Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Your Nutrition For Your First Ironman - Don't let it be the missing link!

I remember my first Ironman. I was in great shape and felt really strong going into the race. I had followed the plan and completed my assigned training.  I felt like I was going to have a great race.  The one thing I underestimated the importance of was my nutrition during the race.  I had never had any problems in any of the Half Ironman events with my nutrition. I figured I would do what I did for the few Half Ironman events that I did.  I had a wake up call when I got to the run. I had not taken in nearly enough calories and was suffering......lesson learned.  My total race time was OK at 12:11 but if my nutrition was better during the race I am sure I could have done much better.  Completing an Ironman can be as much about what you eat as it can be about how well trained you are going into the race.
As a coach now I try to tell my clients the importance of nutrition in training.  You can be 100% physically fit and ready for your Ironman and if your nutrition is not dialed in you will have a really tough day.  It will seem like you have never ran a mile in your life! It can be a huge let down.  There is nothing worse then knowing you are fit enough to complete the race and having your body revolt because you did not fuel it properly. 
So you might ask what is the right nutrition for an Ironman?  The answer is not easy and its not the same for everyone.  Everybody will find that something works best for them.  That is why it is so important to practice your nutrition during your training workouts.  I was listening to a video of elite marathon runners the other day. They were asked what they eat before their race.  It was so simple for almost all of them.  Most of them said they eat bread or toast and a banana two hours before the race.  There were a few that had some special drink but most of them kept it pretty simple.  I eat a power bagel (I get them at Trader Joes) with peanut butter and honey on it before a race.  I also drink a muscle milk 100 calorie ready to drink shake. 
A few years ago I was a big fan of Hammer Nutrition products and that was what I used during races.  I used the Heed and gels for my shorter rides.  I used the Sustained Energy Drink for my longer rides.  It worked like a charm.  Then suddenly.....out of the blue it started to upset my stomach.  Why?? I have no idea!  I had used it for several years and through several Ironman races.  Now I had to start over with something new.  So I tried Carbo Pro.  It is doesn't have any flavor and is just maltodextrin (complex carbohydrates).  I mix G2 by Gatorade in the Carbo Pro to flavor it and I also add Endurolytes powder by Hammer Nutrition to get some electrolytes.  This is what I use for longer rides and runs. Here are some important things to remember when trying to find the right nutrition for your  Ironman training:
  •  Make sure you begin testing products and food early on in your training to see what you will be able to tolerate.
  • When completing your Ironman it is really important to take in the majority of your calories on the bike. 
  • Make sure you go into your race well hydrated.  This does not mean increasing your fluid intake a few days before the race.  This means being more aware of your fluid intake at least a week leading up to the event. I add Hammer Fizz electrolytes to my water in the week leading up to the event.
  • Think about taking electrolytes during your race.  You can take electrolyte tablets or capsules or you can do the powder like I do. 
  • The morning of the race eat at least 2 hours before the race.  I  also take a bar and a bottle of water with me to the race start.  You will be waiting around for a while so you may want something to nibble on. 
  • Use the special needs bag drop.  Even if you don't think you will need it!  It is better to be safe then sorry.  Put an extra container of whatever you are drinking or eating just in case!  It is good to always have a backup plan because sometimes your original plan may not be working. 
Here is my race day nutrition plan.  Keep in mind this is what has worked for me.  It may not be what would work for you because everyone is different. 
  • The night before a race I usually will have my favorite food which is pizza.  I am pretty plain Jane when I get pizza. I don't eat meat so I usually just get cheese, olives, and mushrooms.  I don't eat more than I normally would. I usually just have a few slices.
  • The morning of the race I have my power bagel with peanut butter and honey on it. I also drink a ready to drink muscle milk shake.
  • I always carry water with an electrolyte fizz in it on my way to the race. 
  • On the bike I have my profile aero bottle which has 300 calories of carbopro mixed with G2 and endurolytes.  I also have two water bottles on my bike with the extra concentrated carbopro mixture.  These bottles will be added to my aero bottle throughout the ride. I will add the extra concentrated mixture and dilute it with water that I get at the aid stations.  Usually 2 bottles will get me through the race but I always put an extra one in my special needs bag on the bike.  My special needs bag will also have a muscle milk which I will drink at mile 56.  I also take in gels (I use either Hammer or GU) on the bike.  I usually will take in about 4 gels.  Two of the four will contain caffeine.  Caffeine is good and can be an effective tool but be careful not to overdo it.  There are many gels and drinks that contain caffeine.  I try not to do all my gels with caffeine.  I don't think its good to over stimulate your system with too much caffeine.
  • On the run I have a small ultra concentrated hand bottle of my carbopro mixture.  I also carry cliffblocks on the run.  At this point I find it hard to take gels so the cliffblocks seem to work better.  Later in the run I will also drink coke at the aid stations. 

Some products that are worth trying are:
  • Hammer Nutrition makes some great products. They have a variety of products for different types of training.  The three that I have used are Heed (for shorter training), Perpetuem, and Sustained Energy Drink. The Endurolytes are also a great product to add electrolytes.
  • CaroPro is a maltodextrin based product which is a complex carbohydrate. 
  • Accelerade and Endurox work great for some people.  They both have too much simple sugars for me but work well for some people.
  • Gatorade has a variety of products.  Most of these products have too much simple sugars for me to tolerate for a long event.
  • Ironman Perform by Power Bar is what they serve at Ironman events.  If you want to use what the course is serving it might be worth trying this product. 
There are many more products out there. I have just named a few popular brands. The most important thing is to find what will work for you.  Remember an Ironman is a totally different ballgame when it comes to nutrition compared to a Half Ironman or Marathon!

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Build Muscle and Build Your Metabolism

    Everyone knows that weight training or resistance training will help you build muscle.  Muscle fuels your metabolism and is your friend.  To have a metabolism of a teenager you need to have more muscle and less fat.  Lifting weights several times a week will help you build muscle but that is not the only part of the equation.  Your muscles need more than resistance training to grow.  When you lift weights you tear down your muscles. The process of repairing them will lead to growth.  There are some important things to do for proper muscle repair and growth.  All of these things play a crucial role in the entire process.
    Factors Affecting Muscle Growth

    ·         Protein intake – The RDA for the average person is pretty low in this area.  The suggestions for people who workout can also be confusing because it is a pretty broad range.  For the average person who exercises an easy rule of thumb is 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.  This is a general rule and should be modified depending on the individual.  For someone very obese you may want to use their goal weight as the number rather than current weight.  For someone extremely active you may want to go up to 1.2 or 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight.  The majority of women in particular fall way short of this recommendation. 

    ·         Sleep – if you are not getting quality sleep then you may have a hard time building muscle.   Sleep is when your body recovers and this includes your muscles. If you are not sleeping 8 hours or your sleep is not quality sleep then this could impact your muscle growth

    ·         Water – Being dehydrated can have a negative impact on your muscle growth.  Your muscles need water!  Drink plenty of water each day. The recommendations here will vary quite a bit.  There can be many factors that will impact your requirements. 

    o   Do you sweat a lot?
    o   Do you take medications that dehydrate you?
    o   Do you drink alcohol or drink a lot of caffeine?
    o   Do you exercise is a hot humid climate?
    All of those things above will affect how much water you should drink. I tell people to start with a gallon a day. 
    ·         Alcohol – I know everyone loves that drink at night but believe it or not there is research that shows that it does have a negative impact on muscle growth especially if you drink it right after you workout.  There is also research that shows that it inhibits your bodies ability to use fat for energy.  So drink alcohol and you may have a hard time building muscle and losing fat!
    ·         Medication - primarily NSAIDS – there is some evidence that NSAIDS inhibit muscle growth.
    ·         Cortisol – This is a hormone that we need in small amounts.  If your cortisol levels are too high it can cause muscle breakdown.
    ·         Too intense cardio – If you always feel the need to push your cardio to the limit you may be causing muscle breakdown. It is a good idea to train smart with a heart rate monitor and know your training zones.  This is not to say that interval work is not good because it is good when mixed with a combination of lower intensity cardio. 
    ·         Stress – stress can cause a lot of bad things in your body.  It can lead to increased cortisol levels which I explained above what high cortisol levels will do.
    ·         Testosterone and other hormone levels will factor into the process of building muscle. Both women and men have testosterone and both can have levels that may be too low.  It is rare that women need to take testosterone but sometimes it may be necessary.  As men get older their levels may be low.  The only way to know is to see your doctor and get tested. 
    ·         Women in general have a harder time building muscle and women over 40 have a more difficult time building muscle. 
    ·         To see results in the gym you should strength train no less than 2 days a week.  Ideally 3 to 4 days a week is best.

    What can you do to ensure you have it all covered?

    ·         Do at least 2-5 days a week of strength training

    ·         Get adequate amounts of protein

    ·         Avoid alcohol and caffeine – especially alcohol after workouts

    ·         Drink plenty of water

    ·         Get adequate sleep and good quality of sleep

    ·         Keep stress levels low

    ·         Wear heart rate monitor when doing cardio

    ·         Avoid NSAIDS if possible

    ·         Get hormone levels checked

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Race Day Is Almost Here - Oh NO

    Wow January 15th is almost here and that means I have to run 26.2 miles this Sunday.  I put the marathon as part of my ATP (annual training plan) this year.  Now that it is here I am wondering why I wanted to run another marathon.  Of course I talked several other people into it with me so I will not suffer alone. I am not sure if that will make me feel any better race day. I have done so many triathlons, Ironmans, Ultra Marathon (50 miles) and I love to run people assume I have done a lot of marathons.  That is not the case.  I can give you a short list of my marathons that I have completed:
    • Maui Marathon (my first)
    • Honolulu Marathon
    • Vegas Marathon (2 times and 1 dnf) read one of my original blog posts on my dnf at Vegas one year. It is quite amusing:)
    • San Diego
    • Run With The Devil ( I was attempting the 50 miler and got heat exhaustion so I only did 35 but received a finisher medal for the marathon so I guess I can count this one!)
    And that's it, enough to count on one hand.  This time my marathon training included a little more speed work than I have done in the past.  Unfortunately when running a trail a few months ago I strained a lower glute muscle.  This has limited my speed work the last month leading into the marathon.  My glute feels better but not 100%.  I am not really sure how this race will play out.

    Some things I do leading up to any major event include the following:
    • Begin drinking more than usual fluids about a week prior to the event. I  will add an electrolyte fizz tablet into my 1.5 liter of water.  I use Hammer Fizz tablets.
    • Get stretched by Nancy (www.corehore.com) Friday before the event.
    • Stretch and foam roll on my own throughout the week.
    • Taper began last week.  Taking it really easy the week of the event.  This is extremely hard for me because I begin to feel fat and out of shape if I can't get those hard workouts in that get my endorphins going. (being a coach I know the importance of the taper and I know I am not getting fat but I still feel this way)
    • Go a little easy on strength training the week of the event.  Don't do any legs maybe a little upper body and core work.
    • Get a massage about 5 days prior to the event.
    • Pay really close attention to diet days leading up to the event.  Make sure you limit processed foods that may cause inflammation.  Keep eating clean with good carbs such as brown rice and oatmeal. 
    • Keep stress in your life to a minimum.  Stress raises cortisol levels. High cortisol causes many negative things in your body.  It can cause disruptive sleep patterns and that can lead to fatigue. 
    • Get plenty of sleep.  Ensure going into your event all week you are getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep.
    • Get all the details for your race.  Be prepared and read all the race information thoroughly.  Don't be caught off guard race day!
    I have a really packed race season this year.  This is the first of many so I hope to start the season off right.  I am looking forward to getting it behind me and putting my thoughts onto my next adventure.  That will be Panama 70.3 in February!