When PURE asked me to share some of my biggest learnings and insights into nutrition, I was hesitant, weary to give advice not knowing the reader's situation, context, background or current goals. However, lessons I have learnt steeply, like falling off a cliff without a net learning.
Firstly, let me briefly introduce myself. Former professional triathlete with 70.3 podiums, now an elite female cyclist who has won the Melbourne to Warrnambool (2nd longest classic race in the world), recent Australian Nationals representative, raced World Tour, won Kermesses in Europe and Criteriums in the USA, I’ve ridden to Everest Base Camp and Bike Packed across Kyrgyzstan, and for those Kiwi’s I’ve Won the Women’s Lake Taupo Classic and came 3rd at the Whaka 100 mtb.
This isn’t a novel, I’m going to cut straight to the biggest learning I’ve experienced and if you take anything away let it be this.
STOP TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT WHILST TRAINING!!!
I could probably leave it there, but let me give you a little more. This bad habit is one that I can easily fall back into, so know I’m in the audience with you. Under-fuelling during training is extremely common and from my experience has literally no positive outcome. Why do we do it? It’s actually pretty easy, and it can make us feel like we’re being healthy or optimising our body weight, when in fact the reality is the following; dramatically losing energy throughout the session, ‘hitting a wall’, feeling smashed after training comatose on the couch, ravenous and struggling to get up the next day!
Long term this type of under-fuelling we know can lead to hormonal imbalance, low energy, depression, losing your sex drive or periods, and so on. It can also make it really difficult to race or achieve your athletic goal because your body has not trained to optimise carbohydrates and sugars required in a race.
For me I used to drastically under-fuel my training and that led to burn out but also actually led me to putting on weight, my body was literally shutting down on me. Let me leave you with some things to focus on and simple solutions.
The simplest, most cost effective action is to download a free calorie calculator app. My Fitness Pal and Chronometer are two examples. For me this was enormously helpful to show just how many calories I was burning in training and how I was nowhere near fuelling enough to replace what I was burning. It’s also a great tool for planning your race nutrition. Knowing that you’re going to burn 2,000+ calories you can work towards trying to at least hit half of that, but your body will absolutely reject that amount of carbohydrates if it’s not trained. TrainingPeaks or a similar training App, watches etc etc will be able to give you a figure close to what you're expending.
To throw my partner under the bus, he is actually the worst at this, forgets to eat, hardly drinks and then really overeats once he gets home and later in the day when the body isn’t in an active state. I usually take an extra PURE gel or two to manage him.
Your task this month is to start getting a better understanding of how much you’re burning in training and how big or hopefully small the gap is of the fuel you’re having pre-during-post training.
Like, love, respectively disagree - hit me up at @matildaraynolds, and if you’re looking for nutritional guidance be sure to engage a trained dietician who understands your field of sport and activity.
Until then train safe!
If I cannot train for a week or two, the weight goes on ‘cause I love eating. However, by balancing intake with expenditure of energy, I have maintained the same weight for years. If there is some weight gain, my intake is just adjusted slightly and the weight comes down in a week or two. No drastic diet, just reduce the intake of pastries! I have noted over the years that men find it easier to do this as they do not deposit the same level of subcutaneous adipose tissue as women, which seems more reluctant to be shed through diet and exercise in the fairer sex. There is a physiological reason for this, as most women realize, being the ones who have to bear our offspring.
The biggest problem I have with nutrition and hydration is cycling in the varying temperature / humidity conditions in Canterbury, NZ. Long hard rides on low humidity days lead to several hours of mild discomfort as I re-balance body fluid and electrolyte levels (even though I hydrate before and on the ride). One can only put so much fluid into one’s stomach and one time so multiple moderate intakes post exercise are required. One can also gauge if one hasn’t got it all corrected by the time one retires by lack of micturition volume the next morning (and noting the colour).