“Performance Nutrition for Swimmers” – an eBook by Jenn O’Donnell-Giles

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A couple of months ago, I had the unique honor of being asked to read a preview of a book that one of my Team Rev3 teammates, Jennifer Giles, had written regarding optimal nutrition strategies for swimmers.

Jenn is a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in sports dietetics.  She has an impressive background – double masters in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University.  Additionally, as a majorly awesome athlete in her own right, she is, in my opinion, uniquely qualified to write a book advising proper nutrition strategies for athletes…in this case swimmers.

The book is a really good read.  It’s a relatively short read, packed full of good insights and information.  Jenn devotes a full chapter to water & hydration – elements that swimmers in particular often neglect to focus on.  I particularly enjoyed several other aspects about the book – I loved her discussion of both macro and micro nutrients and how we need each.  As a parent, I also really appreciated Jenn’s focus on the family dinner as a training table.

I’d encourage you to go download a copy of the eBook and read it.  I’m sure that you will walk away with the same conclusions that I did – that far too often we are self-imposing limitations on performance through improper diet and nutrition strategies.

The book retails for $19.99, but you can get a $10 off coupon on the eStore.  Click HERE to check out the book.

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Whole Body Cleanses – Worth It?

No.  This post is not about the ongoing need to take regular baths.  Although that topic might be worthy of a post, too 🙂

I thought I’d write a little about the concept of whole body cleanses.  You know….the internal kind.  Before I get too far in on this, let me be clear about a couple of things:  (1) I am not a nutritionist.  If you saw the kinds of junk I regularly eat, you’d be appalled.  Beer?  Check.  Bacon?  Should be its own food group.  Fried stuff?  Ummm…I grew up in the south – eating fried things is second nature to me.  (2) I have never done a cleanse before – at least purposefully.  There was that one time I pretty much cleaned everything out of my body after eating 25 blazing “nuclear” buffalo wings, but that’s a different story. (The “exit tax” was high).

To be completely honest, up until recently, I don’t think I really even knew what a cleanse was.  Sure, I’ve read on blogs and a variety of articles or posts where people said they were doing a cleanse, or that they have done one.  Lots of people essentially give up one type of food or another as part of a strategy to cleanse themselves.  I suspect, for example, that for lots of folks the concept of being gluten-free has nothing to do with irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease, but rather more a choice to limit the amount of gluten that they consume.  But, I don’t think I really knew what a cleanse was until just recently.

I guess I thought that a cleanse was basically when you drank a bottle of laxative and spent a day or ten doing nothing but pooping.  Holy Hemorrhoids, Batman!

And I guess that may actually be part of a cleanse…but I get the sense that there’s more to it.  If you consult the Oracle of all Knowledge (a/k/a:  Google) about “Body Cleanse” you will quickly find about 39 million (yes, MILLION) results.  If you refine it to “Juice Cleanse” you will find another 15 million results.

The bottom line is that there’s a lot of people talking about, and apparently doing, these cleanse things.

But, why?  What’s the purpose of fasting or drinking nothing but green smoothies or a strange concoction of water-lemon-cayenne-pepper-and-maple-syrup?

First and foremost, there’s a clear linkage between these types of activities and dieting.  People believe that fasting and following these cleanse routines will help you lose weight.  Some people will tell you that a cleanse will help strip all the extra crap out of your intestines (yes, pun was intended).  According to some folks, you, me and the person next to you are all carrying around several pounds of poop that is stuck to our innards and doing nothing but making us heavier.

Another common reason given for doing cleanses is that they can help with detoxifying the body.

Some folks think, apparently, that over time bad junk builds up in our bodies and causes irreparable harm. Toxins like heavy metals, excess garlic, and other waste products build upon each other and need to be assisted out of our body.

There are quite a lot of data regarding the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of cleanses.

Renowned medical providers such as Mayo Clinic offer some concerns about colon cleansing.  In this article, they warn that colon cleansing can lead to dehydration, increased risk of infection and changes in electrolyte balance.  They also mention “bowel perforations”.  While I’m not exactly sure what those are, I get a mental image of a little guy running around the inside of your bowel with a hole-puncher thingie making little divots in your intestine.

The Harvard Medical School calls detoxification diets or products “dubious” and question the scientific effectiveness of cleanses.

I’m a little skeptical about the body’s need to have a little help cleaning out toxins in the first place.  After all, we were created with a pretty intense filtering system already in place.  Our kidneys, liver, and intestines do nothing but filter stuff.  It’s what they were made to do!

All this said, though, I’m not looking to pick a fight with anyone that believes cleanses are the bees-knees.  I honestly don’t know.  Do they work?  Are they harmful?  Are they placebo?  I’ve got no clue.  As I said, I’ve never done one, so I can’t personally vouch for their effectiveness or lack thereof.  At the end of the day, there might be a good thing associated with some of the cleanse diets:  they get people to eat more fruit and veggies.  People all across the globe – and in particular in America – often don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.  So, if doing a cleanse is the only way to boost make a change in that department, why not do it?  All things in moderation, I suppose.

Now excuse me while I go work on my own version of a cleanse.  20 extra-spicy “nuclear” chicken wings.  And a beer.

And maybe some Mexican food.

…just don’t forget the toilet paper!

PowerBar Performance Energy Blends: Awesome Portable Nutrition!

New PowerBar Performance Energy Blends are a great fueling alternative to gels or bars

New PowerBar Performance Energy Blends are a great fueling alternative to gels or bars

 

This spring, PowerBar introduced a new product that I have flat out fallen in love with:  PowerBar Performance Energy Blends.

What are these, you might ask?  Well, I could say, “They’re pint-sized goodness” and be done, but I’ll go into a little more detail about the product and why I like it.

First:  As triathletes, we eat more than our fair share of fuel on-the-go.  We pack gels into our pockets or flasks, load up on bars for long rides, and knock back gallons of electrolyte and/or recovery drinks.  I can’t tell you how much product I go through in a year, and the amount of training and racing I do pales in comparison to lots of folks.  But let’s face it…no matter how much we love a particular product or flavor (my personal gel favorite is Kona Punch by PowerBar), after consuming too many of one type of product, our palates are left desiring for a different texture or flavor.  Enter Performance Energy Blends.

Essentially, these blends have a mouthfeel very similar to apple sauce.  Or baby food.  Or apple butter.  Actually, I think the texture is more similar to baby food than the others….and boy did I ever eat a lot of baby food when my kids were young.  “One bite for you….two bites for daddy…one bite for you…”  (Did I really just use the word mouthfeel?).  They are smooth, not chunky, and very, very swallowable.  In fact, I’d say that the consistency is similar to, but perhaps a little thicker, than some gels.  Still don’t get the idea?  Go down the apple sauce aisle at any grocer and you’ll see similar looking pouches of apple sauce or pear sauce. 

In all honesty, Performance Energy Blends really do resemble those kid-friendly fruit packs.  The packaging is similarly shaped, all the way down to the yellow plastic screw-off top.  Your kids’ Motts these are not, however.  The biggest difference comes in two main areas (1) caloric content (2) flavors. 

PowerBar’s Peformance Energy Blends carry 80 calories, and deliver 21 grams of Carbs (19g sugars).  According to PowerBar’s website, Energy Blends are made with their proprietary C2max, a 2:1 glucose to fructose blend.  You can tell from the nutrition facts label below that there are really no ingredients other than fruit.  There is a little Vitamin C and E added, but that’s it. 

Nutrition facts for PowerBar's Performance Energy Blend, Apple-Mango-Strawberry flavor

Nutrition facts for PowerBar’s Performance Energy Blend, Apple-Mango-Strawberry flavor

The absolute best thing in my opinion about these new Performance Energy Blends is the flavoring.  Let’s be honest – we’re not going to eat anything that doesn’t taste good.  And these taste GREAT!  There are two flavors:  Blueberry-Banana and Apple-Mango-Strawberry.  At this point, it’s really hard for me to decide which I like the best.  I ordered two boxes each of both flavors just two short weeks ago, and I am literally down to my last two pouches. 

My first tasting was the blueberry-banana.  These have a pretty solid blueberry flavor, with a nice banana finish.  (I sound like I’m describing a fine wine…..well, I suppose these could be considered the fine wine of the endurance fueling sector).  Neither flavor is overpowering, but I’m not going to kid you…you need to like this flavor combination.  I do, hence I really liked this combo.  You can eat these cold or hot – I’ve only had them room temperature, but others have told me that they are even better when cold.

After eating like six of the blueberry-banana flavors, I finally tried the apple-mango-strawberry….and Oh.  My.  Gosh!  This flavor is so, so, so good!  I’ve even been tempted to put it over ice cream (that brings the whole concept of endurance fueling to a new level, huh?!).  Apple is the most pronounced flavor, but the mango and strawberry compliment each other to add a level of sweetness that is just perfect.

How would you use PowerBar’s Performance Energy Blends?  That’s a great question!  According to their website, PowerBar recommends that these would be good for pre-exercise as well as during-exercise fueling.  I have not yet taken these out on a bike ride or run; I’ve only consumed them prior to starting a work-out.  Just like most gels, I have not had any GI problems….not even cramping while doing a big swim set literally minutes after eating one of these Blends.  Once the weather gets a little nicer and I put my bike on the road (instead of my trainer), I plan on taking one with me for a trial run.  I suspect that my experience while on the bike will be no different than pre-workout. 

So….at the end of the day, I REALLY like PowerBar Performance Energy Blends.  They taste amazing.  They are convenient to hold and carry, and really super easy to eat.  And did I say they taste amazing!

Where can you buy them?  I suppose you can buy them at major retailers that carry PowerBar products.  You can, of course, purchase them online directly from PowerBar (that’s what I did).  They retail for $2.99 per 90g packet (or $32.38 for a 12-pack box).

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DISCLAIMER:  You need to know that PowerBar sponsors Team Rev3 Tri – which I am a part of.  As part of our sponsorship agreement we receive free and/or discounted products from PowerBar.  I received the PowerBar Performance Energy Blends as part of that sponsorship arrangement, but the opinions expressed herein are mine and were not influenced by PowerBar.

 

My Nutrition Plan for Rev3 Florida

We triathletes are planners, right?  We can’t go into a race without a list or ten of things that we need to do, need to take, or need to consume.  Over the next couple of days, I’ll share with you my preparations for this upcoming weekend’s Rev3 Florida race.

Today, I’ll be sharing my “going-in” nutrition plan.  Tomorrow, I’ll share my packing list.

This race is a “Half-Rev” – a half “iron” distance race.  1.2 mile swim.  56 mile bike. 13.1 mile run.  Weather conditions look to be about what I’ve been used to here in Northeast Florida.  Moderate humidity.  Highs reaching into the mid 80’s (maybe 30 degrees Celsius).  Additionally, the forecast is calling for moderate chop on the water and fairly breezy conditions, with winds in the 15-20mph range coming from the northwest (which could significantly impact the last half of the bike).

I am a moderate sweater.  You might say that I’m even more than moderate when the humidity is high.

My plan is that I’ll wake up around 5am for breakfast.  I’ll very likely go back to bed for an hour or so to continue resting, but I doubt I’ll sleep.  Breakfast for me on race days – especially races of this distance – always consists of a peanut butter and strawberry jelly bagel, a Powerbar (I personally like the Harvest Double Chocolate Crisp) and a bottle of water.  That’s around 760 calories, depending upon the size of the bagel I bring and how much peanut butter I put on.

When I arrive at the venue and begin setting up my transition area, I’ll be sipping on a bottle of water non-stop.  My plan all week has been to super-hydrate, and I’d like to go into the race as hydrated as possible.  I’ve been drinking in excess of two liters of water daily, not counting what I take in when working out.  About 10 minutes prior to the start, I’ll take a Powerbar Gel.  My current favorite is the Kona Punch flavor.  It is sweet, but not too sweet.  The consistency is great, and I have tolerated the gel really well during my training.

When I hit T1 after my swim, I’ll grab another gel, and may or may not take it while I’m still in transition.  More likely, I’ll take it pretty much as soon as I get up to speed on the bike.

My plan is to take the bulk of my calories for the day while I’m on the bike.  During my training, I have taken a gel every 45 to 50 minutes, and I have generally been averaging 18 to 19 mph, meaning I’ll be on the bike for roughly 3 hours.  That means in addition to the one I take right at the start of the bike leg, I’ll take three additional gels during the ride…at 45 minutes, 90 minutes, and 2 hours 15 minutes.  To facilitate my consumption of gels (and to eliminate waste), I’ll put my gels into a flask that I can easily carry in my tri top.  My strategy for consuming liquid is that I strive to take in quite a bit.  I set my Garmin to beep every 10 minutes to remind me to drink, and I’ll go through at least three bottles.  Two will be straight water, and I’ll go through one bottle of Ironman Perform (lemon-lime flavor).  In all, I’ll take in about 540 calories on the bike.

I’ll take the same approach in T2 that I did in T1.  I’ll grab another gel, and most likely take it as soon as I’m running.  Again – Kona Punch.  Although I might take a Vanilla down with me, as I like that flavor as well.

Finally….the run.  I’m not the fastest runner normally, and when it comes to running after biking and swimming, I’m pretty slow by comparison.  I’m expecting to do the run in about 2 hours 15 minutes, give or take.  Again, my plan will be to take a gel every 45 minutes (planning on two gels during the run, not including the one I take coming out of T2).  If needed, I’ll graze the aid stations for salty stuff.  I will absolutely take water and perhaps Gatorade at every aid station.  If the weather is in fact as warm as it looks like it might be, I’ll probably take more than just one of each.  I’ll also soak myself down with ice sponges or cold water poured on my head.  Florida gets hot, and I don’t want to overheat.

All-in-all, my plan is to take in just under 2000 total calories on Sunday (including breakfast).  I’ve followed this plan previously in my other half-iron distance races, and this approach seems to work really well for me.

So that’s my plan.  It’s worked for me – but don’t infer that this type of plan will necessarily work for you.  As they always say, make sure that you’ve tried your nutrition plan during your training and don’t experiment with something new on race day.

To Carry or Conceal?

Today is October 1st.  For much of the United States, October represents the beginning of autumn.  Not so here in Florida – we typically get about a week of fall-like weather, and it usually happens sometime around Christmas.  Fall not only brings about changing leaf color, cooler nights and crisp daytime temperatures, but also the end of most folks’ triathlon season and the beginning of running season.

With running season (and of course training for half-iron or iron distance triathlon) comes the age old question of how to hydrate during long runs.

Do you carry your fluids?  Do you stash and conceal them so you can retrieve them mid-run?

It’s a legitimate question for a runner or a triathlete.  Pure and simple, hydration is critical to our performance.  And unfortunately, most of our long runs don’t have aid stations spaced out every mile or so complete with cheering volunteers to hand us everything that we might desire.

Concealing your supply

This approach takes some pre-planning.  You’ll have to know your course, know how much & typically when you’ll need fluids, and then physically have to go out and place your liquids somewhere along the course.  You can often hide your water behind a bush or sign or something.  That said, this approach is not without peril.  If you set your fluids out the night before your long run, you’re trusting the fact that some kid doesn’t come by and take your bottles.  Or that some prankster doesn’t empty your bottle and fill it with some rather unpleasant…ahem….liquid.  Perhaps you live in an urban area, and taking this approach just isn’t feasible.  The other potential pitfall is the resulting litter from your water bottle.

Carrying your liquids

Many triathletes and runners (especially marathoners) chose to carry their liquids with them during long runs.  There are so many options available to facilitate toting your liquids with you during a run:  the handheld bottle, a waist-carrying device (Fuel Belt), or backpack style (CamelBak).

Hand-held bottles are just that.  Bottles that often have a nifty carrying device that wraps around your hand – resulting in decreased effort to actually “hold” the bottle.  Water is always convenient and easy to get to when you’re carrying it.  The downside, though, is that the bottle could get slightly heavy over a really long run.  Additionally, some runners may find that the bottle disrupts their normal arm-carrying style.

FuelBelts (and those other waist carrying devices made by other companies) are also pretty convenient.  You can get a belt that carries as few as 2 bottles or as many as 8.  A convenient aspect of using a belt is that you can pre-freeze water so that it melts during your run, always leaving you with cold water.  Some belts have pouches on them where you can store other nutrition such as gels.  One potential downside of using a belt is that some runners may find the “sloshing” sound that accompanies carrying several bottles of liquid slightly annoying.

CamelBak’s are ubiqutous among the military, off-road cyclists, and many others.  These devices will enable you to carry a significant amount of liquid with you during your run.  The only potential issue is that because of its backpack nature, that you could get quite hot carrying the pack. 

What do I do?

I live in what you might call a “planned neighborhood”.  This area is loaded with subdivisions, parks, sidewalks and trails, schools, and some light retail areas.  There is an abundance of places where I could chose to stash bottles for long runs.  In fact, some of my friends actually do take this approach.  I personally prefer to carry some water with me during long runs.  I use a two-bottle FuelBelt.  I know it’s not a lot of liquid to carry (I think it’s 10 ounces or so), but as there are schools and parks and some retail places around, I generally can stop and re-fill if I need to. 

What do you do?  How do you approach hydration on long runs?