Fuel Up For Your Triathlon With The Right Nutrition Plan
A full triathlon includes a full 42 kilometer marathon.
If that is not challenging enough, add a 3.8 kilometer swim and a 180 kilometer bike ride before you run the marathon!
So if you’re thinking that training for an event that incorporates 3 disciplines set for grueling distances means you can eat whatever you want, think again.
There is no question that the triathlon requires a lot of energy from calories.
But calories are not created equal.
Get two food sources with the same amount of calories and you will get less benefit from the one with less nutritional value.
Sounds like common sense, right?
Yet some people train for the triathlon by eating foods that have little nutritional value and contain ingredients potentially detrimental to health and performance.
It is just eating for the sake of getting calories in.
If you want to perform at your very best in a triathlon, you need a nutritional game plan:
3 Months Out
The first thing you should do is get rid of all processed foods in your fridge and pantry.
Processed foods are manufactured using excessive amounts of sodium or made with refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients.
Processed foods have been linked with various diseases such as diabetes, cancer, strokes, heart attacks and enlarged organs.
For the tri-athlete, eating processed foods will lead to inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation will slow down recovery, affect performance and weaken your immune system.
Instead of buying processed foods, choose from sources that are guaranteed organic, natural or unprocessed.
Here is a checklist of the best sources of food per macronutrient:
- Organic Wild Rice
- Fruits of different colours
- Vegetables of different colours
- Lean Organic Poultry
- Oily Fish such as salmon
- Grass Fed Beef
- Sunflower Seeds
- Natural Nut Butters
For the tri-athlete, carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient as it provides fuel from stored glycogen.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 3 months from competition, you should start out with 6 grams of carbohydrates per kilo of bodyweight.
As your training progresses, build your carbohydrates up to 10 grams of per kilo of bodyweight.
That is a lot of eating! But you can distribute your carbohydrates between 8 to10 meals every day.
Protein is needed for recovery but is not as important as carbohydrates.
Maintain 1.6 grams to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. 0.85 grams to 1 gram of essential fats should be enough to protect your immune system.
1 Month Out
This is the stage of your preparation where you should be peaking. Your carbohydrate intake should be up to help fuel training.
If you are training 2 hours or more every session, do not wait until after the workout to get valuable nutrients into your body.
In between your training, you can snack on any of the following:
- Fresh fruits – Banana, apple, watermelon or an orange
- Nuts – Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds
- Electrolytes – Coconut Water
When you are pushing your body to its limits, you are also testing your Central Nervous System or CNS.
If the CNS is constantly pushing its boundaries, it can “short circuit” and lead to burn out.
The best way to prevent this is to feed on simple carbohydrates such as fresh fruit to support your CNS.
1 Week Before The Race
Hydration starts 1 week before the race not the day of the race.
Depending on your activity level, you should drink 2-3 liters of water every day. Keep water with you at all times and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
You should also start carb-loading 3 days before the race. Eat anywhere from 8 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilo of bodyweight.
You should also do away with fibre-rich foods. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, mango, bananas and melons. Apples are fine as long as you remove the skin.
Day Of The Race
Have a light breakfast of low-fibre carbohydrates, lean protein and a little fat.
An ideal pre-race breakfast would be a yogurt, banana and peanut butter smoothie and a hardboiled egg.
As much as you want to reach the finish line first, take advantage of the hydration stations. Dehydration can affect performance by 20%.
You can never go wrong by getting your calories from organic and natural food.
It will provide you with clean-burning fuel to keep you going in a grueling race such as a triathlon.