Training Nutrition Facts and Fiction

Some time ago, I wrote an article about how training for a triathlon was not a diet. There's a fine line between maintaining a healthy training and racing weight and an unhealthy weight. And this topic is gender neutral. Men and women alike are equally susceptible to an unhealthy diet and nutrition plan whilst training for an endurance event. 

Using myself as an example, my worst race occurred when I weighed the least. It was very early in my triathlon 'career', and I was at a goal weight which I though would help me perform better. In truth I was under-weight, as I was spurned on by all they hype around "getting lean" and "losing an extra few pounds for the next race".

More often than not athletes aren't consuming enough calories. How many calories do you need to consume? That all depends on a number of factors: Your activity and training levels, your base metabolic rate, and the type of other daily activities you have to name a few.

You need protein. You need carbohydrates. You need fats (good fats). Did I say you need carbs? Yes, you do. You can't replenish glycogen properly or create energy stores without it. You need the protein, obviously for muscle development and maintenance. And fats? Yes, you need good fats. Numerous bodily functions including cellular membrane integrity, hormone production, and vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble).

Quinoa, berries, nuts, and greens = Protein, carbs, good fats, and quality nutrients.

Quinoa, berries, nuts, and greens = Protein, carbs, good fats, and quality nutrients.

You're a vegetarian, or vegan? No problem. Just make sure you get your protein in. Create a dietary plan that includes beans, some tofu, and nuts. And don't assume that just because you're vegan or vegetarian that you're going to lose weight. Anyone who tells you that isn't fully versed on nutrition, caloric intake, and how a 'diet' is supposed to work. Changing what you choose to eat doesn't change the number of calories that you require on a daily basis. It all requires planning.

And again, you shouldn't be losing weight unless you need to (based on professional analysis and / or prescription). You should eat properly during your training regimen. Consuming healthy calories in a volume that provides you the fuel and recovery nutrients that are required.

 

Swimming Stroke Rate and Distance Per Stroke

I've heard many a triathlon coach tell their athletes that reducing their stroke rate in their swim is one of the telltale benchmarks of swimming improvement. It can be. But it's not that simple. And all too often I've witnessed these coaches focus so much on reducing the number of strokes their athlete takes per length in training that they neglect to consider their distance per stroke, pace, and the overall impact of a low stroke rate in an open water setting

You can't talk about stroke rate without looking at distance per stroke. Period.

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Navigating The Holidays

It's that time of year again. The holiday season is here - and that means Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, and Christmas itself. This is the time of year that athletes are taking time off, and tend to overindulge. It is the off-season afterall, right?

Well, it is most likely the off-season for most. But that doesn't mean that you have free reign to eat too much, drink too much, and ignore your training. A little focus, a few smart choices at dinner, and you'll come through this holiday season unscathed.

Don't skip your workouts

The pool may be closed over the week of Thanksgiving. But that doesn't mean you can't get out and run or ride. Continue the momentum of your off-season training and get your running or riding in. I like to joke with my athletes - "earn your Thanksgiving dinner". Get in a run or ride early that morning. And the day after? Yep, do something. Anything. Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean you can take the week off. You're traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Pack your running gear. Get in a couple easy runs. You'll feel better if you do. 

Don't over-indulge

You're thinking about seconds?  Okay. Just wait a little bit. Let your stomach send all the signals to your brain that it's full, or not. If you think you want seconds (thirds?) just wait 15-20 minutes. You might not be as hungry as you think. 

Equally important, don't overdo the alcohol. As the saying goes: Everything in moderation. You'll snack / graze less if you drink less, too.

Do make smart choices

Whether you're hosting dinner, or bringing a side dish, it's easy to add some healthy options to the table. Mashed sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. And I'm not talking about the sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and marshmallows! Just a straight up substitution. A sweet potato as more fiber than regular potato's, and is rich in potassium and vitamin A. Make green beans and almonds sautéed in garlic instead of the old green bean casserole. Ditch that can of condensed soup with the fat and sodium. How about dairy free / veggie broth mushroom gravy. (You'll never know the difference - and neither will anyone else.)

It's really quite easy to make some substitutions with healthier, more nutrient dense, ingredients. Do a little Googling. You'll find recipe substitutions abound. Or email me - my wife is a cookbook author and we can hook you up.

 

So, be that person and bring a kale salad to the holiday shin-dig. You think I'm kidding? My wife has a killer recipe!

Do workout the day after

Get back outside. Organize a run with your usual group of running buddies. It doesn't have to be a hard workout, just enjoy the morning with a nice aerobic run to keep the momentum going. If the weather is good, get on the bike. Even a hike. Anything. And since it's the holidays you don't need to do this before the sun comes up. Wait till after breakfast. Ride at noon. Sleep in for goodness sake.

Most importantly, work with your coach to ensure your schedule is manageable if you're traveling.

This is a great time of year. Enjoy being with your friends and family. You've worked hard all year, so enjoy yourself.....and with a little planning you'll come out on the other end none worse for the wear.

Thoughts on Training

Training for a triathlon is hard work. Training for most any endurance event is.

However, to perform well you need to train with high intensity and quality, and sometimes it's difficult to keep the motivation up. Those early mornings - the sun isn't up yet and you're heading out to run, or driving to the pool. Or, worse yet, you're getting on the bike trainer. 

Those are tough sessions to get up for. You're tired. The sun isn't yet up. You're by yourself......

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The Upcoming Off-Season

It's October, and for many the racing season is coming to a close. Coaches are starting to look at the off-season training of their athletes, and how best to ensure that everyone enters the upcoming season refreshed, and with the best preparation possible.

For many athletes, their primary question is: "What do I do during the off-season?"

The off-season is an overlooked, and undervalued, part of your training periodization. You’ve raced and trained hard all season.  You can't train hard twelve months out of the year. You risk overtraining, burnout, and not getting the full recovery you need both mentally and physically to start the next season fresh.

This isn’t to say that you should take two months off. Take too much time off and you risk losing your base fitness, and thus starting your pre-season back at square one. Two to three weeks of downtime is great.  You can rest, and reenergize yourself, without losing your base aerobic fitness. You should follow this period of time with two to three weeks of unstructured training provided by your coach. Then you can begin your pre-season refreshed, energized, and ready for more intensive training. 

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