I’ve been fortunate to work with someone new on my personal nutrition program. I have been working on cleaning up my diet but found I was getting ‘stuck’ not able to lose body fat and wasn’t feeling super great during my workouts. After spending 30 minutes on the phone with “Mr. Fix It” I was convinced that if working with him didn’t work, nothing would.
Breakthrough Nutrition is the company, Clif Duhon is the man. That sounds so dramatic but my experience has been so dramatic it is totally fitting!
My experience has been nothing short of life changing and the strange thing is, I am not really sure what made things click. Breakthrough Nutrition focuses on providing the athlete with information on how to make the best food choice based on macro and micro nutrient profile. If you are recovering from a workout your food choices are different than if you’re fueling FOR a workout. If you’re eating later at night, what do you need to manage insulin/blood sugar response from your food. The other thing I loved was that the big questions about ‘supplementation’ and vitamins were answered.
The plan worked like this…I did step 1 which was read “the Bible” (what I call the handbook/nutrition info) emailed to me. Step 2 was write down everything I ate, what supplements I took (which ended up being BCAAs, Tyrosine, ALA, and ZMA), when I exercised and what I drank. Step 3 was to email it all to the big man and see how you did. It was almost like a test each day. Sure writing down food will always help people make better choices, but what I think absolutely changed my perspective on food was the feedback that I got. Everyday I’d get an email back from Clif with different notes on why my choices were good or what I could do better next time. Eventually after 3 weeks you’ve re-taught yourself how to fuel…and they also let you go like a little birdy to do it all on your own!
Since I started working with Breakthrough Nutrition I’ve lost several pounds (which I hadn’t been able to do on my own in months), have more energy during my workouts, and have been referring my athletes left and right to them.
Clif was kind enough to answer some questions I had for him in hopes that you all get a little bit of ‘free advice’ and get a taste of his personality and what he has to offer. I highly recommend Breakthrough Nutrition to anyone looking to up their game in whatever sport you choose.
BASE: What is your coaching, fitness, nutrition background and why should we listen to you?
CLIF: I got involved in fitness and nutrition in the mid 90’s when I started college. I also began reading everything I could get my hands on outside of class, and started experimenting on myself with different strategies and ideas. I quickly learned there was a growing gap between textual knowledge within college nutrition programs and real world application. This led to me quitting school to further my education on my own. After a few years of self-education and trying out tons of different things on friends, I started coaching athletes. I began doing strength and conditioning for minor league athletes in explosive sports like hockey and baseball. I also started working with people in body transformation space. This was a time when programs like Body-For-Life were just getting started and very popular. After five plus years with a focus on strength and conditioning, I made the switch to multi-sport after I had some personal success in the sport. I tried to pull from my knowledge in strength and conditioning and nutrition and apply that to endurance sports.
BASE: Tell us a short history of Breakthrough Nutrition and Breakthrough Endurance
CLIF: To be honest, I’m still not sure how Breakthrough Nutrition got started. My girlfriend and I moved to Hawaii in 2012 to escape the hustle and bustle of the northeast. Our plan was to move there and enjoy a more relaxed and simpler life. I needed some way to make a living and I thought since I had been coaching athletes part time for a long time, I might as well start doing it full time. The idea of nutritional coaching and nutritional products under one roof for athletes was not our original idea, but we thought we could place our own spin on it and do it a bit differently. Our original plan was to service the main islands of Hawaii and live in paradise, but things didn’t really workout out that way. The business started taking off on the mainland and we were forced with a decision: do we refocus our efforts on Hawaii, or follow the business back to the mainland. We chose to follow the business. We don’t regret that decision, but we sure do miss Hawaii.
BASE: In working with you for this short period of time I have noticed an attention to detail and a level of feedback that is exceptional. In the world of coaching, feedback and the coach-athlete relationship is critical. What do you think the most challenging thing is when it comes to helping someone with their nutrition?
CLIF: I think the most challenging obstacle is one that all coaches face; it’s the inability to control someone’s commitment. As athletes, we all like to do the big things correctly like ride our bike, run or swim, but it’s the small things that are the hardest for us to commit to. I think people fear change, especially when it impacts them on such a primal level like eating. We’ve gotten pretty good at identifying those athletes and try and nurture them along as much as possible, but at the end of the day, they are the ones that need that desire to change. That’s something that no one can give.
BASE: What is your target market?
CLIF: Our target market is anyone who is looking to better themselves through nutrition. Our main focus is endurance athletes, but we are open to working with anyone who wants to better themselves through nutrition. We really try and approach our program from a lifestyle change. We want to teach people how to implement a nutrition program that will benefit them for their entire life.
BASE: What is the big deal with supplementation? Will a daily vitamin do anything significant for an athlete? What are some of the most important supplements you recommend and why (I have the stuff in the packet just want to hear a personal take on it)
CLIF: Supplementation is a touchy within both the sports and medical community. Any time you have a multi-billion dollar industry, there is going to be some shady practices.
In terms of something like a multi-vitamin, the unfortunate thing is, it isn’t absorbed well by our body. We would get more benefit from a well-balanced and nutrient rich diet. On the flip side, there is a lot of scientific literature that shows proper supplementation with can have tremendous benefits on performance and overall health. What’s important to understand is that we need to match our supplementation up with our specific goals and needs. Someone who is under a lot of stress like an athlete training for an Ironman race is going to have different nutritional needs than a sedentary individual. With all of the added stress of training, even a well-balanced and nutrient dense diet we can fall short. This is when supplementation can be beneficial. Our approach is to look at each individual athlete’s specific needs and address whether supplementation can be beneficial to them. There are a couple of things I think are beneficial to all athletes like a high quality protein powder and an omega-3 supplement high in DHA and ALA.
Aside from that, there is a lot of great research on the drug-like benefits of amino acids that can be very beneficial to athletes. I’m a huge proponent of our multi-sport athletes taking a branch chain amino acid supplement, especially our vegetarian athletes. This can help ensure our intracellular leucine concentrations are full. Most endurance athletes have less than optimal amounts of this amino acid stored in their cells which can affect performance and recovery.
I’m also a big fan of ZMA, which is a combination of Zinc and Magnesium. It was touted as a testosterone booster, but more importantly, it has been shown to help increase sleep. This can be attributed to magnesium being a natural muscle relaxer. I know I certain sleep better when I take it.
BASE: In the sport nutrition market you hear tons of ‘science’ that isn’t really science. It is usually a spin on small ‘studies’ with very small sample sizes then marketed like crazy in magazines, blogs, and at races. What is one of the biggest ‘mistruths’ you’ve heard that you wish would just go away.
CLIF: Oh man…this goes along with the previous question and it is one of my biggest frustrations within the industry. I call this marketing science and it has a habit of running rampant in the industry. It really is unfortunate that companies will take legitimate studies on a specific substance and manipulate that for their bottom line. I remember seeing an ad about a product that touted to raise levels of EPO within the body. One of the ingredients on the list had legitimate research showing it actually worked. The amount of the ingredient tested was 8 grams, but the amount in the product was about 1 gram. Then they add a host of other ingredients to the product so the consumer feels like they are getting a bargain with the product. We’ve actually conducted real world experiments using the active ingredient at the recommended doses and have had great results with our athletes.
I will have to say what irks me the most is the chocolate milk campaign. They spent over $24mm last year to convince everyone that chocolate milk is the perfect recovery food. Now, I’m not saying it does not help replenish lost glycogen, because it does, but it falls way short when looking at what constitutes as the perfect recovery food. Again, it is adequate but not optimal.
BASE: Why do you do what you do?
CLIF: The thing I love most about endurance sports is it provides a way for us to test the human spirit. To me, there is nothing better than accompanying an athlete on their journey and watching them reach or exceed their goals. As a coach, I get emotionally invested in each athlete and I get to share in their triumphs without the physical pain of racing. 😉
BASE: Free Association – what is the first thing that comes to your head when you see these words
Sour patch kids
Squash, as in with a newspaper.
BASE: If our readers can take one thing away from this article what would you hope they learn?
CLIF: There is no quick fix or cookie cutter answer when it comes to nutrition. We need to educate ourselves and be willing to experiment a bit when it comes to finding what is the most optimal for us.