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Fueling for Triathlon Training: What to Eat and Drink 

Fueling your body for triathlon training is an essential skill to master.

What you eat and drink before, during, and after your activities will make a big difference in how you feel and perform.

I’ll give you all the secrets to succeed in your triathlon training adventure in this blog post!

What to eat before a triathlon workout

Eat a light meal or snack 1-2 hours before your workout. It will ensure your energy stores are filled up.

  • Choose foods that are easy to digest and give you sustained energy, such as oatmeal, toast with peanut butter, or a banana.
  • If you are working out first thing in the morning, have a small breakfast like a yogurt or piece of fruit.
  • If you have a sensitive stomach, an energy gel can be used. This is especially good before runs as your stomach is more sensitive. 
Handing over water battle

What should I drink during a triathlon workout?

You should drink plenty of water. If it’s a longer race, you can supplement with electrolyte or energy drinks.

  • Water (obviously). However, during longer sessions, other hydration sources should be utilized. 
  • Electrolyte drinks can help you stay hydrated and perform better. 
  • Energy drinks with plenty of sugar provide energy for longer sessions. Sports drinks typically also have electrolytes in them.

What to eat and drink after a triathlon workout

You should drink plenty of water to replace what you have lost through sweat.

  • Eat a meal or snack within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Ideally, a carbohydrate-rich snack to refuel your glycogen storage.
  • Include protein in your post-workout meal or snack to help repair and rebuild your muscles.

Periodized Nutrition For Triathlon Training

Periodized nutrition is a template that aligns your diet with the increasing intensity of your training plan. It is divided into four phases in the case of nutrition: base, build, competition, and transition.

Periodized nutrition is an essential part of any triathlon training plan. There are four phases of periodized nutrition: The preparation phase, the build phase, the competition phase, and the recovery phase. Each phase has its own goals and objectives, and athletes should follow a nutritious diet that supports their training goals. By following a periodized nutrition plan, athletes can ensure that they perform their best during each stage of training.

Base Phase

The first phase of periodized nutrition is the Base Phase. This phase is when you are building a good foundation for your training. During this phase, your workouts will be relatively easy. You will primarily be focusing on increasing your mileage or hours. Your diet should reflect this as well: you should be eating plenty of healthy carbohydrates to help you build muscle and endurance.

You should eat plenty of healthy carbs like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Avoid processed foods and sugary snacks. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.

Tips during the base phase:

  1. Make sure you take in enough calories to support your training volume and intensity.
  2. Eat balanced meals with plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
  3. Avoid eating empty calories from sugary snacks and drinks.
  4. Drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day.

The building fase

The second phase of triathlon training is the build period. This phase is eight weeks long. During this time, athletes will focus on increasing their training volume while still maintaining a high level of intensity. 

This phase aims to increase an athlete’s endurance and aerobic capacity. 

What to eat and how much: Athletes in the build phase should eat a high carbohydrate and protein diet. They should aim to consume sufficient calories to match the intensity of their workout schedule. Some athletes consume around 4,000 and 6,000 calories per day, with at least 50 percent of their calories coming from carbohydrates. 

Athletes should also get enough protein to help them rebuild muscle tissue after workouts. Good protein sources include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based proteins like legumes and soy.

To help you train more efficiently and stay at high levels through your sessions, most experts recommend increased carbohydrates in your food intake. This means that general meals will include carbohydrate-rich sources such as pasta or rice. 

Tips during the build phase:

  1. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially if you are training in hot weather.
  2. Consume a carbohydrate and protein snack within 30 minutes after completing a workout.
  3. Make sure to get enough sleep – between 7 and 8 hours per night.

The competition Phase

The final phase of triathlon training is the competition period. This phase is four weeks long, leading up to a race. During this time, athletes will focus on honing their skills and technique. They will also taper their training volume to prepare for race day. This phase aims to peak an athlete’s performance to compete at their best. 

During the competition phase, athletes should continue to eat a nutritious diet and get enough protein to help repair and rebuild muscles after workouts. It’s also recommended to do carbohydrate loading. You can read more about that in our guide on carbohydrate intake for triathletes.

Protein needs are typically higher during this phase due to the increased training volume and intensity. Aim for 1.2-1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, or about 84-112 grams for a 150-pound person.

Good protein sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, legumes, and soy.

In addition to protein, athletes need to get enough carbohydrates to fuel their training. The American Dietetic Association recommends 5-7grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day or 350-500 grams for a 150-pound person.

Tips during the competition phase: 

Eat a pre-race meal or snack high in carbs and low in fat to give you energy without weighing you down.

  • During long races, such as half-ironman and ironman distance events, make sure to fuel with carbohydrates to keep your energy levels up.
  • Experiment with different foods and drinks during training to know what works for you on race day.
  • Stay hydrated throughout your training and on race day by drinking plenty of fluids, especially water.

Recovery Phase

The recovery period is an essential part of any training plan. This phase is four weeks long. During this time, athletes will focus on restoring their energy levels and rebuilding their muscles. They will also take some time off from formal training to allow their body to recover fully. 

Include a mix of carbohydrates and protein in your meals and snacks for recovery. Good options include:

  • A protein shake with a banana
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Omelet with whole-grain toast
  • Salmon burger with a side of sweet potato fries
  • Burrito bowl with brown rice and black beans

Tips during the recovery phase:

  1. Eat various nutrient-dense foods to get the most bang for your buck in recovery.
  2. Time your meals and snacks around your training to eat when you need it most.
  3. Ensure adequate protein in your diet to help muscle repair and growth.

Final words

You’ve now learned how to fuel your body as a triathlete. The most important thing you can do is listen to your body and experiment with different foods and drinks to find out what works best for you. By fueling your body correctly, you’ll be able to train harder and achieve your triathlon goals.

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