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Speed and stamina

Jan. 3, 2012 - 12:32PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 3, 2012 - 12:32PM  |  
Air Force Maj. (Dr.) James Bales — Triathlete
Air Force Maj. (Dr.) James Bales — Triathlete (Air Force)

Sample Day:

• Breakfast: At least an hour before his first workout, two bowls of Raisin Bran with 1 percent or skim milk and a banana; 8-16 ounces of juice or water
• Second meal: During a two-hour workout, 500 calories of Power Bar or Gel Blast and a 50/50 dilution of Gatorade
• Lunch: At least an hour before his second workout, whole wheat bagel sandwich with lean turkey breast and provolone cheese, and an apple with water
• Fourth meal: Low-fat peanut butter and all-fruit jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread
• Fifth meal: If second workout is more than an hour, Power Bar or Gel Blast with diluted Gatorade. If less than an hour, water
• Dinner: A palm-sized piece of lean turkey or chicken breast and steamed veggies, usually broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or squash or a mix with water
• Guilty pleasure: After particularly intense workouts, he ends the day with a whole bagel topped with Nutella.

Maj. (Dr.) James Bales grew up on a farm in the windswept plains of northeastern Colorado where twice a day — before and after school — he and his two younger brothers had to chase sheep through an obstacle course to build lean muscle in the animals for market.

Bales credits the chores with laying the foundation for his own strength and endurance. And while there was no way to know it then, he was also building many of the same eating habits around those daily chores that now fuel his professional training.

"It was very similar, indeed," he says, explaining how he learned early on never to miss breakfast and to rely on "many smaller meals throughout the day to maintain energy levels."

Now, like then, he eats about six times a day, and twice-a-day chores have become twice-a-day workouts, "except at a much higher intensity and volume." And these days, he must pay much closer attention to when he eats while ensuring he's loading up on the right fuel to supply those workouts.

"You don't want to start on an empty tank, but you don't want to have eaten so recently that you're going to have gastric distress, either," he says. Slowly digested complex carbohydrates are the key to that, he says, timed at least an hour before the sweat starts dripping. That ensures he's tanked up enough to start. Gassing-on-the-go with more easily digested Power Bars and gels keeps him trucking through the long-haul workouts.

Diet overview: "If you're an endurance athlete — swimming, running, cycling — you can't underestimate the importance of getting enough complex carbs with a high glycemic index," Bales says. Depending on the length of his workouts, Bales eats between five and six meals a day. Overall, he tries to maintain a diet that breaks down to 75 percent carbs, 20 percent protein and 5 percent fats. Salmon and tilapia are favorite protein sources two or three times a week.

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