3 Nutrition Truths for Triathletes
For triathlon, nutrition and fueling your body is known as the fourth discipline. Let’s clear the air with some triathlon nutrition truths.
When it comes to endurance nutrition, it’s easy to get overwhelmed within minutes of doing an internet search. For triathlon, nutrition is known as the fourth discipline, and there are a lot of factors that play into fueling your body.
1. Recovery nutrition is equally as important as your training nutrition
Athletes can get hyper focused on sports fuel products and how they plan to fuel/hydrate during training. While that is important, it’s just as crucial to focus on how you’re eating throughout the day.
Quality nutrition is what allows your body to recover effectively and efficiently so that you’re able to perform well throughout the week and see fitness gain. Proper recovery helps to prevent illnesses and sports injuries.
– Refuel within an hour post-workout. This will kick start the recovery process. Aim to replenish fluids and consume a 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. If you’re eating 20 grams of protein, then you’ll need at least 60 grams of carbohydrates. For example, an egg veggie frittata (using three eggs) + a bagel with peanut butter.
– Don’t skip meals. Eating regularly throughout the day will supply your body with a consistent source of nutrition to aid your body in rebuilding and repairing post-training.
– Use snacks strategically. Snacks are a great tool to use for the busy athlete. Think of it as a bonus opportunity to fit in the nutrition you need for the day. Aim for food or a combination of foods that offer you both quality protein and carbohydrates.
2. How you eat doesn’t require a label
While there are plenty of elite and age group athletes that rave about specific diets such as vegan, paleo or keto, the large majority don’t eat that way.
Fad diets are typically restrictive, difficult to stick to and often don’t work well for endurance athletes. Most elite athletes and top age groupers have an eating style that is well balanced and nutrient-rich to allow them to perform at their best.
To create balanced meals look to include complex carbs, lean protein, healthy fats, fruits and/or vegetables. This well-rounded nutrition will fuel your body throughout training.
3. Be realistic with body composition goals
Do you want quick weight loss results or lasting results?
While rapid weight loss includes losing body fat, lean muscle mass is also lost in the process. And, that lean muscle and strength is essential to a triathlete reaching his or her performance and body composition goals.
Have patience and strive to lose about half a pound to one pound a week.
Start with focusing on quality food choices instead of quantity, as restricting food too far can lead to extreme hunger, cravings and ultimately, binging/overeating. Create balanced meals and snacks with a variety of foods so you’re left feeling satisfied and have plenty of energy for your day.
Lastly, look beyond your training and nutrition. Lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress, alcohol, non-exercise activity also contribute to a leaner body composition.
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Alex Larson, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian and age-group triathlete and runner. She works virtually with endurance athletes to improve performance and body composition through a flexible eating style. Alex lives near Duluth, Minnesota with her husband, two young boys and golden retrievers. You can find Alex at alexlarsonnutrition.com and on social channels @alexlarsonnutrition.