Triathlon Camp Nutrition Tips for Triathletes – Part 2

Coach Ben Greenfield , Training Tips Add comments

In the last article, you learned about why you should fuel differently when you go to a triathlon camp (like the upcoming Wildflower training camps coming April 5-7).Top 20 Fueling Myths

During my time spent at triathlon camps, I have developed four crucial guidelines to assist in high-volume meal planning and daily nutrition.

1. Prioritize Activity-Based Fueling. When your body is active and engaged in exercise, with blood flowing and the heart beating rapidly, your cells become more insulin sensitive. This means that your pancreas does not produce such an enormous surge of insulin in response to high sugar and calorie intake, and your body is more likely to utilize circulating blood sugar for energy, rather than convert it into circulating triglycerides (packaged fats) in the liver. This window of insulin sensitivity ranges from 5-10 minutes prior to beginning and training session, during the training session, and up to 20-30 minutes afterwards. Based on this concept, you should choose the sweetest, most calorie dense fuels and actually consume them immediately before, during and after a training session. This means that packaged gummy sugar bites or gooey morsels of chocolate should be eaten only during the training window, and not while lounging on the couch at the end of the day, or sitting in a transport vehicle 45 minutes before a session. Some of my athletes refer to this guideline as “saving your sugar”. If you want a very slow release fuel, then check out this article, in which I describe my personal race day fueling protocol, which also works very well on long training days.

2. Utilize Nutrient Timing. Compared to carbohydrates, proteins and fats take significantly longer to digest and absorb. This statement applies primarily to the complete amino acids you might find in a piece of chicken or the fats you would consume in cheese sauce, and not to the branched chain amino acids (protein) and medium chain triglycerides (fats) you find in popular sports supplements.  In addition, fruit and vegetable fiber can attract water into the colon and result in gas or diarrhea, especially during impact-based movement such as running. Therefore, “whole meals”, such as meat and cheese, salads, roasted vegetables, or large portions of fruits, should be saved for the end of the day, or for 2-3 hours prior to a training session, which gives sufficient time for gastric emptying. This guideline will significantly affect your menu planning for a high-volume training camp. For example, a cheese omelette for breakfast an hour before a swim and a big salad for lunch as a pre-bike meal would not be advisable. Instead, breakfast could be oatmeal and lunch could be sweet potatoes, yams or a gluten-free sandwich wrap. Dinner could then be skewed towards higher protein intake from fish, chicken, beef, quinoa, amaranth or millet combined with nuts, or even a carbohydrate based meal such as pasta, with whey or vegan protein powder “dessert smoothies”. If all of these type of foods are foreign concepts to you, you should consider reading the following books:

1. Holistic Fueling for Endurance Athletes -

2. Top 20 Fueling Myths -

3. Low Carbohydrate Diet For Triathletes -

Since most complete proteins should be consumed towards the end of the day, adequate recovery may not take place after a training session if protein is not present. Therefore, especially when engaging in back-to-back training sessions spaced by less than two hours, it is advisable for a triathlete to use an essential amino acid powder or capsule, a natural anti-inflammatory, and a proteolytic enzyme supplement -  all of which will assist with muscle repair and recovery in the absence of complete proteins like meat. To account for decreased fruit and vegetable consumption, it is also advisable to use a greens supplement and an anti-oxidant supplement during high-volume training.

3. Count Calories. During a long bike ride or run, I will often approach an athlete and ask them how much they have eaten, not just during the actual training session, but during the entire day. Knowing the number of calories you have consumed will a) vastly improve your chances of correctly refueling the body without overeating and b) train you for any endurance events for which mindful fueling is a necessity. The last thing a triathlete wants to do is leave a camp week or end a heavy training day heavier than when they started, or get 3 days into a high-volume week and be completely fatigued due to insufficient storage carbohydrate. By glancing at labels and doing internet searches for “calories in _____”, you can easily get a good feel for the number of calories you consume on a daily basis. If you are already at your goal weight, you should try to consume within 500 calories of what you have expended on a high-volume training day. If you are trying to lose weight, try to consume within 1000 calories of what you have expended.

4. Stimulate Discriminately. While many triathletes can tackle an average training day with a customary cup of morning coffee, the body begins to drag during a multi-hour training session or long week of workouts. For this reason, caffeine can be a handy tool to stimulate your adrenal glands and supply added motivation to exercise. But a fine line must be drawn between excessive intake and intelligent use of caffeine, especially when many sports supplements include 20-100mg of caffeine per serving. To ensure that you are not affecting your deep sleep and recovery, first inspect your fuel of choice to identify any caffeine sources, and be especially careful to not consume those particular fuels anytime in the late afternoon or evening. Second, stabilize energy levels by avoiding sources with heavy single doses of caffeine combined with a cocktail of other central nervous system stimulants, such as energy powders, drinks or “shots”. If you already use caffeine, on a typical high-volume training day you should be able to get by with 1-2 cups of coffee early in the day, followed by consumption of one caffeine-containing gel early in the afternoon. If you do not use caffeine, one cup of coffee will likely be all that you need. If you choose to drink alcohol, a cold beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day will not significantly reduce recovery potential, but save any “celebratory” sessions for late in the training camp, preferably on the last day of a camp.

By prioritizing activity-based fueling, utilizing nutrient timing, counting your calories and stimulating discriminately, you can intelligently fuel a triathlon camp without gaining weight, overtraining, depleting your energy stores, suppressing your immune system or losing sleep. Questions, comments or feedback? Leave them below – and I hope to see you at the upcoming Wildflower triathlon camp!

P.S. did you get your 18 Week Wildflower Triathlon Training Plan yet? Click here to grab it now. Even though we’re less than 18 weeks out, you can easily jump into this plan several weeks in and still get everything you need to be race ready!

1 response to “Triathlon Camp Nutrition Tips for Triathletes – Part 2”

  1. James Says:
    Hi, Thank you so much for such an informative and inspiring article. I have bookmarked your site for future reference :) - James

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