Triathletes Diet Guide

What to eat when training for a triathlon

Triathletes should aim to incorporate carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and a healthy amount of fruits and veggies into their diet to make sure their calorie and nutrient levels are optimal.

Making sure that triathletes eat the right amount of food will make sure their body is properly fuelled for their workouts. It also helps the body repair and adapts itself to have the capability of performing its next workout.

When talking about the amount of protein a triathlete should eat, the recommended intake is 1.4 to 1.6 grams for each kilogram of the athlete’s body weight per day (for someone who weighs 160 pounds, that’s about 100 to 115 grams; if they’re 120 pounds, they should be getting between 75 and 85 grams).

As you move forward in the sport, it may become necessary for you to modify your intake of protein, as it helps your muscles heal faster and improves your immune system.

For more intense exercise sessions with a larger volume, it is essential to consume 20-30 grams of protein in the 20-30 minutes after the workout has been completed. This can help restore glycogen levels, reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone which increases during strenuous activities), and get the recovery process underway.

The triathlete’s nutritional intake should incorporate a significant amount of carbs to sustain their exercise regimen and aid in rehabilitation.

The carb requirements for an individual can go up significantly if they start training for more than an hour a day; a 160-pound athlete would then need 580 grams of carbohydrates every day, and a 120-pound athlete would need 430. That’s an increase from around 5 grams per kilogram of body weight per day to 8 or more.

But not all types of carbohydrates are the same- as an athlete, you should aim to get your carbs from good quality sources.

An increase in fat consumption should be considered as an extra measure to match the heightened calorie requirement, as well as to alleviate inflammation caused by increased training.

A triathlete’s meal plan should aim to make up 20-30% of their total calorie consumption in fat. Once you’ve worked out how much of each macro-nutrient is right for you, you can move on to looking closely at things like iron and vitamin D, which are called micronutrients.

Swimming diet

Training for a triathlon can be a balancing act for athletes as it is difficult to maintain a healthy diet alongside their other commitments such as work, life and family. Therefore, following a triathlon meal plan is often seen as the go-to option.

Many athletes and triathletes commonly swallow a small morning food such as a piece of toast with peanut butter before heading out to go swimming. Afterwards, a more substantial breakfast should be consumed with sufficient amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, such as an omelette with vegetables and toast, or oatmeal with yoghurt and fruit.

If your swim practice will be an extended period, it would be wise to bring some type of drink, like water or a beverage with electrolytes, to the area around the pool. Don’t forget that you sweat while you swim!

If you tend to jump right into your job right after a morning swim, then you could really benefit from having pre-planned meals.

Bike diet

It is improbable that you will have to consume anything for rides shorter than 90 minutes (except for when you are going from another workout session or have not eaten in a few hours).

It’s essential to have some water or electrolyte beverage with you and try consuming roughly 16 ounces per 60 minutes (though your individual needs could alter this amount, so experiment to figure out the ideal drinking amount for you).

If you are planning on a bicycling trip lasting 90 minutes or more, it will be essential to take in calories and fluids. There are many options you can select from.

If you’re just starting out with the sport, consult with other athletes to get their advice on what they like best.

Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy energy bars or chews to fuel your body – foods like bananas, nuts, or bars that you make yourself can be just as beneficial.

For longer bicycle rides, Dr Stacy Sims suggests a caloric intake of between 1.5 to 2 calories per pound of your body weight an hour, incorporating various macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) to remain energized and prevent complete exhaustion.

She instructed me to take in small portions of food more often rather than consuming a large number of calories in one go. Examples of healthy snacks could include miniature salty potatoes, a PB&J sandwich on white bread, and energy balls.

Running diet

Most triathletes believe it is hard to consume food while running, and unless the person is running a long distance, they will not have to eat anything during their run. It is important to consume enough fuel and water before beginning, and replenish after the race has concluded.

It is usually a good idea for triathletes to reduce their high-fibre intake before running hard (or in a race), to prevent gastrointestinal issues. Endurance athletes who partake in the long-distance running are often affected by the malady called “runners’ trots”, and they delight in discussing it.

If you decide to have something to eat or drink during your running workout, it is best to choose from electrolyte drinks, energy drinks, energy chews, or gels. Top concern when managing diabetes is maintaining adequate glucose levels while avoiding any potential digestive issues.

If you intend to do exercise activities that take two hours or more, you could put on a vest with a hydration system to keep you hydrated.

Don’t forget that if you are exercising for an extended period or at a high intensity, you will need to replenish what is lost through sweating. For physical activity lasting longer than an hour, water will not suffice; try to increase your sodium intake.

Eating for recovery

A well-balanced triathlon training diet requires plenty of both protein and carbohydrates to not only provide energy but also replenish it afterwards.

The healing procedure can only begin when you are providing your body with the nutrition it has to adjust, reconstruct, mend, and plan for whatever is upcoming.

Eating 20-30 grams of protein soon after you’ve finished a difficult or intense workout is a smart idea, as it will help your body recover faster and stimulate the creation of muscle protein.

Examples of post-workout nourishment that are high in protein could be: eggs, yoghurt, kefir, small-curd cottage cheese, and protein shakes.

You need to obtain more than just protein; carbs are essential for the replenishment of energy and will restore your glycogen supplies. Post-workout snacks that are good sources of carbohydrates could include sweet potatoes, quinoa, other grains, fruits, and vegetables.

It is recommended to combine proteins with carbs after exercise, and some athletes like to eat a light snack that is high in protein in the period following their workout, and then consume a larger meal with protein and carbs within 90 minutes of stopping their activity.

Making certain you consume enough food, particularly after doing exercise, can have a great effect on staying fit, feeling good, and having good health. Triathletes have a tendency to focus on their weight or appearance instead of making sure they are getting the proper amount of nutrients and replenishing them correctly.

This may result in the Relative Energy Deficit in Sports (RED-S) condition, which can decrease athletic performance, weaken invulnerability to sickness, disrupt the menstrual cycle for females, hurt bone health, and may be associated with overtraining syndrome due to the lack of time for the body to heal.

It can also lead to longer-term health problems.

Matt Fitzgerald, who wrote the book Racing Weight, has done a large amount of research and writing on this topic. One of his more recent essays is known as “The Great Race Weight Debate,” and provides three primary pieces of advice that all triathletes, from rookies to veterans, should pay attention to.

This piece of writing discusses an article entitled “The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Leaner”. It offers advice on how to have an effective workout routine, while also promoting healthy weight loss.

Fuel types and timing

If you’re engaging in physical activity lasting more than an hour and a half, it’s important to include some carb-rich sustenance while you’re active. Your muscles are doing their utmost, and a regular supply of carbohydrates aids them in their efforts by providing them with the necessary energy.

Go for a target of 30-60 grams of carbs for each time spent exercising. Begin to ingest a 6-8% carbs mixture every 15 minutes. You will be drinking roughly 6 to 12 ounces of liquid each hour.

Even if your body does not require energy yet, it is beneficial to get a steady flow of carbs to get your digestion system familiar with handling the fuel and to lengthen the amount of time until your performance deteriorates.

Energy may be derived from a variety of sources but should be comprised of carbohydrates that are easy to absorb. You can pick out items that have been designed particularly for sports activities, or you can opt for products obtainable at the grocery store that will suffice your needs. For example:

  • Sports drinks
  • Gels
  • Shot blocks
  • Gummies
  • Raisins
  • Bananas
  • Fig bars

An example of this would be if you planned to go on a 3-hour long bike ride. You can opt to have a gel (15 grams of carbs) every quarter of an hour during your exercise ride, or 1/3 cup of raisins (38 grams of carbohydrates) every sixty minutes.

You can choose either one of these options to provide yourself with 30-60 grams of fuel per hour.

The only allowance to the suggestion is for those engaged in a ketogenic lifestyle who are adapted to metabolize fat as an energy source. If you are on that kind of nutritional plan, you probably don’t need to consume as much food since your body can use fat for energy.

Daily triathlon diet

It is not only what you consume on the day of a race that is critical, but usually, it is your diet aside from the competitions that have the most effect on your well-being and athletic potential. If you make sure that you eat healthy meals every day, it will help your body get the most out of your training sessions and aid in quick recovery during the season.

The dietary plan of a professional triathlete is not much different from the standard guidelines for healthy eating. Expect to eat more food during active months and less during inactivity periods to adjust your energy expenditure.

The triathlon diet plan can be divided into three essential components. It may be difficult to completely put into action the ideas mentioned, but staying loyal to them will be worth it in the end.

  1. Eat high-quality meals and snacks made up of mostly whole foods.
  2. Enjoy treats occasionally, but don’t overcompensate for your workouts. (In other words, avoid rationalizing eating an entire sleeve of cookies because you pounded the pavement—but it’s certainly okay to grab one or two cookies.)
  3. Maintain a healthy weight while moulding your body and exercising to meet the needs for swimming, cycling, and running.

Monitor your macros

All three major nutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) contribute to the dietary needs of a triathlete in significant ways.

No specific quantity of macronutrients is strictly required by the body. The amount it takes to build muscle differs depending on your genetic makeup, exercise program, and any illnesses you might have.

Carbohydrates provide the main source of energy for the body, protein aids in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of muscles, and fat helps to create a feeling of satisfaction and adds to general well-being.


Typically 3 to 12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight should be eaten, which is about 45% to 65% of total calories.

If you compete in triathlons, you should anticipate consuming between 8 and 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight each day. This number may climb to 12 grams per kilogram of weight with intensified and prolonged training.

Simple carbohydrates like bananas should be consumed at least 30 minutes before your workout. During intense exercise lasting longer than 60–90 minutes, try fast-absorbing carbohydrates like gels that replenish your electrolytes.
For longer bouts of exercise, you can expect to consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates in an electrolyte and fluid solution within each hour of training and event day.
Aim for 2 grams per kilogram of body weight when training. Timing is important.
Since your body can’t store protein, it should be consumed every 3-4 hours throughout the day, and ideally within two hours post-workout for recovery. In the evening, it is recommended to consume about 30-40 grams of protein from casein.
Aim for 20% to 35% of calories.
Fat is important for nerve function, and organ protection, and is a source of fatty acids.
But if performance and achieving a new personal best time is vital, a high-fat low-carb diet can slow you down.
When training, the calories leftover from the carbohydrate and protein needs will be fat.
Most triathletes will fare well using these recommended ranges. If you’re curious about how your macros compare to these numbers, try tracking your food for a few days via a website or phone app.
If your ranges are pretty different from these, adjust your diet to see if changing them better supports your training.
Achieving balance

It appears to be straightforward – if you are eliminating a considerable number of calories through exercise, you would expect to see a reduction in your weight, would you not? Regretfully, many triathletes discover the numbers on the scale increasing rather than decreasing. A frequent cause is increased hunger.

Have you ever been extremely hungry after going for a long jog? Does your insatiable desire for cookies become too strong to resist after you exercise intensely? If so, you’re probably familiar with this phenomenon.

Most scientific studies show that engaging in physical activity temporarily reduces hunger-causing hormones rather than making them higher.

It is uncertain what result this has on athletes who undertake continuous training regularly. Many athletes have reportedly expressed worries about feeling hungry during training.

Conversely, some athletes worry they will become heavier and continually do not eat enough. At a minimum, this can cause poor training adaptations. At worst, it can be dangerous for your health.

Athletes who routinely don’t take in enough energy may encounter RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sports), which is especially worrying.

The inequality between what we consume as foodstuffs and the energy used can lead to several issues like difficulties with periods, a weak immune system, fragile bones, loss of muscle, and other associated difficulties.

There is a delicate equilibrium between aiding your physical fitness routine and promoting a healthy weight. Nevertheless, a triathlete’s nutritional plan can be accomplished with a substantial amount of fruits, veggies, whole grain items, lean sources of protein, and advantageous fatty acids.

You can meet the demands of your training schedule and still be satisfied with your hunger by choosing nutrient-dense foods.


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