What To Eat If You’re a Triathlete

triathlete, nutrition, endurance athlete, fuel

If you are a triathlete and you want to do an Ironman competition, then know that you will have an entire day dedicated to competition, burning as many as 10,000 calories and then some, consistently pushing your body to the edge beyond what you believe are the limits. You’ll probably have spend xix months or more of your life dedicated to intense training. This is the Ironman in you.

What drives you to hit the gym at five in the morning or five o’clock in the afternoon after a grueling workday? Only you can decide that. Only you can determine the “why” behind the action. And, that “why” is the most important question of your life.

Whether it is deciding to overcome a severe health condition like Type II diabetes, aggressive cancer, obesity, an addiction such as smoking, or just to live a healthier lifestyle as many so commonly place on their to-do list, the “why” is the key motivating factor in the success of your efforts. The “why” is what gets you through training on days when you don’t feel like it; the “why” keeps your mind focused and keeps the drive alive inside to keep going.

An Ironman competition takes place over 2.4 miles of swimming – often in cold, tumultuous waters – an all-out high-speed bike ride for 112 miles, culminating in a grueling run of 26.2 miles. Some of the fastest completion times on record are 7 hours, 44 minutes, and 29 seconds for men, and 8 hours, 52 minutes, 14 seconds for women. In a competition like this, glycogen stores have never been more important, even during training. During a competition, as many as 8,000 to 10,000 calories will be burned; during training, that number ranges from 500 to 1,000 to 2,000.

RELATED: Get the Competitive Edge with Proper Nutrition

As much as the body needs physical training for an Ironman competition, nutritional training is equally important. Emphasize a consistent diet of 20 percent lean proteins like simple baked chicken and broiled salmon without heavy sauces, 30 percent joint soothing fats from foods like avocado and coconut, and 50 percent energy restoring carbohydrates from vegetables, some fruits, such as broccoli, kale, apples, kiwi; and grains like quinoa and brown rice.

Make recovery meals count by adhering to the balanced 20:30:50 guideline above; drink a restorative smoothie like the Avocado Smoothie (recipe below) immediately following training. The oils in avocado help heal joints, fats replenish needed caloric energy, and vitamin C keeps immunity strong.

Make snacks count by having nutrient-dense foods on hand such as the Coconut Macaroons (recipe below), which provide energy and also boost circulation and athletic performance with maca root powder and cinnamon. Consider adding something like Max Muscle Nutrition’s Joint Relief to your diet to ease joint pain, if needed.

During training, train the body nutritionally by having set meal times, eating nutrient-balanced meals according to the 20:30:50 guideline, and being consistent with nutritive energy-replenishing snacks. Before race day, don’t over think the food. Stick to what you trained on. Avoid eating too much fiber the morning of and avoid eating start line snacks that have not been a part of your regular diet during training. Take your own snacks to the start line.

During the race, consume all-natural nutrient gels, orange slices, or other quick energy-boosting food every 30 minutes on average and drink lots of water. A well-conditioned body, inside and out, will take you all the way to the finish line with strength and vigor as you celebrate the Ironman inside.

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Now, check out these two recipes! Happy Training!

Avocado Smoothie
(Makes 1)

  • ¾ cup cashews soaked in water
  • for 5 hours or overnight
  • ½ medium avocado
  • ½ to ¾ cup almond milk
  • ½ tablespoon manuka honey
  • ½ to ¾ cup ice
  • Optional: ¾ cup frozen berries

DIRECTIONS: For a basic smoothie, blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1½ cups
356 calories, 28.2g carbs, 8.3g protein, 27.1g fat, 4.9g sat. fat, 7.7g fiber, 13g sugars, 92 mg sodium, 489 mg potassium

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
(Makes 12)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Fine zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons maca root powder

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat the egg whites in a standing mixer or using a hand mixer until they just come together, about 3 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together remaining ingredients and fold into egg whites. Let rest for 10 minutes. Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet about 1½ inches apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until coconut tips begin to color. Let cool completely before removing from baking sheet. To remove, gently peel away parchment paper. Store macaroons flat or very loosely stacked in an airtight container.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 macaroons
132 calories, 14g carbs, 2.2g protein, 7.8g fat, 6.9g sat. fat, 2.6g fiber, 10.4g sugars, 56mg sodium, 161mg potassium

By Susan Irby