Episode 132 - Strategies to fuel for triathlon when you have no appetite with Jody Walker

Strategies to fuel for triathlon when you have no appetite with Jody Walker

Proper fueling is essential for triathletes to get optimal performance during intense training and competitions. Some athletes, like Jody Walker, find themselves without an appetite, making it challenging to consume the necessary calories and nutrients. Jody joins me on the podcast for the third time today, to share her experience and the strategies she implements to overcome this hurdle.

We talk about;

  • Shifting to lower fiber options
  • Fueling your body without an appetite
  • Listening to your body
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Episode Transcription

Episode 132: Strategies to fuel for triathlon when you have no appetite with Jody Walker

Taryn Richardson  00:00

Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. The show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy-to-digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Taryn Richardson  00:43

Today, we're welcoming back to the podcast, Jody Walker, who is definitely a veteran. She's been on two times already, if you want to go back and listen to her previous episodes, which she did Episode 60 with me, which was her race report from Ultra 355 Australia. And then way back in the day in Episode 35. We also talked about her journey with nutrition and about, you know, eating really well as a naturopath doesn't necessarily equate to training, which we're going to talk a little bit about today as well. So it's a pleasure to have you back. Jody,

Jody Walker  01:15

Hello. It's so good to be back. I love chatting.

Taryn Richardson  01:17

Jodie has a really cool history around her triathlon career and all the things that she juggles. And one of the things that I asked your feedback for was, you know, what do you want to hear from people on the podcast, and a lot of people really want to understand age group triathletes, journeys, how they train and how they eat, and you're an amazing case study for that.

Jody Walker  01:38

Amazing, interesting. I've had lots of lots of little bumps in the road. So yeah, it's it's quite a story in my journey.

Taryn Richardson  01:47

But you're still smiling, and you're still getting back out there and doing all the things which is just a testament to maybe how stubborn you are, but also how amazing you are as a triathlete.

Jody Walker  01:59

Yes, definitely have been called both stubborn and pigheaded in my time, and I don't like to give up very easily. So as soon as something gets hard, I'm more likely to continue doing it so I don't fail.

Taryn Richardson  02:10

Yeah. So one of your biggest kind of challenges when it comes to nutrition is a lack of appetite. Like when your training volume increases, you do more longer course things or just harder training or bigger volume, whatever it is, your appetite drops. And particularly when you are heading into one of those big key events where we need to kind of flip that in a way. And it's something that you've been working on through the Academy program for quite a while now. So what sort of strategies have you managed to implement to help combat that because I know there are people out there that do struggle with appetite. And when it comes to training for three sports and doing triathlon appetite can be a guide, but it can also be absolutely bloody useless in someone like you. Okay, so what sort of things are you doing to make sure you are fueling for what you need, not what your body is telling you that you should be doing?

Jody Walker  03:01

Yeah, fueling for triathlon, that's probably been one of my guess biggest hurdles is because, as I found out with you very early on in the piece is that my actual diet itself was to naturopath like, I'll never forget you saying that it was exactly what I needed to hear. Because the fiber that I was getting in with my choice of carbohydrates was detrimental for me. And so that was probably been one of my biggest key learnings from you is you do have to shift away to lower fiber options, so you don't get so full all the time, and doing what I do as a job. And I've been eating like this for 10 to 15 years. And it is a really high fibre diet full of Whole Foods. And as you said, it just doesn't fuel that training. And what I was finding in the early days, which will be so proud, it doesn't happen at all anymore. I would always drop weight before a key event and it was not intentional. And in the back of my mind, I would always think there's something not quite right here, I shouldn't be dropping weight and it wasn't a lot but it also was too much. So I would average about a three kilogram weight drop probably in that four to six weeks before key event, a long course event. And as I said in the back of my mind, I knew it probably wasn't right. But I wasn't also underweight either. My BMI wasn't dropping too low. I was very much in the healthy range. So I didn't stress too much about it. But I would get tired, and I would get sick. And my sleep would just go absolutely crazy. Just awful. And then I look at now you know five years later, I don't even drop a kilo. Like I literally do not drop any weight in that lead up at all. And I'm really proud of that. And one of the things I've noticed the most is that not losing weight, not getting sick in that lead up and then my sleep staying good. You know, I'm not losing sleep and I'm not waking up in the middle of the night literally Hungry Like I was, and I wasn't intentionally not eating enough, it was I was eating too much of the wrong types of carbohydrate. And it was that simple shift that just literally has changed everything, and has kept me in the sport for longer, I think I would have had to tap out years ago, if I didn't change the way I ate, which is really interesting.

Taryn Richardson  05:24

It is and you are one of the 6% of the population that actually gets enough fruits and vegetables into your day to day diet, most people are trying to inject more into their life and for you, which is a weird strategy is to pull it back in those those key times where you do need to focus on more so fueling and the carbohydrate for the work required, rather than just getting that full complement of all of the beautiful things that we normally want to have on a day to day basis. So it's very weird to get your head around as a naturopath as a dietitian, too. I'd be like, What are you talking about? I need these things. That's it. We do need more of those things as an endurance athlete, because we have high needs for a lot of our vitamins and minerals and antioxidants and things to mop up all of that cellular damage that we're doing. So how long do you think it took you to get that mindset shift that that is a strategy that works for you. And it's okay, and you don't kind of feel guilty for not eating all of your two fruit/five veggies in a day,

Jody Walker  06:20

I still struggle with it at times. But in saying that as soon as we had that conversation, you know, in my mind, I know the biology behind it and the physiology. So I implemented it almost immediately in saying that it's taken a lot of trial and error as well. And it was slow to progress and to get my body I guess used to the change in food as well. But yeah, even today, like years later, you are on my shoulder and I'm looking at that mountain Red Rock going hot, bam, she's gonna be up me if she knew what I was eating this morning. And I wasn't hungry, I didn't want anything more because it was such a fat and fiber and protein fueled breakfast. And I was like, I'm gonna need to up those carbs. So I got them from other sources, easy sources, but I still did it even though I wasn't hungry as such.

Taryn Richardson  07:08

I love it. I love it. And you know, you have good knowledge. And you can read a food label and you understand, you know, where our macros come and all those sorts of things. So it is really about changing habits that you've probably had, you know, for 10 to 15 years, like you said, and you have a high level knowledge of nutrition. So it's an even bigger shift and a bigger change for somebody that doesn't have that background knowledge plus the challenge of not feeling like eating like having no appetite. Is there any strategies that you've got for that for somebody listening, that might be the same, like have no appetite after training and you don't eat for hours, you go and have a shower and you get busy? And then like three hours later, you're like, holy crap, I'm ravenous. What do you do to combat understanding, you know, you need to recover properly fuel properly for training, despite not feeling like eating at all.

Jody Walker  08:00

Get it in, get it in there  Yeah, that's where I'm gonna like I'm a big advocate of just drinking it. So you know, have your smoothie recipe and this is something that we implemented as well, particularly during that ultra 355 training in the recovery between those days, I was drinking a lot of calories and carbohydrate because the appetite simply isn't there. So that was one other thing. I think like not struggle, but I when I came into the sport of triathlon, I always said I'm not going to use those sports nutrition things, you know, I'm not using gels and I'm not using Ricardo, you don't need that. We learnt that lesson obviously. And you know, I'm using those recovery formulas, you got the right amount of protein, the right amount of carbohydrates, you get that in straightaway, you know, you finish that training session, it might be hot, you feel awful, you're not hungry, drink it, get it in, go have a shower, sit down, chill out. And then what I find personally is an hour or two on that appetite increases and that's where okay, we still need to use those high GI carbs in that part. But you've already had that initial recovery so to speak. So you know you've covered your bases but you do still need you know that second meal so you've just got to have trial and error the meal, see what works for you. I printed off all of that awesome information you gave and I had that up on the fridge you know, this is how many carbs are in this food. This is your protein sources and how many grams just so I had that visual and I could just pull stuff together and go yet right I'll tick that box but just drink it down.  And as a naturopath I'll have a can of lemonade I'm in it if I have to reach that target if I've got a massive day and I have to drink a soft drink I will drink a softer and I never would have done that I would have made you know like a healthiest smoothie and things like that. But sometimes you really desperate and you got to get it in then you just got to get it in.

Taryn Richardson  09:46

I've seen some donuts happen as well. It's at the old occasion.

Jody Walker  09:49

Yeah. Massive donut, massive donut fan and the Nutella. So if there's a Nutella donut at the cafe that is the recovery fuel of choice

Taryn Richardson  10:00

So the other thing that you've really struggled with, and I've seen that over many years is you keep having surgery for like old injuries and things keep happening and you're like, god dammit. It's like two steps forwards. One step backwards in a way. Can you run us through your list of surgeries and things that you've had in the last maybe five years? For long lists?

Jody Walker  10:19

Yeah, the long list probably my first major one, I had a major ankle injury. And this was mediated from a history of netball. Right, so I wrecked my ankles playing netball years ago. And I went over on my ankle training before it was the 2019. So this is years ago, 2019 70.3 Sunshine Coast that was meant to be my first 70.3 I broke my ankle two weeks prior, raced, which was fun, and then obviously ended up in surgery, which was going to have to happen anyway. So I raced on it knowing it was gonna get fixed. So that was probably or three years ago, now, I had the ankle recon at the same time as that I had a lot of nerve damage in my foot from probably a combination of gymnastics and netball. So I had a lot really large neuroma removed from my foot. So I don't have feeling in like the last kind of that outside of one of my feet now. So one foot was that. And the other foot was the ankle recon, so I was off my feet there, rehab that.

Taryn Richardson  11:17

You chose to do them both at the same time, too, which is strategic in a way, either do one at a time recover, or you just like four balls do them both recovered together.

Jody Walker  11:29

And there was a reason for the ankle recon I kept putting off the foot surgery had to have I could barely walk at that point in time. And it was the year that Talco 70.3. World Championships were meant to be in 2020, which I had qualified for. So I kind of was just putting everything off. And as soon as they called that off earlier that year, I was like, right, let's just both feet out, let's get it done. So we can just work towards whenever that race is going to be, which is obviously 2024. So that was done, I rehabbed that and signed up. That's when I signed up for Ultra 355 as my goal of getting my fitness back. So I had, I think six months to get back, which wasn't long enough. And it meant that my 50 kilometre run was going to be a run walk. But it turns out I had a bike accident three weeks before that. So I obviously didn't make that start line for 355. And I ended up in surgery, reconstructing my wrist and had a pretty significant head injury, among other things. And it turns out that accident may have been a cause of my current hip issue, which didn't present itself until probably about 12-18 months ago. So I raced I did a 70.3 distance with a niggly hip with a very nimbly hip. And it turns out that I've got a significant labral tear, and I had bursitis tendinitis, it was just a mess, because I kept pushing through. I'm really good at that. I'm great like great at pushing through pain. So I literally have to have a limb torn off to not complete a race, so to speak. So that needs surgery. I'm putting that off. And this year has been a funny year because I haven't done a lot of long course stuff over the last 12 months because of my hip, just trying to rest it up a little bit. And, you know, I started the year with three months off of running to recover with my hip and I had six weeks before a long course this is hilarious. I had six weeks before a long course event, which was a qualifying event for World Championships for me, and scraped through that race. Not my best, but I did well enough to get some good points, then needed more time off because my hip was really sore again. And I tripped over a couple of dogs. When I started running back a couple of weeks later, there was some stray dogs and I busted my ribs. So I ended up with a cracked rib and torn the cartilage in my ribs. And that then like I couldn't run, I couldn't swim for another six weeks. So even though the surgery is kind of stopped after my bike accident, it's just been this constant stop start of training, particularly over the last 12 months. So this year has been hard for me to accept where I'm at with my performance and my racing. You know, I'm used to setting PBS and new benchmarks pretty consistently. And this year has been a year of the slowest races I've done in saying that, I still understand that I have still showed results. You know, I'm still getting podium fish finishes pretty much every time but it's hard because I know how much better I could be. But yeah, the last three years has just been fun. Stop, stop fun. In and out of surgeries reconstructing beds, more surgeries to come managing chronic injury.

Taryn Richardson  14:58

It's good That's a lot of things that have happened and you've still managed to, you know, train and compete at a really like high level have you managed to do that?

Jody Walker  15:08

For me, it's about training smarter, because I think I've always trained smart, I've always had a coach, I don't get overuse injuries, the injuries that I get up from tripping over dogs and random things. It's never from a training injury, which sucks. So I think for me, it's optimising recovery, listening to my body better. And even though I can push through the pain really well, learning not to, and working, I guess, with my physio as well, he's been teaching me a bit about pain and trying to get it through my head that again, just because you can't it doesn't mean you should, and not you know, I've taken the last 12 months and pulled back. So I haven't done really a lot of long course stuff. I signed up. Well, I wanted to sign up for ultra man and I got a spot but I've turned that down, which has just gutted me because that is my end goal. And my husband was you know that on my shoulder saying, Do you think this is a good idea right now, with the injuries and with what you've had going on? And we kind of just agreed that okay, maybe now's not the right time. So yeah, I think training smart optimising recovery, having the year for me to do a lot of shorter stuff, and having more fun signing up to races that I mean, I did my first cross try this year. Absolutely hilarious. Don't mountain bike rocked up? Absolutely poo'd myself. And, you know, still managed to come away with second place and an automatic qualification for wheelchair ramps, you know, so I'm signing up for things that I wouldn't normally do. I've got a stage mountain bike event next month. And again, I don't mountain bike. So I've been learning and it doesn't hurt my hip doesn't hurt my ego, as well, which is something I need right now. Something that I don't look at the numbers. When I crossed that finish line, it's new, there's no expectations. So it's accepting where you're at and trying different things and having a bit more fun with it in a hope for 2024 been a big year. For me, it's a pretty big goal oriented year. So taking it easy before it peaks again.

Taryn Richardson  17:12

It's okay to have that time off too. And just not feel guilty for it. Right. Because you're still learning things, you're still training, which is just a testament to how driven you are in the sport of triathlon because you do juggle a lot like you've got your private practice, you've got really active kids, like you do a lot of training for somebody that is injured. Doesn't have any time in a day you still managed to fit a lot in, which is amazing.

Jody Walker  17:36

Yeah, yeah. And it keeps me saying you like being not necessarily busy, but on the go, I've got to have those goals there. And if they're not there, that's when I start being a different person. And you know, my family notices that as well. So, yeah, it's about filling my cup as best I can for now.

Taryn Richardson  17:54

Yeah, it makes you a better person, a better parent, if you can do it with those little things for you. And I think we're quite similar in that exercise is hard. It's not like buying clothes and getting mani pedi and all that sort of stuff. It's gonna swear. We're like, it's give me some exercise and some good food. And I'm happy. That's it.

Jody Walker  18:11

And I joke to my husband about this. I don't buy jewellery, you know, you're so lucky. I don't go buy clothes. I go to Kmart to get my clothes. I do not care. And he's like, Yeah, but how much your bikes worth? How much does it cost when you go away for a race? Yeah, people it's for health. It's health promoting, you know? I'm not wasting money on things.

Taryn Richardson  18:32

Yeah, I'm low maintenance, low maintenance, totally. Classic. The other thing that you've gotten really good at over the years is listening to your body more and tuning into that and adapting things based on how you feeling. So what sort of strategies have you learned around that, that have set you up to, you know, still train and compete at this level? Despite so many setbacks, so many injuries?

Jody Walker  18:57

Yeah, one of the things this was suggested to me by a girlfriend who's a psychologist, actually, and it was journaling, I literally just started journaling, I've got it right here on my desk, Kmart journal. And that's been a godsend for me because I like to be able to look back and see when I've not felt good. And I've written that in my journal. You know, I've done this training session didn't feel really great. In that journal. It's where I'm at in my menstrual cycle. It's what I've eaten that day, and it's how well I've slept the night before. And that's how I've really learned myself how to gauge why I'm feeling like I'm feeling so if I am feeling crap, I can look back and go okay, yeah, you know, I know that it's this that or whatever that's happening. Or I can look back at what I've written down or what I've eaten and gone. Well, where's the carbohydrate Jody? Because it still happens. So that has been the number one thing for me it's getting to learn and know your body but to do that, I think you need to write it down like everything. Stress levels like I gauge is my stress levels I'd give it a number one to 10. How stressed was I today? Did I do my mindfulness today? Did I do something for myself today, really looking at that bigger picture when it comes to training because training is a stress and when you're training for triathlon, as a female, that's a big, physiological stress. And then you've got all the other things that we do sometimes as females, you know, as you said, before, you know, parenting, business, work, whatever it is, you've got to make sure that stress bucket isn't overflowing. And that's how I try and manage that as a person that doesn't like to sit still.

Taryn Richardson  20:35

Yeah, I call it the pot that's on the table. I call it the pot that's on the sink. Like what sort of boil is it on? Is it like full boil, boiling over, like stuff spilling out the side? Or are you just on a gentle simmer?

Jody Walker  20:46

Yeah, I love that. I really like that analogy. I'm using it.

Taryn Richardson  20:49

You're welcome.

Jody Walker  20:51

Stealing it?

Taryn Richardson  20:53

Yeah, I think it's big rocks, right? We like so often get caught in the details of like, Did I hit the minutes for this kilometre for these reps and all these sorts of things. But the big rocks for triathlon are yes, stress, sleep, nutrition, recovery, those sorts of things. And nothing's going to work very well. If you haven't slept particularly well that night, or for a few nights in a row. And it's being okay with that, do you write down in color, so you can quickly see like, this is a red day, my stress levels are high, I haven't slept, I've got no carbs, like this is red, big cross big circle through it.

Jody Walker  21:26

Yep, I've got like highlighters. And I'll highlight certain aspects that are standing out as a potential issue or that I've noted that are an issue. And that's how I refer back easily onto what's going on. So if there's no highlighting, and no asterix is anywhere, I know that that day was just a regular Jo day, and there's probably nothing in it. So to speak.

Taryn Richardson  21:48

So yeah, I think that's a really good strategy that anyone could implement. Even if you're a spreadsheet junkie, you could start to track that sort of stuff, you can track some of those metrics in some way, like training peaks if you use it. But just to see those patterns in those trends. Because when you do look back, you're like, ah, that's why that happened. And the more you can practice that, the more you'll learn about yourself, and the better athlete you'll become.

Jody Walker  22:08

Yep, that's it. You just nailed it before in that we have a fairly big training group here in Mackay. And I look at all of these women, and you know, they often will kind of bounce ideas or issues off of me because of what I do. And I can see it happening before it happens. Most of the time, I can look at someone and look at how they're training how they're feeling. And unlike, they're about to go down, they're about to go down and get sick or have some time off because it's too much and, and it's all it's never the training load. Because most of them are coached most of them. It's quite often not the training load. It's rather the life load and around it and the nutrition and not prioritising sleep and all of these simple things. People say to me, how do you how have you stayed in the sport for so long. And although I've had a lot of time off with injury, I've still been relatively consistent, I don't have months off just because I'm burnt out or because I'm too tired or because I don't want to train anymore. If I can train, I will train. And that I guess that consistency comes from being well, and having those base principles nails so I can keep going and I'm not sick every five minutes and having to take time off. And sleep nutrition and stress is like that's what triathletes are just not looking at. And you say it all the time. You know, they buy the expensive bikes and the fastest running shoes on the planet, you know, the $300 Nikes. It's like, well, it's not going to help you if you're not able to train consistently.

Taryn Richardson  23:34

That's right training availability, which is a topic we talked about on the podcast, like you have to be available to train to piece together, those consistent blocks to be a better athlete. If you're training availability is reduced for being sick, being injured, then you can't kind of progress and step up slowly. So I'm so glad that you kind of reiterated that point as well. Good. Thank you.

Jody Walker  23:57

It's a very solid point. And I think everyone needs to like be screened out from the rooftops that one.

Taryn Richardson  24:02

Yeah, training availability, you got to be available to train. It's not a team sport. So you're not getting paid to, you know, sit on the sidelines, but you still need to be there to actually do the training.

Jody Walker  24:12

Yeah, that's it and even except that there's going to be days that aren't great, but they still count. You know, the bad days still count. If you've had a bad sleep or whatever it is you feel crappy and you're not reaching the targets, it doesn't matter. It still counts. And that's something that I think takes a couple of years in triathlon to wrap your head around as well. You can't just write it off or just stop early. It counts. It all counts.

Taryn Richardson  24:36

So 2024 is going to be a big year for you and beyond what is on the goal list view because there's always something.

Jody Walker  24:43

Well, it's not Ultraman now, which

Taryn Richardson  24:46

is okay, that's okay, which is never going anywhere god it's always going to be there's always every single year waiting for you.

Jody Walker  24:53

So that's that will be maybe a 2025 thing. 2024 is the year of the World Championships finally so, you know qualifying, COVID COVID sort of qualified to Alpo 70.3 worlds back in 2019. I've heard by so so right as the storm hit, and I kept my spot for Taulpo purely because that's where I wanted to raise like that cause to me looks so hard. And so epic. And it's kind of local to you know, so it's, you know, I love the course I love that it's local. So that's it in December. And then Townsville World Championships for me, I've accidentally automatically qualified for cross drive, wasn't the intention, but I'm gonna take it. And I did the dualathlon as well and wasn't expecting an automatic qualification. I was really just racing that as well for something different and fun. And I came third. So I've qualified for that automatically, just waiting to now hear back from long course and hopefully I can add that in. So hopefully, it'll be a three race event for Townsville there, we'll see.

Taryn Richardson  25:59

Are you going to sprinkle Sunny Coast 70.3 in there and join all of the TNA crew who are coming across to race? Oh, is there a bit of a TNA thing is there there is we've got Americans and Canadians traveling across the world to come and do it. So I haven't vocalised it too heavily yet, because I'm still in like deep rush planning. Yeah, but yeah, we're going to make it a bit of a TNA event.

Jody Walker  26:21

Well, I'll have the fitness there. Yeah, from Townsville, so why not? It's local. I love that course. I love Sunshine Coast, cause it's so fast. It's a goodie

Taryn Richardson  26:31

Added to the list, even if it's a training session. Yeah. And it will be

Jody Walker  26:35

It'll be a fatigue training session, because it's September. So it'll be I'll be a little time but we can get through it. We've, we've been through worse.

Taryn Richardson  26:43

Amazing. Well, I look forward to seeing what you achieve in 2024. And beyond when you get past all of the things and you know, you can actually piece together the training that I know you want to in your mind's eye, with all the things that you've got going on. And please don't trip over any more dogs, okay? No more accidents.

Jody Walker  27:01

Honestly, as I said, these things only happened to me every time. And when I'm having to explain these stories. I swear my coach just looks at me and just like, What should I do?

Taryn Richardson  27:12

What next?

Jody Walker  27:14

Yep, pretty much.

Taryn Richardson  27:16

Oh, it's always a pleasure, Jodi, thank you so much for joining me and sharing your story and your amazing career in triathlon. It's only just kind of beginning I reckon. I hope I hope to be here for a lot longer. We'll have to get you back. We'll get you back after you do Ultraman in 2025.

Jody Walker  27:31

Yeah, that'd be a good conversation. That one I think.

Taryn Richardson  27:35

Yeah, nutrition, a whole different ballgame, stepping up from Ultra 355. So go listen to that episode, if you haven't listened to it yet, Episode 60 where Jody gave us her race report and all the things that she learned about doing an event of that distance was fun.

Jody Walker  27:48

One of the best.

Taryn Richardson  27:51

Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned, email me at [email protected]. You can also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media, @dietitian.approved, so I can give you a shout out, too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition! 

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