Triathlete - Drive The Machine

Posted in: Strength And Endurance  on Friday, August 15, 2008
Nutritional strategies for triathlon training

You are at the finish line. The road race is done and you’ve made great time. But your body is beat. You’re gasping for air and your blood sugar has just bonked you into the no-go zone. Your body has all the zip of a Yugo held together with a rubber band and Rustolium. Making it through the swimming portion of the triathlon just isn’t an option. You aren’t going to win the event. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen to you again?

In triathlon training, it is important to be able to access large amounts of energy and utilize it efficiently. While genetics do play a roll in your ability to do both of these, proper training and nutrition will go a long way towards maximizing your abilities.

The Nutrients You Need To Go Farther, Faster
There are three important fuel sources that your body consumes: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Your body prefers the glycogen that comes from carbohydrate consumption because it requires the least amount of energy expenditure in order to release its energy for use. In the first stages of an event, the body will utilize the glycogen stores found in your muscles, but as time passes and these stores deplete and the body will then go to glucose stored in the blood. By the end of the event your body is relying on both fat and glucose to power itself and will reach exhaustion when your supplies fall below a certain threshold. It then turns toward breaking down muscle tissue. To help ensure that this doesn’t happen, many athletes consume carbohydrates, often in liquid or gel form as it is easy to digest, while the race is still taking place.

Top Form Tips
Here are some nutritional tips that will help you optimize your performance while training:

1. Drink on the go. Drink a high-carbohydrate sports drink during the event to support glycogen stores. Fluids are easier than solid foods to absorb at this time.

2. Carb loading. A week before your event, increase your carbohydrate consumption to about 70 percent of your daily calories. During this last week your training should be very light, so that the nutrients you are taking in are stored in the muscles and available to you during the race.

3. Protein. Make sure you eat enough protein to support muscle repair. Consuming protein with your sports drink before, during and after the event will decrease the amount of muscle tissue breakdown as well as muscle soreness and will help you fight fatigue.

4. Variety. Vary the sources of protein and nutrients you ingest. While it is great to stick to the staples such as ground turkey, chicken and tuna, you also need to consume lean beef, soy, fish and eggs. By varying your protein source you ensure that you get the full spectrum of amino acids.

5. Take a pill. If you are going to take caffeine for the event, don’t consume it in coffee or soda. Just take a caffeine tablet. This is more efficient for the body and you avoid the caffeine being counteracted by other ingredients that may be in your drink.

6. Go Natural. Avoid food loaded with preservatives. TV dinners are not what you need. Fresh food is always better for the body and easier to digest and utilize.

7. Eat small meals frequently and chew slowly. Not everything that you eat is absorbed and utilized. Increase your body’s chances of doing so by giving it only a little to digest at a time. This will also increase your metabolism.

8. Time your meals. There are two times in particular that you need to pay attention to. The first is from when your event ends up until 30 minutes afterwards. Your body is depleted at this time and you need to replenish it to avoid further muscle tissue breakdown and glycogen depletion. The second time of importance takes place about 60 to 90 minutes after the event has finished. At this time the body is more receptive to taking in and utilizing protein and the amino acids within it.

9. Avoid late night eating. High calorie meals in the evening will impact your sleep and limit your body’s natural release of human growth hormone, which is essential for muscle repair and growth. If you are training late in the evening, drink a quality carbohydrate and protein drink to replenish your nutrient stores.

10. Water. Your muscles generate 20 times more heat while exercising than at rest. Thirst is not always a reliable measurement, by the time you feel it, you are already facing dehydration. When water loss takes place the heart beats faster. This, in turn, contributes to fatigue. Older athletes in particular should drink before they are thirsty as the sensation sensitivity decreases with age. Keep in mind, however, that while you should drink water before and after your meals, do not drink too much during as it will hamper your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Supplements for the Triathlete
The use of nutritional supplements is especially important to the endurance athlete, who places demands far beyond the realm of normal stress on his or her body. The risk of nutrient deficiency is greater and they require a larger amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to keep themselves at optimal health and performance. Nutrition is 50 percent of the formula. Give your body what it needs to win the race and perform optimally! Here are some of the tools you can use to optimize your own performance while supporting your body’s need to recover:

Vitamin and mineral supplements
With today’s natural food supply nutrient depleted, everyone can benefit from taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. However, endurance athletes in particular need this in their arsenal to avoid deficiency and to help support the absorption of protein, amino acids and the glycogen from carbohydrates. Many nutrients work synergistically with one another and the body needs certain vitamins and minerals present in order to absorb and utilize other nutrients. Remember that coffee interferes with the absorption of nutrients, so take your vitamins an hour or two before or after you drink your morning java.

Antioxidants
Known for neutralizing free radicals and helping detoxify the body, antioxidants protect against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is what leads to a reduction in performance and premature aging. Well-known antioxidants such as A, C, E, beta-carotene and the mineral selenium are only the beginning of what most athletes need. Consuming an antioxidant supplement along with your post-workout recovery drink is a great way to increase the utilization of those nutrients and to fight free radical damage. They are also key in arming your immune system against illness.

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
These help in the repair and growth of muscle tissue as well as preserve muscle glycogen stores. By consuming BCAAs immediately before or during exercise, you may slow the breakdown of muscle tissue and help avoid soreness.

Glutamine
This amino acid is worth ingesting extra of. It supports the immune system by optimizing white blood cell production. By taking 2 to 6 grams of glutamine two to four times a day you will help strengthen your immune system.

Glucosamine For Joint Repair
Maintaining the health of your joints and the connective tissues that support them is extremely important for performance as well as comfort in your later years. Glucosamine supports the connective tissues that make up your ligaments, cartilage, tendons and spinal discs. Your body converts glucos and glutamine into glucosame to support repair and growth of your connective tissues. As we age it’s ability to do this decreases. Supplementing with glucosamine can help the body up to as much as 170 percent!

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
Fat helps the body synthesize hormones which are responsible for a myriad of important functions including supplying the body with energy. During the off-season an athlete can lower their intake, but during race season it is imperative that they not neglect consuming unsaturated fats such as those found in fish, flax seed oil, nuts and seeds. Avoid the saturated fat found in tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil as well as in many processed foods.

Energy drinks
Your competition is using them. Don’t waste an opportunity to get the additional boost you need to kick yourself into high-gear. The ability to keep your energy up during a race is key to making it over that finish line first. There are many different products on the market today. Experiment with a variety to find the best one for you.

Carbo drinks
Consuming a liquid carbohydrate that is easy to absorb during your event will not only help you avoid protein breakdown, it will also aid against the onset of hypoglycemia and exhaustion. Consuming the drink again right after the race will help replenish your body with the electrolytes and nutrients it needs.