You know how to swim, bike, and run, but when it comes to nutrition you’re struggling to get it right. Here are some top nutrition tips for triathletes.
1. Hydrate sufficiently (not just while training).
All too often I see hard-working and dedicated triathletes come into my nutrition practice office suffering needlessly due to inadequate hydrating. Track your fluid intake for the next week or so, and periodically throughout the year. Make it easier by using an app such as Water Alert Pro (Itunes.com). At baseline, males need 3.7 liters (almost 1 gallon) daily, and females need 2.7 liters (more than 11 cups)—plus more when training or sweating heavily.
2. Eat healthy fats.
I spend countless hours each year explaining the importance of dietary fat to athletes. Savvy triathletes know that fats contain more calories per gram than carbs and protein. However, because they always want to be lean and Lycra-ready for race day, they wrongly cut out healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil to “save calories.” Do yourself a favor in 2015 and eat good fats with every meal. Doing so will not only enhance the taste of your food, but also the absorption of the vitamins and minerals you are working so hard to get. Additionally, these good fats are essential for hormone production, brain function and serve as potent anti-inflammatory agents, helping prevent many common injuries that endurance athletes face.
3. Prioritize your fruits and veggies.
Do I need to remind you why? How about the short list of reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and many cancers, preservation of both lean muscle mass and bone, and more dietary fiber—which makes both weight loss and weight maintenance easier. If you need a personalized recommendation on how much you should eat, check out Cdc.gov and use the fruit and vegetable calculator. If you want a basic guideline to start, aim for 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies daily—starting today!
4. Diversify your menu.
I know life gets busy (I too must squeeze training in before the sun rises to accommodate a hectic schedule), but it’s essential to take the time to plan out a varied menu for diverse nutrition. Try a new grain, vegetable or fruit this week. Buy an ethnic cookbook for a cuisine you love. Elicit suggestions from friends, family or social media for new recipes, ideas and cooking partners. Need suggestions for new things to try? Some of my favorites: spelt, wheatberries, Great Northern beans, mustard greens, radishes, garlic scape, bison and rambutan (it’s a fruit!).
5. Alkaline your life.
You may have recently read about the importance of alkalinity in our bodies and diet. A brief summary: Our blood pH is tightly controlled by our bodies, which has measures in place to help ensure it remains at certain levels. If you eat highly acidic foods, your body will help maintain balance by expelling more CO2, pulling calcium from bones to neutralize the acid and excrete more acid. To avoid depletion of important calcium, potassium and magnesium, it is important to focus on eating more alkaline foods (such as most fruits and vegetables, legumes, avocados, sweet potatoes, basil, rosemary) while decreasing your intake of acidic foods (such as animal products and processed foods). So if you needed just one more reason to eat more good fats, fruits and veggies—and reduce your intake of meats and highly processed foods—this is it.