Sports Nutrition & Supplements

Sports Nutrition & dietary supplements all have a function in the development and maintenance of your goals as an athlete.

I have found the following advice to be a good guide in general to what you should be trying to achieve by managing your nutrition. There is no point taking sports nutrition products and supplements simply for the sake of taking them. There has to be a purpose and plan behind it.

Sports nutrition is a branch of dietary research that is applied specifically to individuals who participate in rigorous sports training. This includes everything from strength training like weight lifting and bodybuilding to endurance training like cycling and running. No matter what type of sports you enjoy, it remains important to supply your body with the nutrients it needs to function optimally. There are many variables that set athletes apart, but correct nutrition and the right combination of sports supplements can constitute the difference between winning and coming second.

The main goals of sports nutrition can be summed up as follows:

  • To prepare athletes for performance or extended periods of training.
  • To maintain a certain level of performance or training.
  • To aid the body in recovering from performance or training.
  • To maintain a certain body aesthetic or weight. This is important in sports like bodybuilding, horse racing and cycling.

A balanced diet that consists of the correct ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats is indispensible, as is the intake of both micro- and macro nutrients. This, however, may not be enough. Heavy training depletes the body of vital nutrients much in the same way as illness does and in order to replenish these stores, it may become necessary to take some sports supplements. Natural supplements have come a long way and there are various products on the market today that provide comprehensive nutritional solutions.

It is important to remember that each individual is unique and will respond differently to sport supplements. The most crucial performance-enhancing factor in any athlete’s bag of tricks remains sports-specific nutrition and a complementary training regime. As consumers, we are regularly bombarded by print and audiovisual advertisements punting a new ‘miracle’ solution to weight loss or muscle growth. This can be very confusing. Should you be taking creatine, protein supplements, minerals or vitamins? Should you be focused on muscle growth or boosting your metabolic rate? HMB, DHEA, Glutamine – which one of these is the right option for you?

The best way to answer these questions is to consult your trainer or physician. Sports supplements can be a matter of great contention, especially for professional athletes who have to consider whether certain substances are legal or not. Protein, however, has been linked with sports performance for decades and constitutes a safe way to supplement your nutritional intake.

There are various factors that influence an athlete’s protein requirements. These include:

  • The intensity of the type of exercise the athlete engages in. The more intense the exercise, the more protein is required.
  • The length of training sessions and events. The longer the exertion period, the greater the protein requirement.
  • The energy content of the athlete’s diet. Certain types of athletes (dancers, light weight wrestlers and gymnasts) keep their body weight down by restricting the amount of kilojoules they consume. These athletes, as well as those who follow a vegetarian diet, should make sure to supplement their protein intake.
  • Gender. The male body burns fat easily, while the female body normally turns to protein and carbohydrates. This means that the fairer sex should take care when replenishing their protein stores during training.

These are just some of the factors that influence protein requirement. For a more comprehensive assessment, schedule a visit with a registered dietician. 

Proper sports nutrition is a fantastic way to improve your game and natural supplements can be a great help. Approach your diet with care and you will certainly begin to see the benefits.

Working from this premise and applying a bit of thought and self control to your daily intake you can easily manage you weight, provide enough key elements for effective training and still be able to take the odd evening off to spoil yourself. 

One of the fantastic side effects of triathlon training is the amount of calories you burn pretty much allows you to let your hair down every now and again. With an estimated 5-6000kcal going to be burned on Sunday there will be alot of replenishment required.

Looking back – Sunday Sessions

Different spin on the Entendre

A couple of Sunday sessions have been missed due to one thing or another with busy Mondays & Tuesdays.

Sunday morning has been and remains my favourite training session. During the week its usually frantic trying to squeeze in sessions between childminders, work, house work, organising races etc. Sunday’s are easy days, up early and out for a long easy spin or run 3 – 4 hours and still be back in time for lunch and playtime with the family or work if necessary.

Some of my best training sessions have been achieved on Sundays. By a long shot, training on the bike with Conor through the Summer has made a big difference to where I’m at right now with my bike. Thanks Chief! Mostly we have done the Burren with some hills taken in, all done at a modest pace but still with effort.

We have also done some of the longer spins, the Lough Corrib Challenge (Training File & Report) and Great Spin out West (Training File no report yet!) for Cancer Care this summer and handled them quite positively.

Just last weekend we did our first long run together, a feature which will be more prominent in the weeks to come after G70.3 as we head towards Dublin Marathon in the Autumn. In fairness I have not done a long run (over 12-15k) since my Rock & Road Half Marathon in March.

We did a 20k (on the button) on a hilly route (Training File)  around Conor’s home in just under 2 hours. It was a nice casual pace and both of us felt pretty comfortable on a ‘dry’ run. By dry I mean no gels or water, pretty much a tester of a run, to see where our bodies were in relation to nutrition.

Another good recent Sunday Session was just gone with Rick, who made the trip over to suit my plans with babysitters etc. Thanks for that!

We set out with a  plan to do an easy spin followed by a run. We reckoned half distance was enough for both disciplines. Rick was trying out his nutrition plans so we had a little pow-wow before hand. I think he was cogging my plan which is cogged from Optimum Nutrition, that’s how the merry go-round goes round.

The bike route (Map & Training File)we choose was flat, simply to replicate the 90k route we’ll be doing and to try the pacing of the grub. I was happy enough with my plans and have tested most of it previously so I did this session without nutrition per se, simply an electrolyte drink, water and ride shots as back up. My calibration is slightly out as we did 55k, something I need to check and adjust before the weekend or I could be short in my plans!

Off the bike we took a couple of minutes to replicate transition and off we went on our 10k run. I did toy with the idea of sneaking it out as a 20k run but that wouldn’t have been fair so we kept it to a simple run loop (Map & Training File).

Tiredness has been a big impediment to my training over the past two weeks, but we’re nearly there. I’m ready and able for this.

Taper Torture

Its the week before the big one. 

The one all the training and effort has been towards over the past few months. Now is the time to taper, ease off the pedal, cut back the training and allow the body to recuperate in readiness for the starter pistol next Sunday morning at 7.35am.

Idleness doesn’t suit me. Cabin fever is settting in. Taper is torture! I think a decent bike ride and run is called for in the morning.

Any takers?

Training & Race Nutrition plans

Now, I’m no expert.

Lets get that very clear from the start.

I have played with my food since a very young age and I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. I tweak and twiddle with diet and exercise combinations all the time.

Recently I very kindly received a nutrition presentation from Barry from as part of a recent presentation he gave in Galway which makes very interesting reading indeed. In a quick summary Barry recommends a strategy for race day preparation which when you read it makes complete sense it what it should achieve, and in the manner in which it is achieved.

Is does fly in contravention of the typical preparation that us amateur tri-athletes would have expected. But thats why we aren’t nutritional experts!

Over the course of the past season I have been training, generally, early in the day, usually in a fasted state. Basically training without breakfast after a nights sleep with nothing more than a coffee for the ‘get outta bed’ factor and water / electrolyte (Zym) drink for company if on the bike.

A note of caution here –  if on the bike for more than 2 hours bring a ‘get you home’ bar (Mars / Snickers) or couple of gels, just in case you bonk.

Running on empty my theory was that the body would source fuel from stored fat, helping reduce my overall body mass, but it would also create a hunger for the proper post exercise nutrition to replenish the stores. I found the best results I was getting is from a dedicated recovery drink immediately after a session. I choose Kinetica Sports 100% Recovery (I pay for it!) and find that my empty state post training allows the proteins to be ‘sucked’ in to the muscle vacuum where nutrition is needed most.

Barry calls this Carb Depletion or squeezing the sponge dry. Essentially preparing the body to soak up more of the goodness.

The Race Day Priming program I am going to follow next week (for the Galway 70.3) is based on a carefully plagiarised section of Barry’s presentation:

  1. Carb Depletion – empty the carbohydrate ‘tank’ so that it can be fully loaded for race day. Now I am going to do this for the week, rather than 2 days beforehand as it is taper week and I would like another 500g of body weight off, I will train this off with easy sessions next week.
  2. Open the gates – 30 minutes of light exercise with short tempo efforts to switch on the metabolism. This creates a need in the body preparing for the fueling of the turbos 🙂 This I will do on Friday as we start early on Sunday and nerves will hit me through Saturday too
  3. Carb load – normally 24 hours before the event (not a week as previously thought) rebuild your glycogen stores in the muscle and liver ready to fuel the system.
  4. Prime – this is the final top up in the countdown to the race start. Ignition time, switch on the brain, fuel systems, hormones (adrenaline) ready for the starters pistol.

I am going to race according to this strategy because in a roundabout way of my own this is where I have been heading simply by trial and error and listening to my body during training and afterwards.

With the help of Barry’s information I will prepare my diet for next week and my race nutrition strategy. I will keep you all in formed of the ups and downs through next week and hopefully the results Sunday week will bear witness to the ‘wisdom’ of this strategy.

Be sure to check out Barry’s website, blog , Twitter and Facebook.

Caroline Kearney Triathlon (13th August)

It was another brutal night lacking in sleep that led to me rising at 5.30am to prepare breakfast and to pull myself together in some form of order for racing today.

It has been 4 years since I last raced the Caroline Kearney memorial triathlon in Mullingar. Caroline was a rising star in Irish triathlon circles and would have been our Olympic super nova bar a tragic training accident

I had no illusions about racing today, I knew it would be a loooonnnng day as I would be driving to Lilliput, racing then back to Galway to head to Waterford for a birthday celebration this evening. No idea how long I would remain on my feet, but how and ever we must go forward.

Arriving nice and early in Lilliput (despite a crap coffee from a garage) I got parked and registration done and out of the way. I picked up my T-shirt, which was not part of the goodie bag, but being sold as a fundraiser. I had my T shirt from 2007 and a peaked cap from 2008 (I pulled out of that one) so my collection would be complete.

Despite being really early I was a disorganised as possible. I set up transition and stood listening to the race briefing and realised I’d no wetsuit on, so back to the van to get wetsuit then realised I’d picked up the wetsuit and left the goggles and swim hat behind me so back again to collect those. The lads were looking at me like a horse with too heads as I was up and down in bare feet several times. 

Make a checklist!!

More like get a nights sleep 🙂

Anyway, briefing over, down to the water. Its a nice freshwater lake swim. Originally it was two loops but the course is now one big loop. The entry and exit from the lake is a long shallow section of wading / dolphin diving. At least the start is waist high and dead straight to the first buoy.

The race was started with a blast from an army mortar launcher. Holy shit! It gives off some bang, I didn’t see yer man wearing ear protectors either. Off we went. I had done a little warm up, filled the suit and made the adjustments so I settled very quickly into my rhythm. I’m finding the quicker I find this sweet spot the easier the swim is getting. Its not fast, but technically I seem to have got the pieces right so I’m able to swim at a steady pace with good control and little fatigue.


Rounding the second buoy (left turn) I had nice clean water leading to the buoy and actually gained a couple of lengths on people who were floundering around the buoy simply by executing a tight turn. For some reason I was practising this type of turn when I started triathlon, way before my swim improved, I probably felt in my innocence that it would identify me as a ‘triathlete’.

Its a good move to gain time around markers and buoys so you should practise it.

After this buoy some of the overtakees drifted onto my feet and one of them felt it was critical that he kept touching my toes. Now I don’t mind the occasional touch, but this fellow stayed on my feet for the next 6-700m, constantly touching. I felt like stopping, instead I pushed on and in the last 400m dropped him, he tried to get on the toes of one of the faster Wave 2 guys coming through and simply fell away once the clear water grabbed him.

As I came out of the lake onto the ramp the marshal was shouting “22minutes” and then pointed at me and said “32 for you”. He must have seen my face. Very happy with 32 minutes, that’s a solid swim for me and I am getting consistent over 1500m. 

Into transition, wetsuit off, still struggling a bit with this, helmet on, grab the bike and away.

Out the gate to the mount line, keep it moving, jump onto the moving bike, feet (bare) onto the shoes in the cleats and get up to speed before coasting to slip right foot into shoe, pedal some more and coast to slip left foot in. Secure both shoes and settle.


Gaining places through the mounting process and picking up speed over the first km or so is important to me on the bike. I use the initial 5k to settle into my pedalling rhythm, ease my breath and heart rate down after the surge through transition. Sip some water.

My bike is good. After 5km I’ll take a gel (Kinetica) and a sip of water. A little more settling and then build the power. The course is lovely and rolling. There are a couple of horrible pick up climbs as you come out of tight turns and you don’t get to carry much speed through the turn as there is a solid line that will punish you!There was a guy from Lanesborough Tri who passed me on one or two of the longer drags but due to a weight advantage I flew past him on the downhills..

My bike plan was to keep steady and race to my heart rate rather than all out this resulted in few people passing me on the first lap. One clown was blatantly drafting and was killing himself to stay on the wheel of everyone that passed him. Every now and then he would surge past on the back of someone only to be dropped. I reeled them all back in through the second lap by staying consistent. As I passed the ‘drafter’ i told him he’d been pinged by 2 of the marshals for drafting.

Keep it tidy!

Turning into the Lilliput centre I reversed my bike mount, slipped out of the shoes and prepared for dismount. Keeping it nice and tidy, I spotted the line and stepped off the bike just before the marshal has a coniption fit. I’m a good boy, no penalties for me!

Into transition to rack the bike, some clown (another one) had dumped his bike in my spot, blocking off my shoes and rack position. A quick shove along and I was free. Bike hooked up, helmet off, deep breath and shoes on. Away.

The run was long and flat. I’m not running as strong as I would like during races and am trying to focus on stronger second splits, come home strong! Not realising the run was a loop of an out and back style rather than the two loops it had been previously (read the race briefing) I was meeting the front runners on the way back. Again pacing myself as I did on the bike, people caught me on the first 5km but I reeled them back in on the way home. I finished very strong leaving my ‘drafter’ and Lanesborough buddy around the 8k mark.

I’m happier knowing I have enough to finish strongly because my target race is longer, so I definitely don’t want to be running out of steam over Olympic distance.

All in all I was happy with a solid performance finishing just under 2:40. A good bit faster than 2007. Looking at my results there has been a dramatic improvement in my swim (6 minutes!), stable bike and a lift in the run position too.

Now back to Galway for a super fast transition!

2007 Results – 
98/174 M30-39 02:47:20
1.5k Swim 00:39:22 T1 00:01:14 40k Bike 01:16:37 T2 00:0043 Run 00:49:25

2011 Results – 
155/276 M40 02:39:49 
1.5k Swim 00:33:36 T1 00:01:07 40k Bike 01:17:19 T2 00:00:48 10k Run 00:46:59

Caroline Kearney Triathlon 2011 – Polar data

I stumbled on a Brick (11th August)

Its been a busy week and I want to finish my training strongly ahead of racing the Caroline Kearney memorial triathlon in Mullingar on Saturday.

Basic run on Monday essentially a run home from the shop 8.91km in 51minutes.
Loughrea Aquathon on Tuesday with a race report in an earlier blog post. 750 swim and 5k run.
Pool swim on Wednesday, with no HRM but full set gives 2.3km in 1:18.

Thursday I planned a medium spin with some hills in the Burren in the morning and an interval run in the evening from the shop again.


I didn’t count on our little boy being sick and definitely didn’t factor in tiredness and fatigue from the lack of sleep.

With the weather being a complete washout, the last desire would be to spend 2 hrs soaking wet on wet roads in wet rain in the Burren. I had a better idea. I’d blend my sessions into one biggish brick session.

A 10k lap from the house on the bike followed by a 10k lap of the run and repeat to give me a decent workout in approx 2:25 or there abouts.

Didn’t happen. I did the bike ok but my heart rate was sky high for the amount of effort going into the session. Back to the house and a quick transition to the run which was over very quickly. Despite breakfast, I had nothing to give and, yes, I quit. 

Enough was enough. Time to rest.

Loughrea Aquathon (9th August)

Tuesday evening saw us back at the lake in Loughrea for another shot at the aquathon. 750m swim followed by a ‘quick’ transition and 5k run up the hill past the graveyard and back.

Tonight was the first opportunity for Edel & myself to race together as until now, one or the other of us was ‘shorelined’ with the kids. This evening they were at home with their cousins and auntie.

There was another great turnout with some 64 / 65 people taking part from both Predator & Galway Triathlon clubs on a mild evening perfect for racing. We all lined up along the pier wall and waited for the off. With a great stampede of splashing and churning water off we went. 

I hate these sort of starts as there is so many people crossing and meandering along in front of you that it is really difficult to get in a rhythm. I generally find my longer distance swim times are much more efficient than my sprint distance. I reckon this is because I spend so much time settling down at the start of the race, trying to find my rhythm.

A great shot of a mass start.

Knowing myself that I was much slower than normal at the start of this race, I sought my rhythm and settled down somewhat, still not enough and it was only in the return leg of the swim that I genuinely felt comfortable and easy. I’m hoping that the HRM info might back me up on this notion.

Back to land and again I struggled with getting the wetsuit off my feet. No matter how must I do or don’t Bodyglide this seems to remain a sticking problem. Into the shoes, iNOV-8 Road X 255, again not as easy as it should be, but then that’s what practice races are for.

My run, I was happy with. With no stride pod I had to go on instinct for pacing and found that I was really comfortable pushing myself along nicely.

Knowing Edel was way ahead in the swim, I expected to see her ahead of me on the run. I didn’t expect to see her with a km or so stuck into me on the run! When we passed I clocked it and found I had 2 minutes to the turn about, putting her 4 mins or so up at that point! With the return run being downhill for a lot of the route, I expected to pull back time but would not catch her within her 2k to the finish.

I finished my run quite strong and would have liked the pacing data for feedback, but hey, we don’t always get what we like.

Having dropped 5:15 over the swim I pulled back just over 3 minutes on the run. All told I was happier with my run, disappointed with my swim, but hoping next weeks handicap would be in my favour 🙂

Edel Conroy F 0:13:30 0:38:02
Sean Conroy M 0:18:45 0:39:58

Aquathon data

The Streets of Galway (6th August)

Well, what an unmitigated disaster of sorts that turned out to be.

There I was in the shop for the afternoon, thinking, sure this will be grand, I’m doing a buggy push this evening, Edel is racing the 8k, I can kick back and take it easy with the kids all the way around and hand out flyers for the inaugural Amphibian King – Fitsquad 5km on 24th August. Plug, Plug.

At 6pm (race starts at 7) I get the call to say the young fella is too sick to go in, that I should go in on my own and run the race. Customers still in the shop and no running gear (of my own), this was going to be cutting it close.

6.15 and I’m on the way into town, WR for the fastest closing of a shop. Nothing cleaned up, shoes and socks left on the bench and a tri-suit purloined or ‘thieved’ as my Twitter buddies like to say in order to facilitate race wear. In my defence it is the new Amphibian King trisuit that has been spotted everywhere recently so technically I was advertising when I took it.

Into the van, and I flailed it into town (within limits) at least until I got snarled up on Lough Atalia road, Ah Bugger!!

I tried calling @conorgrif to see if there was some sort of unknown shortcut that I could take? No joy, I reckoned he either was too busy with a warm up or he was hiding on the sofa, pretending to be incapacitated. There was kudos at stake here, sort of a last man standing after the 4:30 and 125k we put into the legs on the bike today.

I eventually squeezed my way onto the harbour but the traffic was definitely stopped, road closures ahead of the start. It was 6.53 and the gun goes off at 7pm!

Spotted a space. Lamped the van into the spot, baled out to the meter to find it was one of these with a day rate and night rate. Essentially the meter was being mobbed by people who didn’t understand that 6.59 meant the meter took their money, wasn’t giving parking after 7pm and inside was laughing at people arguing with a stationary inanimate object. Short version, I got changed at the side of the road, into my skin dermal tight trisuit and runners, chip on, race belt & number on, popped money in at 19:00:01, got ticket and shot off to get to the start.

As I rounded the corner, there I see what looks like a flash mob running past. They don’t exaggerate when they say “waits for no one” on the website.

Round the corner I dashed, over the bridge, against the tide of runners determined to get to the start line to log my time. By the time I discovered the chip mats were moved I was at the start line so I had no option but to log myself and hope the chip would capture end time.

Officially I started at 19:09.

I was nicely warmed up and turned on my heel, settling nicely into a decent comfortable stride.

I was all on my own, unusual for a race start, so had a clear run at the tail of the group which I started to catch as I passed the van! I was very comfortable as we headed up Eyre Square and around by the cathedral. Not sure of the route so I had no idea of elevation so I just stayed nice and steady.

As we came through Salthill I was passing more and more people that I recognised from the shop so we greeted each other as I went on, a passing word of encouragement to all from me. As we went through the houses some of the marshals shouted cheers of encouragement, Stuart, my ‘Geraint Thomas’ from the spin was there too cheering in his Welsh lilt. Nice!

As we came onto Salthill, I started to stretch, it flat from here and about 2.5 / 3 k to the end. Passing Grattan beach there was a mad one with a pair of Alpen cow bells, banging like a shed door in a storm. Of course she knew me so shouting she drove my stride on. Thanks Fiona! 🙂

I hit the home straight really well and strode nice and easily down the road before turning into the Claddagh for the last 150m. I definitely get lifted by the crowd and with Sinead appearing at my shoulder we broke into a sprint (almost all out for me) for the line. As we crossed the line, I stepped back, because I knew something she didn’t.

As we went down the chute I broke the news gently, I started 9 minutes after everybody else. Anyway it was all good natured. I was only interested in equalling or bettering Conor to stop him having bragging rights.

My time was unofficial but simple maths has me finished in 37:37. A full minute and a bit under my previous 8k PB, so I was very happy with that! I also pipped Conor by a good minute or so.

On balance we agreed on a tied day, his bike win, my not getting a sofa sleep (working) and my win in the 8k all made us quits. Roll on the next challenge.

Streets of Galway 8k map

Thursday’s Interval Run (4th August)

Having only done my basic run yesterday, technically I should have been resting today, but with the Great Spin Out West 2011 (in aid of Cancer Care West) spin coming up on Saturday and the Streets of Galway road race I didn’t want to have too much tiredness carrying over in my legs.

I did a bit of a Bear Grylls on it. Normally I have been cycling in and out of the shop, turning the evening home wards trip into a mini interval session on the bike. Rather than cycling in today, I took a lift and brought my running gear with me, so I had no choice other than to wimp out and beg for a lift home.

Monkey business

Essentially being dropped into the virtual ‘desert’ of Oranmore and having to make my own way out to ‘civilisation’. Bear style! I even had my jungle vest and back-pack on to add to the realism of it all.

The planned interval session was 15mins warm up followed by 4 times x4 minutes on and x6 minutes recovery. Expecting to cover 8.5km in 1 hour and 700kcal to be used in the session.

The road from Oranmore to Roveagh has a few ups and downs so there was likely to be some hill work included in the run. Along the Limerick road I was running in the hard shoulder before getting a footpath to run on through Clarinbridge. Turning left into the Brother of Charity estate in Kilcornan I wound my way home.

The last interval was tough as expected, the body was tired and the road runs in an uphill drag through the back woods of the estate. I didn’t complete the full of the last 6 min recovery or the 5 min warm down, I did these off the clock at home.

All in all 8.92km in 50:52mins and a 790 kcal burn with average heart rate of 149bpm.

It will be interesting to see how this makes a difference to my 8k race time which is currently 39:27mins recorded in the Maree 8k.

Programmed Interval 04.08.2011 20:24

Back to the Running Plan (3rd August)

So, Wednesday morning saw me doing Tuesday’s planned session, a basic run of an hour duration.

I’m looking at a long distance training plan which measures how far I cover in a set time rather than focussing on distance as being the measure. The program had planned 7.30km in 1 hour and a calorie burn of 600kcal for me for this session.

It is all heart rate training so I am training using zones to guide my efforts. Averaging this out to take into consideration hills and drags will be down to myself, going uphill I will tend to be at the high end or out of the zone, but pull back on the downhill to recover.

I have some distance routes marked out from home and ran the 10k loop as per the results below. 9.78k in 57 mins with 785kcal and an average heart rate of 140bpm. Right where I want it to be.

Programmed run 03.08.2011 07:57