Triathlon Magazine Canada - - T1 - BY PIP TAY­LOR

IT IS OF­TEN said that the def­i­ni­tion of in­san­ity is do­ing the same things and ex­pect­ing dif­fer­ent re­sults. This can cer­tainly be ap­plied to sport – where re­sults and im­prove­ment re­quire a con­stant re­view and tweak­ing of strat­egy. The off-sea­son might be a time to re­lax and re­ju­ve­nate, but is also an op­por­tu­nity to pre­pare and plan. Be­fore you know it, race sea­son will be upon us. So take the time be­fore the new sea­son be­gins to re­view, plan and tweak, start­ing with the one thing you may well have the most con­trol over – what’s on your plate (and in your fridge, pantry, cy­cle jer­sey, sports bot­tle and race kit).

So what went well last sea­son or in pre­vi­ous years? Where do you think you can im­prove and how can this be done? For in­stance, did you find you were con­stantly get­ting sick or in­jured through­out the year? Per­haps your train­ing or race sched­ule and load need ad­just­ing, or per­haps your diet qual­ity needs ad­dress­ing. Did you find your­self strug­gling on those up­hills in races? Maybe a fine-tun­ing of body weight or body com­po­si­tion would help. Or maybe you found your­self in the less-than-ideal sit­u­a­tion where re­liance on take-away soared as train­ing and other life com­mit­ments banked up.

Here are some of the most com­mon nutri­tion hur­dles, and some ways you might go about trou­ble shoot­ing them be­fore the sea­son gets in full swing.

Race day GI trou­ble and con­stant bath­room trips

There is no faster way to en­sure a PR is not in the cards than spend­ing fre­quent time in the port-apotty mid-race. Be sys­tem­atic about try­ing to solve gut trou­bles and start this process to­day. Think about what you gen­er­ally eat on race day, the quan­tity and the tim­ing of in­ges­tion. Think through whether your gut trou­bles al­ways oc­cur at the same point in a race, whether they hap­pen in train­ing and whether there are any com­mon fac­tors. It might be that your GI woes are trig­gered by nerves – in which case, work on men­tal re­lax­ation tech­niques, ex­per­i­ment with liq­uid calo­ries and trial your plan in key work­outs. You may be strug­gling to cope with large quan­ti­ties of sweet sports drinks on top of high-sugar gels – es­pe­cially if you don’t typ­i­cally con­sume this in train­ing. Try al­ter­nat­ing with some solid foods, if pos­si­ble, or back­ing down the quan­tity – mak­ing sure you are wash­ing gels down with wa­ter and, again, ex­per­i­ment­ing with your strat­egy in train­ing. Your gut may also be re­volt­ing against a par­tic­u­lar food and the stress of com­pe­ti­tion, cou­pled with the heat of ex­er­cise, may be enough to trig­ger the in­tol­er­ance and the re­sul­tant re­ac­tion and symp­toms. Lac­tose and gluten are com­mon in­tol­er­ances, so play around with elim­i­nat­ing these foods be­fore big train­ing days and races. Or you may sim­ply be get­ting your tim­ing and com­po­si­tion wrong – high­fat foods, very high pro­tein in­take or ex­ces­sive fi­bre can all cause enough gut up­set to de­rail plans. Rather than change your usual diet com­pletely be­fore a race, stick to what you stom­ach and body know well and train off ev­ery day.

Body weight and com­po­si­tion

If you strug­gle to get through a race sea­son and find you are bat­tling colds and flus, then con­sider whether your body-fat lev­els are too low. While lean­ness is ad­van­ta­geous for per­for­mance, be­ing too lean does pose a risk for im­mune health as well as in­jury. Con­versely, if you strug­gle in the heat, find hilly cour­ses very dif­fi­cult or sim­ply know your per­for­mance or health would be im­proved by be­ing a lit­tle lighter, then con­nect with some­one qual­i­fied who can help you do this safely, con­sis­tently and with your end goals in sight.

Heavy re­liance on take-out and poor nutri­ent in­take

While you still have the lux­ury of a lit­tle time, thanks to a re­duced train­ing load, take some time to in­ves­ti­gate your op­tions. Con­sider on­line shop­ping and de­liv­ery – whether this is sim­ply fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles de­liv­ered weekly or meal boxes that come with all the in­gre­di­ents ready for a quick cook. There are in­creas­ingly good op­tions, too, where some­one else has done all the work for you, and you en­joy all the ben­e­fits of freshly pre­pared meals to stock your fridge with, ei­ther at home or at work. Check what’s avail­able in your lo­cal area and try a few op­tions. That way, when you do get time crunched, you are not left scram­bling or re­sort­ing to less-than-ideal fu­elling op­tions.

Gen­eral well be­ing and health

If you are con­stantly bat­tling low en­ergy lev­els, or feel as though you get sick fre­quently, then check in with your doc­tor. Don’t just save the visit for when you truly are sick, reg­u­lar check-ups are a good way to get ahead of any is­sues, and, es­pe­cially if there is any­thing to ad­dress, will save you time dur­ing the sea­son as well as out on the race course. Along with your reg­u­lar check-up, dis­cuss hav­ing iron stores checked and car­diac health as­sessed. Use this checkup as an op­por­tu­nity to see where and how you can make di­etary im­prove­ments to boost health and per­for­mance, whether that is in­creas­ing iron rich foods, fo­cussing on an­tiox­i­dant-rich foods to sup­port im­mune func­tion or sup­ple­ment­ing with spe­cific foods to aid in bet­ter sleep and re­cov­ery.

Pip Tay­lor is a pro­fes­sional triath­lete and nutri­tion­ist from Aus­tralia.

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