Black coffee, training and then breakfast. It’s not seldom that Daniela Ryf postpones her breakfast until she’s completed the first training of the day. Whether that’s a swim-, bike- or run session. She may be strict for herself in the morning, for the rest Ryf considers herself to be relaxed when it comes to her diet. The four-time Ironman World Champion doesn’t count calories, drinks wine occasionally and nowadays, chocolate fits into her diet again too. That wasn’t always the case, she tells Red Bull in an extensive interview.
“Yes, I eat chips sometimes. Of course, it’s also a matter of how much you eat. When I’m in good company, or I feel like it, I’ll also drink a glass of wine with my meal.” When Ryf prepared for the Olympics of 2008, her diet was much stricter. “That was very extreme. We were extremely focused on weight. I wasn’t allowed to eat any chocolate for eight months. But I’ve figured out that that’s not the right path for me, mentally. I discovered that I need a certain balance.”
Ryf allows herself to eat chocolate again, but not in the morning, nor does she eat anything else. At least, not before training. “It’s good to make your body suffer a bit every now and then”, she explains. “During races, you also find yourself in a situation where your body gets only little nutrition. That’s why I train my metabolism in this way. And there is another advantage: when you’re really empty, your breakfast tastes much better.”
While high-fiber foods, like vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products, are essentials in Ryf’s diet, she makes sure to skip these before a race. The focus then shifts to simple food, but eating a lot. “You should actually eat as basic as possible in those days. Fibers are lightweight, but they could lead to stomach issues.”
Your body needs a lot of nutrition in the days leading up to an event, but maybe even more during the race. But chewing is too much hassle then, Ryf says. That’s why she – like many pro triathletes – switched to liquid nutrition during races. “Back in the day, I used to try to get energy out or crackers or an energy bar, but honestly: it’s just too much work to bite into something when you’re racing”, she tells Red Bull.