Best Sports Nutrition News vol. 1

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If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter and I hope you do (hint,hint, wink, wink), you know that I like to post about the latest news in Sports and Nutrition. These are the stories that were the most popular in the last  4 months. It’s always interesting to see what stories strike people the most from celebrity players, getting older to losing weight, calories and gluten-free diet. Because at the end of the day what we really, really want is to feel good and look good. It’s just human nature after all!  Enjoy!

The secret to Tom Brady’s longevity? An (almost) vegan diet, resistance bands, constant ‘body work’

Almost Vegan diet. I like this. Or I call it flexitarian! Good job Tom!


The Gluten-Free Fallacy – Dr. Phil Maffetone

Sometimes I wonder how the gluten-free fallacy took over the world so quickly. It is now a high $$ industry. But is it really the gluten that makes the difference? Or is it consuming less grains in general. When cutting out grains, a lot of people report feeling better, less bloated, because grains are prone to fermentation in your gut and some people are more sensitive to it. As Dr Maffetone reports in his article switching from wheat to rice might not be the healthiest choice as rice often contains high level of arsenic. Instead try lowering your overall grain intake. Have them around your training sessions. The rest of the time, do you really need them?


Why Our Champions Are Getting Older

Brady, Federer, Phelps, the Williams sisters — there’s no physiological reason athletes’ bodies should fall off a cliff in their 30s. We know so much more about better training, recovery and of course nutrition. This is key. You might still have your best days ahead!


Stop Counting Calories If You Want to Lose Weight

Yes stop counting calories! Calories can be useful to assess loosely energy intake but reducing calories and exercising more won’t necessarily help you lose weight. This holds true especially for people with more insulin resistance. So it is important to figure out the amount of carbohydrate that will work for you and your level of insulin resistance. You can figure it out with the help of a #Metabolic_Efficiency trained specialist.


Should Cyclists Fuel With Candy?

Gummy bears are having a moment thanks to Road World Champion Peter Sagan—but whether candy really has performance value depends on how you use it. There is nothing wrong with having some candies during a run or a ride. It is the dose that make the poison. If you are a high carb athlete you will need a lot of gummy bears, swedish fish esor snickers to fuel and that could lead to GI distress. While if you are more Metabolically Efficient, a couple candy at a time might suffice. However by the time your body gets there (and you can improve on #metabolic_efficiency pretty quickly), you might have outgrown the taste of it … Just to warn you 🙂


How to Optimize Your Recovery by Hydrating Properly | TrainingPeaks

Hydration, don’t underestimate its powers! When you are exercising lightly, you probably don’t need to think about it too much. But when the volume of traiing increases it becomes really important to bounce back as quickly as possible. Know your sweat rate and aim to intake 150% of what you loses. Don’t just drink plain water, add salt. Protein and carbohydrates help too in slowing down water absorption and making it easier for your body to retain water.


Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity Confirmed

What is going on? The present review shows that more than 80% of nonceliac patients, labeled as suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity after a favorable response to a gluten-free diet, cannot reach a formal diagnosis after a double-blind, placebo controlled gluten challenge. Is it something else like FODMAPS maybe, to be continued…


Breakfast of Champions

It would be even better with spinach…Another nice blog about periodized carbohydrate intake and how elite cyclists are applying the concept.


Study highlights potential blood sugar management activity of elderberry extracts

Polyphenolic extracts from elderberry (Sambucus nigra) may increase the uptake of glucose and free fatty acids by muscles and help with blood glucose management, says a new study from Norway. Another superfood high in flavonoid. It also reduces inflammation and helps regulating blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity. Whether blueberries, blackcurrant or elderberry, get your blue color in!

The Evidence for Caloric Restriction – Intensive Dietary Management

There is no evidence really that calorie restriction leads to weight loss. Why? Because calorie restriction does not necessarily lead to calorie deficit. Why? Because your body will do everything it can to retain its fat reserve, it will decrease the calorie out or metabolism so that you don’t lose the fat. What can you do then? You have to trick your body in thinking that it has still plenty of food. Keeping blood sugar steady is one way and preserving your lean muscle mass is another.


The “True” Human Diet

From the standpoint of paleoecology, the so-called Paleo diet is a myth. Interesting point of view. We were made to eat what we had. A little bit of everything.


Where do cravings come from?

Understanding where cravings come from can help control them. It’s all about the reward system in the brain: dopamine. L-Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine and could help in keeping those cravings at bay.


How harmful are processed foods?

As soon as you get a food outside of its natural element, it is processed. There is no such thing as #eating_clean. So where do you draw the line if there is such as line? What we know for sure is that the dose makes the poison. Highly processed carbohydrate such as flours are acellular meaning that the starch has been taken out of the plant cells. It gives a product that is highly palatable and so easy to overeat with not that much fiber to counteract. Although, it can serve a function in fueling the athlete, not as much for the sedentary population…


The effect of replacing saturated fat with mostly n-6 polyunsaturated fat on coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

A cornerstone of conventional dietary advice is the recommendation to replace saturated fatty acids (SFA) with mostly n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) to reduce the risk of coronary heart…Are you still scared of saturated fats, This analysis of papers (meta-analysis) shows that there are no advantages for cardiovascular disease of eliminating saturated fats. While n-6 PUFA are clearly more inflammatory. So beware of switching to highly processed vegetable oil in the name of good health…

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading!

What can Metabolic Efficiency do for you: a Case Study

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I reported a while back on Metabolic Efficiency (ME), how it works and its effect on health and performance. Metabolic Efficiency is the body’s ability to burn more fat instead of carbohydrates for the same intensity. It is trainable with nutrition (75%) and  training (25%). In that earlier post, I had also given an example of two athletes and how different they were and how that would impact their racing nutrition. Today I would like to talk about one athlete that went through a Metabolic Efficiency training and how it impacted her.

First the introduction. We’ll call her Jen.


  • Over 50, Age Grouper, Female
  • Long time casual but committed athlete, triathlon about 10 seasons
  • Not overweight
  • Cholesterol – borderline/ high / creeping up in recent tests

Jen came to me very frustrated. She wondered if her self-directed nutrition “formula” was holding her back from performance improvements (i.e. ability to sustain energy levels during longer trainer runs without GI discomfort, and ultimately, race specific improvement). If she followed the gel package instructions (one gel every 45 minutes), how could there be GI issues?


  • Eat more protein – range depending on daily plan of activity/exercise
  • Eat protein and fats with carbohydrates, which led to a decrease in overall carbohydrates.
  • Match carbohydrate intake during exercise to effort level and amount her body could absorb without distress.


  • Decrease requirement for nutrition during training and racing
  • Improved training performance
  • Improvement in Metabolic Efficiency- pre-intervention, burned 98g /hour carbohydrate for her 70.3 effort, post intervention, 42g/ hour. A huge improvement.
  • Weight loss (7%) and fat loss
  • Lower cholesterol


The first thing we did was a nutritional analysis. Jen had pretty good eating habits. She was at a healthy weight too. She did not eat excessive processed foods,except for the sports nutrition product whether bar or gel here and there. She took in the gels in the amount and frequency recommended on the package. She also was pretty good at eating her fruits and vegetables. But, she loved her pastas and breads, having grown up in an Italian home!

Overall on a typical exercise day lasting 1 hour in the day, she would eat 2200 kcal. I was actually surprised, this was a lot for a small woman like Jen. It turns out that when we tested her on the metabolic cart, her energy expenditure at rest is 1500 kcal. On average for a women her age and height, I had calculated 1200kcal. So a 300 kcal difference is huge. That is why using average especially for athletes,  is not always optimal and that is what most apps use. Jen is definitely one of those lucky lady always full of energy who can eat pretty much anything and won’t gain much weight!

Her macronutrients breakdowns showed up to be 75g fats, 300g carbohydrates and 92g protein. Pretty typical American diet.  She was mostly a sugar burner, and therefore needed more carbohydrates during a race, which could eventually lead to GI distress.

Her Metabolic Efficiency test confirmed that. In  this first graph, we see her cross-over from fat burning to sugar burning is at 1.9W/kg, which for her is 95 Watts and corresponds to her Zone 1 or 2 approximately or fairly easy effort for her. So for her 70.3 effort at about 2.4 W/kg she would burn 98 g/hour of carbohydrate, which is definitely a lot!

Graph 1: Jen metabolic efficiency results pre-intervention. Here it is reported in Watts/kg versus % of Fat (red) versus Carbohydrates (blue) burned.

Also Jen shared with me her blood test results and her total cholesterol was at at 230 while her LDL (bad cholesterol) was at 130 and HDL (good cholesterol) was at 76. Her total cholesterol was a little high as well as her LDL by current standard, the ratio of total to HDL was still pretty good.

We worked on Jen’s nutrition with the goal of improving her Metabolic Efficiency.  How? We tried to pair her carbohydrate intake with protein and fats. At the same time, we reduced the amount of carbohydrates a little bit and increased her protein and good fat intake. It took a couple of months of tweaking to finally nail things down. This is what she reported six months later:

“Today I ran 1:40, 11 + miles. At 7 am I ate one toast w butter, 1 hard boiled egg and about 4 spoons of plain fage yogurt with a tsp of honey. A little milk in about 4 oz of reg coffee. I drank about 20 – 24 oz of water during the run and ate only one (not a package) clif block (30 calories at 1:18 mark. I didn’t really need it but it was there so I ate one). I was totally fine energywise. Really good news after I struggled last year by eating too many carbs at once from those gels and not feeling well. Whoopee.”

In the process she lost a eight pounds, which on her petite physique was huge. Her % body fat remained healthy. She also had a reduction in her total cholesterol (215), her LDL cholesterol (109) and her good HDL cholesterol raised a little bit to 81. Her doctor was happy and stopped badgering her about taking statins.  

Now, how was her Metabolic Efficiency test? Again we tested her on the bike using a similar protocol.

Graph​ ​2:​ ​Jen​ ​metabolic​ ​efficiency​ ​results​ ​post-intervention.​ ​Here​ ​it​ ​is​ ​reported​ ​in​ ​Watts/kg​ ​versus​ ​% of​ ​Fat​ ​(red)​ ​versus​ ​Carbohydrates​ ​(blue)​ ​burned.

Her crossover was now at 2.4W/kg (approximately 140W). She improved by 45 W! Now if we look at the amount of carbohydrate she burns at 2.4 W/kg (her 70.3 pace) remember that she used to burn 97g/hour and now gets by with 42g/hour of carbohydrate. If you take into account that a women like Jen might have at the most 300g of carbohydrate stored in her legs, she would last no more than 3 hours without feeling the need to significantly slow down, now she lasts much longer and could potentially go faster. And she did. She PRd at her next 70.3.

And all this just by making some modifications to her diet that would allow her body to learn to burn more fat. It is not even low carb by any means since Jen was still eating about 100-150g of carbohydrates per day and even more on days where she exercised a lot.

Good job Jen!

The Ultimate Guide to Carbohydrates for Training and Racing

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Are you confused when you go to your favorite sport store as to which type of powder, gel, liquid or bar you are going to buy for your next endurance event? Do you prefer to use real food instead? This guide is for you, so you can make a sense of what is being sold and don’t get too caught up in the latest hype.

The simple sugar


At the bottom of the food chain there is the simple sugar glucose or also called dextrose which is the simplest form of carbohydrate. Glucose is in regular table sugar (also called sucrose or cane sugar) that we have in our household to add in our coffees or when baking. It is actually glucose and fructose linked together (scroll down for more on fructose). However, glucose alone has made a comeback in the Sports Nutrition industry and I’ve seen many athletes jumping on a product called *Glukos, which is basically what the name says: glucose (original right?). Other products such as *Skratch  and *Osmo have been on the market for longer and also contain glucose. These are more meant for re-hydration and I’ll explain why below.

Advantages: We have a lot of glucose receptors in our gut and this molecule gets easily absorbed in the blood stream giving a quick boost of energy. Glucose gets readily used by muscles during exercise and that’s a bonus.

Disadvantages: Here is the short list

-You can’t pack a lot of glucose in a solution without affecting the osmolality of the solution. The higher the osmolality the longer it takes for the stomach to empty its content. The stomach must draw more water in to dilute it. As a result, it takes longer to empty and can lead to GI distress, endotoxemia and inflammation. Not good. Product like Skratch and Osmo are designed so that their osmolality is just right so it does not affect the emptying. But what if you decide to eat some solid food on top of that? Then it all goes haywire and slows down everything.

-It can make you crash. Yes, your body sees a high concentration of blood sugar, it reacts by bringing it way down via insulin and the working muscle and leaves you with an empty feeling. The only way to remediate is to have another dose, again and again and again leading potentially to GI distress.

-In theory, it can shut down lipid metabolism. Your body won’t be able to use this endless reserve now that you have that much sugar on board, again leaving you with that crashy feeling.

When to use: Given what I just mentioned the best time to use something with glucose would be at the end of a long race to give you a final kick, or before short very hard races such as a < 5K.

The other simple sugar

Another commonly used simple sugar is fructose. Fructose is often added in gels and is naturally present in fruits and vegetables. Fructose does not raise insulin as much as glucose therefore is lower on the glycemic index. But it also does not regulate appetite as well and can lead to over-consumption, so beware.

Disadvantages: Fructose enters the body via a difference receptor which is less dominant than the glucose receptor. That is why one has to be careful when eating fructose. Eating too much fructose can lead to gastro-intestinal discomfort as fructose will not be absorbed as much in the gut.

Advantages: for the same reason, since fructose and glucose do not enter the body via the same receptor fructose is a good addition to a sport nutrition strategy. It will enable absorption of more carbohydrates and therefore could result in enhanced performance.

When to use: during long events when more carbohydrates need to be ingested, fructose is a good complement. Make sure that the ratio of fructose to glucose does not exceed 1 to 3 to be safe.  Most fruits and other sweetener will have a ratio of 1:1. Check here for more info.

Question: What is coconut sugar? Is that a good option?

Coconut sugar is sugar! And very close to table sugar with maybe a little bit more nutrients. But marketers want you to believe that it is a healthy alternative to sugar. Well unfortunately not…So beware and look on the labels.

A notch above the simple sugar


A more complex carbohydrate is maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a starch that has been slightly broken down. Read below to know more about starches. It is often used in gels and digest more slowly than simple carbohydrates

Disadvantages: it doesn’t empty the stomach that quickly but still better than simple sugars for same amount.

When to use: Maltodextrin should be use in my opinion like glucose more for short efforts and at the end of long races to give a final kick.  It could be used during if the dose is divided, so one doesn’t have too much at a time. A whole gel has 22 g of maltodextrin, clearly too much. Divide it in half for a more sustainable effect.

Question: I heard that cyclic maltodextrin is a better option?

Cyclic maltodextrin is a maltodextrin that has been branched via an enzymatic reaction so that the osmolality is lower for similar amount of maltodextrin. Therefore, it is easier on the stomach. Worth trying if maltodextrin is not for you. EFS-Pro* by First Endurance contains a mix.



Simply put, a starch is a chain of glucose found in plants. The chain can be highly branched, we call it amylopectin or more in a straight line, we call it amylose. The higher the amylopectin, the faster it will be converted to glucose in the blood. Did you know that glycogen is the animal equivalent of starches in plants?  Starches can be found in the Sports Nutrition market. UCAN super starch* is one of them. It has been modified to make it even harder to digest and as a result glucose from this starch takes much longer to appear in the blood.  Another example is Vitargo*, a starch that digest very quickly and is a little bit the opposite of the previous one. Of course, you can also get starches from real food such as potatoes and rice. Notably sushi rice and waxy maize are very high in amylopectin and therefore readily accessible by the body

Advantages:  Starch are usually slower to digest and depending on the brand you buy, it can be very slow or faster. Because they are slower to digest it will enable the body to keep burning fat as fuel which can definitely be in advantages for longer events but again it will depend on the type of starch and the dose. Also, since starches are more compact, they don’t rise osmolality and they will empty the stomach much more quickly than maltodextrin and glucose

Disadvantages: Since these starches are digested more slowly it can be at a disadvantage depending on the type of event that you are doing.

When to use: As you might’ve guessed starches are very useful for longer events. Since the intensity is a little lower you won’t need as much glucose a once but need to sustain a certain level.  Starches will enable you to keep burning fats. But remember, not all starches are created equal and some starches are actually designed to digest more quickly such as Vitargo, so try before.

There are a ton of carbohydrate forms out there and these are some of the basic ones.  It’s always good to experiment with different kinds either alone or in combination to make sure your body will be able to utilize them when it needs it. Consult with a good sport nutritionist to fine tune what will work for you!

*I’m not sponsored by any of these and will never be. Well, never say never. I would not say no to a million dollars.


Is Coca-Cola a Sports Drink?

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dc5c0d03-b772-4779-9596-cb85415fc190Coca-Cola is in deep sugary bubbly waters. Its sales have dropped and so did other colas. A group called the Global Energy Balance Network, led by scientists and created by Coca-Cola, announced this year that it was shutting down after months of pressure from public health. This supposedly research based group was promoting the fact that obesity was created by lack of exercise and not diet. Of course, that meant that if you did exercise you could drink all the Coke you want!

But Coca-Cola is still everywhere. It was a partner of the Rio Olympic games. It is also prevalent in triathlon where it sponsors teams and some very good athletes such as team Bravo with Rachel Joyce. It also sponsors the HITS triathlon series, and the list goes on.

Now to answer the question: is Coke a Sports Drink? Well believe it or not Coke has been the subject of multiple scientific papers. There are three things that makes Coke interesting: sugar content, caffeine content and carbonation. Let’s look at these.

Sugar content:

Coke has way too much sugar! If you look at the label Coca-Cola has 104g of high fructose corn syrup per 32oz. Compare it to 56g of dextrose (glucose) per 32oz in Gatorade, and 18g-22g of glucose per 32 oz in Osmo and Skratch (And you thought these did not have any sugar? Sorry to break the news)

What is exactly high fructose corn syrup? I’m sure you’ve heard about that it is creating the epidemics of obesity. Maybe, but the reality is that any sugar consumed in too much quantities will do that and HFCS is no worse than table sugar or even honey. The only difference is that the HFCS contained in Coca-Cola has 55% Fructose/45% Glucose compared to table sugar who has a 50/50 content.

Fructose enters the body via a different receptor and is metabolized differently, but it does not raise insulin as much. It might be a good thing if in small quantities but the liver can only take so much before it transforms it to fat. Too much fructose could also cause more stomach upset in athletes.

Glucose, the other part of the HFCS, can definitely lead you onto the sugar roller-coaster if absorbed in too high quantities. The sugar roller coaster is a concept in which when the glucose level in the plasma is very high, the body reacts to it by bringing it way down, which could lead to crashing.

Also because the sugar concentration in Coke is high, the stomach will need to draw water in so the sugar can get absorbed in the gut.

Tip: When drinking Coke during a race, aim for no more than 2oz (two gulps) every 10-15 minutes so you don’t get on the sugar roller-coaster. Of course, if you have 45 min or less left well go for it, it does not really matter at that point and you just want to finish strong. Remember also to drink water with it to dilute the sugars and think about other electrolytes as Coke does not have much.


Caffeine is a potent ergogenic for sports. However, the recommended dose is about 1-2 mg/pounds to be effective. This dose is most likely effective for reducing RPE and sensation of pain as well as increase fat burning. But smaller doses have shown an effect on waking up the brain as at the end of a long race. Coke has only 2.8mg/oz of caffeine wile Red Bull for example has a bit more with 9 mg/oz. Still not a lot but might be enough to “wake” you up.

Tip: If you are looking for a real caffeine boost, Coke might not be the best. Red Bull is a little better but not by much unless you drink the whole thing (hello sugar roller coaster). Instead try caffeine pills.

Bubbles, bubbles:

Although most studies have shown an effect with defizzed Coke, there is something to say about the bubble effect. The bubble effect has never studied it but I have my suspicions…

Two studies looked at the effect of carbonation on gastric emptying and performance. Nothing bad to be reported here. But it is important to note that adding carbonation to a drink decreases the pH significantly and may have an effect on soothing the stomach as it could get rid of some unwanted gut bacteria that could be developing during long and hot endurance events. Also, carbonation may stimulate neuro receptors in the mouth, which could potentially prevent cramping.

Tip: If carbonation makes you feel good during a race, go for it. There are no detriments to it and maybe some advantages. You don’t have to have Coke but plain bubbly water might work too.

Like everything in life nothing is just evil or good and Coca-Cola might have its place in endurance sports!

What is a Performance Nutritionist

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Screenshot 2016-07-05 14.31.16
What is in Cavendish recovery shake…

I have heard it all from endurance athletes:

“I felt great on the bike but then my stomach started bothering me on the run”

“I totally bonked”

“I had to stop at the porta-potty five times”

“I did not feel like eating at all”

“I had never tried that bar before and it was disgusting”

“I had to slow down because of a cramp”

“I bought Dura-Ace components so it could save me a pound of weight”

“I was light-headed and ended up in the medical tent”

“I missed my goal by 2 seconds”

“I’m tired all the time!”

Do some of those sound familiar to you too?

Whether it is gastro-intestinal issues, blood sugar imbalance, body composition goals, training adaptations optimization, this is what a Performance Nutritionist, like me,  can help you with.

Often athletes focus on the followings first and foremost:

-They hire a coach (useful!)

-Buy a good bike, good shoes and/or wetsuit as light and fast as possible ($$$)

-Train hard (a must)

-Race (of course)

-Do fairly  well (congrats),

-And repeat…

Until GI distress, fatigue, training plateaus and other issues come in the way.  Isn’t there something missing here? What about your BODY, also called your engine? Shouldn’t you start with first making sure you are healthy and ready, before entering in the realm of endurance events?

This is what I do:

-Make sure you are going to be your healthiest self. I use the Metabolic Efficiency principles to help your body burn more fat as you become less reliant on carbohydrates. This leads to better long term health management, improved body composition, reduced inflammation and faster recoveries. To know about Metabolic Efficiency, check out my blog here and this website.

-Make sure that you are properly fueled for training and racing, so you get the most training adaptations and have your body ready for race day.

-Make sure that you get the right supplements, backed up by science, to complement your daily nutrition if need be, to help you recover better and give you an edge too!

Please contact me to know more about my services. We’ll get you to the finish line at your best!

How to Fuel an Ultramarathon the “Other” Way




Disclaimer: this was “only” 50k so it does qualify barely for an ultrarunning event as it is longer than a marathon. BUT it is also a very hilly course and had over 6000 ft of total ascension. It was absolutely beautiful with ocean views, forest runs and brutal descents. Here is a course overview.

It really took me a long time to write this post I know. I do not think that my story is particularly interesting or even worth sharing as an average middle age-grouper but sometimes I like to go a little bit more personal and share with the world my bigger accomplishments

I just remembered to write this post, when the other day I was watching a lecture on Nutrition for UltraRunning. As traditionally recommended*, the lecturer was suggesting 6-10g/kg day and during the race 90g/hr. She claims that your gut can get used to it and that will give you the best performances. She obviously has not heard of Zach Bitter, Tim Olsen, Nikki Kimball or myself (LOL!). Here is how I did it.

Since my Ironman in August I was focusing on running and was increasing my mileage. I also had a half-marathon at the end of October which I was trying to PR at (and I did!). After that event,  I ramped up my mileage and I got up to 33 miles on hills, 3 weeks before the event. Not a lot but enough to get me through and since I was also cross training, I guess it was fine. I know that if you are a “serious” runner, this is pretty low, but hey I’m a triathlete what can I say.

It started very early in the morning, got up at 4am and had a HUGE coffee with MCT oil, butter and collagen protein to get me going. I had to catch the shuttle at 5:15. I had with me my gym bag and my nutrition. The start was at 7am, so I started to “drink” my breakfast at 5:30, around the fire pit because it was really cold out there. What was in my secret potion: UCAN 2 scoops, a little vanilla whey powder, some cocoa nibs, chia seeds and some mangoes. I calculated about 400 calories and with the earliest coffee with fat, that is up to 660 calories consisting of mostly fats, with some carbs (55g) and some proteins (15g). So still a good “breakfast” but mostly easily digestible and the fats had been absorbed long time ago. Of course the days leading up to the race, I had eaten more carbohydrates than usual: sweet potatoes and rice. Oh yes and an ice cream sandwich (oops). While it might be considered taboo by certain people I find that for me (and some clients) high glycemic food work better because they get in the system easily without the bloat that certain whole grains and potatoes can create (hello resistant starch). For me there is no good or bad food, it’s all about timing and dose!

My goal was to start very conservative in zone 2. I had mostly trained by HR so I would try to keep it there even on the hills which meant a little bit of walking. I’m used to do shorter and faster races where you usually don’t walk. Also, during training I rarely walked except to practice some fast hiking up the hills. So this was a little bit of a change but the good thing is that everybody was doing it so I did not feel out of place.

I must admit though, I went too fast on the first downhills and would pay for it later. Downhills are so taxing on your body and I know that by experience. I would still bomb the downhills because in my head I wanted to make up the time. Bad idea as you will see later…

After some downhills and rollers, I finally reached Muir Beach. Everything felt great at that point. Had not started eating yet, was not feeling hungry. Then I reached Cardiac Hill. I’m pretty familiar with it but during training never went to the top really, only once a long time ago. So I thought piece of cake (no pun here). But then I remembered why they called it Cardiac Hill, it’s mighty long but it’s not so steep so you can run it in zone 2. So I just went chugging along. That is also when I had my first dose of UCAN  with 5g BCAA at about 1:45 in. All is good I feel great.

I reached the top of Cardiac Hill and that is where the 50mi course comes back and I could see those 50 milers coming in, the elite ones anyway. Going down the other side they were just leaping like gazelles as I was watching them passing by, totally bewildered but also impressed. I was also trying to go as fast as I could but again little did I know…

The next part is all of a blur as I was not too familiar with the course at that point. I did not think there would be so many ups and downs, but yes. I had an almond butter ball sometime in there. Was not feeling hungry but just in case. More ups and down later, right before the Muir Beach station that is when I started feeling my hip, that dreaded pain that leads to IT band syndrome. Sometime in there I had another dose of UCAN with BCAA at about 3:45 in.  I then reached Muir Beach and by then was feeling a little euphoric, mmm where did that come from, ketones maybe? I don’t think I was dehydrated, I was drinking to thirst and this was a very mild day, not very hot and overcast. I know I was under 500 ml/hr of water but I was fine. Better to be lightly dehydrated than overhydrated, to avoid hyponatremia.

Then I went on the toughest hill in my view, the one between Muir Beach and Tennessee Valley. Very steep. Walked a lot there. Had another half of an almond butter ball before I headed down Fox. Boom, 25 miles, like if my body knew: whoa you never ran further in your life girl! Because that is when my IT really started acting up and I decided to walk down the downhill too. Not good. But I knew better and did not want to get a full blown injury. Fortunately, I could still run on the flats and uphills and that is what I did. I was doing the opposite of everybody else, walking downhill and running uphill. Ha

Last aid station at Tennessee at around 5:30. Decided not have more UCAN as I had about an hour left with the walking. Also had a bit of flavor fatigue, instead opted for Coke my favorite for the last hour of an event: caffeine and sugar! And I took a couple of cups in before I attacked the last hill of the day. After that I also walked the downhill but finished strong on the last stretch: 6:30, 3rd AG. A fluke I guess, but I’ll take it.

Overall: 414 Cal, 64 Cal/hr, 14g carbs/hr

No GI issues, energy plenty, euphoria a plus?, IT well could do better next time! So this is another way for fueling for an ultrarunning event without the carb loading, vomiting, stomach ache. Is it the best way? Who knows, it works for me and let me achieve pretty good things. As a sports nutritionist, I try to keep neutral in the diet wars, I have to. Could this be applied to longer event, to faster athletes? Certainly. Check out the blog of these above pro athletes to know more. Want to try yourself? Hook up with a metabolic efficiency trained nutritionist.

*Burke LM, Hawley J a., Wong SHS, Jeukendrup AE. Carbohydrates for training and competition. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(sup1):S17-S27. doi:10.1080/02640414.2011.585473.

Somewhere in the Headlands.

To Drink or Not. To Salt or Not. That is the Question.

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Hydration is a hot and sweaty topic right now and I’ve talked about it in previous blogs, mostly to say that you should drink to thirst. But should you really in all cases? And what about electrolytes? Here is a lowdown about the debate of the moment: to drink or not to drink, to salt or not to salt? That is the question.

Two sides

There are two main lines of thought out there. One lead by Pr Tim Noakes who claims in his famous book Waterlogged published in 2012, the followings:

-We are able to regulate our blood sodium concentration very tightly and we have enough reserve in our body to supplement sodium losses in even very long endurance event.

-Being dehydrated is not a detriment to performance as the winners of marathon often have up to 10% body loss. Therefore drinking to thirst is a very valid approach.

So there you have it, one end of the spectrum where it basically says that you are going to be fine if you drink to thirst and electrolytes are not necessary because we have so much salt in our body that it is enough to get us through even an Ironman.

In fact, Pr. Noakes published a paper entitled: sodium supplementation is not required to maintain serum sodium concentration in Ironman triathlete. In this paper, he looked at IM athletes and their sodium intake versus performance and blood sodium concentration. While he did not see any difference between the groups for blood sodium concentration, muscle soreness and performance, there is still a reduction in muscle soreness in the experimental group however not significant. Also, if you read carefully (and that is why you should never just read the abstract and jump to conclusions), you are going to notice that the experimental group did not take a lot of sodium at all, maybe 300 mg/hour which might not be enough as you will see.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum represented by the American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM) who were recommending in the 1990s to drink  about 600ml to 1.2L per hour of fluid with electrolytes to sustain performance, based on some more or less valid studies a lot of them funded by the Gatorade Sport Science Institute (GSSI, ahem). They also claim that a 2% dehydration leads to overheating and decline in performance.

Following these recommendations, there was at the same time  a resurgence of athletes that showed hyponatremia during races, a dangerous condition where there is a decline in blood sodium concentration that can even lead to death. Correlation or causation? One thing to note is that those who were afflicted by that were middle of the pack runners who were actually GAINING weight over the course of a marathon because they often drank a lot of water on the higher side of the recommendation. Elite runners would not get subjected to that because most often they would drink much less. Let’s face it, have you ever tried to drink while sprinting? Pretty hard. So yes that is why most elite lose a lot of water, but they still do very well. Could they do even better if they had an IV in with fluids while running? Maybe! But that would be pretty hard to do and that study has not been done yet and I don’t know if it will!

Is the salty sweater a myth?

The thing is that we are all salty sweater, because we all sweat sodium.  But one thing is sure, there is a lot of variability in sodium losses among people (see graphs below from a poster from Coyle’s lab funded by the GSSI of course). This figure  demonstrates the sodium loss of athletes during a moderate intensity 30min spin in the heat. As you can see, it varies enormously. Most of this variation is regulated by our genes. It is even reported that if you are the carrier for Cystic Fibrosis you may be losing more sodium to sweat than not and this mutation is not as uncommon as we think.  It will also vary with heat acclimatization, altitude and sodium intake in diet.


Let’s say that highest sodium losses are at about 140 meq/hr, that is 3.2g/hr (!!!) that is quite a bit of sodium. Most people will be at around 35mEq/hr or 800 mg/hr.

But won’t taking salt help with cramps regardless?

Cramps is another subject well discussed among athletes and electrolytes supplementation has always been advised to prevent cramps. But lately some studies have shown that ingesting something like sour like pickle juice would alleviate the cramp pretty quickly. But how do you define a cramp? There is the cramp cramp where a muscle seizes locally due to overstraining or fatigue of a muscle group. And that is what we are talking about here. But then according to other scientist there is another type of cramp that can occur during long endurance event, you know that kind of achiness felt more generally in the legs? The scientist from the GSSI (again) claims that this type of cramp could be alleviated by sodium intake. Remember that study from Pr Noakes? It showed there was no effect but then was there enough sodium ingested,  given the fact that some athlete can lose much more from the chart above. Again there are no specific studies that looked at that. But how many times have I heard that salt was helping an athlete not to get cramp. Maybe it is the placebo effect but maybe there is something to it and scientists should listen to the athletes!

Who is right and who is wrong?

Based on what we know, one thing is sure avoid overdrinking. Clearly 1.2L per hour is too much for most people and one should follow their thirst. You will probably get dehydrated and it is OK. Better than hyponatremia. You can also acclimatize yourself to dehydration and regain some of the lost performance by starting some training sessions slightly dehydrated! Women should also be careful. Hormonal variation especially during the luteinizing phase makes us drink more and we tend to retain more water so thirst might not be the best mechanism. Also as we get more tired, the thirst sensation might get impaired. So maybe drinking to thirst is fine but you should definitely monitor your intake and above 800 ml/hour, you should be watching yourself for symptoms of hyponatremia.  This is in agreement with the new ACSM guidelines which recommends 400-800ml/hour but also says that there are no blanket statement as everybody is different. For longer event such as Ironman and Ultrarunning bigger people and heavy sweater in the heat, it is possible that you still could be very thirsty and that 800 ml/hr would not be enough. If you are sweating 2L/hr, 800 ml/hr for a 70kg athlete would make you lose 18% of body weight during an Ironman. Way to much.  You are therefore encouraged during training in similar condition as your race to assess your sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after. You might not be able to absorb 2L/hr though but you can try to get closer to this rate if that is your case.

Should you replenish with electrolytes too? Definitely not for shorter events <2-3 hours in mild temperature. But for longer or warmer events, if you are a heavy sodium sweater it would be worth a try to see if this strategy would alleviate some of the achiness later in an event. Practice during training start with 250mg/hour up to 1g/hour and see how you feel. You can also add more salt to your diet the days preceding an event. You should always drink at least 2-3oz of water every time you take in a salt pill such as salt tab which has 240 mg of sodium per tablet.  That way it gets easily absorbed and does not end up as a brine sitting in your stomach. If salt is too concentrated, your stomach would have to draw water in before it gets absorbed. Not good. If you are using plain water with that adding  a pinch of salt to your water helps with absorption. Carbohydrates are even better at doing that, so you could also add a little sweetness (1tsp or less) to it such as honey or maple syrup (less fructose).

Some  products on the market are banking on that already and already contain a mix of carbohydrates and sodium. That is why Osmo for example designed for hydration has a lot of sugar in it, up to 18g/16 oz but only 300 mg of sodium so it is a good thing to be aware of if it is part of your fueling plan. Another similar product is Skratch Lab. Gatorade has even less sodium, higher osmolality and even more sugar. I like SOS rehydrate which has 660 mg of Na per 500 ml, the right osmo and only 6g of sugar plus extra magnesium, definitely a bonus for athlete (and I’m not even sponsored by them). But the best in my mind is the salt tablet as mentioned above because you get total control of what works for you.

If you really want to take the doubt out of this, you can actually get tested to know your sodium sweat rate and basic sweat rate. More and more labs are now offering this. You would then know at which end of the spectrum you are. Although be aware that this is not a fixed value and will vary to a certain degree (heat acclimatization, hormonal status, diet…)

I personally do well with 500mg/hour, but was wondering lately if I should try to go even higher? So I’m going to get tested soon. Stay tuned!









What can you do for *ME and what can ME do for you?



This post was first published in the Run Experience in a slightly different version.

*Metabolic Efficiency is too long so let’s call it ME. Metabolic=metabolism and efficiency, well we know what it means. But the two together? How can your metabolism be efficient.

So here we go:

What is exactly Metabolic Efficiency?

First thing first, the Metabolic Efficiency concept was developed originally by Bob Sebohar, the renown Sport Dietitian. (Check out his website for the full story).

It is the capability of burning fat instead of carbs for the same intensity. You can train your body’s metabolism to use more fat at higher intensity exercise so that it results in glycogen sparing and be more efficient. Glycogen is the sugar reserve that you have in your body and is in limited quantity. Does it make more sense now?

How do you achieve that?

Training: The more trained you are, the most able you are to burn fat. In fact there was a recent study that showed just that. They took 9 pro athlete and 9 recreational athlete and compared for the same RPE their performance. They actually consumed the same amount of carbohydrates, the same amount of lactate was produced but guess what the pro athletes were much faster because they burned 3 times as much fat as their counterpart, so more energy generated from fats for same RPE. So they were faster for same RPE.

Gender: Women are usually better at burning fat. Yes, for once we have an advantage. Maybe it has something to do with us carrying babies and having to rely more on our reserve to grow life when food is restricted.

Exercise mode:  You burn more fat running than cycling because running is much more a whole body exercise, you recruit more muscle but at a lower intensity for each one. While cycling put a high demand on your legs muscle primarily. That is why you can get away with eating less during running compared to bicycling even when you burn much more energy.

Fasting: When you are fasting your body burns more fat because of lower insulin in your body. Insulin is known to shut down fat metabolism towards carb metabolism.

Age: As we get older we are better at burning fat. Yes really. Maybe that is why older athletes often shine in ultra endurance events.


Day to day nutrition: And that is the big one. Do you boat load carbohydrates on a daily basis or do you fuel mostly on fat? If you fuel mostly on fat your body will adapt and burn more fat. Even if on race day you decide to carb load because you want to go long and fast (and carbohydrates are necessary to do that), this effect won’t just reverse, you will still burn more fat and be able to spare glycogen. This has tremendous consequences on health and performance.


How can you measure your metabolic efficiency?

You can go to lab and get hooked on a metabolic cart. It is a machine that measures the oxygen that you breathe and the carbon dioxide that you exhale. Using an algorithm, it can tell you how much fat and carbohydrate you are burning while on a treadmill or a cycle ergometer.


From there you can derive your caloric needs during training and racing at different paces. As you increase intensity, you will start burning more and more carbohydrates.

Here are two examples on the treadmill with two different athletes. Important to note that both of them report similar RPE for similar speed:

ME Figure 3

This athlete has a crossover point between 9 and 8.5 min/mile, meaning that they start burning more carbohydrates passed the 8.75 min/mile mark.

In this second example, this athlete has no crossover and is still burning more fat at 7.5 min/mile. Interestingly, this athlete burn mostly fat at rest. Do you think that she needs to eat carbohydrate when working at her desk?

ME Figure 1

Two totally different pictures. Let’s do a little math and take the 8min/mile mark.

First athlete:

695 kcal/hour

72% from carbs

500 kcal/hour or 125 g/hour of carbs

Approximately 30% comes from plasma glucose (from a classic paper by Luc van Loon et al. 2001)

87 g/carbs per hour

Assuming 300 glycogen reserve, that is 3.5 hours of fuel.

Second athlete:

695 kcal/hour

34% from carbs

208 kcal/hour or 52 g/hour of carbs

Approximately 30% comes from plasma glucose

36 g/carbs per hour

Assuming 300 glycogen reserve, that is 8.3 hours of fuel.

OK, I know, this might be an oversimplification.  One caveat of this calculation is that as duration increases your body will naturally start burning more fat. Also we have reserves of fat stored in our muscles, the more fat burning you have the more you store. These reserve also can get depleted which leaves you with your bodily reserves which, as you know are pretty unlimited even for the leanest athlete. How easily are those reserves accessed though? It can be more challenging.

Overall this is just to show you the advantage for endurance events. There are other advantages such as health, minimizing bonking, minimizing GI distress and also less acidosis because less lactate produced.

Does it work for everyone?

Most people report feeling great when they train their body to burn more fat: less sugar craving, less bonking, less eating during training and less GI distress. Does it work for everyone? Everyone is different and you might reach a point where lowering carbohydrates too much is too low (unless ketosis is what you are looking for).  Listen to your body! And remember that you still need some carbohydrates for long endurance event or even short and fast races, so timing is key! Consult with a good sports dietitian or nutritionist to know what works for you.

PS INprove.ME : the IN stands for Isabelle Nadeau and the ME for Metabolic Efficiency. You can always Get it? Get it?


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This post was originally published in The Run Experience in a slightly different version.

Today I’m feeling sore. I was fine yesterday, exercised and then I woke up this morning feeling old and grumpy. Dumb DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

So what is DOMS? There are many theories but nobody knows for sure how it happens. It’s biology so it is probably a mix of things. Among the popular explanations are : connective tissue damage, muscle damage, accumulation of calcium inside the muscle and in between fibers and inflammation. It mostly happens doing eccentric exercises. Basically anytime you lower a weight in a controlled fashion or when running downhill in a races.

What can be done?

In theory DOMS is a minor injury, so RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) should apply here. Rest: It will go away in a couple of days. However you can still exercise and the pain will disappear temporarily but come back shortly after. Ice: The idea is to reduce inflammation and it has definitely mixed results in the literature. It could also blunt the training adaptation, more on this below. I don’t know about you but ice is torture to me. Compression and Elevation: From what I’ve seen it has some potential, and I’ve tried it myself. I love the 2XU pants and I’ll wear them at work sometimes under everything. It removes some of the pain and makes my legs feel lighter.

Nothing works for me better than a hot bath with magnesium salts. And from the literature, it looks like two days before an event would also benefit recovery after. Last but not least: massage. Ouch! My husband always think that I’m having a leisurely relaxing one hour massage. Let me tell you the truth. It hurts like hell and is even more painful than the training. I usually do not like to get a massage when I have DOMS, same reason as ice bath, why create more pain? But after a couple of days, it is always a good idea to remove the remaining knots in your muscle.

What about nutrition?

A lot can be done there too. The key answer: proteins and carbohydrates together. That is how the Got Chocolate Milk campaign was born. It is a bit of a big FAT scam or I should say a big SUGAR scam since most of these studies supporting milk chocolate for recovery were founded by the milk industry…

Don't get me wrong, I love Mirinda. (Go get them Mirinda!)
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mirinda. (Go get them Mirinda!)

They are not wrong but try this option with less sugar: blend together milk, whey or plant protein (half a scoop to 1 scoop), a banana and some cocoa powder (of good quality)! Tip: You can add whey or plant protein to your milk to make it higher in protein content, about half a scoop!)


Milk has the advantage of having the electrolytes compared to the whey. None of the sugar and same effect. Plus the chocolate powder might have some good recovery properties because it contains quercetin a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

But beware, more on this below.

After a hard session, papers report that in general 0.8g/kg of carbs + 0.4g/kg of whey protein works magic or 2:1 ratio carbs to protein to replenish your glycogen stores and keep protein synthesis up and running. That is between 20 and 35g of protein depending on your weight.

Above that amount there is probably no significant impact.

Ideally you’ll want to have this in a meal with real food within 2 hours of your session, but if you can’t, try a protein bar as a snack. (ProBar or Quest as examples) but there are many on the market.

Protein and carbs together work synergistically, as both will increase insulin and promote cellular uptake of nutrients for repair. Instead of whey you can use casein before bed time as it will release more slowly overnight.

Other supplements?

Anti-oxidants of course: Vitamin C, E and NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) are among the most popular anti-oxidants out there. They scavenge free radical (ROS) and help you recover faster. However research is showing that ROS are actually needed for signaling training adaptation. You could totally blunt that response by using too much of them. So use if needed only when no training adaptation is required perhaps during a taper, recovery or the week after a race.

Anti-inflammatory compound are also very useful. Of course, there is the popular over the counter anti-inflammatory Ibuprofen, part of the NSAID category. If I can not sleep,  I will go for it since sleep is one of the most proven way to recover.

But do not abuse.

It has a negative effect on muscle growth and therefore could undermine all your efforts a little bit like too much anti-oxidants. Plus it can give you gastrointestinal issues and other nasty side effects.

A more natural compound would be curcumin or turmeric. It has a similar mechanism of action than NSAID but does not cause thinning of the stomach lining. A recent study has shown that ingesting 2.5g of curmumin twice a day a couple of days before and after the exercise bout could be beneficial. But could it impair training adaptation? I don’t think this has been studied yet but since it acts similarly as NSAID I would not be surprised if it did.

Finally, tart cherry juice has also been studied a lot and here is a good paper. Like many fruit and vegetables, tart cherries contains a lot of anti-oxidants and flavonoids which have anti-inflammatory properties. Using around a marathon would not be a bad idea but during training could potentially inhibits training adaptation. We don’t know yet. Be careful with this one though. Tart cherry juice consumed in the quantities that are suggested contains a lot of xylitol a sugar alcohol that can ferment and give you the runs so definitely test beforehand.

Feeling adventurous?

Have you heard of HMB?  It is a derivative of leucine, one of the most potent amino acid in terms of muscle growth. It has been reported that HMB (Beta-Hydroxy-MethylButyrate free salt) can help alleviate symptoms of DOMS but results are still mitigated. HMB is however safe and worth trying if you know that you will have multiple hard work-outs during the week. It works at reducing protein degradation. A dose of 3 g before exercising would be recommended in that instance.

Then in the same line of thought, amino acids and BCAA, which stands for branched chained amino acid (leucine is one of them) have also shown to reduce DOMS in some instance. Doses vary from 5 to 12g, once or twice per day, 7-10 days before. But since most proteins (in particular whey and casein) contains those, you probably have your grounds covered already.

And then you have Citrulline-malate which at 8g could alleviate DOMS and also L-carnitine, which has to be loaded with 3g/day for 3 weeks for an effect on reducing muscle damage. The good thing about that one is that it also can increase fat metabolism and make you a better fat burner at the same time. Who does not like that?

Beware though, a lot of these studies use muscle damage as a marker which is most likely correlated with muscle soreness but not always and is individual. So see if it works for you.

No Pain No Gain?

Unfortunately, it might be a little bit true.. So my advice go slow and build up, and try some of the strategies listed here. Be aware that some of them could impair training adaptations, so time them carefully.

IM Canada Race Report

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Hi! This is a long post and  I apologize. If you are only interested in the nutrition you can skip my jabbering and go directly to the relevant paragraphs. That is fine with me!

When I started triathlon 10 years ago, I never wanted, never thought I would do an Ironman. Its too crazy, too much, too hard, not good for your health. So then why did I decide to do one? Just that: it’s been 10 years and I had to try one, no choice. Plus my kids were getting bigger and I had quit my job, so no more excuses. Because let’s not underestimate this Ironman, it is a lot of training!

The Training:

In order to be successful I hired a coach, JD. It was so valuable I cannot say the least. He really kept me healthy during the whole process. The training was hard for sure. I had to remember to eat well (of course) and sleep a lot (more challenging).

The bicycling part was the most difficult for me as it takes the longest.  So far in my life,  I had done lots of 60-70 miles bike rides and also lots of bicycling tours but never above the 80 miles mark in one day.  I had a lot of work to do, or so I thought. But JD had me do only four rides that were 80, 90, 100 and 90 miles.  That’s it.

The running came in a little bit more easily because I’ve always been a runner first.  However the longest run I did was only 19 miles with lots of hills which would prove to be much more difficult than the flattish marathon at the end of the IM.

Swimming felt fine, as I had done over the distance several times.

Even with all that, I was not feeling too confident that I would be successful because how can you run a marathon after 112 miles of cycling and 3800 yards of swimming?  However I trusted my coach as he said I was ready so I tried not to worry too much.

The Tapering:

The Ironman was up in Whistler and we decided to drive there in 2 days. I actually thought that driving was a great idea especially if you have someone driving for you. What better than doing nothing for 8 hours with feet elevated on the dashboard. I had been feeling pretty tired but after that drive up and minimal training apart for the treadmill in the hotel gym, I was starting to feel back in the groove of things.

As soon as we got there we went for a swim to Alta lake, where it was going to start. The lake was beautiful and the temperature was perfect (70F). I had brought a sleeveless wetsuit just in case but I did not think I would need it at that point because the weather forecast said it was going to rain. The swim in the lake was great and freshwater is always so nice to swim in, except for the leeches…My husband told me that the swimmer that had gotten out just before me had one stuck to his leg. Nice. And then my son tells me: Mom you have a leech on your ankle! I jumped and looked down, it was only a leaf. Gosh. What can you do if you have a leech stuck to you during the race? That’s enough to drain your blood by the end of it.. I did try not to think about it, anyway it’s always better than being bitten by a shark.

The next day I went for a short bike ride. By then my legs were really feeling fresh! What a difference as I had been training on tired legs a lot.  The road were also wide and well paved. I was finally getting excited.

On the Saturday I did a quick swim and run and started preparing all my transition, special needs bags and nutrition needs. Wow, it’s like planning a wedding. I had a list of all the things to do, where to put them. Then I had to go drop my bicycle at the lake via the shuttles with all my bags except for the nutrition.  I was getting a little nervous then. Fortunately I saw my friend Erika in the shuttle bus so that gave me a break from my thinking brain. I spent the rest of the afternoon prepping nutrition and relaxing. We went out for a good dinner. I did not stuff myself, had chicken veggies and potatoes, very safe. Oh and some dessert too that we shared amongst everybody. And a non-alcoholic beer, because I like the taste.

Race Day!

I had set my alarm at 4:00AM, was planning to get on the first bus at 5AM ish. The start was at 7AM but I preferred that since I did not know what to expect. Of course I was awake by 3:00 and could not sleep anymore. Been there, done that so I know that one night of bad sleep would not impact me that much. I got up and made a super strong Bulletproof coffee. I don’t drink coffee regularly so when I drink one, it’s party time. Just that was making my day already (see earlier post). For those of you who don’t know what a bulletproof coffee is, it is coffee with butter and MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride), it is a type of fat that gets readily absorbed and metabolized pretty quickly, and in your brain too. It is derived from coconut oil. With that on board I started to get ready, I also prepared my pre-race smoothie which I would start drinking an hour before the race start. It contained some almond milk, cliff organic food pouch: banana, mango and coconut, some peanut butter, 2 scoops of plain UCAN superstarch and a little whey protein and that is about it!  Nothing to weighty.

The Swim!

One of the thing I felt ready for was the swim. But I forgot about the MASS START. The coach told me don’t go in the middle and of course this is where I was. I thought I was in the front, but no. I could see Erika, she was right there at the front, she is a fast swimmer and I thought I should be fine where I was. NOT. It was terrible. I could not swim freely for the whole first lap and I had to constantly find holes and ways to not get kicked. It is only after the first lap that I started feeling that I had more space. But even though just to be safe I stayed pretty far from the buoy. As a result my total distance was 4600 yard and normally it is 3800 yards. Rookie mistake number 1! I don’t know how accurate these Garmins are. My watch said that my pace was 1:34, which would have been a little fast. But overall it took me 1:12, I was a bit bummed but the swim is such a small portion that I did not let it get to me too much.

By the time I was out of the water, it was raining hard! I went to get my bag and then remembered about the wet suit strippers. Where were they? Found them got that taken care of and went in the changing tent. That is one nice thing I must say about Ironman, is the changing tent with all the volunteers that help you get dressed. I had decided to change completely and since it was raining I was hesitating on what to wear: wind breaker or no windbreaker: no windbreaker because I was feeling warm (bad decision). Fortunately I stashed it in my pocket just in case. 12 minutes transition! mmm, need to work on that one. Rookie mistake # 2

The Bike!

It was raining hard on the bike. I thought, it is going to be a long day of wetness, first moment of darkness but swooshed that thought away. I was hoping that the forecast was going to clear a little bit later like the weather forecast was saying. On the first 10 miles, I got cold very quickly and was shivering. I hope I don’t get hypothermia, I thought. Pedal faster to warm-up, I said to myself. And so I did, but it did not work that well. Remember that wind breaker? That is when I stopped and put it on. Even though I was all wet under, it still warmed me up. I could see the pros coming back from the first turn around on the other side and some of them were actually quitting already because of the bad weather…Well that does not look good. However I managed to warm up. The only thing is that my wind breaker is not really aerodynamic and was acting more like a parachute. Not good. Rookie mistake # 3.

When I got to the special needs I was happy to have dry socks there. I finally removed my windbreaker because the temperature was raising and it was no longer raining. Then the boring part started: dead flat for 30 miles. Ugh. That was hard for me. I don’t have a TimeTrial bike and my position is not optimal and it was not comfortable. Which made me thought that after this I need to get a real Time Trial bike or quit triathlon because this sucks. That was my dark moment number 2 but I managed to pushed it away and focused in the moment. That meant thinking that I had to go pee badly and was not going to pee on the bike. Really people? Who does that? Mind you I was already wet.  The sad part is that at every aid station there was a long line at the porta-potty. Fortunately I eventually found one which was at the other side of the road and was free!

Then I saw Claire and Erika coming back on the other side and that motivated me to keep the pace. Finally we got to the hills. Yeah! You must think I’m crazy but I was so happy to get out of aero position just sit really straight and push up and up. I was feeling really good at that point, knowing that the bike was going to end soon and that after an uphill, there is a downhill. My legs were getting tired but not too bad. Seven hours and I was done, better than anticipated with those hills!

Me and my parachute.
Me and my parachute.

Bike Nutrition

At least I got the nutrition right!

I got my first dose of UCAN approximately 1:45 hours into the race. I had in it some MCT oil (2tsp) and BCAA (3g) to complement and I would have that every 1:45 or so. I also was eating quarters of BonkBreakers every half hours if no UCAN and alternating with some peanut butter and honey. I really felt good with even energy.

The Run!

I was really happy to finish the bike and get into the run. Was trying not to think that I had to run a marathon until Claire reminded me as we were finishing the bike together (thanks Claire, shut up Claire, you are still my friend though!)

Again, I got in the changing tent for a complete wardrobe turnover! Applied bunch of anti-chaffing everywhere and was ready to go. The volunteer was so encouraging and she told me she was going to be at the finish to tell everybody it was my first one. How nice!

I started running with Claire and saw my family on the side cheering me on. So nice to see them. In my head I did the calculation: 20 aid stations divided by 4 equals 5. I can still do math! OK, let’s focus on the first 5 ones, first one quarter. I would run like that pretty much the whole time: run to #1 as fast as you can, walk, have a sip, eat maybe and then repeat and start over for the next 4. That got me busy. Walking at each aid station also breaks it up and helped avoiding cramping and injury and really it does not change your time that much if you walk for 10 seconds. My pace was pretty even for the whole race but did slow down a little bit as time went on. Oh and no I did not see any bears. 4:26 marathon, pretty far from an open one but I’ll take it!

Going on the run
Going on the run

Run Nutrition

About 30 minutes in I had a dose of UCAN again, with some EAA in it that is it. I also sipped on a Peanut Butter GU gel for an hour . No too much fat not to upset my stomach and anyway I did not feel hungry at all at that point and had good energy. Of course my legs were tired but I guess it is normal. I was only drinking water to thirst at aid station and having salt pills for what it is worth, research is not clear on this one yet! At the special needs I was feeling really thirsty fortunately I had put a Perrier can in my bag and gulped half of it which totally quenched my thirst. I don’t know what it is,  but the combination of bubbles and slight sodium is just wonderful.  At that point I was suppose to take another dose of UCAN but instead I opted to start coking it up. I never drink Coke but this is when I do it because there is always a place for sugar and caffeine! I also started having broth as it was getting cold when it started pouring again.

The Finish!

Hurray, the finish line! I was getting so pumped up and started picking up the pace, I still had it in me. But the villain course designer had us do a zig and a zag in the village before heading to the finish. When is that going to end? Nevertheless, I was so happy and smiling at everyone. I saw my family at the end and high fived everybody at the finish line. This is as close as I’m going to feel like a super star, red carpet and all but definitely not looking too glamorous.


Nutrition Summary

3x27g UCAN orange flavor: 330 kcal,  81g of carbs

1×1.5 scoop plain UCAN: 135 kcal, 33g of carbs

4 tsp BCAA, 2.5 g/tsp

6 tsp MCT oil: 200 kcal

4 Tsp peanut butter: 400 kcal, 28g of carbs

8 tsp honey: 160 kcal, 40 g carbs

1.75 Bonk Breakers: 473 kcal, 58g of carbs

1 GU gel: 90 kcal, 22g of carbs.

app 0.75 can, not too sure about that one: 120 kcal, 30g of carbs

also some salt pills and caffeine pills.

Total: 1908  kcal, 145 kcal/hour and 292g/carbs and 22 g/hour. This is actually pretty good for me and even on the high side as at those pace I am more of a fat burner but since it was my first IM and I did not experience any GI issues at all, why not?

According to my Training Peak files and Metabolic Efficiency data, this is what I burned during the race: 287g of carbs during the bike, 150 g of carbs during the run and let’s say 30g during the swim. 467 g total. Bout 70% comes from glycogen reserve or the equivalent of 300 g. That is pretty close to what I would have stored in my legs. Of course, this is just an approximation and it is important to remember as the duration increases your body start burning more fat, so I probably burned less than that. I still have a lot of work to do if I want to go faster. But what counts at the end is that:

I am an IronWOman!


I really want to thank everybody who supported me. My husband, my children, my coach(es) and all my friends. I was really touched and surprised by all the support I got on in the form of messages and phone calls. Thank you!