Ironman Nutrition Hacks - Racing Ironman Triathlons as a Vegan
Ironman Nutrition Hacks - Racing Ironman Triathlons as a Vegan

Ironman Nutrition Hacks – Racing Ironman Triathlons as a Vegan

Ironman Nutrition Hacks - Racing Ironman Triathlons as a Vegan

For Jen Koester, being a vegan posed a challenge to her Ironman nutrition. Jen reveals on this edition of The Kona Edge how she manages and some of the benefits she gained after cutting meat out of her diet.

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BRAD BROWN: It’s time to chat some Ironman nutrition now on The Kona Edge. We head back to The United States to touch base with Jen Koester.

Jen, welcome back. Funnily enough, we haven’t spoken about nutrition at all. Is it something that’s high up on your list of priorities?

JEN KOESTER: Yes. It is totally. I’m vegan, so I’m one of those hippie people.

BRAD BROWN: How does that fit in? That’s quite interesting. Obviously, a lot of triathletes have different dietary requirements and that sort of thing. How do you fit in your fuelling requirements for being a competitive athlete, Ironman triathlete, and being a vegan?

JEN KOESTER: When I first became vegan, I’ve only been vegan for about 3 years now, and I totally thought this is going to screw me over. You need meat for protein. But you learn about it and you read a couple of books and you think you’re an expert. But just realising that I don’t need to have red meat, I don’t need to have chicken or fish. I can use supplements. I can have beans for protein. You figure it out.

Alternative Diet can enhance your Ironman nutritional needs

I remember when I first went vegan, I was miserable the first 2 months. I wanted ice-cream, I wanted chocolates, I wanted ribs, I wanted a steak. It took my body about 2 months to adjust. I was bloated and so tired for these 2 months. And then one day, it was literally just like a magic wand, but one day I woke up. I’d dropped like 10 pounds and I thought, great. I had so much energy that I would have a hard time falling asleep. It was a lot of eating just fruits and vegetables every morning.

I remember I would wake up before going to practice and I would have a juice. It took me a while to acquire a taste for it but it was like beets, kale, carrots, celery, and strawberries, in an orange juice. Not a lot of fruit, not sweet. Earthy tasting. My taste buds slowly changed. Where I would crave it in the morning, like oh, I need my beets.

Which, 5 years ago, I’d go like beets, get that out of my face, that’s disgusting. So, it’s great and I feel like I have a ton of energy and I’m not super sciency. I don’t know all the nutritional facts of everything I eat. But I know what I’m doing now, I feel great. I feel light. I know what foods I crave. After a run, I’m going to want proteins, or I’m going to have a potato and bean salad.

Recover faster with the right Ironman nutrition

And I’m going to feel great. I just feel like it helps my recovery faster than when I was eating heavy foods like steak and all that stuff. So, the diet is important to me. I like being vegan so far, we’ll see. I think it’s given me a bit of a leg up in the competition.

BRAD BROWN: From a race nutrition point of view, how do you approach an Ironman?

JEN KOESTER: When I’m thinking about the Ironman, the way I look at it, I always check to see who’s sponsoring it. Can I eat these power bars, can I have these gels? And usually it’s Cliff which I can eat, so that’s always very exciting. I always start off, I wake up in the morning and I down coconut milk like it’s coconut water, like it’s going out of style. I hate the taste of it, but it’s so good for you. Have all the good fats and it’s hydrating for you so that’s great. Doesn’t taste like it though.

Keeping Ironman nutrition light for optimal race day performance

Then I will always have a banana and peanut butter. And I’m nervous. I’m not a big breakfast eater. I don’t wake up and want waffles. I just don’t want to eat for a couple of hours. But on race day, you do that and you’re going to run out of fuel by the time you’re halfway through the swim. So, maybe have banana and peanut butter for sure. Perhaps have some grapes. Just light food. Light fruits and vegetables and a piece of toast made with peanut butter. Again, just to keep getting the protein.

And then race day I have the gels. I think I usually do about 10 gels that I’ll tape to the frame of my bike just so I know that I can eat it. If I miss an aid station, and I don’t grab it, then I have it there.

Then, I just alternate between Gatorade and water. All the sugar in the Gatorade, after a while it will hit me a little funny and almost makes me bonk out a little bit. So, I always alternate water bottles and Gatorade. It gets me through.

Reserves to make sure your Ironman nutrition is perfected

Once you get to the run and they start offering you more bananas, more power bars, I just always take one. Put it in your back pocket if you’re not going to use it. It feels better to feel gross by eating too much rather than pooped out because you didn’t eat enough,

BRAD BROWN: Well Jen, I think that’s great advice, Thank you so much for joining us on this edition of The Kona Edge. Much appreciated.

JEN KOESTER: Awesome. Thank you so much again for having me.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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