'Zinc Out Loud!' with Sarah Piampiano "Ginja Ninja"

Zealios 'Zinc Out Loud!' athlete interviews & more!

It’s only fitting that we sit down with our favorite ginger triathlete, Sarah Piampiano, the “Ginja Ninja” in June to celebrate Ginger Awareness Month.

Sarah shares her China and Peru race recaps and geeks out on her newest addition (and serious obsession) to her bag of race tricks...

Sarah Piampiano interview with Zealios

Zealios: Sarah, how’s it going?

Sarah Piampiano: Great! Feeling good and the season is off to a great start.

Z: That’s great to hear. Your season is in full swing. You’ve already raced on two different continents, China and Peru!

SP: Yep. I actually didn’t plan on racing the international races this early in the season, but I tripped and hurt my calf and had to reschedule all of my races because I wasn’t race ready until May. So there’s been a lot of travel I wasn’t planning on.


Z: You took third in Ironman Liuzhou in China, how did you feel it went?

SP: The first race of the season is always kind of a mixed bag. I had an okay swim, but had my all time worst time on bike. My power was 50 watts lower than I usually ride. It was lower than my full Ironman watts!

I was really fatigued going into the race, but then I had my best all time on the run. Maybe because I didn’t ride that hard... ha!

Overall, I was really pleased with a 3rd place finish and it was a big confidence booster.

Z: Then you were off traveling to the other side of the world to win IRONMAN 70.3 Lima.

SP: Yep, I flew home for a couple of days then headed down to Peru. The race went really well. I had my best ever swim and the bike was more consistent to my expected capabilities. The run was solid too and I won.  

Sarah Piampiano wins at Ironman Peru

Photo courtesy: Tri Sport Magazine


Sarah Piampiano competes at Ironman Peru

Photo courtesy: Tri Sport Magazine


Z: How do you go about planning your races for the season? What do you look for when you’re planning out your racing schedule?

SP: My whole season is focused around Kona and what my coach and I want to achieve before Kona. Whether it’s working on Ironman strategy, training or nutrition. Everything is around that race for me.


Z: So you’re kinda this cool international women of mystery. Do you have any tips that you can share for us to consider when traveling internationally to participate in races?

SP: When traveling internationally you have to consider the time zone differences. You should treat time acclimation just like you do altitude acclimation. You need to arrive far enough in advance of the race or right before so your body doesn’t start processing the new time. When I went to China the race was on Thursday and I arrived on Wednesday.  

I practice time adaption while still in the US too. I start to go to bed 1 hour earlier everyday to get my body closer to the time zone time I’m headed to.

A second tip is to bring a recovery device with you. It’s really helpful to help your body recover while you travel. When I travel I get swollen legs and cankles so I bring along my Normatec boots.  

And lastly go for a short 20-30 minute run, walk/run or walk when you arrive at your destination. Even if it’s at night. This helps your body get moving and I always feel better afterwards.


Z: Between all these races whether you’re traveling or have back to back races. Your body is going through so much stress. What is your strategy around recovery and rest?

SP:  Its a fine balance and I think there’s both mental and physical recovery.

After a full Ironman, mentally I really look forward to taking a week off - sleeping in, eating whatever I want and not training. I really need that because there’s so much preparation and focus that goes into a full. But physically, I find not moving at all actually impacts my overall time to recover.

Last year I experienced my best recovery block. I had two back to back Ironmans just 2 weeks apart so the day after the first race I had to train. I went on a 2 hour ride and was running 2 days after the first race. I recovered so well because my body kept going.

I’ve incorporated active recovery into my routine now. Immediately after a race or the next day, I get on my bike and ride for another 1-2 hours. A pro tip, after racing a 70.3 I get on my bike immediately after the race and most times they have the course still closed off so I ride a portion of the course.

Sarah Piampiano on Ironman Peru bike course

Photo courtesy: Tri Sport Magazine

Z: Great tips. We commonly think full stagnic recovery is best, but learning to move through recovery makes a lot of sense.


Z: So let’s talk diet. What’s your diet like throughout the season and especially in foreign countries where you don’t have the same food and ingredients as in the US?

SP: I view diet as the 4th discipline. I personally put a lot of time and energy into my nutrition plan and work closely with a nutritionist. I monitor and vary the amount of carbohydrates versus protein and fats everyday based on my training intensity and volume.

It’s a huge effort to have this type of plan and I think it's worthwhile for pros, but it’s probably too much for amateurs. A sound balanced diet for amateurs is probably best.

This year I totally rehauled my nutritional plan. Last year I was geared towards a ketogenic diet. My new nutritionist wasn’t having that. He said, ‘If you are performing at an elite level you need carbs. You have to have carbs to perform.’

And ohhhh how my world has opened up now! I'm this happy person! I get to eat rice, quinoa and oats! (what you can’t see is Sarah’s giant grin and arms waving excitedly over Skype!)  

Z: Wow! We’ve never seen someone so excited about quinoa!

SP: Ha, right?! But I have had to practice the new nutrition plan while training and it's been hard. I do a 2 day carb load leading into races. The goal is to get 10 grams of carbs per kilo. For me, that’s 500 grams of carbs before a race! Not as easy as you’d like.

Z: That’s a lot of Quinoa!


Z: So with all the traveling, is it hard to stick to your specific diet?

SP: Yes and no.

In China and Mexico you have to be really careful because they treat their meat with clenbuterol, which is a steroid and a banned substance when competing.

Z: Crazy, I didn’t know that.

SP: Yeah, so I travel with a lot of protein powder, canned tuna and salmon. And I do typically eat local eggs.

I recently bought a mini rice cooker to bring with me on trips which I’m really excited about! I always have a jar of almond butter, powdered peanut butter, gluten-free bread, protein powder, Epic bars and oats. I make sure I’m self sufficient. And now with my new rice cooker, I can cook rice right in my room!!!

Z: We can only imagine what the menu looks like from your travel suitcase...  

SP: Ha! I have a whole bag filled with my mini kitchen! I have a mini cutting board, a collapsible bowl and plate, cutting knife, cutlery and a can opener.  

Another good idea is to go to REI or a camping store and buy the dehydrated meals. They’re really good now. Like rice and beans. They even have Pad Thai!


Z: So with all your travels you must have a few funny luggage or airport mishap stories...

SP: I did have a bunch of watches and sunglasses stolen from my bag once. But even better, is I told Andy Potts about what happened and he told me a story when he was traveling down in South America. He arrived at a race, opened his luggage to find an old dirty pair of shoes. Someone took his shoes and replaced them with their shoes!

Z: No way! Then he probably PR’d with some random leather boots…

SP: Haha! Probably! Now I don’t pack any of the essentials in my checked bag.


Z: So, as if you didn’t have a lot going on… you have a number of awesome things going on outside of triathlon like the Habitat Project and the 3rd annual Ride & Wine which has expanded to both the west and east coast this year. Can you share more about the event and how people can participate?

SP: The Ride & Wine is a really fun event!

I am on the board of i-try, an organization using triathlon as a form of empowerment for adolescent girls ages 8-16 who are considered at risk and often referred to the program by their counselors or teachers.

The program has a full curriculum including life education around things they may not learn at home including the triathlon sport. Many of the girls when entering the program don’t know how to swim or bike and part of the program is to complete a triathlon.

Best of all, it’s had tremendous success with 98% of the girls going onto college. Many of which are the first to go to college from their families.

I love the program because triathlon has changed my life in such a significant way through opening new doors and leading me to live a much healthier lifestyle. I look at these girls and see the influence triathlon has on their lives and it’s incredible.

Z: What a great cause and one so near and dear your heart and life.

SP: So the Ride & Wine event is a fundraiser for the program. The west coast event is held in Sonoma, California and the east coast is in the South Hamptons. There are 2 ride options, a 30 mile or 60 mile. All ages and capabilities are welcome. At the end of the ride there’s a full farm to table lunch with a wine tasting by Bohème wines and Channing Daughters winery. Participants get a fun goody bag filled with awesome items like Zealios products! Thank you Zealios!

All proceeds, including those from an online auction, go to the program. The cost to put one girl through the program is $2,500 so we’re aiming to raise $26,000 this year (last year we raised $16,000). The online auction has had really cool prizes like a weekend stay at a ranch with an Audi to drive all weekend, we’re trying to get Warriors basketball tickets, so it’s worth checking out!

Check out more details on Sarah’s website.

Z: Congratulations on building such a great fundraiser and the Zealios team is honored to help support the event.


Z: As you know, we’re celebrating our own fun fundraiser during Ginger Awareness Month with 15% of all Sun Barrier SPF 45 sunscreen proceeds going to the Fxck Cancer charity.

And because you’re a fellow ginger and someone who does a great job practicing sun safety, we wanted to put you on the spot and have you take a sun safety quiz. Are you down for the challenge?

SP: Absolutely, let’s do it!


Z: Question 1, the SPF rating on sunscreen measures protection from which UV spectrum?

  • UVA
  • UVB
  • Both UVA and UVB

    SP: Both.

    Z: Ohhhh, nope. It’s actually B, UVB.

    SP: Oh man....

    Z: UVB are the short wave, burning rays and UVA are the long wave rays that go deeper into the skin and cause skin aging. The SPF rating only covers the UVB spectrum so it can be confusing to consumers as you need to be wary of both. However, Sun Barrier has zinc oxide which is a physical blocker and helps block both UVA and UVB rays.

    SP: So, we should have both so that’s why I answered C! Ha!


    Z: Question 2, where is the highest population of redheads?

  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • China

    Do you remember seeing any redheads in China?

    SP: Scotland

    Z: Correct!

    Scotland has 13% and Ireland has 10%.


    Z: Question 3, how much of skin aging is caused by the sun?

  • 50%
  • 75%
  • 90%

    SP: 90%

    Z: Correct!

    An estimated 90 percent of skin aging is caused by the sun! But if your daily routine includes wearing sunscreen SPF 15 or higher studies have shown you may have 24% less skin damage than those that don’t.


    Z: Question 4, redheads are most likely to have what color eyes?

  • Brown
  • Green
  • Blue

    SP: Green

    Z: Nope, Brown.

    SP: What? No way!

    Z: Blue is the least likely.

    SP: I have a red hair and blue eyes!!

    Z: You’re the rarest of the redheads!


    Z: Question 5, how common is skin cancer? It’s ranked in the United States as the:

    1. #1 most common cancer
    2. #2 most common cancer   
    3. #3 most common cancer

    SP: A, #1.

    Z: Yep, you got it.

    Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed in the US each year than all other cancers combined.

    Z: You got 4 out of 5! Which is really good.

    Z: And as we ask all our Zinc Out Loud interviewees, what is your favorite Zealios product and why?

    SP: I love the Sun Barrier sunscreen because it has the micronized zinc, it stays on all day and doesn’t get greasy. I’ve tested it in the most extreme climates like Hawaii. I can’t get enough of the Sun Barrier.

    And I really like the shower products. I use them every day! The 32oz pumps are great because I take like 3 showers a day.

    Psst… get 10% off all orders when you use code saveaginger18

    Plus, when you use the code 15% of all Sun Barrier sunscreen proceeds will be donated to the Fxck Cancer charity! Shop for a cause!


    Z: Awesome, thanks for participating! And we wish you the best of luck on your wedding day August 4th! We hope it’s an amazing time and congratulations!  

    SP: Thank you! We’ll make sure everyone at our wedding is sun safe!

    Sarah Piampiano on beach with fiance

    Z: Good call!

    Sarah, Ginja Ninja as always, great catching up with you! And Happy Ginger Awareness Month!