Eat right to improve your triathlon times

Optimum triathlon nutrition

Triathlon is a tough sport with long hours spent taking a lot from our bodies in training and races, so we need to give a lot back in return. As athletes it's hugely important to eat the right food, at the right times and if you can master it, it's a big advantage in your performance.  

Written by Will Clarke

Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion.  He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.

 

Triathlon diet options

There are all sorts of diets you can follow for improved sports performance. For example one of the most interesting up and coming diets at the moment is the Paleo Diet.  This aims to utilise healthy fats as its primary fuel source. However with any diet you have to know what you're doing to make it work and stay away from deficiencies.  In my eyes all of that is a bonus and worth thinking about as a tweak, but most important of all is that you do the basics right. That means eating enough carbohydrates, protein and fat as well as getting all your vitamins and minerals from fruit and veg. Also wherever possible try to improve the quality of your food. I believe it helps to spend a bit more money to get away from the processed food options and get the better quality cuts of meat. 

Diet and lifestyle

In triathlon timing is everything. We all have very busy lifestyles, especially when most of us have work and family chucked into the mix as well. The better you can manage your lifestyle the more time you'll have for training and therefore the more you'll get out of it in the end. Planning your eating is no different. Figure out where your training is going to sit in your day and plan what you want to eat around that. Running usually requires you to eat in advance so your food isn't jumbling around in your stomach, but for biking and swimming it doesn't really pose a problem.  Therefore it's best to do your runs first thing in the morning or early evening before dinner. 

When you have a full day it can be hard to get the timings right so in this case take a very large breakfast and eat steadily throughout the day. For riding, try to eat a bar/banana/mini sandwich an hour. By doing this you’ll have steady energy throughout the whole ride so you don't end up blowing up in the middle of nowhere. It also means that when you do get home you’re not so ravenous that you eat everything in the house.  Too often I've blown up on a ride due to lack of food, finally made it home at 15kph and eaten so much food that I'm too bloated to run in the evening! Remember that getting yourself into that exhausted depleted state also has a knock on effect for the days that follow. 

After a hard session experts say we have a 30 minute window where you can best absorb protein and carbohydrate while your muscles are torn. After that you will take less from the session then you might have done.  So plan ahead and take a sandwich or some pieces of fruit. I use Etixx recovery products like the chocolate recovery bar or the protein shake and I always put them in my car or swim bag. I use them to give me everything I need, but make sure you have something as anything is better than nothing! 

I'll finish by reminding you that you mustn’t deny yourself a treat every so often, or every day in fact. We already sacrifice a lot by doing what we do every day and you should be able to enjoy your food. We have the luxury of being able to enjoy our food after a hard day’s training. Moderation is important but a treat certainly won't slow you down I promise. In fact a good old chocolate muffin will increase your blood sugar levels and help you get out of the door for a good session! It's all energy after all. 

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