It’s tough out there right now, and because of the ongoing and concerning pandemic, there is a great need to shift our habits to the great indoors. Athletes, in this case, also need to adapt from their rigorous lifestyle, so let this guide on effective triathlon nutrition tips help you adjust more easily and get ahead of the pack, as recommended by our team of expert coaches.
Do you know the biggest misconception when it comes to being healthy? That you need to be on a diet to optimize nutrition. Nothing can be further than the truth. According to Mikael Eriksson of Scientific Triathlon, while there are diets that work for specific athletes, a very large majority of athletes achieve optimal nutrition by improving their food quality intake.
Importance in Knowing Key Triathlon Nutrition Tips, Especially During COVID-19
We’re sure that you know that the food intake of a triathlete is different. You will be burning more energy compared to other people, so you will also need the right fuel. By achieving the right triathlon nutrition, you are giving your body a huge favor by maximizing your peak performance, training adaptations, and reaching optimal recovery much quicker and more effectively.
Here are some triathlon nutrition tips to keep in mind, and let’s debunk a myth as well!
Eat Early, and More Often
It is important to front-load your food intake and eat multiple times a day to stabilize your energy and blood sugar levels. But remember that eating more often does not mean overeating. It’s important to be responsible for monitoring a healthy weight to meet the right needs for swimming, cycling and running. It will be difficult at first, but consistency is key to maximize your potential in the long run.
Eat More Carbs, but Enough Is Enough
One of the important triathlon nutrition tips is to eat carbs. A great comparison would be that carbs for the body is what gasoline is to cars. Approximately 3-12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of weight (45-65% of calories) is the sweet spot, as medically reviewed by Richard Fogoros in The Ultimate Triathlete Diet Guide. He added that simple carbohydrates should be consumed at least 30 minutes before a workout, and fast-absorbing gels during intense workouts. Don’t forget to also eat after a workout to achieve balanced nutrition and avoid hunger hormones.
Here are some foods that maximize your carbs intake:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Wild Rice
How About Coffee? Good or bad?
It’s almost believable that coffee can negatively affect your workout progress, but in a study of 40 cyclists published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, it showed an increased performance of 3.3% for those who have had caffeine intake compared to the 2.4% of those who haven’t.
Now, caffeine intake as supplementary improvements in workouts is yet to be proven – as more studies should be made, but this goes to show that sipping your daily cup of morning coffee will at the very least give you its satisfying boost for the start of your day.
Protein Is Your Repair Tool
Protein-rich food should be consumed every day to maintain a healthy lean mass and optimize muscle repair, especially for triathletes that continuously workout. The Sports Dietitians Australia states that there is what is called “recovery nutrition” as part of the triathlon nutrition, wherein your post-race nutrition should be as important and given attention as your pre-race. This kind of recovery helps achieve your optimal body composition for an upcoming race season early on.
Another common source of protein for athletes is whey. Aside from helping build muscle mass and aid in muscle recovery, whey protein may also modestly low blood pressure. In a study conducted by Harvard Health, 42 volunteers who consumed 56 grams per day of whey protein for eight weeks led to a 2-3-point drop in systolic blood pressure and led to an overall better blood vessel function.
You could also try these protein-rich foods to alternate with meat and whey:
- Greek (plain) yogurt
- Wild fish
As important protein is to the body, too much of it can downgrade your workout progress. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, triathletes need around 0.5-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Also, the consistent intake of fruits and vegetables will promote a healthy immune system, for training adaptations, and avoiding a greater risk of getting sick while working out.
There Are Healthy Fats Too
One of the key triathlon nutrition tips is to include fats in the diet. Yes, there are healthy fats! The healthy unsaturated kind that plays a role in nerve function and prevents insulin resistance. According to Harvard Health, these beneficial fats can also improve blood cholesterol levels, and stabilize heart rhythms.
Here are some of the foods with good fats that you can include in your list for healthy food intake:
- Fatty fish (Trout, Salmon – for healthy omega 3 fats)
- Seeds (Flax seeds, Chia seeds)
- Nuts (Hazelnuts, Walnuts)
- Olives and Olive oil
Effective triathlon nutrition requires you to replenish your fluid intake needs as much as your food intake. According to a study on Nutrition Requirements for the Triathlete by Kaley Peterson and Kayla Docken, if an exercise is greater than 60-90 minutes, the athlete should fuel fluids with electrolytes. Electrolytes balance the low blood sodium levels that an athlete experiences while working out for long periods.
Among all fluids, the topmost necessity is water. Water is a vital nutrient for the body both in everyday life and during workouts. In fact, Peterson and Docken add that because the body is 50-75% water, a body water loss of 2% from working out without replenishing may lead to negative effects in the body.
Reward Yourself Now and Then, Go’ on Champ
Occasionally, we feel the urge to give in and take that guilty pleasure food we’ve been craving for every now and then, and that’s okay. Going hardcore with triathlon nutrition is good and all, but the state of mental resistance will easily wear you out and proves a bigger risk of binge-eating.
So, go ahead and eat that ice cream, you deserve it after all that hard work, but don’t forget to monitor yourself! Remember that consistency is key, so if this happens too regularly, then your progress will have a setback.
List Down What Works For You
In the end, everyone is different. There is a wide array of healthy foods for you to choose from, but always remember that triathlon nutrition has its key factors, but it is up to you in finding out what works best for you.
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- Scientific Triathlon, Nutrition for triathletes A quick-guide, 2016
- The Ultimate Triathlete Diet Guide, by Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH, 2020
- Dispelling the myth that habitual caffeine consumption influences the performance response to acute caffeine supplementation, Livia de Souza Gonçalves, 2017
- Nutrition Requirements for the Triathlete, Kaley Peterson, Kayla Docken, 2014
- Men’s Journal, Triathlon Training Nutrition Guide, by K. Aleisha Fetters
- Harvard T.C. Chan, The Nutrition Source, Types of Fat