The word ‘diet’ has many different contexts. For example:
restriction: “I can’t eat XYZ foods.”
a type of pattern or cuisine: “I eat in line with the Mediterranean diet.”
fad/trend: “I’m starting the Grapefruit Diet to detox!”
clinical prescription: “My doctor prescribed an autoimmune diet for my thyroid condition.”
Aside from the new year hubbub that is filled with trendy diet pitches and 21-day diet challenges, have you wondered whether it is time to change up your dietary pattern to support your health and performance goals? Let me provide a few considerations to help you self-assess a bit further.
What is the “issue” you are trying to improve or solve?
Weight loss is on the minds of many athletes this time of the year in advance of big races and events planned for 2019. If this is you, then I recommend taking some time to reflect on where you’ve been in your diet hopping experience and where you are now with your food relationship. Often times, athletes jump to the latest and greatest diet fad without pondering their past or how food fits into their life currently.
It may be surprising to some, but much of the research shows that there are many kinds of diets that can work to promote weight loss. The keys are finding what is sustainable for you (to avoid the yo-yo trend of loss-gain-loss-gain-rinse-repeat), what is safe and optimal (in terms of supporting your needs as an athlete), and what your habits and behaviors are around food that need to be modified (I call this the “nitty gritty that no one likes to address”).
If weight loss is not your primary goal, perhaps it is another set of signs and symptoms that you are experiencing. For example:
poor exercise performance (feeling flat, can’t hit intensities, fade quickly into an aerobic session)
energy lulls, poor concentration during everyday living
gut issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea
sugar and/or caffeine cravings
Maybe you just intuitively know that it is time for a change – you are now a masters athlete, there are midlife hormonal changes, or quite frankly, your diet is pretty subpar.
What do you know objectively about your signs and symptoms? For example, do you have recent athlete-specific blood work to reveal any deficiencies? Have you changed your nutrition relatively recently that could be a contributing (negative) factor? Have you had a professional assessment from a Sport Dietitian to piece apart all of the “inputs”?
As you can hopefully see, there are potentially many reasons to move forward with a change in your nutrition. Similarly, there are many layers that makes the decision process as to which kind of dietary pattern a more complicated process than simply mimicking what a friend or training partner does. It takes some time and effort to think through where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go… for both health and performance as they go hand in hand.
As an athlete of any kind, we are always pushing the limits of our body. Workouts break us down. In order to reach the finish line of our next race we need our body to adapt to the stress of training.
Have you ever been sore after a workout? Of course! That soreness is a sign that you’ve successfully broken down muscle tissue during your activity that is required to become better, faster, and stronger.
We frequently read about the latest training recommendations in the world, which claim to shape you into a better athlete: training supplements, nutritional fads, ice baths, muscle rubs, compression garments, and stretching……
What is the optimal recovery routine? To answer that question we sat down with top American professional triathlete Justin Metzler.
In addition to year-round training, Justin raced twelve 70.3s, or half Ironman distance triathlons last year on five continents with multiple podium finishes. This level of consistent racing requires massive weekly hours of swimming, biking, and running with many of those days having multiple training sessions. In order to recover from one session enough to hit the next just as hard, he has dialed in the most effective recovery tools-and he is sharing his secrets with us.
How do you recover from a typical training session?
Immediately following a training session or race I have a recovery drink. Regardless of the type of session or which sport, any type of workout will break down muscle and deplete glycogen stores. My immediate goal is to replenish the glycogen and supply my body with the amino acids it needs to rebuild the muscle I just broke down. After trying a lot of different flavors and brands, I prefer First Endurance Ultragen. It has the optimal balance of carbohydrate to protein in addition to a number of essential vitamins and minerals to help rebuild for the next session. Not to mention, it tastes great!
When I can, I tend to structure the training to have enough down time in between the workouts to allow me to relax, put my feet up, and grab some food. In between sessions I am primarily focusing on foods high in protein and nutrient density. Some examples include lean meats, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
What is a typical routine after your training is completely done for the day?
After the training is done I try to relax, answer emails, talk with my nutrition and coaching clients, and make a healthful dinner with my girlfriend- fellow professional triathlete, Jeanni Seymour. Just like everyone else, our day-to-day is quite busy and we often are out training from dawn to dusk. But we always try to make dinner a time that we can cook together, eat together and catch up on the days activities. Once or twice a week, we have a glass of red wine to help relax!
Before bed, I always try to use my Normatec boots for somewhere between 30-60 minutes. On harder days I go for less time at a softer setting. On easier days I bump up the intensity and sit in them for a bit longer. The boots are a great tool to aid in recovery but I try not to disrupt my body’s natural recovery process.
I always have some form of protein before bed. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or whey protein are my ‘go-to’s. The protein helps give my body what it needs recover over night, the time when the majority of your recovery gains will be made. People often overlook the fact that your ability to improve is dictated by your ability to absorb training load. So recovery is equally important to any hard training session that you may do.
How much sleep do you get each night?
As I mentioned, sleep is a big priority for me. I have spent the money necessary to have a great mattress, sound machine, ear plugs, etc in order to try to get the most quality sleep I can every night. I aim to get 8-10 hours a night, and I don’t usually nap unless I fail to get my normal amount of sleep.
Do you have recovery days built into your training plan?
My training is structured to have some days of active recovery. On recovery days, I use the lighter workouts as a warm up for any foam rolling, stretching, or rehab exercises I may need to focus on. I also try to schedule chiropractic and massage appointments every week to help address any small issues before they become something I actually have to worry about.
Do you take any supplements?
The only supplements I take are fish oil (I like the KLEAN or Zone Labs brands) and a multivitamin (First Endurance multi-v is my favorite). As a professional who gets drug tested regularly, I watch what I consume carefully. I find that with a proper healthful diet, most people don’t need many supplements. Shoot for a minimum of four fruits and four vegetables every day.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to any runner or triathlete about recovery?
Nail your nutrition. You should have just as much importance placed on fueling correctly as you do building a training schedule. The worst thing to happen to any endurance athlete in a race is hitting the wall and having to slow down or get the dreaded DNF.
In every workout you use stored glycogen for fuel. If you deplete the glycogen stores you hit the wall. To fully come back from depleting your stores, it takes days or weeks. This means your next workouts suffer or you’re not able to complete them.
The key is to never let your glycogen stores get too low. Think of it like the fuel gage on your car. Try to never let it dip below 25-50% capacity.
I try to have a form of carbohydrates every 30 minutes during a workout. A gel, half a bar, banana, or sports drink, helps to make sure my “fuel tank” never falls below the level I am shooting for.
How does Boulder Sports Chiropractic help you?
It is so important to stay on top of injury risk. My body is my livelihood and if I’m injured, I can’t race! Getting weekly treatments to focus on any tightness I may have from shoulder pain to calf tightness keeps me from having any injury set backs. I love the Active Release Technique and dry needling. In addition to massage and rehab; chiropractic care and the modalities Boulder Sports Chiropractic rely on are a critical part to my body work protocol.
More about Justin…
In addition to professional triathlon, Justin has a degree in human physiology and nutrition. He has a unique set of skills developed through hours in the classroom paired with 10 years of multisport experience. When he is not training, he helps athletes like you build customized nutrition plans to address any weakness in training, racing or general body composition.
Services Justin offers: one-on-one monthly coaching, race specific training plans, race nutrition strategies, race weight planning, daily nutrition strategies for optimal body composition and general nutrition guidelines.
If you feel like you could benefit from building a proper nutrition plan for training/racing, or to learn more about the services that Justin offers, contact him at:
At Boulder Sports Chiropractic, we use movement screens to biomechanically evaluate how your whole body is moving and how it works together.We use the best techniques to address your source of pain and dysfunction including Active Release Technique, Graston, and Dry Needling.
We send every patient home with the rehab exercises or stretches to give you the tools to fix the problem, not just treat the symptoms! Contact us today to schedule your appointment.