Triathlon Nutrition Training – The Building Blocks of a Good Race
No matter what type of race you are preparing for: Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, or Ironman Triathlon, you should place the same importance on your diet as you do your training. Eating properly before, during and after your training will help you improve your training and race day performance. A good nutrition plan should include lean proteins, complex carbs, and proper hydration. (There are slight variations depending on body types and metabolism, but the same holds true for a majority of traithletes.) The key is to practice during your training just the way you will perform on race day.
Your daily nutritional needs will be affected by many variables: metabolism, intensity of training, duration of training, and training atmosphere. With that being said, the standard triathlete should follow these guidelines for calorie intake: 55-65% Carbs, 10-20% protein, and 20-30% fat. It is difficult to calculate calorie intake on your own at first. There are many free online services to analyze your calorie intake such as: LiveStrong.com, MyPlate.com, and numerous Andriod/iPhone apps to monitor your calorie intake.
Eating Before Training
It is best to eat a light, easily digestible meal a few hours before your training. The time of day, intensity, and duration of your workout will depend on the meal that you eat. The
purpose of eating prior to your workout is to avoid “crashing” during your workout. The main component is the time of day that you plan to workout. If it is an early morning workout, you may get by training on an empty stomach, or drinking an energy drink. Lunch time or early afternoon workouts are the same, a light snack or energy drink. A late evening workout with a higher intensity will require a more substantial meal. We recommend that you stay away from high fat/sugar foods and foods high in fiber to avoid any gastrointestinal issues.
Eating During Training
Workouts up to 90 minutes usually will not require any food fuel during your workout, especially if you have timed your pre-training meal properly. Longer training sessions may require a simple carb snack to make sure you do not crash during your workout. There are many good sources in our Nutrition area in the Tru Tri Sports Store. We suggest a low fat sport drink, nutritional gels and bars made specifically for high intensity training. You may also choose natural foods such as bananas, a peanut butter sandwich or bagels.
For longer workouts and high intensity training routines, it is important that you maintain a steady blood sugar to provide oxygen and fuel to your muscles. The amount of food that you consume during your training will be determined by your body size and intensity of the workout.
Eating After Training
After your workout, it is important that you eat a well balanced meal to ensure proper recovery. Your oxygen level in your cells is the highest just after your workout because this is the time of maximum blood flow. Your cells are more sensitive to insulin and glycogen synthase is the most active during this time. A few examples of post-workout meals are: turkey sandwich and fruit, bowl of cereal and fruit, or a PB&J sandwich and some milk. Just keep it healthy and light for maximum effectiveness.
The amount of fluid a triathlete should consume varies per individual. The typical 8 – 8 oz. glasses of water does not always hold true, and will vary depending on body type. The easiest monitor of your fluid intake is the color of your urine. The lighter in color, the more hydrated you are. Your goal should be a pale yellow or wheat colored urine. The lighter the color the better.
How Many Calories Do I Need?
Calorie needs will vary per person depending on training goals and time of season. The most accurate way to determine your calorie needs is to have your resting metabolic rate (RMR) tested via indirect calorimetry. Many private practice dietitians have the equipment to perform this test and can give you a caloric range to aim for based on your activity level. An easier, cheaper way is to use a formula to estimate your energy expenditure. Once you calculate your RMR, you will multiply that number by activity factors. As a triathlete you will have rest days, so it’s ideal to devise a caloric range based on low activity to high activity and stay within the range. The Mifflin-St Jeor equation has been shown to be relatively accurate in the healthy population and is as follows. Weight is in kilograms and height is in centimeters.
Males: 10—weight in kg + 6.25—height in cm – 5—age + 5 = RMR
Females: 10—weight in kg + 6.25—height in cm – 5—age – 161 = RMR
After you figure out your estimated RMR, multiply it by anywhere between 1.2 and 1.9 depending on how active you are to come up with your daily caloric range.
1.200 = sedentary (little or no exercise)
1.375 = lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week)
1.550 = moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week)
1.725 = very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week)
1.900 = extra active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job)
*excerpts from LiveStrong.com