Sarah True has been at the sharp end of elite sport for almost 15 years, representing Team USA at two Olympic Games (2012 & 2016) in the triathlon, before switching to Ironman races last year, where she picked up second place in her debut in Frankfurt. We had some time with Sarah to quiz her on her nutrition…
So ahead of a race, let's say the night before, what sort of meals/foods are you having? “I go on a low-residue diet for a couple of days leading into a race. As much as I normally love fruits and vegetables, I’ll avoid fibrous foods to eliminate potential race day GI distress. I eat a lot of rice, eggs, bread, and peanut butter before a race”.
Do you eat much in the morning of a race? “I’ll eat white rice, a couple of eggs, and a coffee on race morning”.
Are you eating much after racing? Can you eat pretty much anything you like? “The first thing I ingest after is a whey protein drink. I normally don’t feel like eating, so taking in some liquid calories is manageable. Once I feel a bit more like eating, I’ll gravitate towards something a bit fatty and salty to counteract the sweetness of hours of race fuel. A burger and fries is normally pretty welcome”.
Does your diet change much over the year? Are you taking on-board more calories during the summer or winter? “My general approach to food is to avoid restrictions and to eat intuitively. I’ll tend to eat more carbohydrates around harder and more extensive training. I try to scale consumption to fuel my caloric needs, but I don’t deprive myself of anything at any point of the year. I believe that a healthy diet includes mostly nutritious foods and some less nutritious foods; it’s just a question of frequency and volume”.
Do you eat much when you are training; do you have a protein bar or shake within easy reach? “I’ll take in calories during and drink a whey protein shake following sessions that are intense and/ or long”.
How important is hydration to an athlete at your level? “I find that when I’m not properly hydrated, I notice a lower ability to perform in my training. Since I do multiple sessions on most days, I have to stay on top of hydration. Unless I’m training in heat or doing long, hard session, I generally drink to thirst and don’t stress about it”.
Max Lahiff (Pro rugby player here in the UK) came down to our studio and said sleep and nutrition are king for recovery, do you find the same? “Absolutely. I believe the three cornerstones of recovery are sleep, nutrition, and minimizing stress”.
What are the most common meals in your house? Do you have to make sure you're eating XX amount of calories per day/week? “We don’t count calories in our house and try to eat more intuitively. With two endurance athletes in our home, we consume a sizable amount of food. Breakfast tends to be oats, lunch is frequently avocado toast with eggs, and dinner is normally something including grains, vegetables, and meat from a local farm. We also eat an incredible amount of bread and peanut butter for snacking”.
What is your 'cheat' recipe? “I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as cheating in a diet. There are more nutritious foods and less nutritious foods, but cheating gives an unnecessary emotional weight to food. I really enjoy baking for others- while cookies and cakes are nutritionally poor, making a treat from scratch is like giving someone a hug”.
Is there anything you actively avoid? “My husband is lactose intolerant so we rarely have cheese in the house”.
Last few questions away from nutrition; do you have a favourite place to race? “I’ve always enjoyed racing in Germany- the weather conditions are similar to home, the courses are great and the fans are enthusiastic”.
Is there a particular race that stands out in your career so far? “London 2012. The spectator support was really exceptional”.
Do you have any pre-race rituals i.e. putting your left sock on first, or always wearing the same sunglasses? “I don’t wash my hair the day before a race because I worry that having clean hair will make my swim cap slip off”
What piece of equipment is in your bag en-route to a race, that people might be surprised about (for example, a hockeyball for stretching, or a particular toiletry, or piece of clothing)? “A face wipe. Our faces get so crusty and gross during races that it’s nice to clean off some of the gunk that accumulates.”