Margaret Mielczarek APD, AN, AccSD

November is generally synonymous with warmer weather (hello sunshine!), the Melbourne Cup, the Noosa Multisport Festival, and, for many triathletes, with the start of the triathlon season. The hard winter slog has been done and it’s time to race!

eggIt’s also a time when pre race training is at its peak, with training volume and intensity ramped up (welcome to the pre-competition and competition phase of your program). Combine this with other daily stressors such as family, relationships and work, and your body is under a pretty significant load (Phew! Just thinking about this is making me tired!).

This can leave a lot of athletes feeling flat and fatigued, and if this is left unattended it can lead to more severe forms of fatigue known as over reaching and even over training (for more on over reaching and over training click here).

To prevent severe fatigue, continue training and ensure a successful triathlon season it’s important to fuel right. Now isn’t the time to avoid or eliminate whole food groups (dairy and gluten I’m looking at you!), unless you have a diagnosed allergy or intolerance. Now isn’t the time to overly restrict your dietary intake because you’re trying to lose weight (are you a dieter or are you an athlete?).

Now is the time to fuel hard training sessions and to optimise recovery (nutrient timing). This will help to minimise excessive fatigue, it will allow you to hit your training targets (which, inadvertently will help with achieving those body composition goals) and will ensure that you’re recovering well after training. Do this, and you will enjoy a long, successful triathlon season.

Pre-training Fuel

The choice of pre-training fuel depends on how much time you have before training. The more time you have the bigger the meal or snack can be. If you only have 30minutes before a training session it’s best to opt for snacks that aren’t going to sit in your gut too long, causing potential gastro-intestinal (GI) discomfort during training.

Pre-training snacks should be based on carbohydrates (your body’s primary fuel source) but don’t overlook protein as well for sustained energy throughout your workouts.

My favorites include:

  • 2 slices toast or 2-3 rice cakes (depending on how hungry I am) with cottage cheese or peanut butter, topped with sliced banana and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon
  • A sandwich or wrap packed with salad veg (the more colour the better), cheese, shaved chicken, turkey or roast beef
  • ½-1cup Sun Rice Quick Cups steamed brown rice with tinned tuna or salmon and mixed frozen veg
  • 1 tub of yoghurt (I love Chobani) with fruit (banana, berries, whatever you like really) and sprinkle ground cinnamon
  • A smoothie
  • 1 serve of Sustagen Sport with milk or 1 tetra pack Up&Go Energize (perfect if I’m time poor and have less than 30minutes before a training session)
  • 1 medium banana and handful almonds (again, this is especially great if you’re time poor)
  • Homemade energy balls or homemade banana bread

What to eat during training?

This really depends on the purpose of your session and how you’re feeling.

If you’re doing a long ride, for example, and the purpose of the session is to train your gut and practice your race day nutrition, then you need to make sure that you’re using the products, in the amounts, which you’re planning on using on race day. Yes, that means no stopping at your favorite bakery for a coffee and a muffin – unless of course you’re planning on doing that during the race.

Otherwise, you need to monitor how you’re feeling and what you’re trying to get out of a particular training session. For example, if you’re doing an easy, recovery session that lasts less than 60minutes you probably don’t need much more than water. But if you’re doing a track session, or if you’re doing fast bike laps around Albert Park Lake on a Thursday morning, and you want to hit your training targets, it’s a good idea to carry some fast acting carbohydrates (think sports gels, bars and yes, even Gatorade) to give you the energy that you need, quickly, incase you start to run out of steam.

Post-training Recovery

The best athletes are those who can recover the fastest and hit the next training session in the best shape possible.

To help with the recovery process, it’s important to get the right fuel in.

avoThe key to post-training recovery is to make sure that your meal or snack contains a combination of protein (up to 25g) for muscle recovery and adaptation to training and to curb that post-training insatiable appetite, carbohydrates to restore used glycogen stores and healthy fats to reduce inflammation.

Where possible, you’re better off saving your pennies and using the ‘food first’ approach here, rather than always relying on powders and potions. But protein powder can certainly be useful, especially when you’re all go-go-go after training and don’t have the luxury to sit down to a meal/snack until you’re at your desk at work.

If you can get to a well-combined meal/snack within 30-60min post training do that. If not, protein powder can be useful. But you don’t have to spend big bucks here! What you want to look out for in a protein powder is that it provides you with up to 25g protein per serve (with 2-3g of Leucine) and about 10g carbs per serve. But fret not. If the protein powder you’ve bought doesn’t contain any carbs, don’t go out and buy another one, just make sure you have a carb rich snack, like a banana when you have that protein after training.

My favorite post-training meals/snacks include:

  • Eggs on toast with smashed avocado and smoked salmon
  • A smoothie
  • Chocolate milk shake or 1-serve Sustagen Sport with milk (if I’m time poor).
  • Yoghurt (Chobani is my favorite!) with almonds and blueberries
  • Chia pudding topped with yoghurt and fruit
  • 2-4 rice cakes with ricotta cheese, topped with sliced banana and ground cinnamon
  • Sandwich or wrap with salad veg, cheese and shaved tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey or roast beef
  • Brown rice with John West Tuna and Bean Mix
  • Homemade protein balls

Remember: recovery doesn’t end in the post-workout window. It continues for the next 24-48hours. So it’s important that you resume normal eating after your initial recovery meal/snack and balance each meal and snack with protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates.

If you’re suffering from excessive fatigue or if you’re finding that you’re not able to recover from training sessions well and if you’d like an individualised dietary assessment contact me for an appointment today at [email protected].  

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