ROARing Over This Book?

As a nutrition professional, it is important for me to stay in touch with current publications and trendy advice. Staying up to date requires more than just doing continuing education and reading scientific journals; it means seeing what others are posting about, suggesting, and interested in. I kept seeing friends, clients, and my ‘audience’ (is that a better word than ‘followers’? whatever, love you guys!) post about the book ROAR. When I see a large amount of focus on something, I want in (now I’m the follower?)!! So, I went out and bought a copy to read and see what all the hype was about.

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In short, this book offers some solid advice when it comes to suggested moves, hydration, and women’s cycles.  If you are in need of information on those topics, definitely read ROAR as Sims is an expert in hydration & women’s biologically differences/cycles.  If you are interested in optimizing performance with well fueled workouts…. Well, you can still read this book… but it is my expert opinion that it falls very short on this topic.

First, let’s remember that just because it is written, does not make it truth!!!  I think many of us forget that. This book is written largely in opinion, not fact when it comes to fueling performance. You can see that by the lack of referenced facts and the frequent use of statements like ‘I think’ when giving recommendations.

Before I dive into details & specifics, I’d like to clarify my main areas of concern with the fueling advice given in this book. The advice is to under fuel workouts and err on the side of lower intake, especially carbohydrate intake. I think this is troubling advice to give, especially to female athletes who are already very concerned with weight and under eating is a common nutrition issue.  Also, the author is very inconsistent about what is written and how that is translated into specific advice. I’ll point out a few specifics, but overall, this makes the information very confusing. The BIGGEST concern is that the vibe I took away from reading this is ‘here is how to get by/ get through your training with food’… Let me explain, fueling your workout is not about ‘getting by’ or ‘just get through it’, it is about eating in a way that supports gains in your performance; eating to perform your best!

Here is a brief summary of the points I want to highlight & share my thoughts on. Part of being an expert in a field is reading what others put out and challenging yourself to say 'is this legit'? It provides a personal refresher and provokes new thoughts. I am not trying to be mean or attack the authors or be of overly critical with this review, however, I do feel a responsibility to say ‘whoa, wait a minute…’ when I see advice I simply do not agree with. 

Specific Points:

  • On page 32, it is advised that you consume carbs at .45g per pound per hour in one phase and .35g/lb/hr in another. For me that looks like 56g carb vs 44g carb. Will 12g carb/hour difference really make a difference in performance? Maybe… (also, remember these carb recs for later on bc there are different numbers advised throughout the read).
  • Pg 81, Eating for your body type. It sounds silly, but this is something I actually agree with. Bodies do fit into categories. You may be able to change your composition, but you can't change your type. Eating for your type will likely benefit you.
  • Pg 164, It is recommended that one who does 2-5 hours /day of training consumes 2-2.7g carb. She is suggesting a difference of 0.7g carb for a difference of 3 hours of training. That is not in line with any other sports nutrition guidelines. See the photos; one being Sim's with info that isn't backed up and then look at Clark's whose is properly referenced. I also included two other photo sources (Olympic Nutrition Positions) and linked them below for reference on this. 

**See Bottom of post for links to resources.

  • Pg 166, The difference between Whey and Soy protein is pointed out and I couldn’t agree more… whey is better! She also mentions here the potential benefits of casein at night for muscle synthesis. I agree with this practice!  On page 170, she suggests a snack with 150 calories (carb + pro) before bed for this to happen, however studies show that up to 40g casein protein might be needed for this to be effective.
  • Pg 168 – Sim’s specifically  acknowledges this athlete’s diet needs more carbohydrate, however, as she goes through the diet recall and makes ‘improvements’ she fails to increase carbohydrate intake, especially pre/during/after the athlete’s training sessions. Instead, she makes suggestions like ‘add fat free greek yogurt to your OJ’ – What? A few tbsp of greek yogurt are not what this athlete needs to boost nutrition quality, and why suggest ‘diet’ style foods!? I think we are past that in the nutrition field.
  • Pg 169, the athlete reports consuming vegetable soup at 5:30pm before an evening training session. The training is not detailed well enough to make specific suggestions, but Sim’s advises to instead consume a whey, water and espresso shake. – WHAT?!  Low calorie, all protein before training? Where’s the carbs to increase available energy? And why, save for serious late day competitions, would you suggest a high dose of caffeine so late in the day when this is known to affect sleep habits and athletes need to promote quality sleep for best performance. Questionable.
  • Pg 170, Sim’s notes recovery should be done within 30 minutes and contain around 20g protein. YES! Totally agree. See, this isn’t all bad!
  • Same page, Sim’s improves the athlete’s dinner by adding carbohydrate (like basmati race). While this isn’t exactly bad, the athlete would benefit much more from adding those carbs before her workout instead of saving them until the end of the day. Athlete’s will do best when they consume carbs surrounding the training and taper to lower carb meals away from sessions.
  • Pg 181, specifically states – Err towards the lesser amount. This is false. Taking in enough carbs and overall fuel takes training. Just like performing well at your sport does. Time, effort, trial, error and lots of fine tuning go into upping your intake enough to truly support training. I see so many athletes who do not eat enough because they are afraid of GI distress and end up bonking and performing poorly. If you are having issues consuming food while training, work with someone to figure out the issue, do not just stop eating!!
  • Pg 181, It is stated that overloading on carbs makes one feel bloated, gassy, and overly full and for those reasons, it is best to consume .9 - 1.6 calories/pound/hr. First, there is a big switch between talking about CARBS and advising CALORIES. They are not the same thing. Also, yes, excessive intake of any kind can make you feel crummy. But saying ‘don’t stuff yourself’ she basically says ‘starve yourself’.   1.3 cal/pound/hr = 162 calories/hr of training for me personally. While cycling, I typically burn 500/hr. I would not suggest replenishing lost calories at a rate of one third. If you’re only doing an hour, okay fine, but if you’re doing HOURS? That really will leave you depleted, especially for day after day of training and under consuming.  Also, 1.6 calories = .4 g/carb (if you got 100% of those 1.6 calories from a carb source) which would be 50g carb for me personally per hour. This is the maximum she recommends which conflicts with another page where she suggests 56g. It also conflicts with the generally accepted sports nutrition advice of 60g/carb/hour and definitely doesn’t align with the fact that most many professionals take in 90g/hour.  
  • Pg 181-182, touches on fructose being a fueling concern. I agree! Most have GI issues when high amounts of fructose are consumed, I suggest avoiding large amount of this sugar. 
  • Pg 185 ‘Put a Rocket in your Pocket’ Sims suggests the recipe ‘Salty Balls’ as a good way to fuel your workout. Look at the image for nutrition breakdown. If you get 10 balls out of this recipe, you only get 19grams of carb/ball.  To reach Sim’s carb guidelines, you’d have to consume 2 balls /hour and to reach my guidelines, you would need to consume 3-4, which would give you enough carbs … but a huge caloric load (just under 800calories!). So which is it sims, carbs or calories? Because again, they are not equal and this ball provides much more fat and protein than an athlete needs during training. Try THIS recipe  for a better fueling bite.
  This macro breakdown is not well suited for during activity. 

This macro breakdown is not well suited for during activity. 

  • Pg 185,  Sim's advises that one get ~10g protein / hr during activity. The issue is she doesn't differentiate between types of activity when it comes to fueling. 10g/hr of protein is suggested for ultra endurance efforts, to limit muscle damage over time and to supply the body with more balanced nutrients & control hunger over such a long (4+ hours) period of time.  This is far from true for those completing an hour of activity or even 2-3 hours. And even further off fact for those doing higher intensity workouts that will benefit more from quick acting carbs. Activities heavy in endurance vs intensity should be fueled differently. Treating these efforts the same nutritionally will not leave you performing your best. 
  • Pg 187, The importance of BCAA are highlighted (this is done elsewhere in the text as well). YES! Active bodies can benefit from BCAA and I highly suggest adding them. However, for endurance athletes, these are mostly beneficial DURING the workout.
  • Pg 188, Coke (flatted) is a popular triathlon fueling method for long distance events. Sim’s points to the caffeine as being problematic and making the athlete need more and more. This is false. It is the immediate boost of simple sugar that creates the need to have it again and again. The closer to a bonk the athlete is, the greater the effect. Once you’re low in sugar and have a high dose that is in such an easily absorbed form, your body wants (NEEDS) more. Avoid this issue by mixing complex and simple sugar sources throughout the workout.
  • Chapter 11 as a whole contains ONE reference. All that ‘information’ is just opinion.
  • Pg 210 -213. The importance of fueling methods during cold temperatures are glossed over. This reflects a complete lack of knowledge about cold weather training. I’ve gone into detail previously in this post, so check that out for more info on how to fuel in the cold. Also, on make 213 specifically it is noted that ‘training or racing outside in cold weather for 2 hours or less doesn’t usually present a problem nutritionally’…. WHAT? Why would it present less of a problem than doing 2 hours in normal temps? This is a very NBD approach to performance nutrition. How can it be true that 12g of carb/hour will make all the performance difference from one phase of your cycle to the next, but during extremely cold temps, nothing matters? Hmmm….
  • On hydration... This is a tricky one. I do 100% trust in Sim's word here because, this is her area! However, I want to note that sometimes what works in the lab and what works in real life are two totally different things. Science can be tricky like that. I used to firmly agree with her that hydration and fueling should be done separate; drink your water/eat your food. Then I started adding calories to my beverage and it was a game changer in races. It helped me. What I'm really saying here, is if something works for you, don't worry about what the rules tell you, just do what is best for your body.

These are just some of the pointers I found good or extremely frustrating given my profession in the field. It might seem ‘nit picky’, but if you’re putting a book out to promote yourself, your product, and your advice, I feel like you should be pretty consistent with the info you give.  I do think everyone should read this book and all the books written on sports nutrition because it is always great to have a bigger knowledge base of a topic you’re interested in. However, keep in mind that just because you read it, it doesn’t make it sound advice and definitely doesn’t mean that it is right for your individual needs.  


Additional Resources: If you want REAL, science backed sports nutrition info...