Keto (fat) vs. Carb Loading

Carb-loading before events such as marathons and triathlons have been a popularized and heavily utilized strategy for probably as long as these events have existed. And this is for good reason too. Many studies, beginning as early as the late ‘30s, were examining the phenomenon of how higher glycogen (usable form of glucose) stores in the muscle played a key component in exercise bouts lasting longer than 90 minutes [1]. Researchers then began to discover that higher carbohydrate intake, specifically timed around endurance competitions, improved common endurance parameters such as time to exhaustion (TTE) and VO2 max in cyclists [2]. It’s a tried-and-true method to improving your performance in these long-distance, long-duration endeavors.

Or is it?

As time has gone on and our understanding of sports performance has improved, has a more superior method of fueling before competition emerged?

Well, with the ongoing trend of the ketogenic (keto) diet over the past few years, it looks like carb-loading may have met its match. Let’s dive into both carbohydrate and fat fueling before endurance competitions and see which one reigns supreme.

Holding On To Our Commonly-Held Beliefs

Sports nutritionists have advocated high-carbohydrate diets for endurance athletes for quite some time now. These recommendations are made mostly because of studies that were released between the ‘70s and the early 2000s, indicating that low-carbohydrate diets impair endurance performance by increasing perceptions of fatigue in the athlete [3,4,5].

However, just like anything in science, there are very few things that have such black-and-white answers to them. One study measured the level of intensity of elite cyclists after following 6 days of a low-carbohydrate diet [6]. They found that levels of fat oxidation (the utilization of fat for energy) were increased significantly in the cyclists even after this short-term, low-carbohydrate diet. What this entails is that the athletes were able to more efficiently utilize fat for energy production, even in the absence of carbohydrates.

Another interesting finding by researchers is that long-term adherence to a low-carbohydrate diet (9-36 months) may be just as effective as a high-carbohydrate diet, while also providing various metabolic advantages to the athlete, such as reduced appetite, and a decrease of blood sugar [7]. It was found that when elite cyclists followed a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (keto), time to exhaustion was not affected as compared to a standard high-carb diet [8]. Surprisingly, even though the cyclists had lower levels of muscle glycogen after following the low-carb diet, their levels of muscle glycogen were similar to the high-carbohydrate group post-exercise. This indicates that a high-fat diet may be just as effective in providing fuel for the body during endurance activities are carbohydrates are.

Could Keto Possibly Be Even Better Than High-Carbs?

It turns out that those who are “fat-adapted” (those who have been following the keto diet for at least 6 months) may perform better than those on a standard high-carb diet. Because those who follow the keto diet have a higher fat oxidation rate, this causes something called a glycogen sparing effect [9]. What this basically means is that the keto-adapted athlete would be able to maintain a high standard of intensity, while having the ability to preserve their muscle glycogen for when they really need it, such as when they need to sprint to the finish line at the end of a race. However, this is only speculation, as the research on keto and athletes in general is quite limited.

The Problem With a High-Fat Diet

The keto diet has been around for decades, being utilized for primarily for children who suffer from seizures, caused by something called GLUT1 deficiency, which is when the body lacks the ability to metabolize glucose as it crosses the blood-brain-barrier.

However, the keto diet is still in its infancy in the athletic world. Most of the studies have not started to develop until the 90s and 2000s. While on the other hand, the traditional high-carbohydrate model has been studied ever since the ‘30s.

Because of this, there are still many aspects of the keto diet in conjunction with endurance performance that remain unexplored. This includes how being “fat-adapted” affects one’s central fatigue and their perception of fatigue during exercise, the optimal composition of the types of fatty acids to eat on the diet, such as saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats, among many other variables.

Lastly, most of the studies that actually are out there are focused on utilizing the diet as a means to control body composition over the long term. There aren’t many out there that utilize it in a shorter time frame, such as replacing carbs with fats in order to see how “fat-loading” would differ from a traditional “carb-load” before an endurance competition.

The Bottom Line

Fortunately, with keto being a popular trend for quite some time now, this creates a higher demand for research regarding its application in endurance activities.

But for now, you have to do what all true scientists do, and that is to use yourself as your own guinea pig and test it out on yourself. Before one event, use a carb-load, and before the next event, use a fat-load, and see how each one affects you.

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References

  1. Christensen EH, Hansen O. Arbeitsfahigkeit und Errichtung. Skandinavische Archlv fUr Physiologie 1939; 8: 160-71
  2. Bergstrom J, Hermansen L, Hultman E, et al. Diet, muscle glycogen and physical performance. Acta Physiol Scand 1967; 71: 140-50
  3. Karlsson J, Saltin B.. Diet, muscle glycogen, and endurance performance. J Appl Physiol. 1971;31:203–206.
  4. Walker JL, Heigenhauser GJ, Hultman E, Spriet LL.. Dietary carbohydrate, muscle glycogen content, and endurance performance in well-trained women. J Appl Physiol. 2000;88:2151–2158.
  5. White AM, Johnston CS, Swan PD, Tjonn SL, Sears B.. Blood ketones are directly related to fatigue and perceived effort during exercise in overweight adults adhering to low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss: a pilot study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107:1792–1796.
  6. Burke LM, Hawley JA.. Effects of short-term fat adaptation on metabolism and performance of prolonged exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002;34:1492–1498
  7. Volek JS, Noakes T, Phinney SD.. Rethinking fat as a fuel for endurance exercise. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;15:13–20.
  8. Phinney SD, Bistrian BR, Evans WJ, Gervino E, Blackburn GL Metabolism. 1983 Aug; 32(8):769-76.
  9. Langfort J, Pilis W, Zarzeczny R, Nazar K, Kaciuba-Uscilko H.. Effect of low-carbohydrate-ketogenic diet on metabolic and hormonal responses to graded exercise in men. J Physiol Pharmacol. 1996;47:361–371.

8 Optimal Fuel Sources for Increased Sports Performance & Energy

If you’re an endurance athlete, then chances are, you know just how important nutrition is when it comes to supporting your body before, during, and after training. However, did you know that there are some foods that can directly play a role in how well your body recovers and can help give you that boost of energy you need to power through endurance training? Not all fuel sources are created equal, and some foods help to support the body better than others.

We are going to explore eight optimal fuel sources for increased sports performance and energy, and talk about exactly what the studies show and why you may want to consider adding these foods to your diet!

Sports Performance, Cycling, Triathlon, Running

8 Optimal Fuel Sources for Increased Sports Performance & Energy

#1 Quinoa: Complex carbohydrates play an important role in supporting energy levels when it comes to sports performance. Carbohydrates help to replenish glycogen stores in the body after intense exercise. They also provide a quick source of energy before training or before an athletic event. Quinoa makes for an excellent fuel source before or after athletic training as it’s rich in plant-based protein, racking in eight grams per cup. This makes quinoa a delicious post training carbohydrate to not only refuel glycogen stores but to also help support muscle recovery.

#2 Rolled Oats: Oats are another complex carbohydrate option that can make a great addition to your diet when supporting sports performance and energy. Complex carbs that are rich in dietary fiber can help sustain overall energy levels for much longer periods of time than refined carbohydrates with very little fiber. A bowl of oatmeal in the morning with some fiber-rich fruits like berries can be an excellent pre-training meal.

#3 Avocados: Rich in healthy fat, dietary fiber, and magnesium, avocados make an excellent fuel source for supporting optimal sports performance and energy levels. Athletes can enjoy half of an avocado blended into a post-training smoothie or enjoyed as a quick refuel snack between training sessions with some freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt.

#4 Berries: Berries are super rich in antioxidants to help combat inflammation, and are also rich in dietary fiber. Berries can also be a delicious fuel source during training or can be blended into your post-workout shake. A study looked at blueberries and their impact on exercise performance time and inflammatory markers in the body. The outcome was promising, proving that blueberries may help boost exercise performance while also decreasing inflammatory markers. Try enjoying blueberries regularly as a healthy snack or added to smoothies or on top of a bowl of quinoa flakes, yogurt, or oatmeal.

#5 Sweet Potatoes: If you’re a sweet potato fan, keep enjoying them because they are rich in complex carbohydrates to help restore your body’s glycogen stores, and are also rich in electrolytes potassium and magnesium. Sweet potatoes make for a delicious snack or side dish and can be enjoyed with healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado to make them an even better pre or post-training fuel source.

#6 Wild Caught Salmon: Intense training can cause inflammation in the body if you aren’t mindful of the foods you are nourishing your body with. With intense exercise, it’s important to consume a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods to help combat any inflammation put on the body through intense athletic training. Wild-caught salmon happens to be a great anti-inflammatory food option that is also rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein to help support your body’s energy levels before, during, and after training.

#7 Coconut Oil: Coconut oil makes a great addition to your athletic training diet plan for many reasons. Not only does coconut serve as an excellent fat and fuel source, but the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil travel to the liver and are used as an immediate source of energy to fuel the body. Studies have also found that lauric and capric acid, both of which are found in coconut oil, are two of the primary fatty acid fuel sources for aerobic metabolism and for supporting athletic performance.

Coconut oil also helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. It’s essential for endurance athletes to consume enough healthy fats to help the body absorb and utilize these important vitamins.

Lastly, coconut oil may benefit the endurance athlete due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Since intense athletic training can strain the body’s muscles and joints, you will want to do everything you can to reduce that inflammation. A study also found that virgin coconut oil holds analgesic effects, making it a great natural way to help combat joint and muscle pain that is often associated with endurance athletic training.

Try adding coconut oil to your sports performance diet by adding a tablespoon to your post-training smoothie or shake, or try adding it to your cup of coffee for an added energy boost.

#8 Cherries: This tart fruit can make an ideal fuel source for endurance athletes, and can easily be incorporated into the diet. Cherries can be beneficial for athletes for a couple of different reasons. For one, studies have found that cherries can help support better sleep which is an integral part of recovering from intense exercise. Cherries contain melatonin, one of the hormones that helps support a good night sleep. In addition to supporting better sleep, cherries also hold impressive antioxidant benefits, making them a great food choice to help athletes fight off inflammation. Inflammation can be a big cause of muscle and joint pain in endurance athletes, so adding foods to help combat some of that can be super beneficial. Lastly, cherries can help support the immune system, an important part of supporting your body during intense athletic training. Long-term intense endurance training can put stress on the immune system, so it is important to combat that with optimal nutrition. By supporting your body with powerful immune-boosting foods like cherries, you can help reduce your risk of getting sick after being run down from big athletic events.

Sports Performance, Cycling, Triathlon, Running

The Takeaway

So, let’s sum this up. What foods should you be adding to your diet to increase sports performance and energy, and how can you go about enjoying more of these foods on a regular basis?

Here are some takeaway points to help you get started.

  • Enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with fresh berries and a drizzle of raw honey as a pre-training meal.
  • Enjoy quinoa instead of refined carbohydrates like white pasta and white rice. Add quinoa to salads, or enjoy with some dark leafy greens and a wild-caught salmon filet.
  • Enjoy a sweet potato with a drizzle of coconut oil as a quick refuel option after intense training.
  • Add more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to reduce inflammation and pain and help you train better and longer! Add things like cherries, berries, and coconut oil to your diet.
  • Add a half of a sliced avocado to a post-training shake or smoothie for added fat, fiber, and magnesium to help reduce muscle cramps and support energy levels.

Optimal nutrition is such a key component of athletic training, and can really make a difference in your overall energy and performance levels. Use the power of nutrition to your advantage to fuel your body right and avoid ever feeling depleted. Try adding these foods to your diet to help combat exercise-induced inflammation, support the immune system, and provide your body with foods that will support optimal sources of energy so that you can get the most out of every single training session.

There is, of course, always a caveat with nutrition, and it’s up to the athlete to figure out what works best for them. I advise keeping a food diary and inputting how each food/s make you feel, any adverse effects, etc. You also need to figure out which food/s work best for you in terms of budget, preparation time, ease of eating (don’t eat a burrito in your car!), and of course any potential allergic reactions. Just like anything else, practice = perfect! Over time, and with experimenting with various foods, you’ll find what works best for you, your body, and your athletic performance.

Resources

  1. Quinoa VS Rice: Which Foods has More Nutritional Value? UPMC. https://share.upmc.com/2018/04/quinoa-vs-brown-rice-nutrition/
  2. Park, Kwak, Seo, Kim (2018) NCBI. Assessing the Value of Blueberries Intake on Exercise Performance, TAS, and Inflammatory Factors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124147/
  3. Thomas Campbell MD. (2014) T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. How Sweet is a Sweet Potato? Pretty Sweet! https://nutritionstudies.org/how-sweet-is-a-sweet-potato/
  4. Lyudinina, Ivankova, Bojko (2018) Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Priority use of Medium-Chain Fatty Acids During High-Intensity Exercise in Cross-Country Skiers. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0265-4#Sec12
  5. Intahphuak, Khonsung, Panthong (2010) NCBI. Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, and Antipyretic Activities of Virgin Coconut Oil. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645831
  6. University Health News Daily. Tart Cherry Juice Sleep Solutions: Beat Insomnia with This Natural Remedy. https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/sleep/the-tart-cherry-juice-sleep-solution-tart-cherry-juice-benefits-include-beating-insomnia/
  7. Linda Wallenfels (2016( The Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice for Endurance Atheletes. https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/the-benefits-of-tart-cherry-juice-for-endurance-athletes/
  8. Karl Riecken (2015) Training for Endurance Sports and Your Immune System. https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/training-for-endurance-sports-and-your-immune-system/

The Ketogenic Diet and Its Effects on Endurance Performance

You often hear about the Ketogenic (keto) diet when people are trying to lose weight; often times a significant amount of it. People will often boast about how they lost 10-15 lbs within the first month on the keto diet. For those who are accustomed to eating high-carbohydrate diets, this is normal and perhaps even expected. This is mostly the result of the release of excess glycogen and water that carbs often hold onto. Without the carbs, less water and glycogen is stored in the skeletal muscle tissue. 

But how does this affect one’s endurance performance? Is this an effective dieting methodology to utilize to prepare for competition? Is it an effective nutritional intervention whatsoever?


It’s Not So Simple

There are several studies out there that support the notion that it doesn’t make a difference where it counts. You’ll figure out what I mean by that in a minute.

In a study that tested ultra-marathoners and triathletes, they found out that after performing both a maximally graded incline treadmill test along with a 180 minute submaximal run at 64% of VO2 max, there were no differences between the high-carbohydrate and low-carbohydrate diet groups in the level of muscle glycogen in the muscle after exercise and even 2 hours post-workout [1]. 

Now, this occurred while the energy utilization completely differed between the two groups. In the low-carb group, fat oxidation (the process of fat being released into the bloodstream to be burned for use) was over 2x higher than in the high-carb group.

Okay, well they may have performed similarly, but the low-carb group lost more fat, right? Well again…

It’s not so simple!

Keto Diet

Effects on Body Composition

You’d probably be surprised to find out that following a low-carb keto diet won’t make you lose fat any faster either! To this date, all studies comparing keto diets to standard moderate carb diets, with protein and calories equal between the groups, have shown no fat loss advantage [2]. Researchers postulate that favorable fat loss advantages are often seen in those who follow the keto diet because they also inadvertently increase their protein intake [3].

However, there does seem to be an advantage that the keto diet has that standard diets don’t; it effects appetite regulation. Study after study has shown that individuals often unconsciously reduce their calorie intake when following a strict keto diet, as dietary fats have a greater effect on hunger than carbohydrates do, independent of protein consumption [4]. Because of this, it may be a smart move to utilize this type of diet if you constantly battle with hunger while dieting.  

Should You Even Bother?

Well. that’s a tough question. Because there’s actually some compelling research out there to prove that utilizing it to an extent may enhance performance. 

Without getting too deep into the physiological mechanisms of keto, basically, keto uses an energy source called ketones (once you’re adapted to the diet) instead of glucose for energy. Glucose, when converted to glycogen, is what is normally used for energy from carbohydrate. However, in its absence, it utilizes the next best thing; ketones, also known as ketone bodies. 

These ketones have become available in many sports supplements in the form of salts; often referred to as exogenous ketones. Researchers believe that while utilizing a moderate carb diet, supplementing with these salts may help to increase glycogen replenishment after exercise and help to promote skeletal muscle recovery [5]. In this scenario, we get the “best of both worlds” and we theoretically have energy coming from multiple sources, increasing our efficiency and output. 

But don’t get too excited just yet. These keto supplements are still relatively in their infancy stages on the supplement market. Therefore, more evidence is needed in order to make this a more definitive claim. 

Keto Diet

It Just Doesn’t Seem Meant To Be…For Now

With the current research we have out right now (which is surprisingly limited in athletes), the general trend seems to fall towards a negative impact in several training variables. These include heart rate, level of perceived effort, and overall training quality [6]. This seems especially evident when performing at higher levels of intensity, as one reaches closer to the muscle glycogen utilization threshold, where carbohydrate loading techniques would often be employed.

On the other side of the coin, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here either. Some researchers have trouble understanding why some people are “high-responders” and “low-responders” to the keto diet. For example, a few of the individuals that were a part of a group of ultramarathoners appeared to perform better while on the keto diet. Researchers believe this to be because ultramarathons are more slowly paced than standard marathons, they rely more on fat stores, therefore, making it the superior fuel source [1]. But again, like with all things in research, this necessitates further examination. 

The Bottom Line

I hate to leave you all like this, but that is what I must do. I must leave you with an inconclusive ending.

There’s still much research to be done in this field. There simply haven’t been enough tests conducted and hypothesis’ tested in order to get an in-depth grasp of keto’s mechanisms on performance. But for now, it seems to be leading in the direction that carbs are still king. 

You may hear even more conflicting evidence in places such as social media, with advocates touting how great it is for performance. But remember, what works for them may not work for you. Hey, some people have actually performed better with it. Sometimes, you must treat yourself as your own test “subject” in order to see how these things affect you personally. Therefore, at least you can give yourself some data to work with!

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References

  1. Volek, J. S., Freidenreich, D. J., Saenz, C., Kunces, L. J., Creighton, B. C., Bartley, J. M., . . . Phinney, S. D. (2016). Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners. Metabolism, 65(3), 100-110. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2015.10.028
  2. Aragon, A. A., Schoenfeld, B. J., Wildman, R., Kleiner, S., Vandusseldorp, T., Taylor, L., . . . Antonio, J. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: Diets and body composition. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1). doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y
  3. Soenen, S., Bonomi, A. G., Lemmens, S. G., Scholte, J., Thijssen, M. A., Berkum, F. V., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2012). Relatively high-protein or ‘low-carb’ energy-restricted diets for body weight loss and body weight maintenance? Physiology & Behavior, 107(3), 374-380. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.08.004
  4. Sumithran, P., Prendergast, L. A., Delbridge, E., Purcell, K., Shulkes, A., Kriketos, A., & Proietto, J. (2013). Ketosis and appetite-mediating nutrients and hormones after weight loss. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(7), 759-764. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.90
  5. Evans, M., Cogan, K. E., & Egan, B. (2016). Metabolism of ketone bodies during exercise and training: Physiological basis for exogenous supplementation. The Journal of Physiology, 595(9), 2857-2871. doi:10.1113/jp273185
  6. Burke, L. M., & Hawley, J. A. (2002). Effects of short-term fat adaptation on metabolism and performance of prolonged exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,34(9), 1492-1498. doi:10.1097/00005768-200209000-00015

Triathlon: Swim, Bike, Run… and Eat?

As an endurance athlete myself, and working with triathletes, I always say that the fourth part of a triathlon is optimal nutrition. Without fueling your body with what it needs, your body may not perform as well as it could, and you run the risk of burning yourself out, both mentally and physically.

While many athletes are incredibly driven when it comes to their athletic training schedules, getting serious about the foods you put in your body is just as important.

In this article, we are going to talk about why fueling your body right is just as important as the training aspect of getting your body in peak shape for a triathlon.

Triathlon, Nutrition

The Importance of Nutrition for Endurance Athletes

When it comes to fueling your body for a triathlon, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Nutrition for endurance athletes really encompasses what you will eat before, during, and after training. For triathletes, this is super important simply because of how rigorous training for a triathlon can be.

When you train for a triathlon, you are training for multiple different athletic events such as swimming, cycling, or running that will all occur during the triathlon. As you can imagine, your body is going to need some additional fuel to power through these athletic events. Not only will nourishing your body with the right foods help to support exercise endurance, but a healthy and balanced diet can help keep you healthy and reduce the risk of becoming depleted in certain nutrients.

Nutrition for athletes training for a triathlon is also very important for recovery. Since training can be hard on the muscles and joints, it’s important to fuel the body with clean protein sources to help nourish those tired muscles and promote optimal recovery. The body will also require adequate amounts of carbohydrates to help restore depleted glycogen stores.

Nutritional Guidelines for Triathletes

To help support energy reserves, it’s important for endurance athletes to get enough carbohydrates to support energy demands, protein to help repair worked muscles, and healthy fats to support energy and satiety. Adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to the diet can also help ensure that athletes are getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to help them stay in tip-top shape.

Here are some general macronutrient requirements to keep in mind when training for a triathlon.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are essential for the endurance athlete, and they will serve as an immediate fuel source both during training and during the actual triathlon. It’s important to make sure that you are consuming enough complex carbohydrates as carbohydrate depletion can lead to things like fatigue, poor concentration, and poor athletic performance. It’s important to nourish your body with enough carbohydrates to help restore those glycogen stores that may have been depleted during athletic training. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 6-10 grams of carbs per kg of body weight per day. The actual amount you will want to get will depend on your physical fitness level and how long you train. Your body will require closer to the higher end of that range the longer you train and the more active you are each day.

Quality is also super important as you don’t want to consume just any type of carbohydrate. Strive to enjoy complex carbohydrates from things like fruits, veggies, and other fiber-rich options like rolled oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, or brown rice.

Protein: Protein is going to play an essential role in supporting muscle recovery throughout training and even before, during, and after the triathlon. The general guideline for low to moderate endurance athletic training is about 1.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. For very intense endurance training, that recommendation goes up to 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day.

Fats: It’s important to get enough healthy fat in the diet for a couple of reasons. For one, fats serve as another great energy source. Although the primary and immediate fuel source for athletes is carbohydrates, the carbohydrate stores in the body are limited to approximately 2,000 calories. During an intense athletic event like a triathlon, your body is going to need fat to help prevent the body from completely burning through and using up those carbohydrate stores. Since there are plenty of fat stores in the body, consuming enough healthy fats during training and as a regular part of a healthy diet can help ensure that your body is going to have the nutrient stores it needs throughout a triathlon. 

Triathlon, Nutrition

What About Nutrition DURING a Triathlon?

Since a triathlon involves three different endurance training events, it’s important to know that as you progress through each stage of the triathlon, your body requires different energy as well as nutritional needs.

One of the most important things to remember is to stay adequately hydrated and to replace those lost electrolytes you will be excreting through sweat. Staying hydrated can also help prevent cramps as you go through each event.

In addition to hydration, you also want to make sure that you are fueling your body with the right foods before the triathlon begins. You will want to enjoy your pre-event meal about 2-2.5 hours before the race starts, and aim for 1-2 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight. It is also recommended that you stick to foods you have enjoyed in the past to avoid introducing anything new that could potentially cause stomach upset. Stick to something fairly bland like oatmeal and fruit. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!

During the triathlon, you will also need to continue to fuel your body to support energy demands. It is recommended that athletes consume 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Consuming healthy sources of carbohydrates throughout training is essential since carbohydrate stores in the body are limited. To make sure the body doesn’t run out, you can snack on things like sports granola bars or fruit. Just be sure to choose a food source that is free from any artificial ingredients and avoid anything with artificial sweeteners to avoid potential stomach distress.

After the triathlon is over, it’s time to support your body and replenish glycogen stores and nourish your tired muscles with the right foods. You will also want to rehydrate right away. Strive to consume a protein and carbohydrate-rich meal after the event with about 20-25 grams of protein.

The Best Foods to Fuel Your Body Right

So, we know that fueling your body right is an essential part of training and participating in a triathlon, but there is more to eating enough carbs, protein, and fat. Quality also matters, as quality is king when it comes to how well your body will perform.

Here are some great options when it comes to fueling your body with the right foods.

Healthy Carbohydrate Options

  • Rolled oats
  • Brown rice & brown rice pasta
  • Sports bars that are free from artificial ingredients
  • Fruits
  • Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes

Healthy Protein Options

  • Grass-fed meat
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Eggs
  • Unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • Nuts & Seeds

Healthy Fat Options

  • Avocados
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts & Seeds
Triathlon, Nutrition

The Takeaway

To help break this all down, here’s a reference on how you can fuel your body right when training for a triathlon.

  • Support your body with enough complex carbohydrates getting 6-10 grams of carbs per kg of body weight per day.
  • Aim to get 1-1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day.
  • Consume enough healthy fats each day to help support energy levels and prevent burning through your carbohydrate stores too quickly.
  • Enjoy a carbohydrate-rich meal about 2-2.5 hours before the triathlon with 1-2 grams of carbs per kg of body weight.
  • Consume about 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour during the triathlon.
  • Enjoy 20-25 grams of protein with some complex carbohydrates after the event to help support muscle recovery and to replenish glycogen stores.

Optimal nutrition is such a key piece to athletic training. Getting the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat is a critical part of making sure your body is nourished and can make a massive difference in how well you train. Strive to make nutrition a key part of your training plan, and use it as a tool to help you get the most out of your training, be at your best on race day, and recover more efficiently!


If you’re looking to learn more about sports nutrition, create flexible, sustainable, and indefinite habits when it comes to healthy food choices, and have a knowledgable Coach in your corner throughout the process, check out our Nutrition Coaching program.

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Resources