Beginner triathlon obstacles are many, but nutrition seems to still be a grey area for many new to the sport. There are so many different theories and experts all confident that their way is best, so how does the newer triathlete overcome the beginner triathlon nutritional uncertainties that we all have when we start?
Keeping things simple is the best way to start most things, so here are some tips to overcome some of the problems.
Chocolate and sweets are something we all love, even experienced triathletes, most of us are of the mindset that we can “burn it off” because we do so much exercise, and this does have some truth to it. While it would be nice if we all had the will power to drop these things from our diet completely, the truth is that it is not going to happen, but if you keep treats down to a minimum that is fine as long as you eat a diet full of unprocessed natural foods in the correct portion ratios.
You can make your life easier and help keep the cravings for sweets under control by keeping your eating routine and habits in check, do not eat any meals that are not properly balanced (see below). Also, you do not want to eat “when I get time” instead of organizing your meals so you eat them at regular set intervals. Restricting your calorie intake too much at certain times of the day and then following that by eating too many calories at other times is a sure way to make you crave sweets.
Our blood sugars go up and down during the day, somewhere in between 2 and 4 hour increments. When our blood sugars are dropping our body releases hormones and then we get the cravings, the trouble is that eating sweets at this point spikes our blood sugars and this is followed by a crash.
Your Mom always told you to eat a good breakfast and research has proven her right. Eating a good breakfast is important because not taking in enough calories in the early part of the day or skipping meals altogether can lead straight to a sugar frenzy later on in the day or in the evening. This has the added risk of heightening the type 2 diabetes risk for people susceptible to it and also makes heart disease twice as likely.
Eating a balanced diet is what the FDA and everyone else talks about, so what is a balanced diet? No one can tell you because we are all different and have different body types height and weight and do different levels of exercise, I do not need to eat the same quantities and makeup of food in my meals as a bodybuilder.
What is certain is that eating too much of one type of thing at one time is not good, eating lots of protein and not enough carbs for instance can lessen your sustained energy levels because they work in tandem, carbs up your blood sugars and protein prohibits the sugars being released into your bloodstream too quickly, giving you more sustained energy.
As I said, a balanced diet is subjective but here are some rough guidelines to think about:
This example is for a lady triathlete who is training every day and who wants to shed some fat:
Plan on eating 4 and preferably 6 small meals a day to spread the calories out evenly throughout the day, when I do this I never crave sweets. You could then divide the meals up into 250 to 375 calories each for example, you can add extra portions depending on how hard you are training on any given day.
The main meals should be made up of equal parts protein such as eggs, fish or beans and starch such as brown rice, oatmeal or sweet potatoes. You should add a double helping of fruits or non starchy vegetables. If you add olives, avocado seeds and nuts to your diet this really helps fight the sweet cravings.
If you stick to a diet similar to this you should boost your metabolism, see higher energy levels and lose some body fat, your blood sugar should level out and prevent the craving for sweets. You will be surprised with how much more energy you have and how great you feel, even first thing in the morning.
Many of us also tend to overeat after we have worked out, especially if we go to restaurants with non-triathlete friends, the plates are getting bigger and so are the waistlines, so you have to be strict with yourself and get out of the 3 big meals a day mindset.
To give you an idea of how to control eating too much after a workout, try using these guidelines and see how you get on:
– You will need to work out how many calories your are burning during your workouts so you can balance this with your food consumption in your post-workout meal.
– Monitor your calorie expenditure for each of the three disciplines when you are training and then work out how many calories to eat
– Just know that many exercise machines and heart rate monitors can show up to 20% more calories used than is actually true, so be aware of this if you are not seeing the results you were expecting
– Remember that you will need to take off between 30 to 50% of the amount of calories for the sports drinks and gels that you consume during each session before you get your final post workout meal calorie count.
These simple guidelines should see fat loss and an improvement in performance and should banish the cravings and crashes that you were experiencing before. This is not a year round diet but it will get you ready to compete in your first triathlon, this is all very ballpark but for a beginner it is enough, you can refine your diet over time as you become more experienced and find out what works for you. Bon appetite!
*These are meant to be guidelines not medical advice, before untertaking any changes in your diet or exercise routine you should always consult with your Doctor first