If you have found a race suitable for you and are ready to start training, it only seems fair to start your training with the most basal building block…your nutrient intake. In this article, you will find the basic guidelines for nutritional intake during the weeks/months of training ahead of you. The following nutritional advice sounds simple, but can be hard to control on a daily basis (especially when you are tired and busy on a regular basis). However, if carried out through the entirety of your training, these tips will allow for your body to be working at full capacity. Pretend your body is a car. High-performance vehicles require regular maintenance to perform. The more mileage you put on it, the more fuel you need to burn. You would also need your fluids and oil replaced more regularly. Since you are not an actual car, I would consider these fluids like vitamin/mineral supplementation that will be needed for optimum training.
One question you may be asking at this point is, “How many calories should I be consuming per day?”
The exact amount of calories that needs to be consumed during triathlon training varies so greatly from person to person, it is impossible to answer this question, in general. I will, however, give you an easy way to figure out roughly how many you, as an individual, will need. The first couple weeks of your training will likely be the most difficult of all, due to the fact that you are putting your body through strenuous exercise. Your muscles do not yet recognize it as something you have done on a regular basis in the past. During this period of time, your body will recognize the need for more calories. To identify how much fuel your body needs, eat the RIGHT foods when you are hungry, for these first few weeks. (We will talk about what the right
foods are in a minute.)
By the end of two weeks, you will notice one of three things has happened from your eating habits:
(1) You will Gain Weight. (Yes it IS actually possible to gain when you consider how ravenous your appetite can become when training.)
(2) Lose Weight (which means you could be on the road to muscle eating when all of the fat is gone), or
(3) your Bodyweight will be Relatively the Same.
The most important thing to consider:
Do NOT deprive your body of calories it needs to train efficiently. Your body will most likely be burning anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 calories (maybe more) extra, a day depending on how often you are training and what distance you are training for. One may be inclined to get excited about the possible weight they may lose early on in their training and
make sure the loss continues. This may be ok, but certain people with limited body fat should beware of the fact that, this will eventually decrease performance.
Another question may be, “What weight should I be at to train efficiently?”
Bodyweight is not as important, in this case, as body fat. An ideal body fat percentage for optimum training is usually between 12% and 25% for women (4%-18% for men). Less than 12% will not provide you with the energy required for endurance sports, specifically. Over 25% and you are likely to be putting your joints at risk by making them operate a machine with a bunch of dead weight (fat weight). tips to increase your endurance!
Now, what are the right foods I speak of?
Let’s first break it down. Roughly 60% of your calories will be from carbohydrates, the other 40% being a combination of fats and proteins. Without adequate carb consumption, your body will switch to fat and protein (harvested from within the body) for energy. This is a process you do NOT want to take place when training for a triathlon!
Carb sources could be fibrous carbs (almost all vegetables and legumes), complex carbs (oats, rice, pasta, whole grains, potatoes), and natural sugars (fruits). Carbs should be consumed 6 to 8 times a day, to some degree. Energy providing boosts, pre and post workout, such as dried/fresh fruit and natural fruit juices are encouraged for energy. Be careful, however. Moderation is key with concentrated sugars because of the potential for weight gain. Complex carbs such as bread (I recommend Ezekiel bread), whole grain cereals, oats and other grains should be consumed more in the first half of the day. The second half of the day should focus on fibrous carbs such as beans and veggies, while the simple carbs (sugars) will be consumed throughout the day. Complex carbs such as pasta and potatoes can be
consumed later in the day, but be sure to mix them with lots of fibrous carbs and/or other forms of fiber, so your body can digest it quickly and get it out faster.
Fats will take up roughly 10-15% of your diet. Unsaturated fats, such as nuts, fish and nut/seed oils/ butter help greatly in cardiovascular and neural function. Since certain meats come with a level of saturated fats, they are usually limited for those with health-conscious, eating habits. However, mineral-rich red meats, pork, fish, and chicken are ok to eat a few times a week during training to replenish iron (helps oxygen transfer to your muscles from your blood), calcium and magnesium (essential for proper muscle function) levels in the body.
Proteins are responsible for muscle/general cell recovery. Your training diet should consist of 25-30% protein. Since meats such as those mentioned above are already good choices for vitamin/mineral intake, protein will be another benefit to obtain through the consumption of such foods. Most of your protein should be obtained from nuts, milk, yogurt, beans, grains and some cheese. A lot of these foods have carbs and/or fat associated with them as well.
Choose the most nutrient-rich foods possible. Below, I have listed some specific examples of foods that should be staples of your diet during your training period (some you may have never heard of before).
Fats: Almonds, Grapeseed oil, Coconut oil, Flaxseed (whole), Salmon
Protein: Greek Yogurt, Beans (Black, Pinto, fava, etc), Quinoa, Miso
Carbs: Ezekiel Bread (they also make tortillas and English muffins), Steel Cut Oats
A couple of these foods satisfy more than one group, which is one of the reasons I listed these specific foods. The best thing you can do is research foods as you go for the first month. Keep a food and workout journal so you can track your progress and discover what sort of “fuel” works with your body and what doesn’t. This will be a learning process, but will enable you to make smart food choices for the rest of your life, as well as create a “high performance” body that is firing on all cylinders!
Written By: Heather McCullough, is the mother, is a NETA certified personal trainer in Crested Butte, Colorado. Originally coming from a nursing background, Heather geared her goals towards positive and preemptive health by specializing in high-altitude training for triathletes and endurance runners. Heather has trained for 9 years and, as an endurance runner, participates in mountain races anywhere from marathon distance to 150 miles. Heather also heads up a high-altitude training camp at 9,000 ft for triathletes and endurance runners/bikers in Colorado.
Do you have some goals that you would like to accomplish? More energy? Healthy breakfast? Lose fat? Better health? Lose pounds? Get muscle mass?
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