For the past several months I’ve been experiencing serious performance decrease in my sport, especially in cycling. Trying to find the root cause I stumbled on such an interesting term as RED-S. According to Wikipedia:
“… an athlete’s bone density may decrease, but may not yet have dropped below her age-matched normal range. These signs can be considered “occult,” as no one symptom may be severe enough to seek medical attention, leaving the Triad to go unnoticed or untreated…”
Sounds pretty serious. I needed to rule out the possibility of having a low bone density so I went ahead and booked an appointment for the DEXA scan. Why DEXA?
A dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan is a low-radiation x-ray that accurately measures how much of your body weight is made up of fat, muscle, and bone. It also measures the bone density. Tt tells you your total body fat, muscle, and bone, and breaks it down by body part. I cared less about the body fat and muscle – just tell me what’s my bone density.
I did my test at the place called Studio Athletica in Toronto. I would recommend this place for the several reasons:
Location – 5 Stars
Customer service – 5 Stars
Overall experience – 5 Stars
Pricing – 5 Stars
I did get the number I was looking for, however I also got a lot of other very interesting information about my machinery. Let’s dive in!
Below you see three pictures of me:
According to the readings, my lean mass is 138 lb (63 kg), while total weight is about 156 lb (70 kg). Lean mass is the sum of all the muscle and soft organ tissue (internal organs, ligaments, connective tissue, etc.). What makes the rest 20 lb? Not the poop – Fat. Fat mass includes all the fat found within the organs of the body as well as the subcutaneous fat found under the skin. 8.8% of Sasha is made out of fat. Below is a breakdown:
This is the off season and I gained about 2-3 kg of my typical weigh. Even considering that 8% seem to be on the edge of health/performance. Below is the picture of me one month before this DEXA. I was about 2 kg lighter then, therefore I would assume that my body fat was 1-2% lower. However, to give you an idea of what 6-8% body fat looks like:
Next screenshot shows the more precise body fat percentage as well as RELATIVE SKELETAL MUSCLE INDEX (RSMI). What that is? RSMI helps to determine your risk for sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia is a disease associated with the aging process. Loss of muscle mass and strength affects balance, gait, and the ability to perform daily living tasks.
It basically tell how old you are. Not too old yet, according to the readings. Also, with such a low body fat %, I might need to consider putting on some weight, as 8% is almost critical for my sport.
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
This is interesting, as it shows how much energy your body needs just to keep you alive. This energy is just enough to maintain your body temperature, heartbeat, and keep you breathing.
My machinery requires about 1,700 calories a day not to die. This makes me wonder, how would that look in terms of food?
1700 CALORIES worth of FOOD
Salmon Filet 1,9 KG
Sweet Potatoes 1,5 kg
Avocado 1 kg
Ok ok, I got distracted here… Basically, what I showed you is that to simply stay alive, mine and yours bodies require quite a bit of food. Try to eat almost 2 kilograms of salmon or 1,5 kg of sweet potatoes! Then multiply in by 7 to estimate the weekly intake. Also consider the thermic effect of proteins vs carbs and fats… I definitely underestimated the energy requirements of my body.
Muscle Balance in Body
This is a comparison of my body’s right to left muscle mass symmetry. Despite the fact that I am right-handed, left side of Sasha appears to be stronger. Abnormally big heart, bigger left arm, leg, runk… everything is bigger on the left side:
Bone Density is within good range. It’s not included in this report, however I got the results separately.
Resting Metabolic Rate is 1,700 calories/day, which is a lot of food.
I might consider putting on some weight, as 8% body fat is pretty low – almost critical for my sport.
Today I met with my surgeon to see how the recovery is going. I was secretly hoping to hear it goes better than expected and I can return to my training.
X-Ray pictures, then range of motion assessment… impressive! What?
Indeed, I’m healing really fast and haven’t lost any mobility in the shoulder. In fact I am moving so well, that when I asked about physiotherapy he smiled and asked Why? He said I already do the things people usually can’t in this stage of recovery. He also allowed me to slowly get back to the training, however warned me about lifting weights and stay away from it. Swimming, Running, Cycling? Yes, Sir!
What contributed to such fast recovery?
1. Continuous movement. I haven’t stopped moving and every day I would find a way to keep the blood flowing. My arm can’t move, but the legs can. Walk, walk, walk… a lot of walking. Blake might’ve cut a few pounds from putting so many steps.
2. Nutrition. I always stay on top of my nutrition and closely look what I put into my body. Clean, nutritiously rich foods sure helped with recovery by delivering all the necessary building blocks.
3. Attitude. It was not always bright and positive. In fact, I went through a lot of frustration and it got pretty ugly at time. During those time I haven’t stopped reminding myself that it will not last forever and it’s a good mental training.
4. Support. Mental support from the people around helped me to see a better future and find the positives in situation. Knowing that there’s is someone you can ask for help gives hope.
Would I do anythingdifferently?
This is a tough question to answer. I don’t think I would do anything differently… Maybe just working on cutting the negative thoughts and emotions. However without having those dark periods I won’t feel so good right now. No, I won’t change anything. All was good! Couldn’t get any better.
I am so happy and grateful for recovering so fast, so well. I am grateful for everyone who helped me along the way. A huge Thank you!!!
It’s been though, it’s been painful, but it was a good mental training. Time to roll up the sleeves and get back to business! Watch me evolve…
Injuries happen and nutrition is one of the methods to counter the negative impacts of an exercise-induced injury. Typically injury result in reduced activity and training. While some injuries are minor, such as a bruise or inflammation, others are much more debilitating such as a tear, broken bone, impingement, stress fracture or ruptured tendon.
To minimize decline in muscle strength, neuromuscular control and overall fitness, nutrition plays a vital role in healing and rehabilitation process. It is possible to come back stronger and faster after the injury, following the right diet, physiotherapy and re-training program.
There are two main stages of injury:
Stage 1: Healing & Recovery
The first phase begins immediately after an injury. A complex process of wound healing begins which consists of three, phases:
Inflammation caused by training is different than inflammatory response initiated by the injury. Athletes perceive inflammation as something bad, however while excess inflammation may be harmful, inflammatory process is essential for wound healing. Therefore attempting to drastically reduce inflammation may not be ideal for optimal recovery. Injured athletes should be careful when considering of the appropriate approach to managing inflammation.
The proliferative phase is when the wound is rebuilt with new tissue made up of collagen and extracellular matrix. There is an increase in protein synthesis for cell division following. As well as inflammatory process, this phase consumes a lot of energy.
Remodelling process is when the wound fully closes by the scar tissue formed as a result of the first 2 phases.
Stage 2: Rehabilitation & Hypertrophy
The second phase of complete recovery and returning to full function and training takes longer than the first, immobilization period. Sometimes it take several years to fully recovery from some injuries. Nutritional support is crucial to lessen the length of time and reduce the negative aspects of reduced activity and immobilization, as well as to support the return to activity and training.
Injuries that lead to reduced levels of activity have a lot of negative consequences. Disuse of a limb results in loss of muscle mass, reduced muscle strength and function. Substantial muscle loss has been reported in as little as 5 days of disuse (study link).
During muscle disuse, the basal, i.e. resting and fasted, rate of MPS (muscle protein synthesis) is decreased. Muscle loss is not the only negative consequence of inactivity in muscle tissue. Muscle mitochondrial oxidative function and metabolic flexibility are impaired with muscle disuse. Some of these changes occur as early as 48 h following initiation of inactivity. Moreover, simply reducing activity of muscle for 2 weeks may lead to decreased insulin sensitivity of muscle.
The single most important nutritional consideration during reduced muscle activity and/or immobility is to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Deficiencies of energy, vitamins, minerals and macronutrients—particularly protein— will impair wound healing and exacerbate loss of muscle and tendon mass and function. Nutritional choices made during recovery from an injury need to be carefully considered to optimize recovery and return to training.
Energy intake is a critical component for optimal recovery from an injury. Athlete’s energy expenditure almost certainly will be reduced with a reduction in training and activity, therefore most athletes are likely make an intuitive conscious decision to drastically reduce energy intake to avoid increased body fat and total mass.
Energy expenditure following an injury with muscle immobilization is likely not be as greatly reduced as would be expected. During the healing process, energy expenditure is increased, particularly if the injury is severe. Energy expenditure may be increased by 15% up to 50%, depending on the type and severity of the injury. If athlete restricts the energy intake too much, recovery almost certainly will be slowed due to negative metabolic consequences. Negative energy balance will interfere with wound healing and exacerbate muscle loss. Therefore, instead of focusing on preventing weight gain, an athlete should ensure that sufficient energy is consumed during recovery from an injury.
It is clear that negative energy balance has to be avoided, a large positive energy balance also is undesirable for optimal healing and recovery. A positive energy balance may be appealing to suggest during immobilization, even considering a small increase in body fat. However, there is evidence that a positive energy balance actually accelerate muscle loss during inactivity, most likely via activation of systemic inflammation. Moreover, excess energy with reduced activity leads to decreased insulin sensitivity and alterations in muscle and adipose metabolism.
Energy intake must be considered very carefully. Factors promoting satiety despite a reduced energy intake, including protein dose and type, in addition of low energy density food choices such as vegetables need to be considered as well. Energy balance should be the aim during reduced inactivity and/or immobilization due to injury.
Energy balance is not the most important factor to consider. The macronutrient composition of the energy is additional operative factor. Recent evidence suggests that oversupply of lipids (fats) decreases insulin sensitivity and impairs the response of MPS (muscle protein synthesis) to amino acids.
Insufficient protein intake impedes wound healing and increase inflammation to possibly deleterious levels. Synthesis of collagen and other proteins are very important in preventing muscle loss and supporting the healing processes. Sufficient protein intake is necessary to support wound and/or fracture healing.
Protein and amino acids probably have been the most widely studied nutrients in the context of muscle injuries. Recent studies has shown that athletes consuming relatively high protein intakes (~ 2.3 g protein/day/kg) had reduced muscle loss during periods of negative energy balance compared with lower protein intakes (~1.0 g/day/kg). Therefore we can assume that relatively high protein intakes (>2.0 g protein/day/kg), are necessary to prevent muscle loss. Also, more than ~30 g of protein in one sitting should be the maximum amount.
In addition, other factors in relation to protein should be considered. The pattern of protein intake in terms of timing and amount in each meal are the important factors.
Carbohydrates is the energy. Due to the limited physical activity, energy expenditure is reduced, therefore demand for the energy is reduced as well. It makes sense to slightly lower carbohydrate intake to prevent excessive weight gain. Prioritize higher-fiber, satiating foods such as whole grains, fruits and veggies.
Omega-3 fatty acids has been used by many people because of its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. Fish and flaxseed oil supplementation is often touted for reduction of inflammation.
The studies suggest that fish oil supplementation could play a role in the amelioration of muscle loss with disuse. However, high fish oil diets inhibited recovery of muscle mass during recovery from hindlimb suspension in rodents. Taken together, it seems that whereas high fish oil consumption may ameliorate muscle loss during a catabolic situation, it does not seem to be effective to enhance muscle hypertrophy. Moreover, the appropriate dose for injured humans has not been established.
There are no clear guidelines for use of micronutrients. Leucine, curcumin, and others have been demonstrated to be beneficial in rat studies. Higher intakes of these nutrients may do harm, therefore caution is warranted before recommendations for wholesale use of these nutrients by injured athletes. Deficiencies should be avoided, but supplementation above sufficiency does not help either.
Vitamin C is necessary for collagen formation.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Green and red peppers.
Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens.
Sweet and white potatoes.
Tomatoes and tomato juice.
Calcium and Vitamin D during healing from fractures is important for optimal bone formation.
Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
White & Soybeans beans
Vitamin A. It helps to form and maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin.
Cod liver oil
Sweet red pepper
Zinc. Maintains your immune system, supports cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates.
Lean Sirloin Steak
Creatine is well studied supplement and widely used to enhance muscle gains during resistance exercise training. Creatine supplementation also has been shown to counteract disorders of muscle. However, there is no strong evidence for use of creatine to counter muscle loss during immobility. Creatine supplementation during weeks of lower-limb immobility did not lessen the loss of muscle mass or strength in healthy volunteers during 2 weeks of casting. However during rehabilitation after immobility, creatine supplementation resulted in an increased rate of muscle growth and strength gains compared with placebo.
Supplements that shown benefits:
Antioxidantcompounds, including Omega-3, decrease oxidative stress and have been recommended to improve healing and recovery. High in antioxidants:
Curcumin from Turmeric/Curry Powder
Bromelain from Pineapple
Cocoa & Tea
What to Avoid
Excess consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids. This could excessively depress the inflammatory response and compromise the wound healing.
Pro-Inflammatory foods. Processed foods high in saturated and trans fats, vegetable oils like corn, sunflower, soybean etc.
Excess energy consumption. This could lead to increased total and fat mass, especially if activity is dramatically reduced.
Alcohol. Alcohol impairs wound healing, by reducing the inflammatory response, and increases muscle loss during immobilization. It is very important to limit alcohol ingestion during recovery.
Salt. Over consumption can lead to calcium loss through urine.
Coffee. Too much caffeine (more than four cups of strong coffee a day) can slow down bone healing a little. A moderate amount of coffee or tea should be fine.
Deficiencies, particularly those of energy, protein, and micronutrients have to be avoided.
Be sure to keep up with your protein intake especially after exercise/rehab.
Energy balance is critical.
Higher protein intakes (~2–2.5 g protein/kg/day) may be warranted, and should be maintained even in the face of reduced energy intake.
Many athletes are afraid of gaining extra weight and feel they don’t deserve to eat calories or carbs when not expending calories through exercising. This is a common misconception, however, remember that your body still requires energy, carbs and nutrients – even at rest. In case of surgery, your daily energy demands may increase by 10-20%. Don’t be afraid of food and give your body building blocks to promote proper healing instead of dieting. Use this time to improve your lifestyle choices, learn new ways of cooking and create new meal planning strategies. Learn how to love your body in different shapes and sizes.
– I can not continue like this… ENOUGH! – I am sick to my stomach.
Few days ago, after the awful bike performance, I said to myself ENOUGH! I decided I will do something different. I can’t continue like this any longer…
The things I did differently for this workout: Instead of training in the morning, I moved it to the afternoon. I was hoping it will give my body enough time to hydrate and fuel up.
Had a big breakfast and lunch: 1,130 Calories: 180C/27F/47P Rice 300g Oatmeal 100g Grapefruit 4 eggs
Took a 1 hour nap, hoping it will help perform at my best. Woke up feeling ok.
Went on the bike, and almost right from the beginning felt like crap. Please no… As I was gradually building up to 180W, at 130W I already felt that something’s off. I could not keep 180W for 10 minutes… I can’t believe it. I am back into this hole again. I am so disappointed and sick from failing over and over. Since April, since freaking April I’ve been suffering with my trainings, specifically on the bike. I can’t take these hits anymore. I broke down emotionally… Tears streamed down my cheeks. I HATE this bike! I HATE myself! What the f*ck is wrong with me? I dismounted off the bike and layed on the ground with no energy to even move my finger. All I did was cried. Not just cried like a little girl, but cried my ass off. I felt sorry for myself, I felt so disappointed, I felt discouraged to do anything… not only train, but I did not want to live anymore. I layed on the floor for several minutes and cried. Everything in my life seemed to be wrong, I felt myself as a total loser, failing on all accounts. Suicidal thoughts would come and go. I knew I needed to get outside of my head and let it all out. Only two people that came to my mind at that moment were my father and my coach. I needed to talk. I called my dad, but he was busy with his wife. I didn’t want to interrupt him from time spending with his lovely wife and dump my emotional truck full of crap into his ears. I lied that everything’s alright and I’ll call him later. I began typing text message to my coach Renee, but never sent it. It’s a middle of the day, she is busy.
– Ok, Sasha, what do we do now?
4 options I saw at the moment:
Quit and count your losses. Tell yourself that this sport is just not for you and convince yourself that there other things in life that matter more. Also you can add that you achieved quite a bit and it’s time to move on. Easy option.
Blameothers. Blame your coach for digging yourself into this hole and find another coach or train on your own. By doing so I move responsibility for the way I feel and perform onto other people. Easy option.
Try to change your state with food, alcohol, sleeping, drugs etc. It will help, but only short term. Within few hours your will feel even worse than before. Easy option.
Pick yourself up and take full responsibility for the way you feel and perform. Go back on your bike and complete the damn workout to the best of your abilities.
I completed the workout to the best of my abilities… While barely pushing 130W I got the opportunity to think. I think better when my blood is flowing fast.
Every failure is the opportunity and I will use this failure to learn from it.
I will learn what caused such performance decline over the past several months. Knowing this will help me prevent future failing occurrences and I will have more great trainings over just a few poor.
I will learn how to bring myself back up to performance levels prior to this and I will use this knowledge to move beyond that. Overcoming this challenge will show me that I can do anything I put my mind into. I will also develop a coping mechanism that I can use in the future. It will help me re-build my self-confidence and self-esteem after so many failures.
I will help other people to overcome similar challenges by sharing my personal experience and what I learned from my failures.
Pushing harder does not work. I’m stuck and the harder I press on gas pedal, the faster and deeper I dig myself into the hole I’m in. Mud and smoke. Sweat and tears.
I am sure there are other athletes who struggle with similar issues. I respect those who did not give up and chose the option #4. Just like me, they are looking for solutions.
I begin my investigation with a series of blog posts on Overtraining. I will dig deeper and try to find causes as well as solutions. I learn from this “failure” and bounce back stronger than ever before. My posts will describe this “journey” in details and Ihope that my finding will help others who is facing similar challenges. Together we will rock the sport of triathlon!
– How you been my friend? Haven’t heard from you for a while! – Doing great, better than excellent? That’s Awesome! Glad to hear. – What you been up to? Wow, you achieved so much. You accomplished a lot! Congratulations!
You try so hard to sound happy. Don’t, or you will start shooting rainbows out of your ass. I don’t believe you. I know you too well to recognize the bullshit you try to feed me with. I see a tired person in front of me. Dark circles around your eyes tell the truth. Shaky voice and hectic body language proves the opposite. You are tired, you are exhausted… You desperately need some rest.
You learned how to push yourself pretty hard. You are the overachiever – “A type”. You mastered the skill of setting a goal and going after it. You are self-motivated, disciplined and hardworking. That’s all great, but there is no balance to it. All your achievements come with tax. What is your tax? Sleep deprivation? Poor blood works? Constant hunger and overeating? Anxiety? Moodiness? Loneliness? Muscle pain and constant soreness? Or maybe even suicidal thought from time to time? Tell the truth, let it out. What does it cost to live your lifestyle?
You need to rest. You have to take a break.
Sit down and listen to a little story about magical place – a Place of Power.
There is a place in Canada that has tremendous healing power. It is located in Huntsville – a small town, about 2.5 hours driving north from Toronto. This place is unique with its nature and people.
Two young birds live side by side in Muskoka woods. Megan and Sequoia live off-the-grid in a tiny cabin, right by Muskoka River, on the edge with Heaven.
Ask Sequoia about his plants. Feel the passion person has to his green friends. Feel the bright energy he projects out of his blue eyes when holding his tiny cactus. Don’t interrupt and listen. He thinks of himself as introverted person, but I promise, you never met more extraverted introvert before. He keeps a baseball bat in the forest washroom in case of bears. He own his second world war survival kit in case of zombie apocalypse. He is thoughtful and takes a great care of his partner – Meagan.
Let Megan be your guide into the world of Yoga and meditation. Don’t try to understand or rationalize the things she tells you, but sit back and let her explode your mind. A wise and strong woman lives in tiny body of hers.
Both are rare and unique species among human beings. Open minded, kind and bright people. Vegetarian, they will teach you simple meal recipes that not only taste great, but make you seriously consider going plant based eating.
Wake up in the morning and instead of checking your phone, go check the river. Celebrate new day by meeting sunrise at the beach. Take off you clothes and jump into the river from the tree.
So many things to do here So much to explore
This is the place where not only your mind finally gets rested, but also your body releases tension and stress that it held for so long. Your mind slow down, yous heart slows down:
Only one night of deep sleep in the tiny house will significantly drop your resting heart rate (RHR), and switch your body from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode.
Marbella race completely destroyed my expectations, flipped everything upside down. For about 3 weeks after the race I suffered from depressing thoughts and emotions. I got locked up in my head. I almost dropped out of sport of triathlon…
It was dark and I searched for help at different places. I was looking for someone to help me to stop my mental masturbation and make a sense of my thoughts and emotions.
My swimming and triathlon coaches, Bruce and Renee, my father – were able to find the right words and grounded me and kept me away from mistakenly turning my back on the sport. Thank you! I’m am grateful for you.
You can only lead the horse to the water, but you can’t force him drink. Still, all the mental work needed to be done. I had to re-evaluate and reassess the mindset I bring into the training and racing.
What role does the sport play in my life? What function does it have? Whom am I competing against? How do I see myself as an athlete, but more importantly who the Sasha is as a person? How do I evaluate my athletic performance? What expectations do I have for my body and how are they linked to the feeling of self worth?
I had to destroy and rebuild myself as an athlete. I bring a different mindset to this race, my expectations are different.
My goals for this race were:
SWIM: under 30 minutes BIKE: no specific goal here. Just give it all and see how it goes RUN: 1/2 marathon under 1:40 hr
3 day before the race, starting Wednesday, I increased my carbohydrate consumption from typical 300g/day to 300g+. Wasn’t tracking anything so it’s hard to say what the actual amount was.
I give preference to low glycemic, complex carbs. I like to have my foods simple and I get most of my carbs from:
Previously, for Ironman Marbella, I was carb loading with solely with oatmeal. It’s a great option, however due to the high fiber it’s not the best option for a day or two prior the race. This time I am loading with brown rice. I am hoping that low fiber content will make it easier on my GI and prevent digestion issues on the course.
A day before, on Friday afternoon suddenly felt really bad hunger. Ate a lot of rice, oatmeal and chicken.
Opening a can of peanut butter was a mistake. After I got a taste of it, I literally lost control… I ate the entire jar myself. (About 3000 Calories). I wasn’t tracking anything, however my curiosity took over and I threw in some numbers into MyFitnessPall to guesstimate the amount ate.
This is almost triple the amount of food I usually eat. Damn, I’m so full! I hope this extreme caloric excess will provide by body with the energy to unleash on the course tomorrow. Stopped eating at 6 pm, went on a 30-40 minute walk around the block. Planning to wake up at 4 am, which will give my body about 10 hours to digest all the peanut butter I ate 😅 I hope I won’t feel this full tomorrow morning.
Did not sleep well 😔 Had night sweats and woke up to the restroom 3-4 times. My usual resting heart rate went up from 40-41 to 55 bpm. Really bAD headache upon waking up.
Breakfast: Sweet potato (~300g) Oatmeal 50g 4 tbsp of peanut butter 1 tbsp of honey Banana Coffee
RACE VENUE: T1
T1 transition opened up from 5-6:15 am. I arrived at 5:30am and faced a huge line from cars. We were not moving at all. I heard one of volunteers saying that they’re already full and there are no parking spots left. Well, great! People were leaving their cars everywhere, on the side of the road, on the hills, anywhere they could find a spot. I was not an exception and left my car on the side on the road. I had 20 minutes left until transition is closed.
Clean transition. This means that you can not leave anything on the ground. All your bike gear has to be off the ground.
Walking down the isles of bikes with my wetsuit hanging over my shoulder I’ve been getting weird looks from other athletes. I a few minutes I realized why. My bike rack neighbor, when saw the suit on the ground, said: “Nice wetsuit, man! Is it legal to swim in suit?”
This is when I realized that NO ONE had a wetsuit , besides me 😆. Went back to the car to drop it off.
I was very disorganized. I couldn’t focus, I could think straight. I felt I was in some sort of mental fog 🌫 On top op it, since waking up this morning I had a REALLY BAD HEADACHE.
slow but enjoyable
Idiot brought a wetsuit.
My wave, 25-29 was starting 25 minutes after the official start. First, they let older folks get wet and slowly moved downtown to the younger athletes. Each wave was separated by one minute time.
10 minutes before the start had a half of Cliff Energy Gel.
Despite headache, felt ok through the swim. It was not as crazy as Marbella start and I found out that I was competing with only 42 athletes, my age group.
It was hard to sight. Because of waves and small size buyees. Another thing was the sun. Being a left side breather I was constantly blinded by the sun, zigzagging throughout the course.
There were a lot of space between athletes. Because of wise separation between age groupers, there were enough space for everyone to swim at the comfortable pace without getting kicked in the head or pulled by the feet.
The swim course was absolutely beautiful. The water was so crystal clear, that you could even the tiniest fish swinging around the corals on the bottom. Turtles foot steps could be seen on the white sand. I almost wanted to slow down, just to watch the wildlife.
The last turn, straight to the finish line, sun was hitting right in the face. Couldn’t see anything, so I was jut following other folks.
Exiting the water, you’ve got to run up the hill to T1. It was about 2 minutes run that would bring your HR up.
Approaching the bike, I had a volunteer by my side offering to hold transition bag and help to lift the bike. The young kid was really nice.
Headache is getting worse.
challenging but fast
At the *mandatory pre-race meeting, organizers made a big emphasis on drafting rules and penalties. At least 6 meters between front wheels. Two penalty tents on the course. Yellow card – 30 seconds, blue card – 60 seconds if I recall it correctly.
T1 was quick. No need to take the wetsuit off, just put your shoes, helmet, sunglasses on and fill your pockets with nutrition, previously prepared.
First 20 km flew by fast. It was a bit windy here and there, but nothing crazy. Approaching the hill is when the wind started to pick up. The higher we went, the stronger the wind blew. About 10 km to the top of this monster hill the wind was BRUTAL. Rocks and sand flew into my face. Along the route I’ve seen quite a few flats and respectively frustrated athletes. Unfortunately you can not prevent it, but you can prepare. “Every hill has a downhill”, I kept repeating in my mind and oddly enough this hill was not an exception. Halfway through the course, on top of the hill you turn around, grab your G2 and fly downhill. I felt I could use a higher gear ⚙️ but my cassette did not carry any. With gravity and wind working for you, not against, second part of the ride was definitely more fun and enjoyable.
Nutrition: Aid stations were offering Gatorade Endurance at each tent, so I planned to rely solely on it. Brought only one bottle of electrolyte solution, leaving the second bottle cage empty for G2. Also only aid station#3 had GI gels.
Planned to consume & Actually consumed:
Pretty close to what was planned. Sugar in Gatorade accounted for the rest. Also G2 endurance tastes good. I loved it.
Headache continued chasing me through the entire bike leg and followed into the run. I could feel the veins pumping on the sides of my head.
Quick Tip: in hot climates like this, solid foods most likely will melt. If you don’t want to drink your protein bar, pack gels or liquid sources instead.
hot and painful
REALLY-REALLY HOT🥵 is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the run part. Right the second I dismounted off the bike, sharp pain 9/10 hit me behind the left knee. I could not even walk…
“The race is over!”, flew through my mind. Somehow I limped up to my running bag and put on my gear. Again, volunteers were really helpful and helped me with my bike. Thank you!
First 5 km were painful to even step on the leg. However I felt a little bit better 30-40 minutes into the run and slightly picked up the pace.
We were running along the golf course, often on the grass. Wild goats were starring at people from the side of the road. They were more confused than us, having no idea what was going on.
Two loops with 7 aid stations on each. Gatorade, water, coke and ice. In addition there were ice sponges, GU gels, oranges and bananas. Very well organized and setup.
Planned & Consumed through the run:
Twice as much as planned.
15 km into the run, really fast and sharp pain hit my knee again 8/10. Ever since it never went away and rapidly increased to the point where I could not resist it anymore… I suffered each step I took. However I did not walk. I was slow, really slow, BUT I did not walk! and it took a lot.
Dropped my race belt, which I later lost. I also found it much more painful to run downhills rather than uphills.
Suffering was real, especially for the last 5 km.
“It’s all good mental training Sasha!!!”, I keep repeating in my head. My mind crossed the finish line, not the body.
Total consumed through the race:
According to carb consumption formula (0.33 x body weight (150 lbs)) x 5 hr 40 min = 277 grams of carbs were required to cover energy expenditures.
Looks like I’ve done a pretty good job with my fueling and it’s almost gram to gram precisely close to what formula suggests.
I tend to binge eat the night before race. I don’t repeat such behavior during regular days. Could be due to stress and anxiety, could be out of fear of coming into the race under fueled and bonking, could be because of deeper psychological issues I am not aware of.
Overeating before bed will not fuel up your glycogen stores, but will compromise your night sleep. You will wake up exhausted and feeling like crap.
Do your homework and carefully research on race rules, requirements and regulations. Failing to do good research made me bring the wetsuit into the event where it was not permitted.
Rice and sweet potatoes are better alternatives to oatmeal for pre-race meal. Consuming low-fibrous foods reduce the chance of GI distress during the race.
Gatorade Endurance G2 is a great hydration tool. If possible, use it in the next race or hard training.
Some gels can cause your liver to spasm. Don’t experiment with unfamiliar fuel on the course. If got a spasm, deep balled breathing: in through the nose, out through the mouth.
Absolutely gorgeous race course!
This is definitely the race to remember and experience worth all the money I payed.
I did not perform as I wanted to. I suffered a lot.
I trained my mind. I experienced 50 shades of pain and will be more appreciative of pain free body.
I enjoyed the race!
I’ve been there, I’ve seen the fish and felt the warm water on my skin. I smelled the melting road and enjoyed the cool breeze of salty air on my sweaty face.
I put my all, physical and mental. It’s all that matters.
Special thanks to Volunteers along the course! You guys were EXTREMELY NICE AND HELPFUL! You were one of the highlights of my experience.
REPEAT AFTER ME:
You are doing triathlons because YOU CHOSE TO, not because you have to. Don’t forget that!
You do it FOR YOURSELF, no one gives a f*ck. Don’t forget that!
NO ONE FORCES you to train every damn day. No one, besides your ego or whatever motivation you have.
You can quit anytime you want. No one gives a fuck!
It’s your life, it’s your decisions. Don’t forget that!
There are so many ways to loose weigh: fast & slow, simple and overly complicated, cool and “sexy” & long, boring… People find motivation from all sorts of things and reasons that are uniquely different for each individual. We are not going to explore the infinite world of weigh loss psychology, dietary restrictions or any other topics of such matter in this chapter.
Being an athlete, you are motivated more by performance rather than just the looks. It’s obvious, the lighter athlete is, the less weigh to carry, especially in sports like cycling or running. The ideal weight is the weight, where you perform at you best, WHILE staying healthy. “Race weight” is not to be kept year round and achieved only for short periods of time during competition season or major athletic events.
In this post you will find the information with real life examples to teach you simple and basic approach to a short-term weigh cut. This technique is slightly adjusted to meet demands of high energy expenditures of endurance training, however it can also be adopted by non-athletic population.
This example uses 150 lbs athlete who tries to loose few kilos to meet his/hers ideal race weight prior to major competition.
Starting Weight: 68 kg Goal Weight: 65 kg Time: 3 weeks Loss Rate: 1 kg/week
1. Determine your Energy Intake
First of all, you need to determine what’s your current energy intake level or “maintenance level”. To do so, you will record everything that goes into your mouth for one-two weeks. There are numerous phone apps and online calculators that will allow to pull up foods nutrition data and estimate energy equivalent of the foods you eat. You need to have a very good idea of how much you eat on a daily and weekly basis. Below is example of 150 lbs athlete daily energy intake:
Such energy intake allows this athlete to maintain his current weight with current level of activity. Multiply by 7 and get the following number:
Weekly Calorie Intake : 21,042 Calories
IMPORTANT NOTE: Calories consumed during exercising (sports nutrition, energy bars, gels, chews, isotonic drinks etc) are not to be included in energy intake calculations.
2. Determine you Energy Expenditure
Now that you have a good idea of how much you eat in terms of numbers, next step is to calculate how much energy you expand. Modern fitness trackers, such as FitBit, Garmin, Apple Watch etc. allow you to guesstimate your energy expenditures during your trainings. Keep in mind that this number is far from being precise, however is used consistently it will allow you to get a general idea of what your body expands and have a rough number of calories used to fuel your trainings.
The example below used Garmin Fenix 5 watch and Garmin Connect App to determine energy expenditure:
Average Weekly Expenditure: ~20,500 Calories
Because the athlete consumes about the same amount of energy as what he expands, he is able to maintain his current body weight. To loose weight he needs to create energy deficit.
3. Create Appropriate Deficit
It is estimated that 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat. Therefore we can make an assumption that you need to burn about 3,500 caloriesto lose 1 pound. We also assume that cutting about 500 – 1,000 calories a day from your maintenance level, will make you lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week. Sounds simple, isn’t it?
Below is example of adjusted energy intake with a goal of loosing 2 kg of body weight in three weeks.
Adjusted Daily Macronutrient & Caloric Intake:
Because of very active lifestyle and a lot of aerobic type training, given athlete needs to make sure he maintains proper glycogen stores in muscles and more importantly – in liver. The goal here is to keep eating as many carbohydrates as possible, while loosing weight. Therefore fats – is the first macronutrient that will need the adjustment.
Healthy fats are really important for proper body function and hormonal health. About 10 years ago a healthy fat intake was suggested to be 1/2g per 1 kg of body weight. This is when “fat free” products became popular. Modern guidelines suggest the minimal fat intake to be around 1g/kg of body weight. For 150 lbs athlete, minimal dietary fate intake should be no less than 70g of dietary fats per day. It is really important not to go below the minimal amount as it can harm your hormonal health!
Healthy protein intake for active people is suggested to not exceed 2-2.5g/kg or 1g/lb of body weight per day. For the athlete with weigh of 150 lbs (70 kg) its 150 g of protein per day.
The rest, half of your calories, will be coming from carbohydrates. Again, such high carbohydrate intake is necessary to fuel athlete’s trainings. Ideally carbohydrates will be coming from complex and low glycemic load sources. This is necessary to keep blood sugar within healthy levels.
Energy deficit of 576 Calories/day made our athlete loose 3 kg in one week. Not all the weight loss came from fat, partially it’s a water weight. Anyways he reached his “ideal race weigh” three times faster than expected. This is a very rapid weight loss, not ideal scenario for long term health and performance. Such fast results could also have an impact on nervous system, making the person apathetic, demotivated to exercise and pessimistic about life in general. In case if you loose more than 1 kg a week, you might want to slightly bump your daily energy intake by 100 calories. This will not stop the weight loss, but it will make it healthier and more sustainable in long run.
Below are few examples of complete meals designed to fuel athlete’s body post-workout with weight loss goal in mind. These meals come from organic and “clean” foods and contain proper amounts of macronutrients to fuel athlete’s body post exercise activity.
More detailed nutritional guidelines to proper fueling, types of foods and timing discussed in section solely dedicated to Sports Nutrition.
Since the Paris marathon which I did on January 6th this year I decided to focus entirely on triathlons. Despite my coach’s concerns in regards to racing frequency, I set myself ambitious goal to do 5 IRONMAN Races this year. Four of them are 70.3 and one full distance, to close the season.
4 months I’ve been training specifically for the first race of the season – IRONMAN 70.3 Marbella. It’s also my very first IRONMAN Race.
Pre race 1-2 days:
This crazy trip didn’t allow me properly eat prior to the race. However I am really happy that I was thoughtful enough to bring three lunch boxes with food. No problems with security checks at the airports. Just make sure there is no meat and it’s secure in transparent container.
Night before the race I went nuts and really overate going to bed stuffed like a pig. The reason of such overeating is partially due to my exhaustion from the trip. It was really, really stressful and I used the food to comfort myself. Guilty of that.
I had a lot of oatmeal (250-300g) + 1/2 cantaloupe +3 bananas + 2 sweet potatoes. 1 scoop of protein and some BCAAs to sprinkle onto the oats. Listening to my friend’s suggestion, I totally eliminated any sort of meat or fish.
Oatmeal before the race is a good choice. You can find it at any grocery store around the world. I actually like the way it tastes. It doesn’t spike your blood sugar; slow burning carbs. It fuels you with glycogen and does not cause diarrhea or any GI problems. The only issue I see with it is that because of high fiber concentration it takes a while to leave the body. Don’t eat too much of it right before the race or exercise.
Try not to overeat, especially before the bed, especially the night before the race.
Have a gel 10-15 minutes before the swim.
Take at least 2-3 lunch boxes with you on a trip. Plane and airport foods are horrible. You will thank yourself later.
Don’t leave your nutrition in transition area, you will have access to it in the morning. You can then throw all extra stuff into transition bags and setup bike water bottles.
Coke might cause the liver to spasm. Drink, but be careful. Not a bad choice for the last 5 km.
15 Minutes before the swim found 1 gel laying on the sand. Ate it =)
Overall pretty happy with the swim.
Right from the beginning felt strong, however remembered Renee’s guidelines and pulled myself back from going too hard.
The crowd was crazy. Got hit in the head 3-4 times. Some people were literally pulling me back by the ankles. Drank a bit of salty water, however didn’t panic and stayed calm throughout the entire swim. Didn’t sight at all on the beginning, however began to close to the end. The ocean was cold, so my feet almost cramped 2-3 times… reduced kicking, focused more on a stroke. I found it to be really hard to keep good technique in such crazy environment.
Came out of water feeling strong. Got pleasantly surprised with the time. No dizziness or fatigue.
Don’t swim in the middle, stick to one of the outer sides.
Blue Nike googles are good, don’t switch them. Wear them under the swim cap.
Have a gel 10-15 minutes before.
Don’t underestimate your swim time and instead of 40, go into 30 minutes swim wave.
If the water is cold – less kicking, so you don’t cramp.
The course was absolutely amazing. Views from the top are outstanding.
A lot of climbing. A LOT. In addition, strong head facing and side winds made the bike part a real challenge.
Dropped one of my water bottles right on the beginning. I was surprised of myself that didn’t get upset or mad and simply let it go a second later. In fact, loosing a bottle was not such a bad thing. Isotonic drinks at the aid stations were pretty good and I had an empty bottle holder to carry them in. Also they didn’t taste like they had any calories in them.
Found myself being pretty good climbing the hills. I was rarely passed while going up, however I felt like I could’ve used a higher gear on the downhills and flat segments. Fighting the hills I was constantly passing guys on fancy aero bikes, catching their eyes on me. However when the downhill time came they would fly by, leaving me in th dust.
I didn’t eat as much as planned, however it didn’t affect the performance. I stopped once just to pee. I also saw some guys pee on a bike, right in front of me. Because of the winds urine would fly right on the people behind. Disgusting.
Last 20 km were really fast, all downhill. Trying to be as aero as possible I was even passing folks of carbon bikes. Strong side winds and sharp turns made it pretty dangerous to ride at such high speeds. By the end of the ride I felt pretty fatigued, however not too much.
Expensive, carbon/aero bikes are worthless on a hilly course. Hold on to buying a new bike.
Take only one bottle on the bike. Keep the room for on course hydration.
Adjust the speeds on your bike so you can switch the highest gear.
Wear the race belt right away, underneath the wetsuit. Less hustle putting it on while transitioning into the run.
Bike position felt good. No need to change anything.
Right off the bike felt a bit dizzy.
First 5-7 km were a struggle. Wasn’t feeling strong and the distance ahead of me set the fascination in my mind. I did not feel like I could do it.
I was surprised that I didn’t have any GI problems up until half way through. Even when I did stop to use the bathroom, it wasn’t bad. It’s just the amount of food I ate days prior. Right after the bathroom use, the second breath opened up. I felt stronger and wasn’t struggling that much anymore. In fact 30-40 minutes into the run is when I began feeling better. Remaining half of the run I got to truly enjoy it. Loved it! Towards the end had some liver spasms, but nothing too painful.
Increased my pace for the last 4-5 km. Finished strong.
The course along the beach was fantastic. It was really, really cool and I got a lot of joy running through it.
Right off the bike you might feel dizzy. That’s normal.
First 30-40 minutes you will feel like crap. Push through, you will feel better as the time goes on. Focus on technique and pace. Visualize the finish and appreciate a chance to do what you do and to be where you are.
Update (May 13):
I’ve had some time to think and this are the thoughts & conclusions I came up with…
Is it so much about the race and accomplishment or about the experience? Is it about the medal 🏅 or the person you’ve become to get the medal?
It’s about the lifestyle you’ve created to achieve your goal.
Training for triathlon makes me better not just in one but three spots: swimming, running and cycling. What other sport develops the athletes so broadly? How about the mental training I get during the process? How about invaluable lessons I learn from this sport that applicable to my work, business, life and relationships? Only so many people gained access to this knowledge and you can connect with them through the sport.
I know I won’t be doing triathlons for the rest of my life. However, when I decide no longer continue with the sport I will have a solid foundation of endurance, strength and health to bring into another pursuits I will choose to follow in future. Just think of all the adventures you can go on with your skills and fitness. You can follow a swimming path, and challenge yourself to do a cross lakes swimming or something that makes you excited.
You can go on multi days or weeks of ultra endurance running trough the beautiful forests of Canada or USA. You’ve got cycling fitness that will allow you to become professional cyclist or go on a crazy adventurous cycling trip across the state or country.
Essentially, triathlon opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me. It give me options to choose from.
You are doing triathlons because YOU CHOSE TO, not because you have to. Don’t forget that.
No one forces you to train every damn day. No one, besides your ego or whatever motivation you have. You do it because you chose to do it.
You can quit anytime you want. No one gives a fuck!
It’s your life, it’s your decisions. Don’t forget that!
There are so many diets that promote incredible results with weight loss, muscle gain or overall well being. How many diets or different approaches have you tried in pursuit of your goals? How many times have you failed? Don’t rely just on somebody’s opinions or suggestions to eating. I encourage you to take proactive approach and learn what works and what doesn’t, specifically with your body. Create your own “perfect” diet to live a long and healthy life.
I can not overstate the facts that we are what we eat and our health totally depends on what we put in our mouth. Every human being is unique and different is so many ways. Therefore there is no universal recipe or diet that will give you all that you want. You got to realize that you are the only one responsible for your health and there is not a single person in the world that would have the answer to what works and what doesn’t for your body. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good information on the internet and books, but you got to take the initiative in your hands and figure out what works specifically for YOU. Luckily you live in the age, when genetic tests are freely accessible to the public. 10-20 years ago, food intolerance or DNA tests were done only in sophisticated laboratories by scientists. Today you have the luxury of access to a lot of blood testing tools that can help you improve your health and live longer.
Food Intolerance Test is one of such tests. I did it at the lab called Dynacare in Toronto, Canada. The test costed me $250.
What this test will tell you?
The test will show show how your body reacts to certain foods that you eat. It will help to discover food intolerances you were not aware of that could compromise your health and well being. Results of the test will help you to create a diet that suits specifically your body’s needs. It help you to see the correlations between the foods you eat and the way you feel. I can also explain why you had some of the food intolerances symptoms. Some intolerances symptoms include and not limited by:
Headaches and Migraines
Itchy skin etc.
How is test being done?
Your immune system, in response to external stress that come from food, produces antibodies called IgG. Your blood is being tested against 125 most common foods, while measuring the levels of IgG antibodies. This test determines if you have intolerance to certain foods and how severe the intolerances are.
Note: food allergy and intolerance are not the same. In response to allergy, your body produces IgE antibodies, which are different from IgG. Also while allergies usually cause immediate reactions, it can take few hours or days for the symptoms caused by food intolerances to occur.
Egg Whites, Peanuts, Yeast (Beer) and Barley are on top of the list. That’s a no-no foods for me. Below is the full list of foods they tested me agains. Some other foods to keep an eye on are: pretty much all nuts and seeds, mustard, wheat, corn, potatoes.
Eat the rainbow. Eating variety of foods insures that you get the full range of important vitamins and minerals.
Once you eliminate some foods from your diet, you also loose the nutrients that came along with them. To replace the nutrients you need, use the table below to find “safe” replacements options for you.
Nutrients found in Common Foods
Know your body. Take full responsibility for your health and well-being. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Create your own “perfect” diet.