A triathlon is commonly referred to as an “eating game.” This is because caloric expenditure is so high throughout training (as well as races) and food consumption must be monitored and maintained at all times. Adaption to “active” eating, either during transition or on the course itself, is essential so that triathletes can handle caloric intake during a state of metabolic expenditure. It’s important for triathletes to monitor the quantity and consistency of their caloric intake.
But what about caloric quality and the kinds of foods triathletes should be eating? Here are 15 essential triathlon foods that will serve as effective energy sources.
These are great to consume either pre- or post-race. Although all fruits are beneficial in their own regard — and should be consumed in great variety and quantity — bananas stand out due to their high level of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Consuming bananas can evade the potential for muscle cramping, irritability, weakness, and even insomnia. Additionally, bananas help with blood-pressure levels.
Great for cardiovascular functionality, as well as energy production, almonds are a fantastic fat source. They are comprised of monounsaturated fats, which are heart and cholesterol-healthy.
Chicken is best known as a lean protein source, which beats the cholesterol-rich red meat. Chicken is also a good source of the cancer-protective B vitamin niacin. Chicken is not just a great food for building muscle, but it also leads to bone and cartilage strength, both of which are extremely important for triathletes.
This food comes with mixed reviews over the insulin response within the body. Simply put, our bodies use carbohydrates as energy. This energy can either be quick-acting or long-lasting, depending on the type of carbohydrate you consume (eg: simple starch vs. whole grain). Although simple starches are a great source for a quick energy boost, whole grain carbohydrates are ultimately best because they progressively break down and supply long-lasting energy. Quinoa is a great source of non-gluten whole-grains. It’s packed with protein and loaded with fiber.
The benefits of milk are endless. However, perhaps the most predominant feature is calcium, which protects the body from ailments such as bone loss and osteoporosis.
These are a great source of manganese and copper, two minerals essential for antioxidant defense. Additionally, walnuts have one of the best Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio out of any other nut.
These are said to be a “super food,” because of their nutrient-dense attributes. Eggs are loaded with muscle-building protein, but they also provide a source of choline, which helps membrane and fatty tissue, such as brain tissue and nerves. Eggs are also great for recovery, as they reduce inflammation.
The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. While all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, extra-virgin olive oil contains higher levels of antioxidants (particularly vitamin E and phenols), because it is less processed.
Popular drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are a great source of quick fuel, thanks to the sugar in them. These drinks also provide athletes with electrolytes, an important mineral that allows for the retention and absorption of water, which is essential for in-game athletes in regards to hydration.
A perfect pre-race or pre-workout carbohydrate source, this anti-inflammatory food provides athletes with antioxidants and loads of energy.
Whey is a milk-based protein, which is the most efficiently absorbed protein source. Additionally, whey protein powder allows for a substantial amount of protein grams (and thus, amino acids) to be packed into a single serving, without overloading calories.
Loaded with fat, peanut (or almond) butter is a great fuel source because it is calorie-packed and easy to transport, allowing for a great on-the-go snack.
Avocados are a great source of fat and vitamins. They contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may help to lower cholesterol. Avocados are also a great source of potassium, making them a heart-healthy snack.
This fish is low in calories and saturated fat, yet high in protein. It is also a unique source of the Omega-3 essential fatty acids. As their name implies, essential fatty acids are essential for human health. Because they cannot be made by the body, however, they must be obtained from foods.
This vegetable is an anti-oxidant-rich super-food. Research has proven its cancer-fighting abilities due to its levels of phytonutrients. Broccoli’s phytonutrients work as antioxidants to disarm free radicals before they can damage DNA, cell membranes and fat-containing molecules such as cholesterol. Additionally, broccoli works as a detoxifier, cleansing the body of toxins and harmful compounds.
You Are What You Eat
As a triathlete, your training frequency and capacity is extremely high. As such, it’s important to fuel your body with as many nutritiously-packed foods as possible. Eating foods with little nutritional benefit (containing “empty calories”) will do little to feed your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function efficiently. Similarly, a race car driver would only put the highest-quality gasoline into his car. It’s important for triathletes of all abilities to have a well-balanced diet consisting of these fifteen essential foods.