In order to successfully prepare for a triathlon you will need to carefully structure your training and take a very considered approach to nutrition. As well as making sure that you are at your ideal racing weight at the time of the race, you also need to ensure that you are giving your body everything it needs to rebuild and improve between training sessions.
One long running debate is whether athletes should stray away from the traditional 3 meals a day. Though it will involve changing the way your day is structured, shifting to eating 4, 5 or even 6 small meals each day can bring some crucial benefits.
How Often Should You Eat?
The human body isn’t designed to store many of the nutrients and fuels we need to recover after exercise. Certain fuels, protein for example, can only be absorbed at a given rate. This means that even if you’ve had a full meaty fry up for breakfast, by lunchtime, your body is craving protein.
By increasing the number of meals you eat each day you can make sure that your body receives a constant supply of all the fuels and nutrients it needs to recover fully. As these meals are also going to be smaller, your body will be able to make much better use of the nutrients you give it.
Have you ever tried training straight after a big meal? It’s horrible. By eating a higher number of smaller meals you can be far more flexible with when you train. If you are planning a morning swim session you can have a very light meal beforehand and then another, slightly larger meal right afterwards. By eating smaller means you will no longer need to wait 2 hours until you train. For triathletes who need to fit in two, or even three, training sessions each day, this can make a huge difference.
Another reason to spread your food intake throughout the day is to make sure your body has the right type of energy, exactly when it needs it. That means you can make sure that you are always fully fuelled before each training session. If you are better fuelled you will train harder. Train harder and you will perform better in your next race.
Though it may take some getting used to, adopting a more flexible approach to how you structure your meals can have noticeable benefits to your training and recovery. Admittedly, everyone is different. Some people might not be able to adapt to eating 6 meals a day. My suggestion is that you give it a go. If you currently eat 3 meals a day, try working with 4 for a couple of weeks. If that works, experiment further.
What’s your experience? Do you prefer to eat more than 3 meals each day?