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N Is for Nutrition in Triathlon Training
Nutrition in triathlon training is probably one of the most important and yet overlooked aspects in amateur triathlon. Professional triathletes are hypersensitive to the need for nutrition both during training and during the race. However, amateur triathletes tend to become lax in their nutrition or do not plan their nutrition well enough and thus suffer the consequences of poor performance. To gain real success in triathlon, you need to focus on your nutrition to get the best results.
The first aspect of nutrition is periodization. It is very difficult to be in a strict diet all year round in training. Personally, I need to have times where I “unbuckle” and enjoy a good cheeseburger. So, understand that just as there is periodization in your training, there is periodization in your nutrition. For example, if you are restricting on race day, you can become very strict in your diet about 8-12 weeks before race day. This gives you plenty of time to lose any extra weight you’re carrying and maximize your training days with quality food. After the race, you can take a reward week to eat some extra food or enjoy a meal that just isn’t in your strict training diet. You should not feel bad about this cheat period and go enjoy a great desert. Once this cheat week or cheat day is over, jump right back into your stricter diet to prepare for your next race. In the offseason it is important to enjoy some less strict food, but be careful that you can put on too much weight in the offseason.
Every athlete is very different in terms of what they eat during training. Some of the basic components of a good diet are quality carbohydrates (No McDonald’s), quality proteins such as fish, chicken, and lean meat, fruits (often overlooked) and vegetables. Some triathletes become so neurotic about these different aspects that they measure everything. As someone who is very busy, this is difficult to do, however, once you find a pattern of good food, you can implement a good diet for training. Do not go on a “diet” because you minimize your calories so far that your training sessions end in weakness or “bonking”. Eat 6-7 times a day with quality snacks such as fruit, low-fat cheese sticks, or protein bars. Make sure you drink plenty of water, as your training will require extra amounts of water to prevent dehydration. Finally, choose one food pattern and stick with it instead of trying so many different fads.
For every triathlon race you compete in, you will have certain nutritional issues to deal with. For Sprint and Olympic/International distance races, you will probably just need a pre-race meal. For long course races, such as a half ironman or full ironman distance, you will not only need a pre-race meal, but also a nutrition plan for during the race. Right now I take in 2,250 calorie juices at 2:30-3:00 the day of the race. I eat a whole cinnamon and raisin bagel an hour before the race. I then use PowerBar Powergel Tangerine flavored gels before the race and during the race. I typically use a gel every: 45 minutes on the bike and every: 30 minutes on the run. I also use Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes before the race and at each of the intervals mentioned above before the gels. I also use Hammer Nutrition’s FIZZ in my water bottles for the bike. The process of me finding this mix of nutrition has taken the last 6 years. Sometimes you discover things through trial and error like my need for Accelerade during the race this past year.
Nutrition is so important for overall performance. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Find some best practices and start the trial process for your own needs.
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#Nutrition #Triathlon #Training