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Professional Nutrition Tips

Posted by: on August, 27 2013

Published on Ironman.com and written by Leslie J. Bonci

Here’s how Leslie J. Bonci has helped Kona-bound Ward make sure his daily diet is optimized for his training.

Eating like an athlete means paying attention to your food choices—both the timing and the quantity. To help prep Hines for the IRONMAN World Championship, we created an “at home” training table. These simple tips and ideas allow him to make the most of his nutrition before, during and after training.

Fueling and refueling throughout the day is critically important for Hines because he’s constantly in a state of movement. It’s not just about the activity that he did, but the activity that he’s going to do and will continue to do more of over longer distances and with more intensity in the months to come.

Here are some strategies we’ve used that you can adapt to make the most of your own training diet.

Fuel your morning

You don’t want to start the morning on empty—you need to be fueled from the beginning of the day. If you wake up at 6 a.m. and start your workout at 7, you don’t want to be consuming too much food before activity. One pre-workout meal I made with Hines included a wrap and a smoothie.

The smoothie: Keep it really simple. Blend frozen fruit, some low-fat milk and a little bit of honey and you’re good to go. And I’m talking small (about four ounces). That way you get protein and carbs in the form of fruit and honey to provide energy for your workout.

The wrap: It’s nice to pair a smoothie with extra carbs and protein. Start with a small whole-wheat tortilla and add a thin layer of peanut butter to provide some fat and protein. Then drizzle a little honey and add some sliced banana. It’s portable, easy and tastes good.

Focus on recovery

When you’re training hard every day, or even multiple times a day, what you eat right after exercise can make a big difference in how you feel and how you perform. You don’t want your energy level to plummet by the end of the day so it’s crucial to get much-needed fluids, carbs, protein and electrolytes back in your body after a tough workout. You need it the most when you want it the least (up to 30 minutes after exercising), so go for something that tastes great and is easy on the stomach.

The drink: One of my favorite ways to refuel (and Hines’s favorite, too) is to drink low-fat chocolate milk. It has the right mix of carbs and protein to refuel exhausted muscles and fluids and electrolytes to replenish. Given that it’s in liquid form, it delivers these nutrients efficiently and is easy to stomach so soon after exercising. There’s a lot of published science that shows chocolate milk can help athletes recover after strenuous exercise.

Make dinner matter

If you’re properly fueling and refueling all day, by dinner time you’re ready for a reasonable meal (as opposed to eating all the food in the house). When we get to the evening meal, I want to make sure we’re having something that helps the body recover and refuel (carbohydrates), and that’s anti-inflammatory to help heal damaged tissues (onions, peppers, ginger or tart cherry juice). We’re also looking for some protein, because we have to help the body recover and some good fats as well.

The stir fry: I like to make a quick and easy stir fry to be sure we’re getting all we need at dinnertime. Start with some brown rice for carbs, some chicken, lean beef, pork or seafood for lean protein and add in your favorite colorful veggies. It looks good and taste wonderful, and you don’t feel too bogged down at the end of the day.