GIVEAWAY!!! Challenge in Eating: Feeding an Iron Woman

I’ve struggled with how to approach this post, and how to write about just eating... Let me start with one of my favorite comics from the Oatmeal (The Oatmeal is also mentioned in my post: “The Grind and How to be Crazy”)….

Food is a curious thing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve salivated over a good steak, a bowl of ice cream, a slice of pizza, I could go on. I’m a foodie, and from a performance perspective, what I choose to eat has never been of much consequence. Although, there are a few things I’ve learned over my years of swimming, biking, and running:

Chipotle and 400 repeats don’t mix (Thanks, Coach Kaier).
6 slices of pizza during continuous 200 meter relays is never a good idea (Thanks, Coach Molly).
Grilled rabbit with dirty bananas can power some hella-strong 10 milers (Thanks, Daniel Hitchcock)!

Despite these few anecdotal examples, I’ve mostly eaten whatever I want without major consequence. By no means am I a fast moving dumpster; I try to avoid fast food and eat my servings of fruits and veggies. But if I see a slice of cake, or a piece of chocolate, chances are you have about 0.5 seconds before I’ve already swallowed it. One of the cool things about endurance training is… NO, I CAN’T EAT WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT. I’M NOT A BOY IN PUBERTY. But I can enjoy treats from time to time, and I don’t have to diet. What a relief.

Me and my giant cookie after climbing Mt Lemmon in AZ during training camp

This has started to slowly change as Ironman training ramps up. My weekly training now almost amounts to a part time job, and thinking about what I eat is an almost full time job. Muscling through a 1 hour trainer ride off of a questionable dinner was a lot more bearable than trying to string together 2.5 hour brick workouts that are typical these days. The negative effects of too much sugar, too much grease, or too few calories are exacerbated by duration and intensity. As a result, I’ve been trying to eat higher quality foods, keep my blood sugar in check, and avoid falling on quick fixes when I’m hungry. Even so, I still found myself failing to meet the mark, which was a stressor. I was loading up on fruit through the workday, which is a good food, but wasn’t sustaining me. I struggled with constant hunger and GI issues from all the fiber; my afternoon workouts would have one of two outcomes: Push through the hunger and GI distress, or come home and devour some form of dinner and suffer while trying to hit intervals on a full stomach. I needed something to change.

No, I never ended up eating this gummy bear at Nationals. But if you enjoy pictures of me in cornrows, you're welcome.
Side note: I’ve had a less than ideal past with eating/food, and if you ever want to talk about it in person, I’m up for it! Over years of dealing with these anxieties and negative feelings, I want to say this: No matter what, every athlete and person should do what works for them. No cookie, no bacon double cheeseburger is going to harm you as much as the thoughts around it do. Do what makes you happy, and live the healthiest life that you can enjoy. This has been and always will be my mantra.

I ended up consulting with my coach, Tess, regarding my diet. She’s a Master Nutrition Specialist and I knew that if I laid out my diet for her to see, she would know what was amiss, whether I was eating too much of one thing, too little of something else, and how to change. Turns out, I was low on the protein side. All these fruits I was eating were filling me temporarily, but not satiating me. My muscles needed more! In addition, she wanted me to start eating more vegetables earlier in the day. I’ll let you know how that ends up turning out as time passes!

Another thing I’ve been working with Tess on is my race day nutrition. If I’m going to be racing at a relatively high intensity for 12+ hours, I have to maintain my hydration, electrolytes, and at least some of my calories over time, otherwise I purchase a one way ticket to Bonk Land. Every endurance athlete has bonked at some point, but if you haven’t, here’s what happens:

You’re biking/running along, everything is fine. You don’t think to eat because you like the feeling of a light stomach or you’re afraid of cramps, etc. Suddenly, your legs start to feel a little tired. Even more suddenly, you can’t run as fast or bike as hard. Before you know it, you’re literally a zombie who can’t move faster than a mile an hour. You feel like sh#*, you can’t force your muscles to work and every effort feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Watching someone bonk is also remarkable because you’re usually biking with someone, chatting away, and suddenly, you don’t hear a reply to one of your statements. You look behind you, and your buddy is a tiny speck in the distance. It’s like a gremlin snatched them from the asphalt.

My best friend Geneva after a brief visit to Bonk Land during a long ride

Moral of the story, you need calories for these longer efforts. You need electrolytes. And you need to stay hydrated. Currently, I’m keeping my calories in check on the bike by eating one of my homemade portables every hour. I’ve been enjoying cookies and French toast cakes because they’re tasty and easy to chew. I like to add bananas to the cookies for a little bit of potassium as well. When the bike rides get even longer, I may add a savory cake or two just to mix up the flavor and keep me happy. For hydration, I’ve been actively trying to sip some Skratch Labs Hydration mix every 15 minutes of biking. My favorite flavors are the Green Tea Lemon Matcha and the Orange flavors. One of my buddies David referred to my French toast and orange Skratch combo as “Brunch Fueling” since all I needed was a bit of champagne to make a mimosa! How can a ride be sucky when you’re literally eating brunch while doing it?!

Should be enough cookies for a week.

Brunch Fueling with a French Toast Cake!

In a short amount of time, what I eat has become a science, and it consumes a lot more of my thoughts than it used to. I’m constantly thinking of what I should eat this week, if I need to prepare portables, how to snack and keep myself satiated. The biggest chore right now is the sipping Skratch so often during rides. I love the taste of Skratch, but I’m simply not a big drinker, since I hardly sweat. Despite this, I know that Ironman Boulder will be hot, and that I won’t regret taking those extra sips before the marathon. So far, I feel strong and consistent when I apply these tactics. No visits to Bonk Land.

If any of you readers are interested in trying Skratch hydration, I have a deal for you. If you go to the link at the top of my page to donate to Epic Experience, every 5 dollars gets you an entry into a drawing for a big box of Skratch goodies! Inside are two bags of hydration mix (orange and lemon lime), some chocolate recovery mix (great for post workout when you don’t have food on hand or gotta rush somewhere), cookie mix (great for fueling workouts but also flat out tasty), fruit drops (yummy gummies for fueling your adventures), and a really cool water bottle.

Skratch is also great for hiking, camping, any outdoor adventures when you sweat and might need some extra help with hydrating and being your best, so you definitely don't need to be a triathlete or marathon runner to enter the contest! 

I’ll announce the winner at the end of April, so don’t delay! Thanks for reading, and happy racing!


Popular posts from this blog

Ironman Boulder 2017

Embracing an Athletic Identity

Do you like Sia? Do you like Dancing? Read on!