Sports dietitian Lauren Antonucci digs into a reader’s food diary and offers advice for eating, performing and feeling your best.
Occupation: Foreign service officer with USAID
Hometown: Annapolis, Md., currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Years In Tri: 9
Coveted Tri Goal: To get to the start of an Ironman healthy and enjoy the day.
Nutrition Concerns: I train pretty hard but feel I am not at my ideal race weight and know that I do eat a lot. Friends often tell me, “Oh, but you work it all off.” I would like to know if I should be eating less or differently. My goal is to fuel my body properly for Ironman training and to be the strongest, fastest and fittest triathlete I can be.
5:50 A.M. One banana
6 A.M. Track workout
7:15 A.M. Protein shake (1 scoop strawberry protein powder, 1 banana, water and ice)
9 A.M. 1 cup oatmeal
10:30 A.M. 1 pancake (oats, eggs, apple, protein powder, 1 cup mango, 1 cup papaya, 1 cup grapefruit, ½ cup pineapple, ½ cup dragon fruit)
1:30 P.M. 4 spring rolls with sauce, 2 cups tossed salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots, 2 T pesto dressing, 1 cup ratatouille (eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers), 2 pieces baked/breaded fish, 1.5 cups steamed veggies (green beans, broccoli, carrots, zucchini), ½ cup fresh mango
6 P.M. 90-minute spin class, 20 oz. water with Ultima
8:15 P.M. 1.5 cups steamed veggies (green beans, broccoli, carrots, zucchini), 1.5 cups tossed salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots, ½ cup brown rice
9:30 P.M. 3 cups microwave popcorn
10 P.M. 1 cup mango
I love that your goal is not specifically body weight-based, but to be “the strongest, fastest and fittest triathlete” you can be. You have certainly been training hard, and I can tell that you are putting in effort toward eating well. However, as is the case with most athletes, when I look at your food log and training, I can identify some improvements to your current fueling plan.
For starters, you note using 2–3 scoops of protein powder each day, but are not consuming any food sources of protein at either breakfast or dinner, or any dairy. Swap out your protein powder in your post-morning-workout smoothie for low-fat Greek yogurt for a more natural source of protein complete with calcium (and, I’d argue, a better, creamier tasting shake). You are missing any source of protein in your dinner, which is also your post-evening-workout recovery meal. Add some baked, broiled or steamed fish for much-needed protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, and you’ll be amazed at how much faster your legs recover from your workouts.
In terms of carbohydrates: Although I’d agree that fruits are both delicious and healthy, did you realize that you are consuming 17 servings of fruit per day? I’d strongly recommend trading several of those fruits in for other much-needed carbs. Try adding 1 cup of beans, lentils or other whole grains at both lunch and dinner. Eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich (or similar) instead of the second serving of oats (pancake) and 10 fruit servings you reported at 10:30 a.m. Keep to two servings of fruit there, or at any one time. As you reduce your total fruit intake, and replace them with other more complex carbs, you should notice more stable energy levels throughout your work day and double training sessions.
Finally, I’d recommend adding 2–3 servings of healthy fats daily. Try including avocado in your salads and ground flaxseeds or walnuts in your morning oatmeal. With these changes and your determination, I have no doubts that you will be the triathlete you want to be.