The hours, the sweat, the chaffing—all of it matters in triathlon training. But what can put you past your competition is how you fuel. Optimal nutrition can be the difference between a good race and an upset finish. Here are your top questions answered.

I can’t seem to eat anything during training, what can I do?

During a grueling workout or training session, it can be almost impossible to force food down. In these situations, finding a sports drink with little to no sugar and a complex carb or protein is perfect. Combining something like Skratch Labs Superfuel Drink Mix with some BCAAs from your favorite brands like 1st Phorm or Nuun can be super helpful.

When and what should I eat before my event? 

Each individual has different preferences for their meal timing and exercise. The best thing you can implement is consistency. Find a pre-workout meal that you enjoy and is easy to digest and make part of your schedule. For exercise lasting 2+ hours, be sure to include a complex carbohydrate and protein. When this rhythm is in place, there is less concern for an upset stomach or digestion irregularities on the day of your event. Plan to eat this meal between 45–90 minutes before your event or training. If you find that you are losing energy less than 45 minutes into your workout, then try increasing the calories in your pre-workout meal. For specific numbers and recommendations, consult a nutrition coach.

Sample Pre-Workout Nutrition: 

Greek yogurt + granola + piece of fruit

Rotisserie or sliced chicken sandwich + piece of fruit

Turkey bacon + egg whites + English muffin

How much should I eat before, during, and after my event?

This serving size will vary based on exercise duration and the needs of each athlete. Events that last 2+ hours will require more calories, and it becomes important to get your nutrition and serving sizes correct the day before. The day before your event, prioritize protein intake and complex carbohydrates at each meal.

During the event, consider bringing gel or goo to keep your fuel coming in as you expend energy. The key with high carbohydrate snacks is to consume them before you actually need them. During training sessions, keep a record of the time periods when you feel a decrease in energy. Learn your body and plan to take your supplement about 15–20 minutes before you hit the wall. By the time race day comes around, you should have reminders set and know when to consume each serving of carbohydrates. For women, this serving will most likely be around 20–30 grams, and for men somewhere closer to 30–40 depending on energy expenditure. 

After your event, it is vital to replace the energy you have lost. Within an hour of your heart rate returning to normal after an event, eat a complex carb and protein. Think of this as your post-workout snack. Additionally, you plan to also have a post-workout meal several hours after your event. This meal should be rich in lean protein, unsaturated fats like olive oil or fish, and a complex carb. A great example of this would be a taco bowl with chicken or fish (a lot of it!), brown rice or black beans, avocado, some cheese, and lots of veggies. 

Madisyn is a certified FirstLine Therapy Lifestyle Educator at Cole Pain Therapy Group, where she collaborates with the Doctors of Chiropractic to meet the individual needs of patients. Her interest in nutrition and lifestyle began through her own fitness journey in CrossFit and as a group fitness coach. For more information or to set up an appointment visit or call 901.377.2340.