Essential Sports Nutrition


Hello from Haines City, FL!

How in the heck is it already April!?!?! I can't believe we are just a few sleeps away from our first triathlon race of 2019.

When planning our 2019 race schedule back in October/November, we knew we wanted to go back to Haines City for the half Ironman. It's a great early season race to dust off the rust and welcome the hurt that comes with racing. We love the race venue as the town welcomes the race, the race vibe is always welcoming and exciting and the course is spectator friendly (swim and run). The course is not an easy one, and that also appeals to us. This year will be even more challenging as the race day temperature is suppose to reach 90 degrees! 😱 But, we are super excited to share the course with 15 of our amazing athletes.

We broke up the drive into two days, leaving on Wednesday late morning. We made the 5.5 hour drive to Jacksonville, FL where we stayed overnight with our friends/athletes Joe and Erica. After our morning workout, we hit the road to Haines City which took about 3 hours.

Our workouts this week have been refreshingly good to help get us race ready. Monday morning was a long 5600 swim workout but it provided a nice variety of strokes, toys and efforts that the yards went by rather quickly. On Tuesday I had a 1:40 hr bike to test out my race set up, followed by a 30 min brick run (including a few one minute efforts). It's always nice to ride the bike on race week when it's all tuned up, race wheels are on and the legs are itching to push a bit harder. On Wednesday morning I did a 40 min strength session at home before our travel. Thursday was a 90 min ride with a few short hard efforts, followed by half IM efforts. After the ride was a 20-minute brick run. The weather has gone from spring-like weather in Greenville to hot and toasty in Haines City.

Upon arriving to our rental home on Thursday afternoon, I went to the grocery store to stock the house with plenty of food for us (and our other housemates).

I'm so happy that Campy is with us as he helps me de-stress and keeps me on my normal routine. Tomorrow we will do an easy spin on the course and after checking in, we will do a swim workout. All these training sessions are to keep the body from getting stale so that we can arrive sharp and ready for race day (Sunday).

With a long season ahead of us, finishing at the 2019 Ironman World Championship in October, we are excited to finally get this season started!

For tracking:
Ironman Tracker App
Marni Sumbal - Bib 40 (start time 7:28, wave 9)
Karel Sumbal - Bib 51 (start time 7:46, wave 14)


Do you feel "too heavy" for your sport?

With social media/media with much of the blame, it's easy to feel an overwhelming amount of pressure to look differently. With so much misinformation and information overload about healthy eating, alongside a great cultural obsession about body image, it's understandable why so many athletes are constantly trying to change the way they look, by changing the way the eat and train. Although a lot of good can result from changing the way that you eat IF trying to optimize health and performance, it's important to create a sustainable, healthy style of eating - not one that is restrictive, obsessive and based on fearing food.

Do any of the following questions resonate with you?
  • The number on the scale and my reflection in the mirror significantly affects my relationship with food and my body.
  • I have adopted a restrictive diet in an effort to feel control over my eating choices.
    (less choices + less guessing = control ---> less anxiety around food). 
  • I often feel stressed or overwhelmed with food, especially at events, social activities and when eating out. 
  • I feel shame, anxiety and judgment when I indulge. 
  • I give myself permission to indulge only when I meet my expectations for a workout.
  • I don't know what it's like to have a good relationship with food and my body. 
  • I wish I could eat normally. 
  • I often get anxious if I have to eat in front of other people or at places where I don’t know how the food is prepared. 
  • I  have a lot of food rules. 
  • I am a very picky eater. 
  • I never want to eat too much, feel too full or consume unhealthy foods.
  • I don't enjoy eating/food.
  • I have no idea what my body needs to feel fueled and nourished. 
  • I have many negative voices in my head telling me about food and my weight. 
  • My current diet and/or relationship with food affects many areas in my life, such as my social life, activity regime and relationships with others. 
  • I am not flexible with my eating - food is either good or bad. 
  • I constantly feel "too big" to be a successful athlete. 
As a Board Certified Sport Dietitian, I work with many athletes who struggle with their relationship with food and the body. A key part in this type of the counseling process is learning how to embrace fear - relearning how to eat without anxiety. Often times, a fear of of gaining weight causes athletes to limit/restrict food in the diet. Athletes become exceptionally good at restriction, control and discipline. Consequences of maintaining disordered eating extend far more than in personal life (marriage, parenting, work) but it can also result in electrolyte and fluid imbalances, injuries, sickness, low heart rate, bone loss, low blood pressure (fainting/dizziness), depression, anxiety and social isolation. 

As we inch closer into the summer, I encourage you to focus less on what your body looks like and more on what your body requires in order to feel nourished, fueled, energized and satisfied.

As an athlete, you have a great responsibility to take care of your body with proper eating and fueling. Challenge the voices that are telling you that you are "too heavy" and feed your body what it needs for you to live a healthy, active and happy life.


Fueling your body (not your body weight)

Smiling as we go into race week!
(Picture from 2018 St. George 70.3)

It feels great to know that we are finally approaching race week. Six months without racing had made me miss racing and I am so excited that we get to kick off the season with a half Ironman in Haines City, FL along with 15 of our athletes.

Although I'm most excited to dust off the rust and experience the hurt that comes with racing, I'm also anxious to see what my new training (thanks to my new coach - my first ever hired coach) has done for my body. I feel fit and healthy and I'm thankful to my body for letting me train for my races.

Over the past seven days, I've completed 21800 yards swimming (5 hours), 10:37 hours cycling, 3:52 hours running and one hour of strength training. Thank you body!

Throughout every session, I've made sure to fuel and hydrate my body to support every training session. Not only does this help me master my race day nutrition but I also view fueling/hydration as a way to keep my body functioning well during training stress. A common misconception that I hear from athletes/coaches is that workout fueling should be based on body weight. This is actually incorrect. In other words, a 120 lb female athlete can consume the same amount of calories as a 190lb male athlete during a long duration workout.

This is why the carbohydrate recommendations in my book are expressed in grams per hour (ex. 60-90g of carbohydrates per hour during a 3+ hour workout) and not expressed per weight.

Physiologically, there is no relationship between weight and how much carbohydrate your body oxidizes during exercise. Regardless of how much you weigh, exercise intensity and duration indicates how much energy (carbohydrates) you need to support the training session. Body weight doesn't differentiate between how much (or little) you need to support a workout.

Although your daily carbohydrate intake (outside of training) does factor in your weight and activity level, when you exercise, carbohydrate intake is based on intestinal absorption. Scientifically, it shouldn't be assumed that a 110 lb runner has faster or slower intestinal absorption of 50g of carbohydrate compared to a 200 lb runner.

Hopefully this helps clears up any confusion (and helps you better fuel your body). Because carbohydrate ingestion can improve performance (and health) during long duration and high intensity exercise, don't be afraid to fuel "enough" to support your amazing body in motion.
Here are some wise words written by my athlete Ericka on her recent social media post:

"Sometimes I get caught up thinking that "I don't need THAT many calories to get through this workout." Truth is I have never regretted fueling...and I mean really fueling. I've certainly regretted under fueling. Maybe not in the workout that I got through on minimal calories, but then I'll feel it in the next one or the one after that or in two weeks when I'm empty and I have to tap out.

When I fuel to fill the tank, I feel unstoppable. Not just in that workout, but the next one and the one after that and in two weeks when my body does more than I ever thought possible."