Race Fueling

How I Fuel: Long-Course Nutrition The Gluten-Free Way

Formerly 280 pounds, pro triathlete Tim Nichols shares how he dropped more than 100 pounds and avoids gluten in his long-course fueling.

Formerly 280 pounds, pro triathlete Tim Nichols shares how he dropped more than 100 pounds and avoids gluten in his long-course fueling.

Location

Wilmington, N.C.

Occupation

Marine industry service and sales; professional triathlete

Course cred

First amateur and 14th overall at 2016 Ironman 70.3 Raleigh (how he earned his pro card); 2015 Beach to Battleship winner; first overall amateur at USAT Duathlon National Championship

Backstory

Nichols ran track at Eastern Michigan University and then Grand Valley State, but he was called into active duty for the U.S. Coast Guard midway through his junior year. He stopped training during his six-year enlistment because he didn’t have time to race. Afterward, he went into business for himself, working in yacht management, deliveries and service and leading a sedentary lifestyle that led to massive weight gain—the 6-foot-3 former track athlete ballooned to 280 pounds by the time he turned 30. Nichols knew he needed to make a change, so he started to run again. But his coach and old college teammate, Tom Clifford, encouraged him to add in swimming and cycling to improve fitness while keeping the stress off his joints. It was a natural transition to start racing triathlons, but something still felt “not right,” he says. He had low energy, felt foggy and was getting rashes—symptoms that led to a celiac disease diagnosis in 2014 that made him completely rethink how he fuels. Now with his pro card in hand, Nichols aims to race pro full-time, qualify for the Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Championships, and help people young and old, including his three children, live a healthier lifestyle, one step—and bite—at a time.

How he fuels

“Since being gluten-free is a life-long health requirement for me, not a fad, I have to be very careful. Gluten is everywhere. Luckily most of the sports nutrition companies have caught on, and everything else I eat is basically whole foods or made from scratch.”

“My favorite snack when I have a terrible, incurable sugar craving during a monster training period is a gluten-free white chocolate raspberry Quest Bar.”

“My favorite meal post-long Sunday workout is steak and egg whites with spinach, tomatoes and peppers.”

“Pre-race meal includes two cups of coffee and my protein powder pancakes, which can be made with just about any vanilla protein, gluten-free steel-cut oats, egg whites, cinnamon and a dash of baking powder. I add almond butter instead of regular butter in between each piece, topped with raspberries and drizzled with agave.”

“I make sure I add plenty of healthy, natural carbs—gluten-free stone rolled oats, sweet potatoes, tons of berries and lots of veggies—on hard double- and triple-workout days or pre-race, plus two protein shakes for recovery. On recovery or single workout days, I stick to a pretty high protein regimen and incorporate spinach salads with a lean protein like bison or chicken, and berries.”