Steve Tashjian – Low Carb High Fat in Soccer: A Carbohydrate Periodization Model

– [Steve] I appreciate this guys. The first person I’m
gonna thank is going to be our head coach and sporting
director Gregg Berhalter. Because I’m gonna present here on a topic that requires a massive,
massive cultural shift when you’re gonna bring it
in to professional athletics, especially the soccer environment. I’ve gotten nothing but
unconditional support from him. He’s become a dear friend, but it’s also the entire staff behind us. In this particular circumstance, if there’s just one
staff member that doubts, combined with a player that doubts, now all of a sudden you
have kinks in your armor and it’s very, very difficult. Because this is a massive cultural shift to do something like this within soccer. And I’m blessed to have the
support that I have from him. So I’m excited about that. In addition to that, not once has either of
our consulting physicians, our Chief Medical Officer Pete Edwards, or our General Physician, Tom Hospital, Neither of them have ever tried
to talk me out of doing this and so I appreciate that very much. It takes that type of support. Dr. Volek we’ll get to your
team at the end for sure. I owe you guys a huge thank you. In general, Dr. Noakes,
I’m glad you’re here. I’m very pleased you’re here. And the reason why, is because
seven to eight years ago, it was your tweets and some
of your articles on groupthink that really made me go down this path. And I’ve put some of my favorite quotes about groupthink here, because in general sports science is very,
very guilty of this. They’re still very guilty of this. I think we’re climbing our
way out it it to be fair, but in the area of diet and nutrition, I felt like it was the… We were in dire need for change. But it was your work and it was the things that I was following on
social media from you that really made me think
there’s probably a way we can be doing this much, much better. So, when I came back from
Europe, I sat down with Gregg. I’ve gotten the job with
Columbus Crew Soccer Club for the second time around now, and he says, like every coach says, I wanna be the fittest team in the league, on the planet, on any planet, right? And every head coach I’ve been
with has said the same thing, but I knew for a fact that he was adamant. But if you’re really gonna
analyze what that takes, be fitter than any team in the league, you have to think about what… I’m trying to translate what
those words really mean. And what those words meant to me, I need you to separate
from the group, right? And separating from the group is not easy. If you’re going to
separate from the group, you have to be willing
to live in the margins. At this level, where you’re
trying to separate yourself, let’s say from the top six teams, top seven teams in the league, there’s gonna be certain
areas where you’re not gonna separate yourself. All of them train hard. All of them are giving
everything they can. So, what is it gonna
take for you to do that? You have to be able to be
willing to live in these margins. And then on top of that,
you have to be willing to do what others aren’t willing to do. Not only the coaches, but the players. And it’s a conversation we had with them. And I painted that picture to them. I said, okay, this is what you guys want. But I can’t have you telling me what you’re not willing to do. Because that won’t work either, right? And then lastly, there’s this
willingness to make mistakes, learn from them and keep going. I think we’ve got an incredibly
talented group of coaches, an incredibly talented
group of players as well. And I owe it to the players for their commitment to new things. So, I thought, how are
we gonna accomplish this. I really felt like there’s this need to return to the basics. What are these true energy
requirements for the sport? We’ve been told several things about the lactate requirements, and I’m not so sure that it’s
such a lactic sport anymore. I think over 16 years of
this, I’m pretty convinced it’s actually not that
much of a lactic sport. But there’s this huge robust
need for an aerobic base. There’s these… you
have to have this ability to execute repeated sprint ability as Dr. Eagon was talking about. And I think, from my persepctive, I felt like it had to go back
down to a cellular level. To a metabolic level, if
we’re really, really gonna make a difference, if we’re
gonna separate ourselves. The two basic questions for me were what’s the volume of energy available? And when we start looking
at those available energy requirements, where can we tap into the most energy available? What’s the biggest volume we can find and what’s the quickest way for us to resynthesize that energy? And be in a position to be
able to again execute these two or 3% margins that are
gonna give us this edge? For me I felt lik it kept taking me to mitochondrial density. It kept taking me to
these metabolic processes of producing more energy. And can we increase aerobic capacity? Can we increase the rate of
creatine phosphate resynthesis? Can we have glycogen sparing? Can we have all of these
things that we know are gonna separate us from
the rest of the league? And where we settled, through consultation and many hours of work with
Dr. Volek and his team, was we felt like we needed to incorporate a low carbohydrate, high
fat diet with this team and so that’s what we embarked to do. The way we initially set it… I wanted to split the methods up between pre-season and in season because there’s cultural influences that I need to make sure that
I satisfy with this team. There’s individual
superstitions that players have, there’s the individual experiences that they have become accustomed
to that they cling to. They anchor to certain
things that they say this is what I need to do to be successful and how do I avoid breaking
that trust between me and them? And the first thing is I said,
the one thing they’re used to is that on pre-season, they
know they have no control. They know in pre-season it’s all us. Right? And I have a six week pre-season, and that was a perfect time frame for me. And in my discussions
with Jeff, he agreed. And from this standpoint, we
had total caloric control. If I have that in my locker, then I feel like I’m in a good place. And where we ended up,
we ended up looking at in terms of carbohydrate loading itself, we wanted to stay somewhere
between 40 and 80 grams of carbohydrates a day. And that was depending on how we were matching these things
up to the training load in and of itself, as we
worked our way through. We planned and incorporated
specific periods where we were doing
stationary bike sessions that were completely glycogen depleted. We wanted to make sure
that we were able to bring in extra training sessions unloaded in terms of joint loading, so that we weren’t
putting players at risk, but we knew we were making
metabolic differences. So we incorporated these
planned bike sessions under glycogen depletion. Then the main thing that we
wanted to do with the players was just educate, educate, educate. And for us, we had to start with wellness and lifestyle first, not performance when we’re discussing
it with these players, because in general, what I felt was gonna make it stick long-term
and make it sustainable, was them to understand
that we’re trying to take them in a direction, not only for their own performance now, but just for their own longevity. And I will say this as a caveat, one of the greatest consequences
of us starting this program is several of our coaching
staff, including our head coach has adopted low
carbohydrate, high fat diets into their lives, into
their families’ lives. The players themselves
have incorporated this, not only in their own
lives, but convincing their fathers and mothers
to do the same thing. So I feel like what we’ve done from an educational standpoint, might be the most rewarding
thing we’ve done so far, in terms of being able to
at least give information, that we know ethically, we’re making a difference
in these guys’ lives. And just as Dr. Noakes said
he was probably the cause of his own type 2 diabetes, I was afraid I was
actually driving diabetes as a strength coach, as a fitness coach with the dietary advice
I was giving to players before I had switched
my own thought paradigm. So at this point, it was
now about convincing them that this is what we need to do. And in order to do that,
my advice is always do it with enthusiasm. Our first words were to them, guys out of all the changes we’ve made, this is the one we’re most excited about. And together as a coaching staff, that’s what we put
forward in front of them. Right, the excitement, the enthusiasm. Then we all did it together. The staff did it together. The players did it together. It’s six weeks of all of us
doing this at the same time. And that’s how we kicked this off. And that was in 2015, pre-season of 2015. And we haven’t looked back since. But in general, it’s very, very important in my opinion, that it’s
the whole entire group players and staff doing it together. And so these are some of
the targets that we looked at once we got in season. We wanted to make sure that, within the context of
knowing what the sport is, that we weren’t moving
too forward too quickly. So this is where we started. And 60% of all of our
calories were coming from fat as we really started to get information back from the players, in
terms of how we were doing, how we were educating, and how they were implementing it at home. We started to make sure that
as part of this whole process we were monitoring them correctly too. If we’re gonna introduce a new diet, somewhat controversial,
we wanted to make sure that we were collecting cholesterol levels that we were monitoring them correctly and Jeff’s advice to do NMR was fantastic because it provided us so much feedback. Just as a caveat, the
results that we got back from the NMR tests were fantastic. And across the board, it
matched up very, very nicely to the faster study. To be fair, we had about 80% of the group where their lipid levels were
completely normal anyway. There was no cholesterol issues at all, despite the changes in macronutrients. But that 15 to 20% of
the rest of the group, matched up to the faster
study very nicely, high elevated LDL total particle counts. But when you looked at the make-up of LDL, there was a very low amount
of small LDL particles, there was a large amount
of large LDL particles most like Dr. Krauss was
talking about yesterday in his presentation. And then the average
particle size was very large. But the biggest thing we
saw was an amazing change in their insulin resistance. Fantastic, fantastic numbers as far as their insulin
resistance was concerned. And then there was a pocket, small, maybe one to two players a year where we had some things
that didn’t look right. Where triglycerides
were high, HDL was low, despite being fairly confident
that they were compliant. And through different work
and some different suggestions we looked at A and B in ratios and if you ask me why the
only thing I can tell you is Jeff told me so, so that’s why we did it. I still don’t know what they are but that’s not my responsibility, Jay our team dietician,
Jeff and our physicians do a great job of making sure that all these numbers work in a way where we know our players our safe and that’s the most
important thing for us. So then, this is the
part I usually start with because this is the first
time I’ve been in a crowd where you guys are actually gonna support the things I’m saying. (audience laughs) So usually when I’m in
different circumstances I start with the stats
cause it makes it a little more difficult for them to argue with me. Just so you guys know, don’t be nervous. The stats are good, just so you know. You look nervous. The first thing I’ll start
with team compliance. So in 2017 we wanted to see whether we were actually fat adapted, I understand this is two years later. We were pretty confident but
we wanted some hard evidence, so 93% of our players were compliance with all the meals we provided for them at the training ground which is breakfast, lunch, snacks, any time in that period between breakfast and when they leave. We feel about 2/3 of their diet was provided by us. 80% of them are compliant at home when they’re cooking their
meals for themselves. I’ll go deeper into this in a second and then 88% were compliant when you combined eating out, eating at home, so on and so forth. So the nice thing is that 80% when we dug a little bit deeper are players that pretty much constitute about 98% of our match minutes. That was very very good for us. So we knew that the majority of the guys that were playing for us were fat adapted. Now at that point I also said well let’s say that wasn’t the case. If you told me that I
was able to implement this diet and that nine of the 11 players on the field every
Saturday were fat adapted I would have been happy. I would have been quite happy. So we were excited about that but we said that’s not good enough. So we’ve done things,
we’ve incorporated new bits of resources into our program. You guys have met the Pangea guys outside and we’re paying for their service now for the guys to have ready made meals that we know that we’re
not gonna have to worry about the carbohydrate content of the meals that they’re eating. Whether it’s snacks,
whether it’s full dinners, we feel like we’re
complimenting this well. And we’re getting ready
to do the survey again to see where we’re at
and so that’s something we’re really excited about. But now this is where the
proof was in the pudding. So in 2014 that was the year before we implemented the diet, I was here for about the last two months of that particular year. And I was just there to observe how the program was being run and how we were looking physically. So if you look at this top section just in total distance covered, 111.6 km together as a team in
a 90-minute match is not bad. That’s not counting the goalkeeper. Peter’s probably looking at this and thinking it’s not very good because most stats include the goalkeeper. We chose not to include the goalkeeper, we wanted to just look at field players. And 111.6 is actually very good and again, we’re trying
to work in the margins and we knew it was gonna be difficult to make big differences but as we move through the years all we saw was consistent increases in the amount of distances
that we’re covering per year. And so far this year we’re 3/4
of the way through the year and it’s by far the most amazing year we’ve had in terms of distances covered. Not just when you’re looking
at total distance covered but when you’re just looking
at high-speed distance covered over 90 minutes by the entire team. Again, we’re seeing year by year, we’re seeing progressive changes in how well the team
is doing on the field. Now these are averages, all right? This was averages for the entire year. You have your ups and
downs based on seasons, the summer months are very very difficult for all teams in MLS but in this particular case when we’re starting to
get to this 2018 season I think we’re starting to see the benefits of a culture that we’ve
been able to put in place. And at this point it’s nice to see that the players actually
police the culture themselves. I think that the stats are showing that we’re doing some
things in a very good way. Not just with diet, also
with our training regimen. This wouldn’t be possible if
we weren’t being fueled well so we’re really happy about that. 2018 has seen the highest distance covered that we’ve ever covered as a team. Again, this is not counting goal keepers and the best we have
done so far is 121 km. I’ve seen teams including the goalkeeper that get no where close to
121 km in a single game. 16 km of high speed running is fantastic and I see Peter shaking his head there. We really feel like this is the stat that surprised us the most. We been told that you
can’t produce power on fat, that it’s the biggest drawback of trying to incorporate this diet into a soccer organization is that you can’t produce speed and we’re not seeing that at all, we’re not seeing that at all. The players are actually preferring to consume less and less
carbohydrates even on match days. That’s the feedback that I’m getting from them anecdotally. As we start to talk about recovery which we’ll talk about
here in a second briefly again, they continue to have
better and better scores from their recovery standpoint as they decrease their
daily carbohydrate intake. I think the superstition surrounding it for most of the players
that started in 2015 is dying down It’s evidenced by, we’ve
got a handful of guys that in some of the
periodic ketone testing that we do are in and out of ketosis throughout these restrictive
periods in the week and that’s, that wasn’t even our goal. My goal in incorporating this diet was not to be in ketosis with every player was to have fat adapted players, that was the most important part of it. Because the players feel so good and they want to decrease their daily carbohydrate calories on their own. We’re starting to see this fluctuation in and out of ketosis. From an injury record we’re
having one of our best years that we’ve ever had in
terms of games missed due to injuries. The overall results that
we’ve seen collectively from on field work, from our injury record has told us that we’re in a good place and diet is a big part of it. 2015 was the last year that the league allowed us to have data on every team. So I wish I had this
data for years after 2015 but this is the first year
we incorporated the diet and when we’re compared to other teams across the league when it comes
to total distance covered, high speed running, we were clearly producing more distance. This is what, this was the goal. The goal was to try to be as
fit as we could possibly be, work in these margins and
make a real difference. And I think these results year after year is what keeps the culture going. So we were really happy with the results we saw when we were compared
to the rest of the league. Here’re some individual stats. I wanted to be able to
include this player’s name because he’s an incredible guy, but to understand the
progress this guy’s made has been fantastic. As players get older they have a stigma that they can’t do as much. And our goal with this individual was to change his physiology, change his mindset, and
I think together the two have been fantastic. And as he’s gotten older he’s been able to maintain such a high level
of work rate on the field. His diet’s been a big part of that. 2018 so far in terms of statistics, he spend a little bit of time, he had an unfortunate collision that had kept him out of a large majority of games this year. But overall when he’s
fit, when he’s playing and he’s in a rhythm, he doesn’t look like a 33 year old player,
we know that for sure. So here’s some individual stats that have supported what we’re doing. And then the only real recovery statistic that I can give you is that we take perceived rates of
soreness on the players, just subjectively everyday. But I just took this particular data from the very first
training day after a match. Normally Sundays we’re
off, we play Saturdays, Sundays we’re off and Monday’s usually the first day of training. So I like to, I just said anecdotally, I want to take a look at what are their perceived rates of
soreness from one year to the next on this particular day. This one day, their first day back to training after games are finished and progressively, they’re just continuing to give us lower and lower scores in terms of the soreness they feel the first day they come back to training. And again, this was one of the biggest things I read from the work, in the research up to this point, was that there’s this huge evidence of decreases in inflammatory markers and evidence that as we take these large carbohydrate molecules, these substances that are causing such chronic inflammation
throughout the body. It really puts us in a position to be able to do more work,
to be able to recover faster, and continue to perform at an elite level. We have no reason to
believe that’s not the case based on what we’re seeing. These are some testimonials and I wanna try to take testimonials from a wide array of people that are on our roster. The first player’s an American player that’s been with us for four years. He’s been in the program
for a very, very long time. He’s one of those players
that we talked about, that’s in and out of ketosis and just as an anecdote, this player is somewhere around 70 to
80 grams of carbohydrates on the day of the game. That’s where he prefers
to be which is much different than the 400 grams we were suggesting
conventionally a few years ago. He says “I will never go back
to eating the way I used to.” He said that’s the only
quote you need from me Steve, so I left it alone. Player B is the same
player that I showed you the statistics of. He says “I am an older player now, my joints do not have
the soreness as much, I feel my recovery is much better. I wish I knew this when I was younger.” So he’s a South American player. And then the last
player, he’s a new player to our system, just joined us this year. And he said, “I had never
heard of eating this way. I just feel better I can’t tell you why.” Again, it’s the reasons
why our culture continues. I think that the players themselves are able to incorporate
new players quite well. Cause this is a very, very difficult part of becoming a new player with us. The diet is very
different and they’ve done a great job of helping
these new players acclimate to the team and to the rest of the group. And that’s it from me, guys. The one thing I want to end with is just make sure I thank Dr. Volek for the work that he’s
done in consulting with me. Our very first conversation
came at the end of 2014 and I would not have implemented this diet as quickly as I did if I didn’t know that I
had him in my backyard. So I’m very thankful to you, I’m thankful to Teryn Sapper who early on, Teryn did all of our
menus, thousands of menus, over and over and over again and they’ve been valuable resources. And then I just figured, I just need to take one
of his staff members. So we did that, I just poached one of his staff members Jay Shore. Jay are you in the room? There he is in the back
and Jay’s been with us for almost two years now. The three of you guys together have been an incredible asset to us. As far as this aspect of our performance platform is concerned, they deserve a tremendous
amount of credit. So that being said, I’d like to introduce Dr. Peter Bruckner who, this is actually nice to
be on the same sideline as you Peter. In Liverpool we actually spent many years on the opposing sidelines, him on the dreaded red side
and my on the holy blue side and I followed his work from afar since we’ve been apart and it’s a pleasure to
be up here with you. Dr. Peter Bruckner, guys… (audience applause)

4 thoughts on “Steve Tashjian – Low Carb High Fat in Soccer: A Carbohydrate Periodization Model

  1. When this all gets shook out they'll find that when your truly fat adapted not just showing ketones that they will be preferred over carbs and produce superior results

  2. I believe everything that was said here as it makes nothing but sense. However, I have no doubt that this diet requires a non traditional approach to fitness. That is strength & conditioning training is likely to be done in different ways to adapt to this diet. These are details I feel are important to know, because THAT is why this worked so well!

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