April 2008 Nutrition Chat with Coach Marni Rakes

author : mrakes1
comments : 0

Discussions on protein use, long ride calorie consumption, 1/2 mary nutrition, sprint nutrition, training on an empty stomach to lose fat, the role of amino acids and weightloss before a marathon.

Sign-up for our chats with the coaches!   


[SSMinnow]  Marni, can I ask a question about protein use? I am doing Boston on Monday and was wondering about the importance of protein before the race and during the race?

[mrakes1] Protein won't be critically important before, but you will want to have some protein and fat with your morning breakfast. Especially since you have time to eat breakfast and digest before the start. Bagel w/ PB, toast w/ PB, egg whites w/ toast, etc.  During the race you can have Accelerade gels if you want (w/ protein) but only if you practiced.

[SSMinnow] Nope, only Infinit works in this finicky gut. How can you eat protein, but not take in fat as well?

[mrakes1] You will want a little fat before the race as well to slow down digesting and prevent spikes in blood sugar. Stick to what you practiced! Good luck and don't worry!!!

[KrazyLegs]  On long rides on the bike how many calories should I think about consuming per hour?

[mrakes1]  Well, that could depend on a lot for during bike nutrition.  I wouldn't consume more than 280 calories per hour. 240-280 would be a good range. Opt for mostly liquids and then after 90 min. If you want a gel then that would work.


[zipp1] I'm doing my first half mary Saturday. How should I plan nutrition as well? Typically I eat 2 hrs before a big run and the only thing my stomach doesn't handle is coffee and I don't care much for Gu (prefer Hammer gel but couldn't find it last race).


[mrakes1] Hammer would be a great idea so bring your own. It is always good to bring what you need on the bike so you only need the aid station for water and other fluids. Hammer has maltodextrin as a primary ingredient which is a slow digesting sugar. Therefore, you receive the fuel but without the spike in blood sugar and most people have minimal GI upset.  I would eat around 2 1/2 - 3 hours before, around 300-400 calories, again carbs and a little protein and fat, but well practiced. Water and then around 30 min. prior have a sport drink like Hammer.

[KrazyLegs] I did a 80miler last week where I was working hard and was so worried about bonking that I was eating a cliff bar and a gel every hour plus Cytomax in my water. I had great energy the whole time but felt really full.


[mrakes1] You want to avoid solids during races as much as possible during the beginning. After around 3-4 hours of racing (so towards the end of the bike) you can have 1/4th of a bar (best to break it up) but you are causing the blood to be diverted from the muscles to GI system for digestion.  Therefore, best to train and race with mostly liquids and gels.  Also, the combination of Cytomax and gel may be too high of concentration in the gut. At a high intensity you may risk GI upset

[FutureIronGirl17] Ok I have one question, I'm doing a .62 swim/18 bike/3.4 run and ... it'll probably take me 3.5 hours... should I be ok with just Gatorade...or do I need gels as well?


[mrakes1]  Yes, one sport drink on the bike and you should be just fine for the whole race. You can grab a drink at the aid station but maybe just water for cooling.


[SSMinnow]  What is your thought on doing training without any calories to improve fat metabolism? I have done it in running, does it translate to the bike as well?

[mrakes1] Training on empty stomach is recommended. It may take a while to get use to but the body will begin to use fat for fuel. Also, the body has enough stored carbs in the muscles to last for 60 minutes (Even 90 min) of non-exhaustive exercise. Running or weight lifting may be tough to do this due to lightheadedness. If you go too hard, bring a diluted sports drink (amino acids w/ water would be my suggestion) for during the workout. But for racing, at high intensity, you will want something around 1-2 hours prior. Anything more than 60 min (or 90 min for some people) will require around 150-250 calories (around 300 if workout is more than 3 hours).

[zipp1]  So a couple wheat bagels with PB and low fat chocolate milk are an acceptable pre race meal?

[mrakes1] A couple bagels would add up to a lot of calories. The carbs are what you are looking for to prevent a spike in blood sugar, so good idea with the PB. I would go with 1/2 bagel (around 80-100 calories) or whole wheat toast/waffle and 1 tbsp PB. If you are looking for more protein w/ the milk, you will be just fine with the PB. I recommend 1/2 of a banana or a few raisins for more good carbs instead of more bagels. Save the chocolate milk for after the workout as your post-workout drink (whey protein w/ milk and add a little chocolate powder or use chocolate powder).

[SSMinnow] Wouldn't the raisins and bananas have a lot of fiber?

[mrakes1] Not too much to affect your digestion. Oatmeal is fine as well. Fiber will slow down digestion but will also help you go and clear the system. You just want to avoid a lot of bran.

[zipp1] I usually do the mini bagels, not big ones. Bananas work too. I have a bunch of individual servings of low fat chocolate soy milk ready to go.

[mrakes1] Great with the soy milk. Add a little of it with the whey protein (90-110 calories) since the whey protein is full of amino acids and complete protein whereas I'm sure your soy milk has a lot of extra sugars (which you would need to consume in a post-workout MEAL and not from the drink). The post workout drink is all about quick complete protein.

[zipp1] Never tried whey protein, not sure I want to try on race day and I have no other big runs coming up before that.

[mrakes1] Whey protein for after workouts (and races). Before races/training just a little protein and fat. It doesn't have to be from whey but you could add a little protein powder to oatmeal or milk before a race without any worries. Don't try anything new on race day but I do suggest amino acid powder before a race and during. AA's are brain fuel and also they are metabolized by the muscles so they can be used immediately (as oppose to other protein in food which is broken down in the liver).


[zipp1] Okay, I was getting confused there. Protein and carb pre race then carb w/ whey protein post race. Where do I get AA powder?

[mrakes1] Amino vital or Base Performance Nutrition by Chris Lieto. I recommend both. Also, you can go straight to Hammer gel for all the best ingredients in one drink.


[Writebrained] Define "brain fuel" (reference AA)?


[mrakes1] When you exercise for long periods the chemicals in the brain get depleted. Serotonin and tryptophan compete for a lot of the same hormones so with amino acids they keep you stimulated and focused. When the AA's get depleted in the brain, you tend to get sleepy, lose focus, get moody. So keep up with the amino acids. Most products now are including a little protein, such as glutamine but also the BCAA's are also needed.

[zipp1] Also, how often to use gels/water combo in that distance? I usually have one about half an hour before the start of a race and sip as needed once the gel taste is gone, should I try to add a gel about half way through the race or as I feel it--don't want to bonk and DNF this thing?

[mrakes1] I would wait at least 45 min. before a gel. Have 2 sports drinks on your bike and then when you get to the first hour, you should be ready to grab a water at the aid station. Time that with your gel and have your gel first then grab water then toss the water. You will be fine keeping your sports drinks on the bike as long as possible and then every 20-30 min. you can have a gel if needed with water.

[Invigilator] Is there a good online resource for figuring out my ideal caloric intake for weightloss and training?

[mrakes1] There really isn't A BEST resource for training and weight loss. If I can be of assistance I have helped many people lose weight AND improve performance on our personal nutrition plan. However, I suggest keeping meals around 300-500 calories, 3-4 snacks around 100-200 calories. For every hour of exercise, eat around 150-200 extra calories in a pre and post training snack. For weight loss, increase the intervals and intensity. Be sure you aren't eating too much at one meal and watch the snacking calories and evening calories. It is ok to eat at night (check my late night eating article) but just don't over do it. You want to wake up hungry and still train on an empty stomach. If you are hungry when you wake up cause you didn't eat late at night that is a good thing. That probably means your stomach is empty and you won't risk GI upset.

[Writebrained] Fish Oil (good for the skin) - any other benefits?


[mrakes1] Fish oil is great for omega's. Again, brain functioning, skin, tissues, there are so many benefits. It is also a healthy fat and will help with your metabolism. I recommend 2 a day.

[chirunner134] I have a marathon this week and I want to lose weight but I want to be on the top game of my marathon. Is this possible?

[mrakes1] 1 week before the marathon you won't gain anything by losing weight. Because you are cutting back on volume you need to be sure not to overdo it with your calories. Eat the same as you would normally. Then after the marathon you will be ready to go for your weight loss! Your body has trained at that weight so losing weight (may 1-2 lbs) would only mean you are starving your body of necessary fuel.

[jdwright56] I have my first tri this Saturday - but I am unsure on a nutrition plan for the night before. Suggestions?

[mrakes1] 2 nights before the race is your carbo-meal...this applies to ALL triathlons/running races, etc. Then the night before, have a smaller version of that meal around 5-6 pm. You don't want to eat until you are stuffed (either night) the night before and you want to be sure to have the food fully digested. A typical carb meal that is well practiced is fine around 300-400 calories the night before. Something that works well, low in fiber, a little protein and a little fat with complex carbs. 2 nights before do a 400-500 calorie meal. Pre-race day, have a good breakfast, 300-400 calorie lunch, plenty of small protein and carb snacks and then your healthy, easy to digest dinner.

[chirunner134] Gatorade been making me feel sick in longer runs since I'm not used to it. Anything else I can/should do to better fuel myself?

[mrakes1] Use Hammer. Gatorade is simple sugar. Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Doesn't mix well with a lot of people and also, not the sugar that the body needs. They go too fast through the body and aren't absorbed well. I would look for something rich in maltodextrin and you should feel better. Unfortunately, Gatorade is on most race courses so it is good to practice with it or just wear a fuel belt.  But on the bike I would bring your own drink.

[chirunner134] I noticed a lot of gels have maltodextrin so am I better taking a lot of those? Those over the sports drinks?

[mrakes1] Yes, maltodextrin is a long chain sugar, slow digesting. Liquids are your best bet because you don't only get the calories but you are meeting your liquid requirements as well. With gels you should be washing it down with water and then you are making yourself have water all the time everytime you have a gel. I'd go with sports drinks.

[Writebrained] Slow digesting? That's good. Explain?

[mrakes1] Slow digesting to prevent a spike in blood sugar, but quick enough to get into the blood stream to provide fuel.

[mrakes1] This was a great chat everyone!

[Writebrained] Using your info. Much appreciated.

[chirunner134] I know its changed me. Down 40 lbs for the year and I am a lot faster.


Click on star to vote
4751 Total Views  |  116 Views last 30 days  |  45 Views last 7 days
date: May 7, 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!

View all 78 articles