Nutrition Clinic for Triathletes
We’ll cover three main areas:
1. A big picture look at healthy choices that you can make in everyday eating no matter your athletic endeavors
2. Eating for recovery
3. Race day Fuel
If you are looking to loose weight KNOW one truth: you must burn more calories than you eat to loose weight – it’s factual. If you are looking to live a long healthy life then weight gain and loss may not be the issue but the factors are the same.
Continued conflicting reports of the good, the bad, and the ugly haunt the nutrition world. As an example, there was a time when margarine was thought of as a god send but now studies show that margarine might cause heart disease. The news changes almost weekly. Here are some basics you can rely on:
• THE GOOD: unsaturated fats (mostly plant based oils) are usually liquid at room temperature and are better for your body. (good fats: olive oil, nuts, avocado)
• THE BAD: saturated fats (mostly animal based fats: butter, lard, etc.) are usually solid at room temperature may clog up arteries.
• THE UGLY: trans fats are thought to be the worst kind (margarine falls in this category and pretty much anything fired in a fast food restaurant, anything that says “hydrogenated”).
• Eating 20-30 percent of your calories from “good” fat is a safe bet for most people.
• During base training fat can play a bigger role in the diet but as you progress towards the race then reduce your fat intake a bit.
Some things remain clear: some fats are good to keep in each meal as it helps satiate and satisfy therefore causing one to eat less calories overall. They also prevent dry skin, and brittle hair. The can keep menstrual cycles on target, and they can prevent colds. There is also more energy in a gram of fat than in a gram of carb or protein.
Carbs are what the body uses as fuel. The brain runs purely on carbs, muscles run primarily on carbs and everyone, athlete and non, lives by carbohydrates. Why? ‘cause carbs become blood sugar and that is a primary fuel source.
• A diet too heavy on carbs will cause the spikes and lows in blood sugar. That will result in uneven energy throughout the day, more cravings, and weight gain.
• Some carbs can be seen as “slow burn” (low glycemic) and some as “fast burn” (high glycemic). Type “glycemic index” into your favorite search engine to familiarize yourself with which are high and which are low.
• Eating 30-50 percent of your calories from carbohydrates is a good bet.
• During base training carbs can be lower but as mileage or effort increase towards race day then carbs must come up.
Protein is the “building block” of the body: it repairs muscle damage, strengthens the immune system, makes hormones & enzymes that replace red blood cells and provides a bit of energy for long or intense workouts. Here are some key protein points:
• “Complete proteins” have all of the “essential” amino acids and they only come from animal sources. The body cannot make the essential aminos nor can it store protein. Vegetarians and Vegans can supplement vegetable proteins with an essential amino acid.
• The average an athlete needs to eat is between 0.4 and 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. A 150 lb triathlete would need approx. 3-6 ounces of protein each day.
• 15-35 percent of your calories from protein is a good bet.
• Keep protein balanced throughout training (base, build, peak, race)
We need to keep the fluids coming in and water is the best one. Water helps recovery, immune system, plasma production, body temperature and more. Even the slightest dehydration will reduce performance: a 10K runner who looses only 2 percent of body weight in fluids will slow by 84 seconds (Friel). A 150 pound adult will loose more than a half gallon of water just staying alive without working out. If that 150 pounder goes hard in the heat he can loose up to two gallons of fluid in one day.
• Keep your pee fairly clear.
• Keep drinking steadily throughout the day
• Don’t wait ‘til you’re thirsty.
If you let all other supplements fall by the way side and just tried you get what you needed from real food you would do well. If there was one pill to keep in the program it would be an Antioxidant. Antioxidants are a fancy name for vitamins C & E (with maybe some A and selenium thrown in too).
• The activities of an athlete cause the release of free radicals. Free radicals breakdown cellular structures. Antioxidants help prevent this breakdown.
• 400-800 IUs of E and 300-1000 mg of C and you are good to go.
SIMPLE KEYS TO RECOVERY
• Don’t Bonk – keep the calories coming in during all training over an hour
• Don’t dehydrate – keep the fluids coming in during all training over an hour
• Eat a high glycemic carbohydrate in the “20 minute” window after a hard effort
• Eat a complete protein and a lower glycemic carb ~20-40 minutes after
• Sleep more, 8 hours is preferred
RACE DAY SUGGESTIONS (starting a day or two out from race)
• Add a bit of salt to your food in the days prior to race
• Drink more but don’t over do the liquid for two days prior
• Eat a fairly normal dinner the night before, don’t over stuff yourself
• Go easy on the fiber in the pre race dinner and breakfast
• Wake early, eat early, and eat the same thing you’ve been training on for months
• Have a snack that you know and love to nibble on between breaky & start
• Train with the same stuff they are serving on the course on race day
• Separate water, electrolytes and food in your race plan.
• Eat ~ 250 calories per hour on the bike
• Eat ~ 100 calories per hour every 30 minutes on the run