Take Flight: Setting nutritional goals with Team USA and Ironman All-World athlete Rachel Brenke
As part of Team RWB’s Take Flight Challenge, Rachel Brenke, an Ironman All-World athlete, mother, and entrepreneur, shares her take on food to fuel performance.
When Rachel Brenke’s husband medically retired from the Army after more than a decade of service, her family got involved with Team Red, White and Blue as a way to stay connected to the military community. That involvement coincided with a piqued interest in triathlons, and she’s been tackling her fitness goals ever since.
When it comes to nutrition, Rachel Brenke is the first to note that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet. Nutrition is very specific to each person depending on their individual lifestyle and workouts. Calories and a number on the scale don’t typically guide her nutrition goals. Instead, she looks at her lifestyle and ensures that her food fuels her workouts.
“I don’t subscribe to fad diets, or look to see necessarily what other people are doing,” said Brenke. “I’ve done keto, I’ve done macros. I’ve done it all, but the one thing that helped me to find what works best for me is making sure that my nutrition was to fuel my body.”
Success looks different to each person, and how it is measured can make a difference in achieving those goals.
“If you have to have numbers (I’m a numbers person myself), shift away from the number on the scale and move toward the amount of fat to the amount of muscle mass you have, because that can correspond to what your goals are,” said Brenke.
Finding What Works for You
When Brenke first started training for Ironman races, she realized that she needed to make nutritional changes to sustain her workouts. Brenke regularly tests new meals and techniques, but finds that low fat, high carb meals and avoiding processed food support her race performance.
“The key is testing things in training like you’re going to do at a race. It’s not just while you’re racing, it’s how you feeling leading up, during the race, and then the recovery afterward,” said Brenke.
Brenke is currently training for the London Marathon, and though it’s scaled down from Ironman races, she’s excited to compete and looks forward each week to her long runs.
Like many Team RWB members, Brenke wears many hats that pose challenges to nutritional goals and athletic performance. For Brenke, the key to overcoming those challenges is intentionality in meal planning, prep and consistency.
“As far as balance, I think that when you intentionally plan, you won’t give into impulses cravings,” said Brenke. “Sometimes it’s easier to grab fast food but if you’ve already prepped and made food, then there’s more accountability.”
Brenke also finds that balance is important to her diet. She allows herself to have a cheat day on her long run days. Chick-fil-a, chicken wings, and even french fries are her cheat day favorites.
“You have to offer yourself grace – giving grace for when you do slip up, and getting right back on track,” said Brenke.
As Eagle Nation continues to Take Flight this January, Rachel Brenke is challenging all of us to sit down and make a plan for our 2020 goals and identify our ‘why’ for those goals.
“Initially, you see my Instagram photos and it looks like I accomplished losing weight. I did, but I’ve gained so much more. My cup is filled, I can pour into my kids and my family, and it’s my me-time,” said Brenke.