The 2018 race weight project has launched!

In 2017, I challenged people to choose junk food categories that I would use to diet and get to race weight. The idea was that for every 1kg lost, I would move to the next food group. I did burgers, ice cream, pizza, beer and then cake. Beer of course was a total disaster, but in the end I did hit my race weight sooner than anticipated. This year, I’ve modified it a bit based on what I learned last year. In addition to the “calorie test” I’d like to experiment with various popular diets to see how they impact both weight loss and performance.

  • Instead of basing each food on losing 1kg, I’m now doing each food for 2 weeks and seeing what the weight loss for each one is
  • I’m choosing the best foods of the 2017 project to start with (ice cream, burgers, cake)
  • I’m thinking of also including some “healthy” diets to see if that makes a significant difference to the amount of weight lost, or to how I feel (or both)
  • My target is 2000 calories per day, based on previous experience on what I need to target for weight loss but still feel good.
  • I’m not adding calories back for exercise. If I have a particularly challenging workout, I will fuel that with 300 calories per hour, but I won’t add those calories to my daily total, and I also won’t increase my daily calorie goal with the exercise calories.
  • The project starts January 1st and will go up until Ironman Texas which is on 28th April. The month leading up to IMTX I’ll aim to eat whatever I need to for performance, and not be in calorie deficit. I will no doubt gain a bit of weight then, but the purpose of including that is to see how much I gain back. 
  • On Jan 1st I weighed in at 180.6 lbs (82kg) and to perform well in a race I should be at around 165 lbs (75kg) or lighter (I can probably safely get down to 72 kg without adverse health issues, it’s just really, really difficult for me to get there).

Here’s the provisional schedule

  • Jan 1st – Jan 14th: ice cream (done – 9.4 lbs lost)
  • Jan 15th – Jan 28th: burgers (includes a Vegas trip to start) 
  • Jan 29th – Feb11th: vegan with whole food
  • Feb 12th – Feb 25th: mediterranean
  • Feb 26th – Mar 11th: paleo or cake (I hope cake)
  • Mar 12th – Mar 25th:TBD
  • Mar 26th – April 28th (Ironman Texas): no calorie restriction, eat to perform! 

I started the diet off with a bang! 10k swim on New Years Eve…


Day 6 – the best burger EVER?

The unexpected side effect of this project, is that by eating the same type of food every day, it’s easy to compare and rank the different options.

beef burger from Mateo Boulder

In regular daily life, I  eat burgers maybe once every 2 weeks at the most. However at this point in the project, I’ve had at least one burger a day, sometimes two or three. So I’m immersed in the world of burgers…

Today, I put out a question to everyone at Google Boulder, asking for their opinion on the best burgers in town. The responses did not disappoint! I now have a shortlist of at least 10 new places to try. The one I chose for today was from Provençal restaurant Mateo in Pearl Street. This is a gourmet burger made with locally sourced, naturally raised beef, topped with caramelized onions, cheese and a side of fries with aioli. I have to say that my colleagues absolutely nailed it – this is probably the best burger I have ever tasted!


this post is a part of the raceweight project, a “calories in, calories out” experiment to see if I can get to my racing weight eating mainly “bad” foods

Burgers for race weight – day 5 “Good Times”

Ok, day 5 is in the bag. 

Today’s burger was from a local drive through diner called Good Times. I chose the 1100 calorie Big Daddy burger. The burger was not too bad but does not claim the top spot.


Daily total: 2017 calories (179g carbs, 100g fat, 99g protein)

So far in this project, the “fast food burgers” rank as follows:

#1: Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger
#2: Smashburger Bacon Avocado Club (which is #1 in terms of freshness and “wholesomeness”)
#3: Good Times Big Daddy
#4: Burger King Extra Long Cheeseburger


this post is a part of the raceweight project, a “calories in, calories out” experiment to see if I can get to my racing weight eating mainly “bad” foods

Burgers for race weight – day 4

Today was a good day, well except for leaving my swimming stuff at home when I went for a swim. But I just changed plans and did 1 hour of heat prep instead.


The burger today was a bacon avocado club from Smashburger. It was pretty tasty and actually seemed very healthy. Of all the burgers I’ve had so far during this project, it’s the one that looked and tasted the healthiest. The ingredients were all high quality and it just came across as wholesome. The Five Guys bacon cheeseburger is still #1 in terms of taste though. 

Total daily calories: 2839 (363g carbs, 111g fat, 79g protein). That protein is actually a bit light so I should have eaten a bit more. 

Dinner was the majority at 2121 calories (burger, fries, ginger beer, ice cream)


this post is a part of the raceweight project, a “calories in, calories out” experiment to see if I can get to my racing weight eating mainly “bad” foods

Burgers for race weight – day 3

Day 3 of getting to race weight on bad foods got off to a good start, or so I thought…



I suffered through the blood, sweat and tears of the Tour of Sufferlandria day 3, only to discover after the fact that I had clicked on stage 7 by mistake. So I had to do stage 3 in the afternoon, and I will have to do stage 7 again when it’s time for that. On the plus side, that was a solid day of training! 

On the burger front, I had a large chicken burger for lunch and a Burger King “extra long cheeseburger” for dinner. The BK was ok but not nearly as good as the Five Guys burger was. As you can see I take care of my micronutrients with a densely packed pickle. 

Daily totals:

Calories: 3177 (432g carbs, 95g fat, 161g protein)
Workouts: approx 1650 calories


this post is a part of the raceweight project, a “calories in, calories out” experiment to see if I can get to my racing weight eating mainly “bad” foods

Burgers for race weight – day 2

Day 2 was a good day! It was an early start (as you can see from my video intro below) but the workout was good (Tour of Sufferlandria day 2).



The burgers today were hand made by me using 85% lean beef from Costco. I just mix the ground beef with an egg (as a binding agent), some spices, and then form it into patties before throwing them onto the grill.

burger with cheese

Toppings were simple, just pepperjack cheese, avocado, mayo and some butter on the bun. I added some homemade hand cut sweet potato fries, which I bake in the microwave, then wrap in foil with some coconut oil and salt and put it on the grill with the burgers. I finished off my meals with 2 klondike ice cream sandwiches and a Yasso salted caramel ice cream stick.

Daily totals:
3014 total calories
2200 from burgers and fries
430 from ice cream

The workout burned about 1400 calories but the accuracy of those numbers is not 100%, so I just use that as a very general guideline.

I planned on eating two burgers at lunch time but I was too full, so I kept one of them for dinner time. Post-workout fuel was a non alcoholic Moscow Mule using Fever Tree Ginger beer


this post is a part of the raceweight project, a “calories in, calories out” experiment to see if I can get to my racing weight eating mainly “bad” foods

Burgers for race weight – day 1

Here is day 1 burger dinner.

Bacon Cheeseburger from Five Guys (first time I’ve been there, pretty good!), home made chicken burger with mayo, butter and avocado, 2 glasses of red wine, curly fries and sweet potato fries.



I needed to get in a few extra calories after this so I ate 2 x salted caramel ice cream sticks (only 100 calories each).

I have to admit I could have eaten a bit less, I was pretty full after this. About 2000 calories at dinner, 2700 total for the day.


this post is a part of the raceweight project, a “calories in, calories out” experiment to see if I can get to my racing weight eating mainly “bad” foods

Getting to race weight on “bad foods”

At this time of year, I see so many people “go on a diet” with the goal of losing weight, but with all the rules and restrictions they end up becoming despondent, “cheating” and then feeling guilty about breaking the rules, ultimately leading to them ending their diet and reverting to their previous habits. They do all of this while ignoring the fundamental principle of weight loss; that you should just eat a bit less. It doesn’t really matter if you eat some “bad” foods every now and again, you will still lose weight if your weekly calorie consumption is less than the number of calories you expend. Instead of focusing on restricting types of foods, it can be more beneficial to make sure you add in some nutritious foods, and then outside of that have some freedom about what you eat, but don’t eat too much of it.

To prove my point, I will be aiming to get down from my current weight of 78kg, to my race weight of 73kg before Ironman Boulder in June. I plan to do this by eating predominantly “bad” foods. I went out to the slowtwitch community to get some ideas for these bad foods, which I will eat on my quest to get to race weight. Since all these diets have rules, here are my rules:

  • I’ll choose one bad food at a time, and eat that until I lose 1kg, after which I’ll move onto the next food.
  • I plan to get most of my daily calories from this bad food. Over and above that, I can eat what I like. For example to sustain my training needs I need to get in enough protein (about 100-150g per day). So for example if I’m getting most of my calories from pancakes I will need to add in about 400 calories of protein.
  • I can eat whenever I like. Whether that is one meal a day or six. On most days it will just be one or two meals, because that’s what I’m used to.

So far we are getting a nice list of bad foods. I’m going to start with burgers, and I’ll try to include a mix of fast food burgers and homemade burgers. I have the option of adding fries/chips, but I doubt I’ll be doing that with every meal.

Other foods on the shortlist:

  • Pizza
  • Milkshakes / Ice cream
  • Beer
  • Cake
  • Pancakes
  • Donuts

You can see my weight tracking here, I plan to weigh in at least once a week, probably more often. I expect to see daily variance both up and down, but in general I hope to see a decrease every week.

Here is the tentative schedule:

  • 78-77kg: burgers
  • 77-76kg: pizza
  • 76-75kg: milkshakes / ice cream
  • 75-74kg: beer
  • 74-73kg: pancakes, donuts and cake

The one caveat to the schedule above, is that I have a ski trip planned at the end of March. I think beer is going to be the easiest to fit in with that, since I don’t have to work, or drive anywhere. So I may well adjust that, depending on how the progress goes.



Ironman Arizona Nutrition Report

I always get a lot of questions about nutrition for Ironman. Actually, “fueling” is probably a better term, since we’re talking about race day fuel strategy rather than day-to-day healthy eating.

Fuel is definitely the “4th discipline” in an Ironman, and in my view is as important as swim, bike and run. The longer the distance, the more critical it becomes. Many an athlete has been relegated to a slow walk half way through the marathon because of issues relating to fueling (too much, too little, or just the wrong approach).

Despite starting with a solid understanding of the theory, and with several references to build on, it still took me a lot of races to really figure out my nutrition for Ironman racing. Ironman Los Cabos was the first race where I felt that I totally nailed my nutrition plan. My subsequent races built on top of that, but still have to be tweaked depending on conditions. For example in cold weather I can absorb a lot more than in hot conditions. And in very windy conditions it can sometimes be difficult to fuel on a specific schedule, because you prioritize not crashing over taking in extra calories!

So going into Ironman Arizona, I used my Los Cabos nutrition plan as a base, but I still had a few tweaks to make:

  • in the 10 days before the race I would predominantly eat a high fat diet. Based on all the testing I’ve done, what you eat in this window has a large impact on how your body uses fat vs carb on race day. If you’ve never done this before, it will probably take longer than 10 days. I followed that protocol for Ironman South Africa which worked well for me. The change I made this time, was to reintroduce carbohydrate the day before the race, instead of 2 days before the race.
  • The biggest change I made was my race day breakfast. In the past I’ve eaten a lot of calories, mainly high carb with a bit of protein and fat. My breakfast consisted of 4 scoops of UCAN, 1 scoop of IsoPure Colombian Coffee Whey protein, and 3 small “crepes” filled with butter, peanut butter and honey. About 900 calories, a lot from protein and fat but still a decent number of carbs. Based on my testing, a breakfast higher in fat would result in a higher % of fat used as a fuel in the early parts of the race.  The reason for burning more fat is not so that I can get ripped, but so that the precious glycogen (carbohydrate) stores can be spared. Even a very lean athlete has enough fat stores to fuel several back-to-back marathons (in terms of caloric value), yet glycogen stored in the muscles and liver might be 2000 calories if you are lucky. So, the more you can spare glycogen, the better.

So, back to Arizona. Before a major race, I always do another metabolic test, at my specific power output goals on the bike, to validate both my total and my carbohydrate calorie requirements. I do this test during a long ride on the trainer, where I’m riding at Ironman race pace. Each “bucket” in the chart below is a 15 second average measurement. I just take the peak bucket any time after 3 mins into a 5 min interval and use that for fuel planning. In this case those values are 645 kCal/hour CARB and 478 kCal/hour FAT at 260 watts.IMAZ fuel test


I then make an assumption about starting glycogen (I conservatively estimated 1200 calories), before calculating the burn rate of swim/bike/run. This calculation is purely an estimate, since the actual energy requirements can vary quite a bit on race day. But it’s a reasonably good estimate, that if you are conservative in your estimations can help you plan for “worst case scenario”. It’s also a useful mental exercise to do this, just to be very aware of the different factors that affect this, so that on race day you can make some accurate adjustments based on what actually happens.

day plan


Note that the above calories are ONLY CARBOHYDRATE calories. Fat and protein have very little fueling benefit when ingested. Protein does have some benefit in that it prevents muscle breakdown, and of course fat and protein can make you “feel better”. So I tell people to eat fat and protein if they like it, or if it makes them feel good, but they need to be aware that by doing so they are using valuable “stomach space”, essentially leaving less space for carbohydrate, which is the thing that is actually going to fuel better performance. Your body can get more than enough fat to use as fuel from it’s own stores. There is no need to eat it too (other than to make you feel nice). I do take in a little protein and amino acids, but I don’t factor those in to my calorie calculations.

Ironman Arizona Race day nutrition

Ok, so finally we get to the point of this post, which is what I took in on race day

As described above, my breakfast consisted of 4 scoops of UCAN, 1 scoop of IsoPure Colombian Coffee Whey protein, and 3 small “crepes” filled with butter, peanut butter and honey. About 900 calories, a lot from protein and fat but still a decent number of carbs. Between breakfast and the start of the race, I just drank water and a light BCAA (amino acid) solution. No more calories until I got on the bike. I wish I had taken a 2nd bottle of water, because I was super thirsty by the time we started the swim. I’m guessing this was due to the dryer air in Arizona.

I use one bottle between the bars, and another bottle behind my seat. I saw a lot of people with 3 or 4 bottles on their bikes, which I think is really unnecessary. With aid stations every 10 miles you certainly don’t need 3/4 bottles. It’s just extra weight for no reason.

  • 2 bike bottles with just over 1000 calories each. I make my own simple “liquid gel” with 8oz tart cherry juice, 160g maltodextrin, 80g fructose.
  • 2 packets of power bar cola shots (200 calories each)
  • 2 gels in my pocket (200 calories)

The goal was to get through about 500 calories per hour on the bike. I managed to do this until the wind really picked up, then I was holding on to my bike more than drinking from a bottle! For 2015 I’m experimenting with the Torhans Aero 30 bottle – it has a straw so you can drink without taking your hands off the bars. Anyway, at least I was conscious of the fact that I needed to get the calories in, so I would take every opportunity to get it done, whenever I could. I ended up getting through both bottles, but none of the cola shots. As I came into T2 I took one of the cola shot packets with me for the run. So, even though I was under my calorie goal, my power was also less than planned so I felt that I was covered.


I tried something new on the run at Arizona. Instead of starting with coke, I would start with a bottle of UCAN (2 servings) for the first hour. I froze my bottle so it was nice and cold. I could get a few sips out but then I had to add water in order to thaw it a bit. I was done with the UCAN after about an hour, after which I would stop every 5th aid station or so and refill the bottle with coke. I ate a few power bar cola shots whenever I felt like it (mile 13 onwards) and that was it. I was initially a bit concerned that the UCAN would be too slow to release, but it seemed to work quite well for me. I felt constant energy throughout the run, and the coke definitely gave a boost when it was needed in the latter part of the marathon.


High fat breakfast: definitely worked well for me. I’ll be doing this again for sure. Next time will drink more water up till race start.
Windy bike: will be experimenting with the Torhans vs my current “bottle between the bars”
Run: will definitely do the split approach of starting with UCAN then switching to coke. I also like the little hand strap of the camelbak bottle, better than running with just a bike bottle in hand. Maybe I’ll experiment with one of those “bottle holsters” – which I’ve avoided in the past because I don’t like having anything around my waist.