Essential Sports Nutrition


Changing your perception of "race weight"

104lbs - 2006 IMFL
Kona qualified

113 lbs - 2010 IMWI
Kona qualified

116lbs - 2013 IM Lake Placid
Kona qualified

112 lbs - 2014 IMWI
Kona qualified

9 years and 9 Ironman triathlons completed.
Never have I had a "race weight" because I race with a body that is healthy, well-fueled and well-trained on race day.
A number does not define me or my athletic capabilities nor does it determine how well I will (or won't) succeed on race day.
I don't chase a body image when I eat and train, I chase a body that is strong, healthy and resilient.

I often hear athletes talk about their "race weight" and many of these athletes come to me asking me to help them get to their "race weight."

Some athletes feel that losing 10-15 lbs will help them reduce risk for injury, improve health and recover better after endurance training. A loss in body fat and an increase in lean muscle mass can certainly improve overall health and performance in this athlete so long as the approach for weight loss does not go against the initial goals of being healthier and faster/stronger.

Then there are the athletes who tell me that they have raced his/her best at a certain weight and now the he/she explains it is nearly impossible to get to that weight despite exercising more and eating less.

As you can see from my past 4-Kona Qualifying Ironman race weights (in my 5-foot frame), I have never been close to my first Ironman race weight and I have raced well nearly 10 lbs over that first race weight. Can you imagine the stress, struggle and possible sabotaging performances I could have placed on myself if I always felt that I needed to achieve that first IM race weight?

Since I (or Karel) don't weigh myself and these weights are from pre-race weigh-in's before each Ironman, the biggest take away is just because my body raced well at 104lbs, that doesn't mean I need to be at that weight in order to perform well and keep my body in good health for the rest of my Ironman athlete career. Chasing an image or a weight goal is just not how I want to eat or train. I absolutely love using my body and seeing what I can achieve and in order to do that, I have to love food, eating and sport nutrition.
It makes no sense to expect your body to do more if you are intentionally eating less than your body deserves/requires or not fueling appropriately around/during workouts.
Would you believe me if I told you that your "race weight" is a natural result of meeting your nutritional needs throughout the day, intentionally fueling before, during and after all workouts and following a well-designed, periodized training plan. I have no way of determining my race weight because every year my training changes. Life changes and my race schedule changes and thus, that affects how I fuel and train for triathlons. But I never, ever, restrict food to achieve an ideal body composition or weight.

If you take the time to understand your basic nutritional needs and continue to focus on how to best fuel before, during and after your workouts, come race day you will be at your "race weight" which simply means - racing with the body that you have used through months of previous training and that has successful adapted to months of training stress all because you met your daily and metabolic dietary needs.

If this post hits home to you, I need you to stop thinking that you need to be at a certain weight come race day. You can absolutely be focused on weight loss as an athlete and lose weight and boost performance/health but if you feel pressure to look or weigh a certain amount on/before race day or feel as if you don't look the "athlete" part, you may feel so overwhelmed with this perceived (or past) weight/image that you end up taking extreme measures in your diet/exercise regime that ultimately sabotage performance and health. 
Nobody said achieving race weight involves restriction, food elimination, dieting, cleansing, fasting, low carb or eliminating sport nutrition so stop sabotaging your health and performance as you train your body to get stronger, healthier and faster.
There's no point having a lean body if you can't race strong with it on race day.
As a sport RD I spend a great amount of time giving the athletes I work with, permission to eat and to learn how to love their body. Many times, athletes will thank me when I say it's completely fine and healthy to eat grains, drink milk or use sport nutrition products or they are in total shock when I tell them they need to eat more food (often times, more quality food).
There is a large disconnect in athletes as they want their body to look or perform a certain a way but rarely does an athlete give their body the credit it deserves on a daily basis by appreciating their good health.

It makes me sad to see athletes who have stopped eating certain foods that worked well in their diet because someone else said it was "bad" food or seeing athletes restrict food to try to lose weight to get to an ideal weight/image. 
If you are currently experiencing worries, guilty feelings or anxiety when it comes to eating or your body image, take a deep breath....wheww.... and thank your body for being awesome.

Thank your body for being strong, for being durable and for being so impressive with every workout.
That is the body that is going to allow you to race strong on race day. 

I give you permission to race with a body that you are proud of because it's your body and that body is going to perform amazingly well on race day. 


Can you succeed as a plant-strong athlete?

Hello, my name is Marni and I am a 9x Ironman finisher, 4x Ironman World Championship finisher, USAT coach and the female winner of the 2014 HITS Ocala half ironman, the overall amateur female winner of the 2012 Branson 70.3 triathlon and overall winner of the 2012 Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon.

This month I will celebrate 23 years of eating a meat-free.
I eat carbohydrates like grains, potatoes and even cereal.
I use sport nutrition when I train - always.
I drink milk and eat yogurt - daily.
I love fresh bread and I eat dark chocolate.
I love real food.

My name is Marni and I am fueled by plants.
And my hubby Karel eats meat but I'll still call him a a plant-strong athlete because his diet is rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, dairy and a variety of plant strong proteins. 

When you see a meal like this (above), a meal of 5 different kinds and colors of veggies tossed in olive oil, baked tempeh, cooked lentils and quinoa, do you think unhealthy athlete who can not maximize performance? 

How about this meal? 
Baked kale tossed in olive oil dressed with rice, beans, onions, lots of garlic and topped with peanuts and a side of Greek Yogurt (no pictured). Do you think inflammation, unstable blood sugar or low nutritional value? 

Yum. Sliced bananas, fresh, local poppyseed bread and a cup of 1% organic milk with 15g whey protein powder.
Is this a performance-damaging, metabolism wrecking, "bad food" post workout snack that should be off-limit in the diet? 

Roasted potatoes with baked cauliflower, beans and mushrooms. A bowl full of deliciousness.

This is how I eat every day and my good health, great performances and wonderful quality of life give me no reason to think that I am sabotaging my health or performance as a plant strong athlete by avoiding meat.

Not too long ago, my friend Molly from Girls Gone Strong asked me to provide an article on fueling the plant strong athlete.

Vegetarianism in athletes is a topic that is just as overwhelming and confusing as weight loss in endurance athletes for we are talking about the diet and in today's society, there is information overload and much of it is not sound advice.
You can read the article here:
Part 1
Part 2

Obviously, I am passionate about fueling the plant strong athlete as a sport RD but with almost two decades of experience, I have spent plenty of time dialing in my own nutrition as an endurance athlete so it makes me happy and excited to help out others. 

I want to give a big thank you to Rachel with Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian for the interview!

I wish I knew more about how to be a healthy vegetarian athlete when I decided to choose a plant-strong diet almost 23-years ago at the age of 10.
In my mid 20's, I was told that I would never succeed as an endurance athlete because of my meat-free diet. Well, I'd like to think that I've proved many people wrong. Recognizing that it's not easy to fuel an athlete regardless of his/her diet preferences, I really enjoyed providing my thoughts on vegetarianism for teenage athletes and how to ensure that young athletes meet their nutritional needs to maximize their full athletic potential.


(and don't forget to leave a comment after reading the article for your chance to win a Clif Bar/Luna Bar giveaway prize!) 


Trimarni Clermont camp - day 4: RACE DAY!

Throughout the entire camp, our athletes knew that they would be racing a USAT-sanctioned Olympic distance triathlon on the last day of camp. Little did they know that they would all do amazingly well on race day despite over 12 hours of training accomplished in 3 days. 

How was this possible?

If the mind is in a good place and you remove the outside pressure and internal expectations, you'd be surprised what the body can accomplish. 

Although we do not recommend going into your races exhausted, it's extremely valuable to put priority on your races in your season plan and to not chase times/places with each race but to instead, use the race to gain experience, knowledge and skills for down the season road of racing. 

We knew our athletes would be able to pull out the "I just did a training camp" card at any point during the race and take it easy but that's not how our athletes approach races. 

We encouraged every one of our athletes to race smart and to give their absolute best effort. This advice was not only for our athletes but also for me and Karel. We have carefully designed the training plans for our athletes based on their season goals and this is also true for me and Karel. I did not expect anyone of our athletes (including me and Karel) to have stellar performances at this point in the season, even without a training camp 3 days before the race. It's just too early for any one of our athletes to "peak" or to have the speed that will come further down in their training plan. But giving your best effort is a way to put all the past training (over the past 4-5 months) to good use and to show what a strong and healthy body is capable of achieving. 

We did not feel that abiding by our gadgets was useful as this was the first triathlon for all of our athletes at camp this year and it was important to gain valuable information from this race...after the race was finished. So we encouraged our athletes to make sure they had their gadgets working for the race but to not be a slave to their gadgets (GPS, HR, Power). This race was all by feel and it had to feel "right". We gave our athletes specific pacing strategies for each leg of the triathlon and also instructed our athletes to do a good warm-up as a tired body needs extra time to wake-up tissues, tendons and muscles and to get the blood flowing. 

Most athletes avoid racing on a tired body and abide by some type of taper to go into race day a bit rested and fresh. This is good advice when you have a key race on your schedule. But, this was far from the case for our athletes. Therefore, it was necessary that our athletes accepted that they were not in peak shape at this point in the season and their bodies were tired. It would be very hard to find that extra gear, especially on the run. Bottom line, there was no pressure on the outcome of their race performance and I think this mentally, helped most of our athletes. Without time, pace or power goals, our athletes ended up racing better than they expected due to putting less pressure on themselves. 

But with many of our athletes racing their first key race in the next 4-6 weeks, having a race on the last day of camp was a fantastic opportunity to practice transitions, to associate RPE to pacing (and to review data files after the race) and to shake out the emotional cobwebs that affect the mind on race day morning. 

Karel and I got up at 4:50am and had our pre-race meal/snack around 5:30am after a cup of coffee.
Our athletes Kelsey and Danielle met us at our condo around 6am and we all biked down to the race venue (about 1/2 mile away) with our transition bags on our back. 

After our athletes set-up their transition areas, everyone did their own pre-race warm-up and rituals. Sommesports provided the Trimarni Team with a tent which was great for us to gather at before and after the race. 

My mom showed her support bright and early as Campy was still sleeping. Campy has never seen me in a triathlon race before so it was a great treat to have Campy cheering with my mom when we were on the run portion of the triathlon. 

SWIM: 23:53 (4th female)
The swim was wet-suit legal although some athletes chose not to wear wet-suits. I wore my Xterra Vector Pro full sleeve wetsuit and dark-lense Vanquisher Speedo Goggles.

I really enjoyed starting the race with my athletes (and my friend Lauren on the Stellar Triathlon Team) but nevertheless I did get the nervous tingles in my belly as we were standing on the sand before our swim wave. I felt surprisingly good after my morning dynamic warm-up session and quick swim and I was really excited to race.

I managed to get a good start/entry in the water and settled into a nice rhythm with a few other girls until the first turn buoy. I felt really strong throughout the swim and all that pool work with our toys (ex. ankle strap) was paying off in the open water.

I exited the water feeling good and ready to bike. 

BIKE:  1:08:27 (21.7mph average, 4th female)
I took Karel's advice to our team and took it rather easy for the first 8 miles or so in the race (until the first climb on Jalarmy). Since moving to Greenville in May (after 10 years of living in FL), I certainly have a new perspective on "hills" when I race for there is no easy or flat riding in Greenville. I felt good on the hills but made sure to not power up the hills too hard as I wanted a steady ride for the middle and end section of the race.
I spotted my friend Lauren D. when I made the first turn around and I knew she was getting close to me. I really wanted her to pass me as I need some work getting out of my comfort zone on race day and I knew she would be the one to help me. When Lauren passed me I legally drafted behind her and she really made me push hard. I was so grateful for this opportunity because not only is she a friend of mine from Jax but a super strong athlete who is performing awesome right now. She pushed me when we use to do track work when I lived in Jax and I loved the uncomfortable push to try to keep her in my view throughout the bike.

I made the mistake of easing up a bit too much in the last 1.5 miles so I will learn from this and trust myself that I don't have to slow down that much in order to still have a strong run.
I consumed 1 bottle of 250 calories of sport drink on the bike and I planned 1 flask of 1 scoop Clif Hydration in my hand held flask for the run. 

RUN: 46:09 (7:27 average pace, 9th female)

There's not much to over-analyze about this run as I felt good and that's all I can ask for. I'm so excited to see what I'm capable of this season with the help of Chris Johnson, PT. My biggest mistake for the first 6 years of endurance racing was trying to get fast too early in my season. I was able to get fast but it came with an unwanted side-effect: injuries. Finally, I am nearing almost 2 years (in May) of absolutely NO injuries. My hips, back and glutes are healthy and strong and I am one happy runner!
What I can say is I felt strong during this run and it was steady. I wanted to have a strong back-half of the race so pacing was really important to me. I was not looking at my Garmin for pacing feedback as I ran but instead, I just ran. I took two stop breaks to take a breather for about 5 seconds or so throughout the race. Karel passed me in the first mile of the run and it was great to have a short chat with him before he ran away from me as he was chasing down his competition.

Mile 1: 7:15 (142 HR)
Mile 2: 7:24 (146 HR)
Mile 3: 7:23 (149 HR)
Mile 4: 7:23 (152 HR)
Mile 5: 7:23 (155 HR)
Mile 6: 7:09 (159 HR)
.31: 7:00 (161 HR)

I chose to wear my Brooks Launch with a 9 mm drop rather than my Brooks Pure Flow 4 that have a 4mm drop. I wanted the little extra heel to toe drop to help my legs which were already tired going into this race. 

Karel had a great race and just like me, we both felt like we have so much more fitness to gain this season and we are really happy with where we are right now with our athletic development.
Karel placed 2nd age group and 6th overall male.
Swim: 25:31, Bike: 1:03:14 (23.5mph), Run: 40.01 (6:28 average)
Total time: 2:11:55

Lauren had an AMAZING race and placed 2nd overall female and I shocked myself with a 3rd place overall female result. As great as I felt on race day after 3 days of camp, I look forward to a taper before Challenge Knoxville half ironman distance triathlon!

Total time: 2:21:48 (25th overall athlete)

Two podium finishes made for a great start to the racing season but racing with so many of our athletes was the best part of it all!

Enough about me and's time to show off our AWESOME athletes! 

Kelsey raced the aquabike and placed 2nd overall female! She's AWESOME!

Taryn looking strong!

Keep it up Josh!

Karel and our friend Daniel K on the Stellar Triathlon Team. 

Jim Nitz having fun and looking healthy and strong!

Karel headed out on the run course to cheer on our athlete Mike B. 

Looking good in the kits Josh and Karel!

Colleen is smiling big because she is healthy,  injury free and enjoying her season training for her first Ironman!

There goes Karel again pushing our athlete JoAnn!

There goes JoAnn's hubby Rob!

Great race Joe! Every day you are getting stronger!

Nice work Mike M - looking great!

Karel giving Jeff B a pep talk to keep up the great work!

Looking great Ryan!

Love the smile Tricia!

What a great group! Keep having fun Maggie, Tricia and Ryan!

Heather - you look amazing! Photo credit to Heather's friend on Facebook who took this great pic!

Nice work guys! Way to go Wlad - keep making those fantastic improvements! 

Great job Taryn, Kelsey, Elizabeth and Danielle! 

Our Trimarni camp couple - JoAnn and Rob sharing the race-day love!

Thanks Lauren for the push! You rock! 

Elizabeth spoiling Campy with kisses and butt massages. 

Great job Danielle on the podium!!

Way to go Kevin!! Nice work!!

Great job Kelsey!

We love our Jax friends! They will always be our training buddies!

Smiles post race. 

Results from our athletes:
Joe N - 2:22:33, 2nd age group (25-29)
Wlad -2:25:44, 3rd age group (40-44)

Nick G - 2:30:23 
Kevin D -2:30:41, 3rd age group (55-59) \
Josh G - 2:32:49
Danielle - 2:45:17, 3rd age group (35-39)
Rob J - 2:46:35
Mike M. - 2:48:38
James W - 2:50:55 
Colleen L - 2:47:32 
Jeff B - 2:56:24
Mike B - 3:01:36 
Taryn F - 3:02:29 
Jim N - 3:05:20 
Elizabeth - 3:05:22
Heather A - 3:10:34 
JoAnn J - 3:18:04 
Maggie - 3:31:30 
Ryan -3:39:33 
Tricia - 3:44:41
Kelsey A - 1:50:51 (aquabike), 2nd overall female

Karel - 2:11:55, 6th overall
Marni - 2:21:48, 3rd overall female

Thank also to the Trimarni sponsors! 

And thanks Sommer Sports for welcoming the Trimarni team!

Thank you for reading about our 4-day Clermont Training camp. Stay tuned for our advanced athlete, Ironman-focused Greenville camp this June! 


Trimarni Clermont Camp- Day 3

Thank goodness for teammates. They lift you up when you are down, they give you energy when you feel empty and they hold you accountable to putting in the work. 

Day 3 of camp started at 7:30am. 4 hours of riding and 30 min of riding was the plan and our campers did not complain. We told everyone to get their mind in a good place because it is not that often that you can ride with others after 2 days of solid training (and 6 workouts accomplished) and have this amazing opportunity to be without day-to-day life stress and to just do what you love to do...which is use your active body. 

The weather was perfect as it was overcast and not hot when we started our ride. I instructed all our athletes to bring 3 bottles of sport drink (at least 220 calories per bottle) and I had our Clif Bar products (blocks, bars, gels) available if athletes needed the extra calories in addition to relying on primarily liquid calories. Karel and I set-up two coolers of ice water (and a box of sport nutrition products) in our secret spot on the Buckhill loop for our athletes to refill bottles as needed for our 4 hour ride. 

Karel picked a great bike course which included multiple loops on Buckhill and then one last climb on Sugarloaf Mountain. Our campers broke into groups, some larger than others, so that everyone could push each other. The ride was not an intense ride but far from conversational. With over 3000 feet of climbing, our campers really challenged themselves. 

As we say with every Trimarni camp, day 3 is always the hardest, physically and mentally. Knowing that we would all be racing an Olympic Distance Triathlon Sunday was just another reason for the mind and body to want to "check-out" with the training scheduled for Saturday. But our campers were amazing -  more than amazing they were awesome and outstanding!

Typically, after a few days of training, a good warm-up is in order. Whereas tired muscles are no fun to use when a long or intense workout is in order, if the body is well-fueled and well-hydrated and the mind is in a positive place, most athletes are only a warm-up away from a great workout. We used the first 45 minutes or so to keep the ride fairly easy and conversational until we hit the looped section of the course and then it was time to get serious. 

Ok, so my serious includes a few pics of animals but other than that, I had my game face on.

It's not the same "mountain" I climb in Greenville but if the road isn't flat, you can call it what you want. Sugarloaf Mountain is not an easy climb but every one of our athletes got to the top and looked great while climbing! 

All those heavy gear intervals over the past two months were paying off with our athletes as they all were able to pedal efficiently and stay relaxed while climbing. 

What a beautiful "mountain" view. 

Yay! Trimarni athletes looking strong and still smiling!

After an EZ spin back to the NTC where we met in the morning, our campers all went out for a 30 minute run (15 min out, 15 min back) with their liquid nutrition (fuel belt or hand held) for one last workout of the morning. 

It was nearing 12:45pm so our athletes had 2 hours to shower, clean-up, get a recovery drink and eat a good meal before we all met at Waterfront Park for athlete check-in...and another workout. 

After we all checked in for the race for the 32nd Annual Great Clermont Triathlon and picked up our packets, everyone changed into their swim gear and we headed into the water for a 20 minute open water swim.
There was talk about wetsuit legal or not so we advised our athletes to wear their wetsuit (if wetsuit legal) in order to practice wearing it in an early season race. The water temp was on the verge of being non-wetsuit legal for race day but on Saturday afternoon, it was very comfortable for us to wear speedsuits and swim suits.

One of the best suggestions that we can give to our athletes is to get to know their course before race day. By having the opportunity to bike on key sections of the bike course (or at least drive) ahead of the race, know the direction of bike in/out and run in/out and feeling the water to be mentally and physically (or clothing) prepared is all beneficial to boost confidence for race day. We find far too many athletes spend the 24 hours before a race worrying about things in and out of their control. The more you get to know your race course, the more comfortable and confident you will be on race day - and you will feel even more prepared. 

There were a few buoys set-up from the half ironman race on Saturday morning so we did 2 loops (or 10 minutes) around two small buoys and then I broke everyone into groups of 5 (similar swim ability) to practice in-the-water starts (although at this race it was a land start) to simulate mass starts. Everyone swam around 5 minutes at a "best effort".

Campy was happy to join everyone at the race venue and I'm pretty sure he was just as exhausted as all our campers by Sunday. Vacationing is hard work when you are a 12 lb chihuahua/italian greyhound! 

After our 20 minute-ish swim, we called it a day around 3:45pm and our campers went back to their houses to rest, eat and pack-up. After 3 days and over 12 hours of training completed, our athletes were in bed early for a good night of sleep before starting day 4 of camp....race day!