How The Pros Stay Lean

  • By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Published May 21, 2013
  • Updated Jun 30, 2015 at 12:05 PM UTC
Photo: John David Becker and Sue Fan

Racing Weight Staples

The world’s fastest and leanest triathletes eat healthily but normally. They also tend to eat some of the most popular natural foods in the North American diet quite often, relying on them as convenient, nourishing staples to help them stay lean without a lot of fuss. Here are six “racing weight staples” representing each of the half-dozen high-quality food types.

Tomatoes (Vegetable*)
Tomatoes add a ton of flavor and nutrition to meals without adding a lot of calories. They’re also used in a tremendous variety of the foods we love, including sauces, soups, salads and sandwiches, making them a terrific racing weight staple.

Bananas (Fruit)
Because they have more starch and fewer antioxidants than many other fruits, bananas have become underappreciated in recent years. But they are a convenient and tasty natural source of the carbs that every triathlete needs to support hard training. Plus, unlike most other fruits, good bananas are available everywhere all year long.

Peanut butter (Nuts and seeds**)
Research has shown that people who consume nuts regularly are leaner than those who eat them sparingly. When spread on whole-grain bread or crackers, old-fashioned peanut butter (just peanuts and salt) is a great post-workout or between-meals snack for triathletes.

Turkey (Lean meat)
Turkey is the leanest popular deli meat. Good turkey sandwiches are easy to find or make at home. Just be sure your turkey sandwiches are made with 100 percent whole-grain bread and lots of vegetables, and without mayonnaise.

Whole wheat (Whole grain)
One of the simplest dietary changes you can make to facilitate fat loss is to replace refined grains with whole grains whenever possible. Fortunately, whole-wheat versions of popular foods such as breads, breakfast cereals, pastas, tortillas and crackers are becoming more widely available.

Yogurt (Dairy)
A recent Harvard study found that yogurt prevented long-term weight gain more effectively than any other food, including fruits and vegetables. That’s great news because everyone likes yogurt—even most lactose-intolerant individuals can tolerate it thanks to the probiotics it contains.

* The tomato is technically a fruit, but I prefer to follow culinary convention instead of botanical convention and classify it as a vegetable.
** Peanuts are technically a legume, but I prefer to follow culinary convention instead of botanical convention and classify them as a nut.

RELATED – Triathlife With Jesse Thomas: I Eat A Lot And That’s OK

Chrissie’s Food Journal

Chrissie Wellington is a four-time winner of the Hawaii Ironman World Championship and holds the Iron distance world record (8:33:56). In addition to the foods and drinks listed here, in a typical training day she drank water and Cytomax throughout the day (approximately 3 liters total).

2 T honey
2 T peanut butter
Cup of coffee with milk

Workout 1

“Huge bowl” of porridge oats, all-bran buds, raisins, dried plums, coconut, nuts and seeds, mixed with vanilla yogurt
Cup of tea or coffee


Workout 2
Cytomax sports drink
Muesli bar
Carbohydrate gel

2 bagel sandwiches with turkey and cheese
Large green salad
Handful of nuts


Workout 3

Beefsteak stir-fried with vegetables
Bowl of frozen fruit with yogurt

Evening Snack
Small bar of chocolate

RELATED: Greek Yogurt 10 Ways

High-quality foods
Vegetables (including legumes) Eat all of these food types. 

Eat each of these food types more often than any low-quality food type.


Try to eat the food types near the top of the list more often than the food types near the bottom.

Nuts and seeds
Lean meats and fish
Whole grains
Low-quality foods
Refined grains Eat each of these food types less often than any high-quality food type. 

Try to eat the food types near the bottom of the list less often than the food types near the top.

Fatty meats
Fried foods


More Racing Weight advice from Matt Fitzgerald.

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FILED UNDER: Nutrition / Performance Nutrition / Weight Loss TAGS:

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