Nutrition Consultation Case Study: Wife, Mom, Kona qualifier

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“I always feel like I can be better as an athlete. As I progressed I thought nutrition would elevate my performance.”

For many triathletes, getting to race the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii is the pinnacle of achievement in the sport. Those who qualify into the Big Dance are driven, committed, and at the top of their game.

Evelyn Salama set her sights on Kona in 2010, about two years after she started the sport and started hitting the age group podium at sprint races. She was able to access two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack and his team of experts for valuable advice about how to develop as an athlete and eventually qualify.

Finally, she got her slot into the 2017 Ironman World Championship. But even though she had qualified, Evelyn knew there was still more work up ahead, more improvements to be made.

Post-qualifying, Evelyn had gained weight. She also had experienced gut issues while racing (oddly, never in training). So she sought my help as as sports dietitian.

“I had previously tried other nutritionists who, for whatever reasons, philosophies, my lifestyle, etc. just didn’t work for me, but I was always willing to try,” said Evelyn. “Everyone says that nutrition is the fourth discipline, so I thought I should give finding someone a try.”

I took note of Evelyn’s lifestyle as a wife and mother of two. Due to limited time, Evelyn did nearly all of her training in the morning, usually as multiple back-to-back sessions. Meal preparation would also need to be easy and something her family would also eat.

Evelyn said, “I needed someone who could make a plan for the athlete, wife and mother with ‘real’ food.

“I am a mother of two and a wife of one so kale and quinoa for dinner isn’t going to work for me.”

  • Name: Evelyn Salama
  • Age: 43
  • Location: USA
  • Initial Eating Habits: Not eating enough before/during/after training sessions resulted in more hunger later in the day.

I saw that Evelyn needed to improve her nutrition around her training sessions, as she was not eating enough. For example, on Swim + Cycle days, Evelyn would eat a banana pre-swim. Between sessions she would fuel with eggs and rice, and after the bike ride she would have rice, chicken, and veggies.

The meal plan also included strategies for different types of days for both training and life — for instance, when Evelyn had double sessions and also had to drop off her kids at school (AKA insane day). Recipe ideas were also appropriate for kids.

But more importantly, Evelyn learned about general day-to-day nutrition. She said, “Tweaking my nutrition helped me understand a lot about portion control. I’d always been thin and able to eat whatever I wanted, not really knowing too much about food. What different foods do for the body, what kind of foods to eat after big efforts for maximum recovery, what’s a carbohydrate… etc.”

Focus/Outcomes of Further Sessions:

  • improved body composition
  • managing increased nutrition needs with increased training load
  • incorporation of fasted and well-fed sessions
  • better energy for training through better planning and knowledge of nutrition
  • ability to tweak meals to suit both her own and her family’s needs
  • experiment with different strategies to manage bowels
  • race-day nutrition and hydration plan that is tried and tested

Working with me in the year leading up to her race in Kona, Evelyn shed body fat even while increasing her food input alongside her training load. She also tested and tweaked her race-day nutrition plan over several races so that she would have the best shot at remaining well-fueled in Kona.

After finishing her maiden Ironman World Championship well-supported by her friends who had flown down to cheer her on, Evelyn set her sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

She concluded, “I think anyone and everyone can benefit from nutrition consulting. In my opinion, the key is finding someone who can cater to your lifestyle.”

Chloe McLeod is an Advanced Sports Dietitian for Pho3nix Club.

(Header photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash)


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