Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of triathlon. Triathletes require good nutrition to enable them compete and perform at their best. Nutrition requirements depend on several factors that include type of training, length of training, intensity of training, and personal preferences (Aschwer, 2001). Triathletes should develop personal nutrition program because of their varying nutritional needs. However, they should consider quantity, timing, and mix of their diets.
Nutrition for Triathletes
Athletes require a lot of energy to enhance performance and enable them compete. It is important for them to choose foods that provide adequate energy. Type of food mainly depends on type and intensity of training (Cooper, 2012). For example, endurance and power training have different energy requirements. Therefore, athletes should develop nutrition plans based on type of training. Another important aspect of nutrition is hydration. During training and during competitions, triathletes lose a lot of water, which leads to dehydration. Quantity refers to amount of food and drink consumed by triathletes. Consuming inadequate food may result in breakdown of protein reserves in the body thus affecting performance (Aschwer, 2001). Timing determines when food is consumed to ensure that it is broken down to provide energy before training or performing. On the other hand, mix refers to varying quantities of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins included in the diet (Cooper, 2012).
Type of training
Triathletes undergo two types of training namely endurance training and power training. Glycogen stored in muscles is a preferred source of energy other than fat when engaging in high intensity exercise (Cooper, 2012). Endurance Triathletes should consume foods in different ratios. For example, fats should comprise less than 30% of total calories needed (Aschwer, 2001). Fats take long o release energy. Power training also requires a lot of energy. Therefore, athletes should choose foods that supply adequate energy for peak performance and training.
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats
Triathletes need varying amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They are all sources of energy. However, their energy generation abilities differ. When choosing foods, Triathletes should aim to balance the quantity and quality of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in food. They should choose foods that have high quantities of nutrients. For example, potatoes are carbohydrates that provide energy. However, their method of preparation affects their effect on performance. Triathletes should go for baked potatoes rather than fried potatoes. On the other hand, milk contains more nutrients than lemonade because it contains proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals. Fats are a vital source of energy. Protein is needed for tissue repair and muscle recuperation (Cooper, 2012). It is important for triathletes to consume fats and carbohydrates in adequate amounts. Unavailability of carbohydrates and fats to provide energy leads to breakdown of stored protein to provide energy. Endurance athletes need to consume foods that provide high quantities of calories to enhance muscle development.
Water is one of the most important components of a balanced diet. Every triathlete should consume adequate water during training and performance to avoid dehydration. Dehydration affects performance because it increases fatigue, increases an athlete’s risk of heart stress, and reduces both physical and mental performance (Greenfield, 2012). one of the most common side effect of dehydration is muscle cramps. The advantage of hydration is that a triathlete is able to withstand long periods of training and performance without experiencing heart stress, fatigue, or muscle cramps (Greenfield, 2012). Athletes should know the most appropriate time for drinking water before training or before racing. Apart from water, triathletes should take other fluids to hydrate themselves.
Aschwer, H. (2001). The Complete Guide to Triathlon Training. New York: Meyer & Meyer Verlag.
Cooper, J. (2012). The Complete Nutrition Guide for Triathletes. New York: FalconGuides.
Greenfield, B. (2012). The Low Carbohydrate Diet Guide for Triathletes: Official Nutritional Guide to Optimum Performance for Endurance athletes. New York: Price World Publishing.