How many calories do you really need?

I have been a triathlete for over 18 years.  Even though I have raced 3 Ironman races (IMLP x 2 and IM WI), and know if I raced another, I would do my race day nutrition completely differently than I did back then.  Why?  Because the way I eat has changed, so my need have changed.  So the calories I really need per hour has significantly dropped in the past few years.  If I only knew then what I know now…..

It comes up quite frequently from clients and on Facebook and LinkedIn social media platforms.  Everyone wants to know how many calories to take in per hour and how much liquid.  And every time, someone is always promoting their product as the best one.  And the posters will always suggest you need at least 300 calories per hour.  How many calories do you really need?  Well, it is not closer to 300, but closer to 150-200, and for some less than that.  And this caloric need includes the gels, sports/ electrolyte drink, bars, real food and/or fruit.  It is the combination of all those types of calories.  But the biggest factor in determining your caloric needs is not based on some magical formula and training.  It is based on how your body is efficient in burning fat vs burning sugars.  And this is based on your every day meal consumption and timing of meals.

Do you burn fats or sugars?

This was my finish in 1999 when I was not eating balanced meals and burning sugars for energy. I could have looked leaner if I just balanced my blood sugars better.

Most of the clients I work with have GI issues during races.  Not as much in training, but that is probably because they never put a swim, bike and run like race day together as a training day.  It is actually hard to do in training, but you can get close.  How you eat during your every day of each week is going to more indicative of how many calories you need per hour on the bike or run or swim.  Yes, you can take in more calories on the bike so you have ‘more in the tank’ for the run, but I have seen this backfire more often and GI distress and nausea setting in.  Or throwing up as everything is sloshing around in our stomach which is unable to empty due to too many sugars and calories ingested.  Once you throw up, you feel better.  Not what I would call a pleasant experience, or a good strategy.  But many people do it!

When I work with clients, we work on what Bob Seebohar refers to as Metabolic Efficiency.  We balance the blood sugars with balanced meals (some high quality protein, some high quality carbohydrates, fiber, lots of green vegetables, and some high quality fat).  We do this with the Race Day Nutrition Strategy Package over the course of several weeks or months.  This might seem like a ton of food, but it really is not.  Once you get the routine down of eating meals like this all day long, you will find that you eat less more often, you eat only as much as you need, you stop when you are comfortably satiated and your body starts to burn fat rather than store fat.  You get to this fat burning mode, and then are using your body fat stores for energy (9 kcal per gram) rather than sugars (4 kcals per gram) from muscle glycogen stores.

Conversely, if your diet is a carbohydrate heavy diet, you will be feeling hungry often during the day, and continuously spiking the blood sugar with breads, pretzels, cookies and pasta typically.  This leads to your body storing fat, and using sugars and muscle glycogen for energy stores.  And we know that glycogen stores get depleted quickly.  When your body is in sugar burning mode, your need for sugars while exercising increases.  And the caloric needs can be in excess of 300 calories per hour.  The more sugars you take in, the increase in digestion distress increases.

How many calories do you really need?
The answer is not always as simple as ‘just consume X00 calories per hour’ while training.  Your needs change as your diet changes.  When I was racing Ironman 14 years ago, yes, I had a carb heavy diet and yes, I was consuming about 300-500 calories per hour using a sports drink, gels and a bar as needed.  I did not have the GI distress but I was always hungry and I wondered why I was never that lean despite the training hours. I always felt fat, too.

If I were to race now, since changing my diet to a balanced meal/ balanced blood sugar

Maybe a bit less salmon and potatoes, but this is a balanced meal!

Maybe a bit less salmon and potatoes, but this is a balanced meal!

approach, I would be able to complete the race with 110 calories per bottle per hour (vs 250), maybe a shot of gel here and there, or a couple of dates of baked red potatoes. The calories per hour would be about 110-200 calories max and my focus would be more on electrolyte replacement rather than caloric intake.

For those getting ready for an Ironman distance race, a 12-hour mountain bike race, or multi-hour event, a Race Day Nutrition Strategy Session might be all you need to identify your race day needs.  If you have more than 2 months, the more complete 4 session Race Day Nutrition Package would be more appropriate to help guarantee your race will be your best race, with nothing left to chance with your nutrition.  It is not about the calories you need per hour, it is about how is your body burning its calories per hour, and how to optimally adjust the every day intake to maximize your race day intake.

To schedule your session today, contact Joanna at or 
You can also call her at 215-272-6774.  Joanna will help you fine tune your plan so your race day is perfect.

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Pain free living

A big thank you to Joanna Chodorowska and Nutrition in Motion for helping me learn proper nutrition and clean eating. The benefits are awesome. I’m 100% pain-free as long as I follow the program and I’m losing weight, whoohoo. I am very grateful. — feeling happy.
This is from one of my clients this week.  I was so excited to be ‘tagged’ on her post and so excited i was able to help them!  This IS why I love what I do!  I give people back their lives.
This same client has also been complimented by co-workers about how great they look.  “What have you been doing?”  And want to get on that same program – although all my programs are individually modified for that person, so being on the same program might be exactly the same. 
Now a wee bit of background. 
The client came to me just feeling like hell.  They were in constant pain from their auto-immune disease, on so many medications including prednisone, and also at the highest weight they had ever been!  They were desperate for some relief to at least the pain, but also wanted to lose some of the weight and gain more energy.  They were sluggish and in pain.  They knew my real-food approach and wanted to see if they could also achieve a pain-free life.
give ur body good fuel

Real food will always help you become closer to pain free!

We decided to start the Anti-Inflammatory Diet plan.  This varies from person to person as it depends on what the client is eating to start with, and what the client is wiling to do.  Most often the first step is to start eliminating inflammatory foods including wheat, sugar, dairy and hydrogenated fats.  The processed foods typically have to go as well.  The focus is more on making gradual changes that the client can do, offer meal options and recipes, and eliminating wheat first, then in a couple of weeks sugar or dairy, etc until we see some relief. 
It is not about giving you a list of foods not to eat and send you on your way.  It is about providing options and expanding your choices of foods you CAN eat.   This gradual approach works well rather than something like a vegetable/fruit juicing fast for 7-21 days.  For most, that would be very restrictive and possibly debilitating for the first few days.  And most cannot take a week off from work to try such a program.
As we worked on eliminating the inflammatory foods, we also worked on balancing the blood sugar so that the client had more energy.  Then the body would start burning fat rather than storing fat.  We also introduced more anti-inflammatory foods including turmeric root, cabbage, parsley, alkalizing green vegetables, and lemon water.  We reduced hard to digest foods and added good fats, too.   Like I said, the process was gradual and over 4-6 sessions, the results spoke for themselves.  After 3 sessions, they were off the Prednisone and starting to lose weight.  A few weeks later, the weight loss without dieting is up to 20 pounds.  I cannot make this kind of thing up. 
veggies for juicing pre-detox

This was part of my juicing regiment every morning. And it still is even 6 months post surgery. All anti-inflammatory to help knock out pain (or prevent it in the first place)

If you have pain, regardless of whether an injury, degenerative joint condition, auto-immune issue or recovering from surgery, the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is going to be the key to helping you heal and create a pain free living scenario.  You might be feeling happy like my client!  What do you have to lose….but the inflammatory foods, pain and symptoms :)
Joanna Chodorowska is a sports nutrition coach using real foods to help clients improve their performance.  She adopted and perfected the anti-inflammatory diet when she was scheduled for hip replacement surgery with a completely degenerated condition. 
She achieved a pain free condition the 2 week prior to surgery when no medications or supplements were allowed.
She helps clients to adopt a healthier lifestyle making gradual modifications the clients can live with.  The clients become the ones to make the choice of what they eat based on how they feel, not based on what is on a list.  The client decides whether a food is worth eating if the result is pain.
If you are ready to try pain free living, why not schedule your nutrition session today?
or call Joanna at 215-272-6774
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Do you carb load?

This happens to be the week after TriRock Philly and the week before Challenge Atlantic City races.  And my clients are asking me about the pre-race meal.  At Challenge Atlantic City, and ironman distance race, they provide an athletes dinner two days before the event.  And many think they should be adding copious amounts of carbohydrates to their pre-race meals.  Do you think so?.  Do you carb load?Image

I used to carb load until I learned more about how it really is supposed to work.  Essentially, carbohydrate or carb loading requires you to eat absolutely NO carbohydrates for 2 days.  None, zero, el zippo.  Then eat as many as  you can for the next 2 days.  This is basically a 4 day process and may increase your glycogen stores by a minimal amount.  Seems like a lot of work for not that much benefit.  And for women it is even less effective.

Carbohydrate loading, commonly referred to as carb-loading or carbo-loading, is a strategy used by endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, to maximize the storage of glycogen (or energy) in the muscles.

Carbohydrate loading is also used in healthcare to optimise the condition of patients prior to colorectal surgery.[1]

Carbohydrate loading is generally recommended for endurance events lasting longer than 90 minutes.[2] Many endurance athletes prefer foods with low glycemic indices for carbo-loading due to their minimal effect on serum glucose levels. Low glycemic foods commonly include fruits, vegetables, whole wheat pasta, and grains. Many marathoners and triathlon participants have large pasta dinners the night before the race. Since muscles also use amino acids extensively when functioning within aerobic limits, meals should also include adequate protein.[3] Large portions before a race can, however, decrease race-day performance if the digestive system has not had the time to process the food.  (from

They also mention that the original form of carb-loading did require complete depletion of carbohydrates before overloading phase began before an event.  The modified version is to maintain a regular diet and increase carbohydrates to 70%.  Hmm, wouldn’t this cause the body then to start burning sugars for energy rather than fat?  If you were practicing a balanced diet with a normal amount of high quality carbohydrates, fats, high quality proteins and vegetables in a balance fashion throughout the day, your body would be in fat burning mode.  Your body would be using fat for energy more than it would sugars and glycogen stores.  Wouldn’t this carb-loading then throw the body very quickly into a sugar-burning mode with increases in insulin levels, which also then increase your fat stores negatively.  Then come race day morning, you need more sugars consumed over time which will increase your likelihood of GI distress.  If you just ate the way you normally eat, you would have enough to make it through your event 90 minutes or longer on your very own fine-tuned fat burning machine.  With this one day of carb loading (or 2-3 for some people), you just created a sugar burning machine instead.  For an endurance athlete, or Ironman athlete, this is not what you wanted to do!

” For optimal training performance, muscle glycogen stores must be replenished on a daily basis. ” (from

For most athletes, an endurance event is 90 minutes or longer and usually at 75% effort where glycogen stores are used up gradually.  Increase the intensity, and the stores can be depleted more quickly which also means, you need more sugar usually while training or racing.  I know from working with clients, working with some professional athletes and also looking at what top pro athletes do in racing, they are not consuming more than 200 calories per hour during their events.  Yes, there are a few who still suggest you need 400+ calories per hour, but most of my clients have found that 200-250 calories is what works for them, and some it is closer to 150 per hour with a focus on electrolyte replacement rather than carbohydrate intake.  If you take in more sugars, you will get more GI distress.  If you burn sugars in your daily regiment, you need to take in more sugars during training and racing.  If you balance the blood sugars with balanced meals, your body uses more of those fat stores and your need for sugars drops significantly.  Then you do not need as many sugars while training or racing since your body is using your own fat stores for energy!  It really does work.

I used to take in some 200+ calories per hour on the bike, then added a Clif bar or something similar.  So I probably took in some 350+ calories per hour on the bike.  Wow, that is a lot!. (no wonder now why I was never that lean even when doing Ironman distance training and racing!)  As I have optimized my body’s ability to use my fat stores for energy, my intake while riding is now closer to 100-120 calories per hour and sometimes I wonder if I even took in that much!  And I probably didn’t need all those carbs I loaded up on the week before either!  If I only knew 14 years ago what I know now…..

My clients now know what they need to eat and how much of which kind of carbohydrate.  For many, wheat is bloating.  I had one call me in a panic on Monday…”HELP!  I feel so bloated!”.   It was because they decided to drop the vegetables and increase the wheat/ carbs.  Well, it backfired rather rapidly in this case – within a day.  Had to remind them just to eat normally this week.  your training is already lower than usual.  Your glycogen stores will be plenty full with a regular meal plan without the bloating effect.  I never carb load like I used to.  Do you carb load?  It might work against you more than you think.  Just eat the way you normally eat.  Don’t skip the carbohydrates, but don’t overload on them either!

For more information about balancing your blood sugar to optimize fat burning, or learning how to optimize your pre-race meals and race day nutrition, contact Joanna at Nutrition in Motion at 215-272-6774.   Joanna Chodorowska is a sports nutrition coach and athlete.  She works with athletes to incorporate more real food while optimizing recovery, race day performance and every day meals so you, the athlete can perform at your best come race day!   She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn

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local farm pick up trumps other options

I have a farm share, also known as a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture. I basically buy into a 6-unit share, and help a local farm who is growing food via organic practices. Only things that don’t get rotated are the strawberries, raspberry and blackberry bushes. Everything else is in a different part of the fields every season. Usually when I pick up from the farm, it trumps any other food options I have in the fridge.

Today, I had intended on steaming brussel sprouts for dinner. Well, after my farm share pick up trumped that idea. When I get fresh arugula and kale….well, I HAVE to make a salad! OMG, add olives, artichoke hearts, avocado, raisins, beets and homemade balsamic vinaigrette…..and that local farm food will always trumps what I bought in a store. Always. 20140618-174313-63793708.jpg

If you have never been a part of a CSA, you probably cannot get into one this year for this season. but make sure about November, you get on that waiting list so you can sign up as soon as the shares are available!

I split my 6-unit share with another friend and pick up every other week. But when I get my farm share veggies, they trump all other food options for at least 4 days!!

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Are You Fueling the Fire?

knee joints on fire

Knees can be a common joint of inflammation

I have been working with many clients on the anti-inflammatory diet.  It works on many symptoms and very well for injuries to speed up healing, too.  Many of my clients have some kind of pain which is the main result of inflammation.  But other conditions that are inflammation based are Crohn’s, IBS, auto-immune issues including Lupus and arthritis, skin issues like rosacea and others.  I have some that respond quickly to the anti-inflammatory diet, while others it can take a wee bit longer to take full effect.  I know for me, it took 6 months to get the inflammation under control with diet and supplements using Nutrition Response Testing every 2 months (should have done it every month looking back now).  But the common issue is – are you fueling the fire if you eat even just a little bit of an inflammatory food?

When you are inflamed, it is basically like your body is on fire.  It can be in the joints, it can be in the skin, it can be in muscles or the GI tract, or in Cardiovascular disease, in the blood vessels.  It can just make you really tired and sleepy.  It is becoming more common to understand that most health issues are based on an inflammatory based diet.  But most of us don’t know any better, and our doctors won’t suggest a change in diet.  And this is mainly due to ignorance and not realizing that nutrition can either fuel the inflammatory fire, or it can help snuff it out.  Sometimes the inflammation manifests as pain.  Sometimes GI distress and bloating.  Sometimes just debilitating fatigue.  But do you know which foods fuel the fire for you??

I have a client with Lupus.  When she came to see me 2 months back, she had been taking a slew of medications, some to negate the side effects of others.  So the list was rather extensive.  She was ready to put out the fire with my nutrition help.  And having followed me on Facebook the past few months and seeing that I could be pain free with a completely degenerative hip condition, she knew I must be on to something!  Was she ready to be just like me?  Maybe not to the extreme I was doing the anti-inflammatory diet, but with my guidance, I knew we could get her pain free and help her get off some of the medications over time.

We started with wheat free, then gluten free.  Next was sugar free.  And yes, my client did eat those components every now and then, but when she did, boy was she surprised at how her symptoms flared up!  Yes, the wheat and sugar were definitely fueling her fire, and making every joint in her body ache and causing her to sleep and sleep and sleep.  The fatigue was almost debilitating.  Once we put out that fire with no sugar and no wheat/gluten, she was able to get off her Prednisone and be pain free!  Yes, pain free.
With this client, it took about 6-8 weeks to notice the difference.  Do we still have more fire to put out??  Maybe, but for now, we seem to be in a good place.

Another client has been diagnosed with a rare auto-immune condition that affects the skin and makes it susceptible to tearing.  And some pain in tendons, too.  We have started with the wheat free plan, and also avoiding brown rice which for many is also inflammatory and very hard to digest (despite all the healthy recommendations).  Oats, buckwheat, quinoa, white or wild rice and amaranth are good grain alternatives if you are looking to replace wheat/ gluten.  This wheat-free part seemed to be relatively easy, but no significant change in symptoms.  Ok, next, can we put out the fire removing sugar?  I hope so!

After a few weeks, we check in and client says she is not feeling a significant improvement.  She is off sugar except the creamer in her coffee and some other small amount of sugar.  But could it be that even that small amount is enough to fuel the fire?  In my experience, yes.  I have found that one needs to eliminate the offender (in the case sugar) completely for 2 weeks minimum, and preferably 3 months before you try to re-introduce and find out if you can tolerate even a bit of it.  Yes, fueling the fire even with just a little bit of sugar can cause the symptoms to persist.  This is not to say that for the rest of you life you will never be able to eat sugar again.  But while until the symptoms subside, best to avoid inflammatory foods completely, 100% so as to ‘suffocate’ the fire.

anti inflamm supps

These are my main supplements I used to control inflammation. Use JChodorowska as the practitioner code.

With this client, as with me last year, I had some improvement with no wheat, some with no sugar, but as I kept finding other sources of inflamation via Nutrition Response Testing, I identified brown rice and petroluem/isopropyl alcohol as additional culprits causing inflamamtion.  No, I did not eat petroleum or Isopropyl alcohol, but I did use AquaPhor (petrolatum/ medicated Vaseline type product which also had the alcohol!) and occasionally hand sanitizer (isoproplyl alcohol is the main ingredient!).  Well no wonder my hip still ached!  I was absorbing it thru my skin and it was fueling the fire!  Regardless of the fact I was taking some supplements to control inflammation (see box on right for Inflavonoid IC and Omegagenics 500 concentrate), it was not until I managed to eliminate the fueling items that the supplements worked and I could stop taking Advil for my pain.  Did I mention I also slept one hour less per night?

Sometimes, you have to avoid the inflammatory food for life.  But only you can decide whether fueling the fire is worth the symptoms or not.  Like for me, a soft pretzel is not worth getting brain fog, joint stiffness and bloating.  But a chocolatey brownie with walnuts???  I could eat a small piece for sure!  Would I eat anything withchocoalte brownie brown rice or brown rice syrup?  No way!  I found out yet again last week, that even half a muffin made with gluten free flour (brown rice, flax seeds and other whole grains) just made me so sleepy 6 hours later and forced me into a recovery ride instead of a spirited group bike ride.  The fatigue is just not worth it for me.  Maybe in 1-2+ years I can reintroduce it and be side-effect free.  But until then, I will find recipes that have no brown rice flour or brown rice syrup.

The point is, you need to identify what the inflammatory foods are so you stop fueling the fire.  It is a process, and sometimes it is easy, sometimes much more complex.  But healing is a process.  If you have had issues for 3-10 years, 2-4 weeks is probably not a realistic time frame to expect the issues to go away.  But fueling the fire with even just a little bit will hasten the healing. Knowing what the next steps are in determining how to put the fire out is where I can help create that road map to follow.  I will help you with alternatives to the foods you avoid so it is not as hard as it originally seems.  But it may take up to 3-6 months or longer to notice a major difference.

Nutrition Response Testing was a huge help in my journey to identifying what fueled my fire.  Paying attention to how I felt with foods I was eating also helped.  But it had to start with the desire to find the solution and stop fueling the fire.

Are you ready to be symptom free?  Set up your anti-inflammatory session along with NRT today.

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Why a recovery meal?

The past few weeks I have been working with many athletes – triathletes, runners and cyclists mainly.  Some are doing longer distances for the first time, some have been at Ironman or ultra running for a few years.  The question aways comes up about the recovery meal.  Why do I need one?  And what IS a food recovery meal?  Funny, but even with non-athletes, I work with a similar issue when trying to balance the blood sugar, and help my clients lose body fat.   I might not call it a recovery meal for non-athletes, but why we need a recovery meal is important in many ways.

The recovery meal is basically the meal following an exercise session in basic terms.  In general, it should be about 30-60 minutes after your exercise session to maximize recovery – replenishing depleted glycogen stores and amino acids to help muscles rebuild.  Depending on whether it was a high intensity/ interval training workout, or a long endurance session, that recovery meal may vary in nutrient content, and replenishing electrolytes and minerals will also be a factor.

So what are some examples or a recovery meal?  It will depend on each person’s time and availability and it will also change whether you can include animal proteins salmon on bed of kaleor are vegan.  But in a nutshell, the recovery meal should include some high quality proteins – about 3-5 ounces; some high quality carbohydrates – root vegetables or non-wheat grains (usually about 1/2-1 cup); 1 -1 1/2 cups of green vegetables (kale, broccoli, leafy greens, etc) and some high quality fat – 1-2 ounces (raw nuts and seeds, flax seed oil, avocado, etc).

For some the recovery meal will be a quick green smoothie with 1 cup of frozen fruit, protein powder or plain yogurt (preferably from grass fed cows or at least organic), and a cup of kale or collards.  Some will add some raw peanut butter or cashews or 1/2 an avocado for fat, or even a tablespoon of flax seeds.  There really is not a right or wrong way to make it if you use those basic ingredients.

I like to juice my beets, greens, ginger, orange, lemon, turmeric root and lemon sometimes IMG_0089as part of my recovery meal vs. pre-exercise meal.  It helps me get those minerals, B vits and nutrients in very quickly.  But I consider this part of the meal rather than the meal like a smoothie can be.  If I have a juice, then I will also have 2-3 ounces of either grilled chicken or chicken jerky I make, and add either a small red baked potato or 1/2 a sweet potato.  And sometimes I add some nut butter on that, or i add some real olive oil based mayonnaise.  Yes, I did just write mayonnaise!

I also like to have a big bowl of mixed greens (arugula, kale, and either romaine or spring mix), add 3 ounces of grilled chicken or fish, a small red potato, handful of raw walnuts or pumpkin seeds, craisins, and sometimes an avocado and 1-2 tablespoons of my homemade vinaigrette dressing.  Sometimes, instead of the greens, I will make a salad with leftover steamed or raw broccoli.  I call this the Big Bowl Salad.  Everything in one bowl!  YUM!

And them sometimes, I am just not that hungry after exercise.  So I eat either a red potato with some nut butter or avocado slices on a baked red potato, some chicken jerky and then less than 2 hours later is when I eat my recovery meal as indicated above with my greens.  Part of why I am writing this is to say that there really is not an exact way you have to do the recovery meal.  But within either that meal immediately after or the second meal after, you really want to make sure you get that balance of your protein, healthy carb, healthy fat and lots of greens.

But one thing I have noticed with my athlete clients, if they skip that recovery meal, drink only chocolate milk, or just have an energy bar, they seem to be hungry a few hours later, and then snack all afternoon on carbs and sweet foods.  These are the same ones complaining they cannot stop eating after dinner or have a hard time getting leaner.  Once we optimize that recovery meal, we balance the blood sugar, and the body starts to burn fat rather than storing it.

Eating is individual as is training.  The same plan does not always work for every person.  If we work on the recovery meal, then we can optimize your recovery so you can train more the next day, lessen your fatigue, optimize your body fat burning ability and eliminate sugar cravings.  Why a recovery meal?  To accomplish a better status of health and improve the quality of your life :)

For more information about optimizing your recovery meals, or optimizing your nutrition for an upcoming cycling, running or triathlon event, please contact Joanna at or and review her sports nutrition plans including Race Day Nutrition, Anti-inflammatory and Wheat free plans.  Joanna works with each client individually to create a customized plan for each person.

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Cramming in calories

I just read yet another reputable Registered Dietician suggest that we need to take in 250-350 calories or more per hour when training and racing.  Really?  Does cramming in more calories than your body can tolerate really work?  In my experience with athletes, especially triathletes and endurance athletes, I can say no.  ImageCramming in calories only guarantees GI distress and the potential to either throw up on the run, or walk until the stomach settles down. 

The body can only process about 200-250 calories per hour.  It is easier to get these calories in on the bike portion of a triathlon, but even harder if you are running.  You cannot take in as many calories as you are expending.  You cannot cram calories in hoping to get that food digested.  I know Mark Allen suggests 400+ calories per hour and to train your body to take it in.  Hmm, every triathlete I have worked with has had a terrible run when trying to cram in calories that high.  They get off the bike, and all of a sudden when running, their stomach is sloshing, feeling very uncomfortable, and they resort to walking instead of running.  Not what I would call an ideal race scenario. 
With every athlete, when we have lowered their caloric intake, and optimized the hydration portion with the right balance of electrolytes, the athlete has performed better!  Image

When I work with athletes, cramming in calories never works.  I worked with  RAAM athlete several years ago, who stopped for a hoagie about mile 65-85.  Each time he ate one of those, he basically bonked by mile 125-135.  His body just could not process the food.  And the only way to recover from too many calories is to either puke it up, or stop your activity.  Once we changed his overall eating to help balance blood sugar and get the body into fat burning mode,we  then created smaller meals and optimized the caloric needs on the bike.  My RAAM athlete was able to complete his 450+ mile brevets and qualify for RAAM a year later.Image

The overall goal when I work with my athletes is not to cram in calories, but to find out how few calories they need per hour.  You can always add more calories as needed, but once you get to too many, it is really hard to recover from it.  The harder we exercise, the higher intensity, the more hills, the less calories we can cram in.  We work more on balancing the blood sugars in every day eating, so the body burns fat for energy, not sugars.  Then when training and racing, your body is already burning your own fat stores for calories.  It does not need additional sugars from outside sources (glycogen stores can be depleted very quickly, so you want your body to burn fats, not glycogen and sugar). Then you do not need as many calories per hour.  I know personally that I take in about 70-150 calories per hour now where in my younger days, I could take in more.  My focus now is more on electrolyte replacement vs fueling.  You will dehydrate before you run out of fuel….provided your body is in fat burning mode from your overall diet.

If you are struggling with your longer runs or running off the bike, you may want to consider taking in fewer calories.  If you are at 400 now, try 300.  Then 200-250.  This should also be a combination of what is in your bottles, gels and solid foods (including bars, dates, potatoes or other real food options).  Maybe you want to try mixing half the calories in your bottle so you can keep eating some solid foods.  There is no right way for everyone.  You do want to practice different combinations to see what works best for you.   But cramming in the calories doesn’t really work for anyone.

Joanna is a sports nutrition coaching, helping athletes perform there best using real food as often as possible.  As an athlete herself, she has gone thru the mistakes so you do not have to.  If you want to perform better, consider a Race Day Nutrition Strategy Session for your next race, or the Race Day Package which includes 4 sessions to help with everyday nutrition as well as pre and race day issues.  We can guarantee your success.


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