The sport of triathlon, made up of swimming, cycling, and running, is more popular than ever. A quick internet search will yield a plethora of races, training programs, and equipment recommendations, but best of all knows that all of these things are a waste if you’re not eating and hydrating well.
There are three macronutrients that athletes rely on for energy: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy during intense activities, while daily activities such as housework or walking to the mailbox are fueled by fats. Carbs come in many different shapes, flavors, and calorie densities, making them easy to consume before, during, and after a long run or ride. One of the benefits of eating a good amount of carbohydrates is often overlooked in the name: “carbohydrates,” which means “carbon,” are found in every living organism, and hydrates, which means water. Carbohydrates help the body absorb water, which is crucial when exercising for more than 60 minutes at a relatively high intensity.
Eating plenty of protein before and after a long run, run, or training session is important for recovery, as proteins are the building blocks for the muscles used. Normal goals for carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake are listed below:
- Carbohydrates: 1 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight
- Fat: ¼ gram per half kilogram of body weight
- Protein: 1 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight
These recommendations may vary based on several factors, including training intensity, basal metabolic rate, and daily activity levels. Macronutrients can come in many forms and add up to a daily calorie goal. What makes up your total caloric intake is less important than not eating too little or too much, especially when physical performance is the goal.
Drinking enough water is one of the basic principles of high performance. A good rule of thumb is to describe your body weight in ounces of water each day (eg, 150 pounds = 75 ounces of water). On hard workout days, this number can go up to the equivalent of your body weight in ounces of water.
However, too much water dilutes blood and electrolytes (which are also lost during sweating) and can lead to muscle cramps. If you are on a minimally processed diet, you will need a good supply of electrolytes (Sodium, potassium and magnesium) to prevent too much water loss and cramping due to the lack of sodium found in highly processed foods. Fortunately, electrolytes are easy to obtain. They can be bought as pre-made drinks or dry packs, or you can make them at home if you really like them. One packet of electrolytes can last an entire training session when you alternate it with water.
What to eat the night before a long bike or jog workout:
Carb loading is a bit of a myth. Just as you train your body to perform, you must also train your digestive system to fuel your body at the right time. Training too long and too hard will deplete the carbohydrates your body stores in muscles, and one heavy meal of pasta or bread won’t be able to make up for it in time. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes carbohydrates at every meal is the best way to “carb load” without the nasty side effects of GI upset (upset stomach).
What do you eat in the morning:
Getting your day off to a good start with a carbohydrate breakfast such as bread, fruit, oatmeal and jelly (if you feel like it) is key. It’s still important to include proteins and fats because they tend to slow digestion a bit and allow for a steady flow of carbohydrates into your bloodstream, and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Overnight oats are great to make the night before, so you don’t feel rushed before you head out for your long ride or run.
While running or riding:
Two VASA team members compete in endurance sports, Paige B. (Fitness Product Manager) runs marathons and Alyssa M. (Learning and Development Specialist) competes in triathlons. Since the body requires a continuous stream of fuel, there may be a need to eat or drink during a strenuous workout. This is usually only practiced for running more than 10 miles and riding horses more than 35 miles.
These two subjects were asked about their favorite snacks during long training rides and horseback riding.
Paige likes to take electrolyte gels and gels every 45 minutes during a marathon to help provide energy and hydration. Alyssa enjoys a mix of electrolyte drinks mixed with gummy bears, which are easy to take and digest quickly to avoid the dreaded “punk” during long training and race days.
after the training:
Recovery begins as soon as you stop moving. The sooner you can get food into it after a workout of 90 minutes or longer, the faster you will recover. Eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein replenishes carbohydrate stores and repairs muscle tissue that was used while running or riding. Many believe that chocolate milk is the best post-workout recovery drink because it contains many important nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, some fats, and water (if you handle dairy well). Other options include a fruit and protein shake, a chicken wrap, or this Protein rich pasta salad.
Whether you’re training for a lifetime or preparing for a long race, refueling is essential to improving performance and avoiding injury. Eating a well-balanced diet helps along with other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals and drinking plenty of water prevents cramps and heat injuries that could put you out of the running. Not only does food provide you with the energy needed for a long walk or bike ride, but it also helps the body recover afterward so you’re ready for your next workout.