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8 Nutritional Tips for Triathletes

Swimmer

In July, Ironman UK took place in Bolton and Lancashire. Training for this type of event takes incredible physical and emotional willpower, and athletes taking part will have to make many adjustments to their lifestyle and diet.

This week, Newitts offers triathletes 8 nutritional tips to help get the best they can out of their bodies.

 

Food is Fuel

Never forget that what you put in your mouth can have a detrimental effect to your progress as an athlete. Following a sportsman's diet is not just about eating health bars and salt pills, it requires a whole lot more effort, and can be the reason why a person continues to function at their best or at their worst.

 

Eat quality food

The key is to take a look at the food you're eating when you're NOT exercising. General health is the foundation to endurance fitness which means a high quality diet is essential. Filling your plate with fruits and vegetables, lean protein based foods and complex carbohydrates is the key, whilst avoiding junk foods as well as large amounts of processed energy bars and fatty foods is important. Reducing your alcohol intake and caffeine intake is also a good idea.

 

Do not under-eat

Make sure you eat enough food. If you're starting to feel tired when you're training, don't blame it on over-exercise, recognise that you need to fix yourself a sandwich. The tiredness stems from a caloric deficit, therefore it's important to fuel your work outs properly and not be afraid of gaining weight.

 

Make a good start

Start off your day how you mean to go on with a quality breakfast, experts recommend an intake of between 800 to 1,000 calories, split up before and after a morning training session. Your first meal of the day should make up a third to a half of your daily calories.

 

Eat at the right time

Eating a large meal just before a long run is not a good idea - even high-quality foods can have a harmful affect on your training if consumed at the wrong time. You should eat between 1-3 hours before a training session. If your planned training session will be less than 2 hours, your body can rely on fat stores for energy and you need only rely on liquid based nutrition such as sports drinks. For training sessions which exceed 3 hours, make sure you consume at least 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrates one to four hours beforehand.

 

Monitor your macronutrient intake

Macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, fats and protein and as an athlete it's important to make sure you give your body the right amount of each. Percentages will vary depending on the type of athlete you are - an Ironman triathlete will require more carbohydrates than a short course triathlete, but in general athletes should aim to get 45-65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrate, 15-20 percent from protein and 20-35 percent from fat.

 

Stay fully hydrated

In order for your body to function normally, you need to be fully hydrated. Poor digestion, lack of brain power and unhealthy skin have all been linked to dehydration, so it's important to achieve the right balance of fluids and electrolytes. The amount you need to drink varies from person to person depending on factors such as weight, height, sweat rate, activity levels, weather and altitude. Athletes must pay attention to thirst and alternate plain water with low sugar electrolyte drinks to keep body salts and minerals at the correct level.

 

Enjoy what you eat

Avoid getting hung up on food when training for a triathlon. Eating should remain pleasurable as well as healthy. Avoid bad habits such as eating behind a computer screen, skipping meals and having negative emotions around food intake. Try to focus on adopting a forgiving attitude and allow your body to give in to its cravings once in a while - you're only human after all.

 

Do you have any nutritional tips to help people embarking on triathlons for the first time?

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