How to "Train" Your Diet for Your Next Race

Nicole Loher is a triathlete, Adidas ambassador, and all-around fitness guru, all while balancing a badass day job in the fashion industry (and several side gigs to boot). Needless to say, she's an inspiration in the art of hustling—and she's totally game to share her knowledge. Follow her column, Part-Time Athlete, for her expert advice on everything from establishing a training regimen to finding early-morning gym motivation.

As I’m sure you’ve heard before, our bodies are kind of like cars: We must keep them well-oiled and -maintained to keep them running smoothly. Whether you’ve committed yourself to a 5K road race or a bodybuilding competition, I’m sure you’re beginning to question how and what you should be eating to help you perform in tip-top shape. A quick search on Amazon can be a little overwhelming. For the runners, you’ll find best sellers like Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes by Shalane Flanagan. For bodybuilders, you have books like The Shredded Chef: 120 Recipes for Building Muscle, Getting Lean, and Staying Healthy by Michael Matthews. And there are a million options in between whether you’re a swimmer, a cyclist, or a gluten-free, sugar-free, GMO-free, Paleo-everything Pilates fanatic.

Personally, through seasons of experimenting, I’ve found that a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein, ketogenic diet helps my engine run best when training for a race. But as expert Ben Lauder Dykes explained in my last column, it’s all about finding what works best for you to fit your goals. Over the last year, I’ve watched fitness star, nutrition and life coach, and Rumble Boxing trainer Juliana Estrella rise to the top of her game. As someone who is always training clients, other athletes, or herself, she’s a great resource to lend some insight on how to get to the top of your game from a nutrition standpoint. Ready to rethink your nutrition so you can begin to race to place?

First things first: Establish your goal(s).

And give a deeper meaning to your goal,” Estrella stresses. “Remind yourself often why you decided to commit to your race or competition. It can later serve as an anchor when you ‘don’t feel like doing it anymore.’”

Have a look at your current diet.

The first thing I would do if I were changing my diet in general is take a look at what your current diet is like,” says Estrella. “If it’s vastly different to what you would like to be adapting to, chances are you want to have some time to make small adjustments. Understand that lifestyle changes take time and so does accomplishing goals. If this is your first time embarking on races or competitions, take a couple of weeks to begin settling into this journey you’re going on.”

Create a road map to where you want to be.

In my second column, I dove headfirst into how I learned I needed 3000 calories a day to sustain my routine. Do you know your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure)? That’s a great place to start. From there, fill your diet with a balance of nutrient-rich foods, as well as foods you enjoy. That balance is key to staying on track!

Focus on one meal at a time.

Easier said than done, right? Estrella explains, “Your diet may not be perfect 100% of the time. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you have a meal that veers off track. Acknowledge it and get back on your nutrition game for the next meal. Don’t say f*ck it and then eat whatever is in sight just because you had one meal that wasn’t planned.”

Finally, we beg of you: Be realistic and be kind to yourself.

We are human and your diet should fit your training. You should not be aiming to have peak week physique or performance all year round. This is a journey! Embrace the journey.

On a closing note, Estrella honed in on something very important: nutrition is essential for living an optimal daily life. When it comes to sports nutrition related to races or competitions, it’s not that it’s more important than your daily nutrition— it’s just comes down to specifics and sticking to a regimen. With so many fad diets out there and processed treats, it’s easy to forget that food at its core is actually fuel for your body. The purpose of having a solid nutrition plan for competitions is so that you can actually perform the task at hand.

Do you alter your diet based on your training regime? I’d love to hear what you do to be your best self on the course. Until then, be well.