Are You Eating Enough?

by The Coaches on January 25, 2018


The majority of triathletes and runners are always striving to be leaner and reach their fastest “race weight,” both within the season and in the off-season. It is absolutely true that the leaner you are, the faster you can run and bike—at least to a point. But eating too few calories can have the opposite effect athletes are shooting for.

Vanderburgh (2006), who created the Flyer Handicap scale, estimates that an athlete can run approximately 20 seconds per mile faster with every 10 pounds lost —and the athlete will see more time gained the further the running distance.

An athlete might also be able to push higher watts per kilogram on the bike, especially advantageous on those pesky hills, with a lower body weight. So, it’s no wonder triathletes and runners are striving to be leaner.

However, not having enough calories to support your training can increase body fat retention and muscle loss. When the body does not know when it will be fed again, it will start conserving energy. To do this, metabolism slows, fat preservation starts, and the body will start getting rid of calorie-demanding muscle tissue.

Fat, an energy dense source, will be the last thing the body wants to get rid of in a calorie-restricted state. This can cause an ugly cycle of restricting calories because of an athlete feeling overweight, then gaining weight because the athlete is not eating enough, then restricting calories more.

This can lead to the Relative Energy Deficit in Sports (RED-S), which can diminish performance, affect immunity along with menstrual function and bone health, and be tied to overtraining syndrome since the body cannot recover, while leading to long term health problems (Eberle, 2015).

Not eating enough is more common than you would probably guess, both among underweight athletes and overweight athletes. I’ve spent eight years working as a personal fitness trainer and nutrition coach, reviewing countless food logs, and the most common issue I found, especially among my female clients, has been not eating enough. Clients would often be well under 1,200 calories.

But these were general fitness clients, triathletes are much better at fueling their bodies, right? Well, not so much. Again, most common among females, I see athletes training 10 to 15 hours per week and barely hitting 1,200 calories per day. This is well below what your body needs just to sustain your everyday activities—let alone to fuel your training.

The general guideline for weight loss for female runners is 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, and 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for men, but these ranges are higher for triathletes who are averaging 12 to 15 hours of training per week ( and even more for IRONMAN athletes in the peak volume of their training cycle). Generally, a safe amount to lose is between .5-.75 lb per week.

Below is a sample day of a 130 lb female who completed a 90-minute workout in the morning, and is targeting a race weight of 125 lbs. The following diet would give her a calorie deficit of between 300 to 500 calories with her daily activities. This assumes she has a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) of about 1,350 calories and burned 700 calories in her workout.

Preworkout – Granola bar, Juice (~250 calories)
90 min workout
Breakfast – Oatmeal, handful of walnuts, banana (~350 calories)
Snack – Greek yogurt with cinnamon, berries, and chia seeds (~250 calories)
Lunch – Tuna and spinach on whole wheat bread with carrots and hummus on the side (~400 calories)
Snack – Apple with peanut butter (~300 calories)
Dinner – Chicken breast, sweet potato, broccoli (~400 calories)
Total = 1850 calories

If you are someone who is not sure they are eating enough, try logging your food for a week on Myfitnesspal or Livestrong/Myplate (both free), and see how many calories you are reaching each day.

I do not encourage logging food and calorie counting forever, which can become very tedious, but logging for a week or two can be a good check on total calories along with your breakdown of macronutrients (carbs, fats, and protein).

After you monitor your intake for a week or so, try using your body’s cues and start listening and respecting your body better. Your body is a wise machine and will let you know how much you need to eat—if you’re willing to listen.

Nutrition is the fourth discipline in triathlon, and if you are not getting it right, you will not be successful in executing the swim, bike and run both in training and on race day. You train too hard to ruin your training adaptations and race results with nutrition errors. Fuel that training so you can be your best and achieve those big dreams!


Eberle, S. 2015. retrieved Oct 6, 2017.
Vanderburgh, P.M. and Laubach, L.L. Validation of a 5k Age and Weight Run Handicap Model. JEPonline 2006; 9(3):33-40.



by The Coaches on December 31, 2017

As many take this time to set goals for the new year…don’t forget to reflect back on the year we leave behind. As triathletes (and TYPE A athletes) we focus on goals, numbers, statistics, etc…I was thrilled to punch in my Training Peaks chart yesterday to see that I swam, biked and ran enough miles to cross the US twice in 2017…However, as I thought about it, what is most memorable is sharing a conversation in the woods, a toast after a half marathon with friends, visiting a friend who had a knee replacement thrilled to race again, a ride to nowhere, following feet blindly in the pool at ungodly hours, shedding a tear for lost friends, celebrating new friends, their families and milestones…The long and short of it, don’t take anything for granted and ENJOY the journey. Make 2018 great “again”(wait…is that possible? were we transported back in time?? )…2018!!!


Accountability in 2018 (Repeat of December 2016 post)

by The Coaches on December 1, 2017

1- the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.

As triathletes are often type A personalities or self starters, at times, they need accountability. That “accountability” can take many forms. For some, it can be performance in a race, for some it can be answering to a coach or training partners and yet for others it can be answering to themselves.

No matter what that motivation is, feed off of it, grow from it and finally, let it carry you through your training and racing. At this time of year many athletes reflect back on the year (tally up races, miles, yards, feet of elevation, etc…) and to set goals for the year to come.

As you set goals think about what it is that holds you accountable…

• Choose a race that you want to do well in or maybe just complete. Is it a race you have done before? Can you do better? Is is a destination race? Can you bring/involve your family? Make sure the race keeps you hungry throughout your training
• Find a coach or training partners that push you. Be sure that your coach/training partners know if you are injury prone, what your limits are, etc… Be sure to establish a relationship with your coach. Toward that end, give him/her feedback on your training, progress, feelings, etc… However, once trust has been established, trust their training.
• Self-motivate…some times easier said than done Set goals along your training continuum, use results to motivate you, use tools readily available to all to give you feedback and challenge yourself (maybe ask for family help to get you out the door…).

May 2018 be a great year (in which you achieve what you made yourself accountable for)!

Mickey Cassu and the team


Season ending and recap

September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day! The 2017 season is coming to a close and Start-tri athletes as well as training friends/partners had a great summer with a few more races to finish out the season. This summer brought numerous finishers at sprint triathlons, half-ironman and ironman races as well as the world championships in Penticton, British Columbia. [...]

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Start-tri Athlete of the Month August Spotlight:Mike Tropea

August 9, 2017

Mike just completed Ironman Lake Placid several weeks ago on a journey with a very good friend of his…Bernie Garruppo. What type of sports (if any) did you compete in during HS/College?: Soccer and Lacrosse in High School; Lacrosse in College When did you start in the sport of Triathlon? 2013 What attracted you to [...]

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Start-tri Athlete of the Month

July 12, 2017

Triathlete of the month of July spotlight: Pete Kavalus Pete is a long-time Start-tri athlete who has many great races at the 70.3 and 140.6 distances. This year he was awarded a 70.3 World Championships spot at California 70.3 and ended up on the podium at Raleigh 70.3. We are super proud of Pete’s drive [...]

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Spring Updates

May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day to everyone! Many of us think of this day as the unofficial start of summer, but I would ask you to pause to remember our veterans and those who have passed on… Many of us took advantage of this fine weekend to race in the some classic swim races. Stephanie Mitchell took [...]

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Here comes spring…

March 19, 2017

Believe it or not, SPRING does start tomorrow, March 20th. Spring does mean March weather though here in the Northeast. Which means temperature ranges of 21-66 degrees this week. That 66 degree day making us anxious/wanting MORE. Let these days motivate you! I am finishing up a USA Track and Field Coaching Clinic here @ [...]

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New Year’s Resolutions (reproduced from USAT update)

January 17, 2017

USA Triathlon’s 2017 New Year’s Resolutions and Wishes 1) Race more, you will feel more alive — 2) Explore – try a new format: offroad, tri, du (trust us, run-bike-run is hard and a great fitness driver: https://, aquabike, aquathlon, winter tri 3) Join a Club —, Become an official — https:// [...]

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2017…A Great year?

January 2, 2017

Well, we have turned the page of our calendars…Now, we see 2017! What have you planned, if anything? As “TRIATHLETE” humans, we are goal oriented and therefore we are always seeking to “put something on the calendar”. As an athlete and tri coach, I have put a few on the calendar. Some are for my [...]

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