Have you ever heard the saying the fourth and fifth legs of triathlon are nutrition and recovery? Developing good nutrition habits and realizing the value of recovery is crucial to maximizing your adaptations from training and reaching your best performance in racing. It is important to practice and improve your general nutrition requirements and training/racing needs EARLY in the year. Race day nutrition should be second nature come race day, you should feel 100% confident in how your body will react to the fuel you take in because you have practiced this in your training time and again.
To operate at your best, it is imperative you are eating ENOUGH calories and doing your best to get the RIGHT calories in. For several reasons, many athletes tend to eat less than they should. Not eating enough and not eating well can lead to increased fatigue, decreased recovery, weaken the immune system, increase risk for injury, provide a limit to the gains you will make with your training and limit your potential come race day. With that said, what are our goals with nutrition as an endurance athlete?
1) Meet the energy and fuel demands to support training and racing.
2) Achieve and maintain good body composition - for good health and good performance.
3) Fuel and hydrate well to optimize training for each workout session / race and attain optimal recovery and adaptations.
4) Maintain good health and build and maintain a strong immune system, reducing the risk of illness, with increases in training load and the demands on the body.
5) Practice race nutrition and hydration strategies that work well for YOU, fueling your needs while minimizing GI discomfort.
6) Taper correctly before events / carb load for optimal performance.
7) Enjoy what we eat! Eating what we enjoy in moderation and attaining and maintaining a healthy approach to nutrition for life.
With those goals in mind, you need to have a basic understanding of how many calories you should be taking in to maintain your current weight. This number is unique to YOU and is based on your age, weight, daily activity level and exercise/training. This number will vary week to week, season to season and year to year. To learn more about this specifically, read my article HERE
Once you know how many calories you need, the next step is eating as mindfully as we can. Getting the right foods in, thinking about what you are putting on your plate. You need to know the right amounts of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and fat you should be getting in and then do your best to do so. An excellent and quite simple resource for this is myplate.gov.
Nutrition and its requirements for endurance exercise can get very granular. As you begin to ace your journey to stronger nutrition, remember, it is always best to START WITH THE BASICS. By making sure you are eating enough calories and doing your best to eat healthy and mindfully, you are setting yourself up for lifelong success.