interview with ineos team uk and ben pink: strength and conditioning coach

February 9, 2021 in International

La Marzocco are proud to continue their partnership with INEOS TEAM UK, ahead of their challenge for the 36th America’s Cup

The partnership forms part of La Marzocco’s campaign to align itself with varying sports disciplines that appreciate the power of coffee, as an enabler of community and culture within the team. La Marzocco’s essential value is committed in building relationships that enrich the lives of others, and this partnership encapsulates this sentiment. 

This weekend (13th February) bares witness to the start of the Prada Cup Final in Auckland, New Zealand. In anticipation of the final, we spoke to Ben Pink, the team’s Strength and Conditioning Coach, about the team’s journey in the run-up to the competition and how coffee has helped the team’s training and performance.

Ben grew up on the Isle of Wight and has a Degree in BSc Strength & Conditioning from the University of South Wales. He joined INEOS TEAM UK as a Strength & Conditioning coach, supporting the sailing and performance team.

Ben is a former extreme sports athlete across both winter and summer board sports; he competed in ski and snowboard Slopestyle and big air competitions in Canada and on the water and was an international Kite Surf and Wakeboard competitor and part of kite & board R&D for Future Kiting. Due to a number of injuries, he stopped competing and used his experience to forge a career working with athletes, coaching with a focus on injury prevention.

How important is the ritual of the morning coffee for INEOS TEAM UK?

Very. It is normally the first thing that the majority do as they walk into the building. It is a great place to discuss developments in performance and also just to generally catch up. It’s a big team and without the coffee area we might not see each other all week!

La Marzocco, official coffee machine supplier to INEOS TEAM UK in their challenge for the 36th America’s Cup.

What kind of role does coffee play when it comes to the team’s performance at Sea/Land?

Coffee as a stimulant plays a large role in both long boat development days as well as intense race days across on water operations. Caffeine can be a hugely beneficial supplement when you understand how to apply it.

From a health point, coffee is naturally high in polyphenols, a compound (specifically flavonoids) that when ingested by humans stimulate favourable changes in the body. In Aidan Goggins’ book (INEOS TEAM UK nutritionist), ‘The Sirtfood Diet’, he mentions the ingestion of polyphenols and how they activate our stress-response pathways – our sirtuin genes that produce cellular resiliency. We know that due to the nature of training and competing being both volume and intensity driven, our population of athlete is at greater risk of free radical production (cellar stress) impacting the immune system. As such, coffee among other sources becomes an easy win for keeping athletes healthy.

For performance coffee certainly plays a key role. Caffeine helps to make fatty acids more readily available from adipose tissue to be potentially used for energy through fat oxidation.

It’s important to note that this is an adaptation that is multifaceted and needs to be targeted over time to be effective and does not necessarily equal fat loss as commonly thought.

When trained, this added availability to mobilise fatty acids into the transport chain for energy can decrease or delay the onset of lactic acid production at certain workloads further increasing efficiency and time to exhaustion during maximal exercise as well as decrease an athlete’s perception of effort.

Are there any myths that could be dispelled?

‘Caffeine is rapidly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and peaks around 45 minutes’

Caffeine has a half-life of between 2-8 hours depending on individual absorption rates and quantity taken. A half-life is the duration of total quantity to reduce by 50%. For example: if you consume 200mg at 1300 for some individuals, you’re essentially having 100mg at 2100 before bed.

Without measuring it’s almost impossible to know how much caffeine is in your coffee, it depends on many variables such as the bean, how it is roasted, how you drink it and serving size. You could multiply the grams of coffee from 0.8-2.2. A good estimate is between 125-142mg per double shot.

Normal circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) wakes us in the morning by elevating a stress hormone called cortisol from the adrenal glands, that peaks 30-45 minutes after waking and naturally drops off every hour until we go to bed. Meanwhile, adenosine, the key mediator to sleep, is at its lowest when we wake and builds every hour until we go to bed. Coffee inhibits this cycle by binding to the adenosine receptors and releasing more cortisol from the adrenals further delaying the sleep cycle.

Do you have any tips to maximise coffee for more sustained focus with less ups and downs?

  • Try maintaining consistent sleep and wake times.
  • When you wake, drink 1L of water. If possible, add a vitamin C tablet with iron & sodium to help absorption and rehydration, supporting the immune system and brain function.
  • Get sun first thing to help the natural hormone production, exercise if possible.
  • Allow the cortisol to peak at 30-45 minutes (naturally stimulating) and after at least an hour look to have your first coffee with some food for a consistent uptake.
  • Aim for intervals of 4-6 hours stopping roughly 8 hours before planned bedtime and within that time swap to a lower caffeine green tea or instant coffee (40-80mg) if needed.
  • Increasing body temperature (tea & warm shower) & reduced blue light will help trigger the onset of sleep hormones.

Are there any major differences between the team’s community and inner culture when located at Portsmouth vs Auckland?

It’s an interesting question and I think you could have a few different answers based on who you ask, their perspective and role within the team. For me, I believe there is a noticeable difference and I think it comes down to three factors. Location, building and time.

We have all moved away from home and people we miss to a location with one purpose, to win the Americas Cup. Intrinsically, that creates a dependence on one another as an extended family and you know everyone is in the same boat.

The building and culture are not often discussed but will have big influence. One thing that is consistent across every base is the coffee machines location. In Auckland, we have one that’s central to every department and being only two stories over four in Portsmouth, it creates a greater frequency to interact with everyone. Those short interactions across departments can often allow for conversations or perspectives so far from our own expertise that it moves us forward our thinking process. A problem can’t always be solved with the same mind that created it.

Time also influences culture in interesting ways. Work will always expand to time allocated to it. As that time has reduced and competition has started the energy and focus across the team has certainly increased.

What is the setup like at the bases?

NZ base is very much a temporary build but still a very good set up with a design office, big shed for the boat and shore team, ready made gym for the sailors, big outside area and dock to launch the boat, canteen to fit 100 people and then finally the ‘Grinder’s Arms’ bar upstairs in the hospitality lounge, which is opened up by one of the grinders Freddie Carr when we have had a good few days of racing.

Two La Marzocco Strada AV’s have travelled out with us to New Zealand and what was great was that as soon as they arrived there was a La Marzocco team on site to fit them and provide all the necessary support to get the team fuelled up. You wouldn’t believe it but the La Marzocco Strada AV’s were one of the first things on the list to get operational when we arrived. The Linea Mini has remained in Camber with the UK team and it’s great to know that the smaller group of hard-working legends in Portsmouth are still getting to enjoy the same coffee standard as the rest of the team here in NZ.

Beyond performance, how has premium coffee and equipment benefitted INEOS TEAM UK?

La Marzocco have been great in all the events we have hosted for external guests, in the UK they were on site when we had our partner day and when we launched our first race boat Britannia, when we headed out to New Zealand and launched our second race boat BRITANNIA they were again on site to support us for the whole event.

For us, La Marzocco is the best in the business, it is not just the team that use them but also a number of investors and commercial partners. The machines are hand made and impeccable. Then, added to that, the support you get locally in each country we have visited is second to none!

COVID restrictions have been tough for everyone and we feel very lucky to be living as close to a normal life as possible in NZ. That said we are all looking forward to the world turning the corner and being able to get back to normal life and enjoy a coffee with team La Marzocco who have supported us so much!

Why La Marzocco? What was it about La Marzocco that make them a great match as an official supplier of INEOS TEAM UK?

We feel like there is no comparison in the marketplace delivering handmade machines made with passion. When La Marzocco come into support the team it’s like having an extra teammate or family member, they are not looking for a return in investment they are looking to support you and make things better. We could not have asked for a better partner!

We have had a good start to the PRADA Cup here, winning the Round Robin Series which qualifies us directly through to the PRADA Cup Final. That gives us a three-week break between racing which is crucial, much-needed, time for development and testing. We still have a long way to go and after all, they say the one thing you can’t buy in the America’s Cup is time. Needless to say, it will be a lot of long hours and hard work, that will be fuelled with great coffee!

La Marzocco, official coffee machine supplier to INEOS TEAM UK in their challenge for the 36th America’s Cup.

 

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