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?

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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