Essential Sports Nutrition


IM Kona Race Week - Mistake #3

Body Image Dissatisfaction 

At Trimarni, we believe in setting a good example for our athletes by encouraging a healthy relationship with food and the body. Karel and I do not follow any extreme styles of eating, we don't restrict food/fuel in an effort to change body composition and we do not manipulate our diet in an effort to change our body image. Food is our fuel and our nourishment and we firmly believe that when the body is well fueled and well nourished, it's healthy. And a healthy body can perform far better than a body that may look fit but is not receiving the necessary nutrients and energy to perform.

Sadly, we live in a society and within a sport bubble that involves competitive leanness. Rather than seeing the body as the vehicle that gets you from the start to the finish line, many athletes are spending an entire season racing for a specific appearance/body fat percentage, assuming that leanness is a criteria for race day success.

Truth be told, in the sport of triathlon, specifically in the Ironman World Championship, the winner across the finish line is not always the leanest athlete. We still have inconclusive evidence that "leanness" directly correlates to athletic readiness and ability to performance in an Ironman, specifically because there are so many variables that can affect the body over 140.6 miles.

Your body image does not make you mentally stronger on race day.
Your body image does not make you immune to needing sport nutrition on race day.
Your body image does not mean that you won't fatigue or have low moments on race day.
Your body image does not mean that you won't have an equipment related issue on race day. 

Your body image does not mean that you will have endless energy on race day. 

So why do so many athletes focus on apperance over performance? 
You can't do much on race day with an underfueled/unhealthy body. 

As an athlete, your closest relationship in life will be to your body. Your body lets you do so much on a daily basis but you can never take for granted what your body lets you do on race day.  

On IM Kona race week, you should find your relationship with your body at its strongest. You should be thanking every part of your body every for what it's about to let you do on Saturday. You receive no athletic benefit in bashing your body, restricting carbohydrates, dehydrating yourself, wishing for a different body image or feeling intense pressure to quickly weigh less. Manipulating your diet on race week in an effort to change your body composition will only put you at risk for a race performance far below your athletic potential. 

Due to self-comparison and excessive media exposure that glorifies lean and toned athletic bodies in Kona, you may find yourself constantly criticizing your appearance, assuming that if only you could have dropped a few more lbs or reached your "race weight" then you would be able to perform better on race day. When you surround yourself with the best Ironman athletes from around the world, every athlete is fit. You don't arrive to a World Championship event without a strong committment to your training. But I can tell you that many of the athletes at the start line are not healthy. While an athlete may look fit based on his/her body image, come race day, your body image does not determine race day readiness. Don't let the body image of another athlete cause you to believe that your body isn't ready or good enough for race day. 

Having a great relationship with your body not only builds your confidence for race day but it also enables you to make good eating and fueling choices on race week, which will help you arrive to your Ironman World Championship start line fresh, fueled and hungry to race. If you are constantly feeling bothered by your body composition, there's a good chance that you are spending more energy on how your body looks instead of what it can do on race day. 

It's normal to feel a little heavier than normal on race week when you are properly fueling and hydrating your body for race day. You may even feel a little uncomfortable at times and this is ok. I always remind myself that when my body feels a little heavy, it means that I am fully loaded with fuel for race day. 

It's normal to look a little different in the mirror when your body is rejuvinating and repairing itself during taper. Remind yourself that what you look like doesn't determine how your body will perform on race day. Far too many athletes arrive to Kona looking extremely lean and fit but unhealthy and nutritionally unprepared for the necessary fuel/hydration that is required to get the body to the finish line.

Healthy and strong look different on every body. Be proud of your body and how far it has gotten you in your Ironman journey. Direct your energy beyond a look and instead, focus on the amazing adventure that you will go on with your body on race day.

Fuel and eat for performance and not for an image. Be honest with yourself - what is it that you want your body to do on race day? Do you want to look strong and fast or do you want your body to be strong and fast?  If you went to Kona with plans, hopes and dreams of performing well with your body, don't sabotage your performance by letting your appearance get the best of you. 

Replace the negative self-talk and self-criticism with meaningful statements that reflect a positive appreciation for your amazing body.