Friday, 12 August 2011

World Championship Selection

So a couple of weeks ago we had our National Championships and World Championship Selection Trials in Birmingham. I had been looking forward to the competition for a couple of weeks (since my last race had gone pretty well), and had a couple of decent runs in the heats and semi-finals. I felt like I was ready to run well in the final, and give a good account of myself to try and get selection for the Worlds in the 100m. However, as I got onto the track ready for the final, disaster struck as I got cramp in my hamstring. I couldn’t get rid of it, and so, not wanting to risk injury, I decided not to run. It was a difficult decision to make, not running in my biggest race of the year, in hindsight I feel like it was the right decision to make.

A week later, and feeling much better, I raced at the Aviva London GP in Crystal Palace. Again, I had a pretty solid run, running into a slight headwind, and I was only 0.05 off making the final. In a world-class field like that, I didn’t feel like it was a terrible result.

Two days later was the World Championship selection meeting, and whilst I still had hopes I would get selected in the 100m, I knew that it was more likely that I would just get selected in the 4x100m relay. And that is what happened – so now I am off for three weeks in Korea. Hopefully I will be able to come back with a medal in the relay, which will be a massive positive going into next year.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


For the past two months I have been blogging on EliteTrack ( In order to avoid repetition of my blogs, I will now be keeping all my technical blog posts on that website, and use this site solely for updates on how my racing/training is going.

If you are interested in Track and Field, you should checkout the site, there is something for everyone!

Recent Updates

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy as I have been doing a short block of races for my final tune up before the UK Championships and World Championship Selection Trials in Birmingham on July 29th – 31st. My first race was the Birmingham Diamond League, where I competed in the 100m. This was a really high profile race, and I was ranked eight (i.e. last) fastest in my heat, so I knew I was up against it. I love competing in those situations though, where you know you have to run to the best of your ability. I think I did that, running an equal seasons best of 10.23, despite the rain, and coming sixth in my heat, and tenth overall.

My next race was at the England Championships. I had had a cold for the week prior to this, and woke up on the day feeling pretty rough. I remember considering pulling out before my heat, but figured I would just run and see how it went. I’m glad I did, because I ran a comfortable 10.29, which was a huge confidence booster. I then had another good run in my semi-final, clocking 10.19, just 0.01 seconds off the World Championships A standard, and my fastest time since 2008. It was a bittersweet feeling though, as the clock stopped at 10.18 (the A standard) – I thought I had achieved the standard, only for it to have been rounded up. In the final I ran 10.17 wind assisted for second behind my training partner, Harry Aikines-Aryeety.

I now have a two-week period in order to prepare for the Trials. During this time I will be having my second epidural of the year in order to help reduce some back pain I have been getting, and hopefully getting over this cold!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Craig Pickering’s Tour of Europe – Parts 2 & 3

In my last blog post, I gave a quick run over of my races in Holland and the Czech Republic. The day after I got back from the Czech Republic I had relay practice in London in preparation for a race in Germany that weekend. Relay practice went well, and the next day we flew to Munich, then took a short coach trip to Regensburg, where I would be running the relay for Great Britain. Unfortunately we were disqualified in the race, due to a freak accident involving one of our athletes. As he was running, he accidentally hit the baton against his leg, and dropped it!

As soon as I got back from Germany, I moved house with my girlfriend up to my new training centre in Loughborough. This was a very busy time, with most of my non-training time spent packing and then unpacking.

A couple of weeks later I was off to Stockholm for the European Team Championships as part of the 4x100m relay squad for Great Britain. On the Friday night, we ran in a “B” relay, running 38.72, which ranked us second in Europe this year. It was a useful race for us, as it gave us plenty of confidence to go into the main race the next day and try to win. For me, the main race provided and individual challenge – on my leg was Christophe Lemaitre, who 90 minutes earlier had run 9.95 seconds. I think I ran a good leg, and managed to hold off Lemaitre – and, as a bonus, the team managed to win in a European leading time of 38.60.

My next race will be on July 2nd, so between now and then I will just be focusing on training (as still unpacking from my house move!). 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Craig Pickering’s Tour of Europe – Part One

Now that the athletics season is properly underway, my annual trips to various parts of Europe has begun. I started off with two races in quick succession – Hengelo (Holland) on May 29th, and Ostrava (Czech Republic) on May 31st. Trips in and around Europe often involve lots of travel, and this was no different. To get to Hengelo, I flew to Amsterdam and had a two-hour car journey to Hengelo itself. Getting to Ostrava was much more interesting. I was supposed to fly from Düsseldorf, but, instead (and through no fault of my own) was mistakenly driven to Amsterdam airport by my driver. As it was 7am in the morning when we arrived, and I had been sleeping in the car, it took me a few minutes to realise what had happened. I remember thinking, “Why are the signs in Dutch, and not German?” And then it dawned on me! I had to pay €400 to change my flights to fly from Amsterdam to Prague, have a 6 hour stop-over in Prague airport, and then fly to Ostrava. All in all, I spent 14 hours travelling that day, leaving my first hotel at 5am and arriving in my Ostrava hotel at 7pm.

The races themselves were fairly solid. In Hengelo, I ran 10.23 (+1.1), which is my second fastest legal time since 2008. Unfortunately, I couldn’t back it up in the final, coming last in 10.38. In Ostrava, I was unfortunate to catch a race without a favourable following wind, running 10.31 (-0.2). In hindsight, this was a pretty solid run, as with a +1 wind it could have easily become a 10.24 performance. Ostrava was a very high quality race, won by Usain Bolt in 9.91 seconds. Indeed, six people in the race had run under 10 seconds in their career!

Overall, I am relatively happy with how I am running. I am having some issues relating to a lot of the training I missed due to injury, which are causing me to under-perform slightly. I am probably going to spend 3-4 weeks in June doing some proper training in order to try to rectify these issues, so hopefully come July I will be running a tenth of a second or so faster. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Quick Update

After coming back from Italy, I competed at the Loughborough International, where I came 3rd in the 100m in 10.15. Unfortunately for me, this was accompanied by a following wind of +3.5m/s, which is over the allowable limit, and so my time does not count for record or qualification purposes.

I am due to race in Hengelo, Holland this Sunday, and then Ostrava next Tuesday. Hopefully the conditions will be a little more favourable, and I can build on my performance at Loughborough and hopefully run under 10.25 seconds legally, which will be a big step towards the World Championships qualifying standard of 10.18 seconds. I face tough competition though - Usain Bolt will be in Ostrava!

I will keep you posted with my results.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Next Steps

So now that the spasm was settling down, I was able to start to sit down for controlled periods of time, in order to get some spinal flexion back. I could also progress my rehab on to much more challenging exercises, and for the second and third weeks I was doing up to four hours of these exercises every day. This really wasn’t fun, but I was pretty motivated to achieve my goal of beating the doctor’s timescale of comeback. There were times where I didn’t want to do the rehab (it was insanely boring), but I forced myself to do it.

Exactly two weeks after my injury, I was allowed to do three very slow jogs over 30m. This might not seem like anything, but for me it felt like a huge breakthrough! Week three I was allowed to do some form of gym work, although not much at all. I also started to do slightly more structured running sessions, although no spikes as of yet. I was allowed to do 50% of my reps in spikes 4 weeks post-injury, and again this felt like a big breakthrough. Five weeks post-injury I was able to start doing some runs from a four-point start without blocks. Blocks were the last thing to be added in, coming 8 weeks post-injury. Nine weeks post injury; I competed in my race, running 10.39 seconds. To put this in perspective, it is only 0.01 seconds slower than I ran last year. In addition to this, it was in a very small competition, and I usually run my best times in big competitions when the adrenaline is flowing. So, all in all, I am fairly happy with how things have progressed.

So that is where I am now. I still cant do power cleans or squats, the two mainstays of my lifting programme. Instead, I have had to get creative with how I set up my lifting sessions. I can’t lift any weights off the floor, or take any large loads on my shoulders in order to protect my spine. One day I might be able to do these again, but for now I just have to accept my limitations!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The First Week

The first week post-injury was also fairly difficult. The first couple of days were focused on helping the disc settle down as much as we could. To achieve this, I wasn’t able to flex my spine at all (i.e. no sitting down), and couldn’t do any real exercise. I was able to do some very slight rehabilitation exercises, with the focus being at regaining control of the muscles in and around my core I also managed to get hold of some prescription painkillers which helped it all settle down.

Three days post-injury I went for an MRI scan, and I got the results the next day. The injury was diagnosed as a disc protrusion between the L4 and L5 vertebrae. This was the sight of my existing protrusion – however, it had got significantly worse. I was given a time frame of around 8-10 weeks until I was back to full fitness. Immediately, I formulated a goal to beat that timescale, and to facilitate this goal I entered myself in a competition nine weeks down the line.

The rest of the week was just treatment to get rid of the spasm, and rehabilitation exercises four times per day. Finally, at the end of the week, I had an epidural injection to settle down some of the spasm that myself and the physiotherapists couldn’t get rid of. For those of you that don’t know, an epidural is an injection into the dura that runs alongside the spinal column. It’s certainly an interesting experience, but it did really help settle down the muscle spasm, and I awoke the next day feeling much better.

Friday, 8 April 2011

I - Day

If you follow me on twitter, I am sure you are aware by now that I have suffered some sort of injury, as I have spent most of my time moaning about rehab. Some of you might be wondering what has happened to me; others wondering what I am doing to get better, and some of you might be thinking about how this might affect my training and competition performance. Well, over the course of a series of blogs, I will answer these questions.

Injuries are a part of sport, and a large number of athletes suffer one big injury at least (and hopefully only) once in their career. These injuries are career and possibly life-changing. They alter what you can do on a day-to-day basis both in training and life. I fully believe what happened to me is my “big” injury, so hopefully now that is out of the way. Ready? Here we go:


In 2005, aged 18, I suffered a spinal injury which was diagnosed as a left sided SI joint strain. There was no x-ray or MRI to confirm this, it was just a working analysis. It is highly likely at this point that I also suffered some sort of lower spine disc bulge, but at a very low level. In 2007, I was suffering from intense muscle spasms in my back, which at some points got so bad I couldn’t get my hands to my knees. This was happening mid-season, and so to stop it I had a couple of injections, and had to stop doing blocks, which was a part of my race that needed work – as Imp sure you can believe, this was very frustrating for me. I had two MRIs that year – one before and one after the season. They showed a couple if disc bulges, at a fairly low level. So, due to this, I modified my training slightly, added in a whole host of back and abdominal strength exercises, took good care of my back, and, over time, suffered no symptoms at all. As far as I was concerned, that was the end of my back problems.

Day 0 – Injury

So now we move forward to March 4th 2011, the first day of the European Indoor Championships, for which I hadn’t been selected. So, I was back into my first week of training, and I was in the gym. I had already done some push-press and hang cleans, and was feeling good. I was doing some deadlifts, at a very light weight of 140kgs, and as I was preparing for the third rep of my set. I locked in my back position, and prepared to begin my pull. As lifted the weight off the floor, I was aware of my back rounding ever so slightly. Straight away, I then had a really weird feeling, like something was moving backwards out of my spine, followed by a strong pain either side of my lower back, which immediately became a shooting pain across the whole of my back. I yelled out a few choice words, dropped the weight, and stood up, and which point my back completely locked up. Every muscle from my hamstring to the top of my ribcage had spasmed, in order to protect my spine. I made my way (slowly) to the physio room, and they set me up with an appointment for later in the day, gave me painkillers, and sent me to get a warm shower. The idea here s that the warm water would help my muscles to relax.

The shower was very hard work. Because my back had spasmed, I couldn’t get my shorts off, and it took me fully 5 minutes of hard work to get my socks off. As I stood in the shower, I was about 75% sure that my career was over, the pain was that bad. Getting out o the shower wasn’t much fun either, as I had to stand still to allow my shorts to dry, and spend another 5 minutes getting my socks back on.

The physio appointment didn’t go much better! This was about 3 hours post-injury now, and there really wasn’t much the physio could do for me. As I got off the physio bed, I then went into shock, because the pain was so bad. That was a weird feeling, as I went dizzy, lost my hearing, and couldn’t stop shaking. Anyway, my girlfriend came up to look after me, which was necessary as at this point I couldn’t even dress myself, and I tried to get some sleep that night, but I slept terribly as every time I dosed off I jolted awake because my back seemed to spasm.

Before I went to bed, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was in an horrific state. My stomach was distended as my core musculature had completely shut down. I had a very significant lurch in my spine (which I common in disc injuries), which caused my pelvis to be significantly outside of my body’s centreline.

Next time, we will look at my first week of rehab, and what I did during that time period.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

mTOR, Muscle Growth and Supplements

In my time off from training, I like to spend a bit of time researching things that I hear little snippets of information here and there about. Driving home from a race once, I was listening to a podcast from Keith Baar, a molecular biologist. The podcast was primarily about mTOR and AMPK, what they do within the body, and how we can maximise their benefits. This got me interested, so I thought I would pull some papers off the internet, and see what else I could find. Suffice to say a lot of the technical details were well over my head, but hopefully I can simplify the basics of the mTOR pathway in this article, and how to get the most out of it.

Firstly, we should probably introduce the star of the show, the aforementioned mTOR pathway. mTOR stands for mammalian target of rapamycin, and it is the pathway through which muscle protein synthesis is activated. During and immediately after resistance training, various target proteins in the mTOR pathway are activated through a series of complex chemical reactions, the end effect of which is an increase of muscle protein synthesis for a period of up to 72 hours post-workout. This is the driving force behind muscular hypertrophy.

A large number of papers on this subject look at nutritional interventions, and their effects on this signalling pathway. In a 2009 paper, Hulmi et al. examined the effect on a whey protein supplement on muscle hypertrophy, with a specific eye on the mTOR signalling pathway. They had three groups – the whey protein group, placebo and control take part in a single resistance-training bout, followed by a further 21-week resistance exercise-training programme. They found that the ingestion of 15g of whey protein before and 15g after a resistance training session significantly increased signalling in the mTOR pathway, as well as prolonging this signalling relative to both placebo and control.

A second study by Dreyer et al. (2007) looked at the effect of an Essential Amino Acid (EAA) and carbohydrate (CHO) containing supplement on protein synthesis post exercise. Again, in this study there was a control group. The main finding from the study was that EAA+CHO ingestion enhanced mTOR signalling and increased muscle protein synthesis post-resistance exercise. There was a 41% increase in muscle protein synthesis in subjects not taking the EAA-CHO supplement, compared to a 145% increase in the supplement group. Possible mechanisms for thee results included that EAAs (and, in particular, Leucine) activate the mTOR pathway, and that activation of this pathway may also be through insulin stimulation (the result of CHO ingestion).

A review article by Blomstrand et al. (2006) looked into the effect of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and their effect on protein synthesis following resistance exercise. They stated that although resistance exercise increased protein synthesis, it also increased protein degradation, and hence protein intake was important in order to provide a net protein gain. They speculated that the use of BCAAs post-exercise might increase protein synthesis via two pathways. The first was that an increase in amino-acid (AA) availability leads to an increase of AA uptake into muscle, which stimulates the rate of protein synthesis. The second theory was that a specific AA, or group of AAs, had a stimulatory effect on protein synthesis.

The final paper I read was one by Norton & Layman (2006) on Leucine and protein synthesis. They stated that Leucine had many important functions within the body, including being a constituent of protein, a regulator of protein synthesis, a modulator of the insulin signal cascade, and a stimulator of mTOR. The most interesting part of the review article was with regard to AMPK, which is activated when energy levels in the cell are low. AMPK appears to inhibit mTOR activity, so resistance training with low glycogen levels, or long, exhausting training sessions, appear to be negative.

So, what are the practical aspects of this? Well, to keep AMPK in check, it might not be a good idea to do heavy cardio work post-weights, or to have excessively long workouts. If you want to mix both, it might be a good idea to do a morning/evening split, with one session in the morning, and the other in evening. From a nutritional standpoint, it seems apparent that some sort of protein-carbohydrate mixture immediately after weight training work out is necessary. For me, I use Myprotein true whey (35g) along with somewhere between 15-30g of a simple carbohydrate, like dextrose. The amount differs according to how hard the session is. I also go one step further and add some Leucine to my protein shakes, as that seems to have special effects on its own, possibly by increasing insulin in a similar fashion to carbohydrates. An alternative to this might be to use MP’s EAA powder or tablets, or maybe even BCAA powder or tablets. Why not give it a go and see if you get any further benefits.

You can listen to Keith Baar’s podcast at:

The articles I referenced are all available for free in full-text format. They are:

Blomstrand, E., Eliasson, J., Karlsson, H. & Kohnke, R. (2006) Branched chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 136 269S-273S.

Dreyer, H., Drummond, M., Pennings, B., Fuijita, S., Glynn, E., Chinkes, D., Dhanani, S., Volpi, E. & Rasmussen, E. (2007) Leucine-Enriched essential amino acid and carbohydrate ingestion following resistance exercise enhances mTOR signalling and protein synthesis in human muscle. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 294 E392-E400

Hulmi, J., Tannerstedt, J., Selanne, H., Kainulainen, H., Kovanen, V. & Mero, A. (2009) Resistance exercise with whey protein ingestion affects mTOR signalling pathway and myostatin in men. J Appl Physiol 106 1720- 1729.

Norton, N. & Layman, D. (2006) Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J Nutr. 136 533S-537S 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Dealing with Injury

If you play sport to any sort of competitive level, or do a decent amount of training, it is highly likely that at some point you are going to get injured. Whilst this is especially frustrating, it is part of sport. What is important is how you react to the injury, what you do about it, and how you come back. Below are some of my top tips.

1)    Being depressed doesn’t help.

The natural reaction to the frustrating nature of injury is to want to lock yourself in a room and just be depressed. But doing this does not achieve anything. Recognise now that you need to do something about it, and be proactive. In 2008, I tore my hamstring 6 weeks before the Trials. I could have accepted that my Olympic dream was over, or do something about it. I chose the later, and made the team.

2)    Knowledge is power

Learn everything about your injury. The key to getting better is improving recovery and doing corrective exercise – know how to do this. The key to not losing too much fitness is to exercise that don’t aggravate your injury but provide stimulus for fitness maintenance – find out what these are. The key to not getting injured again is to find out why the injury happened, and what you can do to correct this – find out what these factors are.

3)    Do ALL your rehab

Rehab is very boring, and very long. No one enjoys it. But it has to be done. Find some distraction techniques (music, TV) to take your mind off it. But whatever you do, make sure you get it done, as it is what is required to get better.

4)    Understand pain

Things are going to hurt. Depending on where your injury is depends on how much pain you are allowed to experience before you can stop. With a spinal disc injury, pain is generally avoided. With a hamstring injury, you are allowed a greater level of pain. It is important to recognise what I term “injury pain”, and pain that is allowed. When I was coming back from my 2008 hamstring tear, for my first race my hamstring really hurt. However, I knew that it was allowed to hurt at this level, so I could just ignore it and carry on.

5)    Be mentally strong

There are going to more set backs, and you are not going to achieve all your goals on your comeback. Staying positive and bouncing back is important.

6)    Make whatever sacrifices you need to in order to get back.

I don’t like needles, but to come back from injury I have had 12 injections into my hamstring. I’ve had an injection into my spine. I have had 36 acupuncture needles into my back. I did this because I knew that is what it took to make myself better. When I injured my spinal disc, I wasn’t allowed to sit down for two weeks – so I didn’t. Imagine what impact this has on your day-to-day life – but I made that sacrifice to get better.

7)    Injury Nutrition

As you wont be training quite as much, you might need to consume slightly less calories. Upping your fish oil intake may also be a good idea in order to reduce inflammation. MSM, glucosamine and chrondritin may help with degenerative joint and disc injury repair. Creatine may help attenuate muscle loss associated with injury. Higher protein levels may be required to help repair. Vitamins and minerals may also improve injury recovery. Attempting to boost testosterone and HGH through nutritional means should also improve recovery time.

So there you go. As I alluded to earlier, you are going to get injured. That’s a fact of sport. But how you deal with this injury, what you do to get back, and how you stop getting re-injured, all matter. It is important to do the right things, and hopefully this article will give you a better idea of what you can do.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Recovery - Too Much Of A Good Thing?

There is a lot of literature on various forms of recovery, and a great number of different modalities that can be used to recover. Perhaps most well known are the dreaded ice-baths, where athletes submerge themselves in very cold water (usually about 5 degrees Celsius) for a certain time period, in order to dampen inflammation post-training. Then there are also the new compression garments, which are supposed to help recovery. Recovery nutrition is also a big field, with the discussion of antioxidants (substances which “mop-up” free-radicals, preventing muscle damage) playing a large role.

I am very interested in recovery. But some emerging research has got me thinking. Can we be too recovered? Adaptation to training requires the body to put under a great deal of stress – how the body deals with this stress then causes adaptation. By prematurely removing or reducing this stress, do we alter the adaptation response? Recently, I have been encouraged by my support staff to avoid antioxidants around training, and to reduce the number of ice baths that I have during a heavy training cycle, in order to hopefully increase adaptation.

Don’t get me wrong; there is a time and a place for maximal recovery. During the competition, and pre-competition period, I will have a great number of post-training ice baths, increase my antioxidant consumption, and wear compression garments. But in general training, I am taking a step away from this. What are your thoughts on this, and what are your optimal recovery tips?

Monday, 21 February 2011

End Of The Indoors

So, its all over. In the end I was 0.01 seconds away from making the European Indoor team. The concept of that is difficult - 0.01 seconds is such a minute period of time! But there you go, sometimes things don't always go as planned!

There are plenty of positives to take from the indoors - my technique held up under the pressure of big races. Now I just have to add more speed onto that technique. I also feel like I got some of my killer instinct back, which was missing in 2010 - I feel much more race confident. I also feel like my top speed was very, very good.

I feel like I need to work on 0-30m, which again I guess is a positive, because without doing the indoor season, I wouldn't have known that.

Overall, I feel pretty good. On the face of it, it may seem silly that after my slowest 60m season for 5 years I should feel happy, but I feel like my top speed is better than ever, and 100m is about who has the best top speed, not who gets to top speed first (which the 60m is). So if I have to be 0.1 seconds to 60m to be 0.1 seconds quicker to 100m, I am happy to do that!

Monday, 14 February 2011


Had the National Championships and European Selection Trials this weekend. It was a pretty mixed bag for me. I came 3rd in 6.67, which I am not sure if I am happy with or not! On the one hand, I finished in the top-3, but on the other, I missed the qualifying time of 6.65 again. I have one final chance this weekend at the Birmingham Grand Prix.

One thing I am pleased with is that the "old" me is back when it comes to racing - I am highly motivated, and fighting for the results. Ok, I am running slower, but I have made big changes this winter, and I am learning a whole new running technique. I feel I have mastered the technique, its just a case of adding speed to it now. One thing is for sure, if I am beating people over 60m, I will be beating them over 100m too!

Monday, 7 February 2011


So I began my competitive season with a fairly poor run a couple of weeks a go at the London games, running 6.74, which is actually my equal slowest opener since I was 18! But, to be fair, I had just come back from training in South Africa, and so I was clearly a bit rusty.

I more than made up for it the weekend just gone though, where I had a competition in Germany. I ran 6.67 in the heats, and 6.66 in the final for fourth place, beating the current European 100m Champion in the process. Whilst I am still quite a way off my PB over the 60m, my new coach believes I am setting up the race better, so I might actually run faster over 100m.

Big race this weekend with the UK Championships in Sheffield. My aim is run the European Qualifying time (6.65) and finish in the top-2. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Diet of an Elite Level 100m Runner - Part 5

Part 5 – Special Circumstances and Further Experimentation

In this, the final part of my blog series, I will look at what I have called “Special Circumstances”, but which, in reality, refers to competition nutrition. Nutrition around the competition period has to:

a)     Improve performance
b)    Improve recovery
c)     Keep weight as low as possible.

Lets start with the day before the race. From the moment I wake up on this day, until immediately after my last race, I will be following a low residue diet. This diet is designed to reduce the amount of food left in the bowel, and can reduce bodyweight by up to 1.5kgs, a not unsubstantial amount which may make all the difference in a race that can be decided by thousandths. From a food point of view, this means eating quickly digested foods, i.e. white bread, skimmed milk, white rice. It is very low fibre (so not much fruit or veg), and, as fat tends to slow digestive transit, is also low fat. My main protein sources during this phase tend to be low-fat milk and yoghurt, protein shakes, egg whites, and chicken. I generally go slightly higher protein on this day to improve my hormonal profile.

In addition to the low residue food aspect, I also tend to run slightly dehydrated, again to reduce weight as much as possible. I will usually drink pretty normally until about 4 hours pre-race, where I will start to cut down a bit. I monitor my urine colour until I am at about the correct level of hydration, and then just drink for maintenance from there.

In the hour pre-race, I tend to consume high levels of caffeine to stimulate me, and some carbohydrate gels and drinks to ensure that I have optimal levels of carbohydrate in my body for performance.

Post-race, to improve recovery, I immediately have a carb-protein drink, followed by a main meal as soon as possible. Again, this usually contains high levels of protein and carbohydrate, and as much fruit and vegetables as possible to get as many minerals as I can into my body. At this point I usually go higher on my immune supplements, and so will dose slightly higher for probiotics, vitamin C and glutamine. This will continue into the next day, as will the slightly elevated protein intake for recovery purposes.

In terms of further experimentation, I am very interested in looking more into specific amino acids, particularly ones that my boost GH naturally. I am also interested in performance enhancing herbs. Hopefully I will find out some interesting stuff with these, and I will endeavour to keep you posted if I do.

I hope you have enjoyed my 5-part series on my diet, if you have any questions please leave a comment and I will try to answer them as quickly as possible.

The Diet of an Elite Level 100m Runner - Part 4

Part 4  - Putting it all together, & Lifestyle factors

In the last three parts, I explored and explained my diet and supplement choice. Now I will put all of this together, and show you what my general supplement programme looks like. I will also discuss some lifestyle factors that are important to health and performance.

As I discussed in part one, diet has to provide the basis of any good programme, as it is impossible to reach top performance levels without being in really good health. Therefore, my diet is set up to ensure I have adequate fuel to train with, and take on sufficient healthful nutrients to be in good health. Also, please remember that this diet is an example if what I would have during a training stage where I would be looking to cut fat as well as train hard, so some macronutrient value may seem a bit low.

1)    Breakfast

50g Porridge oats with organic skimmed milk, omega seed mix, handful of mixed nuts, and 50g of berries, followed by 2-3-egg omelette (1 whole egg, the rest egg whites). Supplements – multivitamin, vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin E, glucosamine and chrondritin, probiotic, omega-3, green tea extract.

Here, the porridge provides energy for my morning training session. The nuts and berries provide healthy fats and various vitamins and minerals, and the eggs provide some protein. I also use breakfast as the time to take the majority of my vitamins and minerals for the day.

2)    Pre-training

Exceed with 2 scoops of tyrosine, 1 scoop of ALCAR. Caffeine for hard sessions.

The BCAA from Exceed provides me with some fuel for the training session, with the tyrosine and caffeine providing some stimulation.

3)    Post-training

Protein shake, comprised of: 40g whey protein, 2 scoops Creatine, 2 scoops Leucine, 1 scoop glutamine, 2 scoops OKG, 1 scoop greens powder 30g dextrose.

This is just a standard protein-carb mix shake to enhance recovery from session one.

4)    Lunch

200g fish (Tuna 1xper week, Salmon 3xper week, mackerel 3xper week), whole-wheat pitta, unlimited salad. Supplements – Digestimax

I eat fish for my lunch everyday, as it is a good source of protein and healthy fats. The pitta gives me some low-GI carbohydrates to refuel from the morning session, and also provide some fuel for the afternoon session. The salad provides plenty of nutrients, and Digestimax enhances digestion.

5)    Pre-training

Exceed with tyrosine and ALCAR

6)    Post-session 2

Post-workout shake of 40g whey / casein protein mix

Slower release blend of protein to ensure recovery.

7)    Snack

Piece of fruit and low fat yoghurt

8)    Dinner

200g chicken or 150g beef, 100g sweet potato or 40g brown rice, unlimited steamed vegetables. Supplements – omega-3 and Digestimax

Dinner is similar to lunch, with a protein source, car source, and plenty of veg!
9)    Pre – Bed

40g casein protein, 1 scoop glutamine, 2 scoop Leucine, 2 scoop OKG, 1 scoop greens powder, and 4 x ZMA tablets, multivitamin and vitamin C.

In addition to this diet, various lifestyle factors are important too. For example, there is no point having the best diet in the world if you only sleep for 4 hours a night. Sleep is incredibly important, as it is when the majority of recovery occurs, and hence a lot of anabolic processes too. It is also important to lower your exposure to harmful contaminants, such as cigarette smoke, heavy traffic, certain preservatives and additives.

This has just meant to provide a very brief, un-detailed look at my diet. If you want more information on nutrition, then the following books are the ones that I recommend:

1)    Optimum Sports Nutrition by Michael Colgan
2)    All New Sports Nutrition Guide by Michael Colgan
3)    The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford
4)    Power Eating by Susan Kleiner
5)    Advanced Sports Nutrition by Dan Benardot
6)    Amino Acids And Proteins For The Athlete by Mauro Di Pasquale

The Michael Colgan and Patrick Holford books in particular were real eye openers. If you are an elite athlete, and you are not thinking of nutrition in the way that these guys are, then you are not thinking about it enough!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Diet of an Elite Level 100m Runner - Part 3

Part 3 – Sports Specific Supplements

In this section, I will be mostly looking at supplements that I take because I take part in sport, as opposed to supplements that I take for general health. The main goals for my supplement protocol are to:

  • Reduce exercise-induced immunosuppression – You can’t reach your full potential if you are ill
  • Improve recovery from one session to another – This allows you to get better quality training sessions
  • Provide a fuel and stimulation for a training session – This improves session quality
  • Provide a good hormonal environment for recovery and/or muscle growth.

The most obvious supplement that I use here is some form of protein shake.  This is because it provides a convenient, low-fat and low-carbohydrate way of getting sufficient protein on a day-to-day basis. When I am going for very high protein numbers (e.g. 3g/kg bodyweight), I can have up to 4 shakes per day on top of meals. I like to vary the type of protein shake I have, from standard whey protein post-training, to a whey-casein mix mid-afternoon, to a casein only shake pre-bed. This is take advantage of the different absorption rates of each protein shake, with different situations requiring a different absorption rate.

On top of this I use Creatine. Creatine is required by the muscle to replenish ATP, and so it is advantageous to have high levels of Creatine within a muscle cell for this purpose. I generally take 5g per day, although in intense training periods I go slightly higher, maybe 7.5g per day. I don’t usually pay much attention to the recommended loading phase, and usually go for three weeks on, and one week off. I have never suffered from water retention or cramps that other users often report with Creatine, which might mean that I am lucky, or take a lesser dose than they did. I generally add Creatine to my post workout protein shake.

Also in my post workout shake, I add L-Glutamine, which is an amino acid shown to enhance immune function, and maintain lean body mass on a calorie-restricted diet. I generally add L-Leucine too, which is a branch chain amino acid (BCAA). There has been quite a bit of literature on BCAAs and Leucine, and their effects on exercise. On a calorie-restricted diet, BCAAs have been found to maintain lean body mass whilst increasing fat loss. In another study I came across, the addition of Leucine to a post workout protein shake resulted in a greater level of protein synthesis than with just the protein shake alone. Due to this evidence, I tend to add Leucine to all of my protein shakes. I also use L-Ornitine alpha-ketaglutarate (OKG). OKG is thought to help maintain muscle protein synthesis, and may also provide the body with a more anabolic environment within which to work.

Pre-training, I take a supplement called Exceed, which is manufactured by It contains L-Glutamine, BCAAs, citrulline malate, and beta alanine. Citrulline malate and beta alanine are substances that may increase workload capacity, and improve performance in repeated bout exercise. That’s why it is ideal for me to take before training, as it allows me to work harder in each training session. I also add Tyrosine to this pre-training mix. Tyrosine is an amino acid that might improve workout intensity, as it is a mild stimulant. Before sessions where I want to perform very well, or before competitions, I will also take some caffeine. I usually aim for somewhere between 240 and 320mgs of caffeine, which works out at between 2 and 3 mgs of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. Caffeine is a stronger stimulant than tyrosine, which is why I use it for important sessions. However, I try not to use it too much as it can lead to central nervous and adrenal fatigue, which is less than ideal.

On top of this, I also take both ZMA and Green Tea Extract in tablet form. ZMA is supposed to enhance sleep quality and increase anabolic conditions, and so I take this about 30 minutes before I go to bed. I use green tea extract to increase my metabolism, hopefully allowing me to loose some excess fat.

I have also recently started to use various “greens” powders. These are useful as they contain many important nutrients, and reduce some of the acidity of a high protein intake. I tend to add these to my protein shakes, as they don’t taste that great one their own!

In the next part of the blog, I will look at how I put all of these rules together to form my own diet and supplement protocol.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Diet of an Elite Level 100m Runner - Part Two

Part 2 – General Supplements

I use the term “general supplements” to apply to non-sports specific supplements, that I use to add specific vitamins and minerals to my diet. The general consensus among nutritionists seems to be that it is very hard for most people to get adequate intakes of some vitamins and minerals from their diets. If it is hard for a normal person, it will be even harder for a sports person, who places their body under greater levels of stress and wear and tear than your average person. Two books on this subject that really opened my eyes to the supplementation needed were “The Optimum Nutrition Bible” by Patrick Holford, and “The New Sports Nutrition Guide” by Michael Colgan.

To start with, I take a multivitamin twice each day, to ensure that I cover most of my bases. I also supplement this with 500mg of vitamin C in both the morning and evening. Vitamin C is useful as it can improve immune function, and also acts as an antioxidant. I used to take a higher dose, but after reading some research papers last summer, which found that continued high levels of Vitamin C supplementation (i.e. over 2000mg) might decrease mitochondrial changes to exercise. I also take 400iU of vitamin E, which again is an antioxidant, and acts as a cell membrane stabiliser. Some vitamin E studies have found no positive effect in athletes, whereas some have found that vitamin E can prevent DNA damage caused by oxidative stress, and improve glucose and insulin sensitivity. Overall, I couldn’t find a study that pointed to a negative effect of vitamin E supplementation, and so I decided to supplement. I also supplement with a B vitamin complex, which help immune function and energy production. From time to time, particularly in the winter, I also supplement with vitamin D. Quite a few studies are coming out regarding this vitamin and athletic performance, with a pretty consistent finding that low vitamin D levels affect type II muscle fibre contraction. I get my vitamin D levels tested regularly, and if they are low I go on a supplementation cycle.

So, that the vitamins covered, next up are the minerals. I take both Glucosamine and Chrondritin for bone/joint health. In 2007 I was diagnosed with some disc issues in my back, and I am aware that training puts quite a bit of load through my knees, so I began looking at joint health supplements. I came across quite a few studies on these minerals, which were mostly positive. One looked at US Navy SEALs with knee and back pain, and found that glucosamine / chrondritin supplementation alleviated the symptoms. Another study found that glucosamine supplementation alleviated spinal disc degeneration. Added to my bone/joint health stack is MSM, which I add to my protein shakes twice per day.

I also take a combined calcium and magnesium supplement. Both of these minerals play an important role in muscle fibre contraction. I looked at some studies regarding supplementation, and some found positive results, others found no change with supplementation. One study found that 8mg/kg/day of magnesium caused significantly greater gains in strength than a placebo, which made me take interest. From time to time my medical team also put me on a course of magnesium during times of hard training, and recommend that I have a higher intake than normal of calcium to protect my shins (which quite often get sore – calcium has been found to sometimes reduce this soreness).

I have also recently started to supplement with 100g of CoQ10 per day. CoQ10 is an involved in energy production within the cell. Various studies have found positive effects from CoQ10 supplementation, including an increased time to exhaustion, improved fatigue resistance in multiple bout exercise, and an increased performance in maximal exercise. Therefore, I considered CoQ10 to have enough evidence to be an effective training aid, and so I added it into my programme.

Another new supplement in my regime is Phosphatidyl Serine. I added this in as it is alleged to blunt cortisol. One of the nutritionists I spoke to recommended adding this to a post-training shake in order to keep the anabolic window open a bit longer. I also tend to carry fat around my mid-section, which is a sign of high cortisol according to Charles Polliquin, which further added to my interest in giving this a go. Finally, Patrick Holford believes that it is useful for stress reduction; I generally find I am quite prone to getting stressed, which, again, further added to my interest. I tend to cycle my PS supplementation, as I am not sure that long-term cortisol reduction is positive. I tend to use it most during really hard phases of training, and then back off when training levels drop a bit.

I also supplement with Omega-3, at quite a high dose. The benefits of omega-3 supplementation are well written about everywhere, but in a nutshell they may (or may not) improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, improve blood fatty acid profile, improve immune function, and reduce inflammation. The whole range of health benefits was enough to convince me to supplement with them.

I also use two types of gut health products. One is a probiotic, which I take with breakfast; the other is Digestimax from, which contains digestive enzymes. I believe that there is no point in eating good quality food if you are not digesting it properly, hence why I supplement with these products. It has also been shown that probiotics can improve immune function, which is an added bonus.

I used to add more antioxidant supplements to my regime, until I came across quite a wide body of research they states that excess antioxidants can blunt the training effect, as they mop up the free-radicals that the body requires to adapt. Due to this, I now keep all my vitamins to either first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, as far away from training as possible. I have also lowered my dosage of most vitamins.

So that’s a guide to my general supplements complete – next up will be my sports specific supplements. 

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Diet of an Elite Level 100m Runner

One of the first questions people ask me when they find out I am a professional athlete is “So, do you follow a special diet”. Whenever I hear this question, I let out a big sigh in my head, because I know that I am going to have to spend the next ten minutes explaining my diet to them. Which isn’t necessarily a problem, I enjoy talking about nutrition, and it just gets repetitive. Athletes in general are always looking at ways to increase their individual performance, particularly in the run up to London, and so interest in sports nutrition has increased dramatically. So I thought it might be a good idea to show what I do. Remember, what works for me, might not work for everyone else.

I start off by setting some basic guidelines for myself. These are:

1)    Diet is the most important. Before even considering supplements, my diet has to contain the correct amounts and ratios of macronutrients for me. It also has to contain other health giving foods.
2)    Once diet is correctly in place, I have to think about what I term “general supplements”. These are supplements such as vitamin tablets, which are necessary for complete health.
3)    Once I know that I am getting all the health benefits from my diet, I can then look at adding sports specific supplements to improve my performance.

So, lets start by talking about diet. For me and my goals, I have to make sure that I keep my body fat levels low, whilst maintaining or increasing muscle mass. At the start of my winter training, I am probably around about 12% body fat. My first goal is to get this down to around 7.5% by Christmas. The next step after that is to maintain this level of body fat throughout the competition season. To achieve this, I usually go for a low-carbohydrate diet approach, probably around about 3.5g of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight, so for me that is around 300g per day. I get this mostly in the form of low-GI carbohydrates, except directly after training. The low GI carbs that I base most of my diet around are porridge oats, fruits, wholemeal pitta bread, and sweet potato. Low-GI carbohydrates are useful as they disrupt blood sugar levels less than high sugar forms of carbohydrate.

I also try to include as many “healthy” foods in my diet as possible. This is to increase my exposure to phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring substances on foods that are good for health. This means eating a large variety of fruit and vegetables. I either eat these raw, or steamed, in order to preserve the natural substances. It is also important to eat a large amount of vegetables as these are mostly alkaline, and help offset the acidic effect of proteins.

Protein also plays a large part in my diet. It is important for growth and repair, as well as hormonal reasons. I try to get my protein in the form of low-fat produce, which I mostly eggs, chicken, fish, lean cuts of beef, and various protein powders. I try to eat at least one serving of fish every day, due to the health benefits of fish oils. I get quite a lot of my daily fat intake from these fish oils, along with various nuts that I snack on throughout the day.

I have recently switched to buying organic milk, as opposed to normal milk. I did this in an effort to reduce the levels of synthetic hormones and antibiotics that I was taking in from my diet. Where cost allows, I make an effort to buy other organic products, especially when it comes to meats and eggs.

The composition of my meals is as follows: 1 x protein source (this is around 30g of pure protein, i.e. 200g chicken or 150g beef), 1 x carb source (this is somewhere between 30g and 60g of carbs, e.g. 40g porridge, 100g sweet potato) plus “free foods” (vegetables, low-calorie fruits, etc.). I also have three snacks per day, which might be something simple like a protein shake, or a bit more substantial like fruit and a yoghurt.

If you are looking for further information on this subject, Patrick Holford's book “The Optimum Nutrition Bible” is very good, and has been a big influence on how I set up my diet. If you have any questions, please post them in the reply section and I will try to answer them all.

Part 2 of this blog will look at the general supplements that I take. Part 3 will look at the sport specific supplements, and Part 4 will put everything together, and I will show you my diet plan. Part 5 will look at special circumstances, such as race day nutrition, and areas where I want to experiment with my diet further.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Warm Weather Training

Yesterday I arrived in Stellenbosch, South Africa, for a 3 week period of warm weather training. I have been looking forward to this for ages - my coach will finally let me a) Start running quick, and b) have more recovery!

Interesting flight over, where I somehow got upgraded to Premium Economy. It was really nice, a lot more comfortable than normal economy. I even managed a good 5 hours sleep, and watched 3 good films.

Warm weather training is useful as it allows you to focus completely on training, without any distractions, such as washing up, cooking, seeing friends, household chores, etc. Its also really motivating, as it puts you in a high-performance environment with plenty of other like minded athletes. You can also get good quality rest, as again there are no distractions.

So, my plans for the next 3 weeks are to train hard, get some good quality physio, get some good quality rest, and have a really good quality diet, and hopefully that will stand me in good stead for the indoor season!