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Fuelling Ironman Training: One Week’s Food Diary

Paleo Breakfast

Inspired by Matt Fitzgerald’s recent book Racing Weight I decided to keep a food diary during the 100 mile run week. I figured it would give me an interesting insight into how much I’m actually eating and how it relates to training and weight loss. With weight loss being part of my current focus I expected to be eating less than required in simple calorific terms.

The process of keeping a diary proved to be quite enjoyable in the end and it’s a habit I intend to maintain from now on. I can definitely see the value in understanding how my dietary intake relates to current feelings of health and performance. Also establishing a baseline of dietary practices for maintaining a decent race weight is important in the longer term.

As you’ll know from the previous entries on the run week I dropped weight very rapidly. Whilst I suspect the initial day’s weigh in was unusually high and the final weigh in exceptionally low I was clearly eating far less than I imagined. In simple volume terms what was on my plate appeared huge, but in terms of that calorific content it was a lot less than needed.

Keep that in mind when you look at the tables below. This is not an example of the perfect training diet. On this diet I lost a lot of weight, but generally manage to train well. I was eating similarly during the 43 hour week out in La Santa and I’m sure Roger would attest to the quality of work I was doing. Weight dropped off there too.

The caveats then are that you should take this as an extreme example and not necessarily something to follow. You will have to be getting good sleep whilst eating like this to stand a chance of keeping performance levels up. You have to ensure the diet has plenty of sources of micronutrients in and that you feel healthy on it. At no point do I feel weak or ill as a consequence of my diet. You may feel hungry, actually you will feel hungry!

I’ll revisit the food diary again once I’m looking to maintain weight to allow a comparisson of my eating habits. The primary strategy I’ll use is an increase in carbs, primarily via potato. I suspect I’ll sneak in the odd treat too (in addition to that nightly hot chocolate), but I’m wary of these in case I get sugar cravings! I can’t really do much about volume of food other than increasing the snacking. There was a distinct lack of nuts in the diet last week and I’ll rectify that.

I’ll also start eating more (at all!) during training sessions as currently I don’t eat at all. Food during the longer more focussed bikes and runs that are coming into the plan will be essential for good performance. I tend to opt for cheap cereal bars as there’s no point spending money on expensive sports nutrition for training. Full time athletes tend to have to be budget conscious after all!

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. The diary is accurate and only excludes drinking water that I’m aware of. Not all the eating habits are that good I’m sure you’ll note. Perhaps it’s also less strictly paleo than you anticipated? It fuelled a week where I ran 166km, biked 250km and swam (just) 7km.

The Diary

Monday 12/7
Activity Food
Breakfast 1
  • 2 Large mugs strong black coffee
  • 1 bowl – handful blueberries, 2 handfuls strawberries, 125g full fat Greek yoghurt
Workout 1
  • 13km Run
Breakfast 2
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
  • 4 Egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g Double Gloucester Cheese and handful spinach
  • 1 Apple
Workout 2
  • 120km Easy ride
Lunch
  • Mini BabyBell Light, slice cornbeef, chunk of Camembert!
  • Salad – 1 tin tuna, 5 fish sticks, 1/4 chinese leaf, carrot, 2 tomatoes, half small cucumber, small handful raisins, half yellow pepper, salad cream
  • Small handful of grapes
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
Snack 1
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
  • Pear and banana
Workout 3
  • 13km run
Dinner
  • 4 Egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g Double Gloucester Cheese and 3 large slices of roasted bacon.
Snack 2
  • Mug of low calorie hot chocolate
Tuesday 13/7
Activity Food
Breakfast 1
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
  • 1 bowl – handful blueberries, 2 handfuls strawberries, 1 banana, 125g full fat Greek yoghurt
Workout 1
  • 25 minute easy ride
  • 13km run
Snack 1
  • Mini Babybel light
Workout 2
  • 50 minute open water swim
Snack 2
  • 1 apple, 1 pear
Workout 3
  • 25 min easy ride
Lunch
  • pork steak, large portions carrot, cabbage and peas
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Snack 3
  • Handful of grapes
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Workout 4
  • 9km run
Snack 4
  • 1 pear, slice cold roast bacon (!), handful raisins
Dinner
  • Salad – 1 tin tuna, 5 fish sticks, 1/4 chinese leaf, carrot, 2 tomatoes, half small cucumber, small handful raisins, half yellow pepper, salad cream
Snack 5
  • Mug of low calorie hot chocolate
Wednesday 14/7
Activity Food
Breakfast 1
  • 2 Large mugs strong black coffee
  • 1 bowl – handful blueberries, 2 handfuls strawberries, 1 banana, 125g full fat Greek yoghurt
Workout 1
  • 10.5km run
Breakfast 2
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
  • 4 Egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g Double Gloucester Cheese and handful spinach
Snack 1
  • 1 Pear
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Lunch
  • Homemade casserole (beef, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, stock etc)
  • Small handful grapes
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Snack 2
  • Apple, Mini Babybel Light
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Dinner
  • 4 Egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g Double Gloucester Cheese and 3 large slices of roasted bacon.
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Workout 2
  • 13km run
Snack 3
  • Bowl of chicken and mushroom soup
  • Mug of low calorie hot chocolate
Thursday 15/7
Activity Food
Breakfast 1
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
  • 1 bowl – handful blueberries, 2 handfuls strawberries, 1 banana, 125g full fat Greek yoghurt
Workout 1
  • 25 minute easy ride
  • 8.5km run
  • 50 minute open water swim
Snack 1
  • Apple, Mini Babybel light
Workout 2
  • 95km bike
Lunch
  • Large tuna salad – chinese leaf, 2x tomatoes, quarter cucumber, handful raisins, yellow pepper, salad cream. + Slice beef + chunk of camembert
  • Nectarine
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
Snack 2
  • Pear
Workout 3
  • 7.5km run
Snack 3
  • Apple, tin of sardines
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Dinner
  • 4 egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g mature cheddar Cheese, 3 large slices roast bacon
Snack 4
  • Mug of low calorie hot chocolate
Friday 16/7
Activity Food
Breakfast 1
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
  • 1 bowl – handful blueberries, 2 handfuls strawberries, 125g full fat Greek yoghurt
Workout 1
  • 13km Run
Breakfast 2
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
  • 4 Egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g mature cheddar cheese and handful spinach
Snack 1
  • Apple, satsuma
Workout 2
  • 10km run
Lunch
  • Salad – mackeral + fish sticks – chinese leaf, 2x tomatoes, handful raisins, carrot, cucumber, half red pepper, salad cream
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Snack 2
  • Pear, Mini Babybel Light
Workout 3
  • 12km run
Snack 3
  • Bowl of Oxtail soup
  • Bowl – apple, handful raisins, 125g full fat Greek yoghurt
Dinner
  • 4 egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g mature cheddar Cheese + 2 slices cornbeef
  • Small handful strawberries and grapes
  • Mug of low calorie hot chocolate
Saturday 17/7
Activity Food
Breakfast 1
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
  • 4 Egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g mature cheddar Cheese
Workout 1
  • 30 minute open water swim
Breakfast 2
  • 2 Large mugs strong black coffee
  • 1 bowl – handful blueberries, 2 handfuls strawberries, 125g full fat Greek yoghurt
  • 1 Apple
Workout 2
  • 10.5km run
Lunch
  • Salad – gammon steak with 2 fried eggs – chinese leaf, 2x tomatoes, handful raisins, carrot, cucumber, half red pepper, salad cream
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Snack 1
  • 1 Large mug strong black coffee
  • Pear, satsuma, handful of raisins
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Dinner
  • 4 egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g mature cheddar Cheese + 2 slices cornbeef
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Snack 2
  • Teaspoon of peanut butter
  • Mup of low calorie hot chocolate
Sunday 18/7
Activity Food
Breakfast 1
  • 2 Large mugs strong black coffee
  • 1 bowl – handful blueberries, 2 handfuls strawberries, 1 banana, 125g full fat Greek yoghurt
  • 4 egg omelette cooked with olive oil, filled with 60g mature cheddar Cheese
Workout 1
  • 30 min very easy swimming as part of one-to-one coaching
Lunch
  • Salad – Chunk camembert + 1/3rd chicken roasted – chinese leaf, carrot, 2 x tomato, pickled beetroot, half a green pepper, cucumber, salad cream
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Snack 1
  • Teaspoon of peanut butter
Workout 2
  • 30km run
Dinner
  • Lump camembert, mini babybel, slice cornbeef
  • Salad – 10 fish fingers(!) – chinese leaf, carrot, 2 x tomato, handful raisins, half a green pepper, cucumber, salad cream
  • Cup of tea (dash of skimmed milk)
Snack 2
  • Mug of low calorie hot chocolate

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Comments

  • Tim

    Don’t you ever get bored of omlettes?!

  • Nope, they’re one of my favourite foods!

    Yeah the diet isn’t massively varied which comes down to laziness on my part. However I do actually enjoy the food I eat, especially the omelettes!

  • Neil D

    Hi Russ,
    Did you work out grams of CHO/FAT/PRO ?
    Would be interesting to put your daily body weight alongside the meals. Do you know your body fat %?
    Should weigh everything, then use handfulls once you know how much a handfull weighs.
    I’ve done food diaries before, but never enjoyed it – lol.
    Cheers, Neil

  • I’m not surprised you didn’t enjoy it if you were weighing everything! Not tried working out the breakdown of nutrition in that lot. Again I think I’d have enjoyed it less. The Racing Weight book largely discourages serious breakdown, arguing that a range of CHO/FAT/PRO ratios will work in general. It has a quality scoring system I might give a try to. The idea being you rate the diet on the nutritional quality of the meal. A diet high in fruit, veg and low processed carbs tends to score well.

    Don’t know current % body fat – hard to be sure, it’s certainly getting pretty low in terms of physical appearance. Just don’t have any scales or better to measure it.

    Have to admit this week I’ve been less efficient in keeping a log – I will return to this once I’m at target weight and the issue is maintenance. Will give some idea of how I have to adjust to stabilise at a given weight.

  • Neil D

    Yeah i’ve got the racing weight book, quite a good read.
    Its important to know how many grams of the macro-nutrients you are eating. Once you’ve worked it out for your fav foods/meals its pretty easy from then on.

  • Being largely paleo my main concern is that CHO is low. Whilst I’m shedding weight I tend to try and keep PRO high and really don’t think too much about the actual ratios going on. I largely go by how I’m feeling as long as I remain healthy and able to perform then I stick with things. If I see signs of problems I’ll look at possible causes – sleep, stress and diet and make adjustments.

    I’ll fully admit it’s a little blunt, but seemed to work OK last year. This week performance has definitely been down, but the primary cause has been a lack of sleep (less than 6 hours on 3 nights, 4 last night!) So I’m primarily rectifying that. When I’ve had good sleep the night before training returns to normal levels.

    I think being aware of macro-nutrient breakdown will be more important to weight maintenance. I anitcipate having to increase the CHO levels to a point where I stabilise. That will obvious reduce the overall proportion of FAT/PRO in the diet.

  • Hey Russell. Wow that’s like 2000 cals a day if ur lucky no wonder you lost so much weight, you must have been starving all the time?

  • Hopefully it works out a little more than 2000 cals, but yes definitely well under what I burn through. Whilst I was focussed on losing weight I was happy to do this and take some potential impact on performance. I’m starting to balance things out now to maintain weight and improve ability to do the hard work.

    Yeah I was often very hungry! I said it was disordered eating!

  • My nutritionalist gf thinks ur nuts!!!! I said most people doing IM fop must have some sort of eating disorder!!! It’s a sport only those doing it can understand!!!

  • She probably has a point! My diet is changing as I approach race weight. More is being consumed at the moment. To an extent the food diary revealed to me how little I was eating.

  • Well I’ve just read on serpentine website an article promoting fasting for 24-72hrs and just having water and oj!!! Frank horvill, reckons you need to be 10-15% off what a normal person should be.
    http://www.serpentine.org.uk/pages/advice_frank01.html

    not sure u should be fasting!!!

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