Triathlon nutrition advice
Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images for Ironman

Triathlon nutrition: 10 common mistakes triathletes make

Jon Hodgkinson, nutritionist for Triathlon Coaching UK and founder of Real Food Function, explains how to avoid 10 common nutritional mistakes triathletes often make

1. Failing to prepare 

You’ve signed up to a new training programme, swim sets are pencilled in, long rides have been okayed with your other half (sort of!) and that threshold run is looming. GREAT but what are you fuelling these sessions with? What will you use to recover? How does your daily routine impact the times you can eat and foods you have access to? Nutrition is often the missing link in any good training programme. It’s time to make a plan. My top prep tip for success: batch cook and freeze. With winter rides, a hearty soup will do the trick for post-ride recovery; warming and nourishing at the same time.

2. Changing nutrition strategy on race day

 The feed station doesn’t have a bar or gel you’ve used on all those hard fought training miles… what do you do? Pick up the nearest option and hope for the best? What’s the worst that could happen? It’s all just energy, right?  This is one detail you may want to pay more attention to if you’ve ever had a turn for the worse during a race. Your body, under race day tension and physical exertion, is a different beast to the one you normally find yourself in. A late change to unfamiliar ingredients could come back to bite later in the race. Here’s where you need to work on consistency. Where possible control the food you have on the bike, store what you can on your person for the run and stick with what you know when the pressure is on.

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3. Making it harder for the body to recover

Hard training creates an inflammatory response from the body to help kick-start recovery. This is quite natural, however from a nutritional approach we often consume foods that also add to this inflammatory load leaving the body in a more degenerated state making recovery for the next session much harder. Try cutting out refined and processed foods. Cook with saturated and mono-unsaturated fats such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil as they don’t degrade too quickly when heated. Up your Omega 3 levels with nuts, eggs, oily fish and consider a good quality fish oil capsule or liquid.

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4. Seeing food purely as fuel

It’s all too easy to see food as a means to an end. Often, when your training load is high, you may grab anything just to keep going. This is where we need a little more insight to help aid both performance and recovery. My top tip? Get ahead and plan your meals for the week or at least a few days, batch cook in the evening and have leftovers ready to go the next day. Always be one step ahead.

5.Using triathlon to lose weight

The age-old mantra of move more, eat less is slowly starting to be picked apart within the research community when it comes to weight loss. However, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of expecting your triathlon training to be the driver for dropping a few pounds. In some instances this works but don’t be surprised if your training goes up without a correlation in weight going down.

Continue reading our guide to 10 nutritional mistakes triathletes make (2/2)

Jon Hodgkinson is a nutritionist for Triathlon Coaching UK and founder of Real Food Function


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