I have to start with a caveat, I ‘m not a nutritionist by education. But I am an endurance athlete who knows what works to fuel a body for adventures! From ultra-running, to gymnastics, triathlon, judo, adventure racing, ultra distance kayaking and Stand Up Paddle racing, my body has been a petri dish of performance fuel for 30 years. Ouch. Here’s the good, the bad and the not so pretty about what I’ve learned the hard way about everyday nutrition as well as nutrition for the long haul on your weekend adventures.
I’m a big fan of a balanced diet, with carbs, protein and some fat in every meal–basically in a ratio of 40-30-30ish. The carbs should mostly come from fruits, veggies, salads and whole grains. The protein can come from many sources including fish, lean meats, soy, protein powders, etc. The fats should be unsaturated and from nuts, olive oil, avocado, omega oils, etc. I like to evenly balance my meals so that I have quick energy (carbs), mental acuity and recovery (protein) and long term performance (fats.) My goal is to eat “well” 80% of the time, and have a little fun with the other 20%. Anything too strict just won’t last as a nutrition plan. Plus, chocolate is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. But I digress…
Some of my favorite everyday foods:
Now the fun begins. When I’m riding, hiking, or paddling long distances (3+ hours of sustained activity) the balanced diet goes right out the window. In fact, during our adventure races, my team would often joke that our four basic food groups had become sugar, salt, fat and caffeine. I find that the longer and harder I go, the more I crave (and perform better with) more fat and more salt than I would normally eat–often in the form of “o”s: Cheetos, Doritos, Oreos, Rolos… you get the idea. All of the “healthy” stuff goes right to the bottom of the pack, and I’m suddenly in the 7-11 buying a Hostess apple pie or a sleeve of powdered doughnuts, aka: The Breakfast of Champions. I can’t even tell you how many times a powdered doughnut has rocked my universe and brought me back from the edge. Or on how many occasions a spoon full of Nutella has made the difference between red line and finish line. When it’s all about “performance” in a difficult endeavor, my motto is “go with your cravings, whatever you can keep inside your body is good food, and eat for energy (not necessarily for nutrition.)” When it comes to hydration, I like to have 1/2 strength electrolyte mix in one bottle and water in the other. If you drink denser mixes than 1/2 strength, your body cannot process it when your heart rate is 160. Trust me on this one. I looked pregnant after my first Ironman because my stomach wasn’t emptying any of the carb dense uber mix I had on my bike. Live and learn, baby! Bottom line is that a balanced and healthy diet is very important in our everyday life, but adventures call for an entirely new menu…
Some of my favorite adventure foods (that I always seem to be able to eat, even in the heat of battle):
My adventure eating list is a lot bigger than my everyday eating list. It’s just so much more fun to talk about! Happy fueling gang!
Join us on Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 5:00 a.m. for a hike up Mt. San Jacinto with World Renowned Adventure Racer Robyn Benincasa.
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