Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day to Day Nutrition - Staying Healthy and Lean

by Marilyn McDonald

One of the most common questions I get asked is about nutrition: "How do I get as lean as I possibly can, live in my hectic life and have the energy I need to train and recover?"

The answer is slightly different for each athlete, but the key points stand true for nearly everyone.

It's all about finding out how you are not being true to yourself.

Think that's a weird answer? How many times have you been searching for the answer to why you can't lose that last five pounds while you put two sugars in your third cup of coffee a day.

While there are some basic guidelines to healthily losing weight, I like to encourage most people to shave those last few pounds by looking at their day-to-day habits and any refusal to acknowledge the truth of their actions.

  • Are you a random closet grazer?
  • How quickly do you eat?
  • Do you plan your meals or grab whatever is handy?
  • Do you eat when you are bored?
  • Do you eat for fuel or for taste?
  • What are your portion sizes?
  • Where are the empty calories in your day?
  • How much do you eat out?

I like to use the coffee/sugar example. If you normally put two sugars in your coffee and you have three cups per day, that's six sugars per day and 42 sugars per week that do you absolutely no good. That probably means close to five pounds that you can cut right out.

Remember to eat from the earth. That means if it's packaged it's probably packed with calories you don't need.

If you are adding anything to food -- condiments, sugar -- then it's likely an extra 100 calories you don't need.

Notice what your habits are and recognize where you are cheating yourself. My weakness certainly is portion size. I tell myself it's fine because I train so much and I'm truly that hungry. But the truth is I don't need that much for my size.

Here is an example of a great nutritional day I can offer as a mental guideline:

  • Breakfast (always have breakfast) - 1/2 cup whole oats, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt and 1 tbsp of almonds.
  • First training session - Sports drink if needed if session over two hours.
  • Post session meal - 2-4 eggs with 1 cup quinoa, salt and pepper.
  • Snack - Apple
  • Second session - Sports drink and sports nutrition if session over two hours.
  • Post session meal - 1 cup yogurt, 2-3 pieces of chopped fruit or a big smoothly with protein.
  • Snack - Baby carrots with hummus
  • Third session - Sports nutrition if needed.
  • Dinner - A large helping of vegetables such as a large salad with a large helping of protein like chicken, fish or beef.
  • Before bed - Light snack: fruit, tea, nuts.

This is just an example of an outline of one day. Most people don't eat often enough, then when they do eat they eat the wrong things (such as a sugar-filled pick-me-up).

Eat often and plan well. Lessen your carbs as the day goes on and increase fruits and veggies. Always snack on foods that are from the earth.

Most triathletes like to go big. We are extreme people by nature, so finding balance can be tough, especially coupled with a large appetite from training and a cram busy life where easy to grab foods are fastest.

You need to plan. You need to be honest with yourself about your habits and you need discipline and commitment to the program; the same way your commit to your sessions and racing. Avoid huge swings in weight from off season to race season. Establish habits that stick with you all year long.

Showing up healthy, strong and lean is worth it in endurance sport!

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