Former track and field star Tamara Jewett burst onto the triathlon scene a couple of years ago, winning a number of races in her first full season of racing before turning pro last year. She qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Taupo, New Zealand with a third-place finish at Ironman 70.3 Buenos Aires last year. We caught up with the Toronto native to find out how she fuels herself for her demanding training regimen.
As a pro triathlete, I consider eating well to fuel my training and performance to be part of my job. My attitude towards food is influenced by navigating life-long vegetarianism (no one else in my family is vegetarian, but I decided to be when I was six-years-old), and bad experiences underfueling as a young runner.
I have daily guidelines for what to fit in, and I am always focused on making sure I get enough fuel. However, I try not to be too rigid or restrictive about what I eat. I listen carefully to what my body asks for and try to eat intuitively – which involves “hungry days” when I eat A TON and less hungry days when I don’t. Unless I am making sure that I have enough calories for a long training session or race, I never count calories. Counting calories makes me unhappy and, more often than not, overrides what have generally proved to be good food decisions based on tuning in to what my body asks for.
A big focus each day is making sure that I get enough protein, something that takes a bit of extra thought and effort as a vegetarian (I started eating fish part way through university to make it easier to get protein, especially when traveling or eating at restaurants, but it is not a big or consistent part of my diet). I add protein powder and collagen to meals each day and take vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iron supplements with vitamin C. Other than those supplements, I try to get my nutrients from food rather than powders and pills.
My most consistent meal is breakfast, which is almost always a big bowl of oatmeal with a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter, some fruit, and a scoop of protein powder. I feel very good about the mix of healthy carbs, protein, various nutrients from fruit, and a healthy dose of fats that helps my body absorb those nutrients and makes me feel full. In addition to coffee or tea, I always have a mug of hot cocoa made with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of collagen, and, recently, a turmeric-ginger or turmeric-ginger-beet shot from Root Rescue Wellness. I am often up early to train, and the mug of cocoa helps get me out of bed. Like many, but not all, of my treats during a day, I’ve adjusted it to pack in more nutrients than if I just had a “normal” hot chocolate packed with processed sugar.
For lunch and dinner, I make sure that I have a mix of protein, carbs and vegetables. This takes many forms. When I am busy, it tends to be lentils and tofu with various vegetables added or omelettes packed with veggies and cheese on toast. Recently, I rely on a couple meals a week from the vegan meal kit delivery service Sorry I’ve Got Plants. I add tofu to some of their recipes if I feel they need more protein.
I often have a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack, which usually varies between veggies with hummus, greek yogurt with peanut butter and banana, huge amounts of popcorn, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (I love the Toronto shop Almond Butterfly’s Vegan Breakfast Cookies before or after a hard swim workout!), and 75-90% dark chocolate. If I am on the go, I rely more on sports bars like Builder Bars, Clif Bars, Kind Bars or RX Bars than if I am close to home. For extra fuel on the bike, I vary between using gels, Clif Shot Bloks, and dates. I try to have a scoop of protein powder, usually Vega, after my biggest workout each day (or just as a snack if it is an off day). I eat shocking amounts of peanut butter each week, sometimes going through more than a large jar on my own!
I try to keep my alcohol consumption to one glass of wine or one beer a week, sometimes more during a series of special events or big holidays, sometimes less in the middle of my racing season. This is partly personal preference and partly geared towards making sure that my food and drink habits support the huge amount of work I put into training. I don’t believe in completely depriving myself of treats, but part of enjoying them, for me, is feeling confident that I am not overindulging so that I can savour them properly and without feeling guilty.