Elite Fuelling – Tim Reed
Pro triathlete, coach and new dad, Byron Bay’s Tim Reed, shares his unique approach to training and raceday nutrition
My first few years in endurance sports, I was a chronic carb-munching, sugar-craving athlete stuck in the cycle of quick peaks of energy then rapid bonking. Out of frustration I got stuck into a lot of reading and self-experimentation, which has resulted in me becoming an overly passionate advocate for teaching the body to become very efficient at burning fats for fuel.
We all burn a ratio of fats to carbohydrates, but with what I deem a healthy a diet, humans can drastically change that ratio so that, come race day, the body is not so carbohydrate dependent, preserving precious glycogen stores as long as possible and allowing sustained energy levels for hours on end.
My day-to-day nutrition is not what the sports science world typically recommends from the very limited studies. I aim to get 50-60% of my calories from healthy fat sources, 20-30% from protein and 15-20% from carbs.
I’m not completely anti-grain, but I do have a wheat intolerance that seems to decimate my iron stores if I eat wheat regularly – as well as turning me into a bloated fart machine. Plus, wheat has a special way of spiking blood sugar levels not dissimilar to sugar. I avoid when I can.
Byron Bay is the hub of top-quality organic produce. The organic spectrum includes a vast range of affordable vegetables, fruit, and meat sources. So every Thursday my wife, Monica, or I pack our little boy, Oscar, into the pram and hit the Byron Bay market and load up a week’s worth of nutritional goodness. We try to source as much of our diet as we can from the local farms and fish shops in Australia, which means we’ll often eat a lot of what’s in season.
Pre- or post-session breakfast options:
– Low-carb porridge
– ½ a cup of oats
– Full-fat milk
– Spoonful of coconut oil
– 2 eggs whisked into the mix
– A handful of almonds or walnuts
– A few teaspoons of chia seeds.
Directions: Stir occasionally in saucepan and heat until the oats have risen and are smooth (15-25 minutes depending on temperature or your patience). I then add more milk and full-fat plain yoghurt and get stuck in.
– Bacon or salmon
– 3-4 eggs
– 1 piece of homemade gluten-free toast
– Spinach or kale, uncooked or quickly fried in coconut oil
If I’ve had breakfast before I’ll eat according to how hungry I am. Often I’ll go for a green smoothie with nuts, kale, coconut oil, raw goats milk, chia seeds, yoghurt, and banana or berries.
Grass-fed steak or fresh salmon and salad or vegetables. Perhaps some rice or potato if I have a hard swim session tonight.
Spinach, goats cheese, roasted sweet potato, soaked then cooked quinoa, roasted beetroot and slow-roasted walnuts with whatever fish the fish shop has recommended.
5.30AM Breakfast depends on what is involved with my 6am session – if fairly moderate in intensity and under two hours in duration, I’ll wait until after the session
for breakfast. If I’ve got a 2hr-plus ride or shorter with intervals I’ll normally eat before heading out.
8AM-12PM Either coaching or looking after Oscar if my wife is working. I try not to snack. As far as I’m aware there is no evidence that eating small portions regularly throughout the day speeds up one’s metabolism – contrary to popular belief. I aim for big, satiating meals and avoid regular snacking.
12PM After putting Oscar down for a sleep, it’s treadmill time. If Monica is not working I can resume my outdoor trail running sessions. This session ranges enormously from day to day and time of year, which then leads to what I eat afterwards fluctuating according to how demanding the session is.
3PM I like to get in an afternoon swim session. Typically 3-5km in length.
6PM Thankfully my wife mostly dictates what’s on the menu after she tired of my trademark dish of meat and veggies with salad.
In training I’ve spent weeks teaching my body to become very efficient at producing the enzyme that breaks down fats for fuel. However when I race I almost go completely the opposite way. At race intensity the body has shunted blood predominantly to the working muscles (and the brain), so the last thing I want is for my digestive system to have to work hard to keep blood-sugar levels adequate for race intensity.
During the final days leading up to an Olympic distance or long course triathlon, including race day itself, I drink a light electrolyte mix or heavily salt my foods and use topical magnesium oil. I know all the science says you don’t need to take in electrolytes, but there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that you do. For me personally, I’ve gone back to electrolytes and the cramping from previous races has thankfully stopped happening.
4.30-5AM White rice, an egg and a bit more than half an avocado is all I can handle two hours before the race, but for most athletes a minimum of three hours would be required for this to sit well post-race. I don’t go for a complete carb brekky like most people do. I have enough carbs to replenish liver glycogen stores depleted through the night, but then I stick to my high-fat diet to mitigate the insulin response to the white rice and keep my body in optimal fat burning mode until closer to the race start. If I’m not anxious enough for the race, I’ll have a coffee. If I’m very nervous I tend to avoid caffeine pre-race as I will already be dehydrating myself with my nerves causing many visits to the toilet.
6.50 AM ½ an SIS gel.
I’ve tried many different race day nutrition strategies but the most effective I’ve received was from Darryl Phillips from Shotz Sports Nutrition. Thankfully it’s very simple. After the swim, I take one maltodextrin-based gel every 20 minutes until race finish and 2-3 electrolyte tabs per bidon of water. I tend to avoid gels with fructose because fructose has to be broken down by the liver to be absorbed, and at high intensities this can cause GI distress.