Summer Fueling: How and What to Eat for a Successful Race Season
By Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, CSSD, METS
I live in Arizona, where summer heat takes on a whole new meaning. But even when the temps approach scorching, triathletes continue to hit the pavement and the (bath-water warm) pool to crank out those workouts. The show must go on, and so must proper fueling.
For many athletes training in warm climates, appetite tends to drop off as the thermometer readings climb. It’s important to keep this in mind during summer months and make any adjustments necessary to keep intake where it needs to be and those hot workouts well fueled.
Here are some tips for adjusting your fueling strategy for summer:
FUEL UP ON SEASONAL FOODS
Produce comes to mind whenever seasonal foods are mentioned, and that’s perfect because fruits and vegetables are the two best carbohydrate options in an athlete’s diet. Summer is a great time to take advantage of the wide variety of produce that graces your supermarket’s shelves. This time of year is also the perfect time to visit your local farmer’s market to support locally grown food from farmers in the area. Besides the healthy carbohydrate component, fruits and vegetables provide many vitamins and minerals (think antioxidants) that you just can’t get from other foods. They are versatile, too – cut up a bunch of fruit varieties for a fruit salad, roast vegetables for a veggie-and-egg casserole, or throw both into a huge green salad that is light on the stomach, but packs a nutritional punch.
INCORPORATE LIGHTER FOOD OPTIONS
Each season boasts its own comfort meals, like a big bowl of chili in the fall with a football game on the television. Summer is more centered on light, fresh foods that fill you up, but don’t weigh you down. Instead of that chili and cornbread duo, try a flaky grilled fish like halibut with some roasted green beans and a mixed greens salad topped with avocado and mango. And remember to eat balanced no matter what season it is – carbohydrate + fat + protein at all meals and snacks. Becoming too reliant on carbohydrates throws blood sugar levels out of whack and negatively impacts your health, weight and training.
TIME RECOVERY FUELING RIGHT
Coming back from a long, hot outdoor workout can be an exhausting and possibly nauseating event in itself. Then, picture yourself consuming a large meal post-workout and you may be ready to toss your cookies. Don’t stress about getting those calories replaced. Keep in mind that you really only need to replace 20% of the total calories burned during exercise, and that this can be accomplished slowly (over time) for the next several hours post-exercise. After long workouts, do attempt to get at least a snack back in within an hour of exercise conclusion. This snack can be anything from a Greek yogurt with fruit to a protein smoothie with fruit and coconut oil. Again, balance is key. Don’t feel the need to gorge yourself the minute you walk in the door, especially if you are feeling nauseous from the elevated temps.
FOCUS ON ONE TIME OF DAY FOR YOUR LARGER MEAL
It’s ok to pick the time of day when you are most hungry and to make that meal a little larger. Or to break meals down into smaller snack-size portions in order to meet calorie requirements. Sometimes a large, heavy meal is too overwhelming to the system no matter what season it is. If you wake up ravenous in the mornings, make that meal a little more substantial followed by a lighter lunch and dinner. Same with feeling hungrier at lunch or dinner. Make adjustments according to what your body is telling you. If your evening meal is your heaviest, make sure to eat early enough that the food has time to settle and begin digestion before laying down for bed.
In the summer months, athletes are more active than ever. Stay on track with your healthy fuel plan by incorporating the above suggestions into your diet. The combination of great fueling and exercise is unstoppable when it comes to you meeting your goals. Make this summer season your most productive yet!
Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, CSSD, METS Level II is a sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete, having completed many triathlons of all distances including three IRONMAN races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific, metabolically efficient fueling plans for her clients. Brooke and her husband, John, own Destination Kona Triathlon Store in south Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information on services and offerings, visit her website at www.fueltothefinish.com.