Are you struggling to get an effective nutrition regime in place? Wondering just how bad processed foods are, and whether supplements are a good idea? Sports nutritionist Joel Enoch has eight handy tips for getting your fuel intake on track...
Plus, don't forget to check out our complete guide to triathlon nutrition.
1. Have a plan
As sportspeople we often use a training programme to achieve peak performance, and should structure our nutrition in much the same way. Take a quick look at your diet, see ways to improve it and set a plan for how to achieve this. Speak to a sports nutrition expert to help you identify areas for improvement and set out a plan.
2. Keep it real
The majority of your diet should be whole foods that haven’t been messed about with too much. Eating lots of foods that have been processed too much affects long-term health and can compromise adaption and recovery. There's an easy way to do this – overly processed foods often don’t look like real food so if you can look at it and see the things it’s made from, then it's usually ok.
3. Know your carbs
Carbs are a good source of energy for sportspeople. However, different carbs have a different effect on our blood sugar (or energy) levels and we need to understand this area to make sure we choose healthily. Some foods release energy rapidly: in our day to day life this isn’t ideal, although it could be good during or after hard exercise.
Other foods release energy slowly (called low GI or GL foods): these foods should be the basis of our diet. Don't forget to account for added sugar, cooking time, cooking temperature and ripeness, which can all effect the GI/GL of a food.
4. Find the good fats
The message that all dietary fats are bad is wrong. Good fats (liquid at room temp e.g oils) have many health benefits and are likely to also support recovery and training quality in athletes. Most of us should eat more Omega 3 fats (found in oily fish, avocado, olive oil and walnuts) and less Omega 6 (found in many vegetable oils). Crucially, Omega 6 oils are added to almost all processed foods – a big reason to limit some of them!
5. Get the big stuff right
Too many triathletes make sure they get the little things like supplements just right, but forget the big stuff like their daily diet and understanding carbs, proteins and fats. Get the big stuff right and you’ll reap far more rewards.
6. Seek balance
We hear a lot about eating a balanced diet. This sounds confusing, but it’s as easy as eating 80% of the good stuff and 20% of the not so good. If you do a big shop each week, look at your trolley before you get to the till – is it 80% good?
7. Carb loading
Does it work and how should you do it? It’s worth getting a personalised plan, but as a rough guide if the event is significantly over 90min long, eat a little more carbohydrate up to four days before a race. Then have a day (or two) of light, simple foods that will leave you feeling fresh and ready to race. Pasta parties are a bad idea!
Although they shouldn’t be the first thing on your nutritional checklist, there are a few supplements that can enhance your training and racing no end. Caffeine, beetroot juice, protein and beta-alanine are all worth considering – seek advice from an expert first though!
(Images: Remy Whiting / Jonny Gawler)
For lots more fuelling advice head to our Nutrition section