Competing in a triathlon is a huge physical and mental challenge, regardless whether it is your first time or if you have been competing for years. Ensuring you are getting the best nutrition for your body from training, competing, and all the way to recovery is critical for your performance. Having a sustainable and well-thought-out nutrition plan is a fantastic tried and tested way to guarantee you are getting the right type of nutrition, at the right time. All in a bid help regulate your energy levels, muscle recovery and most importantly maintaining your general health throughout a gruelling training routine.
1 - Keep Track
Keep a food log throughout different stages of your training to record all the nutrition you are getting on a regular basis. Seeing your habits on paper is a great way of identifying regular eating patterns that you may not have noticed before. There are plenty of apps available which can help you to specifically log your daily food intake, myfitnesspal, comes highly recommended for example. Logging your daily food intake may show you some home truths about your eating habits, specifically how much processed food you are eating. Processed foods can affect long-term health and affect your development and recovery. It is important to ensure all your meals contain good quality foods, including fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and healthy oils such as olive and coconut. If you’re worried about where to start or are looking for some inspiration, try out this 7day meal plan.
2 - Good Carb, Bad Carb
Understanding how your body processes food will do absolute wonders for your daily routine in the long run. Spending some time researching each food group, what nutrients your body receives from which group, how it is processed, and how often you should be eating it can be extremely helpful for your development during training. As a bonus, it means you will be able to identify what your body needs depending on the type of workout you have for that day. It also means that you can be as flexible as you like with your nutrition plans, as with a basic knowledge of each food group, you don’t have to follow a predesigned plan - you can create your own to best fit around you, your daily life, training routine, and your goals. For example, it is recommended to have 2-3 fruits and 4-6 veggies per day to optimise your nutrient intake. A banana is a great pre-workout snack as it is the perfect way to boost your glycogen stores and increase blood sugar levels, helping to boost your energy. However, after training ensuring your body gets the correct amount of carbs and protein is critical to decrease muscle protein breakdown and enhance recovery. As a basic framework, have half a gram of carbs per pound of body weight, and 15-20 grams of protein within 30-60 minutes after a training session or race.
3 - Be Realistic
Defining what you want to get from a triathlon and how you are going to measure your success will go a long way with your training, especially when it comes to race day. Rather than focusing on achieving a specific body fat percentage, or particular goal body weight, set clear goals which are based on lifestyle. For example, waking up 30 minutes earlier two days a week to do an extra push of training, or avoiding processed foods during the week and replacing these meals with fresh produce. The most important factor to consider in your nutrition plan is how you are going to ensure that you’re eating to support your training, not looking to meet very specific goals such as weight loss. Also, don’t put yourself under an immense amount of pressure by restricting your diet, you still need to feel like you! It is healthy to keep 10% of your total daily calories for sweet treats, such as chocolate or even a glass of wine. Training for a triathlon is immensely stressful and challenging in itself, so reward yourself with a treat from time to time!
4 - Immune Support
When the cold and flu season hits during the winter months, it is critical to keep your immune system up to scratch and ready for a challenge. There would be nothing worse than stalling your training because of the flu!
Although you cannot depend on vitamins and supplements alone to keeping your immune system healthy, glutamine, zinc and magnesium are vital sources for immune function and muscle recovery. Specifically, zinc and magnesium are two minerals lost in sweat so it is critical to ensure your mineral levels are replenished substantially throughout your training.
Don’t forget your carbohydrates! It has been proven that consuming carbohydrates during prolonged exercise weakens the effects on immune parameters. Combining carbohydrates with a high-protein, low-fat diet is the best way to maintain a healthy immune system.
Plus, blueberries, flaxseeds, salmon, and walnuts are also great immune boosting foods to snack on throughout the day.