Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You Are What You Eat - How to Get Lean and Mean for Sports Performance or Just Look Like a Superstar

With the 2012 triathlon season fast approaching, I've been reading about nutrition a lot. I've also been chatting with fellow athletes about their strategies for staying fit and balancing the demands of their training schedules.  Because weight and BMI are so important to triathlon performance, I set out to learn how to lower weight and BMI for maximum performance gain - yet still live a little. This post contains a number of tips and tidbits that I've learned so far. Some of these may seem like nobrainers but hopefully you gain some value in reading this post.

  • Drink more water - no big surprise here. But how many of us actually do this? Try drinking up to 3 liters a day but add lemon to your water. The lemon is said to aid in metabolism speed up to 30%. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. I just picked up a filtered water bottle and carry it with me to work, the gym, in the car, etc. It's easy and good for the environment too (if you care about that stuff).
  • Watch alcohol consumption - I know this is a hard one for some. I love IPAs but I cannot have them everyday. At 200-300 calories each they are very dense in calories. Reward yourself with a beer on the weekend or after a hard workout day. Otherwise stick to one glass of red wine or something lighter. Whiskey and diet gingerale for example is 60 calories. Have one of these instead of a beer if you like to unwind with a beverage. 
  • Less Coffee more green tea - watch coffee consumption. I am a coffee drinker so I understand the desire to have a cup of joe to get moving. So have it. But don't drink 10 coffees a day. Tea is better for you. Green tea is said to boost metabolism by up to 4% a day. Add green tea to your daily agenda.
  • Mix in a salad at least one meal per day - you may have a small portion of lean protein (i.e. salmon, chicken) if you choose. Watch the dressings. Use sparingly and use low-fat, low-sugar options or else olive oil and a little balsamic.
  • Eat 3 meals a day and at least 2 snacks - breakfast should be biggest meal of the day followed by lunch and dinner. Most people eat in reverse order of this. As for snacks, think healthy stuff like an apple, handful of raw almonds, etc.
  • Avoid processed foods - anything that comes in a bag or a box is probably processed.  Chips, cookies, boxed and premaid foods are no-nos.  Keep these foods very limited. But indulge every once in a while if you can do it without binge eating. 
  • Don't drink store bought juice - it is full of sugar. Instead make your own juice or eat a piece of fruit. You can also add fresh fruit to your water to flavor it (lemon, berries, orange slices, etc).
  • Add flax to your diet - it comes in seeds or milled and is easy to add to cereal, protein shakes, yogurt or whatever you like. Flax is a good source of omegas and is good for the joints.
  • Eat protein at every meal - I don't mean you have to eat like a caveman just add some to help manage your hunger levels and balance out the carbs. Protein can be plant-based like beans or tofu or lean meats or low-fat dairy - whatever you wish. 
  • Have greek yogurt instead of regular - it is much higher in protein. Select a low-fat or fat-free yogurt with a small amount of sugar added. Add some fresh fruit and optional granola for a stellar breakfast or snack. 
  • Watch your carb intake - sure you want carbs in your diet to some degree. It's hard to fuel a run without them. But there are good carbs and bad carbs. If you have pasta make sure it is whole-grain and watch the size. A serving size of pasta is around 1/3 to 1/2 of a cup. Don't eat more than you need. Feel free to sub in spaghetti squash as a nice substitute or do half and half. If you're having carbs at every meal, keep it to a minimum. One piece of toast with breakfast is good or skip the bun with your sandwich and wrap in lettuce instead.
  • Use mustard instead of mayo and only use ketchups that are free of that nasty high-fructose corn syrup - if you have to use mayo go light.
  • Include good fats - olive oil, avocado, almonds and other mixed nuts are all good for you and can help eliminate belly fat.
  • Eat lots of fruits and veggies. But watch out for the high GI ones - berries are very good for you. Have an apple a day. Watch the bananas, cantaloupe, etc. As for carrots, they are okay but eat in moderation as they're higher in carbs. Potatoes are high-carb, starchy vegetables. Keep to a minimum and try to do sweet potatoes over others. Green veggies like spinach, kale, broccoli are fantastic. Eat as many as you want. 
  • Watch the extra fuel/recovery foods - many of us athletes have a tendency to eat more than we need. The book Weight Management for Triathletes that I just finished reading says that you do not need to add any calories to training until you exceed a certain time frame (usually 90 minutes or more). Make sure you know what you need based on your daily calorie intake. Don't overdo it. Protein bars can pack a lot of calories. If you're running 5 or 6 miles you don't need to recover with calories. 
  • Workout at least 6-7 hours a week - yes, even during the off-season. Make it a mix of swim, bike, run and core.
  • Do core a minimum of 2-3x a week - it will strengthen you and make your body composition better and tone that jiggle. There is simply no way to look as lean without the core component. So quit complaining and just do it. Hit the free weights, take a yoga or pilates class or pop in p90x core synergistics. You'll thank me.
  • When all else fails eat in spandex - how many of you can shove that other piece of pizza in as you look down at the flab hanging over your tri shorts?
Now, that should provide some guidance in terms of diet but of course there are other things you can do to manage your weight. Some people prefer to count calories. I do not have the patience for that method because I love to eat and eat a lot. It works fantastic for some people though. For me so far what has worked best is described above...having a more clean diet. Some others do what's known as the visual plate method where 1/2 of plate is fruit and non starchy vegetables, 1 cup of nonfat dairy, 1/4 of the plate is protein, 1/4 is whole grains or starchy vegetables. 

I'm anxious to hear other's thoughts and tips on my post. What did I miss? What has helped you succeed in hitting your weight and athletic goals?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Two out of Three Ain't Bad - New Coach & Trainer Moving Along

The last time I posted I described the start of my journey to my first 140.6 triathlon. Well, I am happy to say that I am off and running with my new coach & personal trainer! So two of the three things I need to do to be successful for this goal are in place. Now I just need to work on that third item...the nutritionist.

Last week I had my first meeting with my coach Sean Gilbert, a very nice guy from the Cleveland/Akron area that coaches some very capable and accomplished athletes. Sean has a very laid-back personality and I am excited to work with him this season to meet my goal of completing the 140.6 as well as other 2012 season goals including increased performance all-around. Sunday night Sean sent me my weekly schedule of training through Training Peaks and we talked about the workouts and schedule. Inevitably there were some things that wouldn't work into my schedule this week but I am doing my best to follow the training. Nevertheless, I am excited to move ahead week to week and progress in my running, biking, swimming and overall core strength as I prepare for the 2012 season with Team Rev3, Revolution3 Triathlon's national age group team.

Tuesday night this week I met with my new personal trainer Will Hanson. Will owns a great studio in Beachwood called Aspire Fitness. He is a very nice guy and a good athlete as well. I can tell he really knows his stuff and is passionate about what he does. My  husband Steve will be training with me over the next several months so we are both jazzed about making strides in our fitness as we work with Will on enhancing our power.

Next up is this whole nutrition piece. I've never done a full iron-distance race before but I know nutrition is key to training and having a successful race day performance. My goals are to be lean and mean. I will be working on this some with my coach, trainer and others. I just ordered a couple of books on Vegan eating and weight management for triathletes. I will be sure to write a post in the next few weeks on this topic alone with what I have learned and am leaning towards. When I brought up the nutrition topic on Facebook this week, I was shocked at the amount of response people had. Clearly nutrition is on the minds of many people, not just triathletes.

That's where I am right now in the journey. Stay tuned for the nutrition update!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Journey To 140.6 Begins This Week!

2012 is shaping up to be a revolutionary year for me. As I enter my third triathlon season, I realize I have learned a lot, yet still have so much to learn. Perhaps that old adage "The more I think I know the less I really know" applies here.

While I've been lucky enough to receive lots of valuable advice for triathlon from coaches and fellow athletes, I have just been winging it. Last year I finished my first 70.3 at Rev3 Cedar Point and realized a couple of things. First, that I love long-distance triathlon. The sheer challenge of it is exciting! Second, that I need to get a lot more technical at this sport to be faster. I could always wing it when I was just running. With the goal of completing a full 140.6 iron-distance race this summer I do not think it is ideal to wing it anymore. Sure I can probably finish the race on my own. I think I am driven enough or stubborn enough to accomplish that. But I would like to finish in a reasonable time and know that I've given it my all. I want to know that my swim stroke was efficient. I want to know that my bike cadence was good. And I want to know confidently that I can run the marathon at the end without feeling like I am dying a slow death.

So, as of Thursday this week I will  have a new triathlon coach. Yay! He is local, so will be present at many of my local races. He has worked with other athletes that I know and he seems to have a good personality fit for me. I am looking forward to having a training plan for next week that is not created by me! Time to get busy on the workouts and not stressing on what workouts I need to do.

I've also decided to work with a personal trainer and nutritionist at least for a little while so that I can look, feel and perform the way I want and need to so that I can be a confident triathlete. I hope they don't make me entirely give up IPAs!

Being part of Team Rev3 is going to be a blast and was in part the catalyst for me going to this next level. I want to be able to hang with all my amazing teammates. I want to make my team proud.

I will be writing blog posts throughout 2012 to share my new knowledge of the triathlon sport. I'll describe what I am eating, how I am training, feeling and of course performing. I hope you'll come along with me on this journey. It's going to be a long and winding road and I am ready to take on the challenge of becoming an ironwoman! Off I go!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Will be a Big Year for my Triathlon and Marathon Ambitions

I said I would post the 2012 race schedule soon and here it is. Although I finished this a few weeks ago, I look at it now and realize I have a LOT of training ahead of me! Holy moly this is a packed season! I have never used a coach before but this is the year I am going to do it. To make all this happen but not just happen. I want to make it happen in a big way. Be sure to follow my blog all season to see how I am performing and to give me a swift kick in the ass when I need it!

2012 Schedule:

3/10/12 - St Malachi - 5 mile road race - done 35:55
3/25/12 - Kirtland Strides of March - 5K - done 22:33 - 3rd overall female

4/15/12 - Dover Run for Home Half Marathon - done - not officially timed but 1:58

5/12/12 - Nordonia Hills Duathlon
5/20/12 - Cleveland Half Marathon
5/26/12 - St Johns 5K (maybe)

6/3/12 - Twinsburg Duathlon
6/10/12 - North Shore Border War Sprint Tri
6/13/12 - Mentor Flag Day 5K
6/16/12 - Captains 5K (maybe)
6/24/12 - Akron Tri (maybe)

7/1/12 - Milton Man Triathlon Olympic Tri
7/22/12 - Fairport Harbor Tri - Sprint

8/12/12 - Rev3Tri Wisconsin Dells 70.3 Half Rev
8/18/12 - St Gabriel 5K (maybe)

9/9/12 - Rev3Tri Cedar Point 140.6 full rev (aka the BHAG)

10/7/12 - Towpath Half Marathon
10/28/12 - Rev3 FL 70.3

11/4/12 - Autumn Leaves 5 mile (maybe)
11/22/12 - Painesville Turkey Day 5K

So there it is. At least all the planned races and some maybes. Although I hope to get in even another Rev3 race or two so I can represent my team and get to know everyone! Needless to say I am training and ramping up for tri season now! Hope the season meets my expectations as I have some lofty goals of a 5-1/2 or better 70.3, finish first full in decent time (12-13 hours) and enjoy some other PRs at various distances. Hell, if I'm lucky I will even win some new hardware along the way! Fingers crossed!