I wanted to discuss the principles behind eating right to help fuel your training and allow you to achieve your best results. I have spent lots of time sorting though different options to eating healthy. It appears that everyone has something different to say about how you should eat. Ultimately, none of these ideas sold me as they are so complicated and require such intense effort that the potential benefits are lost. Also much of it is based on faulty science and has intentions to sell a certain product. Of course some well known facts to b taken into account as an athlete are that you need to time your meals accordingly with your workouts; fuel before before workouts, during, and post workout. I wont talk about this as everyone essentially knows this if you are a serious athlete. I am more interested in what to eat and I boiled all the "science" and ideas into one RULE.
Eat as much as you want so long as you keep it healthy.
Your probably asking, how can it be so simple? so let me explain and also let me be clear this only applies to a competitive Ironman athlete who is already in good shape. In the sport the a huge majority of the competitive athletes eat too little and lose strength because of this. Ironman is a strength based sport!
Additionally, I recommend to do this anytime it is not race season because you do not need to worry about being at your "Race Weight" all year round. In fact most pros are 7-12 percent of their race weight heavier in the off season. Being heavier allows your body to be better protected at handling the stress of training, is less prone to illness, and allows you to build strength. Race season may call in some regulation so as to get to your absolute fittest state for a brief period.
The other truth is that if you are an Ironman athlete you will be burning tremendous amounts of calories. Your body needs the nutrition. I doubt that much weight will be put on if you follow the rule correctly. Following it correctly means that you have to eat healthy. For example, eat as much of a spinach-chicken salad as you want But obviously you shouldn't eat as much ice cream as you want. This rule is effective because it allows you to have freedom and eliminates the stress behind eating. Additionally it creates a healthy lifestyle where you refine your food choices to what is naturally healthy. At first I had to always tell myself not to eat unhealthy food but know I don't crave it very often. Following this rule allows you to listen to your body and learn which foods it likes! Instead of following a pre-written plan you create your own that works in conjunction with your body this is why it is so effective.
A final caveat is that you should absolutely reward yourself if you are feeling in the mood. It has been shown that nutrition follows the Pareto principal like many things in life. This means that so long as you eat 80 percent healthy, that the other 20 percent can be less so. Thus treat your self and you can create long term positive habits. Of course, as you become more in tune with your body treating yourself may become strawberries with whipped cream or dark chocolate as opposed to Twinkies and Cheetos!