Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tri Girl Goes to the Nutritionist

I don't want to lose weight but since I've suffered from GI distress in most of my big races, I wanted to make sure I really dialed in on my nutrition for Ironman Arizona. So after much research, I went to a very well-recommended nutritionist for endurance sports in the San Diego area.

For the initial consultation, she calculated my daily calorie needs based on my weight, height, age, sex, and activity level. I also kept a food diary for 2 week days and 1 weekend day. She then constructed a 12-week meal plan to help me hone in on daily nutrition.

I have learned that it's not so much what you eat on race day or even the night before that affects performance; it's what you eat the weeks and months leading up to race day that matter. When I don't eat right, my performance suffers during training, and I have a hard time recovering. It can take up to a week to dig myself out of a hole--nutrition-wise or hydration-wise.

"case study":
30 year-old female, 5'8", 130 lbs
Goal--hone in on Ironman nutrition for both training & race-day while maintaining optimum health, energy and fitness gains (gain muscle; no overall weight loss)
Specifics--figure out what works with a sensitive stomach
Energy Needs at baseline (not taking into account training): 2050 calories/day
55% carbs
20% protein
25% fat
Broad Recommendations:
1. eat several meals/day (4-6, 350-500 calories/meal)
2. eat a variety of foods (lots of different colors)
3. Hydrate properly (~65 ounces fluid a day at baseline, not including exercise; lots of water but juice and other fluids count as well)
Specific Recommendations:
1. cut back on sweets and saturated fats (who doesn't need to do this?)
2. increase fruits and especially veggies (again, who doesn't need to do this?)
3. increase protein (Yippee! More sushi!!!)
4. cut back on calcium (WTF? Apparently, with my love of dairy and calcium supplement (1000 mg/day), I was getting TOO much. Too much calcium can contribute to GI distress and actually leach calcium out of your bones. Who knew?)
Nutritional Considerations for Training:
Before: If workout lasts under an hour, need nothing. Beyond this, aim for 200-300 calories (mainly carbs) before starting. Personally, I love oatmeal and bananas. Also consume 1/2 liter of fluid. Do this 1-2 hours prior to workout.
During: Beyond 60 minutes of excercise, I need to replenish glycogen to prevent blood sugar from dropping (and the dreaded bonk). Aim for 200-250 cals/hr.
After: To speed recovery, eat within 30 minutes afer a workout (1/2 g carb; 1/8 g protein per pound of lean body weight; don't forget fluids and electrolytes! Chocolate milk is a complete post-workout recovery drink and meal)
Adjustments to Baseline Caloric Needs: For every 60 min of anaerobic and 90 of aerobic training, add 400 calories per day to my 2050 total caloric needs. Maintain same ratios of carbs:protein:fat. Don't forget electrolyte and fluid replacement! (See below).

On average, athletes lose 16 ounces of fluid (1/2 liters) per hour of exercise under cool conditions. 16 ounces=1 pound. (I'm not a big sweater, thankfully). The best way to calculate sweat rate is to weigh yourself before and after a workout. Don't forget to account for fluids taken in during the workout. You will sweat exponentially more when it's hotter. Performance likewise declines exponentially as fluid is lost. At 3% dehydration (3.9 lbs lost for me), performance has already decreased by 15%! Dehydration can lead to illness or even death so it is VERY important to hydrate properly. Unfortunately, or thirst response doesn't kick in until then, emphasizing the importance of drinking BEFORE you are thirsty.
1. Start your workout properly hydrated. This means drinking lots of water during the hours (and days) before workouts (eg 65 ounces daily, at baseline). It is recommended to drink 16 ounces of fluid 1 hour prior to exercise. Addition of 1/2-1 gram of salt in conjunction with water can increase absorption of fluid.
2. During exercise, drink 5-12 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes of exercise. A sports drink (containing elecrolytes and often carbs as well) is recommended for workouts lasting more than an hour. Remember, addition of electrolytes is just as important to prevent dehydration and can also increase fluid absorption and prevent GI distress.
3. Calculate your fluid needs based on weight lost during a workout. If you lose 16 ounces of fluid/hour, aim to sip 4 ounces every 15 minutes.
4. Adjust for conditions. Your need for fluid and electrolytes increases exponentially during hot conditions. The best way to calculate this is to weigh yourself before and after a workout in very hot conditions. Ironman Arizona will be hot and dry. Average temps are in the mid to upper 80s for the high in mid-April. I can expect need to 32-50 ounces of fluid an hour on the bike.

Race Day Nutrition:
I will get more into this as race day comes closer. Most of the nutrition is done on the bike since gastric absorption decreases so much on the run. Everyone's needs are different. But here's my preliminary plan:
InfinIT sports drink (contains complete set of carbs, protein, and electrolytes, customized for my needs)
Cliff Blocks
Cliff Bars
Nuun Electrolyte Tablets
For the bike--at 17 mph, will take 6.5 hours. Need 1650 calories on the bike. Aero bottle will have straight water, which I can replenish at aid stations. 2 bottles on down tube and seat post will have InfinIT (3 heaping scoops/bottle=400 cals/bottle). Will replenish 2 InfinIT bottles at Special Needs.
For the run--will use 4-bottle Fuel Belt (each bottle has 8 ounces) containing water+InfinIT (low concentration). Supplement with Cliff Blocks (used 4-6 on 20 mile run at 62 degrees).
Race day will be hot, meaning I will have to rely more on liquid calories.

Thought this might help some of you guys out there training for an upcoming IM!


Ryan Denner said...

Thanks for posting - great info. Question though:

"At 3% dehydration (3.9 lbs lost for me), performance has already decreased by 15%!"

How is 'performance' defined? Speed? HR? RPE?

Wes said...

That's what I call getting dialed in!! Great idea! Hope it works out for you, and maybe the calcium thing is the answer...

jessie said...

Thanks for sharing! Very informative. While I'm not an IM in training, we're very similar ht/wt and I think we have similar nutrition needs (I don't get to add 400 extra calories often ;))

beth said...

some really helpful stuff....i definitely need to start thinking about race nutrition and practicing on long bike how did the nutritionist feel about you r twix/red vines fueling strategy?

RunBubbaRun said...

Thanks for the info, good information on nutrtion.

I do think it is trial and error out there at the endurance events.

Good luck with your strategy.

Gotta luv those Ciff products.

Anonymous said...

A few things I learned from my experience doing the Big Kahuna half last year and from my friends four ironman events -

- solid bars don't really work as well for everyone during long races

- you can overhydrate, let the weather and your thirst determine how much you drink

- hammer gels/powders are really light on the stomach (endurolytes/heed/perpetuem). (I'm also someone whose stomach gets easily distressed)

During Big Kahuna last year, I drank according to a plan on the bike. It was cool all morning up till the 7th mile of the run (my split was 40-3:20-2:10). I ended up peeing twice and only then realized that I had too much water on the bike. My plan for my next long race is to use concentrated bottles of heed/perpetuem.

IM AZ will probably be much hotter - so you will loose fluids much faster. So, training in hot weather might perhaps make a huge difference.

Good luck with IM AZ and your plan. Cheers.

lfar said...

Very informative post! I'm totally still off training right now... but when I start training for my next half marathon, I'll def have to refer back here.

Benson said...

Hey now, that is some good information. I did a similar thing last year and I'm still dialing things in for my IM distance. keep us posted on how this is working for you.

Rainmaker said...

Great post! Nutrition and hydration are super-important. As you noted, there's an exponential decline in performance for the tiniest about of dehydration.

Megan said...

This was awesome. I have been struggling really bad with weight loss and not being able to dial in my nutritional plan - the GI distress never gets better. This really helps me set things straight.

I can't wait for April!!!!

Mon said...

that was an excellent idea! now you know exactly what you need to do! I didnt know that about calcium either...hmm.

Sherry said...

Thanks for posting your 'case study', Rachel. That was really great information! Love the parts on training & race day nutrition! I had no idea that I could be getting too much calcium... egads! I also struggle with hydration. After many years of thinking that I was doing the right thing by super-hydrating only 6 to 8 hours before an event, I have learned that maintaining adequate hydration is really an ongoing process... lots of sips throughout each and every day. Unfortunately, I really struggle with this.

Sara said...

now that is some great info - thanks for sharing!

Radhika Ganesh said...

Good informatiopns..Thank you for sharing...

Nutrition and Hydration week 2014