Given the mixed messaging in the media, quick fix pills or plans at every turn, and diets your friends or family swear by, it is nearly impossible to keep it simple when it comes to nutrition. Here are a few common nutrition mistakes along with reasons why these are mistakes and not strategies that work.
1. Living by the numbers. Caloric needs for triathletes can vary so greatly. Your focus should be on paying attention to hunger and full cues, which will support the dynamic nutritional demands of training and recovery.
2. The “I’m training, so …” — let’s just nip the concept of using training as an excuse to eat whatever you want. While it’s true that you may have room for an extra serving at dinner, training should not serve as your cover-all for a low-quality diet. Instead, fuel your body with adequate nutrients including lots of fruits and vegetables to provide the anti-inflammatory and energy boosting effects you have additional requirements for as a result of training. Stick with the 90/10 rule to continue enjoying treats in moderation.
3. Drinking sports drink like a boss. Balance with water, enjoy a good pre- or post-workout meal or snack, and call it good. You’ll want to fuel for long training sessions, but this can be accomplished by real food sources too.
4. Going low-sodium. You have probably heard that low-sodium diets are heart healthy. Current research and emerging recommendations are liberalizing the recommendation of sodium for the average (non-athlete) adult, and this does not take into consideration the increased sodium requirements for athletes. Heavy and/or salty sweaters may need to supplement with sodium around training. Sodium losses from training can typically be replenished by consuming salty snacks in the recovery phase and by generally not avoiding sodium in foods.
5. Labeling foods. Categorizing foods as good or bad tends to backfire, to say the least. All foods can be enjoyed with a mindful approach to food. Follow the 90/10 rule if you need a bit of structure: 90 percent of intake should directly support daily requirements, and 10 percent of intake allows you some wiggle room to fit in the pleasurable aspect of eating and drinking.
Becca Rick, MS, RD, is a sport dietitian and Certified Level I Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist. She has worked with multiple U.S. Olympic sports, is a consulting sport dietitian with eNRG Performance and is a wellness consultant/RD with GBS Benefits based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. To get in touch with Becca, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.