Triathlon training takes time and commitment. If you are asking your body to do this type of training, you must fuel it well. Even though it’s still preseason, it isn't too early to get going with your nutrition plan. Here are five things you should do now before you step on the starting line.
1. Increase your fuel to cover your training
Every day, you need to cover for what you run, bike or swim. This is not just during the workout (though that is important too), but at meals and snacks outside of your workouts as well. Many endurance athletes do not eat enough to cover for their training, which makes it hard for the body to recover and prepare for the next workout. This can lead to injuries or illness during training. A rule of thumb is that you burn about 100 kcal per mile you run. Add this number to a base of 1,500-1,800 kcal daily for metabolic functions and daily activities outside of training. This is the total you should be eating each day.
2. Increase your fluids to support efficient fuel usage
Nutrients are metabolized and transported throughout the body using water. Therefore, make sure you are drinking fluids throughout the day (again, not just during workouts) to better help the body use that food you are eating. Not sure if you are drinking enough? Use the color of your pee as a guide. When you pee (which you should be doing multiple times daily), it should be a light-yellow color (think lemonade).
3. Check out the race course
How can you train well if you don't know what to expect? It is great to know if a course is hilly or flat, but it is also important to know where the aid stations are located and what each aid station will provide. Check it out now so you know what type of products to try out. Race day is not a good day to try a brand-new product handed to you on course.
4. Practice your plan
Once you know what the course provides, you should be training with those products (unless you intend on carrying your own fuel). You need to create your race nutrition plan and start practicing it weeks in advance to make sure it is spot-on come race day. A general starting point is 8-12 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes and 30-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour. The longer your race, the more carbohydrate you should take in hourly. So, IRONMAN triathletes should take in closer to 90gm/hr whereas some marathoners can get away with 30gm/hr. Not sure where you fit? Aim for 60gm/hr, train it and adjust based on energy levels and stomach tolerance.
5. Make sleep a priority
While this isn't technically a nutrition-focused point, good sleep plays a huge role in recovery. Make sure you are sleeping 7-9 hours each night on average. This will help your body most effectively use the food you eat for recovery and rebuilding overnight.
Kate Davis is the owner of RDKate Sports Nutrition Consulting, where she offers athletes all over the world expertise in sports nutrition, intuitive eating and weight management for sport. Kate holds a master’s degree in nutrition with an emphasis in exercise physiology. She is both a registered dietitian and one of only 650 RDs in the United States to be board-certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. For more information, visit her website at RDKate and her blog, Eat to Compete, and connect with her on Twitter or Facebook. Contact Kate directly at YourRDKate@gmail.com.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.