Triathletes and Nutrition

July 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm 1 comment

Swim, Bike, Run!  Tri-For Fun . . . Olympic Sprint Distance . . . Half Ironman . . . Ironman Triathlons.  Whew!

Triathletes typically train twice/day.  Training sessions may exceed one to two hours per session.  This translates to high energy needs.  It is difficult to say how much energy is needed because everyone is different.  Individual metabolism, level of exertion, outside temperature, and training schedule all play into daily needs.  Typical energy needs are somewhere between 3,000-5,000 calories/day.  Consuming this many calories requires careful planning and frequent meals and snacks.  Monique Ryan, RD, gives some snack and meal suggestions and how to pack extra calories into foods in her article, “The Hungry Triathlete”, found on the USA Triathlete website.

Macronutrient needs for triathletes are as follows:

Carbohydrates:  5g-8g/kg/day    12g-19g/kg/day may be needed during heavy training

Protein:  1.2g-1.7g/kg/day            2g/kg/day may be needed during heaving training.

Fat:  1g/kg/day                                 2g/kg/day may be needed during heavy training.

What to eat BEFORE exercise

Carbohydrates:  A suggested guideline:

4g/kg                         4 hours before training    or

3g/kg                        3 hours before training     or

2g/kg                        2 hours before training     or

1g/kg                        1 hour before training

Energy consumed before a training session can improve endurance by as much as 14%.

Let your stomach be your guide.  Experiment during the early season for amount, timing and glycemic index of the foods.


Before training, drink 1oz/10lb. of body weight 2 hours before training.  It is important to be hydrated BEFORE you exercise.  You may want to drink more if it is a hot day and you expect to sweat more than usual.  Hydration is also individual.  Everyone sweats at different rates and some lose more electrolytes than others.  I’ll discuss hydration during exercise later.


For a morning training session for an athlete who weighs 68kg (150lbs.), they would consume about 70g of carbs and 16 oz. of fluid approximately one hour before exercise.  The snack should be low in sodium, simple sugars and fiber.  Some suggested pre-workout snacks are:

oatmeal (19g)

1/4c raisins (30g)

1 cup skim milk (12g)

1/2 cup fresh orange juice (14g)            Total:  75g carbohydrates


Gu (25g)

1/2 cup orange juice (14g)

banana (27g)                                                Total:   66g carbohydrates


Plain yogurt (19g)

½ cup granola (32g)

1 cup strawberries (11g)                         Total:  62g carbohydrates

For an evening training session, eating a balanced lunch earlier in the day, combined with an afternoon snack, would provide the energy needed for the upcoming training session.

Coming Next:  Hydration and energy during training and nutrition for recovery.


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Three Bean Salad Triathletes and Nutrition Part 2

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Meg  |  August 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I love this recipe & your blog!



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