Do supplements and fasting work for runners? (with nutritionist Angela Rockson)

10 years ago you couldn’t tell me I would be able to run for 2 hours without eating. Now I can do that every day.

I fell in love with training while fasted… to the point where I started to slightly crack at the seams a bit.

After midday headaches and general life bonking I knew something was up. So after some accidental googling, I found out that my electrolytes were low due to my high sweat rate.

Problem solved? Maybe… listen on to find out if intermittent fasting is something you should incorporate into your training for benefits.

Read my story about intermittent fasting and training here

In this episode I attempt to answer the very individual question if intermittent fasting during training is the right way to train.

It’s not as black and white of an answer as I thought and I brought on Bachelor of science nutritionist, ultra runner and all-around super cool food lover, Angela Rockson.

And (through the powers of the internet) she came all the way from London, UK to help me figure this out!

What You’ll Learn

  • Should you consider running and intermittent fasting in your training?
  • What I did that I learned from around that
  • What supplements runners should and shouldn’t use
  • The importance of Iron and electrolytes for endurance athletes, esp women.
  • The complexities of your metabolism and how what food you eat together influence your weight loss or gain
  • Her strong purpose and desire to help the black community understand diet and nutrition
  • A bit of the history of how we got here with supplements
  • And more!

Also, quick side note – Let’s clear up the difference between nutritionist and dietician real quick

Notable Quotes

  • “Food groups don’t often exist in isolation. While you’re getting those carbs, think about what else there is that might slow you down a bit.”
  • “That’s why intermittent fasting works for me, because it has those very specific benefits. I feel whatever you do, it has to be very specific to you.”
  • “I’m very much into tailoring whatever supplement you need to take to whatever your specific needs are.”
  • “Not All carbs are created equal. Take the right carb for the type of workout you are doing.”


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Download PDF Here – Transcription is 90% accurate. Apologies for any and all errors

Daren: Ten years ago, you couldn’t tell me I would be able to run for two hours without eating. Now, I can do that every day. I fell in love with training while fasted to the point where I started to slightly crack at the seams a bit. After midday headaches and general life bonking, I knew something was up. So, after some accidental googling, I found out that my electrolytes were low due to my high sweat rate. Thanks, Mark Sisson, problem solved, maybe. 

Presenter: If you want to find out if supplements and intermittent fasting will help you train better, then you should listen to this episode of DLake Creates.

[DLake Creates theme]

Daren: What is up? I’m Daren, your host of DLake Creates Running for Masters of Some.

Presenter: The internet’s most exciting endurance sports podcast. 

Daren: Through self-improvement, we help serious endurance athletes, master some of the health, some of the fitness and even some of the life because it’s all the same. And, in being your host, you can trust me because I’m a lifelong endurance athlete, that’s ran a sub three-hour marathon, completed an Ironman Triathlon in 10 hours, and currently trying to break 60 minutes in the 5k. So, I’d say I know a thing or two about most of the things that we talk about. 

Quick warning, we use some adult language and cuss a bit. Be mindful who is around when you listen. 

In this episode, I attempt to answer the very individual question if intermittent fasting during training is the right way to train. And I brought on Bachelor of Science Nutritionist, ultra-runner and all-around super cool food lover, Angela Rockson. And, through the powers of the internet, came all the way from London, UK, to help me figure this out. 

What you learn in this episode, should you consider running an intermittent fasting in your training, what supplements runner should and shouldn’t use, the importance of iron and electrolytes for endurance athletes, especially women, the complexities of your metabolism and how, what food you eat together influence your weight loss or weight gain, Angela’s strong purpose and desire to help the black community understand diet and nutrition, a bit of history of how we got here with supplements and more. 

Side note, let’s quickly clear up the difference between nutritionist and dietitian. From my understanding, it depends on the country and even state and province you’re in. But from a fundamental and universal level, nutritionist typically work with individuals or populations to teach them more about general nutrition, food, and health. A significant difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian is that a dietitian can help diagnose and treat illnesses. All right, we got that all out of the way, let’s get back to the show. 

What are your initial thoughts on running and intermittent fasting? Are you a registered nutritionist? You have a BSc in Nutrition.

Angela: Exactly. Yeah. 

Daren: You’re very expert level. What are your initial thoughts on running and intermittent fasting?

Angela: I’ve done a little bit of my own personal research on it, and I think it depends on who we’re talking about. If we’re talking about someone who runs recreationally and includes intermittent fasting for a specific reason, whether it would be for weight loss, or maybe they’re looking to enhance their performance that way, then my answer is different compared to maybe a more elite athlete who wants to introduce or who uses intermittent fasting as part of their training.

It also depends on what kind. If it’s the kind where maybe from the time you wake up to a certain time of the day where you fast, and then you increase your calorie intake for the rest of the day or if it’s a whole day thing where you’re completely reducing your calorie intake to 600-800 calories, then again, my answer would be different. But I’d say for most people, it’s generally they maybe don’t have their first meal till midday, and then they train in the time before that. 

From what I’ve seen, I’d say that there is some evidence that for most recreational exercises that do steady state cardio like running, then it can potentially increase fat oxidation. So, in terms of for weight management, it can have some benefits. But if your goals are performance related, then I think the jury is slightly out. But I would say for a recreational runner, I’d think long and hard about whether that’s the right way to go in terms of fueling your running appropriately, while you adapt to the business of running. 

At the moment, I’d say most of the research I’ve seen isn’t super conclusive. Again, weight management, it’s been shown to help to some extent, but you have to also consider fueling your workout appropriately. For elite athletes, I think the weight management benefits become a little bit less easily observed. Most studies with elite athletes are based on those who observe Ramadan. It’s usually the people of Muslim religion who happen to be elite athletes, who are generally used for these kinds of studies. There have been some slight indications that it can be performance enhancing, but weight management wise, the more advanced someone becomes, that the less the observation of fat loss is observed. So, I’d say for the everyday runner, it’s not really something I would recommend. But it’s very much also potentially down to the individual and exactly what kind of running, how long they’re running, and the kind of intensities they’re running at. There are a few different variables in there for me, in terms of whether it would be right for someone or not.

Daren: There’s something interesting I found with timing. I know that I would get these headaches, and then I realized salt helped. Then, I found out actually, the article I sent you that I wrote, that actually things have changed, and it’s around timing. So, I thought it was electrolytes, and magnesium, potassium, calcium, then I ended up realizing it was the timing. I wake up quite early. If I wake up and I don’t train, so if I wake up at 5 AM, don’t train until 8, then I eat 9, 9:30. I will have been on, let’s say I stopped eating at 6 PM. So, that’s 16, 17 hours, but because I woke up, it’s been four hours since I woke up, that’s when I’d actually end up getting these nasty headaches. So, the salt actually didn’t work. But if I can train directly after waking up with salt, and I was training quite hard, and I was definitely pushing myself, I was okay. But as far as performance goes, I was probably underperforming, and whether it was 1%, 5%, I didn’t know. And then, if you’re underperforming, then really are you actually getting yourself better for racing?

It’s like you need to perform every day to get better for racing. If I was just doing it every day, I wasn’t trying to optimize for high performance, then I’d probably be okay. I’d be like, “Yeah, sure. I don’t have any headaches. My blood sugar’s fine.” Once I figured all that out, I do better with harder workouts definitely with food. [chuckles] Definitely food in my stomach, especially the night before and a few 100 calories, mostly carbs the morning of. Pretty much, me included, we’ve both blown my whole theory and hypothesis out of the water. 

I guess, touch with supplements. There’s a lot of new studies claiming that certain supplements are actually beneficial. Glucosamine, fish oil, vitamin D. And then, there’s a bunch of anecdotal and unclaimed studies. I read from some pretty big people with big visibility. They talk highly of– Oh, man, I just zoned out. What is it? It’s the collagen. He wrote this big article, and I won’t say his name because I love him and I don’t want to put him on blast. We don’t know each other at all. But he was like, “Oh, collagen is the best way to sort out your Achilles issues.” I was like, “Okay, that’s anecdotal, and it worked for you. But you’re telling millions of people that read your blog, because it worked for you–” It’s inconclusive, because they have not done it on a larger scale. I’ve talked to a couple of physiotherapists and they’re just like, “Look, if it works for you cool, but we’re not going to tell you to do that.” Anyway, that’s the two sides. There’s the proper glucosamine and all that that works. And then, there’s the collagen works and all these other millions of supplements that everyone takes. First off, do you take any supplements or use any supplements, and if so, what?

Angela: The only supplement I take is an iron supplement with magnesium and zinc. That’s mainly because my main sport is long distance running and we know that particularly females are more prone to becoming anemic because of iron loss through the sweat, iron loss through the GI tract, also, iron loss through small blood vessels rupturing when your foot strikes down as you run. Also, as a menstruating female, we have the challenges of iron loss around that. So, I mainly take irons supplements for that specific reason. But other than that, I don’t take anything else.

I don’t take anything else, because I find that often, the evidence behind supplementation is anecdotal, like you’ve said, and they’re actually regulated in a way that makes me think it’s very easy to sell a supplement off the back of the hype, because a lot of them are sold as a therapeutic food or food-based item, and not necessarily as a drug. So, it’s a lot easier to make marketing claims, or to make claims of benefits that are not necessarily backed up, because you can’t get in trouble for doing that. 

I think supplements also are very specific to the individual and the individual’s needs. Often, I think most people, if I’m honest, that take supplements don’t really need them. Sometimes, certain supplements become fashionable in the running world or in other types of exercise. There’s that temptation to take something because someone you saw in an article took it and it helped them, just like you said, but you have to be a bit more discerning in the choices that you make because another thing is that supplements aren’t cheap. Often, you end up parting with lots of money for something that, A, may not be beneficial, and B, you’re not actually deficient in, because I think that’s the key thing with supplementation. Are you actually deficient in that thing you’re supplementing with? Because if you’re not, then you may be just wasting money in some senses. 

And also, you’ll often find drinks that have added vitamins and minerals, where they don’t really talk about the bioavailability, which is whatever goes into your gut, how much of that goes into your bloodstream, and is delivered to the cells to do the function they need to deliver. Things have to be formulated in the right ways in order to be absorbed efficiently. No use putting lots of vitamins and minerals in a foodstuff or in a supplement, if ultimately, your body can’t absorb it, if that makes sense. Those are the things to consider. But, yeah, I think a lot of people out there may potentially be oversupplementing, if I’m honest. 

Daren: Yeah, that’s a great point. You spoke a lot of amazing stuff. I just read an article that I shared with my partner about how women with iron deficiency– this is all new, because everything’s new with women, it’s so sad that we as– it’s like, “Oh, we didn’t know this. We were treating women like men, like small men.” It’s like, “You’re just a small man, let’s give you this.” And it’s like, no, everything is very different. Thank you for putting that into awareness. I’ll definitely link that article. I’ll put that in my show notes, because there was an article by– yeah, TrainingPeaks article on women. Thank you on that.

And then the bioavailability, that’s huge. I think it’s called thermo, you probably know this, thermocaloric intake. It’s basically around certain foods you eat will then influence how you so– if you eat certain foods, they’ll help you digest the fat better and the protein. Everyone thinks it’s calories in calories out., but it’s actually way more complex in the way your genetics work, and that blows my mind. I keep telling people that, like, “Just eat less if you want to lose weight,” I’m like, “It’s not that simple.” For most people, some of the time, it’s kind of that simple. And if you want to lose, maybe like a quick 5, 10 kilos for most people, but I feel when people are struggling, and it can get really crazy. So, I’m not the expert on that, but you definitely are. Thank you on that.

Just changing gears to your history, what were the reasons for you to become a nutritionist?

Angela: From a very young age, I became aware that a lot of medical problems that plagued particularly the black community in terms of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, were very much related to diet choices, as well as lifestyle choices and genetics. For me, it was about learning a little bit more about how I could use my diet to influence my health outcomes later in life, and the outcomes of my community and people around me, my immediate family. That’s what brought my interest into nutrition.

Daren: How do you think we got here with supplements? Do you know the history behind them? You did touch on that. You said, because it’s a food, that it’s not a drug. It’s not the COVID vaccine or whatever, where it’s got to go through strict trials. How do you think we got here? I guess, does it even matter how we got here? Because it’s a multibillion-dollar industry and there’s a lot of hype, as you were saying. I’m big on history. How did we get here? Do you know how that happened?

Angela: I don’t know the specific history. I know that in about 1912, 1915 is where vitamins became known as vitamins, and then supplementation went from there. A lot of things we’ve now adapted as healthy individuals, I would imagine it probably came from working with people with health conditions, maybe gastrointestinal conditions, in terms of helping them become more healthy. For example, things that like the keto diet was something that was designed for epileptics that became adapted just as any other diet for apparently healthy people. So, I would imagine supplements and taking vitamins and all of those things would have come from maybe a therapeutic history, and then became something for everyone to use. But I feel we’re probably where we are right now, because we live in an age of information. At the moment, everyone now wants to get more interested in their health. People are out there getting their genetics mapped to find out what health conditions they’re more prone to. People are reading up a lot more about what they put in their bodies. So, I feel probably supplement producers have capitalized on that over the years, and that’s how we got where we are now.

Daren: It’s like running magazines and cycling magazines. They just do like, “We have to talk about something,” so they talk about stuff, that’s like, is this really helping anyone? Moving forward, how do you think endurance athletes can use supplements? I’ll preface that with something from a guy that I really– Tim Ferriss, I’ll say, he’s big on supplements for our body. A lot of people, drugs and supplements have a bad rap, and he said, I’m just going to say this. When you eat natural foods, I’m all about eating natural foods, you don’t know the amount that’s going in your body. But the thing is, though, like you said, the bioavailability, natural foods have all this going around them to where your body works the best with them. With that said, how can endurance athletes use supplements or do they not need to, or is it specific for person? Very big question.

Angela: I’d say it’s specific to the individual. As we know, it’s specific to gender. As I touched on before, a female athlete is more likely to need more iron in their supplementation regimen. But I feel it’s probably not the best way to go to supplement for the sake of supplementation for elite athletes, or recreational athletes, or just for the ordinary person walking down the street. I’m very much into tailoring whatever supplements you take based on what your specific needs are.

In terms of intermittent fasting, again, to some extent, it depends on the individual. For me, for example, I do intermittent fasting when I train purely by accident, because my GI tract doesn’t tolerate much food before I go out and do a long hard run. So, I will often run fasted, because actually I don’t want to be slowed down with stomach cramps or with bloating while I’m running. Over time, my body’s adapted. I’ve also put things in place, like making sure I get enough carbs in my meal the night before, and then I make up for my calorie losses later in the day. But that’s unique to me and that’s why intermittent fasting by accident works for me, because it has those very specific benefits. I feel whatever you do, it has to be very specific to you. And if you can afford the luxury of working with a dietician, or with someone that can prescribe your supplementation or your diet to you, then by all means, go for that. But if you can’t do that, then do what works for you, and you can only work that out by trial and error.

Daren: Let’s get to know our guest a bit more with the fun cooldown segment called Five Fast and Furious Fitness Facts. That’s five Fs too, I really like that. AKA, get to know your local corner store Master of Some, because you know we’re just hanging out at the corner store, and you’re like, “I want to know more about you.” This is what this podcast segment is for. Tell me a quick sentence that sums up your first run.

Angela: Awkward. Very, very awkward. Didn’t have the right kit, didn’t know what I was doing, went out too fast. 

Daren: I like it, in a good way, you learned a lot. Number two, what one thing do most runners get wrong in their race day nutrition?

Angela: I’d say the one thing most runners get wrong is grabbing the freebies along the race. One thing I think is always a big mistake is introducing anything that you haven’t trained with on race day and often they’ll have free jelly babies or gels you might not be used to or something you might not be used to that you might get desperate and grab and then regret it later when the tummy cramps come. So, I think that’s something a lot of runners get wrong.

Daren: Yeah, definitely all been there. It’s like, “Ooh, what’s this thing?” 

Angela: Mm-hmm. 

Daren: What does Black Lives Matter mean to you as a black female endurance athlete?

Angela: I’d say, as a black female endurance athlete, we’re a minority within a minority. I feel sometimes it can be difficult to get people to gain understanding of the unique challenges we might face. I feel the running community is just that, it is a community. I’ve usually found it quite inclusive. However, I think other people within the community probably don’t understand the unique challenges that come with being black and being a female. It’s more about, “Well, I’m accepting of everyone. So why do I need to understand any more than that?” So, I think the challenge is to convince the people who are genuinely quite inclusive of the challenges we face in everyday life, and I think Black Lives Matter brought a lot of good conversations into the forefront. 

Daren: All right, number four. Pick one distance that you have to run for the rest of your life. And if you don’t, you can’t run anything else. So, it’s like, you just have to run that one for the rest of your life. It’s half marathon, marathon, or the ultra-50, 200k? 

Angela: I would say half marathon, definitely.

Daren: Half Marathon. It’s a good one. I feel the half is perfect. The marathon, everyone just blows– Not everyone, a lot of people do. It takes a lot of time to figure out how to run that race properly.

Angela: Exactly. I feel with a half marathon, you can still challenge yourself, and push really hard and not be broken by the training.

Daren: It’s way more practical. Yeah, I tell a lot of people starting out, they’re like, “I’m going to do a marathon.” I’m like, “How about the 5k or a half marathon?”

Daren: You’ve been anointed a Master of Some. Basically, what that means is that you’re a generalist jack of all trades. I love it, and I think more people should lean into it. I love to challenge jack of all trades though to focus on one thing, and it’s more on the nutrition side, because that’s where your expertise lies. It’s a confusing world with foods and such, and supplements and all these things, vitamins. What is one and only one thing a runner should focus on in regard to their nutrition, their diets and supplements? A general blanket rule, I know everyone is different, but if you could have a big billboard, and it’s only about nutrition for runners, what would you say?

Angela: I would say focus on your carbohydrate intake, simply because it’s the fuel you run on, literally. I think not all carbs are created equal, and it’s about taking the right kind of carbs for the kind of exercise that you’re doing, the kind of running you’re doing. If you’re doing an interval workout, then the simple carbs that are going to get you through the speed work will be good. And then, if you’re more of an endurance runner, then obviously the slower release, carbohydrates will work better for you. Even though carbs are one food group, not all carbs are the same. You have to tailor it to the running workout you’re doing. Make sure you get the right amount in the right format, because often, for example, runners will talk about carb loading, and to a lot of runners, that means eat lots of pasta, eat lots of whatever there is that has carbs in it. Often that can be a stumbling block on race day. If all you’ve done is eat lots of pizza, because the bread has carbs in it, but then you forgot about the cheese, and all that other stuff in the ingredients, then you might end up spoiling your plans on race day when the GI tract decides to rebel on you.

Again, it wasn’t just about the carbs that you ate, it’s the fact that a lot of fat came with the carbs, a lot of fiber came with the carbs, or there was lactose in there that maybe you didn’t tolerate so well. I feel people really need to focus on the fact that food groups don’t often exist in isolation. While you’re getting those carbs, think about what else there is that you’re taking in that might slow you down a bit.

[ad break]

Is the health and fitness internet too much sometimes? Too many conflicting articles and videos confuse you on how to train and eat right? Or, you don’t have time to just read and watch everything about, I don’t know, the new trends on carb cycling for trail running? Don’t worry, we’ll take care of all that for you. Sign up for our free email newsletter, Three Thing Thursday. We’ll put three perfectly curated and created things in your inbox for better living and training. Go to dlakecreates.com/ttt. We do the hard, time-consuming work and scour the health and fitness internet’s deepest and darkest corners. This is so that every Thursday you have a piping hot new email with the latest and coolest tips, tricks, tools, tactics, and skills. Also, that you can train and live consistently to do dope shit in your next endurance event. Sign up now, you can receive my quick guide on how to get healthy, stay fit and use data to create habits that last a lifetime. That’s dlakecreates.com/ttt, to be inspired and motivated on the regular.

Time is a resource no one can make more of, so we appreciate you taking precious time out of your day to listen this far. Our goal is to show the world how to live better through running, cycling, and triathlon. The episode and many others have a transcription, go to the show notes description to find out more. This was produced in Sydney, Australia, and I’d like to acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation who are the traditional custodians of this land. I pay my respects to the elders, past, present and future. I recognize the continuing connection to the land, waters and culture. These lands were stolen and sovereignty was never ceded.

If you liked this episode again, we’d highly appreciate if you go on whatever app you listen to, and make sure to follow DLake Creates podcast. We’re on Spotify, Apple podcast, Google podcasts, Amazon, Acast, and a bunch of others. And if you’re feeling real loose, a rating, review, or share of this episode to anyone you know that would be into something like this, it would be amazing. The more people that hear about us, the doper stuff we can do, to then help other people. And if that virtuous cycle continues forever, we would always be grateful to you. If you have any questions concerns, suggestions for the episode or hell, you want to be on the show hit us up. The best way is the email talk@dlakecreates.com. We’re also on the socials, mainly Instagram @dlakecreates or you can hit us up wherever you can find us. 

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Don’t worry if you didn’t get all that, there’s a link in the show notes description. Thank you again so much for listening. Peace.