Listen to Your Body Podcast 351 - Energy Flux and Fueling for Athletes w_ Jamie Scott

Energy Flux and Fueling for Athletes w/ Jamie Scott

Your body needs a certain amount of energy just to function, let alone exert energy. If you are an endurance or strength athlete, a recreational exerciser, or you are a competitive weekend warrior, there is something for everyone to learn about fueling your body and making sure your body has enough energy to perform at its best.

Listen to Your Body Podcast 351 - Energy Flux and Fueling for Athletes w_ Jamie Scott

 

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Key Takeaways

If You Are Ready To Fuel Your Body Properly, You Should:

  1. Get real with yourself about how much your body needs to feel good and thrive on days with and without exercise
  2. Take the time to prep and plan how to adequately fuel yourself that will work for your life

Fueling Your Body With Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott is a New Zealand Registered Nutritionist, holding post-graduate qualifications in both Nutrition Medicine and Sport & Exercise Medicine, as well as undergraduate degrees in both Nutrition Science and Physical Education, and a Level-1 Mountain Bike Skills coach (PMBIA). Over the past 25 years, Jamie’s career has spanned a number of roles in the ‘health & fitness industry’. He is passionate about helping others learn how to fuel their bodies in a way that supports performance and total body health.

You Are An Athlete

Jamie has been in the industry for over 25 years, so he knows what he is talking about. He has seen the consequences of low energy availability and is here to explain why successful athletes fuel themselves more, not less, and what you can learn from that. 

You may not think you are an ‘athlete’, but the truth is that most of us who are moving regularly, whether you are an endurance or strength athlete, a recreational exerciser, or you are a competitive weekend warrior, you fit the bill. The products and training regimens available to the masses definitely qualify for an elite status, which is why it’s so important to fuel your body right.

What Is Energy Flux?

Your body requires energy just to simply exist. If you do not fuel your body with enough energy to power your system, your body is forced to effectively take things offline. This means that your brain function, energy levels, gut function, immune system, and menstrual cycle can be affected if you are not giving your system the energy it needs to survive, let alone engage in exercise-based activities. 

Your energy intake directly impacts your energy expenditure, and there is a good chance you are not intaking enough. Everything requires energy, which is why it is important to figure out this information and implement the knowledge you learn to avoid dysfunction in the future.

Are you excited to hear Part 2? Share what you are looking forward to hearing more about with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • The role of social media culture, coaching, funding, and education when it comes to fueling your body and your sport (17:29)
  • Defining what an athlete is and the degree of activity that qualifies you to be concerned with your fueling (23:24)
  • How to find the time and space to eat the amount that your body and activity level needs (28:33)
  • What low energy availability really means and how it may impact you on a practical level (31:55)
  • Why diets that limit your caloric intake are not doing you any favors, regardless of how much you move (42:02)

Quotes

“In a nutshell, people are just not eating enough for what they want to do, and that’s becoming more prevalent, and I think the outcomes of that, I get the impression that they are getting worse.” (15:22)

“In this information age, there is very little that gets held back. In terms of the big central pillar stuff. Which then means that your average ‘weekend warrior’ is looking at these elites and going, ‘well, I’m going to get myself a nutritionist, and I am going to get myself a coach’.” (25:30)

“Our energy availability is the equivalent of the charge that’s left on your phone.” (32:36)

“You don’t just need energy for skeletal muscle contraction. Whether you are walking, lifting, riding a bike, running, jumping, or climbing trees. Your brain requires energy; your gut requires energy, your immune system requires energy, your growth and repair require energy. There is not a system in your body, not a single cell in your body, that does not require energy to go about these processes.” (34:15)

“This is becoming such a real problem in terms of the culture and normality around these low energy diets and this misunderstanding of what it actually takes to fuel a body at rest, let alone adding additional exercise on top of that.” (41:55)

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Energy Flux and Fueling for Athletes w/ Jamie Scott FULL TRANSCRIPT

Steph Gaudreau

In a day and age, when even recreational exercisers and weekend warriors are told to cut down on their fuel intake and eat less, what would happen if you ate more? And if you’re currently under-fueling your activity, where do you even begin to make the change? This is an epic two-part podcast that I’m doing with a very special guest. I cannot wait for you to dive in. get answers to these questions, and more.

Steph Gaudreau
The Listen To Your Body podcast is all about helping women who lift weights get stronger, fuel themselves without counting every bite of food, perform better in and out of the gym, and take up space. I’m a strength coach, nutritional therapy practitioner, and certified intuitive eating counselor Steph Gaudreau. This weekly show brings you discussion about building strength without obsessing about food and exercise, lifting weights, food, psychology, and more. You’ll learn how to eat, train, recover, listen to your body, and step into your strength. Hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s dive in.

Steph Gaudreau
What’s up my friend, thanks so much for listening in to the podcast this week. Because in the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson, from the blockbuster movie Jurassic Park, hold on to your butts because we are about to dive into some stuff about feeling your workouts whether you are an endurance athlete, or a strength athlete, whether you are a recreational exerciser, who loves being active, or you are a competitive weekend warrior, we’re going to have something for everybody on these two shows. So yes, we have split this podcast up into two parts, because it was just too epic to cut anything away. And so today on the show, I’m very proud to welcome back my good friend and colleague, Jamie Scott of athletic nutrition. Jamie and I have been friends for many years, he’s been on the podcast before. And today we are really diving into an area that both of us are super passionate about. And that is helping people who are athletic and who are performing at different levels. Whether you’re competing in sports or not, we’re really interested in helping you make sure you’re getting enough energy. And we’re going to be diving into some of these topics.

Steph Gaudreau
In part one. Specifically, In this episode, we’re going to do things like defining what is an athlete? How do you know if you’re an athlete? Or if you should really be concerned about how much you’re feeling your physical activity? We’re going to be talking about low energy availability, what is it? What are some of the consequences? Why calories in calories out is often an oversimplified model to use when we’re talking about fueling, and a concept called energy flux. And I’m not going to give away too much about that, because I really need you to tune in and hear the full discussion about what we’re going to talk about there. So this is such a meaty episode. Yes, it’s going to be in two parts. We’re going to release Part Two next week. So we’re going to keep you dangling with a little bit of a cliffhanger. You can thank Netflix for popularizing that, of course, to get you to tune into the next one. But I hope that you’re going to find that these episodes are really useful. In part two, we’re going to be talking about more of the practical sense of how we start shifting around some of the energy in our day. What happens if you’re not eating enough? How do you deal with that? And also, yes, we are tackling the big elephant in the room about fasting and that’s all coming in part two. Before we dive into this episode with Jamie, however, make sure that if you are interested in getting support in a group format for your fueling, if you’re lifting weights, you’re trying to get stronger and build muscle have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. Go ahead and join the waitlist for strength nutrition unlocked. That’s my group coaching program. It is going to be opening up in early fall and I want to be able to send you more updates about that so you can go ahead and pop your name on the waitlist at StephGaudreau.com/link, StephGaudreau.com/link. Alright, let’s go ahead and get into this episode. Oh, it’s gonna be such a good one with Jamie Scott all about energy intake. Jamie, welcome back to the podcast.

Jamie Scott
Back cura. It’s been a hot minute.

Steph Gaudreau
It is it has been a hot minute since you’ve been on the podcast. I did go back and look. When was that? And it was 2017 is it much happened since 2017.

Jamie Scott
All over the world anything just much since then?

Steph Gaudreau
Just a couple of things. And ironically, we talked about myself, because Okay, Shaggy Lee, here we are, you know, many years later still going on about the same thing. And, and Funny enough, you know sometimes I’ll look back in my Instagram or Facebook kind of memories and on this day what happened and recently, from seven years ago I came across the talk that you did at an event in the states and it was all about muscle. And I was like, here we are, this is, you know…

Jamie Scott
What is a guy with a degree and background in Sport and Exercise Science doing talking about muscles all the time? I don’t know.

Steph Gaudreau
Well, it’s interesting, because I feel like until relatively recently, it was still the big huge focus of I don’t know, I guess you could call it the popular discourse about things like fitness or nutrition was all about body fat. And for many years, you’ve been going on and on about the importance of muscle and I think there’s been a bit of a Renaissance. But I think we’re still…I think things are changing. I don’t know what you think. But I think there’s still a long way to go.

Jamie Scott
Oh, so huge way to go. Like, it’s I think it’s one of those concepts that…As much as it feels like there’s a change in the year and is a bit of a nascent. I’ve always been kind of conscious of the fact that that’s just in our own little bubble. And then the moment you step outside of that bubble, there’s not as much of a change as you think or hope.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s sometimes a bit of a rude awakening when you do stuff outside the bubble. But nevertheless, I’m glad to have you back on the show today. Yeah, just for some background, if people, you know, haven’t heard that show, or have heard of you and what you do, and we’ve been friends, for many, many years, now, I’ve had the great pleasure of attending some of the events that she put on in New Zealand and speaking and being there. And we’re personal friends, and you’re just somebody that I really admire in this space, in terms of somebody who’s always looking to bring really quality, evidence-based information to people who are active and athletic and trying to get the most out of their training. And so I hope that this conversation is really useful for people. And I’m sure that will be helped by the rapport that we have, as friends. But I also really admire you as a colleague. And as somebody who just jokingly, I always tell my husband is like that you some of the things that people are like, Ooh, this new thing I’ve discovered, and it’s like, oh, I think Jamie was talking about that, like 15 years ago.

Jamie Scott
I think we need to put a bit of context around that like, as a friendship, there’s been this kind of running joke that this new stuff is stuff that I’ve been speaking about for however long, depending on what it is, at least team if not 20, odd years. But one, that’s a reflection of the fact that I’m old, been around a little bit longer than some of the people who are talking about this sort of stuff, but also to like, story, like everything goes in cycles. And I think like I’ve been in my career-long enough. Now I like to give the listeners some context, I completed my sports science and nutrition degrees in postgrads, the end of the 1990s. So I was effectively kind of throughout the 1990s a university student.

Jamie Scott
So that my kind of experience and history and everything kind of comes from there. from that period of time. I’ve been around long enough to kind of see some of the things that were on the table then disappear. But now kind of come back again. Things go kind of full-circle stories kind of get retouched retold. And so it’s just funny when you get to a guess age and a stage in life and your career when you know, you kids on the block, whether they’re kind of actual kids or kind of metaphorical kids talking about sleep and some exposure this that the next thing we’re like, Okay, cool. We’re back to this topic.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah.

Jamie Scott
Yeah, there’s nothing new in the world. Nothing new. There are stories retold. But there’s very little that’s new.

Steph Gaudreau
That’s so true. So today on the show, we’re going to talk about, I think, and we’ll see where it goes. A couple things about energy. I know you’re somebody who’s really vocal about this with our calls and on social media and in the broader context of education for people who are active, perhaps competing in sport, and this kind of push poll that we often see where, you know, to put it bluntly, people are told, especially in endurance type pursuits that you know, the smaller and lighter you are, the better. And so you should just get as lean as possible. And then the wheels kind of fall off the wagon. So I don’t know if that makes sense to start talking about that and we can maybe segue into some other things.

Jamie Scott
I am sure you and I both know that we’ll all end up off on a tangent a million miles away from where we started out.

Steph Gaudreau
It’s okay. Yeah. So I think one of the things that really I appreciated is that you have been sharing, especially over the last month or two, a lot of stories on Instagram, about stories coming out of the Olympics, in particular with female athletes in the Olympics. Can you tell us about some of those stories that you were sharing?

Jamie Scott
Yes, it was really interesting that I mean, obviously, like the having the recent Olympics creates a bit of a focal point for looking at exactly what successful athletes do. And, you know, conversely, unsuccessful athletes are doing. There’s been a bit of an expose here in a particular media outlet, New Zealand, looking at female athletes, and, you know, again, I guess, for context is that the focus on female athletes is enjoying a bit of time in the spotlight, not before time, my head. And so there’s a lot of interest around there, around that sort of topic. And so there was this expose a there were, I think, maybe five or six different athletes ranging from the New Zealand female rowing team, which had great success at the Olympics, lots of gold medals there through two rowers who didn’t make the squads because they burnt out. sailors who didn’t make the Olympic team because, they burnt out cyclists, mountain bikers, a very wide range. But the common thread throughout was that a lot of these female athletes who had gone to a pretty kind of deep dark spot, trying to achieve what you said in your intro there of achieving both performances, weight, goals, aesthetics, all in one hit through what you can now kind of look back on as a really low energy intake, and it just blew them smithereens.

Jamie Scott
Some have managed it a little bit better than others. So some of the athletes that were featured in this series were athletes who had had to basically retire from the sport so much, so much so was the damage both kind of physically, mentally, and emotionally of hitting kind of rock bottom through insufficient fueling. But also at the other end was the success of athletes who had kind of plumbed those dips, I guess but had managed to kind of come back. And we’re now raging successes with the pinnacle being probably again, the elite theme of rowing, rowing team and, you know, keep in mind to the rowing as a sport that has weight classes. And so to have a sport, we’ve got a weight class, these athletes who are now not focusing and have kind of wraparound support and such that they’re no longer focusing so much on the weight but on just their absolute horsepower and energy and recovery.

Jamie Scott
And, and the success that it bought them and they were still able to main maintain their weight without the kind of doing some of the drastic stuff that is kind of well known in weight, weight by sports. And I think like one of the real standout things for the female rowers was these was athletic females in I think probably in the 60 something weight class, probably around the 65, I think 60 kg or 65 kg. And they were they were putting away 5000 calories a day. Which if anyone tries to eat 5000 calories a day, and sustain it day after day, that’s hard work in and of itself. That’s an Olympic medal just to eat that amount of food.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, that’s dedication. Right there. Yeah.

Jamie Scott
So it was Yeah, it was really kind of interesting series and it kind of brought to the fore. A lot of the things that I have been talking about for a while both in terms of just kind of my ongoing review of the literature, which you know, I have to do as part of my professional development, but also what I know both you and I see in practice when we are working with individuals and that is this growing issue around low energy availability or inappropriate eating just in a nutshell, people are just not eating enough for what they want to do. And that’s becoming more prevalent. And I think the outcomes of that I don’t I kind of get a kind of get the impression that they’re getting a little bit worse than what they have been historically, maybe we’re just we’ve got our eyes on it a little bit more, and I see more of it.

Jamie Scott
But yeah, so like, it was Yeah, it was a good, good kind of focal point of the Olympics and some of the outcomes there and some of the successes and failures of certain athletes to bring what I have been discussing into a bit more focused on making it a bit more real for people, I think,

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, there was another, there was a story from a heptathlete here in the States as well, that came out around the same time, same exact scenario. And you would think, you know, we look up to these, these athletes, when we look to them, and we think, gosh, they’re elite athletes, they know their bodies really intimately. They’re really used to pushing themselves to levels that. I mean, every time I watch an Olympic event, I think there’s no fucking way I could ever be at that level, you know, there’s, it’s beautiful to watch, right? They’re performing at such a high level. And yet to have the, to hear the realization to hear the acknowledgment of Hey, I just didn’t, I didn’t know. And maybe I had pressure from coaching coaches, or maybe I just thought it was expected of me, or these are some of the habits that I had from before, I just was really unaware of how much fuel how much energy my body really needed. And I felt like shit. And then I would kind of blame myself for not, you know, not being dedicated enough, not trying hard enough. And it seems like this really vicious cycle. And you were talking about this is coming to the awareness a lot more. I mean, do you think that it’s a combination of, you know, the sort of Instagram, social media culture of comparisons and desire to be smaller and thinner or leaner? Do you think it’s poor coaching and lack of coaching knowledge and education or lack of nutrition education in terms of evidence-based practices and things that really are necessary? Do you feel like it’s just pressure to look a certain way? or a combination of those things?

Jamie Scott
Can I D all of the above?

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, or D all the above? For sure.

Jamie Scott
No, it’s like it’s this is, this is why it’s so complicated to deal with, because it’s multifactorial. There are all of those things involved. I think, you know, stepping back a little bit, you know, well, you know, we’ve started this conversation, looking at elite athletes. I am fortunate in my practice that I do work with a very small number of elite athletes, but I predominantly work with the weekend warriors, those who are just doing a little bit of fitness for their own personal development.

Jamie Scott
And so I get to see the full spectrum. There’s no difference, like so. So I think we kind of need to clear that up straight away is like, elite athletes are not a special breed of human, they’re just a human. And they have all of the same fears and doubts and concerns. And, you know, maybe a little bit more pressure and that the thing that they’re doing their elite athleticism, they’ve turned into a career. But that’s a very precarious career like they are on a knife-edge. And there are very, very few athletic endeavors where if you stop performing, that system is going to kind of nurture you and stay with you. Like if you no longer perform if you no longer are up to standard if you’re no longer have gold medal potential, you get dropped like a hot rock. And so there’s that constant fear of what am I going to do if I can’t go as fast as their competitors? What am I going to do if I get injured, what am I going to do blah, blah, blah?

Jamie Scott
So and I think to like, different there are different levels of support across sports, and it varies between nations. And now I’m like, I know from the New Zealand perspective that there are a handful of sports that get a lot of government funding that get they have a kind of a good structure built around them. Kiwis are renowned for doing well on sports where they sit down so it’s generally like sailing, cycling, rowing, anything to do with water and bikes were generally probably okay maybe rugby as well.

Jamie Scott
So like they don’t sports get a high level of support. But the moment you kind of step outside of, you know, a small handful of top tier sports, that support and funding and you know, wraparound and coaching and everything else drops away really, really sharply. And so there’ll be many, many athletes who perform at a really high level in my country in your country who are effectively lone wolves, they’re trying to figure it out by themselves. And looking in the same places that your average everyday crossfitter will look into for information, slash misinformation, all those sorts of things. So, so we need to be really careful that we don’t kind of think elite athletes have got everything they’re handed to them, they don’t always have a nutritionist, they don’t always have good understanding coaches. And what you see at that elite level is exactly the same as what you see at Southern link levels at weekend warrior levels at Fitness enthusiasts, enthusiasts levels, for all of those reasons that you outline is that they might not have good access to information they on Instagram as much as anyone else, if not more, because a lot of those elite athletes will have in their contract that they have to be really visible on social media. So they’re seeing what other races do, they’re seeing the results they get. They, like I know when in the sport, there used to be an elite athlete and one that I’m very passionate about a little bit of coaching, which is mountain biking.

Jamie Scott
Because of the way contracts run, and professional teams want social media, eyes on everything, there’s pressure to not the only kind of feature yourself as an as an athlete, doing your athletic things, but feature yourself as Oh, look at me, here I am in a bikini sitting on the edge of a lake in between races. So there is that kind of like culture around? What is your body composition? What do you look like? Like, are you prepared to like if you need to get your clothes off to get social media hits? Have you got a body that looks the part? So there’s all of that pressure is just so so messy, and trying to kind of trying to get this kind of ball of the wall of a human being and find where the end is and pull a thread is hard.

Steph Gaudreau
It’s very challenging. One of the things I was going to ask you about as this conversation progresses is one of the things that I know in my community people struggle with, in my client’s, people struggle with is this concept of, well, I might, you know, be a recreational exercise, or maybe I do some local competitions for fun. But I don’t consider myself to be an athlete or somebody who’s working out to the degree that I need to pay attention to fueling that I need to pay attention to my nutrition or my recovery, that I’m just not doing enough to qualify. And I’m wondering if you can kind of talk through how you see that or how you define that or some of the parameters you think people should maybe pay attention to say, Hey, I…

Jamie Scott
Politely I’ll call bullshit on that because there’s, like, I know, you’ve seen it, and I definitely see it too. Like, there are people who are fitness enthusiasts who are doing more than elite athletes do. And they might go well, I don’t really compete. And I’m just doing it for a bit of fun and whatever else. But we’ve seen one of the big things that I’ve kind of seen over the last decade is this. I don’t what do you call it to say democracy, the democratization of training, nutrition, tracking equipment, like the whole lot of stuff that used to be tucked away and was the domain of just elite athletes. You and I can go and buy off the shelf. Like if you want to go and buy the exact same shoes that Kip Jogi uses to run a two-minute, two-hour marathon, you walk down the local shoe shop to do that. There’s no difference. mountain biking, I can go and buy the exact same equipment that the absolute elites use. And they might like sometimes there might be a new thing being trolled. But that trickles down really, really quickly.

Jamie Scott
We used to spend so much time I was involved in elite track cycling back in the mid-2000s. And you know, the mid-2000s was also a time when you know yes, there was an internet back then. But it was all kinds of chat rooms and whatever else. It wasn’t kind of social media in the same way that was now. Yeah. And it was always a big it was a big game to try and figure out what elite athletes we’re doing like know what, what are the British doing? What are the Aussies doing now like this, you can just get access to that information all the time. But in this information age, there’s very little that gets held back by in terms of the big, big central pillar stuff, which then means that your average weekend warrior is looking at these elites and going well, I’m going to get myself a nutritionist and I’m going to get myself a coach, like I’m now pretty much a full-time coach, by virtue of the fact that your average weekend warrior now has a coach that now has they have a sports nutritionist that can go out and buy this, they can buy that they dedicating 10, 12, 15, sometimes in crazy amounts 20 hours a week to their training, which is exactly what the elite athletes do.

Jamie Scott
So again, there’s just not that different. And so you just come back and go, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. So like if you’re, if you if you’ve got the energy expenditure, you’re doing stuff that is so close to be what we call elite anyway, then you require that fuelling if you’re doing six days a week of training, then it requires fueling, if you’re, you know, dedicating a certain amount of time, if you’ve then also got a job and a family and everything else on top of that, you need to be careful that you don’t just partition the training side of it in go, what I’m not doing as much on my training as say, an elite cyclist might be doing. But it said here, but the elite cyclist doesn’t have a family and a full-time job and whatever else. So they get to park their feet up on the couch and play PlayStation when you then have to go to work and cook and clean and shop and do all the other stuff. So there’s just not the big differences that people try to make out. And I kind of get the impression that they’ve made some of that is just ignorance and a lack of awareness and understanding of exactly what elite athletes do. But some of it is also almost like a conscious way of going, I’m not going to fuel myself up to the level that I know I need to because there’s another driver to be a kind of white body composition, whatever thereafter. So

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, that’s, I appreciate those distinctions and completely, you know, I came from the cycling world as well, before I was lifting weights. And I remember, a very good friend of mine was training to be a pro mountain biker. Except she had a commute and, you know, work and responsibilities and a spouse and, you know, all a lot of things that some of her counterparts who did that for there, it was like literally what they did full time, had more time had didn’t have the same amount of jockeying responsibilities. And I’m not saying maybe it was easier for them to do things like eating appropriately. But that’s some of the things that my clients really struggle with is, you know, how do I actually find the time-space, etc, to, to eat my regular meals, we don’t think that that would be a challenge. But for a lot of people that is because of all their other responsibilities that they’re dealing with.

JamieScott
And I think it’s more of a challenge in modern society now. Because I think if you if you look at people’s lives, structurally, they did jam so tight, there’s just so many things that people have going on, you know, and part of it is just accessibility like we now have access to doing this, that and the next thing there is, again, there’s a social comparison of, you know, if someone else, there’s a mother who holds down a full time job, but they’re also training full time for some sort of endurance-type sport, then they kind of got held up as some sort of icon. And then you also have to have to do that, as well. So like there’s a lot of things that drive people to really jam their, their lives together and there is no space.

Jamie Scott
There are no gaps in between a lot of the time and that’s really frustrating when people do eventually kind of come to someone like me and go, look, I’m doing a million things and I’m running out of energy and I feel such deep fatigue. And I’m like okay, cool. We need to feel some of this a little bit better. And that is going to require some prep, some planning some shopping, like sitting down and actually taking time and chilling out. They’re like, I can’t do that. Like there’s no space. It’s like you’re going to have to drop something. No, no, no, no can’t do that. Because dropping something means I’m failing. So I often like it…I don’t If you recall, remember the puzzles that used to be around where it was like a, like a square with a, an image that speeds kind of splice down inside, and they’d like nine different tiles, and you would solve the puzzle by moving a tile around and you kind of chased this parlor. And eventually, like, you get there. Well, that puzzle only works because there’s a space. Like, there’s a free space where you drop something in, and you can move, move stuff, I liken people’s lives now to that space being taken away. And you come in, and I’m, I’m coming in, and I’m trying to solve the puzzle of their energy levels and their fatigue and everything else. But there is there’s no space to move stuff around like their weeks are jam-packed. Absolutely.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, I love that analogy. I’m going to borrow it, of course, credit you for it. But I like that for you know, we can talk about this sort of the research, and we can talk about the best practices and the skills and all day, but at the end of the day, too, you know, I know, you know, this, so I’m preaching to the choir, but this is for people listening, you know, as a coach, what one of the things we do, but besides sharing, you know, good quality information is help people to, to figure those things out. And, you know, sometimes it’s not an information problem. Once we get past that point, it’s an implementation issue and so then you have to take a hard look at some of that stuff.

Steph Gaudreau
So I would love if we can talk a little bit more about it we’ve mentioned it a couple of times already. But this concept of low energy availability or reduced energy availability, what does that really mean, if somebody has never heard that before? I’ve mentioned it a couple of times on the podcast, but if somebody has not heard about that, like, what does it mean? For on a practical level?

Jamie Scott
Yeah. Okay. So if we, if we talk about energy availability, so so what does that like, you know, it is what it says all the time, it’s like how much energy is in your system available to run all the various things that your system your bodily system needs to do? It’s knowing that we were going to record this, I’ve been kind of like, playing around my head with what’s a good analogy. And these days, always use phones, because the ubiquitous everyone has one. So our energy availability is the equivalent of the charge that’s left on your phone. So if you go and have a look at your phone, and it says that there is 80% lift on it, that’s the energy availability, you’ve got 80% of the capacity of that battery available to run the functions of that phone. I also, like historically, using that analogy too, I’ve always kind of mentioned to the audiences, when I’ve done talks, that we tend to care more about how much energy is left available on our phones, that how much energy is left available on ourselves.

Jamie Scott
And everyone has a different threshold is like, Oh, my God, like my phone’s down to 50%, where’s my charger, and yet, we’re quite happy to run our bodies almost down to kind of that 5% warning, and still not kind of thing that maybe we need to plug ourselves into recharge, whatever that kind of look that looks like across multiple kinds of functions. So the energy availability is really like what have you got to run your systems, I think people get really wrapped up in the physical activity side of it. without really giving good acknowledgment or recognition to the fact that everything else requires energy to it’s not just you don’t just need energy for skeletal muscle contraction. You know, whether you’re walking, lifting, running bike, whatever, you know, running, jumping, climbing trees, everything you need, your brain requires energy, your gut requires energy, your immune system requires energy, your growth and repair require energy like there’s not a system in your body, there’s not a single cell in your body that does not require energy to go about its processes.

Jamie Scott
The thing that we’re seeing more of and this is where kind of the low energy availability side of it comes in, is, people are prioritizing the energy that they have available for exercise-based activity.

Jamie Scott
And then they’re not leaving enough left over for all of these other functions, which means that when there’s insufficient energy for the other functions to occur, you get dysfunction. Like those functions cannot occur at the rate or level that they need to occur. And, and so each one of those tissues or systems you’ll see some sort of dysfunctional or break down. And that manifests in a number of ways. Again, if we just if we use something that people are familiar with, which is muscle contraction and exercise, what happens when you run out of energy, trying to undertake some sort of muscular type contraction if you’re going for a run and your energy and the energy that you have available to fuel that running is reduced low or nonexistent, you can’t run anymore, you do this thing called you hit the wall. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot get back up to the pace and sustainer to the point, you know, maybe that your muscles start cramping, or you tear a muscle or whatever it happens to be, so you see dysfunction on there.

Jamie Scott
So when there’s no longer enough energy in the system, to power the entire system, the body is forced to either take things offline effectively. And again, go back to that cellphone analogy, you know that, if you run your phone down to a sufficiently low charge, it’ll go into power-saving mode, which means that it will reduce the functionality, it will reduce the responsiveness, the brightness of the screen, maybe reduce some of the connectivity, all that sort of stuff that starts to happen in the background, your body will start to kind of do the same, same sort of thing. So maybe your brain doesn’t work as fast as it should do. And so you feel a bit kind of slow or fatigued, your brain foggy, memory starts to kind of go, maybe your guts not functioning the way it should do. So you go and eat to eat a meal. And maybe that kind of meal sits a little bit heavier and doesn’t agree with you, or maybe gets a bit kind of grouchy and rumbly. And you know, like, all sorts of digestive function type stuff can occur all the way through, your immune system starts to falter a little bit. So you tend to get sick a little bit more often.

Jamie Scott
As an extension of that, you’ll pick up injuries that don’t get repeated and so they become really niggly like these things that have never been a problem, just start to become really persistent. For women, there’s a big focus on menstrual cycle dysfunction, which is effectively you know, like when you look at it in a kind of broader context, you’ve got a brain going, there’s just not enough energy in the system to support daily activities, let alone the growth and development of another human being. So we’ll just knock that system offline. And so you’ll see a loss of initial loss of ovulation. So you start to have no anovulatory cycles. And eventually that will kind of flow all the way through to a Maria, another menstrual cycle dysfunction, which has been an increasingly popular topic. So there’s like there’s just not a system that is untouched. By having this low energy availability state. The trap that people fall into, I think, is they’re chasing energy intakes that are now so low. And I’ve as I’ve recently started saying that if your total daily caloric intake starts with a one, and you’re trying to be physically active, you’re already doing it wrong, like male or female you like and you’re trying to be physically active, you have no business eating daily calorie intake starts with a one.

Jamie Scott
But that’s, that’s the norm. So let’s use some nice round numbers that my brain can cope with. Let’s say you’ve decided to eat 1500 calories of the total energy a day. I’m I know you and I are not big fans of talking about calories, but we use it for illustrative purposes. So you eat kind of 1500 calories, calories a day, but you decide that you absolutely have to do your exercise. And so you prioritize that first thing in the morning, you drag yourself out of bed, and you go and burn 500 calories, doing whatever, CrossFit running riding bikes. Now that only leaves 1000 calories a day left in the system to fuel everything else that the body needs to do. But in that kind of average human being your basal metabolic rate, which is like the bare bones of energy that you need to kind of keep the lights on before doing anything else might be 1300-1400 calories, and then all of the other functions start to stack in on top of that. So your body might require 1500-1600 calories a day just to lie in bed like a zombie and do nothing but you’ve only lifted 1000 so what does the building owner do like?

Jamie Scott
Well, it has to go into some sort of energy conservation power-saving mode and start knocking systems offline, it has to make decisions, well, you’ve got a few micro-tears in those in those muscles, I can’t fix them, you haven’t given me enough energy. And by the way, I’ll say like when we talk about energy, we’re also talking a proxy for specific nutrient density. So a lot of the systems require vitamins, minerals, cofactors, like the whole lot. And if you eat, if you are eating so low in terms of your total energy intake, your total nutrient density is also failing as well. So you won’t be getting enough iron and zinc and certain amino acids and whatever else. I learned very recently, like one of the very first systems that kind of gets knocked offline when there’s insufficient energy going in, is your collagen repair system, which is like it’s, it’s the most prolific collagen building is one of the most prolific kinds of protein synthesis processes in the body. But it’s also one of the easiest just to kind of can for cancer a little bit and takes offline. But if you kind of follow-through, well, what are the consequences of that? What is your body use collagen for?

Jamie Scott
Well, you know, repairing muscle repairing, repairing skin wounds, whatever else. And so muscle tears don’t get, don’t get replaced, small micro-tears and microdamage and barn doesn’t get repaired. And that can eventually build up to the point where you’re getting weak bones, maybe stress fractures, and so on. wounds are slow to heal, hair starts falling out and doesn’t kind of look as thick and lush and like so there’s just so many flow-on effects of, of doing that. So, so and this is becoming such a real problem in terms of the culture and normality around these low-energy diets. And this misunderstanding of what it actually takes to fuel a body at risk to live alone adding additional exercise on top of that, so don’t expire.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely.

Jamie Scott
But also be begging my gums together, hopefully, people got it.

Steph Gaudreau
I appreciate the analogies. I’m a big fan of using them. And I also appreciate the breakdown for listeners of you know, the importance of your body, I think we think the body is at rest, or we’re not doing much. And I’m using air quotes here. So, therefore, you know, we can really afford to eat the bare minimum of energy intake in the day, and we’ve seen the proliferation. I mean, I won’t go near Tik Tok right now. I have clients who have told me about the shit show diet and nutrition stuff they’re seeing on Tik Tok right now. And, you know, the reality is, is that 1200 calorie diets have not gone away, they’re still prescribed and use commonly and even 1500 calories, 800 calories. And I think there’s this idea that Well, I’m not doing that much. So I don’t need that much energy. Or conversely, what I hear a lot is, well, I could you know, I want to lose weight, and I have all this stored energy on my body. So can I just use that?

Jamie Scott
Well, like and this is where, like, I park a good portion of the blame. And I might, myself make myself pretty unpopular with some of your audience, I park a good portion of the blame on my profession. By ever aside my profession, not like I’m talking both probably the nutrition side of things, nutrition, dietetics side of it, and the exercise physiology side of it, because in our desire to keep things as simple as possible. And almost like treating people like they’re a little bit like stupid, so we’ve kind of dumbed the whole energy balance thing down to bland calories in calories out. And that that reduces the body down to almost like a spreadsheet. And people can go well, at the end of a 24 hour period, I’ve already burned this number of calories like we’ve got tracking apps left, right and center now and they’ll go, I can see I’m only burning 15 1600 calories a day. So I don’t need to be eating more than that. And if I want to reduce my body fat, everyone keeps telling me I need a calorie deficit. So if my energy expenditure is 1600 calories a day, then I probably should only be eating 1100- 1200 calories a day to create this energy deficit to burn fat. But that’s not how our bodies function at all. And people can kind of fall into a little bit of a trap. And this is the thing that that I see classically is if you’re running the system on low energy, the body will initially try and compensate quite a bit. So yes, you’re still expending energy in terms of the conscious exercise activity that you’re engaged in.

Jamie Scott
You’re still going to your CrossFit classes, you’re spending classes, you’re still doing this and then the next thing, but there are other layers to that energy expenditure, where your body’s trying to compensate and not see it. So fall and starvation, the biggest one of those becomes the, what we call your nonexercise activity. And so and I see this classically is people will be active in terms of the exercise activity, but they’re very inactive. In terms of the nonexercise activity, which is like, it’s all the little stuff in between us, it’s like, if you need to walk down the shops to get something, you’re like, No, I can’t be bothered. Or I’m just gonna sit on the couch, I’m just gonna do this, I’m not really gonna move. And so you’re seeing that side of things start to fall, fall away really quickly, I always saw the early days of my career, I always saw it classically, with the bodybuilders getting ready for competition, because I four weeks out from a competition, when they’re just absolutely starved out of their brains, they would still come in and do their morning cardio, but they would barely move the rest of the day like they were just zombies.

Jamie Scott
So they were just like, bodies are trying to conserve energy really hard. And we frame that, like, I think of how we judge ourselves, we just go, Oh, I’m just feeling lazy, I’m just I can’t be bothered. And so it’s just something that we kind of do an except, but we reduced that nonexercise activity, our basal metabolic rates or resting metabolic rates, they decreased quite sharply. So and that’s potentially one of the biggest shifts. And so instead of your body’s just because your body’s taking all these systems offline and reducing as input into those systems, then that basal metabolic rate, the energy cost of just keeping you on standby reduces quite sharply, again, in the same way, that if you put your phone into power saving mode, the battery lasts so much longer, but the functionality is, is significantly decreased. And then a lot of the food that we’re eating the food, you have what’s called the thermic effect of food. So when you go and eat, say, high protein meals, you’re the energy that it takes to digest that meal is really, really high. And so you have this thermic effect, this heat build-up the effect, that is energy burning to digest and break down and extract the nutrients out of those foods. Most people would have experienced this, if they go and have like a, I think they call it the meat switch. But then they go and have like a high protein meal and like you’re stripping your clothes off with dry rice or bloody hot.

Jamie Scott
So protein is the highest in that regard, carbohydrate would be the next highest fat is the lowest, fibrous, low energy density fruits and vegetables also pretty low as well. But what do we see people doing? It’s like, well, they, you know, they’re either restricting, often restricting protein, if they’re on a plant-based diet, they’re certainly like restricting carbohydrate, a lot of people are trying to fill themselves up on fluffy salads. And so they’re just no longer getting this kind of thermic effect of the food, food as well. So when you then look at your spreadsheet, whatever thing that’s telling you how many calories you’ve burned, burned at the end of the day. Yeah, it looks really low.

Jamie Scott
But we’ve kind of got it backward is it’s like your energy expenditure is low because your energy intake is low. That’s not your energy intake needs to be low, because your energy expenditure needs to be low. And this is a concept called energy flux. And it’s a concept that again, like I’m not, I’m just not seeing that many people talk about, and I’ve seen one person talk about it very, very recently. And so energy flux is just basically like, what is the balance between your energy intake and your energy expenditure. So if you’ve got what’s called a low energy flux, it means that you’ve got low energy coming in, but your total low energy going out, totally energy going out is also really low. So that the amount of energy that is passing through the system is really, really low. Conversely, you can have a high energy flux, which is you eat a lot, but you expend a lot.

Jamie Scott
And I think both you and I have probably a little bit independently, but we are correct. We have kind of shared some of her thoughts on that is that we’ve both noticed, potentially in the last few years is that our energies, energy intake has been kind of slipping. I think partly because of the types of foods that we eat. We eat a lot of high-satiety foods, we’d like we’ve always maintained a relatively good protein intake. And so that will blunt someone’s appetite to go well. I don’t really feel like I need any food. I’m not hungry. I’m getting by but then you actually start to look at it and go Hmm, I’m probably like, still not eating really that much to fuel. I’m starting to slip into what, not necessarily a low energy state, but maybe at least a reduced energy state.

Jamie Scott
And so when you flip that on its head and go, well, what’s going to happen if I go out of my way to eat more food? Okay, do you have the meat sweats after this episode?

Steph Gaudreau
Okay, do you have the meat sweats after this episode? There was so much that we talked about. And that’s just scratching the surface because the next episode is going even deeper on some of these topics. So definitely go ahead and follow Jamie on socials, between now and that episode coming out if you want more information, and you want to dive more into his world, and of course, you can get those links at the show notes which are on StephGaudreau.com. While you’re there, pop your name on the waitlist for strength nutrition unlocked a group program opening later this fall. Or you can just go directly to the link, StephGaudreau.com/link. We made it super easy for you.

Steph Gaudreau
Alright, stay tuned for part two next week. Yes, we kept you on a cliffhanger because we love you. And that’s just what we want to do to keep you engaged in tuning in next week. I hope this was super informational. If you loved it, there are a couple of things you can do. First, push that subscribe button on your podcast app. Second, share this episode out in your Instagram stories and tag both of us athletic and nutrition, of course for Jamie and myself, Steph Gaudreau, on Instagram Stories, and we would just love to hear what you think. All right, we’ll catch you next week for part two. Until then, stay strong.

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Hi, I'm Steph!

Lord of the Rings nerd, cold brew drinker, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.

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