Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Endurance Athlete's Diet ~ A Very Confusing Subject

As I got deeper and deeper into the black hole of triathlon training and racing, I began to understand, really quick, that an endurance triathlete has special nutrition needs.  It's not just about pasta, pasta and more pasta.

Some of the unscientific research I did allowed me to change my eating habits, what I thought, were for the best.  And I think for the most part, I was successful.

I experimented with carb-loading the week of the event, two nights before, the night before.  I knew (at the beginning) nothing about recovery food, what you're supposed to eat/drink immediately after a long and/or intense workout.  I thought a large bottle, or two, of Gatorade would do the trick.  After all, I was just thirsty and hot!

But, as I read more and more, I began to find out and realize there are foods that I  need to eat, some I need to avoid, what times I need to eat and how much I need to eat.  This is where the confusion began.

So, just like I realized the need to have a tri coach; someone who could put in writing what I need to do, when, at what pace, heart rate, etc., I was soon wishing and hoping that I could find someone that could tell me what and when to eat.  BUT, a reputable sports nutritionist, I have learned, will not do that for you.  They will teach you how to make choices, good choices.  Dang!

When I received the P90X Diet book I thought I would be in heaven. After all, here's a program that'll tell me what and when to eat.  Well, that it does.  However, most recipes in the book are written for "cooks" and that I am not.  Don't get me wrong, I know my way around a kitchen, I know my way very good.  I have worked in the food industry for some twenty years, so I know how to hold a knife without making my index finger part of the ingredients in my recipe.  But, with that being said, if a dish has more than three ingredients, and/or if I can't pronounce it, chances are I am NOT going to make it.

I few weeks back I was introduced to the Paleo Diet for Athletes.  I am reading the book over and over again.  It is so full of good information.  Information I have been looking for for months. It's an easy read and well explained.  I am learning about the five stages of nutrition, something I had never thought about.  But again, the recipes, oh... the darn recipes.

Don't get me wrong, I eat pretty healthy.  I have given up (five months now) fried food in any form, way or fashion.  I don't crave it any longer.  I have reduced the consumption of red meat to once per week.  Lean red meat at that.  I had given up eggs because I have issues with Cholesterol.  So bacon is not part of my diet any longer either.  I am now using egg whites.  Sweets are almost a thing of the past.  I do indulge in some sort of reward every now and then.  I also suffer from shell fish allergies so I have stayed away from sea food.  I have learned to like and really enjoy fish; salmon, grouper, trout, etc., but again, finding "wild" fish as opposed to farm raised is a difficult task.

When my youngest daughter came home from college for Christmas she made the comment that our pantry and refrigerator were extremely "boring".  "Dad, there are no fun foods in the house".

When grocery shopping, I have learned to read the labels, taking special note at the product's first ingredient.  I realize that the further processed the product, the worst it is for you.  Free range fed farm animals are much better for you.  Try finding meat at the grocery store that is free range fed.

All the changes I made have contributed to the drastic "physical" change I have experienced.  As mentioned on a prior post, my body fat percentage is 9.6 and I know it could be lower if I could get rid of what's left of that "tire" around my mid section.  So, with information I'm gathering on a daily basis, I am going to teach my body to start using more fat for energy than carbs.  Should I be successful in this, I feel that "gut" will disappear.

Anyone out there with simple, athlete friendly recipes that you'd like to share?  I welcome all suggestions!
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  1. It sounds impossible, but here's a recipe for delicious, 3-ingredient paleo pancakes:
    egg (or equivalent oz in egg whites)
    ripe banana
    2T peanut butter

    Then experiment! Banana subs: applesauce, pumpkin. PB subs: almond butter, protein powder, oat bran. Flavor additions: blueberries (any berry!), cinnamon, cocoa, nuts, nearly anything!

    Then how about a 20-calorie cup of hot cocoa with those pancakes?
    12oz hot water
    2T unsweetened cocoa powder
    t Stevia

    Play with the flavor by using a different sweetener, adding skim milk, almond milk, rice milk, cinnamon - many possibilities!

  2. I am just getting into the world of Triathlons and wow...your blog has provided so much useful info that my head is spinning, but in a good way. Keep it up.

  3. thanks to sabrinabeans for the recipe! I will definitely try these ideas! and to triathlonbenchwarmer... I hope your head stops spinning soon!

  4. An athlete endurance diet is really hard to do. You need proper nutrition and support of vitamins and supplements so that you can do what athletes do.