Triathlon Nutrition - An A-Z Guide
To Eating For A Triathlete

nutrition advice for a triathlete



AVOID EATING AND DRINKING - swim to bike. After the swim avoid fluids for 5-10 minutes until you get into your cycling. Unless you have swallowed salt water then try and dilute with plain water or fruit juice. Seasoned Ironman competitors have this in T1 or in swim to bike bag as a safety backup plan. Try and avoid drinking or using gels after the bike if running straight away in training or racing. Let the blood supply be allowed to switch to the different muscle groups. Blood supply is required for digestion, will demand some of the blood supply needed for exercise.

BAD NUTRITION - fruit, organic foods, home made smoothies and healthy energy bars are helpful for anyone training more than 7 hours a week to keep your energy levels topped up. They are not quick fix foods and will not offset and cancel out earlier poor nutrition. For good health and spot you need to eat carbohydrate and protein and healthy fats.

BALANCED diet does not need extra protein or vitamins, taking vitamins if you feel the sniffles or a cold coming take Echinacea, Zinc and vitamin C.

BEDSIDE - Have a bottle of water by your bed and have a drink if you wake up during the night. Keeping hydrated will speed up muscle recovery and help glycogen recovery.

BEFORE THE START - have a good breakfast as much as you can manage to top up your liver glycogen stores that would have dropped while you were asleep. Aim to eat 2-3 hours before the start time. Everyone is different in what they eat and how long they are able to eat before a competition.

If you have to eat one hour before training, have an easily digestible bar fruit gels or 750ml of sports drink tops up your energy tank.


BIKE NUTRITION - Aim for liquids for first 20-45 minutes then switch to solids until last 30-45 minutes then again use sports drinks ready for the switch from bike to run.

CAFFEINE is a neuromuscular stimulant. Found in coffee.

CARBOHYDRATE consumption is essential for athletes. We all have our own individual requirements. These needs will change as we develop as athletes, eat real unprocessed food. For all athletes, appropriate sources of carbohydrates are essential for good health and performance. Once you change to high intensity training you will find you need high glycemic carbohydrate foods after exercise.

CONSTANT energy levels. It’s not the volume but quality consumption. If you are an age group triathlete work 30 plus hours a week resulting in less recovery time avoid ice cream pizza, and sweets.

DAY BEFORE - have your last main meal totally of carbohydrates around midday, this will give you time to fully digest your food. Should help you get to sleep early.

DURING THE IRONMAN - bike section aim for 30-40% of your estimated calories per hour your need to cycle. Anymore and your working muscles will have less blood supply and any less food you will have less energy in the run. Alternatively aim for 2 calories per pound of weight or (4.5 calories per kilo). This is between 230- 400 calories per hour.

EARLY MORNING TRAINING - make sure you eat well the night before. Carbohydrate and protein. Always start the morning with high glycogen stores. Eat when you wake eat some Fruit (apple or banana) yoghurt fruit juice. Unable to eat much first thing then have a sports drink before and during exercise.

FAT PHOBIA - Good fats are essential for recovery and health.

EVENING TRAINING - If you plan on training in the evening consider an afternoon snack.

GRAZE EATING - after exercise your digestion is heightened and declines for about four hours. Performance in livening training and racing has been shown to decline after training/racing with nutrition. Eating keeps up energy levels and speed and is more beneficial. Avoid fasting or going long periods without food. GRAZE rather than monster meals avoiding 3 hours of no or limited intake when awake.

HEATHLY foods non-processed and you will see benefits regarding health, fitness and recovery. Eat correctly rather than spending time on calorie counting.

ILL OR INJURED - athletes who train hard and who have stable weight but eat very few calories can be living a below their requirements. These athletes never reach their potential. They have slow recovery, always fatigued and often sick.

LEARN & LISTEN - take note of what your body signals are telling you. If you fill full you are balancing your needs correctly if you feel hungry then you are either not eating enough or the body is craving for variety.

LITTLE AND OFTEN - aim for 7-9 small meals a day.

LOW FAT FOODS - Fat content of meats, [raw] Beef 8g Lamb 5g Pork 4g. Milk 600ml [1 pint] Sheep milk 35g Cows milk 23g goats milk 20g. Please check the labels as country of origin and even the same brands can change.

MENU TIMETABLE -training can be the easy part, the important challenge is eating between training to recover fully. Swimming cycling and running once twice or even three times a day is a problem for you to take in adequate nutrition & plan your meal times. How easy hard or long you train determines what you need.

NIGHT BEFORE - stick to favorite tried and tested foods that are low in fibre. I have found that bread, pasta, potatoes, rice with a mild sauce and a salad is enough.

OVER TRAINING is not fully understood but over reaching, without adequate recovery, glycogen depletion and intense training as factors. So when you feel very jaded make sure you have consumed extra carbohydrate refrain from intensity training or enjoy some well-earned easy recovery sessions.

QUICKER RECOVERY - the better you are at proper refueling the quicker you will recover.

RECOVERY NUTIRITON - next you need to look at recovery nutrition. This helps the speed of recovery and gets you ready for the next session. Aim for 50-100 grams of carbohydrates and up to 20 grams of protein. If exercise is planned with next 3 hours aim for foods that you can digest easily and quickly. For example bananas bread jam and peanut butter.

SIMPLE SUGARS for a quick fix, this will not help because this removes most of the micronutrients essential for recovery. Aim to eat fruits, good fats, animal protein required for recovery and health.

SIZE - The correct size meal before is usually the challenge. For most it is easier to have a larger meal for cycling than swimming than running.

SOLID FOODS - eat solids on all bike rides so you never get hungry on bike, like bananas and energy bars. Liquids do not satisfy you as much and you can tend to take in too many calories.

TRIED AND TESTED - most important of all use the energy drinks and energy bar products that the event is providing for at least 8-12 weeks. This is when you are in your key training phase and you will be able to see if they help or disagree with you.

VITAMIN C - Lemons contain vitamin C no cholesterol no sodium and no fat and have about 14-18 calories in a medium size lemon also with a medium size fresh lemon should have around 30% of your recommended daily requirements needed to keep healthy and protect the body's cells.

When buying lemons pick thick skinned ones for besting or thin skinned for juicy ones. Without any bruising or soft parts. Add lemon juice just before eating as vitamin C is destroyed by heat and cooking. Lemon juice can prevent oxidation of other fruits and vegetables.

WEIGHT CHANGE - a rapid loss or change in weight (up or down) is typically a sign of a person that is under extreme stress. Low volume days’ 4-5 meals high volumes more little and often up to 8 meal/snacks. Low Gi to keep blood insulin levels stable avoiding also helps improve fat for fuel.

WIND - Passing wind a lot means you are not assimilating your food and it also adds extra strain on your body.