Miles and Miles of Meals...
A healthy triathlete is made up of more than tempo runs, long rides, pool sessions, strength training and rest days. The journey begins at the kitchen table with how you feed your body. Training for a triathlon will not only take a toll on your legs (and social life), it will also place greater nutritional demands on your diet. Everything we eat and drink, or leave out, has a direct impact on our performance.
Follow the five tips below to make sure your body gets everything it needs for better performance and better health!
Eat Real Food - While most endurance athletes understand that food is fuel they've come to rely on bars, gels, sports drinks and super supplements to get them across that finish line. Convenience foods do have their place but they cannot make up the bulk of your meals or be the insurance policy you reply on to keep you from getting sick.
Macro and Micro Nutrients - “Carbs-Carbs-Carbs” its long been the national chant of athletes. Its common to associate macronutrients (fats, carbs and protein) with energy production. But micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, carry out the metabolic processes that actually produce energy, boost immunity and speed up muscle adaptations. And since a triathlete can have a greater rate of micronutrient losses and generally higher energy needs, it's even more important to consume them frequently in a diet. Some key vitamins and minerals for runners are Vit D3, Vit E, Vit C, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc and Copper.
Hydrate – all day, every day! Proper hydration is a vital part of every athlete’s diet plan. Our bodies are more than 60% water and we use it for pretty much every bodily function- from regulating body temperature, to removing waste, to lubricating joints and carrying oxygen to the cells. While a glass (or seven) of water is best; tea, nut milks, coconut water and homemade juices also help ensure you're properly hydrated. There are fluid (and electrolyte) filled foods you can eat as well such as watermelon, celery, cucumbers, strawberries and greens.
Post Training Refuel – While there are a number of opinions about “what” you should eat after a run, everyone agrees that its crucial to eat and begin the recovery process. By consuming nutrient rich foods you are decreasing inflammation, rebuilding damaged muscle tissue and increasing muscle glycogen stores. If you don't already have a meal or snack planned, use the last few minutes of your cool down to mentally set-up what you'll eat. Triathletes have a bad habit of spending all their time focused on mileage, splits and Instagram pictures, when recovering from these workouts is more important than the training itself. Running on muscles that are depleted, torn and fatigued is a recipe for injury and overtraining.
Cut out the Crap (mostly) – As your event approaches it's a good idea to cut back on some of your favorite sugary, processed treats. To reference an old analogy, don't put poor fuel in your race car. The occasional bowl of coconut ice cream or a homemade batch of cookies is fine but don't sabotage your goal by drinking too much (soda or alcohol), eating fast food and relying on frozen dinners.
Training requires a mindful approach to food. Change your food mindset and you'll achieve your goals!
Race Day Nutrition:
The Well Executed Plan
Planning what you'll eat and drink on race day is just as important as any workout or pacing strategy. Body size, pacing, length of the race and environmental conditions are all contributing factors that help determine an athlete's nutritional needs and selection of specific hydration and fuel. Below are four key points to help you develop an effective nutritional plan for your next race. A key point to remember however, solid nutrition doesn't make you go faster; it simply allows the body to maintain the highest output for the longest period of time.
Don't be last minute – The ideal time to begin thinking about your race day nutrition is weeks if not months before the big day. When I work with clients on race specific nutrition I ask them for a 3 month commitment. This gives us time to assess previous races failures and successes, test fueling and hydration needs, sample various products to see what works best and then experiment on longer runs or warm up races. If you're interested in working with me for an upcoming race you can check out my RDNP (Race Day Nutrition Planning) here http://www.inpyn.com/plansservices/ All Love The Pain Team athletes get 10% off by using code LTP10.
One size does NOT fit all – How many times have you looked at a celebrity or pro athlete and thought whatever he/she is eating or drinking or supplementing with must be the secret to their success? If the winner of Ironman Kona endorses a particular gel or hydration beverage do you immediately pull up Amazon Prime and place an order? Nutrition is 100% individual and you need to find the products that work best for you. A good starting point is to talk to coaches and nutritionists to get opinions of what they have seen work with their clients. Ask around the pool or run group and begin testing. Don't get stuck using something that gives you GI issues or tastes horrible just because you've seen a faster triathlete chug it at aide station.
Craft a Plan A and Plan B – In all my years of racing (swimming, running and triathlon) I've never had a race go entirely as planned. And the longer the event distance the greater the likelihood of something going wrong. 140.6 miles presents 140.6 unique opportunities for fueling and hydration mishaps so I always go in with a Plan A and B. Plan A is your ideal scenario where you know when, what and how much you'll eat or drink. You have everything organized and color coded and you've tested it out on multiple occasions. Plan B is the backup, the plan you make for when the run isn't going as well as you wanted, the temperatures rise, you drop a bag of food or all of a sudden you're stopping the bathroom instead of waving at cheering family. Knowing what to do when things go bad will not only calm your worried pre-race mind, but it will also prevent any bad decisions on course.
Focus on hydration first, nutrition second – While both are important, I've seen more races end in misery from improper hydration than a lack of fuel. The irony here is that 90% of triathletes will simply use “whatever is on course” for hydration and spend hours filling up pockets, sports bras and fuel belts with all crazy sorts of speed enhancing gels and magic race potions. Be mindful about every aspect of your race and know exactly what you'll be drinking, when and how much. Try out the on-course beverage so you know how your body responds but don't feel obligated to drink it. In terms of nutrition, don't overeat early on and end up running with stomach issues. Let your body (and gut) settle into the race before you start asking it to digest food. Most likely you've had a great pre-race breakfast and your body is ready to swimbikerun for awhile before needing additional calories.