Q&A with Chris McCormack

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Those familiar with triathlon know Australian Chris McCormack. After all, he’s a two time winner of the Ironman World Championships (2007/2010). 

Sadly, Chris won’t be competing in this summer’s Olympic Games in London. He hoped to make the team, but Triathlon Australia chose other men instead.

Most people assume you’re a fanatic with your diet, but you claim you’re not a “monk” in your book. 


I’m definitely not a monk. I think a lot of people associate triathletes or Ironman guys as being these ridiculously fit people who have no life and eat lettuce and lentils, but I’ve got kids of my own, and I understand it’s very difficult to eat that way.
I’ve got my own philosophy. 90% of the time I eat well and 10% of the time I’ll maybe not be. As long as you’re aware of what you’re putting in your body – I think that’s the key.
What diet advice would you give a fellow triathlete?
  •  Eat lots of fruits and veggies because they have antioxidants that will help prevent cellular damage during and after training.
  • Eat plenty of healthy fats, like almonds, avocados and olive oil to help reduce tissue inflammation.
  • Load up on lean protein – fish, poultry, lean beef and tofu – to help repair muscles damaged during a strenuous workout.
  • Fuel your workouts with complex carbs, like whole grain bread, brown rice, and dry beans.
  • Avoid empty calories in foods like white flour, white sugar, white rice, and white potatoes.

Is it true your sports drink is Coca-Cola?

Yeah, the best sports drink in the world is Coca-Cola! Ha-ha! I discovered that when I was suffering out on the lava fields in Hawaii. You know one of the hottest triathlon events you can do on the planet and probably the toughest race. I grabbed the coke at one of the A stations because I was in a bad way. I took a sip and it was like instant energy. I was like, MAN, what do they put in this stuff! It has become a key component of mine in my nutritional plan since that day on. I don’t think they designed it for athletes, but it works when you’re depleted of sugars.

When it gets really tough, my secret weapon is either a Coca-Cola or Red Bull. The mix of simple sugars and caffeine give me the jolt I need.

What is an important tip you think all racers should pay attention to?

HYDRATION! To keep my muscles from cramping, I took some lessons from body builders. If they don’t hydrate enough, they lose muscle mass, but when hydrate too much, they lose definition. So, to keep my muscles saturated, I learned that I need mineral-based hydration. Regular water just saturates the blood and quickly leaves your body. I load up with electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

Also, be open and flexible with your training. That’s the foundation of longevity in any sport. Without flexibility you’re doomed. Routine will own and destroy you.

What do you do before a big race?

I double check to see that I’ve got everything. I always eat lasagna the night before an event. My mother cooked it for me when I was a 10 year old before my soccer games. The sleep before a race isn’t great, but right after the alarm goes off, I take two caffeine shots and everything at that point is positive.

It’s true you treat every race as if you’re going to war, right? 

When I came into triathlon,  I saw the key issues for me as an individual. When things went pear shape for me, I fell apart mentally, so I thought why couldn’t I apply that to the other guys and think, well my best way of beating these guys is to attack them mentally. When you’re suffering, it’s up to you to get rid of those thoughts like, “Oh, I can’t do this anymore, oh I can’t do this anymore.” You’ve got to slow down and put that fear or those doubts away from your mind. Clicking that switch off at the key moment makes my job a lot easier.

Months before a race, I’ll study the athletes who I know will be my toughest competition. I’ll check out recent race times for improvements or declines, look at particular patterns, and identify each of my opponent’s weakest leg of the race. It’s not a set plan, but you need to understand the athletes you will be racing and from where they derive their competitive drive. Then you can use the press or other people to help create fear or self-doubt in them. If that competitor is reminded of those weaknesses before a race, those doubts will get under his skin and show up at crucial moments during a triathlon race.

How hard is it to be become a pro triathlete?

To be a triathlete is a tough occupation. I’m up at 5:30 every morning at the pool churning out 7,000 yards. Bang on the bike – 5 hours minimum. Being able to get that 70, 80, 90, 100 miles week in without breaking. Home – ‘Hi, darling, remember me, I’m your husband.’

My sport poses huge challenges on a family. I’m always in and out of the doors and travel. It’s so physically and mentally demanding. My wife and my children are my rock.

Chris McCormack Facts

  • Nickname: Macca
  • DOB: April 4, 1973 in Australia
  • Education: Bachelor of Economics at the University of New South Wales
  • Family: Married Emma-Jane in 2003 and has children.
  • Lost his mother to breast cancer in 1999.
  • A typical running workout is 6-10 miles.
  • Started swimming at 16-years-old.
  • Swimming isn’t his strong point, but he makes up for it in cycling.
  • Doesn’t count calories.
  • Fav food: Chillies – the hotter the better.

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2 comments on “Q&A with Chris McCormack

  1. […] two-time IRONMAN World Champion Chris McCormack who once said in an interview, “the best sports drink in the world is Coca-Cola!” For three-time World Champion, […]

  2. Douglas Graham says:

    How daft of Australia not allowing him to join the Olympic team. Read today that David Beckham isn’t on the British team either. Then again, older athletes aren’t as good as younger ones. If Aus and GB want gold medals, they need to pick fresh young athletes to win.

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