Part 1 of 3: Master the Part of Nutrition that takes no talent first.
Swim. Bike. Run. Recovery. Nutrition. Get any one of them wrong, and your performance drops. However, when I teach this idea to my athletes, there is a belief that the slightest misstep with nutrition means that you must hide the act or confess and repent of your evil ways.
I assure you that even the best of the best screw up their nutrition choices on occasion! In fact, I recommend a food splurge after completing any “A” or “B” level event. One time, I brought a piece of blueberry cheesecake to Nationals, and I left it in a cooler next to transition so I could eat it right after I finished the race. It was my celebration for qualifying for TeamUSA!
Talentless Nutritional Choices
I want to use this first blog to give everyone some immediate success opportunities.
Let’s break open a myth to start this conversation. Good nutrition does not mean gourmet. It does not mean fresh. Good nutrition means that it is good for your body to help it heal from the last workout and get prepared for the upcoming workout.
Talentless Choice #1: Eat more fruits and vegetables. Look for colorful foods on your plate. Keep a bowl of them wherever you sit and work. The temptation is to open a package or reach into a fridge for food when you are hungry. Simple helpful point: if what you are eating doesn’t have a label on it, it is probably good for you!
Talentless Choice #2: Hydrate all day. I know that bottled water can cost more than gas or milk, but there are countless ways to surround yourself with water in nearly every career. I always keep a 32 oz cup with the Arizona State logo on it on my desk. I have one next to me now. Reaching for the mouse and reaching for the water use the same muscle motion. Talentless.
Talentless Choice #3: Pre-cook meals that you know you will NOT cook when you are hungry. My pre-made meal consisted of rice, mixed veggies, and pre-cut pieces of either steak or chicken, along with some coconut milk and jalapenos to give it some kick. I keep mine in glass bowls with plastic lids. It doesn’t really matter what is in your bowls as long as it contains a complex carb, fruits/veggies, and a protein source.
Currently, I am training to hike in the Langtang Valley of Nepal, and I need to add hardcore Stairmaster workouts while wearing a 30-pound backpack to my training. Tuesdays are my hardest days for the next two months. I run about 4k, bike 25K, do 20 minutes on the stair master, and do 30 minutes of weightlifting. When I get home after these four efforts, I heat up and eat one of my pre-made dinner bowls and watch TV with my legs up as part of recovery. There is no way that I am cooking when I walk in the door, and I know that. These bowls save me from making a poor choice.
Talentless Choice #4: Keep success stories where you normally have failures. Nearly all endurance athletes use a car as part of their training rituals. We are driving to a pool, carrying our bikes, or driving to an event wearing running shoes. Once our event is over, we get back in their car, and our car seems to magically find itself at a nearby drive-through getting some sort of hyper-processed food that contains more carcinogens than Chernobyl. Dairy Queen and Chick Filet have gotten more of my business than I ever planned to give them!
To address this, I purchase Gatorade Whey Protein Bars by the case and always keep half a dozen or so in the center console of my truck. When I am hungry, I reach for one of them with some water. They have the carbs that leave me feeling filled up, and each one has 20 grams of protein in it, helping me deal with my never-ending battle to get enough protein each day. They are cheaper than drive-through, and Amazon can have two cases in my hands in 8 hours.
I will hit specific foods that are good for athletes next time. For now, make some talentless choices and get better. Nutrition is the easiest of all the tools at your disposal to increase performance on race day.