I am currently away in Asia on a winter break to train and compete. My husband and I base ourselves in Phuket, Thailand so I can train with a local triathlon group and compete in some of the many competitions that are in Asia these days. There are many big differences and changes to living and training here compared to England, and one of the biggest is food. As athletes, we all know how important food is – I'm not the only triathlete that is constantly hungry, am I?
Back in England, almost everything I eat is cooked at home, however out here you can pretty much reverse that as we mostly eat out. We only have a studio apartment here which doesn't have a proper kitchen, just basic fridge and kettle. Plus, it's a lot cheaper to eat out here in Asia!
For me, the most important thing is being able to make our usual breakfast which seems to have become a standard athlete's breakfast....porridge! I am blessed to have a husband who does so much for me to support my sport. He makes all my food so that I can walk in the door from training and have it ready to go.
Most days I have morning and afternoon training sessions, usually starting at 6.40am. I rarely eat before as that suits me, but occasionally when we do long rides (over 150km) I will have a banana or very small bowl of oats first. I also take gels and energy bars with me just in case I need the energy. But whatever happens, I get woken up by a homemade masala chai being put down next to me. I can't function without my morning tea and I've come to love chai before training (maybe because of the little bit of sugar that is in that which I don't have in normal tea!) It gets me out of bed and into training.
As soon as I walk in the door after training, I have my protein drink followed by breakfast. I don't like to leave it long after training to get those down and am usually too hungry to wait anyway!
If my afternoon session is around 4 or 5pm, I will have lunch first, usually at a local vegetarian restaurant. My favourite place is amazing with so many choices and great fresh vegetables. I'm always sure to eat a lot of green leafy vegetables to keep my iron levels up, as well as a good mix of other vegetables to get all the nutrients I need.
I do miss my vegetarian food at home as, apart from tofu (which I don't like), they don't really have many other substitutes here. Although, more and more ‘western’ foods are becoming available and vegetarian/vegan products are growing quickly here.
I eat a lot more rice here than at home, but it is a good carbohydrate as I don't eat potatoes here like I do at home. I love potatoes in any form!
The diet out here suits me fine. I train very hard, race a lot, and have never seemed to struggle or feel like I'm lacking in anything. I do make sure I take a vegetarian supplement every day as I do at home.
I go through a lot of electrolytes here due to the humidity – the sweating is on another level here when you train! If I am about to race, I am careful with my food but not to the point where I deny myself anything, I am just a little more careful.
On a Sunday bakery ride, you can't not have banana bread at the halfway point can you! It's all about balance, that's for sure.
So this is a daily snapshot of what I'm eating out here in Thailand; a world away from my UK day. One of the biggest bonuses.... hardly any washing up!
In triathlon, with all the long or intensive sessions every day (or sometimes both), it can be a challenge to give the body everything it needs. I've been on a plant-based diet for over a year now and it works perfectly for me. At the moment, with 20 to 35 hours of training every week, I need more than 4,000 calories every day.
Here's what a full day of eating looks like for me.
I start the day with a workout before breakfast. I live by the slogan "earn your breakfast". At the moment, as it's cold and dark until 9am or even 10am here in Germany, I like to go for an early swim with an Espresso and nothing else.
What I use for fuel during my workout depends on the type of session. If it's endurance or technique-based, I'll take a bottle of BCAA drink to the pool in order to protect my muscles. If it's a hard workout, for example speed work, I'll go with a carb-loaded drink and use that from halfway through the session and sip on it on the way home in the car.
Once I'm back home, I'll usually go for porridge, made with almond milk and a banana. It has everything I need: carbs, protein, calories and it's warm which is nice after a swim on a cold day.
Usually, a bike session will be next on the agenda. So, after my porridge, I'll take a break of an hour or two before I get on the bike. Again, nutrition depends: if it's a long endurance ride, I'll go with mostly water and electrolytes. If it's a hard workout, I'll take my race drink on the bike in order to be able to keep pushing hard watts.
After the ride, I always have the same: banana, crushed ice, peanut butter, vegan protein powder, almond milk, sprouted seeds, maybe some frozen berries, and some more fruit if I feel the need. This is the perfect fuel as it helps my immune system to stabilize again and it boosts my protein for the day.
I'll take another break then it's time for a run. If the run is slow for recovery and/or technique, I'll not eat anything and will have some water about 45 minutes before I go.
If it's a hard run, such as intervals, I'll try to get some carbs in. This might be in the form of (yet another) ripe banana with waffles and chocolate cream. I eat what I feel my body needs at the time.
After my run, I'll drink some water and maybe take some Gluatmin or BCAA again until it's time for dinner. Dinner is mainly vegetables - anything you can imagine, heated in whatever way is easiest. I'll have a base of carbs, such as rice, quinoa or wholewheat pasta. Added to that, I'll have fat such as an avocado, nuts, or seeds.
1 or 2 hours after that, I sometimes feel the need to eat before going to bed. This could be some sort of soy yogurt with a few nuts and cacao nibs. I've found that for myself, if my body is crying out for something, I get it and have it!
Nic is a triathlete so needs to fuel his swim, bike, and run training to keep healthy and see good results. He tells Sundried what a full day of eating looks like.
I always have porridge for breakfast. I make it with half a cup of oats, a cup of milk, and microwave it for 4 minutes, stirring half way. I then mix in a dessert spoon of crunchy peanut butter, half a scoop of protein powder (I'm using white chocolate flavor at the moment), some chopped nuts (cashews, pistachios, and pecans), and sliced banana. It's a great mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fats to smooth the insulin response and to release energy over a longer period of time.
For a snack, about 30 minutes before exercising, I'll have an apple. Golden Delicious are my favourite.
I'll have lunch as soon after exercise as I can. Lunch is usually pasta or brown rice with chopped tomatoes, spring onions, avocado, diced jalapenos, tuna, and an olive oil and red wine vinegar vinaigrette. If I can't eat straight away, then I'll have a protein bar to bridge the gap. The Grenade Carb Killa bar is good, as it is low in sugar and high in protein.
My wife cooks dinner; she likes to eat healthily and has lost nearly 5 stone in the last two years. On a typical weekday, we will have something like a chicken stir-fry with five spice, onions, mangetout, and baby corn.
I always make sure I drink plenty to stay hydrated. I have a 2.2l water bottle, which I use to fill a pint glass. I start every morning with a pint of water, then have a peppermint and licorice tea with my breakfast.
Supplement-wise, the only thing I think is needed is Vitamin D. We need this, especially, during the winter, as the sun in the UK is not strong enough to synthesise vitamin D.
I'm one of those people who prefers healthy food to junk. I will buy an apple as a treat to eat on the way home from the supermarket. I'll say no to a packet of crisps or sweets 9 out of 10 times because I don't fancy them. So, unsurprisingly, I find it quite easy to eat healthily.
I run, swim, cycle (separately and as part of triathlon), play hockey, snowboard and recently I've started climbing. Each day is variable so I don't have a set routine, but I am good at preparing my food and drink to make sure I have everything I need.
I’ve been vegetarian for 23 years, so I’m usually quite careful with my food. My protein intake is my main concern and I can drop weight during a busy season of events if I don’t stay on the ball. It’s more due to not liking meat than an ethical choice and I am not a fan of fish or eggs so it can be quite a struggle sometimes. I’m sure I eat far too much cheese as I have a good excuse!
I work full-time and am often away from home, which means restrictions on what I get to eat. But that's real life and I'm not going to stress too much if I have a day of, let's call it, 'less virtuous' eating. My husband is not vegetarian and is a fan of a takeaway so I do join in with that. I use energy drinks when training, but I've struggled to find recovery products that I enjoy so I generally eat real food. My hockey team laugh when I get my lunchbox out post-match on a Saturday!
I know most people say this, but I eat porridge for breakfast. Often I’ll add a banana but my favourite topping is Greek yogurt and honey. If it’s a race day or a weekend then that is a definite but on a week day, I’m eating breakfast at 6 am before dashing to work so I usually don’t have time to let it cool down enough. Then I’ll have a cereal combo of wholegrain oat biscuits, muesli, and granola with skimmed milk. I'm not a coffee drinker but I have to have two cups of green tea before I can face heading out of the door.
If I have run or cycled to work, I'll eat a second breakfast when I arrive which is usually toast with marmite or peanut butter. Most days I'll also grab some fruit – an apple, banana, orange or whatever we have in. I'm lucky that we have a kitchen at work so I can make anything I fancy. I'm not a lover of chocolate (yes that is possible) but I do like a biscuit with a cup of tea.
My lunch can be quite varied thanks to the work kitchen. I'll have anything from leftovers to soup or baked beans but more often than not I'll have a cheese sandwich. If it's the weekend, my husband and I might make homemade bread as a treat.
For dinner I'll eat various vegetarian dishes, which are always made from scratch. I'll make sure there are at least five different vegetables and if possible, also beans, pulses and lentils. Mostly my dinner will be pasta, stir fry, fajitas, scrambled eggs, cottage pie, curry or pizza.
I try to eat dinner before evening training sessions as I'm really distracted if I'm hungry. Dessert is usually Greek yogurt with honey and blueberries to bump up my protein intake. If I have an evening session, I'll save this to eat afterwards as a recovery snack.
I'd be lying if I tried to claim teetotal status. Life is all about moderation. If I'm doing a big event, I'll have very little alcohol in the run up, but over the years I've realised that one beer or one glass of wine on a Saturday night is not going to derail all of my training plans. If there's a wedding or a birthday party, I'm going to join in! But often I'll just opt to be the designated driver so everyone is happy.
Favourite post-event food
This has got to be salt and vinegar crisps and a shop bought cheese and onion sandwich with mayonnaise.
Alanna's mission is to help people live a healthier lifestyle while still enjoying their favourite traditions and allowing food to bring joy. She talks to Sundried about a life in nutrition and shares her top tips.
Have you always been interested in health and nutrition? Tell us about your own health and fitness journey.
I have always been interested in health and fitness. I was an athlete in high school and went into college majoring in biology and exercise science. Once I got married and pregnant, the weight began to pile on and I realized how hard it was to focus on my health and nutrition while creating a family and maintaining a happy marriage. About three years ago, I started focusing on getting myself and my family healthy. After years of working in corporate America, I took the leap to truly follow my passion once again.
What made you decide to become a certified nutritionist?
I love food and I realized that in life and in culture, important moments often center around food. Learning to teach people how to navigate food without giving up traditions and great life experiences was a natural fit. Plus, you can't out-exercise a bad diet!
What has been the most eye-opening thing you have learnt since becoming a nutritionist?
How much misinformation and negative vibes are out there regarding food.
What are the most common myths you would like to debunk about nutrition?
That you cannot eat healthy and "live life" and that there's only one right way to eat.
Do you follow a specific diet yourself? If so, what do you eat and why?
I try to stick to mostly whole foods and vegetables and I avoid dairy – I love it but my stomach does not.
What advice would you give to people to help improve their nutrition?
Start small! We often get excited about change and come up with this huge elaborate plan that we can't maintain once the excitement and motivation wear off. Start by making a small change like adding vegetables to every meal or drinking 8 glasses of water a day.
What are your favourite foods and why?
I love eggs and I eat them pretty much every day. They are a great source of protein, Vitamin B2, selenium, and Vitamin D.
Why work with Sundried?
I bought my first Sundried product in 2019 and the customer service was superb, along with the fact that the products are eco-friendly and reasonably priced. I knew Sundried would be a good fit as I build a career and life centered around holistic wellness.