When it comes to the best nutrition advice, there’s a ton of info out there–some that contradict each other. It can be hard to decipher what is actually good advice and what’s something to read and put aside. From fad diets to the new trend, misinformation can be found everywhere. I always tell my athletes to be wary of “secrets to success” and new products being developed that guarantee to work better than their counterparts.
The key to all of the nonsense? Realize there is no magic potion or one set of rules that is one-size-fits-all. Here’s a summary of the best advice I’ve been given over the years as a professional triathlete for training/racing and overall day-to-day nutrition. These haven’t changed no matter what new hot product is on the market or what fad diet is trending.
- Keep it Simple. In all areas, keep what you eat as simple as possible. Stick to the same products for training as you would racing, snack on easy items like a healthy bar, apple with almonds. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time you eat. Make a list of good snacks, meals to eat, and items for training and racing that you can use daily. For meals, rotate them weekly, get a variety of in by augmenting with different lean meats and vegetables.
- Keep a food log–occasionally. Keeping track of your food intake (what you eat, how much and when) can help you see your food habits (good and bad). By looking back on these days you can see what needs to change to help you fuel and recover better. There’s no need to do this every day – once every month or two is a good plan.
- Enjoy what you eat! Yes, food is fuel but that doesn’t mean it has to be bland, be disgusting and/or boring. There are plenty of healthy snacks/bars out there for on-the-go snacks/meals that are not only highly nutritious but delicious. Don’t be afraid to add spices/herbs to your meals and opt for foods you like. If those foods are unhealthy, find alternatives that do the trick. For example. I love mac and cheese. Instead of this, I make a bowl of tasty fried cauliflower rice with a small amount of goat cheese, fresh herbs, and spice.
- Have a replenishing meal every week. This is where you can enjoy the sought-after meals you find alternatives for all week. Sushi is my top pick. We don’t concern ourselves with the amount and just enjoy the meal and time together. It helps us focus on the week and also enjoy a good meal together.
- Eat carbs. There are many fad diets and advice recommending no carbohydrates for training. The body requires them and using your race nutrition during training is key to a successful race day outcome. Using carbohydrates during the right meal windows (before and after training; pre-day large meal for a race) will help you not only feel better but race with the energy required to perform at your best.
- Keep it real. A good rule of thumb is four fruits and four veggies a day. This is easily incorporated into a daily diet. Make meals with a good size of vegetables and snacks to a piece of fruit with nuts or a healthy snack bar made of similar ingredients.
- Plan Ahead. How hard is it to pack an apple and a bag of almonds? It’s not. When you’re on-the-go, have back-to-back workouts, a heavy work schedule, pack a lunch and snacks the night before — this should be as much of a priority as your workout itself. Bring training nutrition, recovery fuel and everything you think you’d need in a day and then some. It’s easy to have extra nutritious items stored in your gym bag and/or car.
- Eggs. One of the most versatile foods out there. You can eat them by themselves, with vegetables, bake with them, and mix them with just about anything. They are highly nutritious and a great source of protein and fat.
- Train like you race. Use race nutrition while training. Don’t wait until race day! Be consistent and practice this to ensure your gut can absorb what’s required. Stick to the same fuels. Liquid fuels work the best for most people.
- Eat enough. Even when trying to lose weight, many individuals skip out on the caloric intake when it’s needed the most (during training and recovery). Tracking calories can be helpful for learning what you eat for a few days. Seeing and talking with a sports dietitian is also helpful for those trying to maximize their fitness and learn how much they should be eating for their weight loss goals and racing.