Professional triathlete and nutritionist Pip Taylor digs into a reader’s food diary and offers advice for eating, performing and feeling your best.
Hometown: Leesburg, Va.
Years in tri: 3
Tri Club: I WILL Foundation, in support of Matt Long, author of The Long Run
Best tri accomplishment: Multiple Clydesdale division wins
Coveted Tri Goal(s): Racing Ironman 70.3 EagleMan, Ironman U.S. Championships and the Nation’s Triathlon, with hopes of qualifying for Age Group Nationals.
Nutrition concerns: I am 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds, with 9 percent body fat. I’m concerned about getting the right number of calories to get into race shape without negatively affecting my ability to perform during an emergency. I have a unique schedule, working 10 24-hour shifts a month.
3:35 a.m. Wake up for work
4 a.m. Cup of coffee and banana on the drive to the firehouse
5 a.m. 60–90-minute tempo run on the treadmill at the firehouse gym before 24-hour shift begins
7 a.m. Start of shift, eat nonfat Greek yogurt with granola and cut-up strawberries
10 a.m. Banana and Clif Bar
12 p.m. Lunch of Subway six-inch turkey sandwich with double meat
2 p.m. Two cookies dropped off by appreciative citizen
3 p.m. Strength training for an hour in between calls
6 p.m. Firehouse dinner of chicken enchiladas
10 p.m. Bedtime
At 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds you are a solid guy! But you are also lean and obviously fit. I’d be concerned that dropping too much weight (and much of this would be muscle mass) could be detrimental to your job as a firefighter, not to mention much of your strength—particularly on the bike. Everyone has a weight that is optimal for them, and lighter and leaner does not always mean faster or stronger. If you are looking at performance results, then your nutrition should focus on supporting your key workouts, not shedding weight.
You don’t seem to eat a lot for an active guy of your size. Add in some more vegetables and time your caloric intake so that there are more meals, fewer snacks and an appropriate caloric intake for your workouts.
If you have a hard morning workout planned, use a sports drink during the run. This will optimize available fuel so you are getting everything you can out of the workout, and also help “train” your gut to take in fluids in motion—something that is important for race day.
After your morning run, recovery nutrition is important—both physically and mentally so you’re on your game for work. Eat something higher in protein and fat along with some carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen. Perhaps some scrambled or poached eggs with spinach, tomato and sweet potatoes, followed by berries and full-fat yogurt, which may help with satiety and caloric intake around training.
Instead of the snacks on either side of lunch, try having a bigger lunch based on vegetables, salads and lean meats. Add in healthy fats such as avocado or olive oil to aid absorption of nutrients, promote a feeling of fullness and provide fuel. While I fully advocate the provision of home-baked treats, something like a banana and a handful of walnuts is more beneficial if you need a snack. At night, pair your chicken and rice-based meals with plenty of steamed vegetables and/or salad.
When you are not at work, prioritize sleep when you can. This will be vital for improving stress levels and allow maximum adaptation to training and nutrition strategies. Together these will ultimately lead to optimal body composition and improvements in your performance.
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