Long weekends…..

tomorrows battle

So we are in Kona countdown and things are getting very real! Last weekend Garron had a tough weekend’s training; I cannot even repeat the comment I added to his training plan as I read through his Sunday run, and bike-run session the week before as I plotted the weeks nutrition ahead for him.

We do this every week; I analyse Garron’s training as written by his coach Lucie Zelenkova on Training Peaks and then slot in nutrition specifics to give him an outline for the week and to optimise his training efforts. Garron knows how to eat, so I am not hand-feeding him what to do; but providing an overview of what meals and snacks and training-specific nutrition should look like and then we slot in the finer details as we work through the week. This means that Garron knows what he is doing to periodise his nutrition with his training and also we can plan what food to purchase and cook in advance.

Everything has to be done quickly in this house and time-management is crucial; so some larger dishes such as home-made soups, home-made bean or lentil curries, or slow cooked meats dishes or larger cuts of meat such as tongue or roasts may be prepared in advance and when I have a window of time. Then in gaps between clients I may prepare vegetable dishes such as herb pesto, hummus, large yogurt dressed grated carrot-beet-cabbage salads, batches of roasted vegetables or steamed vegetables and then come meal time all we need to do is add the protein.

Handy lunches for Garron include soup with added cooked grain (e.g. rice or quinoa) with protein in a sort of one pot, cold cuts of meat and left over roasted veggies or quick eggs with left-over salad vegetables as a few examples.

A lot of grass-fed red meat and quality omega 3 rich fish and duck eggs are going down lately and are proteins that work well for us. We are not a carbohydrate dominant house; it just works better for us when smaller portions of oats, root vegetables and occasional whole grains are added; they are the side and not the focus.

So, back to the weekend of August 27th; this is a quick post based on information shared in our Facebook group: Andrea Cullen triathlon and endurance athlete nutrition and training group that gives you an insight into how we are dialing things up for race day.


Garron gave me permission to share my analysis of his session and nutrition to benefit other members of the group, and to give insight into the work that we do together. As a side note, on race day Garron will eat a lot more than this; we were interested to see what was happening on a training morning. The electrolytes were forgotten (we are currently camping in a different house, so this isn’t normal and it is nice to have the feedback that it was noticed at the 4 hour mark. Also it shows you how real world this is; we all make errors and there is always something to be learned in this).

So here are my cut and paste notes;

27th august 2016
170km in 4 hours 45 and HR 122 average
+ brick run 20 mins at HR average 134, @ 4.18 mins per km average

Garron came home feeling good; this is a significant and important piece of information to put the chat below into context.

Ambient temperatures of ~ 21 degrees C by 1 pm; relative humidity = 62%

Weight before breakfast 69.2kg

Breakfast 3 tblsp oats (dry) and cooked with 1 x duck egg with dash milk, 1 x coffee


On the bike:
32 GI food bar apple x 2
32 GI Sports chews raspberry (new product that was liked from the Challenge Galway course)
32 GI food bar in a different flavour

2 bottles of water (I don’t have the mls to share as need to clarify if they were large or small bottles)

Garron also drank a whey protein shake in water when he came in off the bike and before he took to the pavements for his brick run.

Post bike-brick weight = 67.8 Kg = 1.4 kg loss =  just over 2%

Given the ambient temperatures a weight loss of 1-2 % between morning weight and post-session weight would be preferable; so I will feed back to Garron that his drinking to thirst was appropriate but to perhaps take in a little bit more or pay more attention to how he is feeling. Garron will not be training in similar climates in Kona (!!) so this is when we really will analyse this closer for a few of the longer sessions (also; sweat rates and electrolyte losses will go through a phase of transition as Garron acclimates and so we need to monitor this, but hopefully I will touch on this later when we are in Kona (bring it on!).


Garron didn’t have electrolytes in his bottle and this is something that he normally does, and a practice I recommend. It is not that we tend to lose a lot of electrolytes in our Irish climate (in general) but that consistently training once or twice a day does lead to electrolyte depletion and so it is good practice, not only to improve fluid retention during training but to minimize chronic daily electrolyte losses. Indoor sessions on the bike trainer and treadmill are especially depleting.


This is a breakdown of Garron’s nutrition on the bike:

Details:                                 calories (kCal)      carbohydrates (g)      Protein (g)
32 GI food bar apple         183                             25                                6
32 GI food bar apple         183                             25                                6
Sports chews raspberry    132                             33                               < 0.5
32 GI food bar                   185                             26                                6.5

Totals                                 683                            109                               19

Rate of carbohydrate intake = approx. 23g carbohydrates per hour. Racing goal is 30-60g carbohydrates per hour but for an ironman event at max carbohydrate oxidation rates aiming for 90g carbohydrates per hour.

01 CHO recommendations 300dpi

IF I take into context that breakfast is probably fuelling the first hour then we are looking at an intake of closer to 29g per hour carbohydrates for Garron’s bike session.

So this intake is way off race day recommendations for intake BUT that said, remember that Garron’s heart rates are in fat oxidation aerobic zones so he didn’t need more carbohydrate than ingested to sustain him (remember also that I said he came home feeling good and furthermore he ate to appetite), in fact a greater intake of carbohydrates would have suppressed Garron’s fat oxidation rates by raising insulin and hence putting the brakes on fatty acid lipase enzyme function. Training sessions in aerobic steady state are intended to improve aerobic capacity and fat oxidation rates so his food intake sounds about right – Garron will have been utilising a nice mix of his own body fat and intramuscular triglycerides to fuel fat oxidation while stabilising blood sugar levels with carbohydrate foods eaten on the bike according to appetite which means listening to his blood sugar levels and eating as he sensed them starting to dip).

07 Fatmax 300dpi

{FYI this is also part of the reason that I recommend consuming a lower GI breakfast before aerobic training sessions. The addition of eggs as well as providing protein, blunts the release of sugars from the oats and milk and so leads to a less intense blood glucose spike and hence insulin response and so permits the body to oxidise fats as fuel. A high sugar breakfast like toast and jam spikes blood sugar levels rapidly and insulin as a response to this, and then suppresses fat oxidation capacity. Something you don’t want to do in an aerobic training session. Effectively making you need to slow down even more into fat burning rather than being able to work harder and remain in fat burning zones}


Additional thoughts:

We don’t know what exactly is happening in Garron’s body without doing some RER testing at various exercise intensities (using a metabolic cart and graded bike or treadmill exercise test and this isn’t easily available to us here in Ireland YET!). So this end of day is an exercise in awareness of what carbohydrates he did consume and how this felt while prompting some looking ahead towards race day. If Garron felt good all through and in recovery then good work. Also the body weights will tell me more over the coming 24 hours as they give me insight into the appropriateness of his recovery carbohydrates. A large drop in weight in the next 24 hours indicates glycogen loss and a mismatch of energy expenditure and carbohydrate intake (or very poor hydration strategy).

Garron had a protein shake before his brick run (this is normally done on race day and is practiced every now and again so that his body is used to it and knows what to expect) and following his brick run drank a quick delicious mix of mix of leucine and powdered turmeric (sarcasm) followed by a proper meal of protein, veg and carbs (home-made steak and herb burger, potatoes and salad).

Job done!

Todays pain

Hopefully this information may help some people. It only took me a few minutes to work out once all the wrappers were thrown back at me along with a bit of organisation in ensuring weight was measured before and after. G’s weights remained stable into the following week, indicating to me that he nailed his training nutrition and hydration.

As ever it is not an exact science and the observations about how it all worked and how Garron felt are the most important. Also I must add that Garron and I have been working consistently on his diet for the past 2 years, as has Garron on his training. He is a very efficient and fit athlete that more than likely is well fat-adapted (but also very tolerant to eating carbohydrates) as a result of us using a blood glucose stabilising diet and incorporating the principles of metabolic eating with race day recommendations. It takes time, patience and working with someone who can guide you to achieve the type of results that Garron is now experiencing.


This little post on Facebook stoked some interesting comments and observations from others so feel free to pop over to read more:














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