How to Properly Fuel Your Body for a Triathlon

fuel your body for a triathlon

Are you going to be competing in a triathlon soon? Whether it’s your first or your fifteenth, every athlete can use some advice on proper triathlon nutrition.

Eating the right food before your race can help you perform better and avoid running out of steam halfway through. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about the best way for endurance athletes to eat.

To set the record straight once and for all, read on for some simple, straightforward tips on how you can properly fuel your body for a triathlon.

What to Eat While Training

In the months leading up to your race, follow these guidelines to make sure you’ll have enough energy to make it through your workouts. Eating according to these guidelines will also help reduce inflammation in the body, which can slow recovery times and weaken the immune system.

Eat Real Foods

Limit frozen, packaged, and otherwise processed foods and drinks during this time. These foods and drinks are loaded with inflammatory ingredients that won’t do your body any favors on race day.

Focus on eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, high-quality meats, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado. Skip processed oils (vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, etc.) as they’re highly inflammatory and are loaded with unhealthy trans fats.

Eat Lots of Produce

Make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables at this point in your training. Try to consume a variety of colors. This will help you ensure you’re getting a wide range of antioxidants and nutrients that your body needs to reduce oxidative damage and inflammation.

Many fruits and vegetables are also rich in fiber, which is great for helping you feel satisfied and promoting healthy gut bacteria.

Eat Moderate Amounts of Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient, and your body needs it to rebuild muscles. But, some athletes go overboard on protein.

Remember that you only need to eat between .5 and .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 150 pound woman, this would be somewhere between 75 and 97.5 grams per day.

On the flip side, you may be worried about not getting enough protein. This often happens to vegetarian and vegan athletes. If this is the case for you, remember that you can get protein from legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

What to Eat the Day Before Your Race

On the day before your race, you’ll want your diet to be high in carbohydrates and low in fat. This will help you ensure you have enough glycogen stored in your body to fuel you through the triathlon.

Your last meal of the day should be especially high in carbs and low in fat. For example, you may want to eat pasta with a marinara sauce that’s made with low-fat meat (lean ground beef, lean ground turkey, ground chicken, etc.). Have some white bread on the side for extra carbs.

Another good option could be a lean piece of meat (chicken, turkey, etc.) with white rice or white potatoes on the side.

Make sure you’re also avoiding high-fiber foods, as they may cause you to feel overly full or sluggish.

You don’t have to stuff yourself with these high-carb, low-fat foods, but make sure you’re satisfied.

It’s also important to avoid introducing any new foods the day before your race. You’re going to be going through an intense experience the next day, and you don’t want any unfamiliar foods messing with your system and throwing you off your game.

Finally, make sure you don’t overhydrate. Drink water, of course, but don’t drink so much that you have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Remember, a good night’s sleep is crucial if you want to perform your best.

What to Eat the Day of Your Race

On the morning of your race, eat a light breakfast. A good option might be a bagel with a little bit of creamy peanut or almond butter. You’ll probably also want some coffee or caffeinated tea to give you an energy boost.

About an hour before your race, you may want to eat another high-carb snack or sip on a sports drink with some sugar in it. This will help restore any glycogen that was depleted during the night and will help you maintain stable blood sugar levels.

During your race, you’ll probably also want some simple carbohydrates — preferably in liquid form — to help delay glycogen depletion and give you the energy you need to keep going.

What to Eat After Your Race

What you eat when the race is over matters, too! Eating the right foods after your race will promote faster recovery and help you restore all the energy you expended.

A good post-race meal is one that contains plenty of carbs (about 1 gram per kilogram of bodyweight) and a moderate amount (6-20 grams) of protein. Good examples might be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some yogurt with granola, or some cheese and crackers.

This combination of carbohydrates and protein will help promote muscle repair, minimize inflammation, and restore muscle glycogen.

A couple of hours later, you can eat another snack with a decent amount of carbohydrates, healthy fat, and lean protein. Eggs and toast, Greek yogurt with fruit and granola, or a banana with peanut or almond butter are all good choices.

The rest of your meals should be low-glycemic (meaning they won’t cause a significant blood sugar spike). You can also add some red meat to provide yourself with a good source of protein and iron.

Looking for More Tips on How to Fuel Your Body for a Triathlon?

Do you have more questions about how to fuel your body for a triathlon? Are you interested recipes and simple meal ideas to make sure you’re getting a sufficient amount of nutrients leading up to the race?

If so, check out the other articles in our Health and Fitness section. You’ll find all the information you need here to make sure you’re nourished and ready to thrive on race day.