by Jesse Kropelnicki
Ed. Note—Heather Jackson dominated Ironman Lake Placid two days ago, but one sub-plot features three out of the top six women at the race. Jodie Robertson, Lenny Ramsey, and Jennie Hansen (4th, 5th, and 6th place) all use Jesse Kropelnicki's QT2 Systems and The Core Diet to direct their training and eating. Today, Jesse weighs in with how to eat outside of your training in order to optimize your performance.
Triathlon nutrition for elite athletes and beginners can be a difficult obstacle in their path to fitness and body composition goals. For over 15 years, I’ve been working with athletes of all types (from world class UFC fighters to Ironman champions) and I can tell you, it really doesn’t need to be that complicated! Over the years I developed the Core Diet, specifically to help athletes conquer their nutrition. Below I’ve outlined a very simple, 10-point plan, based on the Core Diet to improve your performance, body composition, and overall health.
- Only eat grains (which includes white potatoes) and man-made sugars within one hour prior to workouts, during workouts, or after the workout within a window as long as the duration of the workout.
- Eat lean meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean dairy all other periods of the day (organic is best). If possible, include red meat once a week (grass fed is best). Juicing is also a great way to supplement your core food intake (not replace!).
- Use the “Core Ratio” formula to give non-core foods a glycemic “score” before eating them. Look at the label on the food and note the values for the carbs, sugar, fiber, fat and protein, and plug them into this equation: (carbs+sugar-fiber)/(fat+protein). Anything that scores less than two is okay to eat during the day during Core periods provided it has less than five grams of saturated fat and “healthy” ingredient list. This includes dark chocolate with cacao greater than 85 percent.
- Do not drink coffee unless it’s within one hour prior to key workouts. As an alternative to coffee, you may use caffeinated fueling products during key workouts….choose one! All other periods of the day your caffeine source should be green tea as needed. As a practical limit, keep caffeine intake below 200mg per day, and 1000mg per week.
- Focus on consuming omega-3 rich foods such as canola oil, walnuts and salmon for 2 grams of EPA/DHA per day minimum.
- Workouts should always be well fueled with at least 0.6 grams of carbohydrate per hour, per pound on the bike (and use half of that for running). Sodium content in these fuels should be at least 8 mg per gram of carbohydrate. Fat and protein content should be minimal.
- Post-workout food should always include a sugar-based recovery drink with protein in a 3-1 or 4-1 ratio of carbs to protein. This drink should contain almost no fat. If a recovery drink is not available, choose foods that are high glycemic, and contain minimal fat or fiber.
- Aim to consume fluids on a daily basis using this equation: Take your body weight (number of pounds), and divide it in half. That is the number of ounces you should be drinking each day, in addition to the extra fluid you lose during workouts.
- Have one cheat meal each week. Ideally this meal should be grain-based and be the night before your week’s longest most demanding workouts. Eat until very satisfied…not stuffed.
- Reduce fasting periods by eating very frequently—close to rising, and close to retiring for the night. Every one to three hours is best, while sticking to the serving sizes that are suggested on packages. For non-packaged core foods (i.e., apple, banana, sweet potato, etc.) eat one to two items in a sitting.
This summarized version of the Core Diet will keep you feeling on top of your game by providing key nutrient density, while keeping blood sugar stable throughout the day. Nothing replaces working with a dietitian to establish specific macronutrient goals relative to your needs, but this plan will get you started in the right direction. Embrace the power of nature’s foods, while understanding that the extraordinary feats that we ask of our bodies during training also require extraordinary man-made fuels.
Good luck this season!!