February 2008 Nutrition Chat with Coach Marni Rakes

author : mrakes1
comments : 0

Discussions on Ironman training and weightloss, multivitamins, whey protein, fish oil, nightime workouts and bedtime eating, long swim recovery nutrition, and the 3 top nutrition mistakes.

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[chirunner134] I have been working on losing weight for my IM...any insight?

[mrakes1] The weight loss will come. Just focus on aerobic sessions with intervals, in addition to cutting back on daily calories. Never cut back on pre and post training calories but be sure to not go overboard with the post-IM training foods.

[chirunner134] How many calories should be pre and post? Does it matter for length of a work out?

[mrakes1] It all depends on training volume.

[chirunner134] Most of my workouts are between 1 - 2 hours.

[mrakes1] Try to keep your meal calories within 350-500 calories and snacks around 100-200. Protein post workout around 50-100 calories. If the workout is 2 hours or more you need protein + a little carbs before meal. Around 100-200 calorie snack before 200-300 calorie meal if workout is more than 2 hours.  If workout is less than an hour, be sure to have something (meal or snack) as soon as possible. Sometimes a small snack (veggies, nuts, cheese, yogurt, milk, whey protein, lean meat, cottage cheese, etc.) of protein will keep you from overeating at the next meal.  Chi-if you are trying to lose weight, try to keep the snacking and eating controlled. Complex carbs, limit sugars and become conscious of what you are eating. Understand that there is a limit to eating. 300-500 calories per meal, 200 or less for snacks.

[Writebrained] GNC question: How much of the stuff they sell is "voodoo"?

[mrakes1]  What do you mean? That could have a lot of answers. Anything specific?

[Writebrained] In general, they are always pushing product, vitamins, etc., telling you this will help you recover or increase endurance. These are 20 years old kids pushing the stuff. Is any of it worth considering. If so, which products?

[mrakes1]  Products from GNC (or any vitamin, nutrition shop/website: take notes....)  Fish oil pill- 2 per day.  Multivitamin: 1/2 in morning, 1/2 in evening.  Whey protein powder: mostly protein, no more than 120 calories. Take with water if workout is less 1 hr-90 min. Take with milk 90 min - 2 hours. Make a smoothie 2 hours+


[Writebrained] The whey really helps me to recover, yes. Cut the vitamin in 1/2?

[mrakes1]  The multi-vitamin has water soluble vitamins. They are best absorbed if taken at separate times. It is ok to take the multi full, but if your pee is really yellow with the vitamins and you are hydrated during the day, you may be excreting too much water soluble vitamins. Amino acids: either powder or pills. Consume 1/2-1/3 of recommendation of pill. Best for endurance athletes. You can consume before and during.

[Writebrained]  Yep. Pee glows. You're right. Good to know.


[mrakes1] Just a review: Fish oil pill, multi, whey protein, amino acids.


[Writebrained] Got it! Can you brake down the benefits of each?


[mrakes1]  Fish oil: inflammation, skin health, help with deficiency if you don't eat a lot of fish/vegetarian.  Whey protein: branch chain amino acids and complete biological value of protein. No lactose, easy to digest, slow digesting fuel for the damaged muscles post training. When in liquid, whey protein can be quickly absorbed into the muscles.


[kaqphin]  Marni what's the best way of establishing a baseline calorie consumption for weightloss? What do you recommend?

[mrakes1] For active women 1800, for men 2300. Though it really depends but if you time your nutrition with your training (pre and post training calories are most important) the body will really use the right fuels at the right times. Add 100-200 calories a day per hour of training. However, add those extra calories after in the form of recovery (protein) calories or in a healthy pre training snack. Most people could easily cut back on mindless eating, eating late at night and eating too much post workouts (especially on weekends or hard, long training) and still have energy in addition to losing weight.


[kaqphin]  Is eating late at night an issue if its post workout?

[mrakes1]  You want to be careful not to eat too close to bed due to incomplete digestion. Give yourself 2 hours at the least before going to bed after a meal. A small (less than 150 calorie, mostly protein) snack is ok around an hour prior if necessary. But you don't have to eat a lot at night to get ready for a morning workout. Most of the time, you have enough fuel to workout on an empty stomach.

[kaqphin]  So if I workout and get home at 9pm and sleep at 10pm I just have recovery nutrition?  I go straight from work to my workout then home to eat and bed.

[mrakes1]  If eating late at night, opt for something easy to digest like a smoothie, waffle, eggs. Most breakfast ideas work well for late night eating. Low in fat is a good idea for the evening meal but I recommend mostly protein, in addition to veggies and some carbs.   I suggest small snack post workout. 40-60 calorie yogurt, string cheese, 1/4 cup nuts, 1/2 bar (eat other half prior to workout, no icing, keep bar less than 180 calories). Snack post workout can be around 150 calories for late night workout. After you get home, have a 300 calorie smoothie w/ dry cereal or toast or waffle. Or you can choose an omelette or a 300-400 calorie meal. Again, protein is the priority in the evening to limit spike in sugar.


[Writebrained]  What are the top 2 or 3 mistakes you see triathletes making with food?

[mrakes1]  One, eating too much food at one time. Portion control!!! 300-500 calorie meals, 100-200 calorie snacks. Second mistake: not eating recovery foods (protein, especially whey protein post 2+ hour workouts) or eating too much post workout unhealthy food.  Third mistake, eating too much prior to workout. Early morning workouts less than 1 hour doesn't require fuel prior to workout. However, workouts more than 2 hours can use 200-300 calories prior to workout, complex carbs, a little protein and fat.

[Writebrained]  Portion control. Makes sense. Drop to smaller amounts of food, less calories but the body uses what you eat, right?


[mrakes1] The body uses what you eat, if you eat the right foods. Your body needs to have stable sugars so it is necessary to include protein and a little fat with ALL meals and snacks.

[chirunner134]  I know refueling during long runs and rides is important but what about long swims around 1:30 - 2 hours long?

[mrakes1]  Long swims...same thing. Protein. If anything, the post workout "snack" (100-200 calories around 1-2 hours) will keep you from overeating at the next meal. If your body has fluctuating sugars from simple sugars, sweets or not combing protein w/ carbs (i.e. nuts or lean meat prior to eating a piece of bread or carb, even whole grain) that will cause insulin to be released and blood sugar will fluctuate.

[kaqphin]  What about 'treat' foods? Once a week, One day a week?

[mrakes1]  "Treat" foods are fine so long as they are planned and portioned controlled.  Plan for 100-200 calorie treat IN addition to a healthy post workout meal/snack. Have 1/2 cookie or your treat around 100-200 calories after your whey protein or glass of milk.  Plan for that treat after a long workout when the body is in need of the sugars. But since the body still needs proper recovery foods, just be sure you portion control.  Also, treats (i.e. 1/2 cup ice cream on top of berries or fruit...switch around the yummy part of the treat for the lesser part of the snack) can be included into the daily diet (on occasion) but simply cut back 100-200 calories at a snack and at a meal to accommodate the treat calories.

[TriAya]  Marni, is it true that taking in nutrition during long workouts (3+ hrs) or even marathon/HIM efforts is really mostly to make your brain feel better? That your body tissues don't efficiently utilize the (usually sugars) that much for energy?

[mrakes1]  Your body needs sugars for energy for 90 min. workouts or more. For long workouts (esp. marathons, 3+hrs), the body needs BCAAs (amino acids) so look for something which includes branch chain amino acids. Those are brain fuels. It isn't just protein (like in a bar). It needs to be complete protein, BCAA.  However, the sugars are necessary. The type of sugar differs so look for maltodextrin which is a slow digesting sugar of a combination of fructose and glucose. The body can absorb more at one time.

[Birkierunner]  Other than trial and error (which could take all summer)...can you describe any specific protocols that Ironman athletes can perform to get a handle on their specific/personal caloric and electrolyte demands for IM?

[mrakes1]  I recommend starting off low in calories for IM training. So many times people take in TOO MANY calories. The body gets used to it but you never lose weight which is the focus of many people getting into tri's (or maintain) and what happens is you feel great but gain weight.  The body will learn to use fat for fuel if you train aerobically with intervals.  I would recommend 240-280 calorie per hour on the bike and 30-50 less on the run/hr. First 2 hours of bike stick with liquids. Divide bars in 1/4ths and consume after 3rd hour every 20-30 min.


[chirunner134] I thought running consumed more calories? Why less on the run?

[mrakes1] On the run, the body will not absorb food/drinks as easily as on the bike. Also, the body will need more quick fuel so mostly fluids (gels after first 3 miles of IM) on the run. Some people may need more calories on the run due to size and inefficient running. However, the probability of getting 4-6 oz. of sport drink every mile is minimal *(you get it all over you and not in your mouth) so you may find that if you actually consume 240 calories during running it may be uncomfortable. In running you will expend a lot of calories (possibly more than cycling for some people) but in either discipline you can only replace around 30-40% of calories expended and the body needs to be able to digest those calories quickly and efficiently.

[Writebrained]  There's got to be a cheap place to buy supplements. Any suggestions? Is the local drug store a viable option for some things?


[mrakes1]  Cheap is fine if you can find it. Supplements should be affordable but they are necessary especially for you dedicated triathletes who are pushing bodies to the extreme.  Just be sure you check labels and be sure they you aren't buying something which requires you to take 4-6 pills or scoops of something per serving. That is a marketing thing that will make you go through something quickly. I have found that if you are deficient in something and supplementing the body will benefit even with a small amount.  Gradually you can increase serving size. Best advice, buy something affordable!

[mrakes1]  Any other questions to finish up here? Great questions tonight! If you need anything, please don't hesitate to contact me for a nutrition consultation. I teach people how to eat for weight loss or performance gains but you also get one-on-one contact with me for 1-3 months (depending on package...3 months discusses training/racing calories as well).

[katzchen55]  I have a question about post-swim nutrition.  It seems that I'm always starving after a good swim.  What are the best things to eat before/after a swim to keep from blowing my calorie intake?

[mrakes1]  Prior to workout, have a small 100-150 calorie snack: Complex carb w/ protein. Rice cake w/ PB, 1/2 bar, string cheese and pretzels, apple w/ cheese, etc. Only around 150 or less calories. After your workout, same idea of protein. If workout is longer than 60 min., whey protein powder w/ water.  If more than 90 min., whey protein powder w/ milk. If workout more than 2 hours, smoothie of 200-300 calories. Small snack post workout will keep you from starving after the workout when you have your meal. Protein, even a few nuts, will keep you a little satisfied and blood sugar from soaring at the 300-500 calorie post training meal.

[katzchen55]  So protein is the key?

[mrakes1]  Yep, you got it!


[katzchen55]  Seems I have trouble with the appetite control about 30min after I finish swimming.  I'll give this a try.

[mrakes1]  Let me know how that goes...I think it will help. Try a 60 calorie Lite n' Fit yogurt within 15-30 min (car ride home) post workout.  Or 70 calorie string cheese or glass of milk.  Also, be sure your meals and snacks are regular and controlled during the day.

[rstocks3]  How about chocolate milk?


[mrakes1]  Whey protein chocolate flavor or skim/soy milk w/ chocolate powder. Regular chocolate milk has an excessive amount of sugars (and calories) which aren't necessary with the post workout protein drink. You want complete protein post workout and then good calories in the meal.. Complete proteins comes from whey protein or milk (close substitute). Egg whites are also good complete proteins.

[katzchen55]  I've heard that 300 cals every 3 hours is about right particularly for losing weight?

[mrakes1]  100-200 calorie snacks and 300-500 calorie meals.

[katzchen55]  So I'm going for somewhere around 2000 cals a day?  I've got about 20 lbs to lose.

[mrakes1]  Guys around 2200-2400 calories depending on training volume. 1800-2200 for women.  Never cut calories post workout or pre. Watch meal portions and late night eating (and post workout eating and snacks) and add 100-200 calories for each hour or exercise a day.


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date: February 21, 2008


Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. I am a certified sports nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition,I teach spinning and I am CPR certified. I have finished the 2006 Boston marathon, 2006 IMFL, 2007 Ironman world Championship and I am qualified for the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I write for Triathlete magazine and I love writing for BT.com!


Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. I am a certified sports nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition,I teach spinning and I am CPR certified. I have finished the 2006 Boston marathon, 2006 IMFL, 2007 Ironman world Championship and I am qualified for the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I write for Triathlete magazine and I love writing for BT.com!

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