What Fuels An Ironman Champ?

Pro Leanda Cave dishes on her nutrition habits with Pip Taylor.

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Pro Leanda Cave dishes on her nutrition habits with Pip Taylor.

Nutrition is often described as the fourth discipline of Ironman racing. Is getting nutrition right as much of a challenge as getting your training right? I consider nutrition like putting gas in the car. The higher quality of gas, the better the car will run. Eating the right foods at the right time enhances performance in and out of racing as well as recovery.

People often assume that while training for Ironman you must get to eat whatever you want. Is this the case? I have found that Ironman training does make the body more efficient at metabolizing foods. But unfortunately, I can’t eat whatever I like—too many calories here or there end up on my backside sooner or later. But I stick to general rules: low fat, high protein, lots of fresh produce and small portions.

What’s your go-to quick, easy dinner? A potato salad and some boiled eggs. Or, a rice noodle soup bowl (from Trader Joe’s) with added tofu, broccoli, coconut milk, curry powder, honey and ginger. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare but has a lot in it nutritionally.

Favorite indulgences or guilty pleasure? Chocolate and potato chips, which I never keep in the house. So if I want them, I have to make an effort to get them, which makes them much more enjoyable. I would have also said pizza, but I make my own and it’s pretty healthy!

PHOTOS: Leanda Cave trains on IM 70.3 Panamá bike course

Food Diary: Typical Training Day

Breakfast It’s the same every day: The first thing I have is a large cup of coffee with low-fat milk.

6 a.m. Training: Swim. I use Accelerade in my water bottle.

Post-swim Sesame bagel with egg and ham (from Biff’s, a staple breakfast venue in Flagstaff, Ariz.).

9 a.m. Training: 5-hour bike. Training food/drink: 3x750mL bottles of water, 500mL bottle with Nuun (one refill), 500mL bottle of Accelerade (one refill). Two chocolate Accel Gels—I like the caffeine for the extra perk.

Post-ride A chocolate Endurox smoothie with banana and 2% milk. An omelet with ham, low-fat cheese and mushrooms.

3 p.m. I snack on a Forze Bar and drink a small coffee.

5 p.m. Training: 45-minute run on treadmill with core and weights after.

Dinner Homemade hamburger from 96 percent lean ground beef with a sweet mustard potato salad (also homemade). For dessert, watermelon and some low-fat yogurt with a tablespoon of ground linseeds.

RELATED: Using A Food Journal As Part Of Your Triathlon Training Plan

Leanda’s Shopping List

Old-fashioned or stone-ground oatmeal
Whole-grain bread
Peanut butter
Strawberry jam
2% milk
Starbucks Verona coffee beans
Low-fat yogurt (various flavors)
Rice noodle bowls (for a quick meal)
Coconut milk (to add to the noodles)
Curry powder
Rice cakes
Canned tuna
Teriyaki sauce
Baby carrots
Salad dressing

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