Coach-Janet.com | TRIATHLON TRAINING RESOURCE CENTER
Wondering what you should eat before your next triathlon?
I am often asked by triathletes, "What should I eat to kick butt in my next triathlon?" The answer is, "It depends."
I'm not a nutritionist, but I've learned a lot about my own nutrition planning through years of training experience. Each individual is different, and if you really want a personalized plan you should seek out a professional nutritionist.
Some basic tricks to proper triathlon nutrition include figuring out what will keep the athlete fueled for optimal performance (and help them recover quickly after the event or workout). Here are the 3 key factors to consider:
1. What are you doing (i.e. swimming, biking or running - or all three)
and how intense will you be exercising?
There is no one diet plan for all triathletes. Nevertheless, there are some rules of thumb you can use to figure out your very own high performance diet.
The first thing you have to figure out is your fuel needs - in other words, how many calories do you need to consume to prevent your body from shutting down and your performances to wither.
The amount of calories you need to consume will alter based on Key Numbers 1 and 2 - what are you doing that day and how long will you be doing it? Here is a great website you can use to estimate your daily calorie needs.
1. Before your workout/race: Start increasing carb and fluid intake and hour or more before your workout. This will help build up carbohydrates that your body will need for fuel during your workout. It will also help keep you hydrated.
Maybe 1/2 nutrition bar and 10 or more oz of water. If longer than a 1 hour workout maybe a PBJ and 8 oz gatorade and 8 oz water.
2. During your workout/race: One rule of thumb that many start with is 100 calories per hour. If you are working out more than an hour you will need to replace carbohydrates during your workout. Make sure you are drinking 4 to 8 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes (this should replace both carbohydrates and sodium). You want to consume around 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour - this can come from an energy drink, fruit, energy bars, gels or any other source you tolerate. Experiment some while training to find the best sources for you.
3. After you workout your body needs fuel to recover. If you are doing endurance work (training in one of the three disciplines) you need to consume some carbohydrates to replace energy you burned as soon as you can - no later than an hour and 1/2 after the workout. After every workout I try to also eat some protein to help with recovery. There are several "recovery drinks" on the market. While some may not taste to great, remember getting the nutrition down is important. You may have to base what you use more on how it works than what it tastes like. Some good real food choices are bananas, nuts, electrolyte drink like Gatorade, milk, PBJ.
4. Between workouts I've had good luck eating regularly throughout the day (5-6 small meals) I try to eat both a carb and protein serving at each meal. This keeps my blood sugar levels regulated and decreases the mid-day energy slump. When I eat out I'll eat half the meal at the restaurant, and the rest later or for lunch the next day. I also make sure one of these meals happens around 2 hours before a workout session.
5. Know the amount of liquids your body loses. Occasionally do a test by weighing yourself before and after workouts to get an idea of how much fluid you lose. Drink 24 ounces of fluid for every pound you lost during your workout.
If you use these tips as a starting point for your triathlon nutrition plan you will see your body recover faster from workouts and your performance improve. You need to self-experiment with your nutrition plan - everyone is different - and see a nutritionist who specializes in sports nutrition if you experience any problems or just want to take your nutrition plan to the next level.