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.
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.