Healthy Eating for Runners and Triathletes

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is important for everyone regardless of age, gender, or how active you are. For endurance athletes, the importance of good nutrition is further heightened as it plays a huge role in performance both in training and recovery and of course, on race day.

Healthy food
Pic credit: Jannis Brandt on Unsplash

The British Nutrition Foundation’s Healthy Eating Week kicks off on Monday 14 June with the message of ‘find your healthier you.’ The focus of this week is encouraging everyone to reflect on lifestyles and how to make improvements that will enhance health and wellbeing including ways to plan healthier meals and promoting the importance of being active for health (yes to that!).

What do you think when you hear the word diet? Weight-loss? Restriction? In fact, the medical definition of the word diet refers to ‘the food and drink regularly consumed by a person or other organism.’ The word diet often comes tied with negative connotations associated with giving things up and the phrase “I can’t, I’m on a diet.”

A diet that supports training and recovery goals as well as overall health and wellbeing is something that should be both nourishing and enjoyable. The analogy goes that you can’t run a car without petrol (or electricity if you’ve got an electric car!) just like for a body to run or function well, you need fuel it. Fuelling your body correctly will support your training and race performance. There is a lot of advice and information out there when it comes to diet and nutrition, advice that seems to change and alter with both research and whatever the latest fad diet or celebrity endorsement that is currently on trend. Wading through this minefield of information can sometimes be very daunting and that’s even before any additional training volume requirements are added into the mix!

Planning Ahead

Pic credit: Photo Joanna Kosinka on Unsplash

Eating after a training session is important to replenish carbohydrates and the glucose stored in your muscles as well as including protein to build and repair the muscle tissue broken down during training. We don’t always make the best choices after running, riding or swimming when we are hungry or short on time. How many times have you got in from a long run and grabbed the biscuits before rushing off to the next thing? Choosing what you are going to eat after a session beforehand can help you to make healthier dietary choices. A 2018 study in Nutrients found that 45% of participants were more likely to choose a brownie after training than if they’d planned something to eat post-session. It’s not always easy to plan ahead but having some quick and easy ideas and options to put together or prep before your next run or ride can help you refuel more optimally. This in turn will support recovery so you can perform (and feel!) better the next time you head out.

Hormones and Mood

The emphasis for nutrition, especially for athletes is usually focused on fuelling for energy but what we eat also affects hormonal balance and mood, both things that can have an impact on training and performance.

What we eat affects the production and secretion of hormones. Our hormones also affect what we choose to eat. Wondering why you can’t stop thinking about chocolate in the week before your period? A 2016 study found that changes in the levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone cause cravings for high-carb and sweet foods before your period.

The essential amino acid tryptophan found in carbohydrates (oats, nuts and seeds, bananas, bread, oh, and chocolate!) supports the synthesis of serotonin in the brain and increased levels of serotonin can lead to improved mood.

Our T.R.I.M 30 Day Nutrition programme has been designed to really understand how nutrition affects hormone balance and mood, training effort, recovery and weight management, through tracking, reflecting implementing and measuring. These unique elements to the programme mean this is not a quick fix diet plan but a long term programme to embed the principles of eating right for training and recovery.

Pic credit: Photo Ali Inay on Unsplash

Balance

Of course, food is much more than just fuel. It is also about enjoyment, socialising and culture. There’s birthdays and parties, holidays, café stops and post-race celebratory meals. A sprinkling of all of these things is important for both physical and mental health.

Get your nutrition on track with our T.R.I.M 30 Day Nutrition Programme, the perfect nutrition reset for female runners and triathletes who want to ensure they are eating and recovering for optimal performance.