief, and requires touching on both the science and the art of practice of sports nutrition. The ultimate solution is whatever works best for the athlete. However, there are some important guidelines.

  1. I categorize sports nutrition into 2 silos: nourishing your body and fueling your training. Silo 1, nourishing your body, depends on wholesome, least processed food to nourish your body and feed your brain. Silo 2, fueling your training, focuses not on nourishing, but the right athletic fuel for the goal of the training session. If you are an endurance athlete training for distance at a moderate or moderately-high pace, then you depend more on fat to fuel those training sessions, but if you are not fat-adapted, you still need carbohydrate in your diet and along the way for multi-hour runs. You can certainly build your muscle-glycogen stores with plant foods like starchy vegetables, grains and beans.
  2. Once you are on the road, food is not a good refueling source because it will take hours to get from your stomach to your bloodstream, typically causing stomach upset (especially in a runner) and not available as fuel probably until you are done training. This is the role of sports fuels. When you choose an engineered supplement, you should expect to see peer-reviewed scientific manuscript research articles proving the claims of the product. Read the study and make sure that the claims are actually supported by the research evidence. Many products make claims, but very few have data to prove it.
  3. The scientific data, and my experience has led me to recommend Vitargo, a pure high molecular weight starch, as my favorite carbohydrate fuel and recovery product. From published research data, Vitargo empties from the stomach more than 2x faster and enters the bloodstream nearly 2x faster than any product (without any blood glucose crash) made from maltodextrin or maltodextrin plus sugars, which is most other sports drinks. It doesn’t cause stomach upset or bloating. Muscle glycogen recovery is nearly 2x faster and higher. Most importantly, Vitargo enhances exercise performance an average of 10% up to 23% over maltodextrin plus sugars.
  4. I find that stomach and gut comfort is one of the most critical factors for exercise performance. Glycemic index doesn’t tell us anything about comfort, the action of the product or the outcome of performance, and slow-absorbing carbs also need proof of their claims and are more likely to cause stomach upset during exercise, although this is not universal.
  5. Test and compare products on yourself. Pay attention to grams of carbohydrate per dose, so that you know that you are comparing apples to apples, so to speak. All products do not use the same gram dose, so you need to equilibrate your doses. Then use what feels and performs best for you.
  6. Timing of use is also quite personal, and depends on each training bout. A long slow run may not require much pre-exercise dosing if you are eating a carb-rich diet. You may benefit from refueling along the way, and you may want to use a supplement to recover if you can’t get to food within an hour or so. Faster and/or more intense runs that gain altitude will benefit from prefueling, during fueling, and post-workout recovery fueling, with a good recovery meal to round out your glycogen replenishment for your next run or training session.

Q4: You’ve worked with several professional athletes. For the up-and-comers (high school or collegiate athletes), how important is it to eat a well-structured diet? Alternatively stated, can these folks get away with eating fast food, chips, and soft drinks and expect to make it to the top tier level based upon good genetics?

Twitter: @powereat
Instagram: @powereat
Facebook: facebook.com/drsusankleiner
Author: “The New Power Eating”
Website: www.drskleiner.com

Follow Auburn Kinesiology to catch the next 5 questions with the experts:

Twitter: @AuburnKINES
Instagram: @auburnkines

Facebook: /AUSchoolofKinesiology