Nutrition is crucial in any sport but especially in endurance sports and triathlon, combining swimming, cycling and running.

Regardless of the distance you are planning on racing in your next triathlon, anything from sprint to Ironman,  as with any other sport, nutrition is a fundamental key in order to achieve your best performance.

(Very) Broadly speaking, a triathlete’s diet can be grouped in two different stages: the training period and the specific nutrition required for the competition.

It is not about “losing weight” when we talk about an endurance athlete’s diet but having the correct muscle composition and a low body fat index. It is always advisable to visit a nutritionist in order to conduct personalized exams and know exactly where you are at.

In the preseason or preparation for any competition, a key element is to always start with a good meal. It’s important to eat enough starting with breakfast and it’s always advisable to eat something before training, as well as to keep tabs on our caloric consumption through our training as it’s common for athletes to finish the day with a caloric deficit in fear of gaining weight. Unless we eat enough, the cost of that deficit will certainly be high. Some of the signs can be lack of energy while training with poor results and general discontent. On the other hand, a good nutrition of likely 800-1000 calories a day, will provides us with quick recoveries, fewer cravings and an increase in performance.

Carbs or carbohydrates are a frequent source of energy for triathletes of all levels, if possible, favoring those of slow absorption (bread, pasta, rice, potato, legumes). At the same time, it is advised to decrease the number of fatty foods. The dietary objective is to provide enough energy and nutrients and assess the exercise performed by the athlete. In addition, possible supplementation should be evaluated in the face of competition.

Hydration should never be neglected, being an extremely important part of what we’ll need to perform, both with water and isotonic drinks. How much do you really need varies from one person to the next based on factors such as sweat rate, activity levels, weather or size of the athlete. A basic rule of thumb is to pay close attention to your thirst and make sure to alternate water with electrolyte-drinks low in sugar to replenish salts and minerals.

Another important thing to consider is nutrition while training, frequently sourced by gels and bars. At moderate or high-intensity sessions of under 2 hours a unique source of carbohydrates can suffice (i.e. glucose) and with those that last over 2-3 hours, an intake of up to 90 grams per hour is recommended, ideally from a product that with multiple carbohydrate sources. At significantly longer durations (over 10 hours) lower doses regularly apply.

These same principles apply for race day, where there are several factors that must be taken into account, from the intake of food as fuel, as the importance of being well hydrated. Big enemies when facing a great demand are stomach pains or fatigue due to lack of sugars, that’s why it’s important to test our race nutrition several times during training.

In the previous days to your race, it’s recommended to increase your carbohydrate load increasing the contribution of rich foods and lowering the consumption of fats and fibers, avoiding mostly fatty meats and fish and fruits and vegetables. The day of the race is important not to “skip” breakfast, as it generates a deposit of essential glycogen to compete. Hydrate well before the race. Nothing should really change that day. It’s important not to try anything new.

As a final disclaimer, everyone is different when it comes to nutrition and there is no silver bullet. While some people will swear by a Keto diet, others will profess the way of Paleo and others will stand with carbs. If you really want to understand what’s best for you, there’s nothing better than visiting a local physician and nutritionist and actually explore what’s best for you.

For any type of running distance, it is vital to measure speed through intervals in shorter distances adapting to a stronger pace and gaining agility.

Within a training plan, interval training will allow us to gain speed and face our next races stronger improving our competition pace.

For any type of preparation, there are different possible intervals. From short (ranging from 50 meters), to long (which have a base of 1000 meters), but must also take into account those that accumulate hills and slopes, to gain power and improve our pace.

The appropriate pace for the series will be based on each runner. The intensity of that pace is the key to any type of training.

When training short intervals, it must be understood that these are just a part of our plan and the mere realization of them will not necessarily bring benefits. It must be understood that different aspects have to be trained to achieve improvement.

Making many short intervals allows us to improve our maximum VO2, that is, the maximum amount of oxygen that our muscles can absorb.

With this approach, we work on improving the anaerobic side through a lot of short series load.

Through this, a very practical type of training can be achieved that works on our capacity to hold distance and speed at the same time. The most advisable thing would be to make series that go from 50 meters to 400 at a fast pace (not the maximum) with a recovery of a similar distance at a smooth pace without stopping and then continue with the next series.

Keep in mind that the smaller the distance, the faster the pace at which you run it. On the other hand, if the distance is greater, the pace should be slower and steady. Regardless, these intervals are to be done faster than our expected race pace.

Physically, this effort demands more energy, blood, and oxygen for the muscles, so at the end of the training, it’s normal for any athlete to feel exhaustion and fatigue.

Also, keep in mind that the average recovery period in short intervals should not exceed 30 or 45 seconds.

That is why in these series not only the pace is important, but also the recovery intervals.

Regarding the evolution of your training, athletes will feel a higher perceived level of exhaustion right off the interval training but as days go by the body will adapt to the effort and your legs will gain greater speed as strength. Thus, the body will adapt to a much greater demand.

Generally speaking, when we do interval training, we usually demand a greater expenditure of power and, for that, a greater number of muscle fibers. Therefore, it is preferable to have recoveries that are not too short. When training distances between 500 meters and two kilometers, it is best to rest for about a minute.

When the intervals are 3 kilometers or more, it is usual to take two-minute resting intervals.

Another alternative is to implement active recovery, jogging in order to keep an active heart rate.

This type of work also allows us to have a better running feeling at a high pace. The ideal thing in a workout is to start the first interval easy and finish strongest on the last one.

The positive results of interval training will not be seen on whether one responds adequately at the beginning of the workout, but rather in how you feel after the work is finished and whether you can sustain your target pace throughout the full duration of the training.

Only after several months of systematic training will you begin to notice the first symptoms of an obvious progression, so you should plan your training taking into account your key competitions in order to be at your best on race day.

  1. Under & Over Training. Again, your training is your training. Try not to miss or do more than prescribed.
  2. Understanding your Training. Spend 15′ minutes each week looking at your upcoming week training.
  3. “Key” workouts. Those are the most important workouts of your training. If you feel like missing one day, miss the easy days but not the “key” workouts days.
  4. Not Staying in your Zones. Once you are tested, you should know your zones.
  5. Going too hard on easy days.
  6. Racing long distances before you are ready. There is a logical sequence to follow and that is starting with short distances and slowly gradually go increasing. I suggest Triathletes to do a IRONMAN 70.3 distance at least on their third year of consecutive training and the Full IRONMAN distance after experiencing few 70.3 distances. Same deal for the Runners planning to do Marathons. I suggest to start with 5 & 10 K, then few 13.1 before a 26.2 distance. What I mean with “consecutive” training is NO interruptions, mainly with injuries.
  7. Don’t underrate race distances as a 5 K or a Sprint Distance Triathlon. The whole Run & Triathlon industry is pushing you to run a Marathon and to do an IRONMAN. In my opinion, you don’t need to be an IRONMAN to be a Triathlete and don’t need to do a Marathon to be a Runner.