How The Pros Eat: Meredith Kessler

MEREDITH_KESSLER_0124-597x421Meredith Kessler took an unusual path to the top of the sport of triathlon, competing as an amateur for many years while working full-time in downtown San Francisco before finally turning pro in 2010 at age 31. Since then she has won a number of big races, including Ironman Canada (2010), Ironman Coeur d’Alene (2012), Ironman New Zealand (2012, 2013, 2014), and Ironman 70.3 St. George (2012, 2013, 2014). She also earned a bronze medal at the 2011 ITU Long Distance World Championships and finished seventh at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii last year.

Coached by Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness, Kessler coaches a handful of athletes herself under the PPF umbrella and teaches spin classes at Shift in San Francisco. Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter.

What is your racing weight?

My typical racing weight is about 130 lbs, however, this will organically fluctuate, hopefully downward a little, as Kona rolls around!

What are your personal dietary “rules”?

I would have to say that I typically don’t focus in on any personal dietary rules, meaning I generally consume most foods. One rule I do adhere to is that everything is fine in moderation—variety is king—meaning I can have that piece of dark chocolate after dinner yet not 10 pieces. I can eat that cheesy appetizer at dinner yet no need to gorge myself. This allows the mind to stay sane and prevents any potential cravings.

In addition, I eat when I’m hungry and I don’t eat when I’m not—I have always been like this and often for my profession, this isn’t always the best mindset. For example, most of us aren’t extremely hungry (myself included) after a tough workout. Yet it is most important to really eat in that fueling window within 15-20 minutes post workout. I have tried to be better about getting that protein-packed recovery shake or that Greek yogurt in as soon as possible, whether I am ‘hungry’ for it or not. I am well aware that by doing so, it aids in proper recovery in repairing the muscles and providing needed fuel.

Also, I aim to drink 1 oz of water for every lb I weigh, so usually 130 oz (not inclusive of what I have during training sessions) a day as much as I can muster, not all of which is just plain water. I drink 12 oz of water with a packet of emergen-C in it every morning when I first wake up. I drink a LOT of sparkling water (sometimes with a hint of OJ in it) because I find chugging carbonated water so much more satisfying!

What’s a typical breakfast for you?

A typical breakfast is Fage yogurt topped with blueberries, raspberries, a banana and Bungalow Munch granola. After a workout, I usually eat four scrambled eggs with sliced avocado on top, toast (or Van’s waffles) with almond butter and maman raspberry preserve jam, and sometimes more Greek yogurt. As I mentioned previously, this should be consumed in the fueling window as much as possible. I diagram this in extensive detail in my upcoming manuals, Life of a Triathlete.

A typical lunch?

A typical lunch (sometimes the egg meal is the lunch) would be a smoked turkey panini with a slice of pepperjack cheese, pickles, avocado, hummus and carrots and a handful of almonds. Usually a protein shake too is consumed between breakfast and lunch right after the first or second session of the day.

A typical dinner?

We eat a lot of salmon in our household. My husband makes a mean miso marinade and grills the salmon on cedar planks, which tastes amazing. We usually have this with a sweet potato, brown rice mixture or quinoa salad dish as well as a house salad with all the toppings and our homemade salad dressings we like to make. Of course, I would follow up this meal with two pieces of dark chocolate.

What’s the biggest change you’ve made to your diet since college?

The biggest change I have made to my diet since college is keeping everything fairly even throughout breakfast, lunch and snacking. While I may not deviate too much from my staples, I still stand by variety and moderation. Dinner is where I do get a little bit more adventurous so that my diet doesn’t get too predictable and boring.

I have to say, my weight is pretty much the same 365 days a year—whether I’m racing or not racing, training more or training less. Could I trim the fat more especially when racing? Absolutely. Yet then I personally feel that I would be sacrificing (a word I do not like to use in terms of my profession) “life” things that I’m not willing to sacrifice as it’s important to me to be able to celebrate normal life things with my friends and family regardless of what I do for a living. This includes pizza night with the girls, date nights with my husband pairing wine with food, having that cupcake at a two-year-old’s birthday party, and so on, and in December, October or June I like to keep things consistent in this capacity. Again: Everything in moderation. The second I make things complicated in terms of nutrition is when I start to perform poorly in races. I like to also go by feel—I feel happier when I don’t worry about a specific race weight number, and being a happy racer is what fuels me to the finish.