ASK THE DON
How much weight gain do you allow yourself in winter? And how do you maintain weight throughout the season? Aaron McDaid
For me, in the winter, I don’t really think, ‘Okay this year, I’m going to allow myself to gain 4.34kg but not a gram more.’ If I’m under that weight I’ll head to the pie shop! I don’t see it as weight on or weight off.
Don’t get me wrong, balancing your weight is a key part to being a professional athlete, be it as a triathlete, weight lifter or gymnast, and anything in between, well, maybe not darts! Ha! For me, it’s all about balance, both in-season and off-season. I put on anywhere between 3-5kg, but this is off the back of my A-race weight, which this year for me was Kona, so I was über lean! Not Jan Frodeno lean, but who is? Ha!
GET THE BALANCE RIGHT
I think if you’re thinking about calories in/calories out then the balance of your sport/life, etc might be a bit off. I mean, when you’re training up to 30hours per week you can eat a lot, you have to. Saying that, if you put junk food into your system you’ll most likely get a junk food-type performance out. If you put in nice, clean fresh healthy food then, man, you’ll have better recovery, more consistent training and will generally be healthier and happier – I know I am.
ABOVE RACE WEIGHT
I always, well nearly always, have a day in the week when I’ll have a pizza or burger (not an American style half pounder, mind you) and maybe a glass of red. Sure, come the off-season, I have a bit more cheese, wine and gin, but I’m also not training at all for a few weeks, then only lightly before going back into full training. So I’ll be above race weight for about 3-4 months, if I’m honest.
At my level, in my opinion, the body needs that amount of time to just take some load and stress off from being über lean for long periods and training super long and hard hours. For me, it’s a holistic approach to training and, well, life as well as much as possible. I know my key race weight and so do my coaches. I know when enough is enough and that is key to finding a good balance.
MAINTAINING RACE WEIGHT
To maintain my race weight in the season, I guess I’m lucky as I can do that without too much stress – I’m a healthy weight for me. I’m not only eating salad with 42.5g of protein, or anything crazy like that. We try and eat together as a family 3-4 times a week, so if I’m on a kale salad, [my children] Matilda and Hugo are not going to love that at all!
After big, long sessions, I have a protein shake and a meal, not one or the other. I eat gels, bars and sweets on long rides and when I bonk I have a big Coke and chocolate bar – no pies though! Whenever Clarky [Will Clarke] and I did this ride in Stellenbosch, South Africa, called the Four Passes, a 140km hilly loop, at the stop he would always have pie – hell, it worked because I could never drop the bugger!
DO WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
In the last few weeks leading up to big races, I’m more concerned about getting in the right amount of energy at the right time for recovery and to be fully fuelled for the start of the next session. That’s how I see it, fuel in/ fuel out and finding that right balance. I have a few years experience in this as I’ve been doing tri since 1842, and have been lucky along the way to have worked with some great people who helped me understand what my body needs, not what other athletes need. And that’s the key thing here – we’re all individuals and what works for one usually doesn’t work for another. Don’t copy, do some research and get some support. They say in 70.3 and Ironman training especially, nutrition is the fourth discipline.
And whatever you do, don’t diet, it’s most likely not sustainable so just eat healthy and smart. I’m also a big believer in staying very hydrated, not just for the hot session but every day, all day; always go to bed with a glass of water on your bedside table and have a bottle of water at your desk at work.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Just be smart, and don’t overthink it, that’s what works for me. Right, I’m off for another glass of red!
Need some advice from The Don? Send an email to askthe[email protected]
TIM DON is a multiple ITU world champion and 3 x Olympian. Now one of the fastest Ironmans in the world, he’s here to answer all your racing questions and concerns.