November 2008 Nutrition Chat with Coach Marni Rakes

author : mrakes1
comments : 0

Triathlon nutrition discussions on strength training, juicing, Ironman run nutrition issues, getting more protein as a lacto-ovo vegetarian and whey protein usage.

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[SSMinnow] I am finding that while I weigh the same my body composition is changing. I was just at the doc and found out my lean muscle mass is down and fat is up. What can I do about that? Especially since I have been injured.

[mrakes1] Have you been able to weight train? Although being injured may limit your type of activity, you can still work on the metabolism by weight lifting and really reaching that discomfort zone to raise the HR. Also, cutting back in calories will burn more fat when you do exercise.

[SSMinnow] No I have not done any weight training at all. I build muscle fast at 4'10" so have avoided it.

[mrakes1] It's hard to say why your fat mass increases and weight is the same because there are a lot of components to that. However, I would focus on your protein intake and be sure you combine protein with complex carbs at all times (snacks and meals).

[SSMinnow] I used to run 70mpw, now I am eeking out 40mpw while rehabing. I have been biking more, but it does not seem to provide the same benefit. Any thoughts on a video for weight training?  I looked at some of the Spinervals.

[mrakes1] Even though you may think you build muscle fast, sometimes women tend to feel bulky when they do get muscle. It is only when the fat mass decreases and calories are burned that the body will become more lean rather than bulky. For someone like yourself that may have a bit more testosterone, this would cause you to gain muscle quickly, stick to more reps, lower weight (ex. 2 x 20, circuit training to keep the HR up).

[mrakes1] As far as weight training, circuit training would be my best suggestion. As far as your injury goes it may be hard to move around quickly but you could get in 4 upper body movements with free weights and perform 20 reps of those 4 movements and then repeat them. That way you could get your HR up. If you can bike, that would be great to burn calories. Just taking in a bit less in calories will allow your body to burn more. It can be hard to not use the excuse that you just worked out but it only takes a few times of not eating when you are bored, just worked out or tired to see the results.

[SSMinnow] Ok, I don't want to monopolize the conversation, but what is your thought on juicing? I started doing it again using Kale, carrots, celery, and whatever else is in the house.

[mrakes1] Juicing is great. It is a much better way to receive nutrients rather than getting a boxed juiced drink with lots of sugars and other additives.

[SSMinnow] Kind of messy, but worth it. I am buying all organic veggies so hopefully that will also help me heal.

[mrakes1] Keep up with the fruits and veggies to obtain both antioxidants and vital vitamins and minerals.

[PirateGirl] Marni, I just started the "Strength Training at Home" routine from your BT video. I'm hoping to do it 2x per week now in the off season. Is that something that can continue during the race season?

[mrakes1] Absolutely. If anything, try to add more weight now to improve your muscle mass and strength and when you get to the peak season you will feel stronger and won't feel like you have to cut back on the weight lifting.

[PirateGirl] Ok, so as I improve on the exercises, should I add more weight or reps?

[mrakes1] 3 times a week would be adequate right now and 1 of those days you can add a circuit of the activities by going through each exercise in a row and repeating it (instead of 2-3 sets of 15). As you improve I would add more reps up until 15 (so that you still feel the burn around 12) and when you feel like 15 is easy I would add more weight. 3 x 15 is all I recommend right now.  Take your time with the video and so long as you "feel the burn" you will benefit. It isn't about how much you can lift but that you challenge your muscles.

[Socks] I did an IM 2 weeks ago.  I had a 1:12 swim. I took in about 1500 calories on my 6 hour bike ride.  I started with 120 cal of Accelerade then I re-filled my hand held with Gatorade. Then on the run I had trouble with nutrition.  I took in maybe 225 cal in liquids. I had 1/2 a banana, a slice of orange, and a few handfuls of grapes.  I felt AWESOME coming off the bike but I really cramped on the run. Now the run is my Achilles heel.  I am just wondering what your thoughts might be regarding how much the lack of run nutrition impacted my performance?

[mrakes1] Seeing that it was cool, you probably did fine on your liquid intake but depending on if you over-concentrated your calories (more than 280 calories per 24 ounces of fluid) they may have not have been absorbed. Now that you mention all the fruit, the acidity may have upset your stomach. Did you practice with fruit or did you take it in because you felt like it would help you perform better?  Did you feel like you had good run training prior to the IM?

[Socks] For me my run training was great. MUCH MUCH better than when I did the race in 2006

[mrakes1] Did you practice with fruit?

[Socks] I didn't.  I practiced with liquids and gels and rice krispie treats.  I didn't want gels that day.  I had a rice krispie treat in SN but I couldn't eat it.  Fruit was the only thing that looked good. 

[mrakes1] I think it was the fruit. I usually don't recommend fruit during races because it can be very sensitive in a stomach that is already filled with sugars. I agree is seems good but perhaps a slower digested carb (maltodextrin drink) would have gotten you to the point where you didn't need the fruit.

[Socks] And they had NASTY lemon lime Gatorade.

[mrakes1] I would recommend Hammer Heed as oppose to the Gatorade but for the Accelerade, that is fine.

[Socks] Well you can only carry so much and that was what they had on the course.

[mrakes1] I think you did everything right but next time, try to stick with just Gatorade and water at the aid stations and the rice krispie treat in pieces on the run (so that you give yourself time to digest it). It's always tough to tell in specific situations during a race so I make sure I look at all factors when addressing what goes right/wrong during races.

[PirateGirl] I'm vegetarian (lacto-ovo), so any tips on increasing protein w/o increasing fat? Most of my protein sources contain fat too even if it's low fat (yogurt, cheese, etc). I was thinking of trying protein powder and adding it to stuff.

[mrakes1] You are doing the right thing of choosing low fat protein. I am a vegetarian as well... I suggest cottage cheese, vegetarian meats, nuts (good fat, but be sure to portion control), tofu, beans, peanut butter (again, portion control, 2 tbsp a day), egg whites, mozzarella cheese (low skim cheese, low fat), low sugar yogurt (less than 90 calories per container), string cheese and of course whey protein powder (your best source).

[PirateGirl] What can the protein powder be added to?

[mrakes1] Be sure whey protein is in your daily diet. 1 scoop after 60 min or more workouts and then you can add the protein to milk (evening snack w/ soy milk or water), oatmeal, pancake mix or with a fruit smoothie. You can't cook with soy milk or whey protein so if adding whey protein to something like oatmeal, add it when the oatmeal is already hot rather than heating it with the protein.

[mrakes1] 1 scoop of whey protein (I buy mine at Wal-Mart, Body Fortress, 120 calories, almost all protein and hardly any carbs...what you want in a whey protein powder) will give you around 20 grams of protein without a lot of calories. You could add that to 1 glass of milk and you have almost 30 grams of protein and only 200 calories!

[PirateGirl] I've never tried whey protein by itself. Do I just look for the canister at the store or are there things to look out for when buying?

[mrakes1] Low in calories (less than 120 calories), high in protein (at least 18 grams) and less than 10grams carbs and hardly any sugar. Whey protein as the first ingredient and then you can look for your favorite flavor and what is in your budget. I buy vanilla, my husband likes chocolate. I get it at Wal-Mart but you can also get the Body fortress at Target or online. It is very reasonable as well (less than $15 for a big container). I find it mixes well with water or with milk but when mixing it, buy a shaker (w/ a grid top) to get out any clumps.

[PirateGirl] Is it possible to go overboard with it?

[mrakes1] 1-2 scoops a day of protein powder would be a limit but as a vegetarian, I would focus on protein as much as possible. Adding protein rich foods to all meals and snacks will ensure that you are repairing your muscles and balancing your blood sugar. Yes, too much protein is bad but I think triathletes don't get enough protein in their diet (vegetarian or not). I think carbs are overemphasized and protein is overlooked (or at least low fat, complete sources of protein).

[PirateGirl] Sounds good. I will try it! Thanks for the great info gals!

[Socks] I only have one kidney....I feel compelled to protect everyone's kidneys and I have read reports of people going WAY overboard with protein power....solid advice Marni.

[mrakes1] I actually wish triathletes would focus more on protein, it seems like only those that are focused on "weight lifting" go overboard on protein when in actuality, triathletes are in need of more protein. But as any food, too much of anything can be unhealthy and a well rounded diet is the way to go.

[Socks] I eat a lot of egg beaters and extra lean ground turkey. I am good with protein

[mrakes1] Great! have a scoop of the protein powder after your weight lifting (with 8 ounces skim milk or with fruit) and you should find yourself recovering a lot faster. Also, you can have the protein after any long workout (more than 60 min, aerobic/anaerobic).

[PirateGirl] I know I'm probably lacking on the protein side so this should help with the well-roundedness w/o adding more fat to the diet. I need to curb the sweets too, which is tough right now around the holidays!

[mrakes1] Focus on protein with your meals and when you are craving sweets, seek fruits and yogurt. Always substitute, don't try to eliminate food. You will only crave the food more by trying to stay away from it so have an alternative that is healthy. Great talk tonight everyone! Thank you for joining the chat.


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date: December 4, 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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