As we go through the menopause, food timing becomes very important because we become insulin sensitive (or carb sensitive).  What this means is it’s harder for your body to use starches and blood sugar effectively as it used to and get that glucose into your cells (for energy).  The result is fat storage as your body pulls that blood sugar into fat cells to get it out of circulation.  And this applies whether you are on HRT or not.  But I will go into what HRT actually does and doesn’t do in another post (as I don’t want to give you brain overload).

So why is food timing and food combination important?  Because we don’t want to raise that blood sugar at the wrong times and create more fat storage.

Let’s talk about food combination first.  Because we become carb sensitive, struggling to use them effectively, there is one way we can stop them raising our blood sugar and that is to eat protein before eating carbs as protein blunts the glucose response (blood sugar) so it turns those starchy/sugary carbs to be more slow absorbing and therefore not raising that blood sugar.  It does also work by combing a meal with protein in it as well.  Just make sure that every meal has protein in it (protein is meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), nuts, seeds, and there are small amounts in certain vegetables.) Because, ladies, you need to be upping your protein intake anyway to keep hold of your muscle & bone strength.

Also, you need to be reducing, to eventually get rid of, processed food, because all this does is cause inflammation and inflammation causes belly fat storage amongst other things because it is a stress on the body.

So, think of getting your carbohydrates from lots and lots of different types of fruit and vegetables, grains, wholemeal varieties, and fibre rich foods.


Now let’s look at food timings as this becomes important!

  1. You MUST eat breakfast before you do any forms of exercise, because cortisol hormone is high in the morning and for women it puts our bodies into a sympathetic position (Sympathetic Nervous System is your fight or flight response to stress) then exercise causes cortisol to rise even higher. As you keep increasing that stress, it keeps your sympathetic drive high (fight or flight response) and reduces your ability to relax. Your thyroid activity is depressed, which messes with your menstrual cycle (if you are still having them). Your body also starts storing more belly fat.

So now you’re looking at disrupted menstrual cycles, higher anxiety and stress, impaired performance and often weight gain, pretty much the opposite of what you’re looking for!  By eating a breakfast, and it doesn’t need to be anything big, of protein and carbohydrate (e.g. banana with peanut butter on it) you can lower that cortisol level and put yourself into a more Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest).  Don’t ever do workouts fasted, it does not work for women!!!

  • Make sure you fuel your workouts, remember your 3 meals a day are to keep your body alive and working and general movement, it’s not also for your workouts, so you must fuel your workouts on top and again, it can be just something small & simple of protein and carbohydrate to top up. If workouts go over 90mins then you need to fuel during them too.
  • You must ALSO refuel after your hard workouts (HIIT, hard strength or endurance exercise over 1hr) and this includes 35-40g of protein (a protein shake can work well for after exercise as quick and easy to get down) and some carbohydrate (think fruit is a good carb for afterwards) and within 30mins because females finish hard workouts with high levels of, again, that stress hormone cortisol and it is catabolic (which means eating into our own muscle stores & breaking down our tissues) So we need to get out of that state as quickly as possible to start the repair process: pulling carbohydrate back into the liver and muscles and synthesizing that protein into STRONG, LEAN MUSCLE TISSUE, that helps improve your blood sugar control and body composition.  These are the benefits of this hard training – STRONG, LEAN MUSCLE, STRONG BONES and REDUCED BODY COMPOSITION!


One of the first things I would advise you all to do is maybe re-evaluate how much time you have available to train and to do this, first workout and how much time you need for the following non-negotiables:

  • Work and this includes travel to and from work.
  • Family commitments.
  • Social life
  • Preparing food, eating food, clearing up afterward.
  • Chilling and winding down.
  • Sleeping.
  • Dog Walking
  • Anything else I’ve missed 😂

After you have accounted for all these areas you can see how much time a day/week you realistically have left to train, then we can work together to plan your training within the available time you have. 

As you must know by now consistency is key to getting performance adaptations and improvements as well as to changing any habit, technique, skill, or mindset.  If you are not consistent every week you will not achieve the performance improvements, you are aiming for.

Depending on what coaching plan you are on you will either have the option of weekly phone calls or monthly phone calls with me, where we can discuss any changes, we might need to make due to life to keep you able to stay consistent.  A lot of you are not taking advantage of this part of your coaching package!  Schedule a call with me, whether it’s weekly, if on the premium plan, or monthly if not, but there is a call option there for you.  I want to see you achieve your goals as much as you want to achieve them, and I totally understand that life can go crazy and make it really difficult to stick to the plan but there are options and adjustments I can make to keep the training consistent because something is better than nothing. 

If you have premium training peaks then you can move training sessions around to different days, you don’t have to do them on the days I’ve put in as it might not fit in with what is happening in your life that week, rather than skip the session because you didn’t have time that day, swap it with a shorter session or move a rest day.  I have started to label sessions (Key) and (Supporting) and I have done this specifically because I know all of you are a bit time starved due to work and other life commitments, you are not pro athletes that have all day to train.  The (Key) workouts are the ones that will hold onto your fitness, so generally the hard interval type workouts or could be a long endurance workout that is specific to your race distance.  The (Supporting) ones are still important but if your week becomes busy then one or two of these sessions are the ones you would skip rather than skip the (key) ones.  But before we get into skipping, any of these (Key) or (supporting) sessions can be reduced in time to help you fit them in.


  • Motivation dwindling
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Feeling overwhelmed with the sessions
  • Constantly injured or ill disrupting training
  • Many others

During the season motivation can dwindle and it is good to revisit your WHY. And where your motivation is coming from, what I mean by this, is it Intrinsic or Extrinsic.

Intrinsic Motivation is your internal desire to want to race, or train to improve.  You are doing it because you enjoy either the activity or working out, it brings your pleasure.

Extrinsic Motivation is when you are doing the activity because there is a reward, i.e. you are doing it because you want the medal, t-shirt, get the admiration from family & friends, or like how your body looks from the exercise.  If you only have extrinsic motivations, you will burn out quicker, intrinsic motivations are more committed to long-term goals.

So go back to your WHY. Why do you want to do a triathlon or train to improve?  Having a purpose will help keep you on a more consistent path.

To be successful you need the following:

  • COMPETENCE: To feel you can be successful with any skill or task.  Do you feel you can complete the workouts I have put in or are you feeling overwhelmed? 
  • CONNECTEDNESS: Do you feel you can talk to me or contact me to help or are you trying to just follow the plan where you can?
  • CONTROL: Do you feel you have ownership over your adjustments to training and your goals?

If you are feeling any of these you need to please reach out to me so we can talk about it and come to a solution TOGETHER, COLLABORATIVELY because there are so many options, we can come to together to make your training more achievable which will then create more motivation and consistency. 

If you are feeling like you are constantly ill or injured again a conversation with me can come up with some lifestyle changes that might be able to help with sickness, or strength and mobility that can help with injuries.  I am about to start a Biomechanics Diploma in September which will give me more skills to check you out biomechanically and address any imbalances that could be the reason for the injuries – now while I am doing the course I will be after volunteers as case studies as part of my course, so this could be a great time for you to be a volunteer and get your imbalances sorted out for free before I am fully qualified.  I also do 1:1 run coaching to look at your technique as well as bike coaching too, but these are at an extra cost to your coaching package.  And with Merlin Triathlon Coaching, I do a swim technique session on a Tuesday at Bradfield which is £20 a session.

This 1:1 style of coaching is exactly that, specific to your individual time and needs, and unless you take advantage of your coaching calls or the comments you can put in training peaks for each session, I will not know how I need to change it to work best for you and what is going on in your life. 

Another good habit to try to get into is looking ahead at your week on a Sunday so you can see what might need to be moved about, then for those who are not on premium training peaks, you can drop me a message to ask me to move them to different days.

And finally, to help with your ownership of your training, those who are not on the premium coaching plan don’t get unlimited changes to their plans as part of their package, they are more monthly adjustments, but this can also apply to premium athletes too, is if you are time-starved a way to shorten a workout yourself is:

  • If it is a hard interval session and you can’t fit the whole session in – if there are some Z2 sections before or after the intervals, cut them first (make sure you get a decent warm-up though of at least 10mins), if there isn’t then reduce the number of intervals (not the length of interval or the recovery).
  • If it is an endurance-type session Z2, then reduce the time.
  • If it is a strength session then cut the number of sets, depending on how much time you have, do 1 or 2 sets instead of 3.  Or break up the rounds over 2 days – do rounds 1 & 2 one day and rounds 3&4 another day. 
  • If swimming, if it is not a specific technique session then cut the technique or reduce the number of sets of technique. Try to keep the main set as full as you can.

I hope all this has given you some more insight into what I can do for you as your coach, but there is also much more I can help advise and educate you with if you take advantage of your coaching phone calls.

Many of you start workouts in a dehydrated or under-fuelled state which can reduce your performance.  Ask yourselves, do you put the same kind of effort and attention into the food and meals you eat each day as you do your workouts? This might seem like a strange concept, but if you think about it, our encounters with food are far more frequent throughout the day than the time we spend exercising. If we didn’t have a plan for our workouts each day and had to come up with them on the spot, we likely wouldn’t accomplish as much as we otherwise could if it were all planned out. Similarly, with nutrition, our food choices are likely to be poorer when we wait until the last minute to decide what to eat rather than plan ahead.

The intensity at which you are exercising is going to dictate whether you are utilizing mostly fat or carbs as your primary fuel. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred and most efficient fuel source, so at higher intensities, particularly when we are anaerobic (think Z3 and above), carbs are a necessity. Fat, on the other hand, requires more oxygen and multiple steps to be converted to usable energy, making it the primary fuel for lower-intensity exercise (Z2, Z1). With this understanding, it makes sense why carbohydrates are essential for performance.


If you wish to perform at a high intensity in your training or race, it is important to supply your body with sufficient carbohydrates beforehand. Your muscles and liver can store a finite amount of carbohydrates before they’re completely depleted. Since these stores are rarely at full capacity, it’s important to fuel with carbohydrates beforehand. The timing of your food intake prior to exercise will determine the quantity of carbohydrates, as well as, the quality or type of carbohydrate (complex vs simple/Low GI vs High GI). ‘Complex/Low GI’ carbs provide more sustained energy but take longer to digest and process, while ‘simple/High GI’ carbs provide more immediate energy, digesting and absorbing rapidly into the bloodstream.

Most pre-workout meal options should include a variety of both simple/low GI and complex/high GI sources, while smaller snack options closer to workouts should consist of mostly simple/high GI sources. When it comes to amount, this is where it can be important to trial and error for yourself to determine what your body can comfortably tolerate prior to exercise. The larger the meal or snack, the more time needed for digestion. Keeping fat and fibre content low will aid in faster digestion.

*High GI foods may be easier on the stomach and more beneficial for those of you who have gastrointestinal issues.

When glycogen stores become depleted, fatigue and reduced performance start to happen.  Unless the central nervous system, particularly the brain, has enough carbs available it will also cause fatigue which can result in impaired pacing, skill concentration, and increased perception of effort. Simply put, fuelling with carbohydrates during longer bouts of exercise is essential for optimal performance. A common mistake is fuelling too late. Whether it be a race or long training session, intra-workout fuelling recommendations start in the very first hour. To space out carbohydrate doses and minimize GI upset, a good rule of thumb is to consume 15-30 grams of carbohydrate every 15-30min.

You also need to consider the duration of your workout:

Duration of CompetitionExercise IntensityFuelling RecommendationsOther notes
<45-60min<75% VO2 MaxWater is often adequateConsider additional fueling if extremely intense or important session
45-75minHigh Intensity; >75% VO2 MaxBegin to take in some carbohydrates to maximise performance.Consider rapidly absorbable carbohydrate sources
1-2hrAny intensity, but especially if >75% VO2 Max30g of carbohydrate/hrSport Drinks, gels, energy chews/blocks. Can break this up to 15g/30mins
2-3hrAnyAim for up to 60g of carbohydrate/hrPractice fueling in training to test gut tolerance & palatability.  Again break that amount up into smaller amounts every 15-30mins.
>3hrAnyExperiment with taking 60-90g up to 120g of carbohydrate/hrInclude multiple carb sources (glucose/fructose + maltodextrin) for absorption of >60g/hr (this is dependent on how well your gut responds to fructose & maltodextrin). Higher carb intake is associated with improved performance, better recovery & lower RPE during prolonged sessions & races.  Add protein up to 0.25g/kg/hr.

*These suggestions are nutrition for endurance performance, not just “getting through” a workout, but actually performing better during it.

In general, you want low fat and fibre content, and low-moderate protein content pre-workout as these can all potentially cause gastrointestinal difficulties and promote gastric emptying! 


Choose low-fat, low-fibre, moderate protein carbs that you have eaten in practice and know settle well for you when you are nervous.

Low GI Foods v High GI Foods – consuming either of these before exercise yields similar performance results but some can have issues with consuming too many low GI or high fibre foods too close to training/racing and struggle with abdominal cramping, gas or diarrhoea and subsequently decreased performance.  So, maybe leaning to more high GI or lower fibre, easier-to-digest foods before key workouts or races might be the better option. 

Adding protein to your pre-exercise carbohydrate intake increases the body’s natural glycaemic response (meaning slows down the carbohydrate absorption), compared to carbohydrates taken alone.  The amino acids arginine, leucine, and phenylalanine have been shown to stimulate the pancreas, help increase glycogen synthesis and promote glycogen sparing during exercise.  Try adding 8-10g of protein with your pretraining meal (1 egg, 4oz of Greek Yoghurt, 1-2 oz of chicken, 3 oz tofu are all options with this amount of protein) with your carbohydrates.


Between 1990’s & 2004 it was recommended that athletes should aim to ingest 30-to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour during exercise, and this is still quoted now.  Newer science shows we can and should train our guts to take in more.  The more we can take in and absorb the longer and faster we can go.  Since fructose is absorbed by different transporters than glucose, ingestion of both carbohydrate energy sources leads to an absorption rate of 1.5g of carbs per minute during exercise (up to 90g/hr).  Once we train our guts to accept this higher carb intake, we can reap the benefits including a lower rating of perceived effort (RPE), better maintenance of cycling cadence, and reduced fatigue.

Additional research has shown that as you become dehydrated, reliance on carbohydrate stores for energy only increases, more reason to stay on top of meeting your carbohydrate needs, especially if in the heat.

Fuelling during events should not be based solely on body weight, as maximum absorption rates are gut-dependent rather than body weight-dependent.

When fuelling for long-distance triathlons (70.3, Ironman) or ultras, fuelling becomes the 4th discipline, you simply cannot swim, bike, and run for anything from 8-17 hours without carbs, fluid, and sodium to keep your body moving forward and your brain functioning enough to push you to the finish.

All of this should be tested in training, trying out different types of foods (eg. PB&J sandwiches, energy bars, gels, chews, dried fruit, rice balls, waffles, salted boiled potatoes, pretzels etc etc etc) to determine which type of carbs, flavours sit well and taste good for each of you.

*Be careful not to over fuel during races, and be aware of the symptoms, if you are burping a lot, feel bloated, or getting a stomach ache, these are the signs that your nutrition is not getting absorbed from your gut, try easing off the nutrition and drink some plane water or electrolytes to help dilute your gut so absorption can take place.  It is best to get your less sugary calories in early on and save your sugary ones for later as these will be quicker to absorb when your gut is under stress due to fatigue and dehydration.

*Symptoms of under-feeding can be feeling tired, and reduced performance, try to re-fuel with small amounts regularly and with some water to make it easier for absorption to take place in your gut.

MOUTH RINSING: this is taking some sports drink or gel into your mouth, rinse and spit it back out. This may be useful if you have a very sensitive stomach or you are experiencing GI issues.  What this does is activate receptors on the tongue and in the central nervous system that lead to increased performance but a downside that research has noted from some athletes’ studies, is higher reported RPE.  So I would stick to the use only if you are experiencing stomach issues with your normal fuelling.

Sweat rates vary a lot and they can range from 0.3 to 2.4 litres per hour depending on things like the weather, the individual, and the work intensity.  Losing 2% of body weight to sweat is ok, but losing more than that can negatively affect performance and cause functional impairment in concentration, especially in hot weather.  The common average range of sweat loss is 0.4-0.8 litres/hour.  As well as fluid itself, you lose sodium and other critical electrolytes in your sweat, and the concentration of loss again varies from person to person.  Losing too many electrolytes can lead to reduced performance and be a contributor to muscle cramps.  Hydration was discussed at length in my post last week.


After exercise, you have a window where your body will metabolize energy quickly, and you need to give it plenty of energy to rebuild and recover. You have depleted your muscle glycogen stores to some capacity, depending on the intensity and duration of your workout. In order to minimize muscle soreness and maximize recovery, replenishing these stores through carbohydrate ingestion is key.

Adequate carbohydrate intake after exercise is imperative for you to repair your body and maintain a high level of performance. Your carbohydrate portion should be 2-3 times more than your protein portion (20-40g age dependent) for your post-training and post-race meal.  As glycogen levels decrease your ability to work also declines as does the ability to exercise at the desired intensity.  Rates of tissue breakdown have also been shown to be higher without adequate intake of both carbohydrates and total energy. Restocking muscle glycogen is considered a primary goal for all athletes following training and racing.  Then also protein intake after exercise is also important when muscle-damaging exercise has occurred or when gains in muscle size and strength are desired.  It can take up to 72 hours after prolonged or exhaustive exercise for your body to restock its much-needed supply of muscle glycogen in your muscles.  Recovery nutrition studies have shown 50% faster glycogen depletion when cyclists consumed recovery carbohydrates within 30 minutes after exercise versus delaying that recovery nutrition by two hours.

All recommendations stress the fact that restoring muscle glycogen is a primary goal and triggering muscle repair and muscle protein synthesis. 

It is best to use moderate to high GI carbohydrate as it is absorbed more quickly by our bodies immediately after exercise (eg. white rice, pancakes, bagels, potatoes, yoghurt, smoothies, pasta, ripe banana). AVOID ANY TYPE OF ANTI-OXIDANT FOOD (VITAMINS A, C & E) AFTER EXERCISE AS THESE BLUNT THE ADAPTATIONS FROM THE EXERCISE (eg. berries, and other citrus fruits and some vegetables).

PROTEIN – depending on your age depends on how much you need in post recovery, 20 grams might be adequate in younger athletes to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, but as we age we will require more like 35 to 40g of total protein after exercise. Females need to start upping theirs as they start going through peri to post menopause hitting the 40g mark and for men 40g, over the age of 50.  This is due to the inability to synthesize muscle protein after exercise as we age.  But taking in carbs and protein within 30 minutes after exercise helps optimize recovery and adaptations needed before the next training session.  This after-exercise recovery is even more important for women as our bodies go catabolic after exercise (which means we start eating our own muscle) and we need to get out of this stressed state as soon as possible so we can get the adaptations and muscle strength from the exercise we have just done.

The best source of protein optimal for recovery is rapidly absorbing leucine which is found predominantly in dairy or whey protein.

If your workout isn’t intense and is less than 60 minutes, you may not need a post-workout snack, however, because this is when nutrients are least likely to be converted and stored as fat you might want to have the post-workout snack anyway, plus it gets you into good habits.

These are the recommended guidelines for post-workout carbohydrates:

1.2g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight as soon as possible and then every two hours for four to six hours or 0.8 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight plus 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for maximum glycogen repletion and muscle protein synthesis.

Carbohydrate Source15g carb serving size30g carb serving size45g carb serving size
Cereal½ cup1 cup1 ½ cup
Pasta½ cup1 cup1 ½ cup
Rice1/3 cup2/3 cup1 cup
Beans/lentils1/3 cup2/3 cup1 cup
Sweet Potato½ cup1 cup1 ½ cup
English Muffin1/211 ½
Banana (large)½11 ½


You will likely have lost around 2% body weight, and your sweat and urine loss will continue at a greater rate than normal after workouts so you need to consume a greater amount of fluid to make up for this deficit.  Keep rehydration at a modest rate and think about the maple syrup and salt recipe I put in the hydration post as this will aid absorption and minimize the volume response which creates more bathroom visits and dehydration.

Post-workout hydration also helps to restore your blood plasma volume quickly.  

Avoid excess intake of alcohol in your post-workout hydration window because it will impair the rehydration process with its diuretic effects.


Eat a meal before and after workouts and during if over 60 minutes or intense. 

A final note: you don’t want to add that much fat to your post-workout meal because that can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates. Try to limit fat intake in the first hour after exercise.

I hope this was informative for you to help improve your performance during your training and racing.


  1. It helps transport calories across the stomach to the lower intestine, so it acts as a transporter & aids absorption.
  2. Maintains blood volume.


  1. Blood delivers oxygen to the muscles to create energy and offload waste (eg. Carbon Dioxide).
  2. Shunting blood to the skin to dissipate the heat we have generated through exercise (sweating).
  3. Blood goes to the gut to help with absorption.

During exercise as you get dehydrated the biproduct is we lose blood volume and this is where the body goes into competition for that blood because your muscles are calling out for oxygen, your skin is calling out for blood to dissipate the heat, and your gut it calling out for blood to help absorb the calories you are consuming.

Who Wins……….

The skin is the winner because we must get rid of the heat or there is a direct impact on your brain and organ function.  The higher the intensity of the workout, the more heat it will generate!  The muscles are second due to our motivation to keep exercising and finally the gut, so it becomes harder to absorb calories during exercise. So, when we get dehydrated and blood is going to the skin it increases our perceived effort for the same amount of work, we get a drop in economy, a drop in the absorption rate of the gut, and therefore a drop in performance.

Performance starts to decline after about 3-4% dehydration so this will be when you start to see a negative impact on your performance.


  • Heat & Humidity
  • Altitude
  • Individuality (Genetics, Fitness Level).

It’s important to note that you will be dehydrated by the end of a training session, we are not looking to retain hydration as it can be a risk of hyponatremia, but the mission is to not be too dehydrated.

So, if you are racing an Ironman, when you finish the bike you don’t want to be too dehydrated about 1% or so, so that when you start the run you are not too dehydrated so that you have more hydration to lose during the run rather than too dehydrated and lose performance.


The consequences of dehydration are plasma/blood volume dropping and becoming viscous (thick) and the heart then must pump harder, and this will cause you to experience performance decline, muscle weakness, and fatigue. 

Some signs and symptoms of dehydration are headache, confusion, and performance starting to drop off.  Then when hydration is more severe the signs can be dark urine and you stop sweating.


  • If less than 60mins then you can drink to thirst and plain water is fine.  **But women who are in their high hormone phase (the 2 weeks before your period) and post-menopause women, your thirst signal becomes dampened so you will need to set an alarm to remind you to sip fluid every 10-15mins and your hydration needs will change to a hydration product.**
  • Over 60mins it now becomes useful to aid your performance to use a hydration product (this is a solution that contains a small amount of sugar and salt, as sugar is the co-transporter for the sodium fluid to cross the intestinal barrier to keep that blood volume up), the amount you need is 10-12ml/kg of body weight/hour.

** For fluid to make its way into your bloodstream swiftly and efficiently it needs to be a lower osmolality than our blood.  If your blood is more concentrated than the fluid you drink, your small intestinal cells will let the fluid through the intestinal walls to add water to the bloodstream and lower the concentration levels, BUT if you take in fluid that is too concentrated, your intestinal cells will reverse course and pull water from the vascular spaces of your body to dilute the higher osmolality in your gut.  (Basically, water leaves the spaces where you want it and goes into your digestive system to dilute the fluid sitting in your gut.)  Which in the end leads to dehydrating yourself and triggering GI Stress. **

  • Over 75mins Hard Interval Sessions use a hydration product 10-12ml/kg of body weight/hour and sip frequently every 10-15mins.
  • Long endurance sessions use a hydration product starting early with the higher ratio of 12ml/kg of body weight/hour then taper down to the lower end of 10ml/kg of body weight/hour.

It is quite common to start your long endurance session not hydrating and get to an hour plus in and realise you have hardly drunk anything; this can lead to slipping over the 3% hydration and affect your performance.

  • For the sessions over an hour then calories will need to be consumed as well and these should be separate from your hydration.  The reason it is not a good idea to mix your calories with your hydration (like sports drinks) is that it makes the fluid highly concentrated, and it cannot be absorbed through the intestinal wall, yet.  So, your body has to redirect the fluid from the working muscle tissue to the small intestine and push the water across the intestine barrier to dilute this concentrated product so it can be diluted enough to get absorbed but meanwhile, you have pulled oxygen from the blood back towards your intestine and so will be problematic on your performance.

If you are going to use sports drinks for your nutrition, then remember this is separate from your hydration not a part of your hydration needs.


Sprint/Olympic again it’s 10-12ml/kg of body weight/hour sip regularly every 10-15mins.   Go towards the higher end if the weather is hot or course is particularly hilly or at altitude or if a female is in a high hormone phase.

Ironman/70.3 again same hydration amount but it becomes more of a focus to minimise loss so not going into the run less than 3%.  We will be absorbing less fluid on the run due to stress on the body like fatigue, it can be good to alternate between water down coke and water during the run as the sugars in coke are quick digesting, literally, as it hits your tongue, so if you have been suffering with GI Stress this could be a solution for you to get in some fuel.



Water supports your immune system and is critical for cellular health.  We need water to stay alive and maximise the performance of our bodies.  It contributes to recovery and helps the absorption of your daily calories.

It is important to restore your hydration daily as you are dehydrated when you finish your training sessions and rehydrating will facilitate recovery and get you ready for your performance in your next workout.

Signs that you are dehydrated in daily life are feeling tired in the afternoon, this can also show up as hunger and is when you can then reach for the sugary snack when actually you are dehydrated.  Alertness declines when dehydrated.   It is best to hydrate with sips throughout the day rather than guzzling a big glass of water in one go as this can cause a volume response – signalling your body to pee out more than you’ve taken in or GI stress.

Plain water does not have any transporters (sugar & sodium) and so unless you are drinking it with food can struggle for it to be absorbed and end up with the volume response mentioned earlier which can be the reason why you end up peeing a lot when just drinking plain water.  What you can do is add some maple syrup & salt (sea salt) to your water to give it those transporters.  The recipe is 1 teaspoon of maple syrup, a pinch of salt to 200ml of water (you shouldn’t be able to taste the salt or the maple syrup, it just tastes smooth), you can also add ginger to this if you like as well.

Other drinks that can help your daily hydration are tea, green tea, and coffee (be careful with caffeine as adenosine hormone builds up throughout the day to make you feel drowsy in the evening.  Caffeine is an adenosine decoy that floats through your bloodstream and binds to the adenosine receptors.  So now, instead of slowing down, your pituitary gland senses something is up and that you need energy and gives you a shot of adrenaline.  That’s fine early in the day but the half-life of caffeine is about 6hrs, so if you have a coffee at 3 pm you still have a shot of expresso effect kicking around at 9 pm and for some, it can be longer.  So, try avoiding caffeine from around 12/1 pm depending on what time you go to bed). 

So, there you have it, I hope you all now can see why being hydrated is important and start to implement it more in your daily lives as well as during your exercise and races.

For Men yes but for Women No!

And here is why…….

Women’s bodies fuel differently from men’s.  We rely on blood glucose first then fatty acids so not our stored muscle & liver supply & also the different phases of the menstrual cycle will have an effect because certain phases influence our ability to access & replace liver & muscle glycogen!

The female body doesn’t respond the same way when we deliberately try to increase our glycogen stores days ahead of a race.

When studies were done on well-fuelled women & then carb loading there was an increase of 17% of muscle glycogen compared to 23% for men. 

But the problem really lies with women under fuelling generally!  They just don’t eat enough to fuel the amount of exercise they are doing!  Women tend to do more fad diets & constantly try to reduce their calories to lose weight & this does not help their performance or help them lose weight! It is important to eat enough & eat enough protein & carbohydrates before, during and AFTER training or competing!  As well as throughout the day rather than trying to cram it all in the day before!

As females, you will also need to increase your carbohydrate & protein intake during the Luteal phase of your cycle (high hormone phase) because your body is using more blood glucose to build the lining of your womb and so increasing your carbs gives you more availability for exercise.  And during high progesterone hormone puts females into a catabolic state (muscle breakdown) due to the breakdown of protein to also build your uterine lining so increasing protein will mitigate those effects & maintain your muscle mass!

For Men, carb loading can be effective & can improve their performance at lactate threshold by about 45%! Hope this has helped verify the original question!  A lot of past research was only ever done on men or women in their follicular phase (low hormone) so it’s only recently that new studies are being done on women in all their hormonal phases and we still have a long way to go but at least it is happening now!

Some of this story you have probably heard before but I’m going to tell it with a different mindset.

My journey into the fitness world started when I was at school, I loved sport and was in all the teams, I wasn’t the best but I was good enough to get into the teams. The particular sports I was really good at was badminton and trampolining. This love of sport continued into adulthood and at 21 I did my exercise to music course to become an aerobics instructor and then travelled to Australia for a year, where I taught some classes. On my return I decided to set up my own classes (as I had no job and no idea what I wanted to do) in step and aerobics, I got a little ford van to transport my steps to the venues and it was great fun, a lot of hard work advertising it and some heartache along the way but I loved it. This escalated to doing my personal training courses and where my love of weight training came from. I learnt olympic lifts, free weights and resistance machines but what I really learnt was how to weight train properly and I loved it and spent the next 20 years training most days. Until the age of 35 when I decided to try a triathlon……

Randomly, a client of mine was moving to Australia and left me her bike. So I thought why not try a triathlon. I had a couple of sports therapy clients who were triathletes and loved listening to their stories. I wanted to learn to swim properly as I didn’t even know you breathed out into the water (that story has definitely been told in another blog of mine), so this was the start of my love of triathlon, as I got pretty hooked on it from the start. I worked my way through the different distances as I wanted to develop rather than just dive into the long distance stuff (to be honest, I never thought I’d ever be that stupid as to do an ironman!) but that was where I ended up, in 2010 getting online as soon as Ironman Austria was about to open to book on, as they sell out fast! But I got in……

Then devastation…….. I decided to use my partner at the time’s private health to see what was wrong with my hip, as it had been niggling for years, all the time I was doing triathlon, it had started before triathlon, in my early 30’s with random giving way, so I just thought it was muscular. When he gave me the news that I had osteoarthritis in my right hip, that I basically had the hip of a 60 year old and I was only 39! That he could do nothing to help me and to retire from triathlon, well I was devastated! Triathlon was the love of my life! It was what made me so happy! I was distraught and I went into what I call the House Of Pain but it’s actually called The House Of Change!

I’d been in the contentment room when I got my blow that sent me going backwards and forwards from denial to confusion, I went into a depression of anger (as anger is my default), I destroyed my relationship (which to be fair wasn’t right anyway). I saw two other hip specialists and after an MRI and more bad news I took the advice of the final specialist, which was to carry on doing what I was doing until I couldn’t do it anymore. So I stepped out of the confusion room and into the renewal room with the mindset to get on with my life, I had an Ironman to do!!!

So that is what I did, I trained for my Ironman, doing minimal running to keep the hip under control and I went to Austria and I completed my first Ironman and I LOVED IT! So much I booked another one the following year which I managed to knock off 1 hour! I did do a couple of 70.3’s in Mallorca the following 2 years but my hip didn’t really get back to where it was pre Ironman’s and so I made the decision to retire from triathlon and train to become a triathlon coach. I still loved the sport and thought this was the best way to give back all my motivation, knowledge and enthusiasm for triathlon and still be involved in the sport. So in 2014 I became a BTA Level 2 Triathlon Coach and started working as a coach for TRI2O Triathlon Club with Clive Alderson, who unbeknown to him, was like a mentor to me. I learnt a lot from working a long side him on a Friday morning, as these courses only start you on the journey, you need to work a long side an experienced coach to really become a good coach. My next step in the journey was doing my BTA Level 2 Diploma course to be able to coach 1:1, again this highlighted to me how much I didn’t know and sent me onto the path of increasing my knowledge with loads and loads of reading and the more I learnt the better I was becoming and the more confident I felt and the more I was loving coaching by getting other athletes to achieve their goals. But I wanted more……….

Now I am on my BTA Level 3 High Performing Coaching Course and a whole new personal journey and a whole new way of coaching and a whole lot more book reading!!!!! It is this journey that has made me look back over my life and look at the hard times more positively. If I hadn’t of got the arthritis I might never of become a triathlon coach, a job I really love doing and am passionate about becoming the best coach I can be! I’m learning to look at the bad things life throws at you as a learning experience rather than get upset by them as how does being upset help, it doesn’t! Learn and move forwards! Everything I am learning and changing within myself is moving me further forwards to being a more high performing person (and I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally) and this is making me a more high performing coach.

I have been through a lot of pain, arthritis is very painful, lots of sleepless nights, more sleepless than slept, lots of private tears and lots of frustrations but I am still biking, swimming, I took up mountain biking and climbing a few years back, I cycled Lands End to John O’Groats and climbed the 3 peaks on the way totally unsupported and I was in agony every time I got off that bike but I was on it again the next day with a smile on my face. If one thing I have learnt from looking back over all this is how resilient I am, how determined to not let anything stop me doing the things I love doing and if this story can help you think more positively when things are not going well, to learn something from it, making it more positive then I am happy it has helped you because this is my intention!

The Off-season can be a difficult time for triathletes, because it is a time to rest, refresh, plan and prepare for the next season and it is the first two that triathletes have the most problem with – REST & REFRESH!


Rest is easier said than done with most triathletes but is really important for the repair of muscles and joints. It is during this time that the body repairs and adapts stronger to the training stress that has been put on it. Rest is not just for the Off-season, it should be apart of all training. If you push yourself hard and then rest you will gain in performance ability but if you push hard with no rest you may see a decline as you will be unable to work to your full potential during your hard workouts due to fatigue. Use the offseason to really focus on getting enough rest, especially if you have any niggling minor injuries, this is the time to give them time to properly heal. Adding in some dedicated foam rolling, mobility and flexibility can help accelerate the recovery process.


Six activities for the offseason - Triathlon Magazine Canada

The Off-season is also a good time to mix things up with some cross training. Triathletes spend most of their time working in one plane (forwards), never working multidirectional. Working multidirectional will strengthen the body in all the different planes of movement making you stronger and at less risk of injury. Try things like indoor wall climbing, kettlebell workouts, mountain biking but challenge yourself to some singletrack where you can learn new skills of riding berms, this is a great way to learn to handle and corner your bike better, but do start with the green or blue trails first then move on to red once you feel confident and your skills have progressed. If you are already a confident mountain biker, how about some cyclecross, this is a great sport to do through the winter, but be warned, it is not an easy Z2 type workout, you’ll be hitting those threshold heart rates so make sure you allow recovery afterwards. Another great session to add during the Off-season is weight training, this can be done using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands or bodyweight. Really this should be continued during the triathlon season as well in a maintenance type session. Strength training is more important than triathletes give it credit for as it really helps prevent injuries as well as providing muscle strength, power, functionality, mobility, balance and a strong core, to name a few of the benefits. Our strength is declining from the age of 30 so if you are not training it, you are losing it.

Functional strength is becoming more popular, this is using multiple muscles to do an exercise, think forward lunge with upper body twist, squat with overhead press, when we run, we are not just using our lower body, our upper body is working to help propel you forwards, so training more functionally and specifically to your sport, will have a really good crossover effect.


The Off-season is also a great time to start setting some goals for the upcoming season. This is great for creating motivation. Use your last season to reflect on how races went, how your training went and what you can improve, whether it is working to improve your swim, be more consistent with your training, sort out niggling injuries. Making these improvements can become part of your next season’s goals, but set objectives, like to improve your swim to maybe join a local technique coached session, triathlon club session or a masters swim group. To have consistent training, plan it into your diary each week as part of your day. To sort out niggling injuries either book in regular massages or diary in regular foam rolling/flexibility and add a strength workouts into your week, whether this is by joining a gym or local kettlebell class or doing the workouts from home, it is worth getting into a routine.

The other goal setting is your race calendar, looking at what races you would like to do in the next season but do also factor in race dates with any other commitments like work, holidays etc as you don’t want an important phase of your training to fall during a holiday. Also when doing more than one A race, is to allow enough time between them to be able to recover and build again.


Once you have rested and refreshed with some cross training the time then starts for some periodised training. Base training is the start of this and involves low intensity but consistent training that allows the body to build a cardiovascular and muscular fitness base prior to adding intensity and distance. Base training is focussed on swim, bike and run at low intensities it also includes strength training, mobility and flexibility as well. Getting into a routine of structured workouts during the base phase really helps mentally to carry on when training gets harder and more race specific through the build phases. This is also a really good time to learn more about using heart rate/RPE and even power (if you have a power meter) during your training, get to grips with the Z2 low intensity style workouts as these seem hard to start with but stick with it as they really do pay off in the end – we have to go slower to get faster and at the end of the process you will be swimming, biking and running faster at a lower heart rate.

What to do if you don’t know how to periodise your training?

There are a couple of options for this:

Find a coach: using a coach is probably the best way to help with your training as they will tailor your training to your lifestyle, specific goals and strengths and weaknesses. They know how to structure and progress your training, make the training specific to the distance of your A races, the profile of your A races and your goals, making sure you peak at the right time so you are on form and ready to race on race day. They can also help with things like nutrition, injury prevention, mental strength, motivation, transition strategies, race strategies and a lot more. They are someone you can talk through any worries or questions you might have.

Online training plans: if a coach is something you can’t afford then there are lots of generic training plans online that are not too expensive. These will not be specific to your strength and weaknesses but you can get them specific to your race distance and fitness level and they are progressive plans.


Another good thing to do during the Off-season is checking your gear. You might have had annoying creaks/squeaks with your bike, this is a good time to get them sorted out before the bike becomes heavily used outside again. Getting some good winter puncture resistant tyres on for the winter cycling or if intend to do all your offseason cycling on the turbo then getting a proper turbo tyre or having a new chain and cassette ready for the new season (if using a direct drive turbo) and giving your bike a good clean before it’s mounted on the turbo for the offseason.

In conclusion, use the offseason to recover, try different sports/exercise types and prepare for the next season.

I see in my line of work athletes not giving long distance races the respect they deserve. Whether it is a marathon, big swim, long bike challenge or long distance triathlon, I see athletes suddenly panicking a couple of weeks before their race, because they have not done the training and then doing a long swim, bike or run without any build up to it. The stress and fatigue this places on the body is enormous and causes the body to take much longer to recover than it would if distance and volume had been progressed gradually. Then there is the risk of injury, especially with running, as due to it being weight bearing, it is so much harder on the body.

These long distance races should be done following a structured progressive training plan, building the distance up each week so the body can adapt gradually and recover quicker. These plans should also include recovery days/weeks and/or sessions as it is during the recovery that the body can adapt and get stronger. Oh and lets not forget ‘specific’, for example, if triathlon then brick sessions, these should include not just bike to run but also swim to bike and all 3 in a smaller distance ratio. These are great for practicing race day nutrition as this can make or break a race! Individual long distance races also need nutrition practice, think your long runs, swims, or bike (depending on your discipline race) to practice your nutrition strategy, as any race over 90mins needs glycogen replaced as our bodies can only store that amount of glycogen which is what we use for energy along with fats (they work together).

Your long distance sessions should be built up to as close to the distance of the race as you can (about 80%) to prepare your body with the strength and endurance it needs for race day. If only doing half the distance your body will not be prepared fully! Remember the saying ‘Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail!’

So let’s change that saying to ‘Prepare Well, Race Well’

Let’s get to that finish line thinking you prepared well, raced the best you could and gave it the respect it deserved!!

The question coaches get asked, why am I not getting fitter or faster? There are a few reasons for this and I ask these questions:

  1. How may sessions for each discipline are you doing a week?
  2. Are you consistently training every week?
  3. Are you doing too much training?

I am going to start with number 2 – consistency! This is the most important aspect for improving fitness, training consistently every week. If you are constantly missing training sessions week on week or training one week then nothing the next week or very little, you will not improve, in fact you will lose fitness, rapidly! If you use Training Peaks, look at your CTL figure (fitness) and how quickly it decreases on the weeks with a lot of red sessions (sessions not done).

Now to number 1, if you are only doing one or two sessions a week in a discipline you will only maintain your fitness in that discipline (unless you are new to exercise or the specific sport). You need to do three or more per discipline to improve. This can be done a number of ways: if you have more time to train then adding an extra one or two sessions in that discipline a week should help it improve (as long as you are not doing too much to be too fatigued). If you are short of time then you can reduce one or both of the other disciplines to one or two sessions a week, for a month or two, to maintain and add extra sessions (three or more) in the one you want to improve, then once it has improved you can drop it to maintenance (one to two sessions) and add a session in the other discipline that you want to work on to bring it up to three or more a week.

We also need to progress fitness each week to improve. If you do the same thing every week you will just maintain your fitness. The body needs to be stressed so that it can repair stronger, if it is not stressed then it has no need to repair stronger as it will already be strong enough to cope with the demand of exercise you are doing. But doing too much high intensity sessions or junk miles can cause too much fatigue & cause the body to break down, causing overtraining, this can completely stop you being able to train or cause your body to be too fatigued to perform & improve.

Training also needs to be specific for the sport/s or races your are participating in to become fitter. If you are only doing yoga but you want to do a triathlon, then all the yoga is not going to prepare you for that triathlon, you need to be swimming, cycling & running and making it specific to the distance of the race you are doing, so if you are doing an Ironman then you need to train your long endurance, if you are doing a sprint then you need to train your speed endurance. Also adding in brick sessions, training at your race pace, on specific routes that have similar elevation to your race, practicing nutrition/hydration strategies or if your goal is just to get round, making sure you can achieve the distances required.

All of this is my job as a triathlon coach, I write progressive training programs targeting athletes goals, strengths and weaknesses and building them to be specific to the race/s they are doing, making sure they peak at the right time and are tapered to perform their best for that race/s. I can manipulate their weekly training to make sure their fitness gradually increases by using a training stress score (which uses heart rate, power or pace data to determine how hard the session is and score it) as long as they do the sessions to the intensity I’ve planned for that week, fitness should improve. Coaches also monitor & can manipulate how fatigued their athletes are, remember we have to stress the body for it to repair stronger, but we need to make sure we do not fatigue it too much that they become overtrained.

It takes dedication to increase fitness but it also needs to be fun, finding a buddy to train with can really help & fire up that competitive nature as well as having a laugh along the way and having that accountability of not letting your training buddy down, or club sessions they are always fun as well as pushing you to work that bit harder, or even online platforms like Zwift or virtual classes to just have others to bounce off.

One final reminder, whatever way you choose to improve your fitness, whether that’s getting a coach, using club sessions, following generic online programs or just doing your own, you need to be consistent, progressive & specific & make it fun of course, this is a hobby after all 😃

Image result for Superwoman

Something I’ve started to realise is ‘I’m no longer Superwoman’. The fact is, I never really was , I was just pushing myself with my exercise, day after day with no breaks and so not giving my body time to recover, adapt, progress and bounce back from the training. Now that I am older this is showing up with more muscle soreness and joint pain.

To be a good athlete we need to have an equally balanced, mobile body with good posture but in today’s society we spend too much time sitting, especially if you have a desk job. The upper back then becomes rounded with shoulders forwards and the chest tightens, the hip flexors shorten, glute muscles switch off and this is just a few of the mobility issues too much sitting causes, there are a lot more. The problem then is we go out for a run or a bike in this hunched over sitting posture!

Image result for doorway chest stretch

One way to tackle this daily is by getting up from your desk every hour and walk around, then in a doorway, put your arms either side and lean forwards to open up the chest area and get those shoulders back and down, 10s is all you need to do but if it feels good then hold for a bit longer until you feel those muscles relax. A lunge stretch for the hip flexors, relax into it and feel how good it feels.

Before exercise, a good way to mobilise into a better posture and activate muscles is to do some foam rolling lightly & fast on the main muscles to be used for the activity you are about to do and then mobility and strength exercises like leg swings, arm swings, chest openers, knee lifts, squats, rotations, glute bridges, calf raises etc. This will warm up the muscles, mobilise the joints and activate the muscles ready for the exercise you are about to do.

Making time for some specific recovery like yoga, but if you are new to yoga maybe try Yin Yoga, where you move into the stretches slowly & hold for longer, so more time for your muscles/fascia to relax. Think of your fascia as a plastic bag, if you stretch a plastic bag fast it snaps but if you stretch it really slowly, it lengthens and when you let go, the length remains. This is exactly how your fascia that surrounds your muscles works.

Image result for myofascial release equipment

Other good ways of recovery is Foam Rolling (BUT only if done correctly). Rolling frantically and through excruciating pain is not the way to roll, it does the complete opposite as push hard on fascia and it will just stick and then push back, rather than relax. You need to roll slowly, relax and melt into it, sheer any tender areas and enable the fascia to lubricate and reconstruct. I have put on a Foam Rolling Workshop for my athletes to educate them on muscle fascia and teach them how to foam roll correctly and learn that the area of tightness or pain is not always the cause, it is usually the symptom so rolling the whole line of muscles that work together or antagonistic muscles to find the actual cause and then tackle the symptom. If you do not know how to roll correctly (the internet on this subject is a bit limited on the correct technique) I have a good friend who puts on a foam rolling class on a Monday evening via Microsoft Teams, this would be a good way to learn how to roll correctly and have it in your weekly routine, then you can add more in with the confidence your are doing it correctly. You can find details at:

I may not be Superwoman at the moment but if we start being kind to our bodies and give it that recovery it so desperately needs, enabling us to exercise with better form, mobility and posture, we might become a Superhero again!