For triathletes, training for three sports in one across the week places a really high demand on the body’s energy stores, so it’s essential to fuel the body with the right food at the right time. This will ensure you are able to sustain work throughout your sessions and maintain energy over the training week.
Why is fuelling for triathlon training so important?
Fuelling is crucial for optimal performance in training for many reasons, including;
- Delaying onset of fatigue
- Stabilising blood glucose levels
- Enhancing and maintaining concentration
- Aiding recovery
- Supporting consistency in training
So, what are the fundamentals of nutrition for triathlon training?
On a whole, the training diet for a triathlete should be varied and periodised to training needs for the day, week or phase of the training program. This can be done successfully and effectively by following the following fuelling principles.
Firstly, ensure you are fuelling for the work you are going to do
For example, this means, increasing your fuel (carbohydrate) intake for higher training sessions, days or phases. Fuelling for the work you are going to do refers to consuming adequate fuel for that particular session. Carbohydrate is your body’s preferred fuel source. To perform at high intensities or exercise for long periods of time over the training week, consuming adequate carbohydrate, at the right times, is essential.
The second fundamental principle of fuelling is all about the “when”
It is important to select the right fuel source at the right time. Further, the most appropriate selection and carbohydrate type will change as training nears closer. This is because food consumed closer to training will have less time to be broken down by digestive system. If foods high in fibre, fat or protein are consumed too close to the time of training, this can cause stomach upset and also make it more difficult for the body to access the required fuel. A simple timeline which can be followed is.
What to eat before triathlon training and when to eat it
2-4 HRS PRE-TRAINING
If training is later in the day, this will allow you to include a balanced, main meal which contains a source of low-GI, wholegrain carbohydrate, lean protein, colour from fruits or vegetables and a source of healthy fats. An example might be a chicken, salad and avocado wholegrain roll. This will sustain your energy for the hours leading in to training and these foods will have adequate time to break down before you commence your session. The ideal timing for this meal will however, depend on your own tolerance, so practise your timing to find the ideal time for your main meal.
1-2 HRS PRE-TRAINING
This window is all about fuelling your carbohydrate stores, whilst placing minimal load on your digestion. At this point, including a high-GI, high carb snack that is moderate in protein, fat and fibre is ideal. For example, Greek yoghurt, granola and fruit, a piece of fruit or a fruit smoothie.
WITHIN 1HR OF TRAINING
This window is an opportunity to further top up your carbohydrate stores. As there won’t be enough time for complex digestion, it’s important to keep this option rich in high-GI carbohydrates and low in protein, fat and fibre. Some great options include fruit (such as banana) or toast or pikelets with jam or honey.
It is important to note that pending the duration and effort required for your session, it is likely that you may only need one of the snacks mentioned above, with the option to choose which fits into your schedule more easily. If your session is a particularly long or difficult session, or if you simply need a snack to top up energy before the session.
Taking the time to plan your pre-training fuel has the potential to significantly enhance your performance. Remember – the key to successful training is to select the right foods, at the right time.