Essential Sports Nutrition


Race Week Nutrition

I see two types of eating habits by triathletes the week prior to a race.

1) Athletes who load up on carbs in order to ensure that they don't run out of fuel on race day.

2) Athletes who avoid certain foods or cut back on daily calories in order to prevent weight gain.

I rarely see athletes enter race week without some uneasiness about their nutrition or body composition. I think it is great that I can be on both sides of the equation. As a competitive athlete and sport nutritionist, I don't only try to understand why other's have problems but I have to figure out my own nutrition as well. I have been both athletes so I know how hard it is to feel confidence about the foods you are eating and how your performance will turn out come race day.
As far as loading up on carbs on race week, remember that you are cutting back your training volume (yet keeping the intensity with more rest) in order to properly rest your body. Because stored glycogen (carbs) aren't being used in a high quantity to fuel intense and/or long workout, you have no reason to over-eat on carbs. However, it is important to watch your fat intake (focus on unsaturated fats for good fats to keep you satisfied and full) the 3 days leading up to a race in order to ensure that you are getting a good amount of carb and protein calories, rather than calories from fat (1g carbs/protein=4 calories, 1g fat=9 calories). Focus on your daily diet calories (around 1800-2200 for women, 2400-2800 for men..all dependent on training volume and intensity) and add in more snack calories, rather than bigger "carbo-load" meals. Meals should be around 400-500 calories and snacks around 150-200 calories on a daily basis. However, come race week, add in one or two additional 100-200 calorie snacks in the form of carbs and protein. For example, if you favor a certain bar, have 1/2 sports bar (always keep bars less than 220 calories and avoid loads of sugar alcohols or icy coatings) and milk or fruit and whey protein. Other options could be toast w/ cheese, a smoothie or yogurt and nuts. Because no one wants extra calories to be stored as fat, portion controlled meals and small, frequent snacks will help promote glycogen storage rather than excess calories stored as fat. Most of all, to help your self-confidence since every athlete wants to go into a race feeling good about their strong, trained body, remember that the extra carbs that you are storing for fuel will bring in extra water. So if you are feeling a little heavy the days before the race, know that you are well-fueled and that you didn't go overboard by loading your body with too many calories. Glyocgen storage in the muscles max's out around 2,000 calories. If you take in account your resting metabolism (which accounts for 65-75% of daily calorie expenditure, exercise only accounts for only around 20-30%..the rest is from absorption and digestion of food), a daily diet with around 60-75% carbs (higher range the 3 days leading up to a race) will give you plenty of fuel come race day! Don't forget the pre race dinner which should be high in carbs, but eaten 2 nights before race day morning (smaller dinner, of the same food, should be eaten the night before a race so that the smaller meal can be easily digested and the bigger meal will have time to pass through the body).
As far as the other athlete, I hear it all the time. You want to go into a race with a different body than what you have. 1 or 2 weeks isn't enough time to trim fat and turn the body into a lean machine. It takes months to lose weight in a healthy way, especially if you wish you could be 10-15 lbs lighter. If you are wishing to be 3-5 lbs lighter you are risking the chance of poor performance, lack of energy and a possible risk of injury by cutting back on daily calories. Losing weight takes time (in addition to discipline). I know triathletes don't sign up for a big race 2-weeks before the race and expect to have a great performance. Training the body to perform at a higher treshold takes time. It is very important that if you want to lose weight that you start well before a race. I know it is hard to go into a race with a body that you don't like, but you must like what the body has allowed you to do. You have pushed hard, you have gone the distance and I know you have felt strong as you trained for your race. Rather than worrying about your body weight or image (things that you can't change in 1 week) think about how you will pull out a great performance or achieve a goal. I find it interesting that athletes procrastinate on weight loss yet are so strict on training. There are lots of nutrition excuses when it comes to training and just because you "burned it off in training" or are "getting ready for a big weekend of training" you must be accountable of what you are really eating. Cutting back on 200-300 calories a day for 2 months can dramatically change your body image. However, cutting back on 200-300 calories the week before a race can dramatically hurt your performance.
Enjoy your race week and focus on a well-balance diet of carbs, protein and fat and be sure to combine protein with carbs to keep your blood sugar balanced the days leading up to a race. In addition to eating every couple of hours, be sure you have practiced your race day morning breakfast. Be confident with your nutrition and take pride in your body which will bring you to the finish line. Afterwards, enjoy a day to recover and indulge in a 200-300 calorie healthy desert (avoid indulging in high fat, high calorie foods for a week straight). The day after the race, you can start your weight loss by focusing on what steps you will take to reach your goal weight come the next race.



Did you know that Jacksonville (JAX) is the 14th largest city in the US?
Did you know JAX has more than 800,000 residents?
Did you know that JAX has one of the lowest overall costs of living in Florida?
Did you know that JAX has the largest Urban Parks System in the US?

Karel and I have very exciting news. I think I have told most people I know but it is now official (since I am posting it on my blog)...We are moving to JAX!!!!

I can't write this blog without being sad that I am leaving all my tri-buddies and familiar bike roads. I have to say good-bye to all my swim buddies who jump in the pool with me at 5:30am and then join me on the treadmill for "interval tuesday". And I will never forget my awesome spin class that I have taught for almost 2 years! I found it funny that my spin class told me that I will have a long commute on wed mornings...however, I don't think they were kidding. It is tri-season and I am saying good bye to race directors and I know I won't know the same familiar faces at upcoming races. I have connected to so many people here in the Tampa Bay area and although I have only lived in this area for 2 years, I have developed a routine here and I am finally not getting lost driving around town (living in Lexington, KY for all my life, moving to FL has been a culture shock for many unfamiliar roads and streets!). I will miss my athletes that I have coached and I will most of all miss my parents who I know are only a 40-min. drive (or 24 mile bike ride) away.

Karel was offered a job as the General Manager of the Trek concept store in Mandarin, which is close to both the beach and downtown Jacksonville. Sadly, Karel has been up in Jacksonville since early April and we have seen each other about 7-10 times within the last month. It has been really hard for us but of course, we are surviving. Probably a bit harder for me since Karel is working full-time but at least I had my studies to keep me occupied. I am really excited for Karel and he is loving his new job. His manager Jeff K. is super great and Karel really enjoys being so close to his cycling team. Karel is learning a lot and it took all of 2 weeks of Karel being there before he convinced Jeff that there needs to be Pinarello bikes in the shop. I guess Cervelos weren't cutting it for Mr. European :) I will be able to work at the store as well and I'm looking forward to being the female in the store and to speak "triathlons" to those looking for aerobars or a tri-bike. You know, there is a certain "talk" of triathletes.
I will be continuing my education in Jacksonville at the community college. Starting May 19th, I will be taking my dietetic courses online (from University of Northern Colorado) which I will continue to take until next summer, when i will hopefully finish my bachelor degree in dietetics by Aug 2009. Because I have a bachelors in Exercise Science and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, I only have a select number of pre-req courses that I can take anywhere, in addition to the specific accredited dietetic courses from the university in Northern Colorado. After I receive the dietetic degree from my accredited university, then I can do the 6-12 month internship (which I have to apply for and is very competitive) and then....I can take the RD exam to become a registered dietitian. Wow, a lot of work for this degree. Well, I figure if i can help people now with their nutrition and have lots of success stories, furthering my education can only help me with a future career. I love writing, I love speaking and I love helping people. I promise everyone, I will never stop learning!! However, this school thing will eventually have an end. I don't see a PhD in the future (but who knows???).
Anyways, we are moving on May 20th which is a Tuesday. But before the move, Karel and I have a big weekend next weekend. As you know, I have Ironman Florida 70.3 in Disney. Because I only race a few times a year (because I can't afford this sport right now) I have dedicated the last 5 months to this race. I have a big goal to try to break 5 hours but I also want to finish the race injury free. As I am pushing hard (and smiling with my thumbs up) to the finish line, I will be thinking of my other half. Karel has the state crit championships in Lakeland, Fl. He will be less than 30 minutes from me pushing his body to the line in hopes of possibly getting a podium spot (or could we see a win?) for his race. I know Karel has a new outlook on cycling after this past week so a little extra confidence will allow him to push hard to the line. However, in all cycling races, you can have the best race of your last and still finish 10th or 15th. Anything can happen.
Although I will be in Jacksonville, I will continue to blog, write and do what I love to do. I am excited to meet new people and join a triathlon team (Hammerheads) which I have never done before. I am excited to do some BIG group rides with the massive cycling community in JAX and most of all, I'm really looking forward to making this move with Karel. I am sure we will have tough times (like right now as I am paying all our monthly!) but we feel so lucky that we have such great people in our lives and we can share our passion with others.


Be careful and I love you

Two things that I am always remembering when I am training. Don't put yourself into situations that are dangerous and always be careful when you are training. You can never expect the unexpected and it is a dangerous world out there when you are on your bike. Also, remember to tell people that you love them, that you care and that you are thinking of them. Talking to someone in person is probably the best way to show love or kindness but even a phone call, email or text message can make someone's day. Never overlook an opportunity to let someone know that you think they are special. Take time to appreciate other people's accomplishments and try to be as optimistic as possible from the moment you wake to when you go to bed at night. I hope people can realize that every day is just one day of many days. There is always another day but it is important to live the day to the fullest and appreciate the little things.
Last night I was searching the Internet and came across a horrible posting on slowtwitch. One of my friends was seriously injured as he was warming up for the Roswell cycling race in GA. His name is Ryan Barnett and he is a wonderful guy and father of a young daughter. A truck with a trailer hit him and he is suffering from skull fractures, broken ribs, a chipped pelvis and compression of T3. Ryan is being flown to Shepard Center where doctors are hoping that he will walk. He is suffering slight paralysis at the moment. He is a passionate cyclist and he sold me my first road bike. He works in marketing and is a rep for BLUE bicycles and he is an amazing cyclist. He absolutely loves cycling. I introduced Karel to Ryan at the 100K classic in GA last Sept and since then, Karel and Ryan have raced with each other at several races. When Karel was in TN a few weeks ago, it was Karel and Ryan pushing each other to the finish at the road race. When Karel and I were in NC and GA this past weekend I texted Ryan on sat late afternoon to see if he would be at the Speed week races. The Roswell race was actually in the same area as the race that Karel did on Sunday in GA.
This news really hurts me because I don't want this to happen to a guy like Ryan. I don't want this to happen to anyone. It just makes me so sad and believe me, I absolutely think that every day could be my last day. I know it is horrible to think that, but you can imagine how I worry when Karel rides or races. I know we love what we do and I think you can't be afraid to do something so fulfilling like triathlons, running or cycling. But just be sure to be careful and let people know how much you care about them. Please keep Ryan in your prayers.


Interval TUESDAY!!!!

(last year at Disney)

After a few days of "vacationing" and being off my typical weekly schedule, I was eager to get back home just in time for interval tuesday. When I woke up this morning I started thinking about what to do for my run. I was thinking something longer than last week since I am getting closer to Disney. Well, I had a brief moment of nervousness...Disney is in less than 2 weeks! That means this tuesday and next tuesday..that's it for interval tuesdays until the big day!!!
I decided today was the morning that I see if all the interval training paid off. It was time for mile repeaters. 3 of them! I was a bit nervous and all through my 5:30-6:30 swim (2800 yards) with the team I was thinking about the run. I was nervous and a bit worried. Not even during my Ironman training did I do mile-repeaters. I would run for miles and miles but nothing for a mile at the pace I wanted to do today. Since i have been feeling really strong lately, I figured I could do my mile repeaters close to the pace that I have been doing my shorter intervals.
After the swim I joined Barb and Tony on the treadmills. I didn't have much to talk about even during warm-up. It was all business this morning. I did a 10 min. warm-up at 7.3mph and then 5x45 sec. pick-ups (w/ 15 sec straddle treadmill) at 7.8mph. I felt really good as i picked up the pace so I started to feel confident for the repeaters. I guess it is only 3 repeaters but running hard for anything more than 5-minutes can be a real physical and mental battle. I didn't want to start out to fast but at the same time, I knew I needed to push hard to accomplish something from this workout. I wanted to also descend the miles and finish the workout with 4x.25 hard w/ .15 mile recovery. And the other part...I was only jogging at 7.7mph for 1 minute between repeaters. Not a lot of recovery but I needed to pace myself just right with good form. Here is the set today!
10 min. warm-up at 7.3 mph
5 x 45 sec pickups at 7.8 mph w/ 15 sec off
Main set:
3 x 1 mile repeaters w/ 1 min jog at 7.6 mph
#1 - 7:03 min/mile (8.5mph)
#2 - 6:58 min/mile (8.6mph)
#3 - 6:53 min/mile (8.7mph)
Last set:
4 x .25 mile HARD w/ .15 recovery (7.8 mph)
#1 - 9mph
#2 - 9.1mph
#3 - 9.2mph
#4 - 9.3mph (6:35 min/mile)
Warmdown jog
Total: 7.3 miles, 53 minutes (I think)

I was really happy with this workout. I felt great during the workout and even later in the day, I felt good. I am hoping all comes together for Disney. Oh how bad I would love to break 5 hours. Most of all, I will be ready with my smile and thumbs-up. I am looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and having fun pushing hard and doing what I love to do.....


USA SPEED WEEK!!!! Trip Recap.....

Before I talk about the trip and races, I need to get something off my chest. Gas is crazy expensive and I'm not happy! Karel's races are very cheap ($30-$50) so I can justify traveling. Triathlons, however are expensive and I allow myself one or two big races a year to splurge and pay the race fee. However, I have only traveled once for a triathlon (KONA) because it is really expensive to go somewhere for a tri. It costed us almost $300 ($100 for my trip to and from jacksonville to get Karel) to go to NC and GA. We did 1300 miles of driving (about 500 for me for my drive) since thursday and I can't wait to get my rebate check to pay for all this gas. But, Karel planned this week of racing all year long so no worries here, I was just happy to accompany him for 2 of his 5 races :)
After our breakfast on saturday morning, Karel took a nap as I finished coaching plans on the computer. We had a 20 mile drive to Dilworth (just outside of Charlotte) from the house so we left around 2 for the 4:30 race. The town of Dilworth is beautiful and all of NC is filled with big trees and lovely grass. A big change from Florida to see rolling hills and brick houses. The race venue was around a big green park, with only 2 turns to the crit course. It was kinda like an oval with a sharp 90-degree turn (you could hear the cyclists breaking) at the bottom of the climb to the start/finish of the loop. Karel warmed up and I watched the kids race. Too cute! I can't wait til the day when we have little kiddos riding and running at races. The crowd was huge and most of the people congregated at the "hot corner" with the 90-degree turn. One side of the course went straight downhill and after the sharp turn, the riders had a steady climb to start the next loop. At 4:30 the riders were off and the race was a grueling 75-minutes. Karel looked good the whole race and I wanted so bad for him to finish. After 3 hard days of racing the USA crit series under his belt and only finishing 1 race he was so hungry to finish this race. But, no matter how hungry you are to be out in these races, it takes a lot of mental, physical and well, lots of hard work to finish. Only around 60 people finished the race out of 120 Pro 1 starters and as for karel....He finished! Not only did he finish, but he was 33rd!!!! Way to go Karel. So proud of him. His training stress (power meter) was once again around %102 and he fought really hard to not get dropped. I was worried a few times because as people dropped off the end of the pack, Karel had to work even harder to maintain his place around the end of the mid-pack.
After the race Karel warmed down and I kinda ran next to him to the car as he gave me the recap of the race. Just running up some of the inclines in dilworth left me out of breath. I could only imagine what Karel felt like for an hour and 15 minutes of racing at his max. Ouch! As usual, I did my job (team Karel nutritionist) of mixing together his typical post-race whey protein, aminos and water in a water bottle. It is the first thing he wants after his race.
"Can you make me my recovery drink Marni?"
The best part of this trip is having a nice place to go back to. Karel and I love cooking and of course, having your own food when you want it is a big comfort when traveling away for a race. I had a nice salad w/ eggs, beans, corn, cooked veggies and a piece of fresh french bread and Karel was craving meat. After a taxing race like a crit, I thought fish would be a better option than chicken or steak so Karel cooked a nice piece of fish w/ corn, rice and fresh bread. With all the omegas in fish to fight inflammation, I wanted to be sure Karel repaired as quickly as possible for Sunday.
Sunday morning we had to make the drive to Sandy Springs GA so we planned to leave around 10am for the 3:45pm race. Christi told me about a great trail by her house so I set out for a 8 mile run at 6:40am. It was so peaceful and although I had my music, I had it low so I could hear the leaves blow on the trees and hear the water from neighboring creeks. I wanted to run more but I needed to get back for breakfast and to help Karel pack up the car. As I was finishing getting ready I was suprised that I had breakfast waiting for me. Cooked oatmeal w/ raisins, sliced bananas, toast and jelly and scrambled eggs (all in Marni-size portions of course). And for presentation, a heart-shaped piece of cheese. I think I should be the one cooking for Karel but it was super thoughtful and it was a great part of my "vacation". So, on the way to Sandy Springs....
I made sandwiches for Karel and I for lunch, PB&J for me and ham and cheese for karel. He also had rice (which he made last night) about 2 hours prior to the race. In addition to some yogurts, nuts and string cheese, I hard-boiled some eggs for extra protein for both of us to snack on during the trip. It is nice not to have to stop to eat so we just traveled along and enjoyed our goodies.
Well, the race in GA was super hard. A steep climb to the start/finish and this was a power climb. Not a steady climb like the other day. Now I am not sure what is worse, the first 3 races that Karel did where it is flat but you have no time to stop pedaling, or a race like sunday (and sat) where you atleast get a bit of downhill. Unfortunantly, for these Pro guys, there is no time to relax. even if you are going downhill, you are focused, changing gears and pedaling hard to get ready for a turn. The course was windy and ended with the climb to start the next loop. This race was a little over an hour and was 50K. Karel had a hard time with this race because he was mentally done. On the last 20 laps, every lap was his last he said.
"Ok, one more time up this hill and then i am done." "OK, this time I will climb to the top but I will get dropped cause I can't do anymore"
Although there were many times when I was a bit worried cause out of the 130-150 starters, the field was getting smaller and smaller. Therefore, Karel was working super hard not to get dropped and I even saw him bridging some gaps from the back pack so that he didn't fall off someone's wheel. After almost 30 miles of racing a .5 mile loop...Karel finished! Oh the pain! You just knew how bad these cyclists were hurting in their legs. Karel said his back was hurting so bad from pushing so hard to get up the hill. He finished 48th and he is so happy (and amazed) he finished. After looking at his powertap on his computer we figured he did 60 repeater climbs. Although there is no recovery in the race, each loop was around 1 minute and 30 seconds. So, with a little less than 1 minute recovery, he said he barely had enough time to exhale. There was no time to even stop pedaling to shake out the legs.
I think Karel really worked hard for his 3 out of 5 finishes. More so, to even have the strength to race 5 times in 1 week at an all-out max effort. Well, next year he hopes to race all 7 races and hopefully he can focus just on the race of racing. Just watching Karel push to the limits, I get so pumped up to race. Although I wish everyone could have a Karel in their life, it is so amazing watching someone you love (even a friend) do something that they never thought was possible.
*thank you for reading about our trips! I love posting about our exciting races and travels and most of all...karel really appreciates the kind remarks about his races :)

More pics..
  • Trip pics