By Katie Aguilar
I remember looking at a picture of me coming out of the water at Ironman Arizona (2011), and seeing the woman behind me and thinking “I look soft. She looks strong.” I had seen my weight gradually increase throughout training for Ironman Arizona, and afterwards it wasn’t coming off. I knew something was off with how I was eating as I was always hungry, felt bloated and off, and my weight was still creeping up. I was missing something and wanted help.
I decided to work with someone who specialized in sports nutrition. If you are searching for help in reaching your training goals through nutrition, below are a few things I learned to consider.
1) There is a difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist. I won’t enter the debate. Educate yourself and decide your preference and why. Your personal goals and background will influence your choice. I went with an RD. It meant a lot to me.
2) Find someone who is in your sport and distance: like a good coach, they have gone the distance, done the training and know what you are going through.. Training and daily nutrition really do go hand-in-hand. Advice from someone who lives it is often more readily accepted.
3) Find someone you trust. For me this is HUGE. You need to be able to say honestly what you ate and when, and be open to them trying to change eating habits (and even behavior). It can be hard to take the suggested changes (which can be taken as criticism), even if offered in the most helpful and best of lights. Being able to talk openly is important.
I decided to work with Marni Sumbal.
I emailed her and started a working relationship that has been going on for about 18 months. I don’t see it ending. She has helped me develop an overall lifestyle that I am excited to maintain and continue to improve. She always gives thoughtful, relevant feedback.
I chose to work with Marni because she is a registered dietitian, Ironman triathlete, and a vegetarian. I had decided to work on aggressive goals for the Iron distance and, like her, am a vegetarian (FYI – she does not try to make non-vegetarians become vegetarian). She helped me place my focus towards whole grains, fruits and vegetables. More importantly, and where I was REALLY lacking, she helped me get a much better balance of fat, protein and carbs in my diet (which for me was out of whack).
Did it work? Since working with her, my blood work numbers (HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) have dropped. And yes, I have lost weight, but that is secondary to my feeling, training and racing stronger. Throughout training for my second Ironman (Ironman Coeur d’Alene) I have not seen my weight change; I have felt energized and ready for training sessions (even with short recovery periods) and feel strong throughout training.
In short, yes, working with Marni was the best choice for me. I also know that saying one nutritionist/RD is right for everyone is akin to saying everyone should wear the same brand of running shoes. It just isn’t true. But, I would recommend working with Marni in a heartbeat.
I know I am in this for the long run….I am not training for a specific race, but a long-term goal. I needed a long-term, sustainable solution. Marni is helping me towards that goal.
Above: 2011 Ironman Arizona (November)
Below: 2013 Ride (May) - more muscle definition and less “soft” looking than in 2011