How Much Is Too Much Weight Loss In A Week N Is for Nutrition in Triathlon Training

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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 of amateur triathlon. Professional triathletes are hypersensitive to the need for nutrition both during training and during the race. However, amateur triathletes tend to be lax in their nutrition or do not plan their diet sufficiently and thus suffer the consequences of poor performance. If you really want to be successful in a triathlon, you need to focus on your nutrition to get the best results.

PERIODIZATION

The first aspect of nutrition is periodization. It is very difficult to be on a strict diet in training all year round. Personally, I have to have moments where I “let go of the belt” 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 tapering on race day, you can be very strict with your diet for about 8-12 weeks before race day. This gives you plenty of time to shed the excess weight you’re carrying and to maximize your training days with quality foods. You can take a reward week after the race to eat some extra food or indulge in food that just isn’t part of your strict training diet. You shouldn’t feel bad about this cheat period and go enjoy a great desert. Once that cheat week or cheat day is over, jump back into your stricter diet and prepare for your next race. It’s important to enjoy some light meals in the offseason, but be careful, you can gain too much weight in the offseason.

TRAINING NUTRITION

Every athlete varies greatly in what they eat during training. Some of the basic ingredients of a good diet are quality carbohydrates (no McDonald’s), quality proteins such as fish, chicken and lean meat, fruits (often neglected) and vegetables. Some triathletes become so neurotic about these different aspects that they measure everything. For someone who is very busy, this is difficult, but once you find a pattern of eating well, you will be able to establish a good diet for training. Don’t “diet” by minimizing your calories so far that your workouts end in weakness or “bonking.” Eat 6-7 times a day with quality snacks such as fruit, low-fat cheese bars or protein bars. Make sure to drink plenty of water as your workout will require extra water to avoid dehydration. Finally, choose one nutritional formula and stick to it instead of trying so many different fads.

RACING NUTRITION

With every triathlon you participate in, you will have certain nutritional issues to deal with. For sprints and Olympic/international distance events, you will probably only need a pre-race meal. For long races like a half ironman or a full ironman, you will not only need a meal before the race, but also a nutrition plan during the race. I currently consume 2,250 calories of juice around 2:30-3:00 on race day. An hour before the race, I eat a whole bagel with cinnamon and raisins. I then use PowerBar Powergel Tangerine flavored gels before and during the race. I usually use the 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 gel intervals above. I also use Hammer Nutrition FIZZ in my bike water bottles. The process of finding this nutritional blend has been going on for the last 6 years. Sometimes you find things out through trial and error, like my need for Accelerade during a race last year.

Nutrition is so important to overall performance. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Find some best practices and start a trial process for your own needs.

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