A Nutritional History of Bryan J. Rollins

Because nutrition before, during, and after training is so important, and because nutrition before, during, and after a race is so important, part of the next 30 weeks of training is going to be improving my nutrition.   But, my problems with nutrition are overall much, much different than the average bear.   DON’T READ THIS POST UNLESS YOU’RE REALLY INTERESTING IN A LOT OF DETAILS ABOUT WHAT I EAT.  There should be a pretty small audience, or so I would hope, for this post.

Hyperactive metabolism + Hypoglycemia

To start with, I have been “blessed” with a high metabolism, to the point where I never worry about what I eat in regards to gaining weight, even when I’m not exercising.   I’ve been around 165 pounds since I was 18, and with the exception of when I was sick and dropped 20 pounds to a scary 145, I’ve been the same weight within about 5 pounds.

I’m also hypoglycemic, where my body overproduces insulin, so anytime I eat high carb foods without some protein or fat to balance it, I get lightheaded as my body consumes all the sugar in my blood, and I get stupid, grumpy, indecisive, and did I mention stupid?  This is why everyone I’ve ever dated carries food with them to start shoving in my mouth when I become a jerk or indecisive.  Often “are you hungry” is code for “you are acting like a jackass.”

Food is a necessary evil

Unlike a lot of people who live to eat, I only eat to live.   Possibly from childhood where the dinner table was a place for arguments, and the junior high lunchroom was a place to get harassed, I’ve never liked meals and always found them a giant waste of my time.  I like the social aspects of a dinner with lots of friends, but on a daily basis I can think of 100 things I’d rather do than spend time chewing like some farm animal.  Add a high metabolism on to this, add hypoglycemia where I have to keep stoking the fire with the right food every 3 hours, and then jack up the number of hours of training, and create the need to eat six meals a day, and food is now an enemy.  I’ve always wanted to just take a pill three times a day versus go through the eating process, but it doesn’t work that way, so I’m stuck with “the grind.”  Despite having a high metabolism and never dealing with extra pounds, I am a little paranoid about extra weight and might have a twinge of male anorexia, though mostly in self-image and not in harmful practice.  I realize that I am incredibly lucky compared to the other 99% of the world which has to fight weight on a daily basis, so please don’t take this as complaint, just fact.

Nutritional Concerns

High Cholesterol – While my cholesterol level has never been high, it does run in my family, and was the reason behind my father’s heart attack in his sixties.   So I tend to avoid red meats, bacon, extra cheese, all the standard high cholesterol culprits.

High Sodium – Since the kidney is responsible for managing water equilibrium in the body, I try to make it’s job as easy as possible and not pile on the salt.   Even shopping with health in mind, this is no easy task and I fail constantly, though I think I do “better than the average American”

Dietary Concerns of a Kidney Patient

Too much protein – The kidney filters protein, and high amounts of protein stress the kidney.  So typically between 1 and 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight a day is recommended, meaning my max dose of protein per day is 148 grams, which is about 10 cliff bars, or just 5 of the super-enriched protein shakes.   Recovery often asks for high doses of protein, but I need to tread lightly because it can overwhelm a single kidney.

Dehydration – Dehydration hurts the kidney, and it’s very easy to get dehydrated with long training miles in a hot climate.

Currrent Diet

Breakfast – Some combination 2-3 of the following each morning.

  • a bowl of grape nuts with apple juice instead of milk (milk + my pollen allergies in Austin = mucho phlegm)
  • 3 scrambled eggs
  • wheat toast (with peanut butter and local honey, unless I am eating eggs)
  • banana
  • occasionally three potato and egg breakfast tacos from Taco Shack


  • Dining out:  Taco Deli (Black Beans, Rice, 3-4 Tacos), TexMex Enchiladas
  • Dining in: Inconsistent, but often 3-6 of the following: a piece of fruit (apple, orange), red/yellow/orange/green pepper cut up, Wheat bread with Hummus, leftovers from dinner the nights before, maybe some veggie chips or wheat thins, serving of yogurt (Activia stuff)


  • Eating in: Turkey Chili, Turkey Sausage, Pasta with Canned Sauce, Kashi or CPK frozen pizza, Turkey tacos.
  • Dining out: Marakesh Chicken Schwarma Plate, Wiki Wiki White Chicken Teriaki Bowl, Waterloo Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich, Rounders Garlic and Chicken Pizza, Lots of Chicken Sandwiches, Sushi, Italian (usually red sauce and veggie with some kind of meat)


  • Clif Bars by the case, Lara Bars by the case, Kettle Corn, my own trail mix recipe consisting of almonds, some kind of morsel (butterscotch or PB), soy nuts, granola, craisins, raisins, and maybe peanuts
  • Low fat mozzarella string cheese, drinkable yogurt (the Activa stuff), multi-grain pita chips


  • I’ve cut down to only 1 beer a week, on average, mostly because of training, but I never have more than 2 at once if possible.  Drinking was never that big of a deal for me, so it’s not a tough choice.
  • Mostly water, with orange juice, or cranberry juice from time to time.
  • Gatorade or Accelerade for training

Things I don’t eat

  • Red meat: Maybe a couple of servings a month, and usually that’s as a guest at someone else’s house.
  • Veal, Pate, Lobster, Crab, Oysters, Mussels, and all bottom of the food chain fish (Cod, Flounder, etc).  Since I grew up eating fresh salmon and halibut in Alaska I am a fish snob.
  • McDonalds, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Carls’ Jr, Whataburger.  But I can be found sporadically at Arby’s, Chick Filet, Taco Cabana, or Wendys.

Guilty pleasures – Tres leches cake, P Terrys Chicken Burgers, Huts Buffalo Burgers

Pre-Training Nutrition – Usually Gatorade and whatever food I can find, almost always a banana.  Maybe not enough here, especially for morning and evening workouts.

Training Nutrition – had been just Clif Bars and Gatorade, now using more Gu/Accelerade.

Post-Training Recovery – usually a pre-made protein shake with 15 g of protein.  Sometimes a MuscleMilk shake in the blender with a banana.

Lonestar Race Nutrion

My plan for Lonestar was simple:

  • Wake up at 5 AM, have breakfast (PB & Honey Sandwich, Clif Bar, Bottle of Accelerade, 2 bananas)
  • Swim: Gu before the swim
  • 1/2 PBH in T1
  • Bike: Gu every 30 minutes on the bike, sip every minute to make sure I’m consuming at least 1 bottle of accelerade per hour.  1 Clif Bar during the whole ride just to have some solid food beyond the PB&H
  • 1/2 PBH in T2
  • Run: PowerGel (what they were giving on the course) every 30 lap (30 minutes per lap), 1 cup Gatorade every mile, dumping 2 waters on my head every mile.

I based this on the following chart I made:

    Food Calories Protein Carb Sodium
    Gu 100.00 0.00 25.00 55.00
    Clif Bar 240.00 10.00 44.00 150.00
    16 oz of Accelerade 160.00 6.67 28.00 253.33

    This put me at about 350 calories an hour, and supposedly you can only absorb 250.  With my kidney and my metabolism, I don’t know if that’s high or low.   But I didn’t feel like I bonked at all during any portion of the 70.3, so I didn’t feel under-nourished for that distance.

    After the Lonestar 70.3

    I weighed myself the day after the Lonestar and had lost four pounds, and lost another pound the next day.  I’m still not back to my pre-race weight, but have gained 70% of it back in the week since the race.  I’ve talked to other T3 folks who experienced the identical weight loss, so maybe this is normal.   My digestive system is rarely happy with long runs, especially if I eat within an hour of finishing a run of over 6 miles.  This has improved this year, but probably because I am careful about heavy meals post running.   After the 70.3, it took about 48 hours for my digestive system to return to normal.

    Bonking in General

    I’ve learned the hard way about nutrition – and still find myself heading out for a training run without 1) pre-hydrating 2) eating enough in the hours before 3) packing energy if the run is going to be longer than 30 minutes.   It’s amazing how bad a swim, bike, or run can be without the right food, and yet I still struggle to think a couple of digestive chess moves ahead and remember to eat three or four pawns in the hours before a workout.


    I get calf, toe, and hamstring cramps a lot during swimming – especially if I’m pushing off the wall and my legs are deeply bent.  Occasionally I also get a calf cramp on a brick run in the first 1/2 mile.  Originally I suspected lack of potassium so I’m always eating a banana before any training, then I thought it might be lack of electrolytes, but I think most of these may relate to basic nutrition (i.e. not eating enough before a workout), but I am not 100% convinced about this.


    I’m in the heavy sweat category.  I can easily go through 2 bottles in an hour under hot and strenuous conditions.

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