Training for a triathlon places huge demands on the body. Most competitors train six days per week, cramming in swims, bike rides and runs whenever they can. The demands of the three sports are quite different, but even though you may be resting from one sport while doing the others, training for a triathlon still places huge energy demands on the body.
To be able to cope with these levels of training – someone training for an Ironman triathlon will typically train for 20 to 30 hours per week – you have to get your diet right.
Unlike many people, who struggle to lose weight, for many triathletes it is the opposite problem – how to get sufficient calories in during the day. Top athletes need anything from 4000 to 6000 calories per day!
While some people use that as an excuse to eat a lot of sugary or junk food, you will get far more out of your training if you concentrate on getting the extra calories from good sources. Why take on board nutritionally empty calories from sugar when you could be getting vital nutrients from healthy foods?
Even though the sheer volume of calories may be higher, you still need a balance between carbs, protein and fat. One of the best ways to help balance out your diet and get in enough calories is to be sure to refuel quickly after a workout.
When your muscles are depleted after a workout, there is a window of opportunity of around 20 to 30 minutes during which you can super-saturate them with glycogen, from carbs, and amino acids, from protein, to help them recover and be ready for the next workout.
A recovery drink or shake, ready and available as soon as you finish your workout, will give you the fluids, carbs and protein your body needs, and ensure that you are ready for the next session.