Introducing the simple triathlete diet tricks that will help you train harder, stay leaner and recover quicker...
During my 20 years as a triathlete, I've come to realise that diet really does make a difference to your triathlon performance - but not always in the way you'd think.
My conclusion is this: You don't need to eat like a saint all the time, but you do need to make sure you're consuming the right kinds of fuel at the right times.
The triathlete diet tips in this blog will help you get this right. They are largely inspired by Dr Kevin Currell, Head of Performance Nutrition at the English Institute of Sport. I have worked extensively with Dr Currell at Triathlon Plus magazine and I've put most of his suggestions into practice over the last few years.
Tip number one (see below) about eating before early morning swims was something of a revelation to me. Not only did I swim better, but I was happier before and during my swim workouts. No more lane rage! Hopefully you'll get the same benefits...
1. Breakfast before morning swims
Sleeping during the night depletes your liver's store of glycogen - the fuel you need as a triathlete. When this is depleted your blood sugar starts to drop and fatigue sets in. Early morning swimming in this fasted state can be a bad idea for three reasons...
1. It leads to poor concentration levels. If you are trying to improve your technique you will struggle.
2. You will be low on energy, so you will find it harder to swim at a high intensity.
3. It will lead to you feeling tired and hungry all day. And hence eating more than you might normally.
To avoid this happening, you should have a light breakfast before all morning swims. Go for foods high in carbohydrate, low in protein and low in fat. You don't even need to compromise your sleep. Simply choose foods you can eat on the go such as jam sandwiches, flapjacks or a sports bar.
2. Protein after runs
Running is the discipline that leads to most injuries for triathletes. A simple diet trick to help reduce the muscle damage caused by running is to consume a good source of protein straight after each run workout. If you are doing an easy run, have a yogurt when you get in. For longer or harder runs, have a milkshake or carbohydrate protein recovery drink
3. Fish Oils 3 Times Per Week
When our ancestors lived in caves and hunted for food they ate the healthy fats omega 3 and omega 6 in a ratio of approximately 2:1. These days that ratio is more like 1:20. The consequences of this are a form of inflammation which the body finds difficult to cope with. For a triathlete who's hard in training this means slower recovery and increased fatigue.
Simply taking a fish oil supplement or making sure you get a good source of oily fish 3-4 times per week can get your body back to how it should be.
4. Swill A Carbohydrate Gel
There are carbohydrate sensors in the mouth which stimulate the brain into working harder. Using a carbohydrate mouth rinse has been shown to increase 40 km cycling time trial time by over a minute. It works in training too. Just swilling a gel around your mouth to help you maintain your intensity during tough workouts.
5. Start drinking early on the bike
The timing of fluid and fuel intake on the bike leg of an Olympic distance race can affect run performance. A recent study compared triathletes drinking at 8, 16, 24 and 32 km into the bike with drinking at 10, 20, 30 and 40 km. When subjects started drinking early they ran the 10 km 3% faster than when they started drinking later in the bike. It could help you knock a minute more off your run splits.
That's all for now. Hopefully you will benefit from these tips as much as I have. If you enjoyed this blog, please share it.
It may also interest you to know that I've just finished designing my latest triathlon training plan. This is available via Training Peaks online training software. If you're not already a Training Peaks member, you can sign up for a free account when you choose one of my training plans.
NEW: "24 Week Advanced Olympic Triathlon Plan. 8-14 Hours Training Per Week".
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Phil Mosley is a triathlon coach and writer.