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Nutritional Conundrum

The time is nearing soon to travel to Idaho to compete in my 6th Ironman event this weekend. With that comes some very interesting nutritional strategies I use in my preparation that I thought I would share. Keep in mind a few things before I discuss this nutritional conundrum:

1. I follow a mostly vegetarian eating program and obtain most of my protein from legumes and soy products. In fact, my typical day of eating includes this:
a. Oatmeal concoction for breakfast (oats, ground flax, blueberries, walnuts, banana, raisins,
cinnamon, wheat germ).
b. Natural peanut butter sandwich, salad with edamame and chocolate soy milk for lunch.
c. Black bean/tofu mix on whole grain bread, fruit smoothie, Dove dark chocolate for dinner.
d. Snacks throughout the day could vary from nuts and yogurt to EFS and Peak energy bars. It
depends on what type of training I have and how clean I need my gut.

2. While I love dark chocolate (probably too much), I try to minimize all other sweets and refined sugars as much as possible.

3. I am not blessed with an "iron stomach" as some other athletes are which means I must take extreme precautions in my pre-race nutritional preparation.

4. Sports nutrition is about the successful combination of health + performance; however, in some cases, one must take a back seat to the other as I will soon describe.

The few days leading up to an event as long as an Ironman pose a nutrition conundrum for me. That is, I veer to the complete opposite end of the nutritional spectrum to prepare my gut for the race. I do this in order to go into the race with what I call a "clean gut" in hopes of minimizing any gastrointestinal (GI) distress and thereby preventing me from having a good race.

My FuelTarget foodlist for the few days before an Ironman includes the following foods to obtain this clean gut principle:


1. Poptarts (interestingly, the brand Poptarts do not have any trans fat!!
2. More refined carbohydrates such as red vines and less whole grains (less fiber).
3. More sports drinks and juices (more electrolytes and less fiber).
4. Eating every 2 hours (no kidding!) to maintain blood sugar levels.
5. Minimizing the use of energy bars with more than 4 grams of fiber (First Endurance EFS bars
are on the top of my list as a GI safe energy bar).
6. Increasing the use of more processed foods with high sodium (spaghettio's work very well!).

All of this in an effort to get to the start line well-fueled and hydrated with minimal to no GI distress by having a clean gut. It's amazing what we will do in our journey of optimal performance!

Of course I get right back on my normal eating plan the day after the race so this is just what I call a "nutritional hiccup". Since I don't race too often throughout the year, I don't risk turning these into habits which means my health is never compromised!

I hope you found this posting enjoyable to read! Do I promote this to all of the athletes with whom I work? Of course not, it has taken me over 10 years to develop this routine and I finally know what works and what doesn't for my body. There are some good take-home points to this blog but you have to figure out what works best for your GI system and performance goals.


Coach Bob (yes, I am still a sport dietitian!)
coachbob@fuel4mance.com