Athlete Katie Mark recently earned her MS in Nutrition Communication and is currently working on her Masters in Public Health at Tufts University School of Medicine. Following Tufts, Katie plans on a dietetic internship to pursue her dream of becoming a registered dietitian with a focus on sports nutrition. The competitive road cyclist, tennis player, HIIT, boxing buff and longtime cramper shares her insight on endurance sports, fueling the burn and HOTSHOT’s impact on her recent Pan Mass Challenge success.
You’ve always been plagued with muscle cramps. How did you handle them in the past?
During my tennis career about five years ago in the Florida heat and humidity, I would get cramps in my calf muscles near the end of a long match, and sometimes after we were done. If I cramped during a match or even post-match, I would sometimes have to default my next match because I couldn’t play. I didn’t know much about nutrition back then so I didn’t recognize the importance of electrolyte replacement. I would drink Gatorade. But that didn’t stop the cramp.
When I started taking road cycling seriously two years ago, I had issues with calf cramping near the end of long rides. At this point, I was already studying nutrition for a few years and knew how to figure out my own hydration and electrolyte replacement protocol. Since then, I haven’t had any muscle cramps, but I have experienced some muscle twitching near the end of some long rides, especially if it’s really hot and humid.
How has HOTSHOT impacted your cycling performance?
As an endurance athlete, my cycling is mainly long-distance. With my nutrition background, I understand that optimal performance starts with the right preparation. I know my body’s tendencies so my main focus is hydration/electrolyte replacement for all rides, especially rides where I’m spending at least four hours on the bike. My personal hydration and electrolyte protocol has worked for a long time, but I know the potential for a muscle cramp can always happen for me given my history. And depending on the length and intensity of the ride, I know when I’m really pushing my body, which can lead to cramps. I’ve used HOTSHOT as a preventative tool (e.g., taking HOTSHOT if muscle twitching is occurring near the end of a long, intense ride), and it has worked so far.
You recently completed your MS in Nutrition Communications and are graduating with your MPH degree this December. With this background, can you talk about your view on HOTSHOT?
I heard about HOTSHOT a few months ago from my colleague Carl Valle – a renowned, top sports science expert. I read the Neuro Muscular Performance™ theory behind HOTSHOT and the studies conducted using the product. It all intrigued me because I studied neuroscience for three years when I was conducting research on neuromodulation in a crab. My research used electrophysiological techniques and anatomical techniques to address how the nervous system integrates information from the internal and external environment and responds at the level of single neurons, neural circuits and muscle activity patterns. I understand how neural circuits can change their output as a result to changes in the internal (e.g., stress) and external environment. These changes in the circuit output can come from input from the central nervous system, which leads to inputs converging onto descending modulatory projection neurons. From there, it can assimilate the information and change the activity of individual neurons and the strength of connections between circuit neurons.
With this knowledge, and the fact that electrolyte replacement sometimes doesn’t prevent cramps during my most exhaustive endurance events, the HOTSHOT hypothesis made sense to me so I wanted to try it! Ultimately, HOTSHOT is NSF Certified and taking it doesn’t hurt me so why not incorporate it into my nutrition preparation?
Can you describe your experience at the Pan Mass Challenge?
I ride for my family bike store, Mack Cycle, a Top 100 Bike Store in the USA and #1 in Miami. Mary Jane Mark (my aunt) is very well known in the cycling industry, and she along with Mack Cycle have been my biggest supporters! At the PMC, I was part of an incredibly accomplished team: Team Path to the Cure, which has raised over $1 million for pediatric oncology/hematology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. At mile 70 on day one, my body was really feeling it after just completing about 4,000 feet of climbing (I’m used to the flats of Florida!) and averaging 20 MPH. Riding at a high intensity for so long by myself (no drafting!) was probably why my calf muscles and quads started twitching a little at the third rest stop. So with 40 miles left, I thought it would be a good time to try HOTSHOT. I didn’t get any muscle cramps!
You used HOTSHOT on day two of the PMC as a preventative measure. How was it?
On day two, I rode the first 60 miles with three really fast guys. I was feeling the effects from the day before and riding on poor quality sleep so I was really putting my body through a lot while averaging 19.5 MPH with the guys. I waited at the last rest stop to finish the PMC with the rest of my team. Since I know my body doesn’t like to stop and rest for a long period of time during an endurance event - and I knew it would be awhile to assemble a group of 20 riders – I took HOTSHOT as a preventative measure because I didn’t want any problems during the last 20 miles.
As an athlete and future RD, can you share some of your nutrition philosophy with us?
My main nutrition philosophy is sports nutrition is highly personalized. I view sports nutrition as an art and a science. Athletes will respond to nutritional approaches differently. It requires attention to detail and always asking “why?” in order to carry out a systematic and logical approach to discover which foods, nutrient intakes and nutritional approaches will best fuel and strengthen an athlete, as well as help them recover. It requires knowledge of the evidence-based science and ability to apply it to help an athlete perform optimally. As a “nutrition coach,” you have to be able to explain to the athlete the importance of their personalized nutrition as simply or as complicated as the athlete can understand and be able to motivate them!
Katie’s Top 5 rules for nutrition while heavily training:
- Fuel for the work intended – nutrition periodization that depends on training periodization.
- Focus on foods with high nutrient density – your tank performs best on premium fuel.
- Optimal performance begins with the right preparation – you can’t perform well for what you didn’t prepare well.
- Think big picture – foods that are "acceptable" for an athlete (compared to the general public) to consume for optimal performance or following an intense/prolonged training may not be appropriate for optimal long-term health.
- Test don’t guess – whether it’s your blood for nutrient deficiencies, a new dietary approach, a functional food that helps sport performance or an accepted ergogenic aid, make sure it actually works for you.
MORE ON THE HOTSHOT BLOG
Tennis and Muscle Cramping: Tips for tennis players fighting cramps.
Carbs and Protein: 7 tips for proper intake for optimal fuel.
The Nerve is the Boss of the Muscle: Take control with HOTSHOT. Here’s how.