To live the life of a triathlete is no easy feat. Triathletes must constantly train their bodies, as well as their minds, to withstand gruelling daily training sessions full of sweat and determination, mastering swimming, cycling and running for one sporting event. Fitness is key to a successful triathlon.
It may sound scary to you now, but there are many ways in which you could alter your workout, and eating habits, to align with that of a typical triathlete.
Whether you’re looking to improve your diet, shake up your routine or even prepare for the life of a triathlete yourself, there are plenty of ways in which you could start living like one.
To get a better understanding of how these athletes live, it is best to take a look at how they eat.
The Structure Of A Triathlete Diet
Firstly, a triathlete diet doesn’t simply consist of any meal. To follow their dietary requirements, you must be prepared to withstand their specific food needs. Though not to worry, you may be surprised at what meals triathletes usually eat.
As with any meal plan, triathletes usually split their food into four main categories; breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and evening meals at the end of the day with a few snacks in between.
You may not believe that there are healthy snacks out there for people training for a triathlon, but it is true. With the right planning, these meals could slip neatly between workout sessions, maybe even before, such as a small pre-workout snack.
These four categories may seem simple, and most people should be following a similar routine in their daily lives anyway, but we know how tempting it is to skip breakfast if you find yourself in a hurry, or even eat foods that can do more damage to your body than good.
If you want to train like a triathlete, then skipping meals or eating too much unhealthy food could be detrimental to your training.
Why It Is Important To Give Your Body Fuel
Think of food as fuel for your body. When some think of food like this, they may assume that the more food you consume, the longer you will be able to workout. But this, unlike how genuine fuel works, is false.
The key to understanding food for a triathlete diet is knowing what effects different foods can have. Some, as an example, may give you an energy boost, while others build up healthy fats in your body.
The main goal of food for a triathlete is to give the body the nutrition and energy it needs to exercise for long periods of time.
Skipping a meal, for this very reason, can heavily affect your workouts, as your body won’t be able to store enough energy for the day for improved performance.
The same applies to those not looking to pursue the exercise side of a triathlete’s routine. We need more energy to keep focused and active during the day.
How Should A Triathlete Training Schedule Work?
Most athletes tend to follow a strict training schedule. While following these are recommended for those looking to lose weight or live healthier, it can still be useful to know how a triathlete would exercise between meals.
How Many Hours?
On average, while it is sometimes recommended to put absurdly high numbers of hours into the physical training sessions, it is mostly recommended to spend about 5-15 hours a week on triathlon training.
It is important to account for any off days you might have following the training plan, or the inevitable lazy days that usually barge in unannounced.
At the end of the day, even athletes, or those training like one, are human and need to slowly build up a tolerance to a high training load, not jump into the deep end where you are bound to struggle. Set small goals, and this change will feel a lot easier.
Work Around Mealtimes
A training session should usually fit between mealtimes. This way, your body has time to digest the foods you consume.
Generally, it is recommended that in order to be safe and avoid any complications in your next training session, you should wait for at least a couple of hours after eating before beginning any key sessions that would require a lot of energy output from you.
The side effects, while not too serious or out of the realm of what most of us have experienced before, can tend to be rather disruptive.
Vomiting, nausea and acid reflux are just a selection of how the body usually reacts to carrying out any kind of training regimen on a full stomach.
On and Off Seasons
It is also important to consider the season and off season of a triathlon period, which can help set a course for a meal or training plan.
A triathlon racing season begins in March and finishes in October for many places in the Northern hemisphere, while those in the Southern hemisphere start their triathlon season in November and end it in May. Within the ‘season’ months, triathletes use this time to train and take part in triathlon races.
What To Eat During Mealtimes
To start the day, the first objective is to give your body its fuel. Eating the right foods can offer many athletes benefits to their workouts and for most people a boost health-wise. The goal of a triathlon nutrition plan is to eat foods which may help boost performance, with an emphasis on maintaining high energy levels and a high protein and carbohydrate intake.
As part of your morning meal, attempt to eat foods that will give you a decent intake of energy to set a precedent for your day; such as a cereal, yoghurt or even eggs or omelettes.
Not only are these selections nice to have for breakfast, but also give plentiful energy, which is exactly what a triathlete-in-training needs.
Don’t be afraid to pair these foods together to enjoy unique and beneficial foods that will help to energise you until your next training session. A few examples could be pairing cereal or porridge with a side of fruits or nuts, or eggs on toast.
Even with dietary requirements to follow, it all comes down to personal preference and what works well with your tastes.
When it comes to an appropriate lunch, the options for your meal only increase. With the understanding that the food should be rich in carbohydrates, you must aim to consume natural sources of vitamins and minerals.
Many triathletes eat nutrient-dense foods, such as vitamins and minerals, to not only boost the immune system but also help turn food into energy.
As well as this, it is vital to keep up a high protein intake to help with muscle prep and more importantly muscle repair. Foods high in protein, such as lean meats, poultry and dairy products should suffice. A few well-known examples which could easily be incorporated into your lunch include chicken, beef and pork, which we offer here at Athleat to get you started on your journey.
A few other alternatives could include wraps and soups if you find yourself needing to eat something on a simpler, smaller scale. Though like breakfast, lunch should never be skipped during the day, as it can lead to a lack of energy or focus. Two factors a triathlete must always consider.
In the evening, what athletes eat can be more important than any other meal during the day, as you need to assure that you fill your body with enough energy to use the following morning. Otherwise, athletes run a risk of falling behind on their schedule or having to dim their training intensity, which can have an effect on the rest of the day or even week after.
Like the lunch options, the choices for the evening meal are varied. It is still recommended that you be mindful of what you eat during the evening, though eating healthy foods may not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing meal to end the day with. Despite this, we recommend foods such as steak or potatoes incorporated into your meal to get the most from your food.
Snacks are well known for being notoriously unhealthy, simply because of how tempting it is to treat ourselves once too often. Not every snack can be bad for our health, however, when training for a triathlon, athletes need to snack to keep their blood sugar levels at a steady level.
For simple snacks, try to eat nuts, fruit and other whole foods to keep up a healthy diet. Attempting to keep your body in its optimal condition won’t give you the results you are after if the snacks only serve to pile on unwanted body fat or deplete the energy the body demands.
Just as vital to the triathlon diet as much as the food, what you drink can accompany your meal or snacks throughout the day while offering dietary accompaniments your body may need. Asking any athlete what a vital part of a diet is, would give you only one answer; to keep hydrated throughout the day.
While normally the recommended number of drinks per day would sit between six to eight times, athletes need to drink anywhere between twelve to sixteen times a day, according to triathlete news site ‘Trinewbies’. Click here to find out more about the importance of drinking regularly while training like a triathlete.
Energy and Sports Drink
Sports drinks and energy drinks are two popular choices when deciding what to drink under a triathlete diet, mainly due to their ability to replenish glucose levels and electrolytes such as potassium and calcium. These electrolytes are quickly diminished during workout sessions, and so need to be regularly replenished in order for your body to remain healthy and energised for the day ahead.
Another option would be to blend a fruit smoothie, more popularly referred to as a recovery smoothie. These smoothies are usually made to help your body recuperate after a workout, hence its name. Fruits and vegetables are a great addition to almost any diet. So, a fruit smoothie would be a great accompaniment to exercises and a simple fuelling strategy before the next one.
What About Calorie Intake?
Being mindful of what they consume, athletes, especially endurance athletes, tend to aim for a high-calorie intake. A fact not widely known by those not familiar with the triathlon training lifestyle is that eating calorie-dense foods is a much healthier option for athletes than including foods in your diet containing few calories.
In order to stay healthy, general advice for any athlete would be to consume between 3000-4000 calories per day on average, and in order to avoid relative energy deficiency. That may seem like a lot at first, though is all necessary to fuel the body and provide a healthy weight loss.
Of course, we couldn’t possibly leave out a crucial benefit to living on the diet of a triathlete. During triathlon training, it is possible to lose any unwanted body fat that gets stored away rather than burned away through exercise.
Because triathlon training and the diet are built to prepare the body for multiple varied sports, the body not only burns a lot of fat and calories but must also eat a lot of calories too, in order to keep a healthy, steady cycle.
As long as you stick closely to the recommended number of calories per day, and keep to foods rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates, then the body will begin to lose any excess body weight to burn.
But no matter if you plan to follow only the diet, eating a varied number of foods, such as the ones we recommend above, is sure to have a positive impact on your body and body composition.
Why Carbs Are More Vital Than You May Think
We have previously mentioned that an athlete needs many ways to gather energy, and one of the easier ways to gain that energy is from the food we eat. Carbs are largely considered a great source of energy, making foods high in carbs a worthy addition to this diet.
One common misconception about carbs and protein-rich foods is that athletes will eat them regularly throughout the year. This is actually false, however, as many athletes tend to avoid protein in the coming days before their triathlon, in order to focus on loading up the body with carbs in preparation.
For the most part, training in preparation for a triathlon means finding a good balance of healthy fats, protein and carbs to prevent any imbalances in what your body needs for this demanding training. Carbs can be vital to the last stretch of any triathlon training, and so should be looked out for in foods such as meats, yoghurts and potatoes.
Though careful not to run into unhealthy carbs along the way. Carbs from whole foods are widely considered healthy, though refined carbs are mostly found in flour and rice. To stay healthy during this diet, we recommend avoiding refined carbs as much as possible, in order to build up healthier carbs that will help you, rather than set you back.
There are plenty of reasons to give the triathlete diet a try. From following a set routine every day to keeping track of what you eat and how that food benefits your body, there are plenty of perks that come with such a unique dietary plan that is thankfully not just for professional athletes.
At Athleat, we want to help you find great sources of protein to add to your lunches and evening dinners to help you along this new path to the finish line, should you take it. To get stuck in before race day, why not check out our free range chicken, full of protein and nutrients perfect for any athlete-to-be.