January 2009 Nutrition Chat with Coach Marni Rakes

author : mrakes1
comments : 0

Discussions on half Ironman training and race nutrition, the best breakfast for a late workout, the best pasta for carbo loading and how/when to use gels.

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[kcovert1] Well, I'm gearing up to start training for my first HIM in March, and I'm a little concerned about training for nutrition and weight gain. I want to practice the nutrition aspect, but I don't want to gain any weight. Any words of advice?

[mrakes1] The best way to fuel your longer workouts without gaining weight is to have a rough number of calories (around 2000-2200 if you are already maintaining your weight) to stick with per day. For every hour of exercise, add 100-200 extra calories.  Rather than adding those calories to a meal (ex. don't add 200 calories for a 2 hour workout to a dinner or lunch meal), instead add those calories in protein post workout snacks or mini snacks during the day. This way your metabolism is going all day and with the protein snack post workout (ex. whey protein, milk, yogurt) you will immediately repair damaged tissues and speed up recovery.

[kcovert1] What about during workouts?

[mrakes1] During workouts you want to stick to around 180-240 calories for workouts over 90 min. For the longer workout (ex. over 3 hours) you will use the higher calorie range. But most of all, you want to make sure that you are actually using the calories you are ingesting. I recommend a maltodextrin rich drink such as Hammer as opposed to Gatorade or other sport drinks that are high in fructose and glucose (simple sugars which digest too quickly).

If a workout is around an hour-2 hours, you can get by with 110 calories (usually a scoop of sport drink powder) but over 2 hours, I would stay around 180 calories per hour.

[kcovert1] Fantastic! This is just what I was looking for. Do you think those calorie ranges are good starting points for race day as well?

[mrakes1] Yes. The most important thing is that your body actually uses what you ingest. You will find that many athletes take in too much and the calories are just sitting in the stomach, undigested. It is better to train yourself to rely on fat for fuel rather than working out at too high of an intensity and feeling the need to always refuel in order to prevent bonking. On race day you will want to do just like in training but you will more than likely need to use what is on the course (Gatorade). However, it is best to train with the best so that you can improve and then come race day you will be fine by meeting your caloric needs and hydration needs.

[rkreuser] In your opinion, on a day you're working out later, what's the best breakfast?  Calories, size, composition?

[mrakes1] I think oatmeal keeps you full, without a feeling a "fullness". I like to add raisins, nuts and fruit to my oatmeal so I just buy the instant plain and then add extras. I would recommend a breakfast around 350-450 calories. However, 1 cup of oatmeal (150 calories) is quite filling so add more protein to the breakfast such as yogurt, milk, a smoothie, cottage cheese, lean meat and/ or egg whites.

[rkreuser] Aha. What about caffeine? Does that play a part in said breakfast?

[mrakes1] I do recommend mostly carbs in the morning and more protein in the later day. However, it is always important to combine protein with carbs at all meals and snacks. Caffeine will give you a nice boost to the day and will give a boost to your workout. Yes in coffee (not soda!) or tea in the morning.

[rkreuser] Diet soda? Gotta check.

[mrakes1] Empty calories, no nutrition. Coffee and tea has health benefits so you are better off with something with nutrition rather than additives. However, a diet soda every now and then is fine.

[marmadaddy] What's better right before a race? Fettucini Alfredo or Fettucini Carbonara?

[mrakes1] Before a race I would recommend staying away from high fat sauces. When it comes to pasta, the dish tends to not be that filling and you may overdo it with calories. The night before a race is just to top off the tank so you don't want to eat until you are stuffed. Rather, combine a little lean protein (ex. meat) with your plain pasta w/ marinara and have a few slices of bread with a side salad. The meat will give you a filling factor without leaving you stuffed.

It's best to "carbo" load for the 2+ hour races (no need to load for a 1 hour race), two nights before a race. You are still not stuffing yourself but it gives your body time to digest a high carb meal. The night before a race can be the same foods but just about 100-150 less calories than 2 nights before. This way you don't go to bed stuffed the night before the race.

[bbarr66] Well, I'm a heavy person trying to lose weight. What volume of protein/carbs/fat should I be shooting for? And I have a problem with sweets.

[mrakes1] I recommend 50-65% carbs, 15-20% fat and 20-30% protein. For males, around 2300-2600 calories a day + 100-200 calories for every hour of training (on top of daily calories). Rather than trying to eliminate foods, have a substitution. An easy solution is remove sabotaging food from the house and start buying a healthier option. Swap yogurt for ice cream or Wasa crackers rather than chips (just as an example).

[bbarr66] At what level/time should I use some kind of gel? Should I use the gels for every workout?

[mrakes1] Gels are recommended for workouts lasting more than 90 min. If a workout such as a run is more than 90 minutes, you will want your first gel around 90 min and every 4-5 miles thereafter. If it is a bike ride, you will probably have access to drinks on your bike so rely on your liquid calories and start having your gels after 2 hours (about every 45-60 min).

It is most important that you always keep up with your liquids and if possible, drink your calories when you are training rather than relying on bars and gels as a major source of energy.

[bbarr66] So a Gatorade drink for workouts less than 60min is ok?

[mrakes1] For workouts less than an hour, water is only needed. If it is 60+ min, I recommend a sport drink with maltodextrin as the primary ingredient (such as hammer) so that you don't get a major sugar rush. The maltodextrin will give you the energy you need, while digesting slowly to prevent bonking or a sugar spike

[rkreuser] I do have a different Q. Ever heard of Spiz? The long distance dudes drink it (think deca athletes) and claim that they don't lose weight during an ultra drinking this stuff. They claim it's a complete meal replacement, some ultras even gained weight over a, say, 60 day event. I know it's balanced...carb, protein...but seriously? And apparently it doesn't rot in the sun, like Infinit or Perpetuem.

[mrakes1] Well, it has a LOT Of calories. For people who train A LOT and can't get in meals, this would be ok. However, it isn't very high on protein and for the normal individual who only wants to use 1 scoop at 100 calories, you only get 5 grams of protein. Most of all, athletes need PROTEIN and need to repair. If you eat a normal diet, you will get carbs so there really isn't a need to load the body with carbs and neglect protein in the diet.

[rkreuser] Yeah, it's like 600+ cals per serving.

[mrakes1] It does have all amino acids which is great but you are better off making your own "meal replacement" smoothie with whey protein (100 calories and 23 grams protein) and adding lots of other ingredients that are more natural. Plus, whey protein is filled with all amino acids.

[snikpos] I'm getting used to this whole low-sodium thing for everyday, but still having trouble with working out. I'm not really at a point yet where I "need" electrolyte replacement cuz I'm not doing anything real long yet. However, I've done a few 5Ks and started getting side stitches, something I've never had. My last 5K I decided to take an Endurolyte to see what would happen, and I didn't get the stitch. However, I'm sure there's more than that I can do. FYI, I use HEED as my drink.

[mrakes1] Great on using HEED and I'm glad you are trying to understand your body. One of the main causes of side stitches is breathing patterns. Try to breathe when your left foot strikes the ground (inhaling and exhaling). The ligaments from the diaphragm and liver are stretched when the right foot strikes and you exhale so that might be a factor. Also, starting out too fast will cause side stitches.  Lastly, eating too close to a race can cause the stitches from undigested food in the stomach. Try to get yourself regular so that you teach your body to always go the bathroom before a race.  Also be sure that you are drinking water on a daily basis to stay hydrated.

[snikpos] My question was actually any other e-lyte replacement suggestions. When my body finally lets me do anything longer, it's hard for me to take Endurolytes during a race.

[mrakes1] It is hard to take pills during a race so you might want to try adding Endurolyte powder to your drinks. Powders are probably the best so if you find one that you think works for you and doesn't have a lot of calories, that would be the best recommendation. There really isn't one that stands out as the best because I think staying hydrated is the main concern during races for people who tend to suffer from cramps. 


[snikpos] Thanks. I'm actually thinking the problem is the electrolytes, rather than the hydration cuz I never had this problem until I was put on the low sodium diet.

It could be the sodium but also, you probably have changes in what you are eating and we could look at the foods you have taken out of your diet, which have also provided sources of energy for you.


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date: January 27, 2009


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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