When training for a triathlon, the volume of training you put in can be huge! In some cases, athletes can easily be training upwards of 15-20 hours a week, and long session can exceed 5 or 6 hours a lot of the time!
With this increased activity, comes a need to increase your food intake to compensate for the extra energy you are burning. Unfortunately, if this isn’t done correctly, you can easily overeat, leading you to become sluggish and if, like me, you are trying to lose weight to get to a more ideal body weight, this can be very counter productive to weight loss efforts.
For me, I have been slowly educating myself on ways I can fuel more efficiently outside of my training sessions, to ensure I am getting the greatest benefit out of my training and that my diet isn’t hindering any progress I could be making physically.
I have slowly switched out items that have little to no nutritional benefit and try to ensure that I am eating well 90% of the time. This ranges from initial changes back when I started this journey (cutting sugary soft drinks), to more recent changes I am making to stop any plateauing of results (reducing portion sizes and integrating meal prep options – I’m currently using MACROS for my lunches).
How Can I Track This Stuff?
For me, tracking calories was an incredibly eye opening experience. After a big training session, I am often time poor and an easy out was to grab some takeaway on the way home. In the last few months I spent more time logging all meals (even the takeaway) on My Fitness Pal, which is an app where I could accurately track the food I ate, as well as the exercise I completed. When I started inputting these meals, the amount of calories in what seems like such a small meal is eye-watering!
As I learn more about the bad food I have been putting in my body, I am making more ‘tweaks’ to make sure I am doing things in a better way that is less destructive to my overall goal of better performance, better conditioning and an overall healthier body shape.
How Much Should I Be Eating?
This is a million dollar question and unfortunately something I cannot answer for you. If you really want to drill down on this, I recommend a conversation with a nutritionist who can discuss your individual goals and training, and create a bit more of a tailored plan for your individual situation.
One of the biggest problems I see when it comes to people trying to lose weight, is that instead of overeating, they undereat. This is not sustainable, and if you are putting in huge weeks of training, can border on dangerous. While losing weight is usually as simple as making sure you are in caloric deficit (calories in/consumed are less than calories out/burnt), if you’re in a huge amount of deficit every day you will either resort to binging to give your body what it is craving (more energy), or you will risk causing more serious problems that will be detrimental to not only your training, but your overall health too!
Was There A Secret To How I Lost 75lbs?
The short answer to this question is: No!
My diet isn’t perfect. In the last 6 weeks leading up to Busselton 70.3 in December, I lost little to no weight and this was because I was eating poorly when my training ramped up. I also go through stages where I ‘fall off the wagon’ for a couple of meals and resort to eating poorly.
With that being said, my 2 not-negotiables that I stuck to throughout the process that has helped me have ongoing success is:
- Don’t let a bad meal become a bad day and don’t let a bad day become a bad week.
- Continuously make small improvements in lieu of trying to re-invent the wheel on day one of your diet
Hopefully these little insights help give you some inspiration or direction on your own journey in triathlon and more specifically, your diet while training. With that being said, I am certainly no expert. If you want more expert knowledge see a nutritionist. A coach of mine once said “forgo the next bike upgrade and invest in a coach and nutritionist instead – the results will be far greater for a far smaller investment in the long run”!