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Keeping race fit for British Sailing's first Rio test

Paul Mullan
Article written by Paul Mullan

Date published 18 July 2019

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Find out how the British Sailing Team prepared for a test event in Rio prior to their successful 2016 Summer Olympics campaign.

A squad of 30 British sailors - the maximum of two entries in each of the ten Olympic classes - took to the waters of Guanabara Bay as part of the 324-sailor, 34-nation entry. The organisers used the event to trial some of the workforce, equipment, race areas and systems ahead of the Olympic regatta. The British Sailing Team, along with their international rivals, used the event as a vital opportunity to learn about the venue and weather conditions, and what the key ingredients would be towards medal success on Brazilian waters.

The team partnered with Healthspan Elite in the build-up to the event to access nutritional supplements to aid the sailors' physical preparation and wellness as they prepared for competition at the South American venue.

Before the event, the British Sailing Team's Head of Sports Science and Medicine, Paul Mullan, explained the merits of this nutritional support.

"Due to the World Championships falling in just a few weeks' time, our guys have come out to Rio in a higher state of training that we wouldn't normally see running into a major event. As such it's likely that their immune systems are going to be more suppressed. Some of the practices that we employ to help with that include nutritional supplementation for a minimum of two weeks leading into a period where we're trying to sharpen immune systems.

"We've teamed up with Healthspan Elite and use their supplements to aid this - High Strength Probiotic, their Gold A-Z MultiVitamin and High Strength Omega 3 - all of them are batch tested, so they're absolutely perfect for our guys."

"This is one of many practices we employ with the aim of supporting the immune system. Probiotics have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of upper respiratory tract infections in the research trials. In our practical experience we feel that it helps to support immune function through maintaining good gut health particularly during periods of stress and vulnerability. The gut plays an important role in immune function so keeping it healthy can help to prevent you getting ill especially when faced with germs and bacteria you might experience in foreign countries that you wouldn't normally experience in the UK."

Mullan continued: "The MultiVitamin is something we always supplement during heavy training periods to ensure the body has everything it needs to repair and adapt. I particularly like the Healthspan Elite Gold A-Z MultiVitamin as it provides 100% of your recommended daily allowance, no more no less. A lot of off-the-shelf vitamins you can get super high dosages of certain vitamins which can actually have the reverse effects on immune function if used for too long a period.

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"Omega 3 Fish oils have been shown to have so many different effects from promoting adaptation, preventing muscle breakdown, supporting cognitive function and supporting immune function, so it's a great all round supplement to have."

In spite of widespread media reports about poor water quality at the 2016 venue, Mullan insisted that the team was not unduly concerned from a health perspective.

"I don't think we are at a significantly greater risk of picking up illnesses out here in Rio. There's a lot of hype about the water here - I can say we've never experienced anything from an illness perspective that you can put down to the water quality, and even someone told us what the water quality level was, we wouldn't be doing anything different - we are already covering all bases, just as with every event we go to. There are times even in the UK that the water quality can be less than ideal in certain areas."

"That's something that's beyond our control - what is in our control is how we go about preparing ourselves. The reality is that we don't prepare the sailors any differently out here than we do in Europe or the UK. It's about common sense, making sure that you're not eating your food with dirty hands for example, but that's the same wherever you are."

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Paul Mullan

About Paul Mullan

Paul Mullan left his role as Head of Sports Science and Medicine at British Sailing to become Head of Performance Support Team at British Cycling.