A day in the life of a professional triathlete

What does someone who works out for more than five hours a day eat? You’d be surprised. (We were!)

Amy Marsh answers:

When people hear that I’m a professional triathlete, they almost always ask about my nutrition. What do I eat when I’m training? How many calories do I eat in a day, and what do I spend them on?

A lot of folks seem to think that burning a ton of calories means you get to indulge in a free-for-all involving mountains of glazed donuts or piles of pizza. It’s true that I maintain my weight eating more calories than your average non-athlete, but I actually choose my fuel carefully. This is especially important because I need to follow a gluten-free diet; just a little bit of wheat and I end up with an upset stomach, and that can really get in the way of my training.

Here’s a typical day for me””in the kitchen, the pool and the course.

5:55 a.m.
Wake up.

6:05 a.m.
Snack: Gluten-free English muffin with (real!) butter. (Real butter!)

6:30-8:00 a.m.
Master’s swim practice (5,000 short-course yards). No eating or drinking during the swim. (I try to simulate race conditions as much as I can during practice, and you can’t eat or drink during the swim portion of a triathlon.)

8:30 a.m.
Breakfast: Three eggs scrambled with half an onion and, half a bell pepper, two slices of bacon and one small potato. I conclude the meal with one square of dark chocolate. (Yum!)

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Bike anywhere from 35 – 40 miles. Will hydrate with water only, since the ride is not high-intensity.

1:00 p.m.
Lunch: Shrimp stir-fry with broccoli slaw and coconut oil. I eat it over rice. Delicious!

3:30 p.m.
Snack: One cup of applesauce with one scoop of chocolate whey protein powder and a couple of sprinkles of cinnamon. It actually tastes quite good, and I’m convinced chocolate goes with everything…even apples. If I am having even more of a chocolate craving, I will add in some chocolate chips.

4:30-6:00 p.m.
Run about 12 miles (start out easy and finish strong). Will just drink water during the run. (When I run for longer than, 90 minutes, then I will hydrate with a First Endurance Gluten-Free sports drink about every 15 minutes after the first 30 minutes.)

6:05 p.m.
Snack: First Endurance Recovery drink (cappuccino flavor…yum!). Will drink this as soon as I finish my run.

7:00 p.m.
Dinner: Steak, sautéed green beans with slivered  almonds and tamari sauce and a sweet potato. I’ll finish the day with another square of dark chocolate!

10:00 p.m.
Bed.

This is a typical training and eating plan for me during the in-season; what I eat does vary depending upon my training schedule. The more intense my training is, the more I need to eat during the day.

My “off season” is in November and December, when training is less intense, and that’s when I get more careful about what I eat””though I never count calories.

No matter what time of year, though, my goal is always to eat “real” food (lean meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes, rice) and less processed food. This is especially important because I eat gluten free.

I’m able to fulfill all of my sports nutrition, gluten-free and non-perishable grocery needs at Vitacost.com, and at a great price. And let’s not forget the chocolate””since I don’t go a day without my choco-fix, you can bet I get those dark squares delivered to me through Set & Save!

Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email Amy and Brandon at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com. Check back next week for their next Q & A blog.

About Team Marsh

Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com.

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