Essential Sports Nutrition


2019 Clermont Train-Cation Recap

For the past few years, Karel and I have dedicated a few days in the month of February to a personal "training camp." We ran this idea by our coaches and they supplied us with our workouts for 3.5 days of training in warm and sunny Clermont, Florida. We are very familiar with Clermont as it was the first place where we held a training camp back in 2013. Since then, we have held five camps in Clermont, Florida. Also, when we lived in Clearwater and then Jacksonville, Karel and I would annually participate in the Clermont Horrible Hundred bike event in November.

Clermont is a great place for triathletes. The NTC (National Training Center) has an incredible facility with a huge outdoor pool that would make even the most anti-swimmer triathlete want to swim. The one-day rate is a little pricey ($15/person) but it's worth it when you get to swim outdoors and be surrounded by other like-minded individuals (there's no shortage of triathletes in the area, no matter when you go to Clermont).

There are countless routes for cycling. Since we were last in Clermont (in 2017), there have been so many new developments, roads and cycling trails. Although we consider Greenville, SC super bike friendly, it's incredible how many cycling-friendly paths there are in the area. We also feel safe on the road, mostly because the drivers are accustomed to sharing the roads with cyclists/triathletes. We have been fairly lucky with this trip as the weather was perfectly HOT when we arrived on Sunday evening. Although Wed was rainy and chilly, we were lucky to get two warm days to start our train-cation. It's been a nice change from our weather in Greenville (which is not that bad compared to way up north!). And in case you were wondering, Clermont is hilly!! Although we are searching out more "flat" terrain while we are here, we are getting plenty of ups and downs to remind us of home. 

As for running, there's the notorious Clay Trail that is a rolling hill trail covered in orangish clay. It's very popular among visitors and locals. We were planning to run on it on Thurs but due to weather, we had to swap Wed/Thurs workouts. While there are plenty of paved trails for running, we enjoy running by the Waterfront Lake - which is home to a series of triathlon events from March until October.

Tomorrow we will conclude our training camp with one last big workout. Here's the run down so far...

Monday AM:
4300 yard swim
2:46 ride

Monday PM:
50 minute run

Tuesday AM:
3:49 ride
(Karel had a 25 min run off the bike)

Tuesday PM:
4000 yard swim (with a 40 min break before the main set due to lightening)

Wednesday AM:
5000 yard swim
1 hour run for me, 50 min run for Karel

Wednesday PM:
30 minute run

Thursday AM (still to come!)
5 hour ride
20 min brick run

With a lot of training to pack into 3.5 days, nutrition plays a huge role in our training - all year long.  Consistency is key for us as we love the process of training, but we also care greatly about our health. In my opinion, nothing says "healthy" when you think about the stress that we put our body under when we are training for 3-5 hours a day so it's very important for us (and for all athletes) to consider the role of the daily diet and sport nutrition to help the body perform well and adapt to this intentional overload of training stress.

While I always put a lot of thought and effort into how we eat and fuel, it never feels too overwhelming for me. With a background in exercise science (Bachelor degree) and exercise physiology (Master degree), I find that sport nutrition comes quite simple for me. Because I know what's going on on a physiological level, it's much easier for me to know how to eat, fuel and hydrate on a daily basis. 

I prepped a lot of food before we traveled to Clermont so that we could easily put together a balanced meal in a hurry, without needing to think about meal planning (or waiting for food). Rather than making complete meals, I made a bunch of different foods such as rice, quinoa, boiled potatoes, sauteed veggies, tempeh, tofu and chicken. I also brought along some staples like honey, syrup, PB and oatmeal, as well as some "fun" foods like Oreas and pita chips (however, the later two haven't been consumed very much). Karel and I are all about real food to make up the majority of our diet but as endurance athletes, there is room for the "fun" foods. We never worry about eating "too much" and we also don't focus on body image when we train (or throughout the day). Food is our fuel and nourishment and we don't ever restrict ourselves (that includes fueling before and during workouts). 

Although I am all about real food, there's a time and a place for sport nutrition - specifically powders and bars. I'm grateful for the sport nutrition companies out there who have well-formulated products with safe and effective ingredients. When I search for a quality sport nutrition product, I look for the carbohydrates, electrolytes and formulation to ensure that it's well made and also that it can be easily digested and absorbed. I am not a fan of "boosters" and additives in sport nutrition products so to me, sport nutrition needs to be simple - give the body what it needs and nothing more. If the body needs something more (ex. BCAAs, protein, fat, etc.), get it from an extra source and not from your primary sport drink. By supplying the body with what it needs during a workout (with the right type of product and amount), the body can perform at its best and the stress response decreases (with less risk for injury, burnout and sickness). This is how the body can best stay "healthy" through intense and high volume training. In my opinion, sport nutrition products are not unhealthy - they keep the body in good health! That is - if you use them properly.

Throughout this camp, I've not consumed any energy drinks or caffeinated products outside of my one cup of coffee in the morning. The energy that I need comes from my daily diet and from the fuel and hydration that I consume during training (and after training). 

Karel and I don't get to train like this very often. Even with the Ironman World Championship as our priority race this season (in October), this will likely be our only personal training camp of the year. The rest of the season will include a lot of private and group training camps for athletes and we will squeeze in our own training when it makes sense. As part of this mini train-cation, I wanted to use social media to show you how we train, fuel and eat. It's not extreme, sexy or complicated. Yes, it does require a lot of planning, understanding and effort, but I feel it's an obligation to my body to take care of it. 

It's not uncommon for endurance athletes to want to change how they look and to experience strong feelings before, during and after workouts to be lighter, leaner or stronger. This often leads to overexercising and underfueling. However, there is also a large group of athletes who don't think this way but just lack an understanding of how to fuel and eat to support the training load. Regardless of the group that you fit into, haphazard fueling and eating can result in health issues and a performance decline.

As it relates to the former group, rather than fueling for consistent training, great health and a stronger body, athletes sabotage great workouts by not eating properly. The body becomes weaker and more fragile as the goal switches from being strong, fit and healthy to train more and to eat less.

There are far too many nutrition "experts" who are encouraging athletes to avoid carbs and sport nutrition and even to fast for 8-24 hours at a time. Because of this, athletes are scared and confused about food. This thinking is absolutely wrong!!!

The outcomes of an underfueled/undernourished body are not advantageous. I could not image training in an underfueled, undernourished state. Workouts are hard enough as they are, even when I'm well fueled! 

If you have been told to not fuel before, during or after a workout OR you feel you are chronically undernourished OR you are occasionally severely restricting your food/sport nutrition intake, you may be putting your body at an increased risk for injury, burnout and illness. 

Please be kind to your body. Take care of it and give your body the fuel and nourishment that it deserves. In return you'll be rewarded with great health, consistent training and an improved quality of life. 

Will your current diet fail you?

When it comes to sports success, diet is a big piece of the puzzle that many athletes struggle to appreciate and master. Around this time of the year, when the temps are moderate to cold, overall training load is low and the training stress is not extremely high, it's easy to get away with haphazard fueling methods and inconsistent eating habits. However, as training intensity and volume increase (especially with the added stressor of heat), the previous style of eating that you thought was working for you, may soon present major issues for your health and performance.

Karel and I are currently in Clermont, Florida for a mini train-cation. 3.5 days of a training overload in a different environment. While we can't completely check out of our daily work responsibilities, there's the understanding that we are here to train and to absorb as much training stress as we can.

With this comes a huge responsibility to our bodies to make sure we are fueling and hydrating well (it's hot here!) before, during and after every training session. Any major slip-up and we could compromise our health and performance. Similar to training in our home-environment, our goal of training is always to make a positive return on our training investments. With this comes attention and awareness of what and how we are eating.

An athlete who is dehydrated, glycogen-depleted, deficient in nutrients, sleep deprived and stressed will not perform at his/her best. Whether it's intentional (rigid dieting) or unintentional (poor planning/lack of understanding), it's not uncommon for athletes to suffer from hormonal imbalance, anemia, stress fractures, loss of strength and power, GI issues, fatigue, moodiness, lack of appetite (or overeating), low motivation and an overall decline in performance due to not meeting energy, fluid and electrolyte needs. In other words, as your training changes, your diet needs to change as well. The greater the training stress, the more emphasis you need to put on what, how much and when you are eating.

While some of the symptoms of improper fueling and inadequate nutrition will not show up until health and performance is already compromised, pay attention to the following that may indicate that your current diet is no longer meeting your training demands:
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, weak or "fuzzy" when training (or during the day)
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • GI issues - bloating, gas, loose stools, constipation 
  • A significant decline in strength, power, speed and stamina
  • Trouble sleeping (falling asleep or staying asleep)
  • Lack of appetite
  • A significant change in your appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss, specifically a quick amount of weight loss in a short amount of time
  • Unintentional weight gain, specifically around the midsection
  • Prolonged recovery, abnormal muscle soreness, chronic joint aches
  • Heavy reliance on anti-inflammatory meds
  • Increased reliance on caffeine to "survive" the day and workouts
  • Decrease in self-esteem, mood and confidence
  • Suppressed immune system - more frequent sickness or more time needed to recover from sickness
  • Chronically feeling dehydrated, change in urination habits
  • Increased injuries
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Irritability, trouble concentrating 
Although disordered eating and rigid dieting are often the cause of not meeting the energy and hydration demands of training, most athletes lack the knowledge and appreciation for the amount of fuel, calories, nutrients and fluids that are needed to support sport specific training.

To reduce the risk of a health or performance setback this season, reach out to a sport RD (CSSD) who can optimize your diet and provide fueling strategies for before, during and after training to help you reach athletic excellence without compromising your health and well-being.

Don't just be dedicated to training. You can train as hard as you want to, but without good nutrition and fueling, you'll never reach your full potential.