As with all new comers, nerves, questions, panics, are all present. So while we help Mat offline, we wanted to share some of Mat's tips online! What race are you running in 6 days? I have no doubt you feel all the jitters we all do. Fun huh!? Hopefully this gives you some help too!
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I've been on a move recently to find real food alternatives to fuel my triathlon training with real food, versus gels and gummies. Not relying exclusively on quick, accessible fuels takes a lot of extra work, planning and time - all things that are in short supply some days given other, non-training commitments.
Given this, I've always relied somewhat on the quick and easy access of energy bars. Whether that be for a long training session or a quick energy kick in the afternoon at work.
With a number of various bar options out there, growing every day, below are my three favourite energy bars.
My selection criteria is pretty simple:
- The bar must taste good
- Must be made primarily of real foods
- Must have ingredients that I can (a) pronounce and (b) know what they are
- Provide me with the required energy I'm looking for
My 3 Favourite Energy Bars
Ingredients: Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Gluten-Free Rolled Oats, Organic Raisins, Organic Almond Butter, Organic Walnuts, Organic Unsweetened Coconut, Organic Dates, Organic Puffed Brown Rice
Ingredients: Whey Protein Isolate, Dates, Organic Raisins, Apples, Almonds, Cranberries (cranberries, apple juice, sunflower oil), Strawberries, Papaya (papaya, calcium, citric acid) & Mango
Ingredients: Brown rice syrup, gluten-free oats, cashew butter, brown rice flour, honey, salted caramel toffee pieces (cane sugar, butter, sea salt, soy lecithin, citric acid), Peanuts, Rice Protein, crisp rice (rice flour, sugar, salt, calcium carbonate), flaxseeds, natural flavors, sea salt.
So.... I know after Part 1 you're all dying to hear how my nutrition long ride experiment went. Well, in a nutshell, it actually went pretty darn good! So here's what I learned in just a few (okay several) bullet points:
- Nutrition is much harder to pay attention to that I actually though. It's hard to push your body and have enough mental strength to remember your plan and execute, even when on the trainer. I was finding myself forgetting, for example, if I was to be drinking water or Infinit or when I was to be fueling with chips or with clif bars. So I have to really be organized in advance (labels) so I'm not trying to recall on the fly on game day.
- I work well on a lot of calories, read, a lot. I mean I guess that's not surprising. My hilarious bio alludes to my propensity to eat; in undergrad I had a bartender buy me a shot for finishing a burger that was "so big" that he didn't believe I ordered it that way (he checked with me before he let the kitchen make it. The shot was Jack Daniels. It was gross).
- More salt is better. When I started sloshing, ingesting salt really helped. The chips and jerky also really helped (both very high in salt content). My next round of Infinit has been pumped up with salt.
- My profile aerodrink is awesome because it keeps the straw basically at my lips; I drank almost continuously. I hope I think it's as awesome when I'm moving instead of sitting still.
- Even drinking almost continuously, I hardly had to use the washroom. That means in Arizona heat I will need to drink even more continuously to try and stay ahead of my hydration needs. This causes me some concern, so I will have to manage this particularly pre-race and in the first 3 hours of the bike.
- All told, I basically ate this (starting at lunchtime on Friday):
- 12:00pm: Huge salad (and potato salad) with two very large, very salty chicken legs, plus 500m milk (calories, a lot)
- 4:00pm: 16 piece sushi (snack, also calories a lot)
- 9:00pm: Pasta Friday! Kraft Dinner with spinach and hot sauce (~900kcal)
- 3:45am (yes, I woke up to eat): English muffin with peanut butter and honey (~350kcal)
- 9:00am: Pre-workout, Infinit (~280kcal) + clif bar (~260kcal)
- 10am - 3:30pm: 4 x Infinit (1120kcal) + 4 x clif bar (~1040kcal)
- 3:30pm: English muffin with avocado and mustard (~480kcal)
- 3:30 - Finish: 1 x Infinit (~280kcal), jerky (~250kcal), potato chips (~200kcal), 4 x nuuns boost, 2 x salt pills
- Water throughout as best I could without getting too sloshy
Finished strong, and then I basically didn't eat for the rest of the day because of all the salt and sugar inside me (which was actually a huge mistake, because I totally bonked on my run on Sunday as a result).
So I essentially took in the better part of 7000 calories over 18 or so hours to be able to ride for 6h24m in my house.
In other words, three days worth of normal people foods for about 1/3 of the energy I'll be expending in Arizona. Jeez louise....
So, what do I have to do for Arizona? Eat all the things!! Better get to practicing. 19 days....
ps. I'd also like to give a big shout out Joe Hayden of Bulldozer in an F1 Race for his very very very very detailed report of his recent Ironman 70.3 in Tempe. His nutrition advice in particular has been extremely helpful in my planning. Thanks Joe! Check out Joe here: http://f1withabulldozer.blogspot.ca/
It's easy to lift weights. Lift them up, put them down. Easy. It's even easier to ride a bike. Spin your legs. Easy. Yeah your body works, and your heart works, and it is "hard" but the mental planning it takes is relatively minimal; I have a training guide, it tells me what to do, I do that. Easy. Nutrition thought, that's another monster completely. And I'm not talking about salad-eating "abs in the kitchen" daily type nutrition. I'm talking about race-day nutrition.
People who don't participate in this sport (at least the longer events) probably have no idea how involved the nutrition planning aspect is. I mean really, I'm not even sure I have an idea how involved the planning should be. An Ironman-distance race is not a max effort endeavour, it is a swimming and rolling and running buffet. You cannot survive these types of distances without continuously replenishing your body's fuel sources as you go. And I really do mean continuously. Brandon has been exploring these concepts in some of his own blogs: Homemade Potato Chips, Ham and Pineapple Rice Balls, Energy Balls, Almond Macaroons.
But it's not just calories. Man I wish it was. I would just ride with 6 footlong subs strapped to my bike in some sort of amazing Subway sponsored aero configuration. Spicy Italian FTW! But no the types of calories and the make up of those calories matter. You need just enough to fuel you through hours and hours of activity, giving your body exactly what it needs to perform, without starving or overload it. And the calories have to be easily digestible. And easy to carry. And not get you arrested by customs when they ask if you have any "fruits or vegetables".
Miss on the high side or the low side and your day will end prematurely. No doubt about it.
Today it was 38 degrees C in Tempe, Arizona. As a born and bred Canadian boy, that is just inhuman in my eyes. I couldn't stand outside in 38 degree heat. I'm expected to exercise outside for 16+ hours?
The only thing, and I really do mean only thing, that will get me through an Ironman effort in that kind of heat is a comprehensive and well thought out nutrition strategy. And here I am, the guy who 3 nights a week eats peanut butter from the jar for dinner because I forgot again to go to the grocery store to buy anything meaningful. So, how do I learn? Well, I get to practice. And this weekend I'm practicing nutrition during my 6+ hour indoor trainer session, with my house temperature turned up to unbearable levels, and likely an endless loop of Star Trek Voyager episodes on Netflix (they haven't made it home....yet).
- Friday: Pasta Friday. Because I like Pasta Friday. No other reason. I eat KD and I put stuff in it like spinach. Mmmmm stuff.
- 3am: Wake up and eat white bagels, peanut butter and honey. Why? Good easily digestible energy, some protein, and all readily accessible when I arrive in Tempe (no customs issues). Then back to bed.
- 8am: A bottle of sports drink. I use a product called Infinit. It's kind of like Gatorade on steroids. The key ingredients are a variety of easily digestible sugars (as opposed to just regular white sugar) and a very high salt concentration. Salt intake, I'm learning, can be the make or break factor in high heat. You need a lot of it, way more than you think you do.
- 9am: Ride starts. Bike is loaded with 3 Clif bars, One bottle of Infinit, One bottle of Water, with Spare Water and Infinit bottles on the side
- Why Clif? Because they taste good and have decent "fueling" characteristics. I also find them easy to digest. And they will have them on the course. So I can plan to pick them up at aid stations as I go rather than loading up my bike like a pack mule.
- Why Infinit? Because it's going to keep me energized and hydrated.
- Why Water? Because the Infinit tastes terrible, and at Arizona temperatures I think I will simply need more and more and more fluids to keep me alive. But this is a slippery slope, because as water intake goes up my salt requirements will also go up.
- Hours 1 - 3: One bottle of Inifinit per hour, One bottle of water per hour, One clif bar per hour, eaten 1/3 every 20 minutes. I am going to cut them up in advance and be very specific. Now this is probably too much food to start, but this is practice, so I want to find out how I feel being overnourished, because I'm well aware of how I feel being undernourished.
- Hour 3:30: Ham and cheese sandwich, made with white bread no crust, ham, cheese, mustard. All of these have longer explanations, but the keys are easy to digest, lots of salt, mustard to help with cramps (if any) and it tastes pretty good.
- Hours 3:30 - Finish: Stick to the Infinit and Water, one bottle per hour. Add in baked ketchup chips and some beef jerky to taste. More for a brain break than anything with the chips and jerky. As the workout comes to a close I want to ween off the Infinit, as the run I will be doing totally with on-course options.
So, that's the plan. Stay tuned, I'll let you know how it ends up.
As I continue my weaning off of the gels/gummies, I've taken a little bit of relapse. This week it became obvious to me that I'm going to have to rely somewhat on gels/gummies - a necessary evil of travelling for racing. With that in mind, I did go back to using them occasionally as a means of keeping my body use to them. That being said, I'm certainly not giving up on my use of the real-food alternatives. My last attempt were some absolutely amazing Ham & Pineapple Rice Balls that did everything I needed and wanted from it. Tasted delicious, like a Hawaiian Pizza, and kept me feeling strong and energized the entire time. I will certainly use this recipe again.
This week I'm trying something I've been wanting to try for awhile - Homemade Potato Chips.
I've read a lot of articles that professional cyclists use potato fuel quite a bit in their races and training sessions. Trevor and I also have a fellow triathlete friend who loves fueling with potatoes. So I figured why not - full of potassium, magnesium and carbs they certainly have the necessary ingredients for a good fuel source on a long ride.
Homemade Potato Chips
This may actually be the easiest recipe I've made. Potatoes, seasoning salt, olive oil. Slice the potatoes as thinly as you desire. My cutting skills suck, so they are all over the map. Throw the ingredients into a bowl or Tupperware container and mix together.
Preheat the oven to 400. Take the covered potato slices and spread evenly across a cooking sheet on some parchment paper.
Bake the potatoes until desired crispiness. I did 15 minutes. Then flipped the potatoes and did another 15 minutes. When they were done I added a little bit more salt just for flavoring and good measure.
That's it. That's all.
Happy Training Everyone!
It has been almost 4 weeks since I've relied exclusively on gels and/or gummies to fuel my long distance training sessions. Now, I'll be completely honest, this has been helped by the fact that I've been forced indoors on account of living in the frigid North. Nonetheless, I'm proud of myself. So far it has been a successful transition. I don't think I'll be quite there before my next race and will definitely have to use some gels, I feel confident that I'm on my way to transitioning away completely in the future. The results have been great. I feel better. I've yet to "bonk" on a single ride. My stomach has been settled and in a few brick sessions I've noticed none of the fear "sloshing" that has accompanied me in the past when relying solely on gels gummies and sugary drinks.
A quick review of what I have tried:
- Rice cakes - good option. Not very mobile. I may have made the servings too big
- Energy balls - a great recipe. Better option as a snack rather than fueling for a long ride or run
- Orange Almond Macaroons- again, delicious recipe, but found them a bit difficult to eat on the go. Good snack, decent for indoor training.
My primary source of inspiration has been, or course, the internet and seeing what others have tried but I also picked up the amazing The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes which I strongly recommend for anyone and everyone. It is full of amazing recipes and information as to why making the switch is worth it.
This week, I'm again relying on the The Feed Zone Cookbook
Rice Balls - Ham and Pineapple
This week I'm trying the rice balls. As mentioned in my Rice Cakes review, I found the cakes to be a little large and hard to eat. So this week, I'm trying the balls, which include a little 15 minute baking time to add some structure I think .... At the very least, that is the major difference I've noticed already.
Again, simple simple recipe and takes no time at all. Cook some sticky rice. Chop some pineapple and some cooked ham. Throw them all together into a bowl and roll them into balls. Easy.
Once you're done, not only do these rice balls taste incredible, are easy to consume on the bike and pack easily; they also make your house or apartment smell like ham and pineapple pizza - without all the greasy and guilt that comes with that phone call.
Of all the recipes I've tried thus far, these are by far my favorite.
I used them on my recent 5 hour stationary training session. It was the first time I've ever rode that distance and not once felt like I was losing energy. I had sustained energy and power throughout the entire session and no digestion issues whatsoever. I felt good during and after the workout. Cannot ask for much more than that. Not to mention they tasted delicious. Like actual food. Which I'm more than certain helps ones mental game as well.
Pick up the The Feed Zone Cookbookand try this recipe. You will not be disappointed.
Until the next installment!
I'm now entering into the third installment of my search for some real food alternatives to fueling those long-ass endurance runs and I've got to say it has been pretty successful so far. While I certainly haven't fully eliminated the gels and gummy fuel sources, I've made good progress in alternating in some real food options. The verdict so far: Fantastic.
I've found the rice cakes and energy balls to provide me with the needed energy and sustenance to power through my workouts, avoid bonking and just straight up feeling great. So with the positive results so far, there is no other option but to keep experimenting and trying new options.
Last weeks energy balls were fantastic. I found them an excellent option on my bike rides, as a pick me up after say a swim and honestly I took them to work as a great snack to get me through the afternoon energy drain. All and all, a quick and excellent option for anyone.
Orange Almond Macaroons
I got this recipe from The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes which I strongly recommend for anyone and everyone. It is chalker blocked full of amazing recipes that are quick, easy and delicious. These macaroons are no different.
Like all baking it is easy. Put the ingredients in bowl, exactly as directed. Mix together and bake. The incredients are pretty straight forward and you likely have most of it in your pantry already. Consistent with my other recipes, these are easy to customize to your tastes. I like oranges and almonds so it was a perfect fit.
Total prep and bake time was 30 mins.
Spoiler alert for next week .... These are delicious!!!!!!!!!!!!
Happy Training Everyone!!
A little task and goal I started a few weeks back was to start reducing and replacing the gels, gummies and energy drinks I used as fuel on my longer endurance training sessions. This post is a follow-up on my rice cake experiment, as well as an introduction to my latest attempt - Energy Balls. First off, the Rice Cakes. I was pleasantly surprised with the rice cakes. They were easy to make, they kept well and most importantly they are easily modified to your particular taste profile or nutrition requirements.
I found the cakes very easy to eat and store on my ride. They also kept me well fed and energized throughout the rides, including rides over 100km.
A few findings on my first attempt with making the rice cakes:
- Make portions smaller- I made my portions way too big. It made them clumsy to eat and I found I was eating them for way too long. Next time I would make them smaller, so they are easier to digested and eat while on the move.
- Add a little more flavour - the apple cakes I made were a little bland. I would add a little more apple and cinnamon next time. I might try mango or chocolate chips as well just to add a little flavour.
- Pay more attention to the wrapping- I was a little lazy with the wrapping and would definitely take a little more care this time.
This week we've got .............
I'm sure you've all seen some sort of energy ball recipe and that this isn't new to many of you. However, keeping with my goal of recipes that are customizable and easy to transport, they seemed like a good choice.
Simple ingredients: peanut butter (almond butter), oats, vanilla flax, chocolate chips, salt, protein, honey, coconut. You could add anything chia seeds, nuts, fruit - the options are endless.
Just throw all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them together and let them sit in the fridge for 30-45 mins. Roll into balls and wrap. Easy peasy.
Happy Training Everyone!!!
We've all experienced the awful feeling of "bonking". That moment when you're body hits a wall.