Becoming a professional triathlete was never a consideration and honestly it still isn’t but I read this post on Active.com this morning regarding 10 Tips to eating like a professional athlete and I just nodded my head to each word. I am nowhere near becoming a professional nor do I have any delusions that it will happen but knowing that I am taking care of my body and doing what is necessary to ensure that I can continue this lifestyle for years to come puts a smile on my face.
I take great strides to make sure that what I consume is beneficial to my training and racing, even if it is a cheat meal. Why would a cheat meal be beneficial to my triathlon / endurance sport lifestyle? Well the answer is simple. If I did not have that cheat meal every now and again then I can be confident that one day I will break and start consuming every candy bar and potato chip there is and never look back. These little bits of guilty pleasure make it easier for me to continue to make homemade meals and eat a clean diet that I would peg at 95%.
Here are the 10 Tips that Active.com presents and how I make sure I am following this advice:
Don’t Skip Breakfast - If you have followed this blog for more than a day then you know that breakfast foods are my favorite. It doesn’t matter if it is 8pm I could easily eat waffles and pancakes. The point of this statement is that eating in the morning is good for you. This sets you up to not go through sugar spikes throughout the day as well as doing what the name implies: break the fast. You go to sleep and while you don’t realize this your body is working and thus it needs to refuel in the morning. No I am not talking about coffee and a donut and heading off to work. Make time. Sit down and have an orange with that coffee then have a bowl of oatmeal when you get to the office. Make it a priority.
Stay Hydrated – This should be the easiest for everybody to do. Drinking water is easy and it doesn’t matter if you work from home or if you work in corporate America. Having a bottle of water on your desk and taking a sip from the bottle every 15 minutes will ensure that you are hydrated. I drink at least 3 liters of water per day and that intake goes to 4 during the summer here in Texas. If you are not training intensely then 2 liters of water should be a minimum for you and that is easy to do. This aids in digestion but also allows your stomach to feel full thus lowering the need to eat.
Eat Like a Champ – The article refers to this point as avoiding junk foods and fast foods as well as fried foods. This should go without say. There is a lot of sodium and fat in these types of foods and they also lack any nutritional benefit. There is just nothing good in these types of foods so avoid them and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Combine them into a salad such as strawberries on top of spinach with goat or feta cheese and your choice of vegetables. Simple, easy and good for you.
Eat Iron-Rich Foods – What are iron rich foods? Think dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Women can be iron deficient as well as endurance athletes but it is easy to get iron back into your system. You can eat the leafy greens or take an iron supplement but there is also fortified cereals or oatmeal. Oatmeal is a staple in my diet and a bowl is consumed at least once per week. It fills me up on little calories and provides the nutrients I need to recover and get back out the door the next day.
Make a Plan – I am a planner. That is my nature. When I worked in corporate America my title was VP of Planning. That is what I did so making a plan to eat is not a hard thing to do. Finding the right app is and that is why I use MyFitnessPal.com. This is the most comprehensive database I have used and it allows me to lay out my meal for the day to coincide with my workouts and gives me the opportunity to track my calories and macro-nutrients as well as some micro-nutrients to ensure that I am getting what I need on a daily basis.
Don’t Restrict Yourself – As mentioned above the cheat meal is key to my success to eating healthy and clean 95% of the time. Now my cheat meal is going to look different from yours but the premise is the same. For me the cheat meal is pizza and while pizza is not all that bad for you it can add up in calories and carbs when you eat the entire pie and that is not out of reach for me. Last weekend Karen and I went to eat at one of our favorite pizza places and we do what we typically do. I order my half and she orders hers then as typical she has 2 out of the 4 slices on her half and I end up eating the other 2 because it makes no sense to box up 2 slices. So if you are doing the math at home that is 6 slices of pizza in one sitting for me. That is my cheat meal and it always sets me up to get back on the wagon the next day.
Don’t Count Out Carbs - While I have not removed carbs and never will I have begun training in a glycogen depleted state but as soon as the training is over I am eating carbs like nobody’s business. The picture to the right is what I ate this morning after running for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I put in 18.5 miles and there are 123g of carbs in that meal. Carbs are the energy source for us endurance athletes and you ignore them at your own peril. Eat your carbs but like anything else pay attention to them and don’t overdo it.
Give It Your All -By giving it your all they are referring to drinking water and not training on an empty stomach. Now this is something I agree with unless it is something that is 1.5 hours or less. As I mentioned I have been training in a glycogen depleted state up to 90 minutes and sometimes pushing it to 2 hours but otherwise I will consume about 200 calories 30 minutes prior to my workout in the form of a shake. If I have a long training day (like today) I will eat 2 -3 hours before hand and make sure I have the energy to get myself through the workout(s). That being said even if it is a short day I drink a cup of green tea and water before I head out the door. Dehydration training is just not smart……
Eat to Recovery – Eating for recovery is the soap box I stand on and scream from. I tell Karen all the time that she must consume a shake within 30 minutes that is a 3:1 carb:protein and then again within 2 hours and to be sure that it is 3:1 carb:protein again. My go to meal is normally waffles and/or pancakes. I credit this, along with a smart training plan to my ability to train a minimum of 6 days per week and to have done so injury free. Getting to the starting line of 1 Ironman race is tough, but getting in 2 Ironman, 2 Half-Ironman, 1 Olympic, 4 Half-Marathons, and 1 15K in the same year is a completely different animal. The only way to do that is to be sure that your recovery is spot on.
Eat Right – This is just the roll-up of all the previous 9 statements. Doing all of these and staying on the path will ensure your ability to eat like a pro whether or not becoming a pro triathlete is what you want to do.
Would You Add Anything To This List?