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Nutrition and the Triathlete

Posted by on June 9th, 2012 with 0 Comments

When you start doing triathlon, you become an athlete. You have to think differently about a lot of things. You learn all about what equipment you need and what to do to get faster. But, have you thought about fine-tuning your internal engine? Think about your body as a key piece of tri equipment. That’s right, what have you done to modify your nutrition? What is your nutrition plan? Do you do the right things to get the most output from your body?

One of the most common goals that athletes come to us with is the desire to lose weight. This can be an extremely frustrating situation for many. As they increase their volume of training, they fail to see results. The reason for this is many myths people have about how to fuel as an athlete correctly.

Before I get into this, I have to give a disclaimer. I am not a registered dietician. I cannot prescribe medical nutrition therapy. If you want a health professional to assist you further, you should seek out a registered sports dietitian ( However, I have had training to assist athletes with nutrition and to reinforce proven nutritional principles that I will briefly touch on here. In this short article, I’m going to give you some food for thought (pardon the pun). We’ll talk more about race day nutrition later in the program.

Becoming Efficient

The name of the game is creating metabolic efficiency. We have to teach our body to use food as fuel and to use it efficiently. That means changes in what we eat, when we eat it in relation to where we are in our training cycle. This is a year-long endeavor!

Believe it or not, less is more – the goal of efficiency. You will find that you do not need as much food and sports nutrition products as you have been currently using. Your body is an incredible machine! You have a lot more stores in your body than you think. In fact, do yourself a favor and forget about “carbo loading” before a race. We already have internal carbohydrate stores of 1,200-2,000 and internal fat stores of 80,000+ calories. What do all the extra carbohydrates turn into? Fat. End of story.

Let’s See It!

One of the best exercises, once you commit to making the change is to take the 30 day challenge. For an entire month, take a picture of your dinner plate of food. How is it divided up among these food groups: Lean Protein and Healthy Fats, Fruits and Vegetables, and Whole Grains? Once you have your picture, send it to your designated accountability partner: someone who is doing this with you, someone who will scold you or applaud you. Post it to the Tri201 group on Facebook. Make your food as colorful as possible. This exercise keeps you on track and you’ll get creative with it. You’ll learn to seek out great choices.

Remember too that serving sizes are quite smaller than what is served. 3 ounces of meet is about the size of a deck of playing cards. One ounce of cheese is about the size of 4 stacked dice. 1 cup of mashed potatoes or broccoli is the size of your fist. 1 teaspoon of butter or peanut butter is about the size of your thumb.

Good Nutrition Takes Effort

Good food is more expensive than bad food. Why is there a national obesity epidemic? Well, many people can only afford macaroni and cheese or ramen noodles. Here’s a simple rule that we try to live by: “If it comes in a box, it’s probably not good for you.” Think about it next time you are cruising the grocery aisles.

Learn to cook. The other “boxism” that we live by is “If you have to talk to a box to get it, it isn’t worth eating.” Good nutrition takes planning and thought. It is a commitment to change but it will change your life and how you feel.

Recommended Reading and Expert Resource

If you are serious about making a change, I cannot more strongly encourage you to get Bob Seebohar’s book Metabolic Efficiency Training ( (Bob is a USAT Level III Elite coach, Past Director of Sports Nutrition, University of Florida, Past Sport Dietitian, United States Olympic Committee; 2008 Olympic Team Sport Dietitian; Olympic athlete Triathlon Coach; Ultra-endurance athlete; among other distinctions.)

We will re-visit these principles in more detail later. I just wanted to get you thinking: Less is more. Skip carbo loading. Don’t talk to a box. Don’t cook from a box. Learn to cook. Take the challenge.

Cheers! Coach Eric

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