Good nutrition promotes great performance!

The Challenge: Anika Fain just wanted to make sure that her diet was optimal for her training goals of completing another half Ironman this summer and a full Ironman during the next two years. She is a competitive triathlete who is currently training for some distance events this spring and summer. She told me that she felt comfortable at her current weight and had maintained it over the past eight years. Her training was going well and she was pleased with her performance during her first half Ironman last summer. We decided to analyze her diet and find out…

Anika Fain

Female. Age: 26. Height: 5’5”. Weight: 129. Goal Weight: 125-130. Occupation:


Weekly Training Program: Running - 270 minutes, Swimming – 180 minutes, Cycling – 300 minutes, Weight training – 120 minutes



DAY 1:

Breakfast:        1 cup Orange juice, 1 cup granola, banana, 1 cup skim milk

AM Snack:      Apple and1 cup hot chocolate

Lunch:Cheese and tomato sandwich, Orange and 4 crackers

Snack:Chocolate cookie, 1 slice of Bread with 1 T peanut butter

Dinner:             1.5 cups Risotto with mushrooms, 1/2 cup Ricotta cheese; 2 cups Salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing, 1 slice French bread

PM Snack:       2 slices Banana bread


DAY 2:

Breakfast:        1 cup Orange juice, 1 Banana and 1 bagel

AM Snack:      2 cups Strawberry protein shake

Lunch:             1 Mango quesadilla with bell peppers and 1 Apple

Snack:              1 Chocolate cookie

Dinner:            1.5 cups of rice and 1.5 cups Curry with chicken and mushrooms

PM Snack:       1 slice French Bread, 1 Margarita, 1 Kahlua and Cream

Diet Analysis Summary




Calories/day (for fat loss)



Protein (g/day)



Carbohydrate (g/day)



Fat (g/day)



Saturated fat (g/day)



% Calories from Carbohydrate



% Calories from Protein



% Calories from Fat



% Calories from Alcohol







The analyses of Annika’s two-day intake showed that her calorie intake was appropriate for weight maintenance and supporting her training needs. This would explain her consistent weight over the past eight years. Her protein intake was sufficient to promote good recovery, but her carbohydrate intake fell short of her recommended needs. Her intake of most nutrients was very good, due to the variety of foods that she consumed.



1.       Boost your carbohydrates:As an endurance athlete, your carbohydrate needs are very high. You consumed about 80% of your average needs over the course of the two days, but that’s not enough to support your consistent level of training. To meet your carbohydrate needs, try to meet the following recommendations:

  1. Breakfast: You need 5 servings of carbohydrate: 1 cup of granola works great, but you’ll need to have 1.5 bagels to provide an equivalent amount of carbohydrate.
  2. Lunch: 3 servings of carbohydrate. Choose one of the following: 1 cup of rice, 1.5 cups of pasta, one bagel or 2 large slices of bread. Use a large tortilla or 2 large slices of bread when making a sandwich.
  3. Afternoon snack: Add some fruit and 1 cup of yogurt to your cookie or crackers
  4. Dinner: 4 servings of carbohydrate = 2 cups of pasta, 1.3 cups of rice, 3 slices of pizza, or 1 large potato. You did a great job at getting enough carbohydrates at dinner!


2.       Eat when you’re hungry – stop when you’re full:I work with clients to develop a nutrition plan that supports their goals of maximizing performance, achieving optimal body composition, etc. This often requires a structured approach to meal planning, but the long-term goal is to have them eat according to their hunger and energy needs. This is something many of them have lost the ability to do as a result of years of dieting, training through fatigue, and failing to fuel their bodies regularly.


It certainly looks like you’ve mastered the art of listening to your body and fueling it appropriately. Even though you chose very different foods and your eating patterns varied from day to day, your average calorie consumption was around 2800 calories - just what your body needs to maintain your current weight and support your training program. Keep doing what you’re doing – it’s working well!


3.       Good job balancing your meals!A common nutrition issue my clients face is not consuming “balanced meals” - meals containing mostly carbohydrate, moderate amounts of protein, and some type of fruits or veggies. When meals contain only carbohydrate they don’t provide extended energy, which will cause blood sugar to drop in several hours. You did a good job of including all three of these components in most of your meals. Some good examples of your balanced meals were:


      Meal           Carbohydrate   ProteinFruit/Vegetable

Breakfast    GranolaMilk      Banana

Lunch         Bread    Peanut Butter    Pear

Dinner         Risotto  Ricotta CheeseSalad   


When planning balanced snacks, I usually recommend that you combine a protein with either a carbohydrate or fruit or vegetable. You could get more mileage from your snacks by adding some low-fat cheese to your crackers or adding some fruit and yogurt to your cookies.


4.       Keep up the cross training: Even though your training load is high, it looks like you make a conscious effort to cross train as much as possible. During the four days of your diary you did a bike/run, long bike ride, track workout and a day of cross-country skiing. Alternating distance and sprint workouts, then combining them with low-impact activities like cycling and cross-country skiing is a great way to maximize endurance while minimizing injury. It’s no wonder your training program has been so successful!


5.       Stick with your plan for Ironman!It sounds like you did the right things when you completed your half Ironman last summer. You drank 3-4 cups of water per hour and consumed some source of carbohydrate every 30 minutes. Alternating between sports bars, energy gels and bananas was a good idea, since it probably kept you from getting tired of any particular food. It sounds like you trained using this system, which helped you successfully implement that strategy on race day. Keep up the great work!!


Note: Anika is at the right in the accompanying photo.


This article originally appeared in the May 2002 issue of Northwest Runner

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