Food Diaries: How an Ironman Athlete Eats for a Day

Jen Walls just trained 800 runners in the Nike Half Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and is training for an Ironman. How does she stay fueled?

By: Melissa Romero

Fresh off training 800 runners for Sunday’s Nike Women’s Half Marathon, Jen Walls is already training for her own big race come September: the Ironman Wisconsin. That means a 2.4-mile swim, 112 miles on the bike, and a 26.2-mile run. On top of two-a-day workouts, she’s the corporate and community development manager for Team in Training, a fundraising organization for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Just before Sunday’s race, we had Walls keep a food diary for us so we could get a look at how the busy athlete and manager—with a 5:30 AM wakeup call—stays fueled while juggling so many responsibilities.

Breakfast: “A Stinger waffle with peanut butter before my morning workout (a long run). After making an eight-ounce cup of coffee, I put the Stinger waffle and peanut butter on top of the mug—it makes the peanut butter melt and the waffle soft. Delicious!”

8 AM: Eight ounces of chocolate milk. “A great post-workout snack. It helps rebuild muscles immediately, and it tastes good, too!”

9 AM: “While I’m attempting to get out the door, I grab a cup of yogurt and a scoop of peanut butter, and throw in a handful of granola. I wash that down with a 16-ounce coffee with a little cream and sugar.”

Lunch: “Typically I don’t have a snack mid-morning because work keeps me busy and before I know it, it’s time to chow down on lunch. Most days I will pack a standard turkey sandwich with spinach, cheese, and light mayo, accompanied with pretzels and a piece of fruit. But on Fridays, I will make a run to Subway, like I did today. I ordered a foot-long chicken breast on flatbread with lettuce, black olives, and tomatoes, with salt and pepper and light mayo. I had to go with the Kettle Cooked Lays sundried tomato and Parmesan chips, as well! Knowing that I won’t be able to eat dinner until post-workout number two forces me to eat a larger lunch than normal. I hate to go hungry—especially when I’m swimming in the evenings!”

Snack: “Snack time! Give me a cup of mixed fruit and I’m a happy girl. Everyone has a sweet tooth, and some days I do indulge, but believe it or not, when our body is craving sugar sometimes a piece of fruit can suffice. I typically go for strawberries, grapes, and cantaloupe. Sometimes I throw in cottage cheese, but I forgot to grab more on my way out the door this morning.”

6 PM: “Workout number two is an hour-plus-long swim. “It’s definitely hard to motivate post-work, but after a long morning run, it does feel good to stretch out in the pool. Plus those 2.4 miles aren’t going to swim themselves come September!”

7:30 PM: “Eight ounces of chocolate milk.”

Dinner: “Finally home. Tired from a long day, but I know if I don’t eat properly tonight I will be hurting on the bike tomorrow morning. I try to keep dinners light and steer away from traditional carbohydrates—I seem to not sleep as well when I eat them too late in the day. A simple salad with tomatoes, avocados, grilled chicken, onions, and light blue cheese dressing does the trick. And I can’t forget a glass or two of wine . . . nothing closes out a long day better!”

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