Finding your inner iron-core self 

What you eat when you're an Ironman

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So congrats, Whistler, for landing Ironman Canada! Now, if you can picture the maybe 3,000 competitors who will subsequently be landing at Whistler for the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and full marathon (26.2 miles), along with the thousands of supporters and volunteers, then you get a sense of the crazy hoopla soon to unfold.

And here's a picture of a different kind: if your mouth starts watering when you think about a nice filet of salmon, goat cheese and walnuts, tomatoes, arugula salad, asparagus and fresh peaches, then you're on your way to becoming an ironman or — woman, or at least eating like one, because that kind of diet is exactly what's optimal for wannabe and real-time competitors.

Given I'm more of a rust-than iron-woman and was really curious about what people eat before and during such an event, I started Googling around. One site, triathloncompetitor.com, has the picture above along with an "iron-core" meal plan that seems appropriate for any long distance event, especially one called Ironman.

The trick is, training for an Ironman takes so much time — upwards of 20 hours a week near the end — that when you factor in other obligations, like a real job, school or family obligations, you're after good whole food, fast — meaning it doesn't take a lot of time to prep, as opposed to food that's fast but neither good nor wholesome.

On triathloncompetitor.com, Rhonwyn Curtis-Nicholson, a certified nutrition support dietitian at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, advises eating whole foods whenever possible to keep your energy levels up and your body working to its maximum potential.

Even though she doesn't advocate supplements, for breakfast after a workout she suggests a strawberry-banana/whey protein smoothie with nonfat milk. Snacks include yogurt with blueberries or cheese and almonds or walnuts. (Nuts in general are healthy and contain monounsaturated fats that can slow down inflammation and oxidation in the body.) Lunch might be something like lean turkey on whole wheat bread with spinach and a cup of black bean soup. Dinner: a tuna melt with low-fat Swiss cheese and a side of steamed broccoli. You can even scoop up a dessert like low-fat frozen yogurt with dark chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Wait a sec! Other than the whey powder, which I'd switch to a nice bowl of porridge, I pretty much eat like this! But I bet I could barely run around the block, so for more elucidation about what you eat before and during an Ironman, I dialed up my pal Karoly Krajczar, who, in an unwitting stroke of symmetry, did his first-ever Ironman this year at Penticton's 30th and last event.

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