The Optimal Nutrition in the Sport of Triathlon

In triathlon we encounter various challenges on a day to day basis: One of the main, unavoidable challenges is the high training volume. With this high volume of training, the energy that is demanded of athletes* is extremely high.

April 17, 2021

The big challenges in the sport

Therefore, it is especially important to supply an adapted amount of energy during your training/competition, particularly important for cycling and running, but only to a limited extent for swimming (which we will address later). 

Another challenge is that triathlon is one of the sports that requires almost all muscle groups of the body. This means that in regards to nutrition, we need to pay special attention to the muscular component.

A common mistake – and how to avoid it

Through training, the body constantly consumes energy. If no additional energy is available, the body must access the energy reserves of the muscles (amino acids). This, in turn, can severely impair the muscles’ ability to regenerate. 

To avoid muscular problems, it is therefore extremely important to counteract unnecessary and avoidable overloads already during training. The most effective way to do this is through an appropriate supply of energy. However, this is often not done (sufficiently), which is the most common and severe mistake many triathletes make. 

For a higher training quality, a better regeneration ability, a high-quality of basic nutrition coupled with the right catering during training is the key to success. This is also shown by our experience in professional sports.

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The right nutrition before, during and after your training

Before the start

In the overall concept of experience in triathlon, the right nutrition before training / competition is key to success. 

3-4 hours before the start of your competition is the optimal time frame to take in your meal. Make sure to eat a meal with: low fiber, poor protein, and a good high-carbohydrate meal. 

To make it more specific, try eating these meals: Basmati rice, banana, oat flakes with almond milk and raisin. Soft boiled eggs are also advisable before a long distance race.

It is best to test these meals out during your training, before a competition, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any digestive problems that could occur. 

 

While the training

In triathlon it is not so easy to make a generally valid statement about food. After all, each discipline has its own needs that should be taken into account.

All 3 disciplines are classic endurance sports in which high oxygen uptake, perfect muscle function and a high metabolism and exercise economy are crucial. 

 

Swim:

When swimming in competitions there are refreshments. 

However, since the amount of training in swimming is usually not too high, the energy consumption can be well absorbed immediately after each training unit. For this purpose, carbohydrates and proteins are optimally combined and supplied within one hour after training.

Our RECOVERY SHAKE from Ministry of Nutrition is suitable for this purpose, as it ensures an optimal ratio of carbohydrates and proteins and thus effectively supports the regeneration process.

 

Bike:

The highest amount of energy can be absorbed on the bike – you should use that! However, in order to be able to absorb a lot of energy without having any problems, iyour body has to be trained.

Training your energy supply is particularly important for long and medium distances.

If you want to “train” your nutrition effectively, the correct amount must be tested and determined in advance during training (“train the gut”).

As a result of this, it can be tested whether, for example, 80, 100 or more grams of carbohydrates per hour can be consumed and tolerated by your body. The composition of the products consumed is also decisive and important for digestion.

 

Adjust your diet to suit your training goal

If you want to improve your fat metabolism or reduce your lactate formation rate, carbohydrates that are slowly available are suitable. Sports nutrition products that have been specially developed for this purpose are best suited for this.

For example our SLOW CARB. For the training of your fat metabolism, 30-35g carbohydrates per hour can optimally be absorbed through our carbohydrate drink.

If, on the other hand, intensive training such as threshold or HIT training is on the plan, a lot of quick energy is needed. This can be achieved through the right combination of different sources of carbohydrates.

An optimal combination that provides plenty of quick energy can be found in our training drink FAST CARB. We recommend 1-2 servings per hour of training (35-40g powder each), and a maximum of 8 servings per training session. 1 PORRIDGE BAR per hour of training goes perfectly with this.

You can also find out more about the right food and drink while cycling HERE.

 

To run:

When running, an easy possible energy intake is limited by the constant shock loads and lies between 60-70g of carbohydrates / hour, depending on the athlete.

Nevertheless, with the right food, you can also effectively support the achievement of your training goals while running. Long, moderate units are supplied with slowly available carbohydrates. Highly intensive, rather short units, on the other hand, require quickly available carbohydrates.

As with cycling, SLOW CARB is ideal for long, moderate units. A supply of 30g / h can be aimed for. For more intensive units, on the other hand, FAST CARB is ideally used. Here, between 50 and 60g / h can be added.

You can find out more about running HERE

 

After training = Before your next training

In order to initiate and sustainably support the regeneration processes as quickly and effectively as possible after training, the right food is just as important immediately after training as it is during your training. 

Optimal regeneration from one unit to another is essential, especially during intensive training phases. This not only increases your performance, but also prevents injuries and infections.

In addition to the already mentioned RECOVERY SHAKE, our RECOVERY8 is ideal after particularly hard muscular demands. The presence of all eight essential amino acids in controlled quality from fermented vegetables, combined with the power of real mango and an optimal amount of carbohydrates, makes RECOVERY8  a real regeneration turbo tool.

The most important thing for your next competition

Good preparation is crucial

Before the competition it is generally important to fill up your glycogen stores. There are various  different ways in which you can do this.

For example: A final stressful and glycogen-depleting unit is carried out 3 to 4 days before the competition. Ideally, the glycogen stores are not full at the beginning of this session. This could be achieved by having a low-carb breakfast before training or by eating specifically low-carb the evening before.

After training, the supply should be high in carbohydrates and nutrients. It is best to get carbohydrates every 3 hours. Carbohydrates would be offered in the form of potatoes, rice, pasta or porridge in combination with some fruit or vegetables.

Fats are scarce, protein is consumed moderately. Also, not too much fiber should be consumed, especially not the day before the competition.

The last meal should be taken 3 hours before the competition. Preferably in the form of easily digestible food that has already been tested before.

 

During the competition

When it comes to competitions, special distances such as the sprint, medium or long distance require specific nutritional intake in order to optimally cover the energy requirement.

 

Special features of different triathlon distances

The different distances can be reflected in the type of athlete. If the Ironwoman or the Ironman are particularly efficient and have an extremely well-trained fat metabolism, the sprinter can be a bit more wasteful with his energy stores.

This can be seen, for example, in a slightly higher proportion of FT fibers and usually in a slightly higher rate of lactate formation (VLamax more than 0.5 mmol / sec compared to Ironman / Woman more than 0.35).

The supply plays a decisive role, especially for medium and long distances. This is because the body’s own glycogen reserves are not sufficient for the entire duration of the competition.

In order to avoid depletion of the glycogen stores, up to 120g carbohydrates per hour can be taken up on the bike and up to 80g carbohydrates per hour while running.

A pacing strategy can then be developed that is adapted to the energy supply. This depends on the energy supply and the existing energy stores or individually on the performance (VLamax, Vo2max). For this it is important that nutritionists and trainers work closely together.

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Practical example: nutrition for a middle distance

On the bike:

  • 80-120g carbohydrate drink per hour, e.g. via POWER CARB
  • Depending on the temperature, absorb 0.5 to 1.0 liters of liquid per hour in extreme conditions (high outside temperatures) up to 2.5 liters / hour can be used, then water can be drunk in addition to the carbohydrate drink
  • A combination of gels (Powercarb concentrate or Powergel) and water is also possible

 

While running:

  • 60-80g carbohydrate drink per hour, e.g. POWER CARB or FAST CARB or Powercarb concentrate / gel
  • Possibly 30 minutes before the finish: about 1mg / kg body weight caffeine, for example in gel form

 

After crossing the finish line / regeneration:

  • Finish: 0.4 liters of RECOVERY8
  • 30 minutes later: 0.3 liters of RECOVERY SHAKE
  • Later: pretzel or a piece of dry cake; possibly sandwich with mozzarella and tomato, mineral water
  • Avoid fried sausages and fatty / spicy food + drinks containing caffeine
  • Suitable dinner later: vegetable soup, rice, possibly fish, small dessert (e.g. semolina porridge)

Finally, nutritionist Robert Gorgos answers 3 frequently asked questions:

  • Is there a rule of thumb in what time intervals I should fuel my body with nutrition during training or competition?

There is no rule of thumb for this. For me, it is best to eat regularly with intervals of 20-30 minutes. Both in training (then with a lower dose) and in competition (then with a higher dose).

 

  • Does every training session have to be taken care of?

Not necessarily, the supply depends on the intensity. At high intensities, energy should be supplied for any duration, regenerative units of up to 60 minutes do not have to be fed separately. Sometimes it is also possible as a special training stimulus not to eat specifically. But that should remain the exception and be controlled by the trainer.

 

  • Tolerance problems: What can be the causes and how can I optimize my care during exercise?

Problems often arise due to individual factors and possible sensitivities to certain ingredients. That is why our products at Ministry of Nutrition do not contain any artificial flavorings or preservatives that unnecessarily burden the stomach and damage the intestinal flora in the long term. We keep all of our products hypoallergenic – they are vegan, lactose, gluten & soy free. In addition, all drinks contain real fruits, which also improve tolerance and effectiveness.

 

 

This guest post is from the Ministry of Nutrition. The new, vegan sports nutrition brand provides Laura Philipp and many other top athletes with the power they need in training and competitions.

All information about the individual products is available at ministry-of-nutrition.de.

You can find many more tips on the subject of training & nutrition at training.ministry-of-nutrition.de.