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?


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Spandex, eating right and AdvoCare.....I love the o2gold, spark and Catalyst check them out...https://www.advocare.com/1202613/Store/default.aspx

  3. Thanks Danniela. I will check out the Advocare products as I'm not familiar.

  4. This is fantastic! It all makes sense and it's just what I've been looking for in a nutshell. I even bookmarked this post! Thanks!

  5. Awesome! Glad you found the post helpful! Thanks for the comment!