Simple Nutrition for Athletes?


Aric In Training Makes a Tri Tuna SandwichIs there such a thing as simple nutrition for athletes?  Is is possible to break nutrition and the need to fuel properly down to one or two rules?

I am a huge fan of K.I.S.S., not the band, but the saying “Keep It Simple Stupid.”  But, the books I’ve read regarding nutrition for athletes, endurance or otherwise, talk a lot about what type of nutrients are needed and when.  Reading these books was a lot like reading  science experiment written by someone who had forgotten what English was, replaced with technical garble.

So, I was overwhelmed with the thought of getting the exact amount of protein for my body at just the right time.  Let’s not forget that I am an overworked Analyst by day and I don’t have much time to spend buying food, cooking, and eating in addition to the job, triathlon training, and rest of life.  As much as I tried to make it work, it was just too complicated for this triathlete.

I even tried the paleo diet for a while and have to say that it made life a lot worse.  While it was simple, the complexity in carrying out the diet while at work and with busy weekends just couldn’t work for me.   The paleo diet eliminated some foods that were okay by some diets and were convenient for busy people like me.

So, is there such a thing as simple nutrition for athletes?  If we strip away the metabolic typing, the protein and carb calculators, and even the calorie counting bank recording calories in versus out, what is left?  In my opinion, there is a lot left that can be considered simple nutrition for athletes.   Let’s take a look, but keep in mind that if you are going to get technical on me, please don’t send me hate mail.

This is what simple nutrition for athletes is in my mind:

  1. Avoid the sweets: Sure you can have a little cake and ice cream at the neighbor’s kids birthday, but don’t have a small amount of sweets more than once a week.
  2. Avoid processed foods: Processed foods are anything that doesn’t resemble its natural counterpart any longer, such as anything made with flour, those frozen chicken nuggets, and anything that comes out of a drive through window.  This is the paleo influence on my simple nutrition for athletes.  Don’t eat white breads, processed sausage, cakes, or pastries.
  3. Eat lean protein:  Protein is what helps build muscles and aids in recovery post-workout.  Having a small amount of protein with every meal and a little before and after workout will help you recover and build muscles.  Eggs, chicken breasts, lean pork, salmon, and buffalo burgers are great choices.
  4. Consume fresh vegetables and fruits: Salads, greens, citrus, and berries are a great source of fiber and provide much needed energy for your workouts.
  5. Cook with the intention of creating leftovers:  Cooking four chicken breasts even though you are only going to eat two gives you two extra to eat during the rest of the week.  Package up some salad mix into tupperware and toss on some cheese and other veggies while making a salad for your weekend lunch.  Consume a salad right after a workout to help recover as well.

So, simple nutrition for athletes broken down to five rules.  It is not all inclusive list, but is a great place to start when getting a handle on what you eat.   You might be surprised just how simple this can be while achieving race weight and feeling great about yourself.  There is such a thing as simple nutrition for athletes after all.

The Food Cloud Goes Paleo


The Paleo Diet is the latest and greatest of fads in the realm of diets.  We have gone from Weight Watchers to Atkins to South Beach only to realize that what our ancient ancestors ate is probably what we should be eating too.

After all, homo erectus didn’t have the convenience of grabbing a burger and fries from the local fast food joint while looking for a new cave.  No sir or maam, the diet that the human race survived on is no joke.

So, with all of the hype about eating paleo and reading paleo blogs like Mark’s Daily Apple and Son of Grok, I decided to try the paleo diet.  It was time to cut out the processed foods and consume fresh vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, nuts and good fats with a little luck thrown in.

I expected to do well on the paleo as I did quite well with the No Flour, No Sugar diet in 2009.  It really isn’t that much different, although it is much more strict about what you can eat (no potatoes, no vinegar and no grains).  So what could happen?

Well, I found out just how hard it is to eat paleo consistently.

  1. For me, I need to have each meal prepared ahead of time or else I will settle for something more convenient than paleo.
  2. The somewhat limited food items get boring after a while, so creativity in the kitchen is soon to be expanded.
  3. The diet requires a lot of preparation ahead of time, so squeezing in time in the kitchen is hard with my already packed schedule.
  4. The grouchiness is a little like giving up coffee as the body is adjusting to life without an abundance of refined foods.
My paleo food cloud for the past week

Well the word cloud to the left shows exactly what I have been eating.  While I haven’t been sticking to the diet per se (burritos and mochas aren’t paleo!), I do see the beginnings of ridding processed foods from my diet.  Getting rid of the tortillas and buying a coffee versus a mocha will be the next steps. I’d also like to see more lean proteins in the cloud as it appears that chicken and bacon are the primary meats I’ve eaten.  What is good are the nuts, fruits and vegetables, but those too can use a bit more variety.

What are the initial results of going more paleo?  I feel like I have increased energy and clarity of mind.  My weight has only dropped three pounds, which is within a normal fluctuation so I can’t say I’ve lost weight.  Also, my kitchen is being used more and my stove is happy to see me, if for a limited time on the weekends. My grocery bill has also gone up, but my fast food bill has dropped significantly.  So there are pluses and minuses involved, but overall I think the changes have been positive.

However, Before coming to further conclusion, I’d like to gather more data, both physical and workout data.  Theoretically, the paleo diet will help me improve my fitness performance and if its true, the results should be clear in my triathlon training dashboard.   Only time will show.

Have you tried the paleo diet?  What are your experiences?