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Nutritional tips for those racing early in the year
2017 has arrived, and more often or not there is no rest for an endurance athlete. 70.3 South Africa takes place in East London on the 29th of January; is it too soon after the festive season for some? On this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition, we give you tips and advice on how to handle your diet in the lead up to the event; no matter what way you chose to eat your way through the holiday period.
New year, new beginnings, it is 2017. Wherever you are in the world, thanks for joining us once again on 32Gi Sports Nutrition. I’m Mr Active, David Katz, joined once again by Mark Wolff. There’s a great event in South Africa in the early part of the year, it is the 70.3 event taking place in East London or Buffalo City as they call it.
A lot of people come out of a December where maybe they were getting the training in, maybe they took a bit of time off to rest and enjoy the festivities. So it often maybe comes a little early for people. Mark, I don’t know if you’ve found that, I know you know a lot of people who go down to do the event in East London. Do they find it’s a little bit too early in the season?
Mark Wolff: I think it depends on the kind of athlete you are. Because if you’re a serious athlete, you’ll carry on keeping very well-conditioned through the December period. I think that many athletes through the December period that are serious athletes, especially triathletes will use December as a benefit. Because of less work pressure. Hopefully for most people, less work pressure means increased ability to train and rest and also, hopefully, they’ll put in some focus on their diet as well.
I think for some people it’s actually a perfect time. They come out of a very strong month of training, depending on if they’re going to taper fully for 70.3 or just use it as a stepping stone for an Ironman event. But for some people it’s very beneficial.
There are many people, however, that do pick an event straight after December but they don’t have the self-discipline and control that some athletes do have. Those are the ones that sometimes say: Oh, I’m not ready for the event. I’m going to pull out or they just try and wing it and land up suffering on the day. I think those are the kinds of people that we’re talking to when it comes to; would you be ready for an event post festive season, towards the end of January.
Three important January nutritional tips
DK: Whether you’re ready or not and you are doing it either way, what are some tips and advice for people Because you’re coming out of December, as we said, your diet has possibly changed a little bit over the festive season. Also looking in January, it’s a stressful time of year for people.
Generally, you get paid early in December, so January can be quite tight. So you’ve got to deal with the stress and worrying about how your diet has been affected. What are some tips and advice you would have for people to stay healthy and focus on the goal at hand, which would be getting to the start line fighting fit?
MW: I think there are three things to look at. I think the first thing is, for many people that are training over December, don’t let the training slip. Keep it frequent and consistent and make sure that you realise that you’ve set yourself a goal, by putting yourself into an event. That should motivate you more than enough to keep on training. So that’s the first thing, is keep the training going, don’t stop.
As far as nutrition goes, it’s a matter of eating cleanly and obviously, again, in moderation. The last thing you want to do is go into a taper period over-weight. Because you’re not going to lose weight during a taper period, it’s just not going to happen.
You’re not putting in the same volume of training, you’re actually looking at sharpening yourself, volumes are less. If you’re eating more, you’re going to land up gaining weight. The last thing you want to do is get to race day at a heavier weight than what you’ve been training at.
Because that can also lead to injury and it can lead to fatigue and you never know what else it can lead to. I think the most important thing is just keep an eye on the weight and make sure that you’re not overdoing it on the food side. Eat in moderation.
Finally, I think one of the biggest things is that you now actually have time to rest properly between training sessions. Really, people don’t have to be forced to rush off to the office afterwards. For those that aren’t working, there’s no reason to rush off to the office. You can take your time, you can rest and recover, you can eat properly as far as recovery meals go. Then you’ve got the ability to recover nicely between workouts.
One of the things that I also say is try and limit late nights. I know a lot of people go out now at this time of the year and there’s a lot of late nights and early mornings. But if you have entered yourself into an event in January, you need to again, focus on doing things in moderation. Get sufficient sleep and sufficient rest, make sure you recover from one workout to the next. Make sure that you’re taking in the right foods to be able to support you on your journey to race day.
How full & half long course triathlon diets vary
DK: Mark I want to ask you, it’s a 70.3 event, which even with training you can get away with a little bit more. As opposed to if you were doing a full Ironman event or a full Challenge event. From a diet point of view, are there less requirements as well? You are doing slightly less training. As opposed to having that goal of, I’m doing a full one and feeling that pressure of the diet on top of the training. Basically what I’m asking is, there’s slightly less nutritional requirement for getting to a 70.3 isn’t there?
MW: Look, 70.3 itself it depends on the kind of athlete. You get athletes that finish it in four hours, you get athletes that finish it in six to seven hours. So I think it depends on how long you’re going to be out there on the day, number one. Number two, you need to have a look at your training and see what kind of volume of training are you putting in, in order to be able to do this event. I think those are the two factors.
If you are an athlete that’s going and doing it at a much slower pace and you’re taking your time to get to the finish line because your goal is really to get to the finish line. I suppose from a nutritional and requirement point of view; the digestive system takes a little bit less stress for some people. Than it does for your race snakes when they’re going at a slightly higher intensity or their system is put under a lot more stress.
From the sensitivity point of view, for a high performing athlete, you really do need to watch your nutrition, you can’t let it go too much. Because the last thing you want to do is un-train your gut and then have to re-train your gut. Put it under severe stress and then land up actually suffering terribly during a race.
For those that are your social race people, you’re not going to get people like that to really control their diet. Unless they’ve got a specific weight goal that they want to get to on race day and I do know athletes that do have specific race weight goals. But still, they’ll cheat on Christmas day or they have a little cheat on New Year’s day, but that’s fine. Generally, there’s still moderation and they’re still going to get to the event hopefully feeling good about themselves and with a good weight.
Does the speed of a half make fuelling more difficult?
It’s very difficult to distinguish completely between a 70.3 or a half distance as opposed to a full, the long course. Because generally on both courses your fuelling strategy would be very similar. Remember, on a long course your pace is a little bit slower. The thing is that you’ve got the ability to feed yourself a little bit more properly and over time.
But when the pace is slightly higher then you’ve got to be a little bit more careful as to what you are consuming. Make sure that your body isn’t going to reject what you’re taking in and that it’s going to be completely trained in order to be able to do that.
As far as leading up to the event, if somebody hasn’t got a goal to go from the smaller events to the bigger events, in other words from a 70.3 to an Ironman, which is later on in the year. Then in that case I would say that you don’t have to stress so much about racing nutrition as much as you would for the full distance.
However, you do need to worry about what you are consuming on a daily basis. Because maybe your training volumes are a lot less. A lot of people, they eat as justification for the training they put in. But if you’re not training long hours out there and you’re doing smaller sessions. Maybe not as high intensity and also shorter sessions. Then you can’t exactly justify going and over-eating and over-consuming calories every single day.
You’re not going to out-train a bad diet, it’s not going to happen ever. So that’s one thing you can’t get away from that. Even if you’re doing longer volumes people still tend to increase the amount of calories that they take in which is fine. Because you’re burning off more calories. But again, you can’t out-train a bad diet, even if your sessions are a lot longer. I think on both sides you need to be careful as to what you are consuming when leading up to an event like this.
DK: Awesome, valuable advice as ever. If you would like more information, if you do have questions, you can email email@example.com. A big year and I’m sure there are lots of great goal events and there must be plenty of questions around them. Do get those emails through, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. From Mark Wolff and myself, Mr Active, David Katz, we’ll catch up again with you soon.