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Wake Up To The Power Of One

The Do’s and Don’ts of Fuelling for a Triathlon

Diet plays a crucial role in the performance of a triathlete. Proper nutrition can enhance endurance, optimize recovery, and unleash peak athletic performance on race day. However, not all foods are created equal (some are even considered SUPER), and there are certain do’s and don’ts when it comes to eating as a triathlete. 

“The two words that best sum up the triathlete’s diet are ‘premium fuel.’” — Emma-Kate Lidbury

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of fueling for a triathlon.

Do: Fuel with Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for endurance athletes like triathletes. Include complex carbs like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes in your diet. They provide sustained energy, help replenish glycogen stores, and delay fatigue during training and races. 

Do: Prioritize protein

Protein is crucial for muscle repair and recovery. Include lean sources of protein like chicken, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, and dairy products in your meals. Aim for a protein-rich snack after training sessions to aid in muscle repair.

Do: Stay hydrated

Hydration is key for triathletes to maintain performance and prevent dehydration. Drink water regularly throughout the day and during training sessions. Electrolyte-rich fluids like sports drinks or coconut water can also help replenish lost minerals during long training sessions. This article from 220 Triathlon reminds you to think about the sodium requirements for a triathlete and has an extensive eating plan from pre-training to post-race recovery.

Do: Eat balanced meals

Make sure your meals are well-balanced and contain a good mix of everything your body needs (not just protein and carbs). This will help you meet your energy needs, support muscle repair, and maintain overall health so you can stay on track with your training plan.

Do: Include healthy fats

Healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish are essential for triathletes. They provide energy, support hormone production, and will aid in your recovery. Include them in your diet in moderation for optimal performance.

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Don't: Rely on processed foods

Processed foods, including sugary snacks, fast food, and processed meats, can be highly unhealthy in terms of fats, sugars, and sodium. These can negatively impact your performance and overall health. Avoid relying on these foods as a source of nutrition and opt for whole, natural foods instead. You won’t want to work as hard as you do training only to undermine it! That being said, balance is good and it’s awesome to reward yourself from time to time.

Don't: Overconsume caffeine

While caffeine can enhance performance in moderation, overconsumption can lead to negative side effects such as increased heart rate, jitters, and gastrointestinal distress. Avoid excessive caffeine intake and be mindful of the timing and amount of caffeine you consume. Here’s the science behind it if you want to get it just right. 

Don't: Skip meals

Skipping meals can lead to energy depletion, poor recovery, and compromised performance. Make sure to eat regular meals and snacks to fuel your body adequately and maintain optimal energy levels throughout the day.

Don't: Neglect recovery nutrition

Your recovery is crucial for your performance! You need to repair your muscles as replenish energy stores after every training session. Don’t neglect this important part of nutrition. Include a post-training snack or meal with a good source of carbohydrates and protein within 30-60 minutes of completing your workout.

Don't: Experiment with new foods on race day

Race day is definitely NOT the time to experiment with new foods, drinks, gels, or supplements. Stick to the foods and fluids your body is accustomed to during training to avoid an upset stomach or other unexpected reactions. Practice your race day nutrition plan during your training sessions so you know it works for you and there are no surprises the day of.

While triathlons are a time to push yourself to new heights and even bigger achievements, it’s also important to listen to your body. Individualize your nutrition plan based on training load, race goals, and personal preferences. Consulting with a qualified sports nutritionist can also provide some guidance and recommendations tailored to your unique needs. Gear is another important piece of your first triathlon, so if you want another list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to spending money, find our toolkit list here.

Hopefully these do’s and don’ts help guide your way to the finish line! If you want a glimpse at what some seasoned triathletes are consuming, check out this article featuring Jonny Brownlee. You need to fuel your body for peak performance in order to achieve your race goals. There are plenty of ways to tailor a meal plan that works to boost your performance on the day of the race. With the same discipline you apply to your training sessions, you’ll be building a body that is prepped and ready to go for the big day — just don’t forget the recovery, too!

“On the night before a big race I tend to go for pizza because, wherever I am competing in the world - from Austria and Madrid to China and New Zealand - pizza is always the same. You know what you’re getting, don’t you? You’re unlikely to get food poisoning and it’s a decent mix of carbs and salt before a big event.” — Jonny Brownlee

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