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.
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.
John started his sporting life as a swimmer but soon found his love for triathlon and Ironman racing. He tells us what he eats in a day to fuel his intense training.
What I have for breakfast depends on what time of day I am waking up. If I'm in the pool for 6am then I'm often not particularly hungry and a banana and/or a cereal bar does the job to start the day.
If I'm coaching for 7am then I will have a bowl of granola or porridge – something a bit more nutrient- and calorie-dense that can fill me up until lunchtime. If I don't have morning clients then a real treat for me is to make scrambled eggs and maybe some smoked salmon.
The snacks that I eat throughout the day could be anything from biscuits to cereal bars to recovery shakes or bars post-training.
This tends to be bagels, sandwiches, or leftover dinner. I like to have something simple and easy and hopefully, something that I can carry around or pick up on the fly.
This depends on how busy I am. On busy weeks, I might batch-cook a big chilli con carne, chicken casserole, or baked salmon – something that I can box up and heat up for lunches or dinner.
If I have a little more time then I enjoy taking that time to cook something a little nicer. My favourites are risotto or curry (my grandparents are Indian); my view is that food is a social thing just as much as fuel!
As an endurance athlete, my diet is mixed, balanced, but overall fairly high in energy. Personally, I never really worry too much about my intake because I enjoy my fruit and vegetables and they tend to bulk out any meal.
Life as a financially-challenged medical student, Team GB multi-sport athlete, London commuter and worker of two part-time jobs that involve being on my feet all shift brings several challenges to ensuring my dietary intake matches my energy expenditure and daily nutritional needs. I have tried low carb, gluten free, low dairy and reduced meat ‘healthy diets’ but all have left me tired, grumpy, food-obsessive and broke.
My current diet is carbohydrate-rich and full of meat, dairy, fruit and veg. My meals are planned generally based on what meat or fish are being sold at a reduced price or on a good offer. I then pair this with whatever vegetables and carbohydrate accompaniments I have to hand. I have a very sweet tooth but instead of depriving myself of cakes, biscuits, puddings etc for the sake of ‘health’, I fit these foods around fuelling for and recovering from training. For example, a few sweets before a running speed work session, a cake stop in the middle of a long training ride or chocolate custard and a banana post evening swim. Finally, I am a serial snacker. My bag is always full of cereal bars, boxes of grapes, almond snack packs and oatcakes. I don’t like to have huge meals and therefore the best way to get enough calories in the day for me is to snack regularly. Additionally, there is nothing worse than a rumbling tummy on ward round, in lectures or before cycling home.
Below is an example of what I would eat on a typical day with two training sessions and 9-5 at university.
Morning pre-swim- 1 banana and a coffee (instant with a splash of milk)
Morning post-swim- Porridge made with skimmed milk, one egg, frozen berries and chia seeds.
Morning Snack- Cereal Bar (whatever brand is currently on offer)
Lunch- Chicken marinated in tandoori paste, spinach, chickpea and lentil mix (bought pre-made) and peas. Followed by a yoghurt (Again I get whatever is on offer) and grapes.
Afternoon Snack- Dark Chocolate rice cakes
Late afternoon/Pre training Snack- 1 pack of gluten free cheese oatcakes
Post Training- Tandoori marinated Chicken, brown rice and veg. Followed by strawberries and yoghurt.
When tapering for a race, offseason or when it’s been raining/icy/snowy and I’ve got the tube instead of cycling, my energy demands are obviously much lower. Therefore, on these days I would cut the number of snacks and lower my volume of carbohydrates throughout the day.
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!