- How to eat before, during, and after a triathlon or long run
- Most-recommended food for a triathlon or long run
- Are eggs bad for an athlete’s health?
- Best pasta recipes for athletes
- Best types of nuts for athletes
Running Essentials: What To Eat For Triathlons and Long Runs
Triathlon and long runs are rewarding yet demanding sports activities. In exchange for triumph and fulfillment, athletes need to undergo disciplined training and conditioning, which can take a toll on the body if not done right.
For triathletes and runners to have successful training, part of the process is following an appropriate race nutrition plan. To say it simply— it involves eating the right food. This concept and eating plan may sound easier in theory. But in practice, it requires athletes to strictly follow a diet that works for their body and taste buds.
Nevertheless, you have lots of options to choose from when you experiment and build a diet plan. Our guide will help you come up with the best diet plans for triathlons and long runs.
How to Eat Before, During, and After Triathlons or Long Runs
Triathlon, long runs, and other similar sports activities consume a lot of body fuel. It can leave you exhausted or in serious condition if you don’t know how to fuel, maximize, and refuel your energy the right away.
As such, it’s essential to know the proper eating habits before you fill your pantry with the best food to eat for triathlons and long runs. You should know how to fuel your body during marathon training and before and after race day.
During your training, eat a healthy and protein-rich diet every day. Practice fuelling your body mid-run to help it adjust during the actual race. It’s best to consume at least 30g of carbohydrates per hour during rigorous training.
Before race day, eat an early dinner, preferably 12 hours before the race. Try to eat a meal similar to meals you usually prepare or consume during training, so your body won’t have to adjust to foreign meals.
On race day, you should eat a full meal about three to four hours before your run. It’s also wise to consume a light snack with enough protein and carbohydrate one to two hours before the race or your long run begins.
After the triathlon or long run, refuel your body with lots of protein and eat recovery snacks with 50% to 55% carbohydrate. Aim to have your dinner at no later than 7:00 PM.
Most-Recommended Food For Triathlons or Long Runs
Eating the right food and consuming the right amount of nutrients is part of your training as a runner or triathlete. Triathlon and even running alone is a demanding activity. To fuel and refuel your body the right way, here are some of the best types of food to eat during training and before or after the race.
Eggs are a good source of protein and other nutrients. According to the Nutrition Source section of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health dedicated to eggs, on top of protein, eggs contain choline, biotin – vitamin B7, vitamin A, and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Eggs, in any form, can be a perfect addition to your breakfast or lunch meals, especially during rigid training routines. Hard-boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, and fried eggs can offer 12 to 13 grams of protein per serving.
You may be skeptical about adding too many eggs to your diet since they have long been associated with high cholesterol issues. But according to another recent report from Harvard Medical School, “eggs do not raise the risk of heart disease, and in fact, may even protect against it.” However, it is still wise for people with diabetes and existing heart diseases to only consume a maximum of three eggs per week.
Nuts are just bite-sized snacks, but they can offer loads of protein, vitamins, minerals, and even healthy fats. It’s the perfect go-to snack during training and actual races. Here’s a list of the best nuts that can improve your bodily functions and athletic performance, along with their nutrients:
- Almonds – vitamin E, fiber, niacin, magnesium, calcium, and protein. Studies show that whole almonds can improve endurance and oxygen utilization.
- Cashews – magnesium, vitamin K, copper, iron, selenium, and zinc. Cashews are good for producing red blood cells and energy.
- Pistachios – zeaxanthin, lutein, vitamins A, vitamin B6, and potassium. Pistachios can contribute to muscular regeneration.
- Walnuts – copper, folic acid, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, and omega-3 fatty acids. Walnut can help manage weight and blood pressure.
- Pecans – copper, manganese, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants. Pecans are good for boosting brain functions and controlling weight.
Chocolates are not just sweet treats for kids and kids-at-heart. It can also help athletes fuel and refuel their energy. So if you want to reward yourself for a day’s training, boost your serotonin levels, or reduce stress, grab a bite of your favorite chocolate.
Dark chocolate, most especially, can help athletes and fitness enthusiasts train better. One study has successfully found that dark chocolate has positive effects on cardiovascular health, proving that it can boost athletic performance. The head researcher Rishikesh Kankesh Patel discovered that dark chocolate has similar benefits to beetroot juice, which is rich in nitrates.
As a whole and regardless of type, chocolate carries macronutrients, magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants. When adding chocolate to your athletic diet, just make sure that your overall diet contains fewer calories, sugar, and fat to avoid adverse health implications.
Porridge is arguably the best and most accessible breakfast or pre-run snack for runners and triathletes. Depending on the ingredients, porridge can offer up to 70% unrefined carbohydrates and a lot of protein and fiber.
According to some runners, the best porridge recipe includes honey, maple syrup, and some fruits. Fruits with the best source of nutrients are bananas, blackberries, strawberries, and cranberries. Another option is to add protein powder to the mix to boost your protein intake.
Many fruits can give a runner and a triathlete lots of nutrients, but Avocado is the best of them all. Avocado carries a unique and rich nutrition profile. It contains vitamin K, B-vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C, potassium, and copper. It’s the best food for a high-fat and low-carb diet. When consumed alone, it’s the best source of healthy fats.
If you want to get your Avocado fix during your training for a triathlon or long run, here are some healthy variations you can try:
- Avocado ‘tortilla’
- Avocado toast with eggs
- Avocado smoothie
- Avocado and tomato salad
Avocado isn’t just a healthy fruit; it’s also delicious. It can improve the taste and texture of your meals and snacks. You can add it to your daily diet without worrying about adverse health effects. According to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) – National Institutes of Health, there are already various clinical studies showing that avocado consumption helps support cardiovascular health.
“Avocado’s potassium and lutein may help promote normal blood pressure and help to control oxidative/inflammatory stress. The consumption of avocados with salads or salsa increases the bioavailability of carotenoids multi-fold, which may add to the potential health benefits,” confirmed NLM.
Plain or Natural Yogurt
Yogurt is high in protein, carbohydrates, fats, and probiotics. Specifically, it contains calcium, vitamins B6, vitamin B12, riboflavin, magnesium, and potassium. It can help fuel and refuel your energy. When consumed after a long run or triathlon, it can significantly expedite your recovery process and even protect your joints and muscles. The calcium a plain yogurt carries can strengthen your bones, while the probiotics can boost your immune system.
When choosing a healthy yogurt to add to your athletic diet for triathlons and long runs, keep in mind that less is more. As much as possible, opt for plain or natural yogurt without any preservatives. Move away from sweetened varieties. Compare yogurt calories by type or brand to find the yogurt with the best health benefits.
Alternatively, you can also add fresh or dried fruits to your plain yogurt to adjust it to your taste. Fruits are not preservatives and processed ingredients, so they won’t negatively affect the yogurt’s composition and your diet.
Pasta, especially whole grain pasta, is the best high-carb meal for fueling and refueling energy and building muscles. Eating healthy pasta during rigorous training can improve your endurance and performance.
When buying pasta and even a chunk of bread to pair with it, make sure to purchase the whole-grain variety as they contain additional B vitamins and lower calories. They also carry higher amounts of fiber than refined pasta.
Here are some simple pasta recipes you can try and incorporate into your diet to turn your meal into performance boosters:
- 1 box (12 ounces) whole-wheat bow-ties, fusilli, penne, or shells
- 1-pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 ⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ⁄2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 avocados
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 ⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
- 1 ⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1 ⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Females 100g penne / Males 130g penne
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 100ml of red wine or 4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
- tin of tomatoes
- 1-2 tbsps of tomato puree
- 1 tuna steak or a tin/jar of tuna in oil
- black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp of sugar
- olive oil
- grated parmesan to serve
- 3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
- 1/2 cup diced white onion
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 10 oz gluten-free pasta
- 8 oz canned Italian stewed tomatoes (drained) * Diced or halves
- 1/4 cup paleo mayo
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 tsp each kosher salt and black pepper
- Optional 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Fresh basil and cracked pepper
Potatoes carry a lot of carbohydrates, fiber, and sufficient amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and manganese. Like rice and fruit, it’s also a staple food to every runner, swimmer, and triathlete’s diet. And if you don’t know, a single potato can actually offer more energy-delivering complex than a cup of pasta. So it’s an excellent and easy-to-prepare alternative to packed meals and pasta.
Potatoes can also easily replace health and performance boosters like carbohydrate gels. One study released by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revealed that “consuming potato puree during prolonged exercise works just as well as a commercial carbohydrate gel in sustaining blood glucose levels and boosting performance in trained athletes”. This means that affordable and easily accessible potatoes are good alternatives to commercially-produced products marketed to fuel and refuel an athlete’s energy.
Meat And Fish
Of course, don’t forget to add the biggest source of protein to your diet—meat and fish. With these staples, you’ll be giving your body enough nutrients, minerals, and building blocks to repair your body during rigorous training or after the actual triathlon and long run.
When choosing or preparing meat and fish, choose the skinless and low-fat varieties. Choose lean meat and oily fish. They are good sources of selenium, vitamins B3 and B6, and omega-3 fatty acids.
For fish varieties, specifically, the best sources of nutrients are those rich in protein and healthy oils. According to registered dietitian Manuel Villacorta, the most nutritious fish varieties are tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines. They contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamin D.
Mixed green vegetables, especially in the form of salad, are good sources of phytonutrients, the natural chemicals produced by plants that come with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can instantly enhance your immunity system, improve intercellular communication, and repair damaged DNA.
When preparing salads, don’t just opt for lettuce. Instead, add different varieties in all shades of green, such as radicchio, spinach, butter leaf, kale, curly endive, and mache. You can buy them in bulk at grocery stores or wet markets.
Athlete’s nutrition plan varies per individual—depending on personal preference, tolerance, and training level. For this reason, it’s advisable to experiment and apply your race nutrition before and during training to find the best food and recipes that work for you. There’s always room for experimentation as each athlete has a different body composition.