Expert Advice on Sports Nutrition

Ever wonder what a professional triathlete eats for breakfast? Chocolate chip pancakes, it turns out (among a few other things). Allen Gardner, in his second year as a professional triathlete, trains out of Boulder, Colo. Pharmaca recently agreed to sponsor Allen, 26, who competes in 12-14 triathlons around the country each year.

We caught up with him in the middle of training for his next event, the Revolution 3 Quassy triathlon happening in Connecticut in early June. Stay tuned for more from Allen, who will be sharing his daily training routine with us in June!

Note: These nutrition ideas are meant for those doing serious training–not for everyday workouts.  


What do you eat before training?

It depends on the length of training. For a five-hour day, I eat a pretty large breakfast. I’m addicted to chocolate chip pancakes! So I eat a substantial amount of those, then two eggs, an avocado, and typically some fruit (a banana, strawberries, etc). If I’m cycling that day, I’ll make sure I finish breakfast 30 minutes before I set out; if it’s running I make sure I leave an hour between food and workouts, and I’ll have a small snack if I get hungry in the meantime.

I also pay attention to what I eat the day before. Because I train for six hours on Wednesdays, on Tuesday nights I’ll eat 2,500-3,000 calories for dinner. I eat a lot of carbs, like a frozen pizza and a sweet potato or two–and vegetables like they’re going out of style! They help keep everything regular and they complement the carbs well. In terms of protein, I don’t eat much red meat. I prefer fish or chicken. Your body can only break down 25 g of protein at a time, so I won’t consume more than that at a time.

What do you pack with you?  

On a long training day (3-6 hours), I’ll always have a couple electrolyte drinks with me. On a long bike ride I always carry with me three protein bars, about 300 calories apiece. I like to error on the caution side–I always want to have more food than I think I’ll need. I’ll also always bring a banana and some type of gel as an emergency, if I completely bonk and my sugar levels have dropped.

What’s your first step once you’re finished? 

I judge everything based on the amount of activity I just did. If it’s not so substantial, you don’t need as much recovery. So if the workout was an hour, I just come back and eat a good lunch–and chocolate milk (a good source of protein and sugar your body may lose during your workout).

If it’s longer than an hour I need something more than chocolate milk, so I’ll drink a protein drink immediately after I’m done. Then I eat a lot–veggies and simple, easy-to-digest stuff. Your body’s already in some state of trauma, so you don’t want to make it work hard to digest something.

What kind of vitamins and supplements do you take on a regular basis?
I take glucosamine, fish oil, a good multivitamin, B complex, and vitamin C. I think high quality supplementation is pivotal in training. If you buy the cheap stuff, you’re wasting money and you’re not getting the most out of the effort you just gave in your workout.

What about strained or sore muscles? 

I take an ice bath every day, typically in Boulder Creek! A huge part of my training is weekly massage and acupuncture. That’s been the biggest turning point in terms of staying fit and healthy without getting injured.