Triathlon Training Nutrition Guide
Your diet can make or break your triathlon goals. Learn how to fuel your training—and get better race-day results.
3 MONTHS BEFORE THE RACE
Eat Real, Not Processed
Forget frozen pizzas and energy drinks. Processed foods contain all sorts of funky ingredients that can cause inflammation throughout your body, slowing your recovery time and weakening your immune system, Mueller says.
Since scrapping all processed foods is easier said than done, start small. At the grocery store, Mueller suggest skimming food labels before you hit the check out. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, don’t buy the food, she says. If you are feeling deprived, focus on adding whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to your plate—rather than keeping processed ones at bay. Behavior psychologists have found that it is easier to add a behavior than to take one away.
Pack More Produce
“Focus on eating foods—especially produce—with a variety of colors. Try to hit all of the colors in the rainbow,” Mueller says. The colors of fruits and vegetables are clues as to what vitamins and phytochemicals they hold. Eat them all and you are guaranteeing yourself a wide range of antioxidants and nutrients to lessen the oxidative damage and inflammation caused by your training.
Fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (not white ones!) are also great sources of healthy carbs, which should be any triathlete’s best friend. Endurance athletes primarily run on stored energy—called glycogen—that’s converted from carbohydrates. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that endurance athletes consume 2.7 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight each day. Three months out, when your workouts aren’t quite as grueling as they could be, you can stick to the lower half of that range. So a 150-pound man should be consuming about 405 to 540 grams of carbohydrates a day.
Take It Easy on Protein
While your prescription for protein does increase while training (it’s a great source of amino acids that can help rebuild muscles after a workout), fight the urge to go mow down on a T-bone every night, says Carmichael Training Systems coach Nick White, who helped Craig Alexander win two Ironman World Championships. You’re not a bodybuilder. You’re a triathlete. As such. you need about 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. And again, it’s safe to shoot for the low end if your workouts aren’t particularly grueling, Mueller adds.
So, that same 150-pound man will need to consume between about 75 and 97.5 grams of protein three months out from the big race. Notice that’s far fewer grams of protein than carbohydates. White advises keeping your carb-to-protein ratio between 4:1 and 7:1. If you aren’t into lean meats for your protein fix, try out Greek yogurt, edamame, or skyr. Bonus: Many whole grains—such as quinoa and lentils—also contain ample supplies of protein for a one-two nutritional punch.