This is something that I am slowly but surely figuring out, it seems like an obvious piece to the puzzle, but to accomplish a great fuel strategy for your workouts, especially with a training schedule as heavy as Ironman can be a struggle.
There is a lot of information out there and over the years I have sifted through a lot of it. I am lucky not to have too many allergies or issues that make getting the necessary nutrients tough. I find managing my time and prepping the right kind of foods as well as portion control have been my two biggest struggles.
That being said I have a couple of rules of thumb that I have found work well and I’d like to share them:
1) Listen to your body. Whether its feeling extra sluggish, or not finding that you are recovering from workouts, this is your body telling you something and its not always that you are just pushing hard in your workouts, it could be a side your nutrition is out of whack. Take a moment and process how long you have been feeling like this and assess what your eating habits have been, the answer may be right under your fork. 😉
2) Plan and Prep but don’t be a slave to it. I find in this sport, with all of the Type A personalities that we find ourselves surrounded by its easy to see this step as a daunting task as you watch your fellow athletes measure and plan every single item that goes in there body. I love the ‘Racing Weight’ cookbook for this, I feel that it has a realistic approach to nutrition as well as meal prep. There are recipes that anyone could prepare with a couple ingredients on hand as well as a couple for when you have the time and feel like putting in the extra effort. Meal prep and planning doesn’t have to rule your life as an athlete but it should be more than an afterthought.
3) We’re not invincible when it comes to food. Sure we are training 3-9 hours a day and are burning calories like crazy, but that doesn’t mean you get to put whatever you want in your body. Calories-in does not equal calories-out. They need to be quality calories and your body and energy level will thank you for it. This is definitely where it gets tricky- eating enough, but not too much and choosing quality food. My own way to tackle this is to always make sure I get between 800-1000 calories during the morning spread out over my 1st workout as a pre, during and post meals (example of a post meal here) Then I am conscious to watch the clock and my workouts to ensure I am eating on schedule and that I am choosing the proper foods depending on whats happening in the next hour. If I am working out I will eat more of a protein packed lunch or snack, if I have finished a workout those complex carbs are going to be my friend. If its to take me in between meals, healthy fats or a protein work just great. Quality in the quantity is key.
4) Don’t forget to indulge once and awhile. That beer on a Friday night after a workout isn’t going to kill your hopes for a Kona finish. Its important to not deny yourself too much, if you take everything that you enjoy eating or drinking off the table you will start to resent your training and thats not what this is about. Be thoughtful about what you put in your body but take the time to enjoy what you love as well. My favourite post- big training session or race meal is a burger and beer. Do I have these after every training session, no. Do I enjoy them immensely when I do, YES!
Some great resources for dialling in on your nutrition:
The Feedzone cookbook and Feedzone Portables cookbook.
Ironman.com’s Nutrition section is always great.
And as I mentioned above I took a lot from the Racing Weight Cookbook.