Mallorca Triathlon Camp Q&A Part1

Triathlon Camp Mallorca

Questions and Answers PART 1

In late April 2023, I had the amazing opportunity to be part of a two-week training camp in Mallorca. As a bike tour guide, I not only guided the participants but also took on the responsibility of addressing any nutritional inquiries they had. During the camp, I delivered a comprehensive presentation covering various topics such as race-day nutrition, the significance of quality sleep, meal scheduling around training sessions, optimizing our working environment, and much more.

Now, as I reflect on the presentation, I’ve compiled all the questions that were raised and will do my best to provide thorough and detailed answers. However, it’s important to remember that nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and many of the answers will be subjective, varying from person to person. So, feel free to explore the questions and experiment with the answers to discover what works best for you.

Let’s dive in and explore these intriguing questions together!

I enjoy having oatmeal with milk for my race-day breakfast. Should I be concerned about consuming too much protein?

As a general recommendation, I usually advise athletes to avoid consuming excessive amounts of protein, fats, and starches/fiber on race morning to prevent digestive issues. While there is evidence to suggest that protein intake can benefit endurance performance, it’s important to clarify what we mean by „protein“ in this context. We’re referring to proteins that take a long time to digest. For instance, a steak, which contains 26g of protein per 100g, would be a great choice for dinner after a tough training session or race day. However, it may not be ideal for race-day breakfast as it can sit in the stomach for several hours before being digested, which is not a pleasant feeling, especially when you’re about to jump in the water.

Now, let’s address your specific question about having oats with milk (instead of water) for your race-day breakfast. A cup of milk (the typical amount used for oatmeal) contains about 8g of protein, which is relatively moderate. Additionally, milk is known to be absorbed fairly quickly in the intestine. Therefore, incorporating it into your breakfast should not pose a significant issue. Here are some other race-day breakfast options to consider (remember to experiment and find what works best for you):

    • Toast, bagels, or crumpets with toppings like jam, peanut butter (in small amounts), or honey. If you struggle with high-fiber foods, opt for white bread.
    • Porridge with toppings like peanut butter (in small amounts), jam, fruit compote, fruit, or honey.
    • Fruit-based smoothie with oats.
    • Cereal bars (homemade or store-bought).
    • Overnight oats.
    • Bowl of cereal with choices like Cornflakes, Rice Krispies, Special K, or Cheerios (lower fiber options).
    • Fruit salad.
    • Homemade rice cakes or a bowl of rice with honey.
    • Banana with peanut butter.
    • Banana pancakes with toppings like honey, yogurt, cinnamon, or fruit.

Is it advisable to fuel your body with only simple carbohydrates before longer sessions?

Absolutely!

But let’s take a moment to break down what simple carbs really are. Carbohydrates, also known as carbs, have three main components: fiber (complex), starch (complex), and sugar (simple). The ratio of these components in food determines whether it falls into the category of complex or simple carbs.

In general, it’s recommended to focus on consuming complex carbs when you’re not training. These can be found in foods like oats, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, rice, and beans. Complex carbs are more filling, take longer to digest, and don’t cause drastic spikes in blood sugar levels.

However, during intense workouts or races, the last thing you want is a heavy meal lingering in your stomach for hours. That’s when it’s beneficial to opt for simple carbs, which are quickly digested and provide a readily available source of energy. Examples of simple carbs include raw or brown sugar, glucose, fructose (fruits), sucrose (table sugar), honey, and fruit juice, among others.

By understanding the differences between complex and simple carbs, you can make informed choices about what to consume before and during your training sessions. It’s all about finding the right balance for your performance and energy needs.

Would it be excessive in terms of fat intake if I spread butter instead of just honey on my bread for breakfast on race morning? Personally, I find it tastes better with butter.

When it comes to fat, protein, and fiber, it’s all about finding the right balance. Having a bit of fat in your breakfast isn’t a big issue as long as it’s in moderation.

The small butter portions typically available at breakfast in most hotels are around 10g, which is about 10g of fat. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to use two butters just to spread it on a single slice of bread. So, in terms of the total grams of fat (even with 2 butters), it’s probably still less than 10% of your entire breakfast. Therefore, as long as you’ve tested it out beforehand and it sits well with you, having around 10-15-20g of butter shouldn’t cause any issues, and it can add some delicious flavor to your meal. If you follow a vegetarian diet, you can consider using coconut or avocado oil instead of butter and avoid margarine altogether.

What is a Pomodoro Timer?

The Pomodoro technique is a popular time management method that can help boost your focus and productivity while working. Here’s how it works:

    • Choose a task you want to tackle.
    • Set a timer for 25 minutes (known as one „Pomodoro“).
    • Dive into the task with full concentration until the timer goes off.
    • Take a short 5-minute break to unwind and recharge.
    • Repeat the process, starting another Pomodoro.
    • After completing four Pomodoros, treat yourself to a longer break of 15-30 minutes to relax and rejuvenate.

The Pomodoro technique offers several benefits for improving working concentration:

 

    • Enhanced Focus: Breaking your work into smaller, manageable chunks helps you stay focused during each Pomodoro, knowing that a break is coming up soon.
    • Efficient Time Management: By setting specific time limits for each Pomodoro, you become more mindful of how you spend your time and can allocate it more effectively.
    • Reduced Procrastination: The Pomodoro technique encourages you to start and maintain momentum on a task, making it easier to overcome the temptation to procrastinate.
    • Increased Productivity: The structured intervals of work and breaks keep you motivated and prevent burnout, ultimately leading to improved productivity.
    • Task Completion: The dedicated work sessions allow you to give undivided attention to a task, increasing the chances of completing it efficiently.

Give the Pomodoro technique a try by using a simple online Pomodoro timer like the one at https://pomodorotimer.online/ or find one on Google by searching for „Pomodoro timer.“

I have a stressful job with long working hours and that often leaves a balanced diet out… what do I do?

Yes, there are a lot of factors outside of triathlon in life that can be hectic and time-consuming, with various commitments like family, work, and social life. Finding time for training and nutrition can be challenging. I personally faced similar struggles when I was working in the corporate world while training for Kona and juggling multiple responsibilities. It can feel like there’s no time left in the day.

While it may not be easy, proper planning and setting priorities are crucial. Here are a couple of strategies to consider:

  1. Planning: Take a proactive approach by looking ahead at your training schedule, work commitments, and any upcoming travels. Make a meal plan and create a shopping list based on your training needs. Dedicate a specific day to grocery shopping and allocate a few hours (possibly on another day) to prepare and pack your meals in advance. This way, you’ll have healthy meals ready to go, even if they’re not freshly made. It may reduce spontaneity, but consistency in nutrition is more important than being spontaneous.

  2. Priorities: While nutrition is indeed vital for overall health, well-being, and supporting your training, it’s important to recognize that everyone’s circumstances are different. If you find yourself overwhelmed with time commitments such as raising a child or building a business, it may be challenging to prioritize nutrition. In such cases, you have two options: consider outsourcing your nutrition by hiring a coach who can guide you in this area, or accept the fact that your nutrition may not be optimal and be aware of the potential consequences. There’s no right or wrong choice here—it’s about finding a balance that works for you.

Remember, finding the right balance between triathlon, work, and personal life is a continual process. Be kind to yourself and understand that it’s not always possible to do everything perfectly. Focus on making gradual improvements, and celebrate the small victories along the way.

What is Intermittent Fasting, and is it beneficial to skip breakfast? Also, what would be the optimal diet for me?

Intermittent Fasting is a pattern of eating that involves alternating periods of fasting and eating. One common approach is skipping breakfast, which extends the overnight fasting period until later in the day.

While intermittent fasting and skipping breakfast can have certain advantages (like improving fat burning), it’s important to remember that the optimal diet varies for each individual. Factors such as training intensity, duration, and personal preferences play a role in determining what works best for you. When it comes to an optimal diet, it’s crucial to focus on key principles. First and foremost, prioritize a balanced and nutrient-rich approach (regardless of the time window). Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals. These foods provide the necessary fuel for your training and recovery. Also, pay attention to proper hydration.

Adequate water intake is vital for optimal performance. During workouts, replenish electrolytes with sports drinks or electrolyte-rich foods to support hydration and prevent cramping.

Do I have to practice eating breakfast early?

It is generally recommended to consume your race-day breakfast 3-4 hours before the start of the race. Depending on the race’s starting time, this could mean eating as early as 3:30 AM. Another well-known piece of advice for race day is to avoid trying anything new. But does this mean you should not only test your breakfast options but also train yourself to eat early by waking up in the middle of the night during training?

My response is this: If it is practical for you and provides peace of mind for the race, then go for it. However, I believe that the content of your breakfast (the ingredients), the quantity (how much you eat), and the timing (how much time prior to the start you eat) are far more important.

For instance, I would recommend experimenting with the following order of importance:

  1. What (content)? – Should you have oatmeal, a bagel, honey, butter, fruits, or juice?
  2. How much (quantity)? – Should you consume one bowl of oatmeal, a single banana, or two bagels with butter?
  3. Timing relative to training start? – If you have a long bike ride training at 11 AM, should you eat breakfast at 6 AM, 7 AM or 8 AM?
  4. Time of the day? – How do you feel about eating your race-day meal at 3:30 AM, when it would be time to get in the water?

Based on my personal experience, once I have figured out the first three factors, I am confident that the fourth one will work out just fine.

Remember, finding the optimal race-day breakfast requires personal experimentation. Listen to your body, test different options during your training sessions, and make adjustments based on how you feel. This way, you can determine the best breakfast choices for your performance on race day.

Why are intervals in the morning not optimal? What can be a possible solution?

Going for a morning run, bike ride, or swim on an empty stomach (before breakfast) can be beneficial for training your body’s fat metabolism. When you haven’t eaten breakfast, your body has already burned through some of the carbohydrates from the previous evening’s meal, leaving your fat reserves as the primary fuel source. It’s important to note that this approach works best at a low-intensity level.

As shown in the INSCYD graphic below, the higher the training intensity (X-axis), the more energy comes from carbohydrates (red) and less from fat (green). While you can train your body to utilize different fuel sources, the general rule is that if you want to go fast, you’ll need carbohydrates, especially during interval running.

Ideally, save your more intense training sessions for later in the day. However, if you’re short on time and need to do them in the morning before work, consider having some fast-acting carbohydrates to provide a boost for your training. Consuming a gel, energy bar, honey, or fruit juice 15-20 minutes before your workout should suffice.

Training on an empty stomach doesn’t mean you’ll collapse after the first interval; that’s not how our bodies work. You’ll still find the energy to continue, but you might start feeling a bit sluggish later in the training due to the limited carbohydrate availability. Naturally, your pace may decrease, which won’t induce the same physiological changes as pushing to your maximum capacity would.

What about sugar? How critical is the industrially processed sugar? E.g. sugar in coffee/tea?

As mentioned earlier, the optimal time to consume simple sugars is right before and during your training sessions. This way, their negative impact will be minimal as they will be quickly utilized by the muscles and have minimal effect on insulin levels.

However, outside of training, it is advisable to minimize sugar consumption. If you do need some sweetness, opt for natural sweeteners like honey or use sugar alcohols such as xylitol, erythritol, or sorbitol.

Can the super-compensation principle still be applied to carbohydrate loading? Is it advisable to avoid carbohydrates the week before a competition?

Carbohydrate loading is still a popular practice and has been proven to yield positive results in race outcomes. While the exact benefits of carbohydrate depletion (reducing carb intake 7-5 days prior) before loading on carbs are not entirely clear, increasing carbohydrate intake during the last few days before a big race is almost essential.

However, it’s important not to approach carbo-loading with an all-you-can-eat mentality. Instead, consider adding a moderate extra portion of rice, bread, pasta, or potatoes to your meals. From personal experience, it’s advisable not to overindulge at dinner before the race. Keep in mind that your muscles can store around 500g of carbs and the liver can store an additional ~100g, so anything beyond that will go to waste in some way.

Additionally, remember that every gram of carbs stored in the body is accompanied by 3g of water, leading to water retention and subsequent weight gain. Aim for a carbohydrate intake of 8-12g per kilogram of body weight to replenish your stores before the race. Here’s a quick reference table:

    • 50kg -> 400-600g
    • 55kg -> 440-660g
    • 60kg -> 480-720g
    • 65kg -> 520-780g
    • 70kg -> 560-840g
    • 75kg -> 600-900g
    • 80kg -> 640-960g
    • 85kg -> 680-1020g
    • 90kg -> 720-1080g
    • 95kg -> 760-1140g
    • 100kg -> 800-1200g
    • 105kg -> 840-1260g
    • 110kg -> 880-1300g

Some carbo-loading examples:

    • 1 pizza = 135g CHO
    • 300ml orange juice = 30g CHO
    • 200g rice = 60g CHO
    • 1 bagel with honey and butter = 80g CHO
    • 1 chocolate bar with butter = 30g CHO

That concludes Part 1 of the Q&A session from the participants. Don’t forget to check out Part 2 for a further collection of intriguing and pertinent questions.