August 2008 Nutrition Chat with Coach Marni Rakes

author : mrakes1
comments : 0

Discussions on training for a hot IM, hydration, workout recovery nutrition, maltodextrin, no energy on a 45' bike ride and morning workout nutrition strategies.

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[TriAya] I'll be training in it all summer and doing my first IM in super-heat.  How do I keep my body "used" to the hydration/nutrition stuff I have going on (IM Malaysia) for heat when I'll have to train through part of winter here?

[mrakes1] The best suggestion is to always stay hydrated. Focus on a low sodium diet so that you don't retain water but drink enough water during the day (at least 4 water bottles, 20-24 ounces of water) in addition to a bottle per hour exercising.  It is tough to acclimate in cooler conditions but the easiest thing you can do for yourself is to make sure your electrolytes are balanced with heavy training indoors. You are still going to sweat, so with good nutrients in your diet you should find that you have a good supply of electrolytes from vitamins and minerals (veggies, fruits). You are still doing the volume and you will still sweat. When it comes to the heat for the race just be sure you focus on hydration first.

[TriAya] I'll be going a week early (can't get there any earlier) ... should I then (or even a bit before) start working in a little more sodium? Or just stick to the low-sodium, balanced diet up to the race?

[mrakes1] That is good to go earlier to get use to time and heat. I recommend the Hammer Endurolyte powder for the race or days before.  It is a lot easier then taking ANOTHER pill (so many out there). However, I do recommend an Endurolyte pill (or scoop of powder) with water once a day for the 5 days leading up to the race. No need to overdo it on sodium but if you are eating out a little bit before the race I'm sure you will receive more sodium than you can imagine (fast food/restaurant). I recommend eating in your room so that you know the foods that you are consuming and stick with foods that can help your performance (soup, anything canned, frozen, etc.) which contains salt and good nutrients. However, I think with the American diet you don't need to go heavy on the salt shaker that week before.

[TriAya] Here's another question.  So I'm in base building, lots of time in Z2 a la Friel, and have found (from prior training) this is a place where I tend to lose weight (which is good) ... and/or more efficiently burn fat ...Just by getting around on a bicycle ( I don't drive ) and lots of terrain changes, plus in swimming I wind up doing a lot of repeats/sets ... I wind up in Z3 and occasionally Z4. Is this really detrimental? It's not like I spend a lot of training time there, it's just ... sometimes where I need to go is on top of a very big hill! Stuff like that.

[mrakes1] Anything between 70-80% MHR you are relying on a mix of fat and carbs. I recommend this for LONG workouts. Above 85% you are burning mostly carbs which go quickly, however this should be the intensity for short 1 hour workouts with intervals (recovery and speed) so that you can get faster without bonking. You don't need to do a lot of speed work but 2-3 days a week is recommended. I think you are doing the right thing to teach your body to use fat.  Just don't forget to add in specific speed workouts which are around an hour so that you can gain speed which will show in those long IM workouts.

[rkreuser] How exactly important is it to get the meal 30 min after workout?

[mrakes1] There are two types of workouts for recovery nutrition...let me explain. Anaerobic, short, recovery, interval workouts - all around an hour.  For these workouts the intensity is high for intervals so quick recovery is important.


For the tempo/30 min, recovery type workouts it is important that you don't overeat after the workout. For the shorter workouts I recommend some type of snack post workout. This will help you from overeating at a meal. I recommend protein, like a small yogurt, string cheese or a few nuts.  These shorter workouts may not burn a whole lot of calories (especially if it is an easy tempo or recovery workout for an hour) but it is wise to have a small 50-100 calorie snack post workout. Then you have a little give if you aren't having a meal for an hour or two later (like a mid-day workout).


With the longer workouts (more than 90 min) I recommend some type of liquid protein. My first choice is whey protein and you can mix that with water or milk or make a smoothie. However, it is important to control calories since with a long workout you will also want to have a meal post workout (since long workouts usually interfer with meal times). You don't have to overdo it with the post workout protein but you also want to recover as quick as possible. Soy or skim milk is also fine but I would stay away from pre-mix drinks (protein recovery drinks) which are high in sugar and not a lot of protein. The key is quick recovery from protein, then the carbs from the meal.

[rkreuser] Liquid protein? Do the solids not get the job done (i.e., cottage cheese, yogurt, turkey roll-up)?


[mrakes1] Solids are good for the shorter workouts to give some substance in the tummy if you aren't ready for a meal post short workout. Cottage cheese is a great choice, as well as lean meats. Keep the snack small, around 50-100 (150 if the workout is around 60-75 min).

[Writebrained] Maltodextrin - what do you mix that with (water?), how much?

[mrakes1] Maltodextrin is a type of slow digesting sugar. It is found in energy drinks and gels and it is recommended over high sugar sports drinks and gels because it won't instigate a spike in blood sugar.  I recommend anything with maltodextrin in it. I also don't believe in overconcentrating drinks and from what I know of Carbo Pro, the osmolality is low which causes it to empty from the stomach very quickly, which is good.


[Writebrained] So, you don't look for straight Maltodextrin at the health food store but you look for it as an ingredient, right?


[mrakes1] Yes, on the label of sport drinks.

[Fechter99] I do have a question - I am still new to the triathlon thing and completed my first ever sprint a couple of weeks ago. During the practice bike rides on the course and even during the winter when I was riding the stationary bike, I would hit a wall so to speak at about 4.5miles (20 minutes or so into the ride) that I could have just as easily bailed and gotten off the bike.  Normally I would eat a whole-grain English muffin with some peanut butter before starting. Anything else I should be doing while on the bike to make it easier to get past that distance? And, yes I am SLOW!!! and do have some weight to lose.

[mrakes1] For an hour or less workout I recommend not having anything before the workout if it is in the morning. You may think that this will add to bonking but rather, the food you are eating before your bike ride is causing an insulin spike and then you are going into the workout with low blood sugar. Great job on getting into tri's but I recommend working on your fat burning intensity first, which is around 70-80% intensity. Too high intensity for too long will deplete stores too quickly.


[Fechter99] Problem I have though is that I have finally gotten used to eating breakfast in the morning and find that if I don't, I eat way too much when I am done with my training session. Is there something better that I can eat?

[mrakes1] Nothing solid before an hour workout. If you need something (like say, after you have trained hard for a few days and you are just a bit hungry in the morning) I recommend something small around 50-100 calories like a few nuts or 1/2 rice cake w/ a little peanut butter or just a piece of cheese. I know it seems silly to have such a small snack and of protein before a short workout but it is more important that you don't have food undigested in the stomach or food that creates a spike in your blood sugar. Your body has plenty of fuel in the muscles to get through an hour or 90 min workout but when exercising too hard, too soon in a workout (above 85% MHR) and not including recovery (fat burning) intervals you risk depleting your carb stores too quickly. I think that is why people have trouble not eating before a short workout is because the workout is short and therefore, you feel like you have to go all out for the whole thing. It is better to work on speed and high intensity with a little recovery so that you can improve speed and burn fat.

[rkreuser] OK, all seriously, how much should triathletes be paying attention to GI?  Glycemic index?


[mrakes1] You want to limit the sugars in the diet. Even with training fuels, too much sugar during workouts is not recommend. Back to the maltodextrin, I recommend something that is of maltodextrin and not of the quick sugar that is fructose or high fructose corn syrup.

[chirunner134] My PT says I need to start lifting weights. Do I need to increase my protein for the muscle building and if so how much?


[mrakes1] Lifting weight is recommended. For triathletes that can be hard because we are use to go-go-go and time is limited with swim, bike run. Try circuit training to get in a good workout and focus on the core (abs) as well. I think triathletes do not eat enough good protein anyways so focus on whey protein and complete sources of protein such as cottage cheese, yogurt, beans, tofu, lean meat, milk rather than just processed food in bars and packaged foods with protein.

[rkreuser] Marni, if I could be so bold, lay out a perfect fueling scenario for a 7AM workout, 6AM wakeup, 45 min run.

[mrakes1] Coffee and a glass of water pre-workout, that's it!

[rkreuser] What about after? Let's say it's a tempo run...

[mrakes1] After that tempo run I would have breakfast. Depending on if you can get breakfast right after the workout or an hour later, I recommend just a small 50 calorie snack (or 100 if the meal is an hour or so after the workout) just to tie you over so you don't overeat at the meal.  Include a little protein with the breakfast for the short workouts and emphasize complex carbs. Around 400-500 calories for meals, 150-250 calories for snacks.  150-250 extra calories per day (over daily calorie needs) for every hour of exercise a day. The daily diet of triathletes should really be all about small snacks every 2-3 hours and 3 meals a day. Time your nutrition with your training so if you can anticipate a workout in the evening, plan your snacks and meals around it (same with morning workouts).

[rkreuser] Ok, so we're good at talking about good nutrition. What if we stink at nutrition? How do the folks that can't get it together muddle through the issue?

[mrakes1] For the 9am workout you have enough time to eat a small meal. Most people rush out the door in the morning so there isn't enough time to eat before an early workout. If you have 2-3 hours before a morning workout, I recommend the coffee but a 100-150 calorie pre training snack of carbs and protein (toast w/ PB, egg whites w/ fruit, yogurt w/ a little dry cereal, etc.) would be fine.


[chirunner134] Great info. Like I said earlier, I've been following your advice and I am having the race season of my life.  Marni helped me out alot. I am down 50 lbs this year from her advice.


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date: September 3, 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!


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!

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