I have found the path to triathlon nutrition nirvana. Eat what makes you happy. Let me tell you how I made this deceptively simple discovery.

At first, it didn't seem to me like it should be possible to find such a simple solution to sports nutrition, because today's triathlete hears different advice from everywhere regarding what to eat.

Dave Scott, 8-time Hawaii Ironman world champion, followed a strictly vegan diet during the years he was atop the triathlon world, while Michael Phelps famously ate dump-trucks full of pizza, energy drinks, and candy bars while training for his record breaking 2008 Olympic performance. Phelps also frequented the bong.

Phelps is not usually regarded as the gold medalist of nutrition

Paleo eating is the new hot triathlon diet, with well respected proponents such as exercise physiologist Loren Cordain, Ph.D. and and triathlon coach Joe Friel. It advocates "eating like a caveman", meaning more proteins, healthy fats, and elimination of modern carbohydrates, wheat, rice, corn, etc. On the other end of the spectrum, just about every endurance sports nutrition book published since modern man replaced the caveman has advocated eating around 50-75% of one's calorie's from carbs.

Did the caveman have a healthier diet than you?

There's plenty of examples of conflicting advice, but, most disconcerting is the fact that an athlete can't even trust major government agencies (such as the Food and Drug Administration) or highly trusted, medically approved organizations such as the American Heart Association. Most of these respected organizations have extensive ties to food and/or drug manufacturers, and, consequently, stand to benefit from endorsing certain nutrition hypotheses. In 2002, The American Heart Association earned over two million dollars from it's 'heart-check' logo, while endorsing supposedly heart healthy products such as:

  • Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp and Count Chocula
  • Healthy Choice Low Fat Ice Creams
  • Chocolate Moose Milk Chocolate Drinks
  • Malt-O-Meal Honey Graham Squares and Honey Nut Toasty O's
  • Pop-Secret 94% Fat Free Butter Microwave Premium Popcorn
Seems like highly-processed, nutrient-devoid, sugar bombs you say? The AHA endorses these products, and athletes like Michael Phelps have won gold medals while eating similar crap, so who are you to say this packaged crap is bad for you?

General Mills and the AHA sell a lot of shit

I've spent so much time detailing the confusion regarding sports nutrition (and healthy eating in general) to prove a point: No one knows what makes a healthy diet.

In face of this conclusion, what is an athlete to do? Eat what makes you happy!

The only caveat I place on my five-word nirvana is this: Eat what makes you truly happy. For some people, the Cold Stone sundae is truly enjoyable, while for others, they enjoy the moment then feel guilty afterwards.

For some people, eating a bowl of oatmeal with organic, fresh blueberries is delicious, while others see it as gruel fit for a horse. Whatever makes you feel truly good, eat it.

In regards to triathlon, "eat what makes you happy" includes eating foods beneficial to athletic performance. That is, if the Powerbars you eat during your long ride bring you increased energy, and if increased energy on a long ride makes you happy, then that Powerbar just made you happy. Eat it!

For me, some grass-fed beef, oatmeal, kefir, fresh fruit/vegetables, peanut butter, and bagels are among my favorite foods. In addition to the deliciousness I taste with each of these foods, I find "feel good" from knowing that I am nourishing myself with quality goodness. It makes me happy.

What about you? What food makes you happy and why?


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