Monday, May 6, 2013

Nutrition Strategy and Racing Weight

I'm a big fan of burning a hotter fire
instead of limiting the amount of firewood.
Nutrition is tough at first. For most people, there are lots of adjustments. If you're new, chances are a lot of what you do is not ideal. Its a different way of life starting out. There are a few tricks to ease the struggle, but once you really embrace the whole thing it gets easier. The food tastes better, you'll feel better, and you'll get tons of free speed as you shed weight.  It's important to see it as a way of life and not a "diet."  There are no shortcuts; you can't fake it for a few weeks and be successful.  It's a new lifestyle, and I promise its a worthwhile change.

This is when she first got me.
I don't worry about her leaving me if I get fat!
I loved this dude.
Still my favorite hair cut.
 I started out a "normal" 205-210 pound dude. At 6'0", I wasn't what anyone would consider fat. It wasn't uncommon for me to get asked if I worked out or how I stayed in shape. Ironically, I didn't workout nor stay in shape. I dropped to 185 easily (without diet control) by just being more active. Think on it, anything you do is better than nothing. And at first, anything works well enough.  I started hitting the gym and looked like a fitness magazine for a season going into our wedding. Emily wanted me less cuddly for the lake party wedding shin-dig we had.

That's all vanity muscles and doesn't make us any faster. If you want to look better in a bikini, go for muscle hypertrophy. If you want to be faster, think concentration camp refugee with cancer. From 185, the next 30#s made all the difference. If you love the training, just train and enjoy it. You can eat what you want, train hard, and be in better shape than 99% of people you'll see. But If you love racing, this ideal weight-speed will be payed for in "quality of life." Its worth it; it gives you huge advancements on race day. There is more to gain in nutrition and weight loss than in a season of training. At least, until you are close to to ideal weight.
Every wedding needs a pool!

FIRST!!! "Racing weight," by Matt Fitzgerald will be the source of a lot of this information. I think its an awesome book, but it gets a lot more in depth than you really need. I encourage you to invest in it, but you can get the middle school book report here.

Your first question will be, "What is my ideal racing weight?" It is the weight at which you reach your best performance, of course. Unfortunately, its difficult to pinpoint without a history of race results and pre-race weights.

So what is your particular ideal weight number? I cant say enough that it doesn't matter. You'll find it if you follow the diet. Its there, under that dude/chick that you are running to death. When you approach your race weight, everything gets easier/faster. When you get below it, you feel sick and weak, still fast at first, but then it falls apart. You'll know.

Yeah, but what is the number?

Nobody knows your number. At least until you find it by recording your race results and pre-race weights. But!!!!
Joe Friel (Triathlete's Training Bible, didn't love the book) says that pro male triathletes hit ~2.2 pounds per inch in height. That works out to be 156#s for me and I feel it is close enough. I have yet to get below this number.

The formula:
1.98[50kg +2.3(every inch over 5 feet)]
I do not know the source for this one, but it is popular on the Internet. Its at 150 for me and I am not sure I'll ever see that number. When I was 185, I thought 165 was unobtainable. At 158, I had a new perspective.

So what about the diet, right?

#1 most important part
The single most important part of your workout is proper recovery. That starts with a 4:1 mixture of carbs:protein within 30 minutes of finishing a session. You can get that any number of ways. Chocolate milk is an okay choice. I like Skim and Hershey's, but most often I just keep an apple and orange in the car and scarf them down in the way home. Then I have a normal meal as soon as I can get back. For long days, I use EnduroxRX. I chose this particular recovery drink because it is a "good start" for my 4:1, it has glutamine which has been supported by research to improve recovery, and its the #1 most popular recovery drink for endurance athletes. I used to try to blaze trails and find my own stuff. I discovered that if it works for most, it'll work for me. According to Brian, I'm not special.
Recovery breakfast!

4:1 carbs to protein? How much is that?
Honestly I don't remember the formula, but its based on body weight and at 155 lbs mine works out to be close enough to 25g protein and 100g carbs. Goggle is your friend if you need more specifics

That'll get you through 7am most days. Just 12 more hours to have a successful day. Yep, 12 hrs. Stop eating after 7pm. Think of it like this, you're fueling your body for activity. It's not a gas tank. If you choke down a bunch of calories at dinner, your body doesn't need that fuel. It just stores it as fat. Conversely, if you titrate your calories all day, it's like adding logs to the fire. You get more energy, and your body keep burning fuel, not storing it.

Remember that food pyramid crap from elementary school? Well, its mostly bunk. But, there are some nuggets in there about fruits and veggies. Fruits and veggies need to be the staple of your new diet. 4 fruits/day and at least 4 veggies. Honestly, vegetables are an "all you want thing" as far as your diet is concerned, but there are repercussions in evacuation for overeating.

1st, make sure its not a bull.
3 dairy products and 3 lean meats (chicken, fish). This is my vice. I love milk and red meat. You can indulge, but only in moderation. Make it a once/wk treat on the steak and cut down your serving sizes on the milk products.

*its been a while since I originally wrote this. I have since found that I get by with 0 dairy aside from from protein powder in my oatmeal, and often 1 meat/day. I err on the side of minimal and tend to be way too restrictive, but it works for me. One trick I learned early was to drop the dairy 2-3wks out pre-race. It's a significant chunk of calories and serves as a good final push.

Grains and fats. I wont address them beyond eating Whole Wheat/Whole Grain when you must have bread/pasta. I think we get too much of this and I try to minimize it as much as possible.  I do think it's a good idea to get healthy fats in (avocado, walnuts)

That's the framework of the diet.

The trick is to never get hungry. Eat 6x day. Eat less, more often.
Big breakfast, snack, appropriate lunch, snack, small dinner and a wee tiny snack if you must before 7pm.

So how do you avoid getting hungry?
That is where the fruits and veggies come in. You cant just wonder around hungry all the live long day. Don't think its a diet in the traditional, calorie restrictive sense. You have to stay full without loading up on junk, high calorie dense foods. 4 ways to do this is with vegetables, fruits, protein, and water. Vegetables and fruits have little to no calories but occupy a big part of your stomach contents. Protein has more calories, but they still are better choice than carb-loaded snacks. And water! Start and finish every meal with a glass of water. The goal is to fill your stomach. Don't starve yourself. Stay full by making better choices.
We feel full as stomach distention triggers hormone release. This worked for our prehistoric cousins because our food sources were calorically poor. We needed reinforcement to eat often. Now our food is loaded with calories. If we eat these foods every time we feel hungry, we end up "normal."

Keep lots of fruits and vegetables around to snack on. Not being prepared is not an excuse. You'll get hungry at work and in the car. Have a bag of grapes ready. Buy a sack of apples, 6 bananas, a box of grapes, and a few oranges every week and don't waste them. if you throw away even one piece of fruit because it rots, you have failed as a person. Take them with you to work. Eat one before you go to dinner.  Don't show up to a meal starving; you'll over eat.  Fruits and veggies are easy to choose if they are available.

Stop buying things you aren't supposed to eat.
nothing fried. forget it, its not worth it.
Dont drink calories unless its recovery, milk, beer
Dont drink beer, start to love wine.
dont drink whole milk. Who wants to drink more fat? within a week you wont miss it.
No fast food. Ever. Just stop. You know its bad. Subway doesnt count as fast food.
Cook/fix/prepare every meal you can. eating out is not healthy. See it as a treat or a necessary evil. It is not a resource.
dont eat after 7pm unless its post workout.

So what about calories and counting calories and BMI and body fat and that jazz?
Calorie counters are great. I recommend myfitnesspal for the iphone. Its simple and it keeps you accountable. Its not necessary. If you follow the guidelines, you can do the calorie thing later when youre down to the last 5#s.

BMI and body fat analysis are great too. But hard to measure, inaccurate, and hard to repeat at home. I recommend buying a cheap calendar and hanging it on the fridge. I said on the fridge. Below the calendar, place a scale (in front of the fridge). Every morning, take a dump, weigh, and record your weight. Screw the rest.

A sample day for me might look like this:

AM workout

big breakfast
Instant oats , 1 banana, raisins, scoop of whey protein, cinnamon
16oz milk, 1/2c vanilla greek yogurt, toss in any fruit, scoop of ice

10:30 snack
Grapefruit usually, but always fruit
Sliced cucumber with salt
Baby carrots

Brian says I get a donut if I make it onto
 the podium.
Lunch @ work
chicken fajitas (local mexican restaurant)
1 sweet potato in the microwave, punch holes in it with a fork, cook 5', add cinnamon
Chicken breast marinated in Lite Italian and tossed in the toaster oven
Chicken tenders & cream of chicken in toaster oven
Broccoli steamed in microwave
Serve over Uncle Bens 90" whole what rice
Subway Club on wheat, no mayo, all the veggies

3:00 snack
banana or peach, I like a higher sugar fruit for a wee bump.

4:00 pre-workout only
cliff bar/pop tart /Peanut butter and banana sandwich on wheat as a real treat.

PM workout

Dinner ASAP
Soup and Salad regardless of what else i eat.
Grilled chicken with lots of veggies grilled, baked, or steamed
grilled "your favorite fish here" with rice and asparagus
---combine recovery/dinner with a PM workout---

You'll find certain things you like that are easy.
My favorite go-to meals
grilled chicken on baby spinach salad and a can of Progresso soup. Yum. Add a home-stacked sandwich on wheat.
1/2cNo Sugar added Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate ice cream with 1/2c Skim milk-i could bath in this stuff
no sugar added jello instant pudding-quick and easy to make and keep all week for that post dinner snack
I eat oats ever single day. Lots of fiber and protein to keep me full.
post long workout I'll have a peanut butter with Nutela and banana sandwich. Thats a real treat. Crack on bread.

Late night cravings? Low calorie hot cocoa. You can get 1/2c Skim with water and low cal Cocoa for under 100c. Plus the warm milk tends to help you go to sleep AND has casein protein which is slow digesting and trickles protein into your system longer.

Hope this helps. There is a really high attrition rate. Pace yourself. Don't lose the fun. Think of it as a lifestyle. Make small changes at first; start easy and you'll finish strong.

Finally, here is a nice little summary from my coach.

By Desert Dude strict rules for eating while at the LHPTC. They are as follows: 
1. No eating after 7:30 unless coming back from a late evening workout over 30min. If under 30min you may have 1 gel and a piece of fruit or 1 energy bar. 
2. Dinner is all you can eat, as long as it fits on the coffee saucer the first time. There are no refills in this all you can eat establishment. 
3. Hungry at night? Tough - you should have eaten more throughout the day. Have a glass of water instead of whining. Whiners pay rent regardless if they trained that day or not. 
4. eat something within 20 min of completing all workouts. 
5. Insure you are taking in adequate calories during your day 
6. Eat a bigger breakfast or lunch if you feel you need more food 
7. Make sure you are fueling properly when in your training sessions. 
8. Still hungry? Pay rent for whining 

Send all complaints to the administator of the facility to the address below: 
Gabi K9 3546 Who Cares Dr. Stop Whining, AZ 85552 
Brian Stover


The bottom isn't very pretty.
Note the Sidi cycling shoe tan dots.
All the cool kids have them.
I wrote this awhile back.  My goal was to find the bottom and progress upward to my ideal weight.  I hit 156 lbs with a lot of sacrifice.  I initially had some big performance gains, but found that as I continued to make the sacrifices and my quality of life plummeted, so too did my training improvement.  My FTP on the bike plateaued, my 5k times actually slowed, and I was putting out a lot of mental effort into my training to just be stagnate.  At the very bottom, I got pretty sick and Emily snapped this picture to show me just how bad I had gotten.  Thankfully, I started getting some more calories in time to have a great race at IRONMAN Florida.  Now, I stick with healthy eating habits and a high training volume as my primary means of weight management.  I don't worry too much about the absolute number that shows up on the scales.  I typically hover around 165 lbs, then as races approach i'll dip down a few pounds.

Pursue racing weight but monitor your results in training.  If things start going backwards, through some calories at it!


  1. we have very similar eating habits!

  2. Great post and really great message. I think that everyone can use the information which is what makes this so valuable. Well done.

    1. Thanks man, I just had way too many people asking me way too often about my diet. I figured I could just direct them here instead of retyping the same email.

      It's just my laziness!

  3. Solid Post and I've got some dinner ideas from it as well!