The following case study looks at the nutritional advice given to an Olympic equestrian athlete. It discusses the performance benefits of replacing high sugar snacks and caffeine with slow energy release carbohydrates and Bimuno.
Title: Dr Dan Martin
Team/business: Current roles include Team GBR Equestrian; Professional Jockeys Association; Huddersfield Town AFC; Liverpool John Moores University
Case study group or athlete: Team GBR Equestrian
Education and qualifications: PhD – Performance Nutrition and Behaviour Change & Education; MSc Sport & Exercise Nutrition; PGDip Post-Compulsory Education; BSc (hons) Sport and Exercise Sciences
I am a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Liverpool John Moores University within the Research Institute of Sport and Exercise Sciences. The department conducts research across all disciplines of Sports Science. My particular area of interest is within the physiology and nutrition research group where we work across a range of team, endurance, and weight-making sports. Examples of teams and individuals we work with are the England Rugby squad, Liverpool FC, Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky) cycling, elite jockeys, world champion boxers, and MMA/UFC fighters.
Alongside my academic role I hold several consultancy-based roles as a Performance Nutritionist within professional and elite sport. These roles centre around developing nutrition strategies for a) team wide approaches, and b) at an individual level to deliver optimal nutrition for training, recovery, optimising body composition, health, and performance.
Profile: Medals at Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games, European Championships, 5*/Grand Prix Events
Summary of who they are and what they do:
The client is an international equestrian athlete with success at European, World, and Olympic championships. Between championships they routinely compete their horses both domestically and internationally averaging a competition at least once per week (but often two or three) throughout the competitive season (typically March to November).
A typical day in training and competition:
A typical day in the life of the athlete can be characterised as long, non-stop and often unpredictable. This often makes optimal nutrition strategies more difficult to adhere to than a team sport athlete, for example, where we can control the timing and access to the correct foods based on the demands of that particular day.
A “normal” day – i.e. no competition
06:00 – wake up and feed the horses before being schooled
07:30 – 10:00 – school 3-4 horses
10:15 – short break
10:15 – 13:00 school another 3-4 horses
13:00 – quick lunch
13:30 – 18:00 – driving to clients / coach other riders / drive home
19:00 – dinner
19:30 – office work/evening stable duties
21:00 – bed
A competition day
04:00 – wake up, feed horses, load on to the horse-wagon for transport
04:30 – 10:00 – drive to competition venue
10:00 – 12:00 – declarations, walk the course, prepare the horse, prepare self for competition
12:00 – 17:00 – compete (often has multiple horses at the same competition) 17:00 – prepare for departure
17:30 – 22:00 – drive back home
22:00 – unload horses/evening stable duties 23:00 – bed
(depending on the time of competition and distance from home, often the return time may be after midnight).
Problems to overcome:
Due to the nature of the lifestyle and daily routine, upon dietary analysis, it was clear the athlete had a very low intake of foods naturally rich in prebiotic fibre. Rather, food prioritised was convenient ‘on the go’ snacks and although not all processed and “bad” foods, they were nonetheless low in prebiotics and fibre generally, and lacking micronutrients. The diet could easily be summarised as beige in colour, calorie-dense, and low in nutrients – this is typical across most equestrian and horseracing athletes prior to nutrition support due to the nature of the non-stop and often erratic lifestyle.
This particular athlete complained of a feeling of ‘low energy’ despite consuming more than adequate overall calorie intake with a significant proportion from carbohydrates. Similarly, they reported a relatively low level but long-term gastrointestinal (GI) issues around bloating and stomach cramps that they had ‘learned to live with’. The athlete identified that these GI issues were exasperated during international travel and often suffered from diarrhoea but were uncertain if it was related to the diet via unfamiliar foods when abroad or the added stress of the logistics and pressures of competing abroad (or a combination of both).
Nutrition strategies put in place:
The dietary intervention consisted of a two-fold approach. Firstly, establishing a suitable and ‘periodised’ daily calorie and nutrient intake. This means in simple terms matching the energy intake each day to that of the demands – if you have a busier and more demanding day, eat more, and if you have a day off and you will be doing relatively little, eat less! It’s a simple concept but one that so many don’t follow. A key part of this was also decreasing the dependency on high sugar snacks and caffeine and replacing these with slower release and higher fibre (including prebiotic fibre) foods into the diet alongside a consistent intake of protein.
The second part of the intervention involved introducing the use of a prebiotic supplement in the form of Bimuno®. The first instance of this was in the lead up to an international competition in Qatar, a place where they had competed before and reported increased gut distress. We implemented Bimuno TravelAid into their daily supplement regime for seven days prior to leaving and finished the course during the duration of their stay in Qatar. The athlete reported that for the first time in several months their issues relating to diarrhoea when abroad hadn’t been an issue and stools were normal. Upon return to the U.K. and convinced of its effectiveness, Bimuno Daily was adopted into their supplement regime.
Adherence to Bimuno
Adopting a new approach to their day-to-day nutrition was supported through a detailed and specific meal-by-meal diet plan that aligned specifically to their daily routine and accounted for dietary likes and dislikes. Being a committed athlete, they were motivated to make the agreed changes that ultimately increased protein, reduced sugars and increased the food intake that would supply micronutrients and fibre.
Adhering to Bimuno was very easy. It was initially introduced into the diet through Bimuno TravelAid which requires 3 pastilles a day to be taken. This made it incredibly straight-forward and without the feeling of ‘popping pills’ as it can do with other supplements. The Bimuno Daily product was equally as straight-forward due to its versatility in how it can be taken. The athlete trialled adding to tea and coffee in a morning, cordial squash, protein shakes, and porridge during their morning routine. They typically stir it in with cordial squash in the morning and use this drink to take their other daily vitamin supplements. Due to its ease and versatility it has made adherence very easy which isn’t the same for all supplement or medication programmes.
The initial success was felt whilst away in Qatar. After the first three days of being there and feeling ‘safe’ with regards to GI symptoms, the athlete reported they then felt more relaxed generally whilst there and was able to focus more on the horse and their upcoming performance rather than wondering where the nearest toilet was.
After six weeks of adhering to the new dietary regime and daily supplementation with prebiotics the athlete had lost 5lbs in body weight (likely attributed to a lower overall calorie intake and more appropriate carbohydrate quality and timing), and a score of ‘zero’ on GI discomfort assessment chart. The most profound effect for the athlete was their perceived improvement in their sense of wellness and wellbeing and improved mood which they attributed to no longer having a constant feeling of sluggishness and bloating as they had originally.
The overall approach adopted with the described athlete was a multi-faceted one with the guidance given on sleep hygiene to improve overall recovery, sleep quantity, and sleep quality in addition to an improved diet and prebiotic supplementation. When prescribing complex interventions such as this it is difficult to quantify and attribute the success solely to one aspect of it when positive outcomes transpire. That said, I am in no doubt that Bimuno played a significant role in the success of this case starting with giving the athlete increased confidence and comfort whilst abroad and further rectifying longstanding gut health issues when at home alongside the wider dietary intervention.
Bimuno was a new product to me at the time of the intervention and have since recommended it as a team-wide strategy when we train and compete abroad across all sports I am involved in.