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Endurance Food
Successful Endurance Athletes Discuss Their Diets

by Pamela Leblanc - New York Times Syndicate

AUSTIN, Texas -- We checked with three serious Austin jocks to see what kinds of calories they consume to fuel their busy training schedules.

Terry Wittenberg, a one-time competitive cyclist who specialized in long-distance races, has pedaled more than 500 miles at a stretch.

These days, he does most of his riding between Dripping Springs and Canyon Lake in Austin. Most weekends include at least one 100-plus mile ride.

So what does he do to fuel that regimen? Simple. He doesn't eat junk food, he varies his diet according to season and training load, and he eats wholesome, fresh foods. (That's easy for him; his wife is a partner in Whole Foods Market Inc., and he maintains the company's Web page.)

He also takes supplements: a multiple vitamin, a calcium complex tablet, stress B tablet, ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil, as well as some herbs.

And when he's on those super-long jaunts, Wittenberg eats PowerBars, which he tucks in the back pockets of his cycling jersey. "Nothing else works for me," he said.

Before the days of prepackaged energy bars, he made his own, mixing couscous with almonds, raisins and apple juice, pressing it into a pan and cutting it into bars. But even with those, he tended to bonk after about 125 miles. With PowerBars, he says, he can easily last 200 miles.

"I made a whole lot of mistakes with diet in the early years of racing," he said. "Sometimes I didn't eat enough."

Over the years, he's perfected his plan. "I think you begin to develop an intuition for what you need."

Wittenberg is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs about 140 pounds. He has 5 percent body fat. (The average for a man his age is about 15 percent.)

Once, a few days after riding 439 miles in a race, he ate nearly 3 pounds of chicken at one sitting.

Terry Wittenberg's sample diet

Breakfast: 4 - 6 slices whole grain toast; apple sauce or apple butter; almond butter; small amount of ground flaxseed for essential fatty acids.

During bicycle rides: PowerBars (one for 40 - 50 miles; 2 - 3 for up to 80 miles; 4 - 6 for 100 - 140 miles).

Lunch: Wraps made with whole wheat tortillas, baked or simmered tofu or tempeh with mild seasoning; couscous or wheat pasta; lots of raw vegetables.

After long weekend rides

: Yogurt with blueberries or raspberries.

Dinner: Beans (black, kidney, pinto or black-eyes), corn/quinoa pasta, rice or quinoa, corn tortillas, cooked vegetables; or chicken, fish or occasionally red meat.

Night before long rides: Lentils; kamut, rye or spelt pasta

Snacks: Apples, raisins, nuts, dried apricots

Eat and run
For fun, Hal Taylor runs. He's done the usual array of 10Ks and marathons, and even finished two 50-mile races. Late last month, he tried something bigger -- a 100-mile ultramarathon.

All that running takes a lot of energy, so Taylor, 37, sticks to a fairly strict diet.

"Obviously I need a lot of carbs, so I focus on cereals and pasta," the Austin attorney said. He also tries to eat chicken, beef or another source of meat protein every day.

Before a long race, Taylor drinks plenty of fluids and eats even more carbs than usual.

"The eating is really important," he said. "I have to remember to eat and drink from the very start and continue to eat and drink -- that's the most important thing in the whole race. As long as I can continue to put fuel in my body -- even though I'll be tired and, sure, I'll have other problems -- I can continue."

Taylor, who ran track in high school and never looked back, eats a combination of vanilla, strawberry and banana flavored gels every 45 minutes or so during a long race. He also drinks Gatorade and eats solid foods like Fig Newtons, crackers, pretzels, sports bars and the occasional turkey sandwich or swig of soup or coffee provided by an aid station along the race route.

But after about eight or nine hours of running, energy gels and bars start to upset his stomach, particularly when it's hot.

"I need a lot of fluids to keep those down."

Such luck struck during the Western States 100, an ultramarathon through the mountains from Squaw Valley to Auburn, Calif. Fifty-five miles into the 100-mile race, Taylor's stomach turned south, and he couldn't keep any fluids or solids down.

By mile 62, he had lost 4 pounds. Medical staff recommended he drop out and get an intravenous infusion.

"All in all, the race was a good experience, and I'll have to figure out some better strategies to combat the nausea for the next time," he said.

Between races, Taylor, who is 5 foot 11 inches and weighs about 160 pounds, sticks to a high-carb diet and takes a daily multivitamin.

"I train year round and eat fairly consistently, but will splurge with pizza and cookies now and then," he said. "There is actually a lot more leeway in training for an ultra as far as food, because you burn so much energy in training and don't have to be as sharp as in a shorter road race, where you are trying to save every second."

Hal Taylor's sample diet

Breakfast: GrapeNuts cereal with skim milk; coffee

Lunch: Salad with salmon or chicken, tacos with rice and beans, or grilled fish; water

Snack: Coke

Dinner: Pasta or a big bowl of cereal with fruit

Snack: Fig Newtons or pretzels

Special treat: Healthy may not be the right word to describe it, but when Taylor really wants to load up on calories, carbohydrates and energy, he'll mix Grape Nuts and Life cereals, pour on skim milk, add honey and Ovaltine, slices of banana and ripe blueberries, mash it together and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

"With the right amount of milk, it has the consistency of a cobbler," he says.

Yeah, right. We believe you, Hal.

Potions for motion

When Sabine Bildstein first started competing in triathlons, she didn't worry much about what foods to eat to perform her best.

"You do what other people tell you, you carbo-load and you don't drink beer the night before," she said.

These days, she's a little more conscious of her dietary needs. And with victories in this year's Danskin and the Capital of Texas triathlons, it's obvious the planning is paying off.

"I try to keep it simple," said Bildstein, 31. "The more you specialize in certain things, the more you have to worry about what they will have available during the race."

Typically, she'll eat an energy bar for breakfast the morning of a triathlon. Just before the race begins, she'll eat a packet of energy gel. During the bike portion of a race, she'll drink from a flask filled with a mix of energy gel and water.

"When you don't eat properly, you can bonk on the bike or your legs feel wobbly on the run," she said. "After a while, you try to prevent that. Your goal is to feel as good as possible throughout a race."

Bildstein, a computer programmer for BMC Software, has long competed in 10K races as a hobby. She raced in her first triathlon in 2000, but her bike had a flat tire. She realized then that her running times were competitive.

Today, her training regimen consists of swimming four times a week, 3,000 meters at a time; biking three or four times a week, for a total of about 130 miles; and running three or four times a week, for a total of 30 or 35 miles.

She believes the body regulates itself naturally, telling you what it needs through cravings. She eats whole-grain bread every day, occasional sweets and a little too much cheese, she says.

She doesn't count calories. She'd rather eat several small meals than one big one. She makes sure she eats meat twice a week. She also avoids heavy or fatty foods for six hours before running and takes a packet of energy gel on long training bike rides.

Bildstein heads to London in August and Los Angeles in September for triathlons. In December she heads to New Zealand for the World Triathlon Championships.

Sabine Bildstein's sample diet

Breakfast: Whole grain bread and Swiss cheese or bagel and cream cheese, coffee

Snack: Apple

Lunch: Greek salad or noodle soup

Snack: Energy bar, nuts or trail mix

Dinner: Beef fajitas or chicken curry, potatoes, one glass of red wine

Special treat: Ice cream, cake

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