Prior to founding KODA, Darryl was a firefighter and is the Author of Sweat. Think. Go Faster.
Highlights from the episode:
- How to find out sweat rate
- What supplements you need for your sweat rate and sodium concentration
- What athletes to do during half time to rehydrate and refueling
- What could be improved for fueling athletes
- Best fueling for athletes
Jack: Hi, I’m your host, Jack McLean. And today my guest is Darryl Griffiths, the founder and CEO of KODA Nutrition and author of ‘Sweat. Think. Go Faster’.
Highlights from this episode: we discussed how footballers can reduce the likelihood of cramping, practical tips to maximize your recovery during the game, how to work out your sweat rate and sodium concentration within your sweat, and why you shouldn’t have lollies during a football game and what you should have instead.
Before we start this episode, for those wanting to join our football high-performance program, make sure to head to our website, preparelikeapro.com, where you can sign up for free 14-day trial. This program has everything you need to ensure you’re well recovered and ready to attack the next game.
Let’s get into today’s episode with Darryl Griffiths. Welcome, Darryl. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Darryl: Jack, thanks for having me, mate.
Jack: Let’s dive in the beginning of your career. At what age did you discover you had a passion for high-performance sport and fueling for high-performance sport?
Darryl: Well, it wasn’t sport to start with. It was actually a firefighting. I was a firefighter. Very, very long story short, I recognized that some firefighters handled heat better than others. In that job you see things happen very quickly. The intense heat and having to wear protective clothing, you see these things happen even within half an hour. And what I did notice was there were a few individuals that consistently handled the heat better than others. And over time it was something that intrigued me and I went about finding out why. Went to the experts, the sports dieticians, exercise physiologists, doctors, and just saying, ‘Look, this is what I’m experiencing, this is what I’m seeing. And I’m really interested to find out why.’ And I didn’t really get an answer.
So, it was something that I took on myself and I started to research. And, long story short, what I did find from my applied research with these firefighters was that the ones that handled the heat better or tolerated hot conditions better, had a lower sweat rate. So, the volume of sweat they lost was lower, but importantly, they had a much lower sodium concentration in their sweat. And this took a few years of learning. And, to be honest, I didn’t really have any idea what I was looking for. So, a lot of that stuff in the early days I didn’t even record, because I didn’t know what I was doing, really.
Then it struck me one day. I thought, ‘Well, if this is the case with these guys on the fire ground, then there’s a pretty good chance that athletes might have the same natural ability to handle heat better than others.’ And, sure enough. Doing the testing and started testing athletes, and myself included. And went along from there.
Jack: Fascinating. That makes a lot of sense. Like you mentioned, with fighting fires, that’s something that can physically improve your performance. But I imagine, alertness and concentration, which is something we’ll go into a little bit later on, something I know you’re passionate about. But for those that did have maintained their hydration due to slower sweat rate, or maybe they were hydrating better as well, did they feel the difference from changing practices and also having some genetic benefits to their ability to fight fires?
Darryl: Well, that was the thing. We were all drinking the same thing, and we were all very diligent with our fluid intake. Now we were working in the same conditions over the same duration. So, there was a lot of things that were very similar. Yet, there was these individuals that for whatever reason, well, now we know why, that were able to tolerate, just naturally. It wasn’t because they were better heat acclimated, because the fact is, you can’t heat acclimate for those sorts of conditions. It’s impossible. They weren’t any fitter. They weren’t any stronger. They hadn’t been in the job any longer. There was nothing you could pinpoint it down to, except for the fact that they had a unique physiology. Whether they could tolerate a greater core temperature than others, they simply didn’t need to sweat as much, and they didn’t need to lose as much sodium to maintain a safe core temperature, which was fascinating to learn along the way.
Jack: And is it the matter that the guys that do have a higher sweat rate, they therefore lose more sodium or is it not purely that? You can also lose less sweat, but you just have a high concentration of sodium?
Darryl: Spot on, mate. There’s no pattern. I’m just under 6’3 and I hover around 90 kilos, so fairly big frame. But I actually have quite a low sweat rate for my size, but I have a very high sodium concentration in my sweat.
And that was my downfall because I needed to replace a lot more sodium than these other firefighters. And that was why I was struggling a bit more in the heat than they were. So, it was on learning my sodium concentration that I started to address it better. And that’s when I was able to tolerate hotter conditions better. Simply because I was addressing my needs better. Whereas the other firefighters who were tolerating the heat better, their percentage of loss wasn’t near as much as mine.
Jack: And does that mean that when you’re comparing yourself to someone else that sweats the same, but their concentration of sodium is less than yourself, you can drink the same amount of water, but you just need to top up a little bit more sodium in your hydration?
Darryl: Yeah. Spot on. I might be drinking the same volume, but I need to increase the amount of sodium that’s in my beverage, compared to someone that has a low sodium concentration in their sweat. And to answer your question before, you can be a heavy sweater with a high sodium concentration, you can be a heavy sweater with a moderate or low sodium concentration. You can be low and low, low and moderate, low and high, there’s no pattern. It’s really just your unique physiological makeup when it comes to sweating.
Jack: You can see why athletes would get excited about understanding this knowledge and implementing it with their hydration practices. How did that come about? Once you started to understand this, did you start to reach out to ultra marathon athletes or those that do have a high sweat rate or did they start to seek you?
Darryl: They started to seek me, which was great.
And in the early days I was working with a lot of athletes who were suffering cramping. Muscle cramping was work with the athletes that I worked with the most. And as much as the experts will say, they don’t really know why athletes cramp. I can tell you without too much doubt that an athlete that has a higher sweat rate and/or a higher sodium concentration in their sweat, will be more likely to experience muscle cramping.
That was something that I’ve learned along the way. And initially it was great having this data. But then working out what the stomach could tolerate, that was another part. It took some time as well. So, this is over many years. It’s not something that happened overnight. It’s was an ongoing concern.
Jack: And on that note, while experimenting and treating yourself like a lab, but by the sounds of it, what were you playing around with? What type of supplements and what were some of the experiences you were finding?
Darryl: Well, the thing that made the most sense was you can’t have a sports drink with everything in it. You can’t have hydration, calories and electrolyte. You have to separate your hydration and calories. Because what that allowed me to do was then start to focus on hydration. And then it also allowed me to alter the volume of fluid the athlete was consuming. Which is super important, because, particularly nowadays, particularly with AFL, you can be one week in Hobart, in 10 degrees, and the following week you could be in Darwin or the Gold Coast or Brisbane or Perth in 30 degrees.
So, having the understanding that you need to alter the volume of fluid that you consume based on the environmental conditions, it was a no-brainer that if you separated the two, you could start to customize the athlete’s hydration. You could provide them a volume of fluid that they needed in those conditions, but importantly increase the amount of sodium that they required, which you can’t do with a sugary sports drink. Because if you try to increase the amount of sodium, it’s too overpoweringly sweet, it’s not something that’s going to be palatable.
Jack: So, talk us through about KODA Nutrition. How did you come to create your company?
Darryl: It was initially carbo shots. Many, many years ago, back in 95. Which was an energy gel, which we still have that same formulation now. There’re probably some athletes who were using it back then and are still using it now. So, that was the initial start. We started importing that product from New Zealand. And then at the time we did have it all in one sports drink. And after clicking data, I realized that this is not a product that was addressing the athlete’s needs properly.
Jack: So many variables?
Darryl: Yeah. Well, the fact is, if you look at your typical sports drinks, and the ones that sponsor AFL is an example. It’s a preset solution. So, it’s the same volume of fluid for everyone. It’s the same amount of calories and it’s the same amount of electrolytes. So, what they’re saying is that everyone is exactly the same. You all lose the same amount of sweat, you all require the same amount of fuel and you will need the same amount of electrolytes. And you drink that same volume, whether it’s 10 degrees in Hobart or whether it’s 30 degrees in Darwin.
And the fact is your hydration is unique to you. There’s no one on this planet like you, when it comes to how much you sweat, the amount of sodium in your sweat and how that changes in different environmental conditions. So, that’s the biggest thing with me. And once we start working with athletes and they start understanding their own unique physiological makeup, when it comes to sweat and what they need, separating the hydration and calories makes such a massive difference. Once you start to address their needs properly.
Jack: I can only imagine the developing athletes that are listening in that are wanting to pick your brains. I’ll ask a couple of questions for the athletes. How do you find out about your sweat rate, your concentration of sodium loss? What is the process for those that aren’t aware?
Darryl: The sweat rate is simply pre and post weighing. The best and most accurate way to do it is a nude weight. And the best time to actually do it is over an hour session. And for an AFL player, it would be to try and mimic competition day as close as possible. So, you would have quite a strenuous session set up. You could even have that break halfway through, just a short break, and then continue for that hour, recording the temperature and humidity. And also recording the intensity or your exertion level. Because they’re the two things that dictate how much you sweat, it’s the environmental conditions and your level of intensity. So, if you change either one of those, you’re going to get a different result.
Darryl: Yeah. So, doing your pre and post weighing. Let’s say, for example, you weigh 80 kilos at the start and you’re 78.5 at the finish. So, that kilo and a half drop translates into a liter and a half of sweat. Let’s say, you’re playing in Sydney and it’s 18 degrees and you lose around a liter and a half an hour at that environmental temperature in those conditions. So, you get an understanding that, ‘Okay, I want to try and aim for drinking a good amount of fluid. I know I can’t drink a liter and a half in that time because of the simple fact that I might not get the opportunity to. But what I will do, I’ll be very, very diligent with my hydration at half time to make sure I carry the least amount of deficiencies into that second half.’
And with sodium concentration it’s just a matter of we put sweat patches on the athletes in a forearm and we normally get them into an hour session. So, that way we collect their sweat rate, as well as the sodium concentration in their sweat. And at the same time, what we do like to collect is their calorie expenditure, so we know how many units of energy they’re expending at that intensity. So, we collect all this data and we say, ‘Okay, at that intensity you’re expanding 800 calories an hour. Your sweat rate was 1.5 liters and your sodium concentration is 1200 milligrams per one liter of sweat.’ Now, that 1200 milligrams is 1200 milligrams tomorrow. It’ll be 1200 milligrams the next day. And it’ll be 1200 milligrams in two years time.
Jack: That does not change with training or anything?
Darryl: No, I’ve done a lot of testing over the years. And the sodium concentration in your sweat is unique to you. And if it changes, it’s only a very small amount. Nothing that you would make any drastic changes about when you’re planning your hydration.
Jack: What about the sweat rate?
Darryl: The sweat rate changes all the time. That’s constantly changing. So, for example, I mentioned Hobart. Playing down there at 10 degrees you’re simply not going to sweat that much. As opposed to, Brisbane or Gold Coast the following week at 30 degrees, you’re going to sweat buckets.
Jack: I mean, with, let’s say, year by year you’re doing this protocol and you’re working at your baseline. Sodium concentration can’t change. But as the athlete improves their physiology, their aerobic capacity, strength, running efficiency, all the things, have you seen change in sweat rate? The same environment, but just year by year they do that baseline test. Has is changed?
Darryl: No, not really. What does change though, and I’ve actually done a lot of research on this, particularly in Thailand and Singapore, Philippines, where it’s very hot and humid, is that when an athlete is heat acclimated or doing heat load training, they’ll actually get an increase in blood volume. Which is interesting in that some will increase blood volume more than others. But having that increased blood volume, although the athlete sweats the same amount, they don’t sweat any less, but because they’ve got more to start with, the impact on their losses isn’t as great in those hotter conditions, once they had acclimated.
Jack: They got a higher ceiling, so to speak.
Darryl: Yeah, exactly.
Darryl: Yeah. And that’s the thing. I was reading a lot of articles about, as you get fitter and as you get more advanced in your training that your sweat rate will start to decrease.
Jack: It’s almost a myth that you hear.
Darryl: Yeah. It’s not something that I’ve seen. And I would read published articles and it also became an obsession for me to want to find out whether these articles I was reading were actually stuff that was going to benefit athletes. And, sadly, a lot of them out there, they come to a conclusion that a lot of sports dieticians hang their head on. I’ll say, you can’t come to a conclusion with sports nutrition, because there’s way too many variables.
And when it comes to hydration, if you’re reading a published article and it says, ‘Well, this is what happens, and this is going to happen to everyone,’ the fact is there needs to be some caveats at the end of that, saying that this conclusion is based purely on the intensity, the environmental conditions, the humidity, the physiological makeup of that athlete and a whole bunch of other variables. So, if the temperature changes or the humidity changes, then we’re going to get a different conclusion.
But that’s never written. And so, I think that’s where a lot of the, let’s just say, difficulties in getting these messages across lie. Because you’ve got people reading these published articles, and then they’re not taking into account all these variables that you need to consider.
Jack: And going back to the athletes. So, if they want to knock over the generic model, like you mentioned, of just having the same sports drink that everyone else has, but they’ve done this baseline test and then now they want to build their own individualized hydration.
Like you mentioned, the temperature. So, it is summer here in Melbourne at the moment. Practice matches are on and players, you mentioned cramping, they may have cramped last year’s campaign with their practice matches. And this time is so important, because you want to make a squad or you want to make the senior team or whatever, or just play your best football to get in good form around One.
What do you need to do? What supplements do you need to do? What pack do you need to make, to make it specific to your sweat rate and sodium concentration?
Darryl: Well, it’s first understanding your numbers. That’s the key. And everyone has their own unique numbers. It doesn’t matter what your teammate’s doing. It’s very individual. So, if I was on the outskirts and I was wanting to make a team and there were some things that I needed to work on, these are the things I would work on. Because hydration makes a massive difference to how you’re going to perform. Not just physically, but mentally as well. How well you can process information.
Which is super important nowadays with the way AFL is played. It’s a very, very different game nowadays. And the ball is moving way faster than it ever did before. And with the crowding, you can have 30 players around the ball where the ball’s moving so much quicker than it used to. So, when the ball’s moving quicker, you’re having to process information so much faster. That’s something that, if you’re not addressing your sweat, which is directly correlated to blood volume loss, if you’re not addressing the sodium concentration in your blood, and if your sodium concentration in your blood drops, then any messages being sent from the brain down the central nervous system are impacted. So, you’re not going to react as well.
And thirdly, if you’re not properly fueled, if your brain is not getting that circulating blood glucose, that it requires to function properly, if you’re not fueling yourself properly, then all these things add up to unforced errors. And it could be the thing that’s keeping you out of the side, that you’re just making a few too many mistakes. But it’s definitely something that you can address and something you can improve on.
Jack: Once you’ve understood the numbers, if you’re working with a team, what would that look like on a game day? So, you mentioned the temperature, the environment. So, let’s say, someone we were talking about before, they lose 1.5 kilos in the first half, what should they do at halftime? What should they be intaking to increase their fueling, but also rehydration as well?
Darryl: So, it’s really going to be dependent on how often the runners get out to them to provide a drink. And nowadays it’s once you kick a goal. Before you could get out there at any time, but the rules have changed now. So, if there’s not too many goals kicked in the half, then you don’t get too much of opportunity to drink. Which I think they somewhat need to address, particularly if they’re going to be playing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Darwin, Perth, where it can get quite hot. Something the AFL need to look at, because if you want players to be properly hydrated and be playing at their optimum level, then they need to be drinking more often, particularly in those hotter environments.
So, if you are losing, let’s say, that one and a half liters up to a half time, the fact is you’ve only got about a 20 minute window and you’re not going to consume that 1.5 liters. Your stomach’s simply not going to tolerate that much. So, the key would be to consume an amount that doesn’t compromise your stomach. If you can aim for 50 to 60% of that loss, then that would be something you want to aim for. If you had a couple of hours break, no worries. You’re going to get that 1.5 liters in. But the fact is the stomach is the limiting factor.
And if you didn’t get the opportunity to drink a lot in that first half, because of not a lot of goals kicked, then the first thing you need to do when you get into the change rooms is to make sure that you’ve got your drink there and it’s got the water in there that you require, which you’re losing most of. Water’s simple, we’re losing a lot of water in sweat, so we replace that. If you have a higher sodium concentration in your sweat, you make sure that you’ve got a beverage that addresses your particular needs. And if you’ve done the test and you know your sodium concentration, then it’s a very easy thing to do.
Once again, unfortunately, they’re not going to replace all that you lose, but the whole point of a proper hydration strategy is to minimize percentage of loss. Do the best you can at minimizing your percentage of loss. Having an understanding of what your numbers are is going to set you up way better than just throwing down sports drink and really not understanding whether you’re addressing your needs properly or not.
Jack: So, roughly speaking, if I’ve lost 1.5 liters, around 750 milligrams is tolerable for most athletes, 50%. Is that equation the same for your sodium concentration, for those that know it, was it 1200 milligrams? So, do you apply the same model, like around 600 in your water?
Darryl: Interestingly and I don’t know why, I can’t figure out why we can’t replace the amount of sodium we lose. And it’s something that I worked on very early on, once I started to understand there were different sodium concentrations in sweat with every individual. And the idea was that we should be able to replace all that we lose. But for some reason our rate of loss exceeds how much we can consume. So, that 50 to 60% rule again. If you have a sodium concentration around 1200 milligrams, you’re going to be aiming for that 700 milligrams of sodium in that beverage.
Jack: So their stomach can tolerate that. And then, what about with the refueling, that you’ve mentioned about? Like getting the calories in, separate to your hydration protocol. What does that look like?
Darryl: Well, fueling is something that, I don’t think that the sports dieticians that are working with AFL teams at the moment are addressing the players fuel requirements as well as they could. As I mentioned before, the game now is so different. It’s way faster than it used to be. The ball is traveling way faster than it ever has. And the amount of running that they’re doing now, I just don’t think that a player has the glycogen storage in their muscles to be able to tolerate or be able to have enough internal stores to run a full game out.
But my concern is that they’re depleting their glycogen stores so much, that it’s leading to these small muscle tears and all that sort of stuff. I think that they need to start fueling a lot better than they are at the moment. Not just from a physical perspective to help spare that stored glycogen, but also mentally with how much faster the ball’s traveling now. The amount of information they have to process now so quickly, it’s requiring a staggering amount of energy for the brain to actually function that fast.
So, I think addressing that would go a long way to seeing the players run the game out the full four quarters and not seeing data where in the second half their intensive efforts are reduced. And they’re not as intense as they are in the first half. Plus, also, if you can minimize the percentage of loss for glycogen for the player, it just means that they’re going to recover much faster. Then get to training after the game day feeling a lot better, than depleting their stores to a point where it takes so much longer to restore them.
Jack: Makes sense. So, with knowing what you know, like you mentioned that the runners can’t go out as much, which, I imagine, would be a constraint for the sports dieticians, but what would be optimal? What do you think needs to be done to improve fueling? What are some specific things that could be done better?
Darryl: Well, I think, firstly, get rid of lollies. I’m seeing AFL players feeding lollies. Mind-boggling to me, how that ever became a sports nutrition product. There’s absolutely no reason why you would give an elite athlete at that level lollies to fuel them.
I know why they get lollies, because Nestle sponsor the AIS and Nestle own balance lollies. So, the sports dieticians are getting their information from the AIS and they’re saying, ‘Oh, lollies are fantastic.’ And that’s how they’ve made their way into elite sports nutrition, which I just don’t understand how that can happen. And it continues to happen. There’s elite athletes, eating lollies for energy. Can you explain that one for me?
Jack: Ah, no, that’s not my area. But I’ll ask more questions, though. What would you replace it with for those athletes that maybe do have some control, no sponsorship issues for them, and they want the optimal? What would be the best fueling?
Darryl: By far, the best fuel are energy gels. And the characteristics of an energy gel, the fact is, it’s a food, but it’s in liquid gel form. It’s predigested in its manufacture, which sounds pretty gross, but that’s the science behind these energy gels. And particularly the ones that I’ve formulated. It resembles chyme, which all food’s converted to in the stomach, and chyme is like a semi-fluid form. And all food needs to be converted into this form before it passes through the pyloric sphincter into the duodenum and then into the bloodstream as glucose, where the active muscles and brain can access that glucose for energy.
So, the important characteristics is, firstly, energy to volume ratio. And that basically means that you’re getting a large amount of calories in a small volume, and that takes pressure off the stomach. You’re not having to load up the stomach. Now, if you can imagine, if you’re trying to fuel with a large bottle, you’re having to consume 600 mil of fluid for about the same amount of calories, few more calories, but not a lot more. With an energy gel you can consume 117 calories from a 33 mil serving. Which is almost 20 times less volume than your sports drink. Now, that’s super important because we want to make sure the stomach’s not compromised. Because if it is, it’s going to slow us down and we don’t want to slow down.
The second really important characteristic is thermic effect. And this is where we go back to that form of chyme. When you take an energy gel, it’s entering the stomach in a format it recognizes. So, it bypasses those processes that food normally goes through and it enters the stomach straight through into the bloodstream. It’s super quick. And the most important part is it requires a very small amount of energy to be converted to fuel. So, you’re not drawing blood away from the active muscles to the stomach to have to deal with it. That blood’s staying in the legs or the upper body, wherever you need that blood to perform the tasks that you’re doing, and not being drawn away to the stomach to have to deal with that food. So, that thermic effect part is really important.
Once you have a better understanding of energy gels and the science behind them, you’ll be way more likely to use them. And I think they’re not being used properly. Even at that top level I would absolutely be using a gel every single quarter, if I was an AFL footballer. Not just for the physical side of it, but to make sure I had plenty of circulating blood glucose for my brain to access because I’m having to process way more information than I ever had before. And if I don’t have that circulating blood glucose, then I’m going to be more likely to be making mistakes.
Jack: That’s something that they can do. Like you said, the runner at the top level is controlled, but at least you do have your quarter breaks, halftime break, three quarter break, and end game. And like you said, not only will that help you regain performance, which is the most important day of the week, but also your ability to recover and start preparing for the next game by being better fueled, as opposed to playing catch up, which makes a lot of sense too.
Darryl: And that’s the thing. Like if it was just a game every month, then you can get away with it. You can deplete your stores to the point where, you’ve got that luxury of time to restore. But, you know, you finish a game on Sunday, you’re back training the next day. You don’t have that luxury of time and then you’re playing.
And like sometimes, like COVID, there were some times when teams were turning around in four days. That’s just nuts. You can see why there was a lot of small muscle tears and hammies and all that sort of stuff going on last year. Because I can guarantee you they weren’t hydrating properly and they weren’t fueling properly. Because they didn’t have the time that they had the luxury of, just those extra couple of days that they had in years before COVID. Which, hopefully, they get the luxury this year. Hopefully, it’s not interrupted.
Jack: Yeah, back to 6 and 7 days. Let’s hope.
Jack: Okay. And then let’s spend some time on your creation. We mentioned the firefighting was where you started in your career journey. And then you started to access this information, you were doing some research for yourself and then started working with athletes that were seeking you. How did that then come to the point of creating a company KODA Nutrition?
Darryl: So, like I said, it was originally shots and we changed our name a couple of years ago, just before COVID. It was never planned to be a business. And I’m not a businessman. I have a passion for wanting to find out how things work. Very inquisitive. And if I don’t get the answers, I get really annoyed and I have to find out myself. So, that’s where the applied research started. And then realizing that, and I don’t say this lightly, but the sports nutrition industry is a joke. The fact that these all-in-one, one-size-fits-all sports drinks dominate the sports nutrition market is mind-boggling to me. Absolutely. It goes to show the sheer power of marketing.
And if you’ve got enough money, you can convince a lot of people that this is what you need to be using. It’d be like me turning up to a team of football players and saying, ‘Right, I’ve just been researching this size 11 boot, and it fits Billy perfectly. He doesn’t get blisters anymore. No more shin splints, calves aren’t sore, his lower back’s not sore anymore. In his two kilometer run he’s just knocked five seconds off it. And his 20 meter run is brilliant. He’s performing so well. And it’s because we’ve customized his size 11 boot for him. So, what we’re going to do, we’re going to put every single player in that size 11 boot.’
What do you think is going to happen? The players are going to go. ‘Hang on a minute. My foot’s bigger than his.’ ‘Hey, well, my foot’s shorter than his.’ ‘Mine’s wider.’ ‘Mine’s narrower.’ ‘My instep’s bigger.’ ‘My arche’s smaller.’ ‘I have an entirely different foot strike when I run.’ And they’re going to throw their arms up. And so, ‘No way, I’m not wearing a size 11 boot. It might suit Billy. That’s fantastic. But I want a boot that suits me.’ So, what we’re going to do now is we’re going to give you a drink. And it’s the exact same for everyone. It’s the same volume, same calories, same electrolyte. ‘Oh, okay, cool. No worries.’
It just frustrates the heck out of me. I’m all about 100%. If you’re an elite athlete and that doesn’t mean someone who’s professional and getting paid. There are a lot of athletes out there who are elite, who do it purely because it’s something they love doing and they spend a lot of time and a lot of money on it. And that’s where they read a lot of this stuff that they’re being told. And as soon as they start to understand the uniqueness and how to address that, the performance benefits are phenomenal. And I have no doubt that even the top level AFL, there’s still a lot of improvement to be had.
And I know the sports dieticians have a lot of trouble because everyone wants a piece of them. There’s you. You don’t want them in the gym. You want them doing all that stuff. And then there’s the defense coach. There’s the forward coach. There’s the on ball coach. Everyone wants a piece, and you just don’t get enough time with them. I think that’s the biggest problem, trying to work everyone together. So, there’s a common goal. If we do actually work together and not individually, I think these sort of things will improve.
Jack: You mentioned a couple of good points in there. Let’s go first with one that I imagine is going to be tough to change. You’re in the industry, do you think that sports nutrition eventually we’ll get to a point where sponsorship won’t completely dominate the market, but it will start to be more individually led or athletes will potentially have a little bit more say in it?
Darryl: Well, I think the athlete needs to speak up a bit more. If a sports dietician is handing you lollies, you’ve got a question there. You’ve got to go, ‘You know, I have a small child and I tell them not to eat lollies because they’re bad for them. But I’m an elite athlete and you give me lollies for fuel.’ So, ask the questions. And the sports dietician, well, I don’t know what answer you’re going to come up with for giving an elite athlete lollies. There’s really no answer. It’s simply going to come back to the fact that Nestle sponsored the AIS, Nestle owns lollies. And AIS says, ‘Oh, well, they’ve given us a lot of money, so we better tell them to use the lollies.’ And that’s how it works.
And that’s why the big sports companies dominate the market. Because they have huge amounts of dollars. And they always will dominate because it’s important that they are putting that money into the sport. But the elite athletes, I think it’s important that they take some responsibility, even though they’re in a team sport, for their own individual needs. In that, you know, find out what your sweat rate is or ask questions. So, ‘Look, we’re doing this session. Can I do a pre and post weighing?’ Or ‘I’m really, really interested in finding out the sodium concentration of our sweat. Can we do some testing? Then, once we’ve done that, tell me the importance of what happens when I sweat, how’s that contributing to the way I play, how’s it impacting on my performance?’
So, I think one of the biggest things is that we need to sit these players down and actually educate them properly and say, ‘Okay, well, this is what happens when you sweat. When you sweat, that water that ends up on your skin, comes from the water component of your blood. Your blood is about 80% water. So, as you sweat and not replace it, you’re actually reducing blood volume. You’ve got less blood available. So, what do you think, when there’s less blood available, what happens? Well, many things happen. But, importantly, if you’ve got less blood available, then you’ve got less oxygen. You’ve got less glucose. The blood’s thickening because, as that water component reduces, the blood thickens. And then your heart’s got to pump a lot harder to move that blood around, and it’s not going to move as efficiently as it does when you’re properly hydrated.’
‘Oh, okay.’ So, and then the penny drops on the go. ‘Well, that’s really important that I hydrate.’ And then that sports dietician will say ‘Yes, but if we’re playing down in Hobart, you’re just not going to sweat as much. So, we don’t need to drink as much as we will need to in Darwin or Gold Coast.’ That’s a really easy conversation to have with the player. And then they have an understanding of, ‘Oh, okay. Well, that’s really important. I’m going to make sure that I find out how much I sweat in these hotter conditions, because I really want to manage it properly. And because if I do manage it properly, it means I’m going to have a much better week than I normally do. Because I come off a hot game and I have a crap game the next week. So, if I address my needs properly, then I’m less likely to have a shit game the following week.’
Jack: On that note. So, 18 degrees, you work out, you lose 1.5 liters in that hour test. And we try and mimic that with a game, like you mentioned, in terms of exertion. Does that mean that, if you want to be really thorough, you should do one at 25 degrees and another one above 30? So, do a few of them?
Darryl: Spot on. And there’s no pattern, by the way. So, let’s say, at 10 degrees you lost a liter an hour, as an example, hypothetically. It doesn’t mean at 20 degrees you’re going to lose two liters.
Jack: So, there is no special algorithm?
Darryl: No. Oh, it would make all my applied research way easier. I’ve had some athletes where we would test them around 18–20 degrees, which was a fairly consistent temperature for Ironman during the bike leg, particularly in Australia. You bumped that temperature up to 23–25 degrees, only a five degree swing, five to seven degree swing, and their sweat rate increased massively. Where other athletes that five to seven degree swing didn’t change too much. So, there’s just so many variables.
Jack: I imagine, humidity as well. Like, you’ve got to factor that in?
Darryl: Absolutely. When I was living in Melbourne for nine years, I was two minute walk from Etihad. My wife and I and daughter would sometimes see three games on a weekend. And it was fascinating watching a game with 8 to 10,000 people. And then again, with 50,000 people, how the humidity would rise. And I’d be sitting there and I’d be wondering whether they were taking that into account. How different the conditions were with 50,000 people sitting in the stands, as opposed to the different humidity when there was less people there. And a swing of 15% humidity can make a massive difference in your sweat rate.
Jack: Very interesting. So, doing the tests, you’ve got more awareness on how to adjust things on game day.
Darryl: Exactly. And there’s plenty of time to do it. You’re not training all the time. It’s 10 minutes on either side of that training session to do pre and post weighing and record it. Record the temperature and humidity, have a look at your GPS device that you have in the back of your jumper, look at the trend, see if it mimics close to game day. Because there’s so much data.
If I was a footballer, I’ll be looking at that and I’m sure some do. I’d be looking at that data after every game and seeing areas of where I could do better there. ‘Geez, I dropped off in that fourth quarter. What can I do in quarter one, two and three to ensure I don’t drop off so much in quarter four? Is it my hydration? Is it that I’m not fueling as well as I could?’ I think the players need to maybe take some responsibility for that as well. Because if you’re sports dietician and you’re trying to look after that many players, it’ll be a difficult task.
Jack: That’s a good message as well. It’s your career, isn’t it? So, if it comes from the athlete, you’re going to get a lot more benefit out of the experts around you in that environment.
You mentioned the GPS. I think that would be a good thing to touch on. So, you’re looking at your game day report and it may have a quarter breakdown and work rate in the different speed zone. So, slow running and high speed running and sprint distance. If you’re an athlete and you’re looking at it, you’re like, ‘Okay, there was a bit of a detriment or deficit in the work rate.’ With the athletes that you’ve worked out there, if it wasn’t a fitness thing, or it wasn’t a recovery thing in terms of rotations. If they can be definitive and know that it was definitely hydration, is that because of their post weighing, is there a percentage, like it really shouldn’t be this much? What are the standards with the loss of the fluid for a typical AFL game?
Darryl: That’s a good question. Once you get another variable. Because you and I could be losing the same amount of sweat. So, let’s say, we’re playing a hot game in Darwin. It wouldn’t be unusual for some players to lose three or four liters comfortably in those sort of conditions. So, you and I both lose three liters, but for whatever reason you can tolerate that loss better than I can. You can still maintain a high output better than I can. And it’s not for any other reason than it’s just how you tolerate that loss or that deficiency.
So, it’s hard to answer that question because it really comes down to, if you’re seeing that there is a deficit or a decrease in output, a lot of the time it could be put down to the fact that, ‘Geez, it was a lot warmer than I thought it was going to be. And I didn’t hydrate as well as I should have.’ And so, you address that for next time. Or it could well be it was a lot colder than I thought it was going to be, than the weather predicted, and the amount I consumed was more than I should have. And you can definitely drink more than you need in cooler conditions.
So, at some point you’re going to arrive, and it might not always be straightaway, but at some point you’re going to arrive at the answer, if you keep looking at it. But I have no hesitation in that AFL players aren’t fueling anywhere near where they should be. I don’t think the fueling strategy has caught up with the game now. The game is so much different than it used to be.
Jack: So, most of the fueling than the rehydration, the rehydration thing’s in a good spot, but more the replenishing of glucose.
Darryl: No, I don’t think the hydration is in a good spot at all. I think there’s still a lot of work to be done there. And that starts with educating the players. And talking to sports dieticians, I know they don’t get the opportunity to sit down with them and actually explain to them the importance of all this. So, that needs to change, that needs to be a priority, that needs to be something that’s built in. Because I know that when it comes to the level of importance, the nutrition side of things is way down the bottom. So, that’s something that they need to have a look at and address.
Jack: What about leading up to game day for footballers? What would you recommend? Some good practices for young athletes in terms of making sure they’re well-fueled and well-hydrated going into the game?
Darryl: Well, generally you’ve got to get there a couple of hours before the game. So, when an athlete asked me, ‘What should I eat before competition?’ Generally my answer is you eat what you normally eat. You don’t change anything. You eat the things that you’re comfortable with, that sit well in your stomach.
Some athletes have a massive problem with eating prior to a game. It’s just nerves take over. That’s where I think if they can try and maybe eat some fruit or make sure they maybe take a gel or something like that. They’ve got to be starting the game without any deficiencies. So, it’s really going to depend on the type of or the temperatures and humidity that they’re going to experience.
You can’t load up. So, you can’t go and drink, thinking that if I drink a lot now, then it’s going to save me for later on. A lot of the time a big problem with athletes, particularly when they’re going into a game where it is going to be hot, they drink lots and lots of plain water. And it’s a common mistake. And they think they’re doing the right thing.
It is good to hydrate, but if you were drinking copious amounts of plain water, you are going to dilute the sodium concentration of your blood. So, you’re going to start with deficiencies in that case. When you are hydrating, you hydrate with water and make sure the sodium component is in that drink as well. Don’t replace one, you’ve got to replace both. So, that’s the important thing.
And it’s hard to give a volume, but just make sure that you are drinking prior to the game. And especially in that two hours that you are warming up, getting ready to play the game. And make sure that you fuel, because in that two hour warmup, some players will use more energy than some people use in a week. So, making sure that you are fueling in that two hours as well, that you start the game without any deficiencies.
Jack: That’s a good point to be taken. Think about the game, but also like most warm-ups will have two different periods of warmups and definitely ramp up towards the games. So, making sure that you’re well-hydrated and fueling throughout the warmup, as it should be part of your game day preparation.
Love that thing. Thanks for sharing Daryl. We’ll move into the lighter side of the podcast, mate. This is a bit of a get-to-know-you segment. First one is which movie or TV series, or it could be a book, has impacted you the most and why?
Darryl: ‘The Power Of One.’ Have you read that?
Jack: Don’t think so. Has a familiar title to it, but… Is it a book?
Darryl: Yeah, it’s a book. Read that a long, long time ago. Pick that one, if you get a chance.
Jack: Will do. Favorite inspirational quote or life motto?
Darryl: ‘You are unique.’ And we are. We all are very, very special in our own way. There’s no one like you on the planet. That’s mine. We are unique.
Jack: And in your work life, what makes you angry? What are your pet peeves?
Darryl: I think you can work that one out. The fact that sports drinks dominate the sports nutrition market. I don’t have any hair left, I’ve torn it all out. It’s mind boggling to me that they dominate sports nutrition with their one-size-fits-all strategy. I try not to let it bother me, but it’s hard not to, when you’ve done all the work I’ve done over the years. It’s 25 years of work. I just want athletes to perform well and you’re not going to realize your true potential using a one-size-fits-all sports drinks.
Jack: And in a COVID free world, of course, what’s your favorite way to spend your day off?
Darryl: At the moment it’d be mountain biking. Love my mountain biking.
Jack: Favorite holiday destination and why?
Darryl: Can I have two?
Darryl: Maldives, surfing. And Japan, snowboarding.
Darryl: Yeah. I’m very much looking forward to getting back to Japan, once things go back to normal.
Jack: Well, thank you so much for jumping on, Darryl. Talk us through what’s on the horizon for 2022? What are you excited about at the moment?
Darryl: I’m very excited about having electrolyte tablets back. We had a fire in our factory just after COVID. So, we’ve had a nasty 16 months. We have them back now, so I’m very, very excited because it’s an awesome product. It’s my baby. I formulated them right from scratch. So, very, very passionate about it.
Jack: How are they different to the, like you mentioned, the general generic products that are out there?
Darryl: It’s an effervescent tablet, so there’s no calories at all. The idea is that if you have a higher sodium concentration in your sweat, you can add extra tablets to meet those needs. It’s as simple as that. You’re able to customize your hydration and get a lot closer to your losses than you normally would.
Jack: And easy on the stomach.
Darryl: Yeah, importantly. And that’s something I focused on when formulating these products. Any sports nutrition product needs to be gentle on the stomach. I spent a lot of time formulating products to be that gentle on the stomach.
Jack: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I certainly got a lot out of our chat, mate. And, no doubt, the athletes, as well as practitioners that have tuned in live. And for those that tuned in later on and you missed the first part, definitely watch the whole recording. Darryl dropped gems from the first minute. So, you can watch that on the YouTube channel. And then for the podcasters out there, we’ll release this in the next couple of weeks. So, we’ll upload it on our socials when the episode is released in our podcast.
But thanks again, Darryl. Where can people find you if they want to ask any questions or queries? And, of course, talk us through KODA Nutrition as well, for athletes that want to try some of your products.
Darryl: I think the first thing is to get on and listen to the audio book ‘Sweat. Think. Go Faster’. That will explain a lot about the applied research that I’ve done over the past 25 years. And it goes into developing sports nutrition. So, it gives you a real insight into the things you need to think about, which most people don’t. They just use the product without really thinking too much. So, the science behind actually developing products. And all the research that I’ve done to help customize athlete’s nutrition and their performance.
And then kodanutrition.com is where you’ll find the products. We’re the Australian company. And I have no doubt there’s no one that spent as much time developing sports nutrition products than I have. I have absolutely no doubt about that. So, if you are using our products, you know that there’s been a huge amount of effort going into it.
Jack: That’s what athletes deserve. So, we’ll add the links, both to the audio book… Is that on your website?
Darryl: Yes, it is.
Jack: We’ll add it in the show notes, as well as the link to your, what about your socials? Where’s the best place for you?
Darryl: Just #kodanutrition.
Jack: We’ll add it in the show notes. Thanks for everyone that’s listened as well. If you’re a fan of the podcast, make sure to click the notification button on Spotify to not miss any episodes. I’ll see you guys on the next live chat.
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