Essential Sports Nutrition


4 weeks til Kona: Dialing in the sport nutrition

This weekend concluded a big volume week of training.
What a great feeling to have this past week behind me and what a better feeling to know that my body was able to execute during every workout. 

5 hour/85 miles with over 8000 feet of climbing - all at Ironman effort
Followed by a 6 mile run

Nutrition consumed during bike:
4.5 bottles (slightly short of what I wanted) each with 280 calories
Additional calories consumed from wafer (170 calories)  and shot blocks (100 calories)
Total consumed: 1530 calories and 108 ounce fluid (~2400 mg sodium)

Nutrition consumed during run:
2 x 10 ounce flasks each with 80 calories Clif Hydration
Total consumed: 20 ounce fluid + 160 calories

1:50, 13.2 mile run (2000 feet of climbing)
2 x 10 ounce flasks each with 80 calories of Clif Hydration
Refill 1 x 10 ounce flask with 80 calories + 1 flask water
Total consumed: 40 ounce fluid + 240 calories

More important to me than using these two workouts to get obsessed about certain paces, speeds or watts to validate my fitness or to determine my race day efforts , I went into this weekend with a realistic mind that my body is holding on to residual training fatigue and I am only one week away from when the magic happens during my 2-week taper. 

Therefore, my only goal was to execute to the best of my ability and to be hyper-aware of everything that was going on with my body and mind. 

Karel and I both did our own workouts this weekend so I had a total of almost 8 hours with my body to think about things like how many times I had to stop and pee during my workout, my weight before and after my workouts, when I experienced low's in my workout (and when those low's turned into highs), when I would find myself experiencing self-doubt and how my nutrition was working to my advantage. 

With very little change in my sport nutrition fueling regime (before/during/after) this season, I took extra measures to record everything that I ate and drink, how much, my weight before and after each workout and any other factors that would contribute to dialing in my fueling strategy for Kona.
Although the weather was much less warm this past weekend in Greenville, with the high in the upper 70's during my brick on Saturday and in the 60's during my run, I did not deviate from my planned sport nutrition regime as I wanted to simulate race day as much as possible. 

One of the most common mistakes that I find that Ironman athletes make in their final Ironman training is getting too obsessed with metrics and forgeting about dialing in the little things like mental strength, nutrition and listening to the body. Many times, athletes just try to "get through" workouts and don't even address pacing, let alone nutrition.

With so many "long" training sessions in training when training for an Ironman and a well-timed/executed taper to catapult fitness,  it's a given that all Ironman athletes should use every training session to practice, practice and practice. Every training session is useful even if you don't hit your watts or paces!

I understand that there is fear and excitement for gaining fitness and endurance but we should save our best performance for race day with the confidence that we can get through any obstacle that comes our way - which in 70.3 and 140.6 miles - there will be obstacles!

Regardless if I am training for an Ironman or an Ironman World Championship, I want to be as strategic, timely and flexible as possible with my sport nutrition. I used "engineered" sport nutrition products when I train to meet my energy, fluid and electrolyte needs and I focus on a healthy, balanced, wholesome, real-food and varied diet when I am not training to help keep my body in good health. With every long workout, I try to find-tune my nutrition for my upcoming key event.
In 4 weeks, I will be racing my 4th Ironman World Championship. My body is healthy and fit and I owe it all to focusing on the little things and constantly dialing things in to ensure performance gains as often as possible. 

140.6 miles is a very long way for the body to go and throw in the Kona elements like gusty strong winds and uncomfortably high heat and humidity alongside the best qualified Ironman athletes in the world, I don't need to be second guessing my nutrition on race day or figuring things out on the fly. 

If you want to dial in your nutrition, here are a few of my suggestions:

-Whatever you plan to eat the morning of the race and night before the race, try it out in training. Similar foods and a modified quantity. 

-Weigh yourself before and after workouts to better understand your sweat rate. It's very easy to calculate your sweat rate but there are some limiters in that it doesn't account for urine volume, urine specific gravity, sodium content in sweat and being applicable to all racing situations for all types of athletes. 

-Address how you perform and feel during your workout. Calorie, electrolyte and fluid consumption can be constantly tweaked when an athlete addresses things like lightheadedness, how often you pee during a workout, extreme fatigue, headache, GI distress during workouts, GI distress post workout, high sweat rate, not sweating a lot (or enough), etc. 

-Focus on your recovery. Feeling overly sleepy, lethargic, moody or weak can often relate to inadequate fueling/hydrating before, during and after a workout. 

-Consider your race venue logistics and lodging when it comes to pre race and race day nutrition. Don't make it super complicated at home and then try to simplify on race day.

-Allow yourself up to 6 weeks to use similar products in similar workouts to train your gut and to build tolerance of sport nutrition products. Consider whether you will bring your own nutrition to the race or use what is on the course when it comes to training your gut and fueling in your training sessions. 

-Don't let body image be your guiding force when it comes to fueling during workouts. An obsession with body image often creates an unhealthy relationship with sport nutrition and fueling your body during training. Every workout that you underfuel is a missed opportunity to boost performance. And underfueled body is also at risk for illness and hormonal problems. 

-Feel off or don't know what you can change/tweak with your sport nutrition? Consult a sport RD who can take the guessing away so that you can focus on your training with your well-fueled body.