Episode 98 - How to Find Balance Post-Race So You Don't Blow Out and Gain 10kg

How to Find Balance Post-Race So You Don't Blow Out and Gain 10kg/20lb

Are you the type of triathlete that struggles to find balance after a major event?

You’re good when you have a focus and a goal, but once it’s all over you have a hard time sticking to your training and nutrition. 

It’s common for triathletes to use training or races as a way to manage their body composition. We have this all or nothing approach - we can be ON or OFF - there’s no middle ground. 

But let me tell you, there is an easier way!

I’ve got 4 tips to help you find balance again after a big event. Without blowing out and gaining 10kg! 

  1. Health is Wealth
  2. It’s all about Balance
  3. Manage your Portions
  4. Shift your Training Focus

Remember, we’ve only got one body. It’s the single most important thing that will get you to the finish line. If you need a little wakeup call, this is your kick in the butt to give your body the time, energy and investment it deserves. You have permission to invest in yourself.

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Episode Transcription

Episode 98: How to Find Balance Post-Race So You Don't Blow Out and Gain 10kg/20lb

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 00:41

Welcome to another episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. We have a really big event happening here in Australia this weekend - Cairns Ironman or 70.3 distance as well. And it is HUGE! So good luck to everyone that is racing in that event. But I wanted to get in beforehand and set you up with some guidance to ensure that you have some balance after it's all done and dusted. Not just for Cairns but for any race that you do. Because I often see athletes, particularly long course athletes, go all in for their event, and then completely go off the Richter after it's all done.

Taryn Richardson 01:23

And the idea I had for this episode right now comes from a client that I saw for a number of years, for a number of Ironman events, who didn't have this balance after an event. He would always come and see me 20 weeks out from his key Cairns race and he was 10 kilos, or if you have no idea what that means it's around 20 pounds, just too heavy for him. And he always had these really big body composition goals that were aligned in his mind with how he would perform. So he felt that those two went hand in hand, if he could just drop 10 kilos or 20 pounds, he would finish his race faster, have a better time of it and try and reach those really strong time goals that he had for himself.

Taryn Richardson 02:15

And so the first time, I helped him get back being fit and strong, dialled in his race nutrition and got him to the start line in the best physical shape he could be in and he had a great race. We also organised some post race consults just to help him stay on track which he cancelled because he just got too busy with work. And he completely ghosted me for an entire year until it was time to do Cairns Ironman again and he came back to see me to help him with prep having gained those 10 kilos that we lost together, plus some. We had to go through the entire process again. Because what was happening was he was using Ironman training and a key race to mask terrible lifestyle behaviours. And he had to punish himself every year to get himself back on track.

Taryn Richardson 03:11

But what happens when you do that is you spend your 20 week training build just focused on dropping body fat, and you're not actually fuelling your body for performance - you're fuelling to put yourself into a deficit and there is a complete difference between those two things. Now we set up some post race consults again for the second time and again, he ghosted me. Now that athlete would be a much better athlete if they got off that perpetual cycle of 'completely restrict yourself and be super in control, because you've got some sort of goal in mind' to it being completely free for all once it was all over.

Taryn Richardson 03:55

And I want to talk to you about that today because he is not alone. I know a lot of long course triathletes. I know a lot of triathletes and long course athletes in particular, that use races as a way to manage their body composition. But let me tell you, there is a much better and easier way to do it. Now this guy obviously needed some psych input, probably more so than me at this point, to fix the underlying food behaviours, that he's probably honestly had his entire life, before he does some real damage to himself. There are a lot of negative health outcomes that come with gaining and losing weight so rapidly and so easily. So I've got four tips for you today to help you find some balance post a big event.

Taryn Richardson  04.45

Number one - your health is wealth. Our body, our health is the most important thing or one of the most important things in life. You know, think about our primary needs - our food, shelter, and water. And obviously, your family and your overall health and your body being functional  all of those things should be relatively high on your priority list. But a lot of people really don't prioritise their nutrition or their health. And it often falls below things like work, or family.

Taryn Richardson   05:20

And I just wanted to highlight that your body is your temple. I know it sounds super lame, but what you put in it matters. There's a really interesting vlog kicking around by one of the pro athletes at the moment as he's realising this exact same thing. He's been eating shit food and wondering why his performance has been so shit. Like doh dude, it's not rocket science. The problem is we punish ourselves though and we don't treat our bodies with the respect that it deserves. We just expect to wake up and keep going and go again.

Taryn Richardson  05:56

You've got your training sorted, you smash yourself, and you just expect your body to respond to that. It honestly is not going to. There's going to become a time where it doesn't do what you think it should. You can't put petrol in a diesel engine! It just stops working. But too often, it takes a massive wake up moment. Something like a major injury or a heart attack or chronic fatigue or something major to smack us in the face and give us a bit of a wake up call. So I'm giving you permission right now, to invest in yourself.

Taryn Richardson  06:35

This is just a little bit of a gentle kick in the butt to get it sorted if that's you. I get it, nutrition does require some work. You can't just take a magic pill and it's all sorted for you. It does also take accountability so you have that long term consistency. Not just a 20 week cycle, and then it's a free for all again. It is a long game. Remember, we are endurance athletes - we play the long game. This is not a sprint. This is not even Olympic distance. Honestly, no matter what course you race, this is an endurance event. Nutrition is not something that can change overnight.

Taryn Richardson  07:16

It's not like a massage where you can hand over your money and someone does the work for you to sort your body out. You actually have to be intrinsically involved yourself. So this is a little bit of a smack around the face if you needed to hear that. Apologies. I mean well. I only want the best for you. So concentrate on your body and your health because at the end of the day, it's what matters the most.

Taryn Richardson  07:46

Okay, moving on. Number two. It's all about balance. I know it's boring. But honestly, small consistent habits have the greatest impact over the long term. Don't do anything weird and wonderful, just be normal. As triathletes, we often have this all or nothing mentality. Roll in or we're all off. So like my client, we can go hardcore training for 20 weeks because we're on and we're switched on and we're focused on this one goal. And then you complete that thing and then, now, it's like, okay, we're off. And I'm either not going to do triathlon at all, because I'm burnt out, or I'm just going to eat whatever the heck I want because I've been so controlled for 20 weeks.

Taryn Richardson   08:33

"I'm eating clean, Okay, fuck it. Now I'm just going to eat whatever the hell I want". That all or none mentality and methodology is not serving you. So we need to find some balance. And nutrition plays the biggest role in your body composition management. This is not an evidence based stat but it's something that I like to put things into perspective. It's 80% what you put in your mouth!  You can train for 20 or 30 hours a week, or 40 hours a week or whatever you can squeeze in and still be physically out of shape, right? And that is because your body composition really encompasses what you put in your temple.

Taryn Richardson   09:20

So we want to focus on balance. We're not doing anything weird. We're not doing any random diet because diets don't work. Just be normal and eat normally. So focus on nice lean protein sources, whether that's from animal sources or plant based sources - totally up to you. But things like lean red meat, poultry and chicken, fish and seafood, tofu, legumes. Protein is what helps to keep you fuller for longer and is also really important for our ongoing recovery as an endurance athlete.

Taryn Richardson  10:05

The more complex the better outside of training, because that's going to give us more sustained energy release and less impact on crazy up and down blood sugar levels. But it also has more fibre in it, which keeps your gut happy. Particularly after you've taken a massive beating doing an Ironman. Your gut has been severely impacted. Whether you feel that or not, there has been some damage done. So we want to be really kind to it after a big event like that. And focus on keeping your gut microbes happy. Just until they balance themselves out again. And they'll do that on their own if you look after them.

Taryn Richardson  10:41

Loading up on fresh fruit and vegetables - not sexy, but definitely important - and the more different varieties of things and the different colours you have, the better because we want that huge range of vitamins and minerals. All of our antioxidants and again, fibre. If I see one more reel or thing on social media about fruit being bad for us because it's full of sugar, I honestly am going to lose it. Fruit is nature's lollies. If you have a sweet tooth, go for an apple or a mandarin or something like that instead of reaching for candy. It's high in natural sugar, our fruit sugar - it's not added sugar. That's the type of sugars we need to be mindful of.

Taryn Richardson  11:23

You also need to focus on injecting your diet with healthy fats, particularly after a big onslaught like an Ironman Distance event. So things like avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and all of our deep sea fatty fish. So things like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel. All of those fats give you great essential nutrients, help you feel satisfied and full from eating and also have beautiful properties that can help with our recovery after a massive exercise session like that. Don't be afraid to use fats - but we want to make sure we've got the good type and not the bad type. So we need to minimise a whole heap of junk food.

Taryn Richardson  12:06

And the other one in this category (sorry) is alcohol. I know Fun Police! But both of those categories are the highest in calories, have added sugar and are bad fats. And if you don't want to blow out after your event, then these are the things that you want to control to manage your body composition better. But usually, it's the reverse! After an event, if you've done that ‘all or none’ thing, and we've gone clean eating, whatever that is, we're not watching our food, you crave these things, or you want to put them back into your life because you've been restricting them. But you're better off having some balance through that whole process and maybe including something right throughout, rather than again, that all or none. It's not serving us, so let's stop doing it.

Taryn Richardson  12:57

Tip number three to make sure you don't blow out after a massive event is portions. After something like a full distance event or an Ironman, obviously, your nutrition needs to adapt to your training volume that you're doing. Now, people go two ways after a big thing like this. They either struggle to eat afterwards, because your gut is just a mess. and your appetite is quite blunted after strenuous exercise and so eating for multiple days afterwards is a challenge. Or the other path that people go down is just being absolutely starving, absolutely ravenous, can't fill a hole, you're eating and you're still hungry - and that tells me that you've put yourself into a massive hole and that's just your body trying to play catch up for you.

Taryn Richardson  13:47

So in both scenarios, portions and a plan for that immediate post week after the event are really important and that's something that I teach my athletes inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program is what to eat for days to weeks after an event like that. Recovery goes beyond what you do in that immediate post exercise recovery period. I like to set people up with a beautiful broad plan to help with that balance afterwards. And that week plan afterwards is honestly what sets you up for success beyond that. So it can manage, not wanting to eat at all and it can also manage wanting to eat everything under the sun. But the key thing that you need to understand, and that I can help you with, is how to adapt your nutrition really easily - without having to count calories or feel like your throat has been cut because you've suddenly cut everything out because you're no longer doing Ironman distance training. Because a common mistake I see here after a big event like this is cutting back too quickly and that really increases your risk of illness or injury massively. Hands up if you've ever gotten sick or gotten injured sort of two to three, four weeks after something like a full distance event? That tells me that your whole plan afterwards, your entire extended recovery, sucked.

Taryn Richardson  15.17

So I want to teach you how to manage your portions in the week after the event to set the whole thing up for success no matter which camp you fit into. And then how do you adapt your portions beyond that? That consistency and that change in nutrition to immediately adapt to training load is what sets you up for success - to not slowly encroach on building up an extra kilo a week or a kilo every couple of weeks - to the point where you quickly putting back on 10 kilos after an event and you're like "Dammit, what happened!?"

Taryn Richardson  15:51

Because we kind of forget how to eat for normal life. When you're building towards a full distance event you learn how to eat like an Ironman. But then we forget how to eat like a non Ironman athlete and that's really important to get right and as soon as possible, so that we have that balance around that and we're not regaining everything that we've just lost. But I also want to highlight that we shouldn't be race weight all year. It's okay to have some smaller fluctuations, we don't need to be a lean mean fighting machine all the time. If you gained a couple of kilos after your event, that's totally fine, I would expect that. But it's the big shifts that are problematic for you and your health. Like it's really not good to have huge big shifts in body weight - and by body weight, I mean body fat - in that short period of time.

Taryn Richardson  16:45

Tip Four is training. Now, I'm just going to say this because I feel like some people need to hear it, but it's okay to take some time off. Whether that's from triathlon altogether, or whether it's just from the structure of having a program, or turning up to group sessions. Particularly if you're feeling really burnt out from what you've just achieved. It's actually not a bad idea to just step away altogether. Find an alternative activity, and re-find that joy for exercising again. You could shift your focus. You could focus on doing some strength to build a stronger body for next season. You could focus on something like yoga so that you become a supple leopard if mobility is an issue for you. Or do something social that's exercise - like beach volleyball, or touch football or whatever it is that you enjoy. It's okay to give your body a break from that repetitive stress of long distance training.

Taryn Richardson  17:51

As triathletes, also, we forget that we need to move for health. And we feel guilty if we aren't making training peaks go green or ticking off our training session that's been prescribed for us. But it's okay to move for the joy of moving sometimes. We don't want to become a couch potato - that is not going to help you find that balance after an event. That's going to be a long road back if you want to do it again. But maybe shift your focus for a little bit. Focus on activities that give you a chance to build some strength or improve your flexibility and just enhance your overall fitness. And that will make you a better athlete long term too, if you're comfortable and not feeling guilty for doing that.

Taryn Richardson  18:40

So my take home for you is that finding balance after an event like this is definitely a personal journey. It might take you a little bit of time to establish some new routines and habits around what happens for you after a big key race. But listen to your body and be patient with yourself. And definitely seek support. If nutrition is a blind spot for you, I've got you covered. The Academy program does open in July for the last time this year. So if you want help, this is your smack in the face to get it! Head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Add your name to the waitlist if it's not there already, because I am sending out some special bonuses to the waitlisters only. And we are open from the 8th - 16th of July, Australia time. So if you are a last minute Larry and you get your time zones wrong, you will miss out. So if you're in the USA or Canada, we opened on the 7th - 15th of July.

Taryn Richardson  19:39

The other person that you might want to get into your corner is a Sports Psych - they are a valuable tool in your tool belt. Particularly if you are somebody that can identify those deep seated underlying food habits and behaviours that you've had from childhood that are probably sabotaging you. Just manage them, deal with them, once and for all. And that will help with the balance as well. Now, like I said earlier, you have permission to invest in yourself. If you needed that little bit of a wake up call, this is your kick in the butt to give your body the time, energy and investment that it deserves. Because remember, we've only got one and it is the single most important thing that will get you to the finish line. Right? If you're injured or sick, triathlon could be off the table altogether for you. So it's important to step back and realise that because we do need to respect it and we need to put the premium fuel in it. Not feed it shit and expect not a shit outcome. Now, apologies for being so blunt, but I think it's important that you hear that. I only want the best for you, remember? So get out of your own way and take action today.

Taryn Richardson  15:56

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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