The Best Nutrition Plan for a Triathlon

plan for a triathlon

Triathlon training pushes your body to improve your swim form and scratch seconds off your running time.

It transforms how you look and feel too, and not only as a result of workouts.

To correctly plan for a triathlon, you should be focusing on nutrition just as much as exercise. They go hand in hand – the better you eat, the better you train and perform.

But the right nutrition plan may not come as easy to you as a training schedule.

Luckily, we have everything you need to know about preparing your body’s energy for an upcoming triathlon.

Let’s take a look.

A Few Months Out

The best way to plan for a triathlon is to start way ahead of race day.

No matter if you are a race veteran or a rookie, you need this time to properly prepare. Training should be no shorter than six weeks and can be up to a few months in advance.

Either way, remember your nutrition plan starts when your workout routine does.

More Natural, Less Frozen

First things first – you have to cut down on processed foods.

Try eating as many whole foods as possible. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

You don’t have to ditch your favorite junk food right away. But you should make a strong effort.

For extra help, try following the 80/20 rule of dieting. This leaves you enough room to be flexible while still establishing a plan for proper eating.

A great way to stick to this is by shopping at fresh markets or on the outer edge of your grocery store. Most stores are laid out with all the soda, chips, and frozen pizzas in the middle.

Do a lap around these to find fresh foods and good proteins without getting distracted.

Plan and Prep

Once you’ve done your grocery shopping, leave some room in your day to prepare the week’s meals.

Getting in this habit will help you throughout triathlon training.

More importantly, it leaves no room for excuses like not having enough time to cook or eating the free pizza at work.

Meal prepping is your key to staying on top of a good diet. It allows you to plan meals around your workouts and busy schedule as you maintain your energy levels.

One Month Out

As the day of your triathlon gets closer, it’s time to buckle down on your nutrition. This is when every calorie matters and the kind of calorie it is as well.

Focus on establishing a good balance of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

Remember, each body’s needs are unique. Either do your research or hire a coach or nutritionist to help you plan.

Keep Your Energy up in Your Workouts

When you plan for a triathlon well ahead of time, your workouts develop in length and intensity. Your nutrition plan should adjust accordingly.

Eat more complex carbs before hitting the gym (or trails, or open water…). These will come in handy to finish strong after your body uses its immediate energy.

If you’re practicing bricking or doing another extensive workout, practice eating in the middle of training.

This gets you into the habit of eating on the go, which you’ll need to do on the course.

Test Your Race Plan

Speaking of course nutrition, don’t wait until a week before to start planning for the triathlon. Set aside time in your schedule to rehearse the full length of your race.

Bring along different snacks each time to see which work best for you.

These energy resources should be easy to eat on the go and packed with the proper nutrients. There are many sports gels and fluids you can try. Maybe even pack your favorite nut bar and see how you feel.

Don’t forget to think about hydration, either.

This is an essential part of triathlon gear and completes the ultimate plan for a triathlon.

Weigh yourself before and after your test runs to see how many fluids you lose. Also, pay attention to your water intake before, during, and after workouts.

The Week Before

All the preparations you’ve done have a few more adjustments in the week before a race.

Do these two things to make sure you’re ready to go.

Hydrate and Carb Load

Cut caffeine and alcohol. These tend to decrease your hydration levels, which take a while to restore.

Instead, keep water with you at all times. Drink enough throughout the day and you’ll feel the difference on the course.

Along with more water, increase your carbs one more time. This is about more than eating a carb during workouts.

The week before requires carb loading – the process of eating high-calorie meals pre-race for more energy day-of. When done correctly, it can stall fatigue by up to 20% longer.

Don’t go crazy with carbs at each meal though, especially if you’re tapering workouts to store energy. Keep it to a slight increase and you should be okay.

Watch Your Fiber Intake

Good digestion is one of the main reasons to carb load without going overboard.

Your body will still be processing that big plate of pasta you had the night before when you hit the course. It might also be breaking down high-fiber foods, too.

The digestion process can weigh you down and take away the oxygen you’d rather be using throughout the event.

Keep this from happening by eating low-fiber foods in the days leading up.


Recovery is the name of the game on race day, and it comes down to two things.

The first is the snacks you’ve tested and packed for maximum performance. Stick to the plan you made and space out how you consume them.

Also, remember to take care of your body after the race is done. This isn’t the time to eat whatever you want as a celebration. You need to continue taking care of yourself to ensure good muscle recovery.

Try to eat a meal high in protein, complex carbs, and antioxidants. Fiber and fatty acids are great as well.

Together, these work to replenish your glycogen levels and reduce inflammation.

Some good options include rice and beans, a hearty sandwich, or a salad with potatoes and a protein.

More Tips to Plan for a Triathlon

Preparing for a triathlon doesn’t happen overnight.

It takes months of building physical strength, energy levels, and mental endurance.

Thankfully, you don’t have to plan for a triathlon alone.

For more on a complete training diet, check out the best endurance supplements for triathletes.