Triathlete Diet: Nutrition Rules for Endurance Athletes from Top Sports Nutritionists

“Nutrition rules for every Triathlete. How can you make the most out of your diet? Read it below!”

Triathlete Diet

Triathlete Diet

In a sport where food is fuel, we sometimes forget that eating well is more than just bars and salt pills. But let’s do a quick calculation: If you get eight hours of sleep a night, you’re awake for 112 hours a week. A 20-hour/week training regimen leaves you with 92 non-training hours. That’s a good chunk of your waking life not spent eating gels and drinking sports drinks.

As an endurance machine, what you put in your mouth during those 92 hours can make the difference between functioning at your best and getting rusty—or at worst, breaking down. So we consulted six of triathlon’s top nutritionists for their key tenets of everyday nutrition.

1. Eat a quality daily diet
We all love our bars and gels for long rides, but what are we eating when we’re not swimming, biking and running? Matt Fitzgerald, author of “Racing Weight,” says that general health is the foundation of endurance fitness, and a high-quality diet is essential for general health. “Most triathletes struggle to get leaner despite an appetite inflated by heavy training,” Fitzgerald says. “A high-quality diet helps with that by satisfying the appetite in a calorically efficient way.”

How does your diet measure up? Try keeping score with a system like the USDA’s MyPlate Supertracker, or Fitzgerald’s Diet Quality Score in the aforementioned book.

Pay attention if:
→You’re prone to illness and injury
→You’re having trouble achieving body composition goals
You’ve nailed it when:
→Your plate is overflowing with fruits, vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates
→You avoid junk foods (including large amounts of processed energy bars and gels) and fatty foods
→You limit your intake of alcohol to one or two drinks a day and keep caffeine to a minimum

2. Eat enough, starting with breakfast
Think you’re tired because you’re training so much? Think again, and then fix yourself a sandwich. Many endurance athletes, despite fueling their workouts properly while they’re out on the road, finish the day with a caloric deficit. The fear of gaining weight can result in an epidemic of under-fed triathletes.

“Triathletes think performance starts with training, but it starts with fuel,” says sports nutritionist and author Nancy Clark.
Clark’s “Sports Nutrition Guidebook” can help you estimate your daily energy needs, which depend on height, weight loss goals and even physical habits. In the meantime, make sure you get started with a quality breakfast (Clark advises 800 to 1,000 calories, split up between pre-workout, during and after). Your first meal of the day should make up a third to a half of your daily calories, she says, to avoid getting tired in the evening and eating too much or too poorly.

Pay attention if:
→Your workouts aren’t enjoyable and don’t feel like quality sessions
→You think about food all the time
→Your hunger spikes in the evening
You’ve nailed it when:
→Your performance consistently improves
→You recover quickly
→You crave sweets infrequently (people who say they’re addicted to sugar are really just hungry, Clark says)

3. Practice meal timing
Ever attempted a long run after an all-you-can-eat brunch? Then you know that even high-quality foods, if eaten at the wrong time, can do your training more harm than good.

“An athlete should have some sort of nutrition approximately one to three hours before a training session,” says Bob Seebohar, sports dietitian, exercise physiologist, and coach at For short and/or high-intensity sessions under two hours, Seebohar says athletes can benefit from teaching the body to rely on fat stores for energy, which requires consuming fewer carbohydrates. For such sessions, he recommends liquid-based nutrition such as a sports drinks. For sessions more than three hours, Seebohar recommends consuming 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrate one to four hours beforehand.
What you eat after a workout—when the muscles are primed to accept nutrients—matters just as much. The 30 to 60 minutes immediately following long and high-intensity workouts are especially important. Seebohar recomends consuming 1 to 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight and 10 to 25 grams of protein after a workout. Fat, which inhibits carbohydrate absorption, should wait until a few hours later.

Pay attention if:
→You’re prone to GI distress in workouts (can be due to consuming too many carbohydrates)
→You’re low on energy or feel heavy and sluggish before and during workouts

You’ve nailed it when:
→You feel satiated, energetic and light in all your workouts, no matter what time of day

4. Monitor macronutrients
Fueling your body well goes beyond eating your fruits and veggies. Macronutrients—carbohydrates, fats and proteins—have several important functions in the body, and it’s crucial to give your body the right amount of each.

According to Jamie A. Cooper, author of “The Complete Nutrition Guide for Triathletes,” the exact percentages of each will vary depending on what type of triathlete you are; an IRONMAN triathlete will need slightly more carbohydrate (the body’s primary energy source) than a short-course triathlete logging fewer training hours. But as a rule of thumb, he says athletes should aim for getting 45-65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrate, 15-20 percent from protein and 20-35 percent from fat.

Pay attention if:
→You feel low on energy before, during and after your workouts
→You frequently feel fatigued
You’ve nailed it when:
→You recover quickly, even after high-intensity sessions
→You can’t remember the last time you got sick, or injured. More at 6 Nutrition Rules for Endurance Athletes

Check out this video for more Triathlete diet tips:

More Reading for Triathlete here:

About the Author

Leave a Reply 0 comments