Paleo Helps Triathlete Qualify for Ironman 70.3 World Championships

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I started triathlon 4 years ago as a way to “mix things up” from my normal running and strength training routine that I used to stay in ‘decent shape’. I have always been an active person, enjoying a variety of sports and outdoor activities, but through my 20’s I really struggled to maintain a healthy body weight.

Last year I did my first Ironman distance race and while the experience of training and racing was incredible, I was surprised that I still struggled to get leaner and lighter even with all that training.  It really drove home the point that achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is about 85% nutrition; the rest is genetics and activity level.

When discussing my goals for the 2012 triathlon season with my coach Adam Zucco of TrainingBible Coaching in February, he suggested that I try to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  I laughed, “Do you have any idea how fast the girls in my age group are going Adam; sub 5 hours!” He replied “what makes you think you can’t go that fast?” Within that discussion we talked about strengths and limiters and he said he thought one of my limiters was my current body weight. I was just too heavy to ride and run as fast as I could. I knew he was right, and I needed that level of honesty to get real with what I had to do in order to chase the goal of going to Worlds.

Like many women and endurance athletes, I’ve tried every diet known to man, with varying levels of short term success. I had yet to find a way of eating that allowed me to train hard, recover easily, feel satiated all while not feeling deprived. Adam suggested I work with Amy Kubal, his Paleo dietitian. Adam had faced the same issues as I had with managing his weight, and he has had success with Amy’s program. So I gave it a try.

Amy experience with long course triathletes was apparent immediately. She understood the need to quickly recovery between workouts, so that you could feel fueled for the 2nd and sometimes 3rd workout of the day. We didn’t get everything right the first time, but she was quick to respond to email questions and concerns. We were able to find a program and structure that worked for me.

I didn’t notice the scale changing right away, but slowly the pounds started to come off. What was more noticeable was my physical transformation; I was getting visibly leaner, so much so that even I noticed it and I look at myself every day! It has been six month since I changed my diet over and I’ve never felt better. I didn’t think I could give up dairy, legumes (I love lentils) and grains, but after the first few weeks I didn’t even miss them any more. I just felt satiated and healthy, so it was easy to maintain the program. I’m not perfect, I still have ice cream or a glass of wine once in a while and Amy encourages that; I don’t feel shame for “cheating”; I choose to enjoy the treats when I have them.

Just last weekend I raced at the Calgary 70.3 and I did a huge PR, clocking a time of 4:57, good enough for 2nd in my age group and securing a spot to race at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in five weeks’ time. There was a lot of hard work and sacrifice that went into making that 4:57 possible, but I believe one of the biggest differences was that I am leaner and stronger than I have ever been in my adult life. I attribute that to the dietary change and modified Paleo program that Amy designed for me.

Thanks to Paleo, Amy, and Adam for helping me achieve my goals!

 

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  1. Gary Conway
    August 20, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Brilliant post – Great to see that paleo helped you hit a new PR!

  2. roKKo
    August 20, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Congrats! Could you give a bit more details about the diet itself? Meals timing, how much carbs etc?

    • Amy Kubal
      August 20, 2012 at 5:04 am

      That depends on training and the athlete. It’s different for everyone based on individual needs and schedule. There is no textbook answer!

      • rokko
        August 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm

        Yes, I know, that’s kind of obvious, but I meant a diet for an endurance athlete training for the event like the Ironman or some kind of ultramarathon. And I don’t mean exact plan, but more a framework to start with. E.g training 6 day/week with one “long workout” and 5 shorter ones. And maybe how would you approach training early in the morning vs. in the evening form nutritioning perspective.

        • Amy Kubal
          August 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

          I can definitely help you get it all figured out – but the main thing is carbohydrate intake and timing – post workout chow is KEY!!! That’s where you need to focus your carbohydrate intake to refuel and recover. Some carb/protein pre-workout and during longer workouts is important too. Regardless of when you workout – the pre-/during/post workout eating should be fairly consistent.

  3. Martin
    August 20, 2012 at 2:51 am

    Another great news!

    And how about Tim Olson winning Western States 100 on low-carb?

    http://www.meandmydiabetes.com/2012/08/11/western-states-100-low-carber-wins-ultramarathon-steve-phinney-and-jeff-volek-study/

    I wonder if we hear more of such stories after the next Olympics…

  4. Chris
    August 20, 2012 at 6:09 am

    What a great post. I’d love for Robb & Gregg to get Amy or even Joe Friel on the podcast sometime. It appears based on comments that they’ve made in the past that they (Robb & Gregg) aren’t fans of endurance sports, but some of us who listen to the pod aren’t big into O-lifting or crossfit. Heck Joe co-authored Paleo for Athletes with Dr. Cordain. As an avid cyclist, I’ve experience first hand the benefits of going paleo and hitting all sorts of new PRs on the bike. The PRs are an even better marker of success than any scale or mirror can provide.

    Keep us posted and let us know how you perform at Worlds.

  5. The Crunchy Pickle
    August 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Awesome!

  6. Gabby
    August 21, 2012 at 4:46 am

    I find that your observation of the importance of the nutrition (contents and timing) component of your training regimen to track with my own experience as to body mass.

    Thanks for the post, and fair winds and following seas for your upcoming race!!

  7. JT19
    August 22, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Great info here, I also found many amazing tips and recipes on thefitnessexplorer.com, amazing tips on pale living, barefoot running, and primal fitness. Very informative and interesting posts. It helped me rehab my lower back pain and got me into great shape.

  8. Dianna on Maui
    August 28, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Triathlon is what brought Paleo to my doorstep as well. I experienced the same limitations (training and a “healthy” diet, but no weight change) so I was astounded when I lost 20lbs in the first two months on Paleo. My endurance has improved, my recovery times are lower, and I feel great! I’ve maintained my current weight for over a year. More endurance athletes should give it a try.

  9. Ryan CF TakeOver
    September 1, 2012 at 12:13 am

    We see the same results in 5-8 minute works as well as 50 & 100K racers. It across the board. Paleo works!

  10. Alex
    July 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    This is great that you’ve adopted the paleo diet. It’s such a healthy way to approach life. Currently, I am training for a half ironman and am also following a paleo diet (though, haven’t fully converted as I do, on the occasions, eat whole wheat pasta and bread). I am finding positive changes in my performance by relying on these ‘cave-man’ foods. However, I struggle to find alternatives to pasta and bread for carb after long workouts. What suggestions do you have?

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