Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a competitive athlete? Team GB Age Group triathlete Lucy Mapp talks us through a typical day of training and eating to show the dedication and time-management it takes to be an amateur athlete juggling work with sport.
A typical day for me starts around 5.20 am
When my alarm goes off, I jump out of bed, get dressed and grab my bag then it’s downstairs to the kitchen to have my pre-swim snack. As there isn’t much time in the morning between getting up and getting in the pool, this needs to be quick energy for me, but nothing too heavy or big as I don’t want it to cause any stomach problems when I’m swimming, or worse as I tumble turn at the end of each length.
I typically go for a smoothie with berries, melon, yogurt and milk for a good amount of quick carbohydrate that’s readily available, even more so by being in liquid form. If it’s not a smoothie (or if I want a bit more) then my go-to is cereal or homemade snack bars made from the cereal as they’re light on the stomach and have quick release carbs to fuel my session.
I’m in the pool around 6.30 am and my sessions vary throughout the week from longer endurance-based ones to shorter sessions with longer rests focusing on speed and power. If it’s a long session then I might take some energy drink in my bottle to top up the carbohydrate levels during the session and keep me going through to the end.
Afterwards, it’s milk or a milk-based drink for two reasons. Firstly, milk has been well researched as being a great recovery drink with the perfect ratio of carbs to protein, it’s easy to take with me and drink in the changing rooms after the session and it’s pretty cheap too. Secondly, because I often find I have a really dry mouth after swimming and no matter how much water I drink it doesn’t go away. Having milk is the only way I’ve found to re-coat and hydrate my mouth and get it feeling back to normal, so a double win for milk! Sometimes I add some flavouring in the form of milkshake mix or whey powder, but that will also depend on what else I have coming up in the day or next few days.
I have my proper breakfast when I get home (if I’m headed straight home - if not I’ll take a similar combination with me and have that when it suits). Breakfast is generally the same for me every day regardless of what I’ve done before, just with some variations in quantities and toppings. I have oats for slow release carbohydrate, some whey protein powder to help with the recovery, and some flavourings which can vary quite a bit. I love maca powder at the moment and a bit of vanilla, but sometimes I go for cacao with/without maca, plain vanilla, or cinnamon. I typically top my porridge with some natural yogurt, berries and some mixed seeds or nuts, but this can vary depending on the day and also what I feel like.
Mid morning it’s snack time – either something small if I’ve got another session coming up shortly just to top up those carb levels, or just something to tide me over until lunch if I’m not training again until later. This could be so some toast and jam or a flapjack bar and maybe a banana, or oatcakes and cottage cheese, hummus and pitta bread/rice cakes, some fruit and perhaps some milk or cheese for a little extra protein.
I tend to make sure I have a snack 1-1.5 hours before a session to keep the energy levels up and make sure I perform my best in the session, but also to ensure that I have enough time for it to be digested and not to cause any GI problems.
Lunch is one of a few options but generally some sort of variation on a tuna wrap, some salad and fruit. I also often have eggs on toast or beans, a thick homemade soup with lots of veg, lentils and sweet potato, or cous cous salad, but it will depend a bit on what I have coming up later in the day.
In the afternoon it’s a similar story for snack time as the morning, or I might have some homemade banana bread or something else I’ve made if I want something a bit sweeter and I don’t have a session in a couple of hours time.
Dinner is often similar as it makes life easier, at the moment I’m loving a bed of spinach and lettuce, some sort of grain – cous cous/quinoa/bulgar wheat – or potato and then a mixture of vegetables (leek, courgette, broccoli, green beans, peppers etc. depending what I have in) and a protein source (typically white fish, salmon, tuna or chicken) on top with low sugar ketchup and sriracha for some extra flavour drizzled over the top.
Other easy options I go for are fajitas, a quick Thai chicken curry and rice, varying stews or curries in the slow cooker (especially good in winter or when short of time), turkey mince made into a Bolognese-style dish, bean burgers, or a lentil and veg mix.
I often have a post-dinner/pre-bed snack too to keep those glycogen levels topped up to the fullest overnight ready for the next day and to help with the recovery process overnight. This can be anything from some more porridge, rice pudding and jam, banana and custard or a bowl of cereal. I also have a small addiction to hot chocolate and tend to have one (or two or three) in the evenings before bed with milk, or just a big mug of hot milk sometimes with some added flavour.
I tend to prefer to run or do my bike sessions in the afternoons so I’ve had a chance to recover from the morning swim and refuel adequately with breakfast, snacks and a bit of lunch so I’m raring to go again. Unfortunately that’s not always possible, or the session I have calls for a different time because of the nature of it and where I want to go and do it etc. You have to be a bit flexible and try to fit things in and make it work. One thing I always try to do though is plan my day the night before, and also look ahead several days so I can make a rough plan and timetable in my head.
When I know what I have coming up I can be prepared for it, make the best use of the days and ensure that my fuelling is adequate and appropriately timed around the sessions. One thing that I’ve learnt to be really important is planning ahead and knowing what the sessions are and how intense. It’s easier then to plan how you’re going to fuel them, both before, during (if needed) and afterwards so you can just get on with it and focus on the training, knowing that the fuelling and energy is there and already planned so you don’t have to worry.
During the day I love to wear my Sundried Solaro women's leggings as they’re super comfy and soft, and really stretchy – perfect for whatever I get up to in the day. They are also quite tight which gives that compression-feel to them which I love and without the need for full on compression wear. Using these leggings post training and races I’m sure has contributed to my recovery and helped my legs feel fresh and ready for the next session or day ahead.
It's not easy juggling everything in a day and getting the fuelling right around sessions and other daily demands. I started off doing my best on my own, using the knowledge I had and information from various resources, however more recently I’ve been working with a nutritionist (the 4th discipline) to help me get the most from my diet and perform at my best.
It is possible to do it on your own, and there’s loads of good advice and information out there if you know where too look, but sometimes it can also be too much information of what you should/shouldn’t do and when, and contradictory. Having struggled with stomach and food issues I wanted to make sure I gave my body the best chance to meet the demands of my sessions, allow me to improve and adapt with my training and to recover well which is why I chose to start working with a nutritionist, and what a difference it made!
About the author: Lucy Mapp is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Ian Seeney is a corporate pilot which means traveling a lot for work on top of triathlon training and keeping up with good nutrition. He explains how he maintains a good diet and what foods he eats to fuel his training sessions.
Vegan smoothie with spinach, carrots, banana, frozen mangoes, frozen strawberries and oats or a vegan breakfast burrito and usually 2 cups of coffee with soy milk.
I try to make this my biggest meal of the day and it’s usually post-workout. Usually a veggie burger in whole wheat bread and a salad. I also like vegan hot dogs, and vegan burritos.
Vegetables and hummus.
This usually varies, but always vegan. Usually soy nuggets from Whole Foods, or pasta with vegan sausage, or vegan tacos. Pasta is big in our house so we prepare it in a variety of ways. My wife and I are also very in to wine, so a glass of red with dinner a few times a week is not out of the question.
Right after a work-out I drink an 8 oz glass of chocolate pea milk. I prefer to work out in the morning after breakfast.
In addition to all of that, I aim for drinking 100 oz or more of water every day.
This is my usual diet when I am at home and not traveling for work. I have a rather unique job as a corporate pilot so I travel a lot and travel all over the world. Since it’s a private aircraft, we get made-to-order catering for every flight which makes it pretty easy to sustain a plant-based lifestyle.
Plus, especially in the UK, I’ve found it’s way easier to stick to a plant-based lifestyle when eating out. Much more so than in the U.S. Being that we travel across multiple time zones at all times of day or night, when I’m at work it’s mostly a routine of eat when I’m hungry and sleep when I’m tired.
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.
As a triathlete, training for three sports means that sufficient fuelling becomes essential. Not only is it about getting the right nutrition in order to hit each session optimally, it is also about recovering sufficiently in between sessions.
I have also been a vegetarian for life, so managing protein consumption can sometimes present a challenge, especially during harder training blocks.
As I also work (I run a marketing business), my weekdays usually consist of lighter training, usually one or two sessions per day at no longer than 1 hour each. Weekends tend to involve longer training days with multiple sessions.
In this respect, I usually increase my protein consumption early on in the week to help my body recover from the increased output over the weekend. Mid-week tends to be lighter and lower in carbs, as my body doesn’t require as much fuel when training is reduced. Towards the end of the week, I increase carbs in preparation for the weekend’s training, and over the weekend, I tend to increase my calorie consumption to compensate for harder/longer training days.
What I Eat In A Day
6am – Coffee and usually a light pre-swim breakfast of 3 Nutribrex (gluten-free sorghum cereal) with a tablespoon of pecan butter, a handful of blueberries, and hazelnut milk, or homemade blueberry and almond bircher muesli.
6.30am – 2.5k-3.5k swim, usually either a focused drill session or a threshold set.
10am – I am usually in my client's office or in my own home office by this point so I will eat a banana and have another coffee to keep me alert for meetings.
12.30pm – I try to take a salad into work most days or if I'm at home I prepare one. Usually a base of dark leaves such as watercress, rocket and spinach, with plenty of fresh salad ingredients such as tomatoes, beetroot, cucumber, celery, and then usually some protein such as falafel, quinoa, lentils or hummus. I always have 2 squares of dark chocolate after lunch – guilty pleasure!
3pm – I’m usually hungry and need to fuel for my second session, so will often have something like rice cakes or oat cakes with seed butter and a piece of fruit. Usually also a herbal tea.
5pm – Indoor bike session on the turbo, usually hard intervals lasting one hour. I take a Nuun hydration tablet in my water as I tend to sweat a lot during these sessions.
6pm – Before I jump in the shower I will have an Active Edge Cherry Active sachet in water for recovery and also probably something like a CocoPro for an instant protein hit.
7pm – Dinner is usually something fairly quick and simple with lots of vegetables. My go-to dinner is stir fried vegetables and tofu in soy sauce (no rice or noodles) as it’s so easy to make and so rich in micronutrients.
7.30pm – I usually have a piece of fruit, something like a passionfruit, stirred into 0% fat Greek yoghurt maybe with a half teaspoon of turmeric or cinnamon.
8.30pm – I tend to have a hot drink, usually Amber Aminos from Aminoman. It contains all the necessary amino acid complex and herbal remedies to help improve recovery, reduce inflammation, boost energy and optimise performance.
9pm – I go to bed pretty early due to my busy days!
About the author: Amy Kilpin has qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships twice as well as representing GBR at the European and World Long Distance Championships.
Food – a topic for some serious conversation. People have become more focused on their diets for a variety of reasons, ranging from keeping their weight in check to a surge in people having a food intolerance to numerous health scares about eating bacon or whatever the culprit of the day is. Also, there are so many fads out there and health experts keep feeding us new information about what is supposedly good for us that we can be forgiven for sometimes getting lost in the food maze.
The fact remains, food is pretty key to our existence and recently awareness about the food we eat and its effect on our bodies as well as emotions has been increasing, perhaps to the extent where we are starting to see some truth in the old saying “you are what you eat”. So, if you are going to eat takeaway burgers and fries en masse for an extended period of time you are likely to put on weight, and not feel so great for it.
So, as an athlete demanding quite a lot from my body, what do I eat to ensure my body performs optimally when I need it to? I am one of those people blessed (or cursed) with a delicate digestive system, which means when I eat something wrong I will know it! I’m not purporting my diet is perfect, but I believe in a few basic principles as set out below.
- If my body is healthy and functioning as well as it could possibly be, then it should be able to perform optimally when I need it to. Which loosely translates to: I don’t eat very differently at the peak of my training season than in the off season, perhaps just a little bit more to make up for higher consumption.
- I’m in it for the long run, and this does not just refer to sport. If I’m lucky enough to live a long life, I want my body and mind to remain strong for the length of it, therefore I want to treat my body in the best possible way so it will serve me well in return. No amount of short term gain with potential long term side effects do I consider worth it.
- I therefore believe in eating freshly cooked, healthy, natural food as much as my lifestyle allows and avoid synthetic chemical additives wherever possible. I believe in whole foods and if necessary herbal based supplements for my nutrition.
- I believe in the age-old motto “everything in moderation”. Although I eat mostly vegetarian food, I don’t strictly believe in cutting out any particular food groups, although I have heard of people who are having success with such an approach.
- Most of all, I believe in listening to my body. If I’m really not feeling hungry, I don’t force myself to eat. If I really fancy a piece of cake, I have it without guilt (not every day though!) Our bodies have a wonderful way of telling us what we really need if we are prepared to listen. More so if we start paying attention to how we feel after eating certain foods. Could that heart burn be because I had food that was too spicy or acidic? Was it too much deep fried food for my system? Am I feeling agitated because I had that coffee I knew wasn’t a good idea? Was the sudden phlegm caused by eating something too creamy? Slowly we can start unravelling the puzzle of what food is good or bad for us as a unique individual.
- I also do not calorie count! It is not mind over matter for me. If I’m starving, I need to eat. To me, forfeiting a healthy lunch in order to have calories in the bank for a piece of cake or extra glass of wine at dinner does not make sense.
So, what do I eat in a day?
I’m one of those who truly needs to break the fast. Unless I had a very late or very heavy dinner, I generally wake up ready to eat. I usually have cereal, for example rice flakes, sorghum (wonderfully tasty and completely gluten free) or millet flakes (occasionally oats). I make it more interesting by adding hazelnuts or almonds, dates, raisins, cinnamon. Sometimes I add a teaspoon of coconut oil or tahini for extra flavour and oil. Occasionally I might have muesli and yogurt.
On weekends if I meet a friend for brunch I might treat myself to scrambled eggs on sourdough, or perhaps some pancakes (yum!) I usually have a cup of tea for breakfast and I add almond milk or coconut milk (quite easy to make yourself if you have a blender). I don’t have a particular dairy intolerance but I now prefer the taste of non-dairy alternatives.
This will heavily depend on where I am and what I’m doing. If I want to stay healthy in an office job I might have lunch on the go from a high street chain. I try to find food that is warm and nourishing since it sets me up well for the afternoon. I find my body in general doesn’t like cold food very much, unless it’s a very hot summer’s day.
If I’m meeting someone for lunch, I might have a nourishing soup with bread (if good quality) and butter or whatever else I fancy on the menu.
If I’m at home, more often than not I’ll have leftovers from a previous dinner, or perhaps I’ll just make a mix of chickpeas, feta cheese, perhaps an avocado, sweetcorn, olives, whatever is available, add some basil, olive oil, perhaps rocket leaves, a squeeze of lime, salt and pepper and voila! Add a couple of rice cakes with butter if I need extra calories.
After lunch I might have a cup of tea as well and if I feel like something sweet I’ll have a cheeky teaspoon of almond butter with a couple of dates. Delicious!
If I’m eating out I love a good fish and chips occasionally, I also love oriental food, good quality pub food etc.
At home, my easy and go-to meal is to chop up all the fresh organic delivery veg I receive and roast it in the oven. I serve this with pearl barley or rice or another grain, which I mix with beans e.g. chickpeas or kidney beans.
I love making fresh dahl with rice and add cooked veg. Such a simple meal and yet so nourishing.
For years one of my favourite dishes was roasted butternut risotto. Very easy to make and very tasty too.
Or a good noodle soup. Chop lots of fresh veggies in a big pot, add ginger, tamari sauce, rice or egg noodles, water, fresh coriander, and Bob is truly your uncle. Or a noodle stir fry.
Occasionally I might make a Spanish omelette or some kind of frittata.
I will usually have a warm drink after dinner to relax my body, ready for bed.