I'm probably going to shoot myself for putting this post out there, but it's been in my head so many times I figured, eh, why not!? That said, if I get a bunch of comments (most likely on facebook - I am a glutton for punishment after all) I will most likely just sit back and watch the show while others debate.
What I DO want to do is put out there what I have found works for ME, why, and why I'm not going to change anything about it, despite all the hoop-la, discussions, articles, new products, etc out there....
I am NOT a registered dietician. I am NOT an expert in the science. I AM an athlete, a coach, and someone who is not genetically spoiled or gifted. I did not inherit any skinny genes, fast twitch muscles or naturally sculpted body. I work for every single performance and success I've had. I've tried many different approaches, I've failed, I've broken down, and finally I feel like I am on the road to getting the most out of my hard work....
There has been so much talk and research lately with the low calorie metabolic efficiency diet/training I've definitely questioned my own methods of EAT EAT EAT = NO BONK, but when push comes to shove, I have a nutrition plan that works for ME, has brought me success, more and more as I've tweaked and perfected it. While I've changed out the type of calories I'm putting in my body, one thing has remained the same for the past 3 years (to which each ironman marathon has ended with a PR time) and that is the amount of calories I consume DURING the race as well as the amount I consume PREPARING for the race. (I also believe this is key - you have to train your gut, just like you train your legs, arms, and heart)
Before I give all my top secret (kiddding!) fuel plan details in this blog, I'm going to go back to my first few races that ended in either 5+hour marathons or 30+min positive splits. I ate 100 calories every ~30-45minutes. So for a 6.5hour bike ride I would consume < 1000 calories/hour. This was no different than what I practiced in training, but I also never ran a marathon after a long ride.
Then I met Michelle. My first race with her as my coach she scared the crap out of me (not gonna lie, she still does surprise me with comments like that and they STILL scare the crap out of me, but it works and I always follow my plan) telling me that while I may have a goal of 1:50 run (70.3 race) if I did not eat AT LEAST 800 calories I would be walking the back half of the run.
I think back to that race (Oceanside 2012) quite often and just smile. I did everything she told me to and PR'd my 70.3 run time by over 10minutes. Since that race, I've gone from a 5+hr IM marathon down to a 3:52 (and still working)! I have absolutely NO stomach issues, no bonking, minimal bloating and no problem taking in my calories (BECAUSE I PRACTICE IT).
I realize many disagree with this, but for me it works. I take in 1800 calories (yes the same as a 170lb guy and I am 5'3" and ~120ish lbs) during an Ironman bike. I bring ALL my own fuel (Osmo, bonk breakers (these are magic to my stomach!) and GU chomps). When I get to the run I'm full, but not sick. I'm able to get down 1 gel every 30-40minutes until about mile 20 then I fuel off whatever I can get down in the last 10k.
This last Ironman was the first time I raced with Osmo and I 100% felt better than I ever had. I ate my above nutrition plan and when I finished and caught my breath I drank a beer, and shortly there after was able to consume real food. 2 hours later, more food. I had no digestive issues, no bonking and no delirium.
I've gone back and forth on wondering if it would be worth it to put in the time to see if my body could become more metabolically efficient, but in the end I have a formula that works (for me) and right now I would rather focus my energy on building speed and strength to help with my splits. Doing shorter, harder efforts that require carbs and recovery and that is what will help me reach my goals.
I've talked with Michelle quite a bit about it all this nutrition and fueling stuff. She's such an incredible wealth of information from research as well as 20 years of her own experiences, mistakes and successes. I reached out to her looking for advice to give, or rather how to word and express to my athletes the importance of fueling for endurance racing. While I didn't want to say "this is the only way (EAT!!)," I did want to express to my athletes that as their races are closing in I don't feel they have the time or experience (right now) to work on, or try out other sources to train their body to use fat as fuel.
Michelle sent me to THIS article that so well explained what I just could not articulate to my athletes (as well as myself!!) so I forwarded it on and suggested if they were interested in working on their metabolic efficiency and lower calorie/carb approach to try it after their big races, and in the off season...
Phew - there I got out what I've been trying to say for many, many months!
Back to the cake and ice cream for a bit.... About a year ago I was getting sick, A LOT. Like throwing up almost every night. I ate a pretty clean die, and a typical day was:
wakeup eat PB toast and drink SPARK.
2nd bfast eggs, maybe toast or a wrap or smoothie with vega protein powder
lunch - usually some sort of salad, occasionally a tunafish sandwich
snacks: fruit, nuts, cheese, greek yogurt, maybe cottage cheese & fruit, pretzels if being lazy, etc
dinner: varried - homemade veggie pizza, spaghetti squash, turkey tacos, roasted veggies, baked sweet potatoe, salmon, veggie burger.....
dessert: dark chocolate & or wine
So yes, not perfect, but certainly not horrible. I love food, I love GOOD food and wine, and I really love good chocolate. I realize I could clean up my act a bit, but I think if I took that too seriously in order to see if it would help my training I would not enjoy the training as much.... I never want it to be taken so seriously that it isn't FUN, or that I'm not FUN.
Anyway, I went to see my naturopathic doctor and had a full food panel/allergy test. My biggest fear when I went in for my appointment to review the results was I'd developed a peanut butter allergy...
Thank GOD that was not the case, however, I was basically allergic to everything else I loved:
TOP allergies : cow dairy, eggs, tomatoes (I'm back to eating those with no side affects tho?) and pineapple
Next tier: wheat, yeast
Lowest tier: a few random things that I don't even remember and she said not to worry about.
The plan was to start a gluten free diet, eliminate all cow dairy and eggs. So, pretty much where I got 75% of my protein from: wheat, eggs and dairy (cheese, greek yogurt).
I spent about 2 months eating absolutely NOTHING on my allergy list. I ate all vegetables, fruit and some plant based protein. I was tired, grumpy, bonking. Yes I realize that it would have helped if I added some meat in there, but I haven't had red meat in about 15 years and I haven't been able to stomach chicken for the past couple of years. There was no way I was going to force feed myself these things.
The positive? I stopped throwing up. My body was swelling less and recovering faster. The negative: I gained about 5lbs (probably lack of protein, overall calories as well as a few other adrenal/hormonal things I had going on) and I was definitely having more lows than normal during training.
For me it's not just buying gluten free products (which I do now, but I was trying to go ALL in then) because most gluten free products still contain some form of yeast and egg). I was super frustrated for a while, but then I found a few things that worked for me (Gluten Free waffles, and after about 6 months I added in egg whites only without getting sick). I dabble with a little bit of cheese (I can still eat goat and sheep) and as long as I am moderate about it I don't see any adverse affects.
Will all of the above information I definitely have to focus on my training nutrition a bit more. Naturally a lot of my carbs (bread, sometimes pasta, crackers) were taken out of my diet. I didn't really mind it, I love making big salads for lunch and focus on a higher fat diet to fill me up. BUT, when training week after week 15-20 hours back to back eventually the body gets depleted and just needs some damn sugar (this is MY body I'm referring to). I don't realize it until it's too late and more often then not Michelle catches my comments in training peaks and replies with - GO EAT CARBS. Guess what? Every single time she said that to me, and every single time I do as I'm told it WORKS.
A short little scenario example from this week. Last weekend after camping with my dad I let my diet go. I had a few bites of normal eggs, I ate some bread, I devoured some huckleberry pancakes. I topped it off with pizza. Shockingly, I woke up in the middle of the night throwing up. I felt like complete crap for 2 days and after 4 days of a clean diet, and crappy workouts, Michelle suggested carbs. I snacked on fruit before a swim set and NAILED it, then last night I ate some coconut ice cream for dessert with a side of wine.
Today, I had my best run in weeks. I'm full of energy, I'm motivated and awake. I realize this isn't science here, but it's just 1 of many examples of every time I hit that low low low, I add in some extra carbs and I end up circling back around.
Now, the cake part... that was just partially to get interest, and the other part was truth in my best short course race of the season a couple of weeks ago happened when I ate a piece of chocolate cake the night before. This might be my new pre-race ritual instead of wine ;)