Time to Read
Points of Interest
- Triathlon training principles
- Fuel for training
- Post-training nutrition
- How much to eat
Training for a Triathlon is undoubtedly a huge athletic endeavor and should not be a decision taken without thought. With either of these pursuits, it’s about your preparation leading up to the day of the competition. If you have mapped things out correctly the day of the race should go pretty smoothly. Your performance on the big day boils down to the months of preparation where you are following the principle of progressive overload and building your fitness.
As you move through the season, your training needs to look more and more like the race you’re working towards. With a triathlon, in particular, you are looking at different disciplines that require different energy systems and muscle use.
Specific training workloads will need to be adapted and focused on to achieve your necessary endurance and strength improvement goals.
Triathlons are remarkable events and training is a fine balance between working out effectively and building in proper recovery time. A helpful adage is that
“workouts don’t make you stronger. Recovering from workouts makes you stronger,".
With that in mind we need to look at the other big part of the equation for triathlon training; nutrition and hydration.
You need to approach nutrition in the same mindset as your focused training preparation.
Consider and plan for:
Upon rising, you’ll want to have a glass or two of water as you’ve been dehydrated over the course of the last 7-8 hours. When training calls for intense sessions, you’ll also want a combination of clean carbohydrates and protein. This meal should be consumed 2-3 hours beforehand for proper digestion and utilisation of the nutrients.
It might not always be possible to eat this far before training and that will change the food choices and portions sizes.
Here’s a quick breakdown on how to plan this and a few options for each:
On the big day, you should take the same approach. Think of your race day nutrition like it’s a normal day of training. This will help give it some familiarity and a sense of routine. This is important for athletes at it will help you focus and can also ease your potential nerves.
Make a point to have the larger size meal 2-3 hours before the race, then a lighter snack within 30-60 minutes before the start.
The approach and preparation you take during training should not change on the big day and this will help set you to have plenty of energy for success.
You may need to experiment with what works best for you regarding the meal timing before training and races.
Before training, the main thing to point out is how studies still advocate eating carbohydrates since reduced carbohydrate availability impairs acute training intensity.
Journaling race days can provide a helpful tool to see what nutrition approach has worked best for you. It takes a few races to get things dialled in with training and diet. The more you compete the more info you will have to determine the best course of action.
This may be your most important meal of the day as it’s when recovery really starts. Effective refueling strategies will help you get the desired training adaptations from your workouts.
Muscle glycogen is the major source of carbohydrate storage in the body. A strong relationship exists between muscle glycogen depletion and fatigue. There’s risk of suppressed immune system function from high-intensity training if you have low glycogen levels. This can put you at risk of illness and injury giving your training a severe setback.
Replenishing this glycogen store post-workout is paramount.
Protein is important post-workout to promote muscle protein synthesis. This is the repair and building of new muscle tissue following your training.
Combining protein and carbohydrates will help in optimal recovery especially if training has been high-intensity or high volume.
Start with a “snack” for faster utilization then wait an hour or so before eating your main meal which could look like this:
It’s hard to narrow this down as every individual is different. The best thing is to keep a journal of your meals, training, and how you feel after each session. This can help you narrow things down further but here are some rough rules of thumb:
Everyone knows the importance of water in-take, but it goes much further than just staying hydrated. Water is crucial for:
And as it pertains to this article; athletic performance. Proper hydration has been shown to sustain, and enhance, athletic performance. Dehydration however is linked to significant decreases in performance.
Regarding training, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking
Take this same approach on the day of your race to make sure you are prepared and fully hydrated. In hotter weather, fluid requirements increase and consuming some sodium along with your water will help you retain and balance your fluid levels.
You will need water during training and races. It’s better to sip it rather than chug it. Downing too much water can lead to cramping. Think of it in the same way you would water a plant. When watering a plant, you sprinkle it on and when you pour too much, it floods the plant. The same situation can happen to your body leading to cramping, discomfort and bloating - all things you obviously want to avoid while competing. So, remember to sip slowly.
Nutrition and hydration for triathlons and marathons go hand-in-hand with your training plan. In the same way you track and journal you training you need to take the same approach with nutrition and hydration.
There isn’t a cookie cutter plan to always follow, but it’s about testing and adjusting to find what works best for you.
Jamie is a personal trainer, nutritionist and author of the Amazon #1 ”Taking Back Your Health”.