Top 10 triathlon nutrition tips
Sports nutritionist and author Renee McGregor gives her essential nutrition advice for triathletes
Training Food, written by experienced sports nutritionist Renee McGregor, is a new book that aims to provide a comprehensive guide to sports nutrition, complete with its own chapter on triathlon.
The book (more at www.nourishbooks.com) features a large recipe section (meals include chia porridge or coriander lamb with quinoa) accompanied by the nutritional values of each meal. In addition to fuelling advice, the book also purports to aid readers in their quest for recovery and injury prevention.
Over to Renee, who’s based at the University of Bath’s Physiotherapy and Sports Science Centre, for her top fuelling tips for endurance athletes…
1. Plan ahead
Tailor your nutrition to the training for that day to ensure that you have sufficient energy to fuel, protein to recover and achieve your performance and body composition goals.
2. Up the carbs
For all high-intensity sessions (i.e. working at 70% of your Max HR or above or RPE 7/10 or above) you’ll need carbohydrate in your system prior to training to ensure you can hit your paces. I usually advise 1-1.5g per kg of bodyweight carbs in all meals leading up to the session.
3. Time your recovery fuel
We all know recovery nutrition is important but timing is key and depends on training for that day; if you’re planning on two sessions that day with less than 8hrs recovery between then, ensure you recover within 30mins of finishing your first session to ensure glycogen resynthesis. If you have over 12hrs until your next training session, then recover at your next meal ideally within two hours of completing your training session.
4. Protein uptake
If you’ve just completed a high-intensity training session of 60 min or more then your glycogen stores will be depleted. Aim to refuel with 1-1.2g/Kg BW carbs and 0.25g/kg of bodyweight protein – flavoured milk makes an ideal and easily digestible choice. If your training session is a low-intensity recovery option then refuel with 0.25g/kg BW protein only – eggs, fish, chicken or meat are all good options.
5. Don’t forget to hydrate
In order to get the most out of our training session, aim to be hydrated before you start – one way to monitor this is to check the colour of your urine, aiming for pale straw. During exercise aim to take on 150-250ml every 20-30mins; you may find using a non-nutritive electrolyte aids hydration as the salt draws more water into the working muscles.
6. Make dairy your friend
Studies have demonstrated that having a diet high in dairy helps to lay down lean muscle mass – milk; Greek yoghurt; feta; cottage cheese are all great options, particularly in the immediate recovery phase.
7. Muscle repair
Endurance athletes often think that they don’t need as much protein as power athletes; however, this isn’t so. After each training session your muscles will have thousands of micro-tears that will need repairing. Not only will the muscle need repairing but it’ll also need to adapt to the training. Ensuring a regular intake of protein will maximise this muscle protein synthesis and adaptation.
I advise 0.25g/Kg BW protein 4-6 times a day depending on the volume of training. This amount of protein, usually 15-25g for most individuals, has demonstrated to be the most effective at causing this muscle protein synthesis; there is no benefit to including any more than this at one time but there are benefits of including this amount more frequently through the day.
From a practical point of view 15-25g of protein looks like two large eggs; a smart phone size portion of chicken or white fish or a pack of card size portion of oily fish or red meat.
8. Practise nutrition
During longer triathlon events such as half or full Ironman, it’s essential to practice what you plan to eat during race day so that you can be confident that your choices don’t cause you any gastro-intestinal distress.
One of the most common mistakes athletes make is to stick with high glucose gels and bars which can result in a high concentration of glucose in the body which your GI system cannot cope with; additionally these can become subject to taste fatigue which means you are less likely to consume the energy you need to complete your race.
I always recommend that athletes try using real food such as malt loaf, bananas, flapjacks and salted peanuts alongside their sports gels/bars on the bike and then stick with gels during the run to help with limiting GI distress.
9. Keep it simple
Remember sports nutrition doesn’t need fancy gadgets or specialist ingredients; just because you’ve read that coconut oil is the next best thing since sliced bread, it doesn’t mean you need to include it in your weekly shopping basket. Fresh simple ingredients such as scrambled eggs on toast or a hearty meat and vegetable casserole using leftovers or a bowl of porridge with honey and walnuts all make well-balanced and nutrient rich training food.
10. Good fats
Don’t forget to include fat in your diet too – you need a certain amount of fat in your diet to absorb important vitamins such as A, D, E and K; fat helps with satiety and also adds taste and texture to food. Studies have also demonstrated that fats can help with weight maintenance and reduce inflammation. Also ensure to include good fat sources such as oily fish, avocados, nuts/nut butters, seeds, and oils such as rape, olive and flaxseed.
Training Food is out now priced at £10.99, with more info at www.nourishbooks.com.