Please check out my second blog published in Triathlon Europe this month. Following up from my first blog about the importance of base training take a look at my thoughts on the importance of good nutrition.
Food is Fuel
As part of “getting things together” for the season ahead I have been to see a catalogue of specialists. Sports doctors, nutritionists, new swim coach…. the list goes on… And it is from these various appointments that I’ve come to the conclusion I still have A LOT to learn! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proclaiming to be an expert at all but having seen and read what I have in the last few months, the word novice definitely springs to mind!
For me, getting into running and triathlon was a way of getting active and shedding some excess weight. As I’ve started to take things more seriously I’ve tried to think about what and how much I eat. As someone who naturally gains weight easily I’ve often restricted myself when I’ve been hungry as I’ve been worried about putting on too much weight in the lead up to racing. There is soooooo much information out there about speed, power to weight ratios and racing at age group and elite level, all of which points towards being lean and light. There is so much pressure on athletes today to prepare and race well to meet goals, keep contracts, keep funding and it is these pressures that have been reported to have a negative effect on proper nutrition. Both Hollie Avil and Jodie Swallows have recently talked about these pressures and the detrimental effect it has had on them and their performances.
With that in mind, I contacted a nutritionist, feeling pretty certain that I was doing things quite sensibly. Here is an example of my typical days food consumption 3 months ago, which gave me a calorie intake of around 1800-2500 per day:
Breakfast: bowl of porridge
Snack: 1 piece of fruit and some nuts
Lunch: salad with chicken, chickpeas etc
Yoghurt and piece of fruit
Snack: 1-2 oatcakes with honey
Dinner: stir fry with rice
Having worked out my calories in vs calories out it became clear that I was running an average calorie deficit of 1000-1500 per day! Woo hoo, so I need to eat more…. and not just a few calories more, I’m talking 1000-1500 calories per day more. That’s a lot. In fact it’s what many normal women would consume in a day!
Now although my initial reaction was positive, it wasn’t until I thought about what this meant and started to question what it might do to my weight. Surely 1500 extra calories would mean that I would be the size of a small whale in a few months (it happened at university so who’s to say it won’t happen again!). I expressed my concerns and was confidently reassured that this would not be the case as long as I continued to consume more of the good, healthy stuff. The simple fact is that my body’s metabolism would currently be running almost in a starvation mode resulting in me feeling fatigued and not always getting the most from the training and recovery. By increasing my calorie intake, it would boost my metabolism, help me to recover more quickly and put more into my sessions.
So, with some fear I put the action plan into place and added calories through increasing the size of my snacks and adding carbohydrate to my lunch time meal and I’m pleased to say that 3 months later I’m actually 1-2 kg lighter than before. As suggested I also have more energy, I cope better with the tough mileage and I feel so much more relaxed about the calories I consume in a day. All in all a positive experience! So next time you sit in front of your dinner counting the calories going into your mouth, think about it as fuel. Your body is a machine that needs fuel to survive and recover, so look after it and provide it with good quality fuel to keep you going stronger and faster through your race season.