Three strategies for becoming a leaner, meaner, triathlon performance machine.
by Susan Kitchen
For most triathletes in the northern hemisphere, the triathlon off season is in full swing. The decrease in volume and intensity that the season brings makes it the perfect time to focus on a different kind of training: nutrition training. Yes, you read that correctly. With less demanding workouts on the docket, it's important that with our more relaxed training schedule, we don't get too relaxed when it comes to food choices. In fact, it's the opportune time to work toward an optimal body composition so that when race season arrives, we are metabolically efficient and can reap the performance rewards.
Metabolic efficiency training
The more efficient we are at burning fat, the more we can preserve our limited and precious carbohydrate stores, and the longer and faster we can go before we have to introduce sports supplements. Enter metabolic efficiency (ME) training, or the process of improving the body’s ability to burn fat.
The body has approximately 80,000 calories stored as fat and only between 1,400-2,000 calories stored as carbohydrate, making fat a huge resource. Once your glycogen (carbohydrate) stores are empty, fat is metabolized into fuel, albeit very slowly and inefficiently—hence the dreaded "bonk." Fat is a great energy source, as long as you have glycogen or supplemental sports nutrition along with it. Along with the performance benefits, ME training improves body composition and body weight, lowers triglyceride levels, stabilizes blood sugars and improves lipid profiles.
Strategy 1: Food combining
Athletes can work toward better metabolic efficiency by stabilizing blood sugar levels through modifying meal composition. When we eat a plate of carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, bagels, cookies, etc.) the body releases insulin and suppresses the fat burning system. By eating a combination of carbohydrate, lean protein and healthy fat at each meal and snack, we stay full longer, release less insulin, stabilize our blood sugar and burn fat for energy.
Strategy 2: Nutrient timing
Although athletes benefit from sports nutrition supplements in training and racing, during the off season when the focus is on building a base, additional nutrition support is not needed. By having a metabolically efficient meal or snack before and after your two to three hour easy ride, water and electrolyte beverages are sufficient.
Strategy 3: Smart meal planning
It's best to get carbohydrates from nutrient-dense whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, keeping your immune system and body healthy and strong. If you're wondering how to put this all together, read on for a few examples of metabolically efficient meals.
Breakfast-8oz Greek yogurt
-3/4 c blueberries
-1/4 cup granola
-1/2 cup oatmeal (uncooked measurement)
-2 hard boiled eggs
-one cup skim or soy milk
Lunch-Chicken or Tempeh salad: 3 oz grilled chicken or tempeh, 1-2 cups spinach or lettuce,1 oz feta cheese, tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms, onions, oil and vinegar.
-1 1/4 cup fresh strawberries
-Black Bean Soup with Turkey Sandwich: Small cup black bean soup, 1 slice whole wheat bread, 3 ounces sliced turkey, 1 ounce cheese, lettuce and tomato
-1 small apple or orange
Dinner-Salmon and Veggies with Quinoa: 6 ounces salmon, 1 cup steamed broccoli with carrots, 1/2 cup brown rice or quinoa
-1 cup skim milk 15-18 red grapes
-Beef Tenderloin and Veggies: 3 ounces beef tenderloin, 2 cups leafy greens with carrots, red bell pepper, tomatoes, oil and vinegar or other vinaigrette as dressing.
-1 small sweet potato
-1/2 cup blueberries with 1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
Snacks-1/2 large banana or apple with 2 tablespoons peanut butter
-Trail mix (almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, peanuts mixed with raisins or dried cranberries)
-cottage cheese and small piece of fruit or 3/4 cup blueberries
-carrot and celery sticks with hummus
Susan Kitchen is a USAT coach, a registered dietitian, and a certified sports specialist in dietetics. Visit her website at racesmart.comOriginally from: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/news/articles/2014/01/burn-fat-with-metabolic-efficiency-training.aspx#ixzz43fAUl9KV