Race Fueling

The Iron-Core Meal Plan: An Example Of How To Eat Healthy While Training For Long Distances

Learn how to eat healthy through the high appetite and little extra time that comes with training for a long distance triathlon.

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Learn how to eat healthy through the high appetite and little extra time that comes with training for a long distance triathlon such as an Ironman.

You’re in heavy training, burning and consuming thousands of calories a day. You also have a jam-packed schedule on top of your training with no time to cook elaborate, healthy dishes. Often, triathletes in this situation turn to powders, capsules and packaged, high-carbohydrate, high-sugar bombs to get them through the day while trying to cover all their nutrient needs.

According to Rhonwyn Curtis-Nicholson, RD and certified nutrition support dietitian at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, sticking to whole foods whenever possible will keep your energy levels up and your body working to its maximum potential. “Most athletes don’t need all the supplements they take, but they are marketed to them and so they think they need them,” says Curtis-Nicholson. Try this example of a healthy daily menu; all the meals can be assembled in minutes and are packed with micronutrients that help keep you lean and your energy level steady.

Breakfast (post-workout meal): Strawberry-banana/whey protein smoothie with nonfat milk

“I don’t really advocate athletes taking protein supplements, but if you are going to take some, whey protein is a high-quality protein that contains all the essential amino acids. In particular, whey protein contains branched chain amino acids, which help prevent muscle breakdown,” Curtis-Nicholson says.

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Snack No. 1: 1/4-cup almonds with 1 piece string cheese

“Nuts in general are healthy and contain the good fats such as monounsaturated fats that can slow down inflammation and oxidation in the body. Almonds also have a little bit of calcium in them, which sets them apart from other types of nuts,” Curtis-Nicholson says.

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Lunch: Turkey on whole-wheat bread with spinach plus 1 cup of black bean soup

“Turkey is very lean and contains niacin and B-12,” says Curtis-Nicholson. Vitamin B-12 is important in brain and nervous system function, as well as in the formation of blood. As for whole wheat, Curtis-Nicholson advises grocery shoppers to look carefully at the label. “If the first ingredient listed isn’t whole wheat, then it isn’t really whole-wheat bread,” she explains. “Oftentimes companies will take white flour and add in some wheat flour and coloring to make it look healthier.”

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Snack No. 2: (pre-workout snack) 1 cup vitamin D fortified low-fat yogurt with blueberries

“Low-fat dairy is a good source of calcium and vitamin D,” says Curtis-Nicholson. “We are finding that many athletes are vitamin D deficient, so it is important they make sure to take in foods with vitamin D and even a vitamin D supplement if necessary.”

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Dinner: Quickie dinner! Whole-wheat tuna melt with lowfat swiss, served with a side of steamed broccoli

“Seafood, such as tuna, is really a super food,” Curtis-Nicholson says. “Tuna is a sustainable type of fish that is high in heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fats.”

Dessert: 1 cup low-fat frozen yogurt with dark chocolate and peanut butter chips

According to Curtis-Nicholson, chocolate and peanut butter are both healthy in moderation. “Look for a high cocoa content, like at least 60 to 70 percent in order to get the benefits of dark chocolate’s flavenols,” she says. And as for peanut butter, Curtis-Nicholson recommends choosing natural peanut butter (containing only peanuts and salt) over commercial varieties because the popular brands often contain corn syrup and hydrogenated fats.