May 2008 Triathlon Nutrition Chat with Coach Marni Rakes

author : mrakes1
comments : 0

Discussions on weightloss, 'Diets' for athletes, eating before a long ride or run, the right sugars for training and iron supplements.

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[TriAya] So, if I'm in a position where I want to lose a bunch of weight--like 20 lbs--what's the best kind of working out to do/eating for that (other than the basic nutrition smart stuff) ... Zone 1/2 and whole, low-fat foods, calorie-watching? Or am I missing something here?

[mrakes1] I think people think they need lots of calories to help fuel exercise. Keep your training intense (75-85% max hr average), but with intervals and not go all out for 1 hour straight. I recommend working out 1 hour a day in the morning.  As far as nutrition, you don't need to eat before a 1 hour or less workout. Be sure to drink water and coffee/tea is fine before the workout.  As far as meals, keep around 400-500 calories and snacks around 150-250 calories. Add 150-250 extra calories for every hour of exercise a day and consume that either after the workout (protein, either whey protein, yogurt, milk) or in another snack or as a pre workout snack in the afternoon.  That should help you lose the weight but most of all replace don't eliminate. If there is a food that doesn't provide health benefits and doesn't fuel your workout, find a healthy substitution so you don't crave that food.

[TriAya] Great, sound advice, good reminders! Thanks!

[mrakes1] Be sure to not overeat on meals either.

[zia_cyclist] Marni, what’s your opinion of the Paleo Diet and the Paleo Diet for Athletes? I’m reading the book now.

[mrakes1] I haven't read the book but I am hesitant about diets. Really, you need a way of living that allows you to function in all aspects of life. If you always have to avoid a certain food because of the diet plan, you are going to find that you may "fall off" the diet plan. I agree with the foods that you should avoid but I like the word 'de-emphasize'.


Foods like sugar and salt don't need to be avoided but consumed in small quantities. Especially for athletes, both of those are added in all sports drinks/foods.  As far as beans and grains, those are necessary and very healthy in the diet.  I agree with the foods which should be consumed, such as eggs, fruit, veggies and nuts but I think dairy should be added because of the quality of protein in dairy.

[zia_cyclist] That's what I thought also. It seems extreme to eliminate all grains and dairy.

[gettinfitnow] If I am waking up and going on a long ride (4+ hrs) or long run should I eat first or just along the way? I am generally eating a whole wheat muffin before I run or bike. Today I was wondering if that was overkill. I would like to lose weight, but not compromise my training.

[mrakes1] As far as losing weight, you don't need to eat before an hour or less workout. however, for a 4+ hour workout, you want to be sure you have enough fuel to get through the workout. IF weight loss is a priority (or if you want to improve with training...who doesn't?) you want to be sure you can get through the workout and have enough energy to burn calories. I recommend around 200-300 calories prior to a 3-4 hour workout. Mostly carbs (complex) and if you want an English muffin, have 1/2 with 1 tbsp of PB and 1/2 banana. You want to have a little fat to slow digestion and a little protein is good as well.

[gettinfitnow] Thanks. English muffin just seems to be easiest that I can eat right before a workout. Haven't experimented much though.

[mrakes1] Eating before a workout won't prohibit weight loss if you are working out more than 90 min. Even still, be sure to eat immediately after a workout with whey protein and/or skim milk (ideally, consume liquid protein for a quick recovery and to get stronger). Also, this post workout snack of around 100-300 kcal (depending on length of w.o.) will prevent you from diving into a high calorie post workout meal.  It is an easy and quick pre-training food. You could also try a whole grain/fat free/Special K waffle and just pop it in the toaster. Bread is another choice or 1/2 bagel. Again, just be sure to not overdo it on the calories. That is why I say 1/2 of the higher calorie carb foods.

[TriAya] Lots of different camps on weight loss, but ... if (again, a bunch of weight to lose), is it best to NOT TRAIN A LOT and focus on the weight loss, or light training (I'd consider that 1/hr day like you said) with weight loss focus, or is it actually possible to do HIM/IM training and lose weight?

[mrakes1] Actually, training for the event will keep you disciplined and focus. Let the race be the driving force to stay strict with your nutrition. So many athletes lose focus on nutrition if they don't see some kind of change over time. So as you are training your body to get stronger through intervals and daily workouts (longer workouts are usually on the weekends and during the week you could opt for 2-a days or just a 90 minute workout, nothing too long) you don't have to go extreme with cutting out calories.


Women should be eating around 1800-2200 calories/day and men 2400-2800 day depending on volume. Again, 150-250 extra for each hour of exercise a day.  You will also learn to use fat for fuel if you are keeping your workouts around an hour. Be sure to get some cardio benefit by increasing the threshold through intervals and higher tempo runs/rides/swims.

[TriAya] More like a curiosity question--as I've lost weight and gotten fitter, I've noticed that I require WAY FEWER calories on long trainings and races. There is probably some physiological reason (not just "I cut down because I realized I didn't actually need that much, I just like the taste of Gu ") ...could you briefly describe what may have happened in my body?

[mrakes1] Yes...that is great!  Your body is using fat for fuel. You have trained your body to slowly increase speed with a lower HR. Therefore, you rely less on a quick fuel source like sugars and more on fat. That is great and how I advise my athletes to train so that you don't require as many calories during training/racing.

[TriAya] That is wonderful to hear. Yay!

[mrakes1] It is only when you are above 80% max HR that you begin to use carbs. If you keep pushing and pushing, especially for the long distance training (more than 2 hours) you will begin to deplete the glycogen and you will need to refuel with sugars. OF COURSE you are drinking and consuming some type of calories but because you keep your heart rate in a fat-burning/carb using zone, you don't run out as quickly on fuel.


Also, it is important to have the right kind of sugars during exercise. If you are consuming glucose and fructose you will find that you will constantly need to refuel because the sugars pass through so quickly. Slow digesting sugars (maltodextrin, check Hammer products) are advised which are long chain sugars to give energy without a spike and drop in blood sugar. I tell people that although it is important to tolerate the products on the race course, it is more important that you train your body to get stronger and faster with the best type of fuel possible.

[TriAya] Is it inadvisable to get most of my iron from supplementation?

[mrakes1] Not in the form of pills. It is advised not to take iron supplements. However, through veggies and an occasional red meat intake you should be fine. Iron pills can cause a lot of GI distress. Here are some good iron foods which are good for everyone since Iron helps to carry oxygen (RBCs).

Red meats, green leafy veggies, iron-fortified foods (cereals, grains), fish, nuts (walnuts, almonds), dried fruits (just watch calories and avoid prior to racing/training due to sulfur that may upset stomach), eggs.


[gettinfitnow] I have just started using Infinit on the bike because I struggle with eating on the bike. I am wondering how long after I get off the bike should I start on gels, water, sport drinks and such at an IM and long training?

[mrakes1] You will have no problem with just consuming liquids on the bike. Just be sure not to over-concentrate your drinks or to consume too many calories in one drink. You should keep your drinks around 240-280 calories per bottle so that you are getting around 20-24 ounces of water with those calories. When you get off the bike, give yourself about 2 miles before taking in a gel. It is ok to grab a cup of water to cool yourself or to just splash the mouth but get into your stride and rhythm before starting to take in calories on the IM run.

[gettinfitnow] Ok thanks! Starting to fine tune everything for IM.

[mrakes1] Great questions everyone! Keep up the good eating habits and remember good habits take as much time as training the body for a race. But be disciplined and conscious and you will see great results in your body and performance!


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date: May 30, 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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