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7 Rules to Fuel Properly When Short on Time

By Daniela Villegas | July 09, 2018, 1:59 p.m. (ET)

Balancing triathlon training, work and family is inherently challenging, but as athletes we sometimes drop the ball on nutrition — often referred to as the “fourth discipline.” Failing to follow a good nutrition routine can severely impact your training and performance. Nutrition is crucial when it comes to functioning and performing at your best, and is often the cause when you have shortcomings during competition or training. Triathletes are already pressed for time as it is, but keep these simple, noninvasive rules in mind to keep your nutrition on track.

Don’t Skip Breakfast 

How you start the beginning of each day can set you up for success or failure. You’ve heard it a million times, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it fosters healthy energy levels for the rest of the day. Your breakfast should be a combination of lean protein, good fats and carbohydrates. This may sound like a lot of work to cook or prepare on your own, but we’ve included a few suitable packaged items to help get you off to a good start.

Oats Overnight
This solution makes breakfast easy! This unique spin of overnight oats is packed with protein and laced with healthy fats. Specifically formulated to get you going on the right track each morning, these easy single-serve packets are easy to prepare the night before by simply adding milk. 

Learn more, here

Kite Hill Greek-Style Artisan Almond Milk Yogurt
Kite Hill creates a wide variety of food products that range from ravioli to cream cheese, using almond milk instead dairy. Their yogurt is a great on-the-go product because it has good protein content, it’s easy to digest and totally portable. You just need to bring the spoon!

Learn more, here

Sometimes, there just simply isn’t time to sit down to eat. RXBAR bars are made of wholefood ingredients like egg whites, fruits and nuts. There are 12 grams of protein and three grams of fiber in each bar — both satisfying and energizing when you are short on time.

Learn more, here

Snack Happy

Snacking throughout the day is just as important as regular meals. Protein-packed snacks are key for recovery and repairing damaged muscles and tissues. Bars or protein powder may seem like the most feasible options when it comes to convenience, but we’ve included a few options that are easy to prepare and throw in your bag. 

Hummus is a good source of protein, fiber and healthy fat. This is a snack that can be easily packed in a reusable plastic container or bought in small snack packs at the grocery store. Add some raw veggies like carrots, bell peppers or zucchini for extra flavor and nutrients. 

Hard-boiled Egg
A hard-boiled egg is a complete protein snack that can be prepared in bulk ahead of time. Eggs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties that help repair your joints, muscles and tendons.

Keeping a small container or resealable bag filled with protein-rich nuts like walnuts, peanuts or pistachios on hand is sure way to be satisfied while making a healthy snack choice. These can be kept in your drawer at work or in your car glove box for an emergency calorie stash. 

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Thought this list would only be about food? Wrong. Hydration is one of the most important parts of a healthy nutrition routine. Staying hydrated helps with proper nutrient absorption and helps promote healthy digestion. Pay attention to your thirst level and try to alternate plain water with a low-sugar electrolyte drink to make sure you are on top of keeping all your salts and minerals in check.


Just like when we prepare our gear for workouts, food prep is key for fueling on-the-go. Quick items that aren’t temperature sensitive (like a classic PB&J) are easy to prepare or purchase. Other items, like tuna to throw on top of salad greens, is simple and doesn’t involve too much cleaning. You can also consider making larger batches to prepare and freeze ahead of time like chicken, turkey or fish (salmon, cod, tilapia). Help minimize a bad fuel choice by staying ahead with preparation.

Eat Fruits and Veggies Daily

Eating two to three servings of fruits or veggies daily can help optimize nutrient intake and are perfect for quick snacks when you are short on time and want to avoid anything to heavy before exercising.

  • Cherries are an antioxidant-rich option that aids in recovery and performance. 
  • Bananas are a great pre- and post-workout snack that are portable and easy to digest. They are loaded with potassium and help regulate your digestion. They are also high in vitamin B6 that has anti-inflammatory benefits. 
  • Kale has high levels of vitamins A, B6, K, calcium and iron. This popular vegetable also has anti-inflammatory benefits and contains carotenoids and flavonoids — two powerhouse antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress. Add some tuna and you have a quick, nutritious meal.

Time Your Meals

As triathletes, it’s important to time your meals to benefit your training sessions. Shoot to eat something about one to three hours before training, and eat something about 30 minutes to one hour after working out for optimal post-workout recovery. This is the optimal window for your muscles to accept nutrients and start to recover. 

Always have a Backup

There will be times when things just don’t go as planned, so it’s important to have an emergency stash of bars, nut mix or protein powder in your car, gym or workplace to make sure you always have a good fueling option available — even when you’re having an off day. 

Don’t forget, your food is your fuel and poor training can often be a result of poor eating. Help yourself minimize these bad days by following this short list of rules to keep your nutrition consistent and balanced. Happy training and happy eating!

Daniela Villegas is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. She has over 15 years of competitive swimming experience. She is the assistant coach for Triathlon Training Team, based out of Long Beach, California.