Nutrition for Triathletes

Nutrition for Triathletes.


The triathlon is one of the most popular sporting challenges for amateur athletes, with plenty of triathlons in London these days.

If you are taking part in a triathlon, then you will see better results if you follow a progressive training programme, ensure you have the correct equipment for each discipline, and familiarise yourself beforehand with the course you will be attempting.

Nutrition also plays a key role is getting you through the challenge of a triathlon – particularly in the build up to the event.

These top tips on nutrition for triathletes will help you to perform at your very best on the day!


The build up:

What you eat in the weeks and months leading up to your triathlon will play a big part in how well you perform in training and the race itself – optimal performance is impossible without optimal nutrition.

In general, nutrition for triathletes should involve eating fresh, natural, unprocessed foods.

Processed foods are low in nutrients and require more effort from your body to extract any goodness from them.

You want your body focused on recovering from your training – not sidetracked by any additional stress on the digestive system.

Most triathletes eat 4-6 times a day when in serious training, but use your own training time to experiment with what works best for you: anything from 3 regular meals to 6 smaller meals per day is fine.

Your meals should include:

Complex carbohydrates, such as wild or brown rice, buckwheat, lentils, millet, quinoa, baked potato or wholemeal pasta (which many endurance athletes swear by – even though it is harder than some complex carbs to digest) to fuel your workouts and provide glycogen to aid your recovery.

‘Clean’, easily digestible proteins, such as salmon, organic eggs, turkey, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds and avocados to repair the muscle tissue you are using in your training.

Healthy fats, from coconut oil, olive oil, organic eggs, avocados, and nuts to aid circulation and joint health.

Vegetables, such as betroot, leafy greens, sweet potatoes and carrots to provide the minerals needed for intensive work.

Try to get into the habit of eating your fruits early in the day (a smoothie of fruit mixed with leafy greens and seeds is a great and easily digestible way to start the day).

Your digestive system is at its strongest early in the day, so consuming raw fruits at this time allows you to gain the maximum amounts of vitamins and nutrients.

Avoid fruit (in favour of cooked vegetables) later in the day as fruit will ferment in your digestive system on top of slower digesting foods.

Start consuming probiotic foods as these will strengthen your immune system during what can be a strenuous training period.

There are few things worse than getting a bout of flu or bad cold a few weeks before your big race – strengthen your immune system the natural way with fermented sourkraut, fermented cucumbers or natural unprocessed yoghurt in the build up to your triathlon.

Give your body a few weeks to get used to probiotic foods.

In general, try to get into a regular routine of what you eat – don’t introduce too many new and exotic foods to your system in the immediate build up to the race.

Drink beetroot juice daily for at least a week before your triathlon, as beetroot is an excellent choice of nutrition for triathletes as it helps increase work capacity for endurance events!


The evening before the race:

Pasta based meals have long been the pre-race meal of choice for endurance athletes.

If you aren’t a pasta fan, then go for a complex carb like wild rice or (if you want additional protein too) quinoa instead.

Add any reasonably easily digestible protein source like salmon or chicken plus a few simple vegetables and you’ll be good to go!

Try to avoid eating an unusually large meal the night before the triathlon, keep any sauces simple and don’t experiment with any foods your body isn’t already well accustomed to.


The morning of the race:

Try to eat a fairly substantial high-carb breakfast on race day to replenish the glycogen your body will have lost overnight.

Porridge made with oats, millet or quinoa with some nuts, berries and natural yoghurt are easily digestible forms of breakfast nutrition for triathletes.

Some people like to eat one fairly large breakfast, whilst others prefer two mini breakfasts.

Your training by now should have taught you your optimum time to eat before tough exercise.

If you like eating two hours before, then aim for 600-800 calories, and to consume 1 gram of complex carbs per pound of bodyweight.

If you prefer to eat four hours before the race, then aim for 800-100 calories and make it 1.5 grams of complex carbs per pound of bodyweight.

Avoid too much fat or fibre so your digestive system isn’t overworked, keep well hydrated and stick to breakfast choices that your system is used to.


During the race:

Unless you are competing in an Ironman type ultra endurance triathlon, then you shouldn’t need to eat too much during the actual race!

A ripe banana is a good source of instant, easily digestible energy if you are really struggling.

Being well hydrated during your race ?is extremely important through, particularly if you are competing in a summer event.

Lots of competitors drink commercial energy drinks and whilst these work on the day, I believe them to have a toxic effect on the body over the long term.

I would suggest that you make your own isotonic drinks (in distinctive, easily identifiable bottles) to leave at the drinks stations.

Simply add a tablespoon of honey and a quarter of a tablespoon of Himalayan sea salt to a litre of water and you will be well set.


After the race:

Once you have completed your triathlon, it’s time to reward yourself and take advantage of the ‘window of opportunity’.

This is when – after intense activity – the body is crying out for calories!

So don’t stuff yourself but eat well during your post-race meal.

Again use your training to determine when you feel ready to eat after tough exercise.

Some people struggle to eat immediately after exercise, whilst others are ravenous straight away – listen to your body and keep hydrated until you eat your well earned meal.


So now you know our tips on nutrition for triathletes – get out there and break your PB!

Good luck with your training and feel free to contact us at if you need help with planning a training programme or nutrition plan for a future triathlon.
 – nutrition for triathletes.

Written by 

Sam is a Premier Diploma qualified personal trainer in SW London and is the founder of

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