Training Adaptations with INEOS TEAM UK

The lockdown period has thrown many people’s training regimes into disarray. Those who would regularly go to the gym, for example, are no longer able to do so. When confined to home, the type, amount, and intensity of training we can do can be drastically different to normal.

That is where training adaptations come in. In the latest part of this series looking at how INEOS TEAM UK, Team INEOS and Science in Sport are keeping our athletes fit during the lockdown period we have spoken to our Head of Human Performance Ben Williams on what exactly training adaptations are, how the sailors are following them and how they can apply to everyone’s training regimes.

Hi Ben, thanks for joining us again. Firstly, what exactly are ‘training adaptations’?

Ben Williams: Training adaptations are what happens to the body as a result of participating in activity that challenges and overloads our systems. Commonly known as “gains” in gyms around the world.

Essentially, we do something the body isn’t ready for and then we keep doing it until the body adapts to cope with demands. Some call it the SAID principal which means “specific adaptation for imposed demand”.

INEOS TEAM UK Grinder Nick Hutton in training

Most training adaptations are centred around manipulating carbohydrate availability – why is that?

There are many ways to adapt when it comes to exercise. For example, how strong we are, how big our muscles are, how much air we can take in and use through our lungs, how efficiently that oxygen is distributed around the body and then, as you say, what fuel we adapt to using most efficiently. For any workload the body will use its available energy systems.

For endurance work the body will predominantly use a mixture of Fats and Carbohydrates as fuel. When we do long slow intensity training we are trying to adapt the body to become more efficient at using Fats as an energy source. If we increase intensity, however, we may be looking to train our athletes to be more efficient using carbohydrate substrates for example.

Ben Ainslie in action during Sydney SailGP, Event 1 Season 2 in Sydney Harbour
Lloyd Images/SailGP

What are some of the ways in which we can manipulate our nutrition to help stimulate training adaptations?

We will manipulate certain fuels in training to overload a stimulus and demand that the body adapts to this stimulus, in turn becoming more efficient. An example of this may be carbohydrate fasted long slow intensity training. If we reduce the available carbohydrate the body has to use and exercise at sub maximal workloads, where fats are used to create energy, you are leaving the body little choice but to turn to this energy source. Do this consistently enough and the body will adapt to become more efficient at using this system.

At the other end of the scale are intense workloads where the body uses predominantly carbohydrates for fuel which is limited in availability once you start using it. We need to fuel these training sessions with carbs to ensure clean workloads are completed at the desired outputs.

For example, if you have 30 minutes of threshold work planned but you only complete 15 and then “hit the wall” you have likely under fuelled and lost 50% of your planned exposure to a stimulus because you ran out of fuel.

INEOS TEAM UK Grinder Nick Hutton in training

If you fuel properly and consistently complete set workloads, however, you will ask your body to become more efficient at using the carbs you have made available to it, in turn making you better and more capable of completing the desired power or speed.

By fuelling we have enabled time and exposure to workloads you may not be able to sustain otherwise.

For our team – how do the training adaptations differ between a sailing and a non-sailing period?

For us we see sailing as a time where we develop the boat and its technologies and non-sailing as a period where we develop the athletes. Sailing usually means long days on the water providing whatever power is required for that testing. For this we tend to fuel our sailors so that they always feel they have fuel available. We tend not to manipulate substrates when it’s the boat that is the priority.

However, on land when we are not sailing we need to be smart and time efficient in how we develop our sailors. If we can give someone 10 hours of fasted aerobic work for the same adaptation as 20 hours of fuelled work load then that’s when manipulation of fuel to optimise training load comes into its own.

AC75 'Britannia' shown here in action during winter base camp in Cagliari, Italy Feb 2020
© Lloyd Images / Mark Lloyd

Then, as we have noted in previous articles once you complete the training with the correct fuels to target specific adaptations you then need to rest to harvest the overloaded stimulus.

Consistency in training, smart fuelling choices to optimise the body’s need to make a change and periodised recovery periods are our key foundations to training our athletes.

The INEOS TEAM UK squad is fuelled by Science in Sport's newly launched Performance Solutions programme, a ground-breaking sports research and nutrition service designed to elevate elite teams and athletes to the next level of performance. Read more here