1. Why is it so easy for proper nutrition to fall by the wayside during training?
Mainly there are two reasons that this occurs; time and physiology.
A) Simply put, time is a precious commodity and often it feels like there is not enough time to fit everything in to the day. Due to this, many athletes do not put a high priority on nutrition nor do they understand the significance of a proper nutrition plan and how it affects future performance. Just as strength training tends to fall by the wayside when available training time is at a premium, nutrition is often an afterthought, as well. Neither strength training nor nutrition have the priority status that comes with weekly mileage totals or interval training goals, but both are equally as important to a well thought out training plan.
B) Physiology principles can play tricks on the athlete's mind. There is an appetite suppression of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, that occurs post workout. Therefore, even though the athlete may not feel hungry post workout it is vital that he or she re-fuel within 15 minutes of workout completion to optimize recovery and fitness gains.
2. What are some things athletes can do to maintain proper nutrition with a busy schedule?
Athletes need to schedule and plan their weekly nutrition strategy with the same vigor that they plan their swim, bike, and run training. A good nutrition plan begins at the supermarket. Creating a shopping list and purchasing high quality food has a trickle down effect, enabling the athlete to make proper food choices from their pantry and, ultimately, from their plate. If there are quality food choices in your house, there will be optimal fuel in your body.
3. What do you think is the most important thing for athletes to focus on when it comes to nutrition, if nothing else?
Without a doubt, the concept I drill into my athletes most often is the need to refuel immediately after a long training session or an especially intense interval session. Studies show that the refueling window (the time that your muscles and liver are most apt to optimally absorb carbohydrates) is within 15 min after exercise. Interestingly, this window shuts down significantly within 30mins. By refueling within 15 minutes of exercise completion, the athlete is initiating the recovery process and prepping themselves for the next training session. A 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate:protein in the form of a shake is an ideal post workout nutrition strategy.
4. Do you have any tips for meal prep or nutrition prep that your athletes follow?
Shopping once weekly and planning and prepping meals is key to making proper nutrition choices. Shopping and meal preparation should be done on a rest day or a light training day to maximize efficiency. This makes it easy to refuel with high quality meals. Another option is to subscribe to a ready made meal delivery service. Here, all the ingredients for a healthy and locally sourced meal are delivered to your door. All that is required from the cook is a little prep work. Search for a local delivery service in your area.
5. Anything we didn't talk about you would like me to mention?
Yes, supplements and recovery. Performance benefits from high volume training can be realized with appropriate recovery and with the help of supplements. If athletes use supplements in their diet they should focus on convenient protein choices and branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine) supplementation. High quality hemp protein powder added to a post workout recovery shake is ideal and an easy way to incorporate a complete protein into your diet. In addition, high grade BCAA's have been shown to aid in recovery and are a smart supplement choice during high training volumes associated with Ironman preparation.