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SPORTS NUTRITION BASICS

Whilst triathlon training takes up an element of triathlon success, the correct nutrition is equally important to support training and race day victory. Think of it as the all-important fourth discipline.

We’ve teamed up with Molly Wisbey, a sports nutritionist and Lecturer in Health and Exercise Nutrition, to help guide you into the world of sports nutrition.

Eating for triathlon

Whether you’re a novice taking your first steps in the sport or a more competitive participant, correct day-to-day nutrition:

·       Provides energy to perform well in your training and chosen triathlon event.

·       Enhances recovery after training and race day to ensure you are ready to go again.

·       Reduces the risk of injury and illness to ensure you are reaching your full potential.

When referring to sports nutrition, it’s not all about sports products and supplements. Whilst they might have a place in some long distance, high intensity or racing situations, it’s important to focus on the basics first, that being calorie intake and macronutrient intake. In the next section we explore what we mean by calories and macronutrients.

 

Calories – intake vs expenditure

We like to think of our bodies as a vehicle. For it to work efficiently, it simply needs to have enough fuel in it.

Us, as individuals consume calories (energy) through food and drink sources, with each food and/or drink containing different quantities. For example, a steak would contain more calories than an apple.

Energy is expended through physical activity, with higher intensity and longer duration activities increasing energy expenditure. This may be beneficial if wanting to decrease fat mass, however if looking to maintain weight, you will need to replace the energy burnt with food and drink (more calories).

The overall aim = calorie intake matches calorie output.

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and refer to the nutrients which we need the greatest quantities of in the diet. Thinking back to our car analogy, whilst we need an appropriate amount of fuel, we also need the correct fuel.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source and a must have staple in any triathletes diet. The greater the training demand, the higher the requirement of carbohydrates. Those participating in exercise should aim for a carbohydrate source at every meal, especially pre and post training (around a third to half the plate) for optimal fuelling and recovery.

Carbohydrate sources include:

Oats, rice, pasta, potatoes, bananas, grains and bread.

Protein

Proteins are often referred to as the building blocks of muscles and do not contribute to energy. An individual should aim to include a palmful of protein in each main meal. As protein plays a role in muscle function and repair, it is especially important to consume a protein source post workout to repair the muscles after any exercise session.

Protein sources include:

Eggs, meat, poultry, beans, soy products such as tofu and dairy.

Fat

Similar to carbohydrates, fat is also an energy source for the body. Whilst carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel, fat can be beneficial for slower, lower intensity sessions. Additionally, fat is essential for the absorption of vitamins and the provision of fatty acids. It’s important to note that high fat foods surrounding training and race day can lead to slow digestion and therefore stomach upset. Thus, around a thumb sized portion of fat is recommend per meal.

Fat sources to include:

Oils such as olive oil, nuts and seeds and oily fish such as salmon.

   

Don’t forget fruits and vegetables!

Whilst fruits and vegetables do not provide a high amount of energy (not classified as a macronutrient as such), it’s important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in the daily diet. Fruits and vegetables provide adequate intakes of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to assist recovery and to decrease muscle inflammation.

Hydration

The effects of dehydration in both daily training and race day can lead to fatigue, loss of concentration and therefore a decreased performance. Aim for fluids to be consumed regularly throughout the day, with greater quantities on high training days and hotter temperatures to hydrate optimally. If you are already thirsty, that is a sign of dehydration. A good way to check is to look at urine colour. Aim for pale straw.

Meal examples:

Breakfast:

Banana and peanut porridge:

Carbohydrates = Oats and banana

Protein = Milk of choice

Fats = Peanut butter

Fruit/vegetables = Banana

 

Lunch:

Scrambled eggs on toast with spinach

Carbohydrates = Brown bread

Protein = Eggs

Fats = Egg yolks

Vegetables = Spinach

 

Dinner:

Chilli con carne

Carbohydrates = Rice

Protein = Mince and/or beans

Fats = Guacamole

Vegetables = Tomatoes, mushrooms and any extras

 

Ultimately, fuelling your body optimally is the best way to get the most out of every training session and race day performance.

Molly is a lecturer in Health and Exercise Nutrition at Solent University, AfN (Association for Nutrition) and SENR (Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register) accredited and works as a freelance sports nutritionist. Supporting athletes at all levels, Molly has worked with GB athletes, WSL football, athletic clubs and endurance triathletes.

Follow Molly @mollywisbeynutrition