21 Nov Getting Your Nutrition Right For Your First Triathlon
It’s triathlon season!
I hear some readers shout ‘yay’ and a whole lot gulp in fear. Every year, there are more and more people entering their first triathlon to take on the challenge and see what the fuss is all about. The whole idea of a triathlon can be incredibly daunting, but with the right training and nutrition your experience on the day will be much more enjoyable.
Today, I want to share some advice about fuelling your body to maximise your performance during your training and on the day of your event. While you may not be a pro triathlete (yet), ensuring your nutrition is right will make all the hard work of training pay off.
Start a food diary
First things first, start a food diary of everything you eat and drink for a period of 5 days. Seeing your eating habits written down in black and white can help highlight any areas you need to address. The earlier you start a food diary, the better. Make sure you log what you eat before you long training sessions also, as this will become really valuable information as you get closer to the day.
Manage your carbohydrate intake
The days of eating large bowls of pasta before an endurance event have passed, so it’s important to manage your carbohydrate intake. Whether you’re training or not, most people consume a large amount of carbohydrates with each meal. When the carb intake is in excess, it spikes your insulin hormone which turns off your fat burning ability.
The amount of carbohydrates pre-and post-training will depend on the duration of your exercise, your body weight and your training goals. It’s important to experiment with this prior to your event. The ideal time to try this out is when you’re doing long rides or runs of 90 minutes or more. Experiment with your meals and write down which ones help you train your best. We are all different, so find your best meal formula.
You’ll also need carbohydrates post-training to replenish your glycogen stores. Your body is primed to receive nutrients within the 60 minutes after you’ve trained. Sweet potato is an ideal carb source or even a medium banana right after your workout.
Try 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour of high intensity training before and after you’ve exercised. Adjust this intake by 15g in the next session if you didn’t feel you were well fuelled or your recovery didn’t go to plan.
Make your weight loss goals realistic
For beginner triathletes, training for the event is often combined with weight loss goals. It’s important these goals are realistic and don’t compromise fuelling your body for the level of training you’re doing. Ideally you want to lose the weight slowly rather than pushing it too hard. And if you’re considering supplements or weight loss products to speed up the process, you’re going to compromise your body’s ability to train and your performance. Stick with real food and exercise. A goal of 2.5kgs weight loss over a 5-6-week period is much more realistic than 5kgs in a couple of weeks.
Avoid too much protein
If you’ve been reading up on training for high-intensity exercise or endurance there’s no doubt you’ve read about protein. In fact, protein is the hot topic at the moment when it comes to training. As a result, many are consuming protein wherever they can and often in excess.
Too much protein is converted into glucose. This is going to interfere with your blood sugar control and encourage higher insulin levels. This will cease your fat burning which is not what you’re wanting. Most people can successfully maintain a 20 percent protein intake. Using software like fitday is a great way to find out your carbohydrate, fat and protein amounts.
Be careful not to over-hydrate
It’s very easy to over-hydrate with water prior to your event. Your body can’t store ample amounts of fluid, so stocking up as part of your preparation is pointless. Excessive amounts of fluid can also dilute your sodium levels, which can lead to hyponatremia.
A good indication that you’ve achieved an adequate level of hydration is if you’re going to the toilet every three to four hours.
Assess your stress levels
Okay, so this is not exactly about fuelling your body, but if we’re going to talk about performance and preparing for a triathlon, it’s hard to ignore stress. If you’re relatively new to triathlons, there’s no doubt your stress levels have risen. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce cortisol for optimal function and survival.
Cortisol is going to stimulate your liver to release glucose to give you enough fuel to escape or fight the threat. This is great when you’re running away from a lion, but when your stress levels are constantly elevated this is going to have ramifications that can’t be ignored.
Chronic stress combined with high cortisol levels results in excess glucose that inhibits the body burning fat.
Long term, this increased cortisol production is going to wear out your adrenal glands and as a result you can find yourself dealing with adrenal fatigue. So, while you may be focused on training and perfecting your nutrition for race day, it’s important you incorporate stress management techniques into your preparation.