Now is the time to think about your sports nutrition. As you start to build into your base phase, add miles, or gear up for your races, it’s important to take note of the fourth discipline in triathlon, nutrition. I will be touching base on some key factors that hopefully you already have dialed in, but if not, here’s your chance to get it in gear.
Starting with hydration, when exercising more than one hour most people will need an electrolyte drink of some kind. And, if the workout is going to be taxing, say some hill intervals, it’s wise to have some sugars/carbs in your drink as well. There are hundreds out there, so deciding which one is best for you can be hard. Products like Skratch Labs, Powerbar, Clif, Infinit, and various other drink mixes do a pretty good job of getting good ratios of sodium, potassium magnesium, and calcium into your mix. If needed, you may want to add some salt tabs to get your electrolytes levels to their appropriate range. This typically will happen on really hot days, longer races, and to those who sweat a lot of white stuff (salt).
Once you get the hydration piece fixed, it’s important to look at what you’re eating. By fueling the body well, you set the stage for your body to endure the workouts and recover, therefore allowing you to train more and harder. This will effectively have you going faster and at least feeling better while racing and training. Ideally, most athletes should have protein at most meals. This would include foods like meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts/seeds, protein powder, and small amounts of cheese. You will also want some fat and carbohydrate to balance this out. For athletes who train more then once a day, it’s important to keep in mind that some meals will need more time to be more digested than others. As an example, you may not want a huge salad with beans and nuts right before a hard run. Taking note of your system and knowing how sensitive your gut is important in planning your meals throughout the day.
When looking at types of carbohydrates, there are various kinds: whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, beans, bread, tortillas, corn, and others. Each person is different when choosing carbohydrates, but the good news is that you can get them from a variety of ways as listed. Some people do well with grains and other don’t, some people do great with fruits and others do not. There is a lot of rage around low carb diets right now and it’s VERY important to do this properly (if at all). Carbohydrates are meant to hold water for our cells to have time to access the water. They are also great for added fiber and water content, and they are also great at providing satiety when not over done and when proper choices are made. Talk with a healthcare provider about this type of diet if you are interested to make sure you do it properly. Fats are the last macronutrient and I’ve noticed they are often overlooked in the athlete population.
Fats are essential for each cell of the body, making up the majority of each cell membrane. As you can imagine if you have healthy cells then you will have a healthy body. Types of fats can greatly influence your inflammatory pathways. Choose omega 3 oils found in wild salmon, walnuts, flax, chia seed, hemp seed; monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocado, and almonds. This way you can greatly influence inflammation in your system and enhance recovery. Avoid fried foods, cooking at high heats with olive oil (choose avocado oil instead), and hydrogenated oils.
Keep in mind that every person is different and do your best to balance various nutrients and foods with lots of color to get the most from your diet and your body.
Coach Megan Forbes Dopp is a Registered Dietitian and holds a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Colorado State University. She has run a private practice for 11 years and works with a diverse clientele, including many endurance athletes.