— By Diana Fraser
Are you new to triathlon? Welcome! Whether you’re starting the sport for health reasons or to fulfil a lifelong goal of completing a race, it’s important to acknowledge how nutrition plays into reaching your goals. Training gains can be diminished and you won’t see the results you’re looking for if you don’t pay equal attention to the physical and nutritional aspects of the sport. Here are five important rules for all beginner triathletes to keep in mind.
You’ve probably heard it time and time again. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But if you’re up early to work out, you may not feel like eating beforehand. Even if it’s just a piece of fruit or toast, it’s always a good idea to consume something before you get going in the morning (aim for a half hour prior to your workout). For days you don’t train early, keep in mind that breakfast should make up one-third to half of your daily caloric intake. Figure out your nutritional plan with an expert if you’re interested in weight-loss. Based on those numbers, you’ll have a better idea of what foods you could consume for breakfast. We have plenty of healthy breakfast recipe ideas like this one.
2) Don’t be afraid of carbs
Some diets like the paleo/primal diet eliminate most carbs. Triathletes should not fear carbs, even if they’re trying to lose weight. While carbs shouldn’t make up the majority of your diet, they do give you the energy you need to successfully train hard. Each triathlete is different so you should play around with what works best for you. Fruits, sweet potatoes and grains like brown rice and quinoa are some of the healthiest sources of carbs.
As soon as you increase the amount of physical activity in your life, you’re likely to feel more hungry throughout the day. Save yourself money and avoid bad ingredients by packing your own healthy snacks with you for work or school. It takes a little extra time in the morning or night before but by preparing yourself with snacks like trail mix, fruit salad or granola for the day you’ll find yourself less likely to head to the vending machine when hunger hits between meals.
4) Keep a food log
If you’re just starting out with tracking your nutrition, a food log is a great way to stay on track and monitor your habits. It can also help you appropriately time your meals. Those getting in more than one workout per day may struggle to know when to eat and might end up feeling rushed and eating foods that don’t fit with the healthy diet they’re trying to achieve. Write down everything you eat and when you eat it in your food log and use it to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. It’s also a good idea to track your energy levels throughout the day in order to make adjustments if necessary.
What you drink is just as important as what you eat. Do you drink enough water in the day? Proper hydration will help with your digestion and nutrient absorption but poor hydration will prevent you from achieving your goals. There’s a well-known guideline suggesting that eight glasses of water is optimal in a day, but really it depends on the person and their level of activity. Pay attention to your body. Track things like urination and thirst level. For workouts where you’re losing lots of electrolytes be sure to top up. Keep in mind that many packaged sports drinks are high in sugar and unnecessary ingredients so read the labels if you’re being conscious of what exactly you’re consuming.