March 2010 Nutrition CHAT with Coach Marni Rakes

author : mrakes1
comments : 0

Discussions on good vs bad sugars, fluid loss replacement, clean eating, the Paleo diet and are gels necessary for olympic races.

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[rbuike]  Hi Marni, I have a question about sugars. I've cut out almost all products with HFCS (which was tough) but I am curious about the good and bad of other sugars, table sugar, cane sugar, honey are they as bad? Worse? Better?

[mrakes1]  There are a lot of "good" sugars out there, primarily fruits and veggies. As far as good simple sugars, I recommend honey and blackstrap molasses. Agave nectar is still new to the market so the research is still ongoing. However, honey has several benefits but molasses is rich in iron which is great for athletes and vegetarians.  As far as other sugars, they are all similar +/1 one or two calories per tsp.

[Gregkl]  I heard someone say that you should replace fluid loss during racing ounce for ounce. I cannot do this without GI distress. What do you recommend?

[mrakes1]  It is very hard to replace fluids during activity, specifically because it is hard to know exactly how much you are losing through sweating/evaporation. My suggestion is to aim for around 20 ounces during running and 24 during biking (give or take 4-5 ounces) on an hourly basis.

[Gregkl]  Yeah, I can do that. My sweat rate is around 32 ounces per hour.

[mrakes1]  I would aim for around 28 ounces since you seem to be a heavy sweater. You may find that using water for cooling (over your head) will be most beneficial for you rather than trying to drink 8-10 extra ounces per hour.

[Gregkl]  So, are you saying drink the 20-24 and pour another 8-10 on my head? I usually dump water on my head at the aid stations during the run, not so much on the bike.

[mrakes1]  I would aim for 20-28 ounces per hour (for drinking) and then grabbing a cup (usually around 4 ounces) every other aid station for cooling. As far as the bike, typically you can stay cooler than running but it wouldn't hurt to pour a little water on ya.

[PTWykes]  Are you familiar with "clean eating"?  I am trying to follow the clean eating principles (whole foods, little-to-no additives, etc.) 5-6 small meals a day, pairing complex carbs with proteins at each meal. I have been pretty successful with this for losing weight. I am now at a healthy weight and am training for my first two triathlons. My question is, can I continue along this eating plan without having to worry about counting calories? I don't want to under-fuel myself, I want to stay healthy and have plenty of energy.

[mrakes1]  I think this is an excellent healthy eating plan PTWkes. This sounds like balanced eating as opposed to a diet. You are simply focusing on foods which will keep your blood sugar balanced and provide you with plenty of vitamins and minerals. There is nothing wrong with "real" ice cream, a cookie or another "unpure" food every now and then so just plan for those foods so that you are conscious and aware of your eating so that you can portion control.

[PTWykes]  So I have had a personal trainer friend mention to me that I NEED to count calories...I think that will make me nuts-o, can I just continue with the clean-eating plan I have been following as long as I feel like I have plenty of energy, etc or does counting calories become important for some reason as my training intensifies?  My personal trainer friend is more used to working with power lifters/bodybuilders not triathletes so I'm wondering if his views don't apply to tri-training since muscle bulk is not my focus?

[mrakes1]   Everyone is different as far as counting calories. It is good to be aware of what you are eating and how much. Journaling is great as well. So long as you are at a recommended weight, you have plenty of energy for workouts and you are recovering quickly I don't see a need to count calories. However, if you have trouble with any of the above, I suggest focusing on what you are eating to find any weaknesses or strengths.

Counting calories does not mean that you will "bulk" up. Even if you are lifting weights (which I strongly suggest as a triathlete/athlete) it takes a very strict diet and heavy lifting to truly bulk up. Typically, weight lifting in addition to tri-training will cause the body to increase lean muscle mass which is a great thing.

[rbuike]  I'd be interested in your thoughts on Paleo diets, they seem to go against healthy eating guidelines but a lot of endurance athletes swear by them.  By 'go against' I mean the balance between protein/carb/fat is different with less carb and more protein.

[mrakes1]   AS far as the Paleo diet, I think it is a great thing to focus on - adding more healthy fats, focusing on lean/low fat protein and adding in more vitamins and minerals through "caveman" foods. This will work perfectly for athletes but you don't need the "Paleo" diet (per say) to become a better, stronger or faster athlete. My suggestion is to focus on the concepts of "balanced" eating and to focus on the timing of nutrition around workouts.

AS far as the percentages of a healthy diet, I think many athletes over emphasize carbs so I recommend 50-60% carbs, 25-30% protein and 20-25% fat. Everyone is different (especially depending on training volume, intensity) so it is important to find what works for you.

[rbuike]   Can you define 'balanced eating'? what is the right balance of carb/protein/fat?

[mrakes1]  Well, that is what I always refer to when I blog (Trimarni.blogspot) and write about healthy eating. Just like anything in life (training, work, relationships, food) you need balance in order for healthy habits to stay. Therefore, understanding how to balance protein w/ carbs, balance fruits and veggies with meals and snacks and balance in a sweet treat every now and then will allow you to stay focused, aware and conscious of your eating habits to lose/maintain weight.

[Gregkl]  My training plan for IMWI has me doing a couple 3 hours runs, 2.5 hours runs and shorter throughout my 26 week program. I read somewhere that I should have some 60 mile weeks minimum to be in shape for the run. By my calculations given my pace, I will hit about 35-40 miles tops in a week that includes these long runs. Am I too light on the run training?

[mrakes1]   As a coach (and a 3x IM athlete) I strongly believe in quality of quantity. I would first focus on getting comfortable with 90 min runs, then 2 hour runs. As far as 3 hour runs, this is more of a mental thing, just like running off the bike for your long brick workouts. I do not suggest 60-mile weeks of running specifically because the body will not be able to properly recover in addition to your swim + bike training.

I think 30-40 mile weeks is just perfect. In addition to 1 tempo run and 1 interval run during the week, 1 run off the bike (long bike) and 1 long run, you should find as your long run mileage increases you will be increasing your weekly mileage as well, without risking overtraining/injury.

[PTWykes]  Is GU or something similar necessary for a sprint distance or an olympic distance event to stay well fueled?

[mrakes1]     In an olympic triathlon I suggest an energy gel (maltodextrin-based like Hammer Gel) during the run, specifically because you can fuel yourself with your sport drink (maltodextrin based) during the bike. However, on the run it depends on what is at the aid stations and whether or not you can get in calories. A gel around mile 3-4 will help you maintain energy levels. However, everyone is different so it takes a bit of practice to find what works for you. But I do suggest a gel during an Olympic.

[reid15]  What do you recommend as a "basic" book on nutrition?

[mrakes1]   I have to be honest about IM nutrition. It is one of my favorite distances to help people. It is VERY individualized although many of the concepts of nutrient timing apply to the average IM athlete. I would love to help you with your IM nutrition if you are interested in a one month nutrition consult through beginnertriathlete. However, as far as book on IM training, I don't really have any to suggest.

Even when it comes to forums and articles, I think many informative tools out there suggest that IM athletes take in more calories than necessary when racing,

and to me, it is most important that you train your body to efficiently take in fuels.

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date: April 26, 2010


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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