Interview with XTerra Triathlete Melanie McQuaid

She is a 3 time XTerra World Champion, ITU Cross Triathlon World Champion (2011) and four time winner of the Ironman 70.3 series with 10-plus podiums in long distance triathlon. Her name is Melanie McQuaid (read her Bio here), and she is one of Canada’s fastest tri-athletes. But don’t let her Meg Ryan blond hair, blue eyes, and natural charm fool you — this pro-athlete possesses fierce determination when it comes to racing and winning (and she hates to lose). McQuaid is also a talented writer and author for Triathlon Magazine Canada and a personal coach. 


EAT Magazine sat down with McQuaid in her Victoria home to discuss her successes as an athlete, and to hear some of her views on nutrition and fitness motivation.


EAT: You are self-coached and a solo-competitor. How do you motivate yourself to stay on track?

McQuaid: The hardest part is finding people that want to train at the same level I need to. I do run with friends and have a swim group. Certain people just have that inner drive to push themselves. I am fortunate to have the sponsorship and support behind me, but it’s my job to push myself. I’m lucky I have the opportunity to do it full-time. I also, really hate losing (laughs).

EAT: Were you athletic growing up?

McQuaid: I used to dabble a lot in different sports; I used my Dad’s bike (laughs), I swam in High School but when I was in college an injury propelled me into mountain biking (that and a boyfriend) —  it was low impact and I was good at it. I had a lot of support right off the bat too: Cycling BC recruited me and with good coaching, and I made the National team two years later.

McQuaid is currently training for the 2014 Hawaii World Champions Off-Road (Maui – October 26) and will compete in 2  Ironman 70.3 distances in November.

EAT: How do you prepare for competitions? And what do you eat?

McQuaid: When I’m training [the season runs from April to November], I practice 25-30 hours a week, which includes: 6 ½ hours of swimming, 12-17 hours of biking and 4-7 hours of running, plus 2 hours of weight training. Before a race I try to eat what I know. You don’t want to end up switching the diet right before and be dealing with stomach issues! I don’t know, but for some strange reason, every single time I’ve won a triathlon, I’ve eaten Mac n Cheese. If I’m in Whole Foods, I’m going for it.


EAT: You have a B.Sc. in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Victoria. How does your education apply to competing as an athlete?

McQuaid: I use my degree to be analytical about training. Science teaches you how to analyze data. I’m like a human science experiment; it’s my job to push myself and I learn from each race what things to work on and what to eliminate.

Orange tree
McQuaid's lemons

EAT: What are your thoughts on diet and nutrition?

McQuaid: Most importantly, I think eating should be conscious; we should enjoy [food] but not overdo it, or eat things with excess. Food shouldn’t be off limits. But you don’t want to be an omnivore with burgers and fries either (laughs).

Having bread [for example] isn’t bad; if it’s wholesome, handmade and full of flavour, go for it. Just stay away from Wonderbread.


EAT: What is your favorite breakfast?

McQuaid: I really like eggs, toast & cheese. I don’t do fruit juice, or much fruit for that matter. Fruit has a lot of sugar and it isn’t terribly satisfying. I skew most of my food choices toward vegetables. I try to avoid cookies and muffins.


(Sidenote: McQuaid loves her bubbly water)

EAT: Why do you drink carbonated water, and is it good for you?

McQuaid: There’s been no definitive research [that we know of] to determine carbonated water is bad for you, so I drink it. I don’t believe it’s bad. Besides it’s really boring to drink the amount of water I need to. It’s also fancy drinking the bubbles! It’s refreshing. I do have my own soda fountain which is more eco friendly.


(She likes wine too!)

McQuaid: Of course I used to drink a lot more wine, but as we get older exercise isn’t enough to keep the weight down and still maintain maximum fitness levels. I limit myself to wine on the weekends now. I appreciate it and look forward to a glass. It’s like a treat, like chocolate.


EAT: Do you think restraint is good practice then or “everything in moderation” as they say?

McQuaid: There has to be a certain amount of discipline in anything we do. I enjoy wine with socializing but there is restraint. Some athletes need more rigidity in their practice, but it works for me to have some treats. I need that balance.


EAT: Finding healthy food choices while traveling must be difficult. What do you eat when you’re on the road?

McQuaid: I like to eat at Whole Foods. They have a hot and cold bar and there are a ton of locations throughout the United States and in Canada. In essence, I eat healthy and simple foods. You just have to look for those higher-end grocery stores or a market where you can get other provisions, like a simple roast chicken and salad.


EAT: What can you not go without when it comes to food?

McQuaid: I could not go without avocado on toast, kale, salmon [she eats it about 3 times a week], and milk in my morning latte.


EAT: Do you have any tips or advice for budding athletes or newbie’s to exercise?

McQuaid: If the problem is motivation, find a coach someone to be accountable to. Start a program that is challenging but realistic to your fitness level. Set realistic and achievable goals. Schedule workouts into your day; make sure it fits and just put it in to the routine.


EAT: What’s next for Melanie McQuaid in 2015?

McQuaid: I want to continue competing and to gain more experience with the Ironman series. I’d like to coach more and will work towards my M.B.A. (Masters of Business Administration).


Good luck Melanie on your final races for 2014. We’ll be rooting for you!


You can follow McQuaid on:




Written By:

Holly Brooke is a true B.C. gal. Having lived on the west coast most of her life, except for several years in the Kootenay's where she canoed and fished and lived in a tipi, she's very much at home outdoors and in the kitchen. ...

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