We look at Ironman nutrition on this edition of The Kona Edge. Scott Cooper joins us to chat about his Ironman Nutrition strategy and how find the nutrition strategy that works for you. He also gives some valuable advice on how to practice your nutrition in preparation for Ironman race day and this is where we learn what his downfall is when it comes to pre and post race food.
BRAD BROWN: Welcome back to yet another edition of The Kona Edge. Time to chat some nutrition, we head back to Canada now to catch up with Scott Cooper. Scott, welcome back, thanks for joining us.
SCOTT COOPER: Thanks so much Brad, I’m excited to be here.
BRAD BROWN: Scott, let’s talk about the way you approach an Ironman from a nutrition perspective. Is it pretty run of the mill for you or have you got a special philosophy when it comes to nutrition?
SCOTT COOPER: For nutrition the thing that I’ve learnt over the years is that I find something that works and stick with it. You can tweak, but really just try and find foods that sit well with you. Everyone is different and then really focus on those. For me, Clif bars, that’s just what sits well in my stomach, so the majority of my nutrition comes from those whereas I know a lot of people, they can’t handle solid food when they’re biking and they rely on gels and yeah, so I think it’s really one of those things you’ve got to just work around, try and find what works and then stick with that.
BRAD BROWN: It’s something that’s come up quite a bit here on the podcast with regards to finding what works and particularly in a race like Ironman where you don’t get too many opportunities to go for as long as you do in an Ironman, is that something that you struggle with, is the amount of opportunities you get to test and try things out?
SCOTT COOPER: Yeah, that’s certainly a struggle, especially when you’re starting out in the sport. I find now that I do longer workouts, so I can play a little bit more in the workouts and that can translate pretty well to racing, but really, you’ve got to maximize those long workouts, sometimes people look at say their long ride and just be like okay, this is going to be my slog of the day to get through the long ride and then that’s really all they focus on, but it can be a good opportunity to put in some Ironman pace efforts on that long ride and practice eating during those times and then see how your body reacts and see if it can digest the food or if you start getting cramps or getting sick or whatever it might be. I think that people don’t necessarily maximize their time in those places and I think that that’s an important way to help improve your nutrition.
BRAD BROWN: Looking at nutrition outside of race day, just general day to day stuff, is there anything that you do that you think stands out for you?
SCOTT COOPER: Yeah, and I think this is one of the things that’s really helped keep me more or less injury free and training hard, is that I really focus on looking at nutrition as, not just calories, but as required nutrients that you need, just to get through the training and let your body recover, so trying to get as many calories in, I try and think about trying to get as many nutrients in, so I focus on as much nutrients as possible and I always try and make all my own food and eat whole foods. I will never buy processed foods, just everything is fresh fruits and vegetables and meats and dairy, that sort of thing. I really try and make sure that I’m maximizing every calorie that’s going in, just to make sure that you’re getting all those essential nutrients, because the training is so hard on your body.
BRAD BROWN: You mentioned it too with regards to keeping all the balls in the air with the juggle with work and training, it boils down to that for the nutrition as well. Planning is key, particularly if you are preparing your own food. Again, if you can sort out what you’re going to eat for the week, at the start of the week, it makes your life a bit easier.
SCOTT COOPER: Yeah, 100% and that’s something that more and more I’ve gone into doing. For the majority of my meals I eat just very large salads with lean protein in them and then what I’ll do is I’ll have one or two nights in my week where I’ll prep those big salads for the next say 3-4 days, just so that it’s always there and it’s always available because when you come in the door from a 5 hour workout and you’re starving and it’s late at night and you just want to eat, you’re going to eat whatever is available and if you don’t have something prepared, you’re going to start reaching for those things that aren’t the best nutrients, or nutritious choices, you’re just going to reach for whatever is simplest. Prepping your meals beforehand makes a huge difference. You don’t always have the luxury to do it, but if you can, then that way you make sure that you’re really maintaining that good solid nutrition all the time.
BRAD BROWN: As far as maintaining balance, you talk about eating healthy, is there something that’s your downfall, that you just cannot say no to, that you probably should?
SCOTT COOPER: Well, my big one, and this has now become a whole thing around my pre-race and post-race celebration is ice cream. If I start eating ice cream, then I don’t stop eating ice cream, so during race season I have a strict ‘no ice cream’ policy and then after every race that I do, I go find the best ice cream in town and I get the largest ice cream they’ll serve and then that’s always my treat after race day.
BRAD BROWN: Favourite flavour?
SCOTT COOPER: Chocolate with any sort of nut, chocolate peanut butter I think is my number one, but any kind of nut in the chocolate will do.
BRAD BROWN: Fantastic. Scott, best of luck, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us here on The Kona Edge, much appreciated. We look forward to seeing how you go in the weeks and months and years to come.
SCOTT COOPER: Great, thank you so much Brad, glad to be here.