As a triathlete, your body needs more energy than others. Whether you are running a marathon or training for one, you will be going through more energy than what a normal person uses up in one day. That means that you need to eat more but it is what you consume and how that will determine your performance.
Before you train…
Nutrition for triathletes starts way before the training so that you have enough energy to power through it. This includes remaining hydrated enough to encourage nutrient absorption. In addition, you cannot miss meals at all. If your training starts early in the morning, skipping out on breakfast just to get a couple more minutes of sleep in will only backfire.
To kick start your body into gear, drink a glass of water or a fruit smoothie as soon as you get up. This will hydrate your body after a night’s sleep. Plus, your breakfast should have proteins and carbs to balance it out. Some good examples of this sort of breakfast include:
- Scrambled or poached eggs tomatoes.
- Porridge with fruit or milk
- Bran bread
- Low fat milk
- Lean bacon.
As far as nutrition for triathlon training goes, you can have caffeine with your breakfast as well. The caffeine hit will make you alert especially if you do not have time to have a proper breakfast. Cereal bars are also a good option if you are low on energy in the morning.
Feed your immune system
When your workouts increase in intensity that means you are doing damage to it. To protect yourself from any adverse conditions, you need to ensure your immune system remains healthy. You can do that by introducing a lot of produce or vegetables in your diet.
If you fall sick a lot or just feel down, then you should consider taking multivitamins to boost your energy levels and increase healing. Plus, make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep at night so that you have ample time to recover from your triathlon workouts. Besides healing the damage done to the body, the rest will help your nervous system recover fast.
Fuel up on protein
Protein is essential for all endurance athletes and tantamount for triathletes. It contributes to muscle growth and encourages the growth of new ones as well. However, you can get the amount you need if your diet is well balanced. Generally, you need at least 2 grams body mass per day. If you are training heavily, then you might need to add more protein but in small portions so that your body can recover after exercising.
If your protein intake is not sufficient or you are reducing your diet, you will feel the effects. You will start losing energy faster and will not benefit much from your training either.
On race day…
On the day of the big event, you need to fuel up. Your diet should include carbs that are low in fiber and a small dose of protein that can stabilize your sugar levels. Plain toast with peanut butter along with fruit juice, mango and yogurt should suffice. An energy bar can also do wonders for your energy levels on that day.
Try to have breakfast at least 2 hours before the race so that your food can digest without competing for oxygen with the rest of the body. 300 calories takes at least an hour to metabolize so plan accordingly. During the race, you need to ensure your body’s stock of carbs does not run out prematurely. No matter the duration of the race, you need to take at least 100 calories of carbohydrates with water 15 minutes beforehand.
If the race is short, your natural source of glycogen should be enough to see you through it but not in longer ones. This is necessary to remember when the swimming starts. It’s the longest and most arduous parts of the race so you have to have a good breakfast before the race. This should be followed by some calorie intake before you enter the water so that you have enough energy for the rest of the race.
If you do a good job fuelling your body before the big race, you will not be in danger of burning out. Your body will have enough energy reserves to last throughout the race with regular refuels in the middle.
Don’t forget those electrolytes!
Contrary to popular belief, electrolytes and sodium are not the same. The former is actually a number of different salts put together such as magnesium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate etc. These elements are necessary in the body because they ensure it remains hydrated and muscles remain functional. How hard you are racing along with weather conditions will also impact the amount you need. You can replenish them with water, but fruit juices will also be suitable.
The key to the best training and nutrition plan for triathletes is focus. You cannot skimp on meals, eat too much or binge. To maintain a balanced diet and exercise plan, write down everything you need to do in a journal and stick to it. This includes your daily intake and the food you eat along with their calorie count. Plus, make a habit of drinking water at regular intervals so that you are not tempted to skip water spots during your race.
This is the biggest mistake you can make. If you do not drink enough, you will be in constant danger of muscle cramps and burn outs way before the finish line. It can also slow you down significantly so make sure to grab a cup at each fuelling station.
Nutrition for triathlon athletes is quite unlike any other diet regime. Besides being high in calories, the volume is significantly larger but in short intervals. In order to maintain it, consulting a trained nutritionist who specializes in treating endurance athletes is a good idea.