There’s no questioning that triathletes are hard workers; all that running, swimming and cycling takes it out of even the most experienced athletes, so maintaining a fit and healthy body is imperative to your ongoing success and wellbeing.
Let’s explore how you can stay fit and healthy so you can train hard and crush your next event. We’ll assume that you already have a good training plan, so this article will focus on aspects of your lifestyle away from the road, bike or water.
The fourth discipline of a triathlon could arguably be rest. Sleep is a regulator of recovery; allowing your body the time and resources to repair and rebuild itself. Be sure to put as much focus on sleep as you would your running stride or transition times.
On average, we need around seven to nine hours every night. If you fall short on these numbers, look for ways to increase your sleep – whether that’s going to bed earlier or waking up later.
You may have to revamp your sleep hygiene if you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. By this we mean doing the things that are conducive to good sleep. For example, reducing caffeine throughout the afternoon, ensuring your bedroom is cool, quiet and dark, practicing deep breathing techniques, and avoiding screens a few hours before bed.
What you put into your body is also vital to your health and fitness – no successful triathlete is able to live off a bad diet for long.
During times of heavy training and competing, aim to eat a diet that focuses on quality carbohydrates. Around 50% to 55% of what you eat should be carbohydrates, such as oats, rice, pasta and bread. While carbs are crucial, don’t neglect quality protein sources (15% to 20%) or healthy fats (30%), which will ensure optimum health and recovery.
Wherever possible, eat plenty of whole foods, with a mix of colourful fruits and vegetables to achieve the right mix of vitamins and minerals your body needs. This will help you get you through your event and recover in time for the next one.
Good hydration underpins everything on this list. Humans are around 60% water, and being dehydrated by even a few percent can result in everything from headaches and nausea to reduced aerobic performance. For a triathlete in particular, this is bad news.
Staying hydrated is essential when you’re training, competing and even resting. This means drinking at least two litres of water daily, then adding around 750ml during each hour of activity throughout the day.
When training and competing, consider adding an electrolyte solution to your water to replenish the minerals you lose through sweat. If you want to keep it natural, try a homemade sports drink made of water, fruit juice and a sprinkle of rock salt.
4. Sports Nutrition Supplements
With a solid foundation of sleep, nutrition and hydration, triathletes can then look towards supplements to enhance their performance.
For example, instead of chomping on chicken or tofu immediately after training, you can opt for a convenient protein powder to kickstart recovery and rebuild damaged muscles.
A good broad-spectrum multivitamin is also worth taking. In an ideal world, we’d get all the nutrients we need through diet alone, but with busy lifestyles and hard training schedules, a good multivitamin can act as an insurance policy.
You can also consider adding specific supplements that support muscle health – such as vitamin D – and joint and bone health, such as copper and vitamin C.
Meanwhile, collagen is a crucial protein, as it makes up your joints, bones, cartilage and tendons. Ensuring an ample supply is therefore important – especially for older athletes, who naturally produce less collagen.
Collagen comes from animal foods, but as we cannot always intake enough from food alone, triathletes often turn to collagen supplements to meet their needs.
For example, TRR Nutrition PRO Advanced Collagen provides 10,000mg of hydrolysed marine collagen in every 50ml shot. It also packs in those ingredients that are beneficial to joint and bone health, like copper and vitamin C, as well as other active ingredients, such as turmeric, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid and ginger.