Always Learning Nutrition: What to Eat and What Not to Eat
Wow! It has been over a month since Ironman Boulder. A day that will always be fresh in my memory. If you didn't follow the race… it was an amazing day for me! I finished 3rd overall in my first Ironman as a professional (2nd IM ever), finishing behind Tim Odonnell, one of the best Ironman athletes on the planet. Nutrition played a huge part in my success that day, but what happens afterward?
June 12th was one of those days you dream of - where you are in the zone the whole time, pushing through the pain and suffering, while your family and close friends stand by in awe cheering you on along the way.
A lot went into that race that allowed me to be so successful. I was perfectly primed & prepared in every which way, including careful attention to nutrition.
But the point of this blog is not about race day or what led up to it…I want to discuss the importance of healthy nutrition post-race and the negative impact that binge eating junk food can have on your body and your mind.
My Nutrition Experience
I want to make sure I preface this: I only write about this from my own experience; I have not studied nutrition academically but I do have my own experience in the upside of perfect nutrition and the downside of poor nutrition.
As a professional triathlete, maintaining a healthy body and mind after races is extremely important. Coming down from a high like finishing on the podium in an Ironman or trying to pick myself up after a tough race or DNF can be the hardest times of a season.
After Boulder, I was at an extreme high. In my, now, hometown of Boulder, I felt like I wanted to get out, walk around and see people to celebrate my race. But Mary, my girlfriend, and I headed back east just two days post race day to spend several days with her family and short couple days with mine. I was immediately forced to just chill out in an environment that wasn't really all about celebrating me, and more about focusing on making different memories with family.
This was actually a blessing in disguise because it took me out of the Boulder bubble where everything is about sport. I completely checked out from triathlon and social media; we went on walks along the cliffs in Maine, played tennis with Mary’s mom, ate late dinners (healthy), read through play lines (Mary’s mom is in Steel Magnolias), drove down the East Coast, and ate whatever we wanted… which wasn’t very healthy.
Sounds like a perfect way to enjoy downtime, right? Yes. However, eating poorly really hurt me.
While my trip back east was great in a lot of ways, I let my guard down and ate ice cream every night. This has become a terrible habit of mine over the past two years where I stay disciplined for a month leading up to a race, race, and then “recover” by binge eating for about a week and sometimes two weeks after an Ironman.
The problem is (as it is with many people) I am very sensitive to bad sodium and refined sugars. In the moment I was enjoying it, but when I tried to get back into training it all came to a head. I felt swollen and lethargic. My sleeping patterns were completely disrupted, my focus and motivation were at an all time low, and I kept finding excuses to put off training or getting back into my disciplined routine.
Good Nutrition is an Advantage
I didn't stop to think that maybe things could've been easier if I had fed my body healthy nutrient-dense foods like Groothies every day instead of ice cream or healthy salads instead of hoagies and McDonalds. What I have learned especially after Ironman Boulder is just as much as I enjoy being congratulated and praised for my successes, my body wants to be rewarded as well. As a society, we've been taught that a “cheat day” is how to reward the body, but I can tell you from experience it’s not actually what the body wants or craves.
What I have learned especially after Ironman Boulder is just as much as I enjoy being congratulated and praised for my successes, my body wants to be rewarded as well. As a society, we've been taught that a “cheat day” is how to reward the body, but I can tell you from experience it’s not actually what the body wants or craves.
Think about your own experiences with cheat days or post race binges and how you actually felt afterward. Did you feel rewarded? Or did you feel like you had been through something traumatic?
I have Ironman 70.3 Boulder coming up in about two weeks and then straight into a short block of training before Ironman Wisconsin 4 weeks later. My plan after Ironman 70.3 Boulder is to put my learning into practice: eat a lot… but eat a lot of healthy foods and if I want ice cream - grab a Groothie Smoothie. I am looking forward to sharing how I felt after treating my body with this nutrient dense diet post racing and how I felt getting back into training. Ironman Wisconsin is my Kona. I want to be at my very best for that day.
I believe that eating healthy after Boulder 70.3 will be a huge advantage, and I’m excited to share my experience with you.