Triathlon Nutrition 101
Ask any professional
athlete and they will tell you that eating the right foods, in the right
quantities will go a long way in helping you perform the best you can on race
day. Joe Friel, author of "The Triathletes Training Bible" confirms
that diet, along with adequate training, make up 99.9 percent of your
performance capacity. To have a successful nutritional plan, you need foods
that will provide you with adequate energy and other nutrients needed for peak
performance, proper recovery and optimal health.
Energy demands -- measured
in calories -- increase with the additional exercise required for triathlon
training. Having a reasonable estimate of how many calories you actually need
will aid in guiding your nutritional habits. Based on the United States
Department of Agriculture estimates, excluding additional exercise, a
moderately active adult female requires about 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day
and a male about 2,200 to 2,800. Adding the calories from training activity,
the coauthor of "Physical Fitness for Practically Everybody" Ivan
Kusinitz suggests cycling at a vigorous intensity level will burn .071 calories
per minute/per pound of body weight with running and swimming burning .104 and
.088, respectively. Another method, a continuous feed heart rate monitor, will
base your calories burned during your training on effort levels, as they will
vary based on terrain, distance, environment and type of workouts.
Just like you can't run a
car on an empty fuel tank, the same principle applies to your body. The three
forms of energy obtained through food -- carbohydrates, fats and proteins --
should be consumed in the recommended ratios to fuel your engine. For endurance
athletes, carbohydrates are the primary energy source needed to fuel activity.
The American Dietetic Association recommends that 60 to 65 percent of all of
the calories you consume daily should come from carbohydrate sources while fats
should take up 20 to 30 percent, and proteins 10 to 15 percent.
Eating, or adding fuel, is
generally not a problem for triathletes. But, why dilute your fuel with
"unleaded" when you can have premium? In other words, eating complex
carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, will give you the energy
you need as well as other vital nutrients such as B vitamins, fiber,
antioxidants, and minerals such as iron. Protein consumption should include
lean meats, such as fish and poultry, while limiting red meat consumption. With
fats, focus on unsaturated fats found in olive or canola oils for cooking,
fish, avocados, and nuts and seeds.
Making fuel readily
accessible for use during training or a race depends on availability of
essential vitamins and minerals, called micronutrients. The Food and Nutrition
Board reports B complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin and riboflavin aid in
converting energy sources into usable energy while others participate in
protein and fat synthesis. Minerals such as potassium, sodium and calcium all
play vital roles in muscular contraction, nerve function and fluid balance.
These vital nutrients can be obtained through eating a well balanced diet of
vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy and meat.
While water doesn't provide
energy, vitamins or minerals, it is vital to athletic performance. The American
College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 2 to 3 milliters of fluid per
pound of body weight four hours before the event, enough to compensate for fluid
loss during the event, and 16 to 24 oz. for every pound of weight loss after
exercise. For events lasting longer than one hour, drinking sports drinks will
help provide energy, electrolytes and hydration.