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Triathlon Recovery Nutrition

Recovery nutrition is one of the most important factors in your triathlon training plan. What you eat and when after a training session is really important.

This is because your recovery is when all the adaptations to training occur, and not taking in enough nutrients will negatively affect how you adapt.

Also, if you are training more than once in a day, and training hard on consecutive days, you need to make sure you replace the energy used in preparation for the next session.

Making sure your recovery nutrition is spot-on will also be beneficial for your immune function and help you avoid succumbing to colds.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide energy for your muscles. They are the key element of good triathlon recovery nutrition.

Following a long training session (>45 minutes) your muscle carbohydrate stores are likely to be pretty low. The amount of carbohydrates you will have used (and therefore need to replace) will depend on the intensity of your session.

When carbohydrate stores are very low, you don’t have much fuel to burn and fatigue occurs.

You need to restore your muscle carbohydrate levels as soon after exercise as possible. This is because your muscles take up carbohydrate (in the form of glycogen) quicker immediately post-exercise, and the rate slows significantly from 2 hours post-exercise.

If you don’t replenish your carbohydrate stores, then next time you start training, you’ll have less fuel available, so will fatigue earlier. Not good news!

How Much Carbohydrate Do I Need?

Immediately after a training session or race, for ideal recovery nutrition you should consume:

1 to 1.2g of carbohydrate per kilogramme body weight.

So:

70kg athlete = 70 – 84g

If you can continue taking on board this amount of carbohydrate for 3 – 5 hours post-session you will maximize the replacement of glycogen (carbohydrates) in your muscles. Eating regular small snacks in recovery seems to be more beneficial than eating one meal high in carbohydrates.

If you don’t feel hungry after a training session, don’t worry. Taking on carbohydrates in the form of a sports drink is just as good, and also allows you to rehydrate.

The recommended daily carbohydrate intake for varying intensities of training are below (this table is from www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition). You can use this to put together a triathlon recovery nutrition plan for yourself.

Situation Recommended Carbohydrate Intake
Daily refuelling needs for training programs less than 60-90 min per day or low intensity exercise Daily intake of 5-7 g/kg BM
Daily refuelling for training programs greater than 90-120 min per day Daily intake of 7-10 g/kg BM
Daily refuelling for athletes undertaking extreme exercise program - 6-8 hours per day (cycling tour) Daily intake of 10-12+ g/kg BM
Carbohydrate loading for endurance and ultra-endurance events Daily intake of 7-10 g/kg BM
Pre-event meal Meal eaten 1-4 hours pre-competition 1-4 g/kg BM
Carbohydrate intake during training sessions and competition events greater than 1 hour 1 g/min or 30-60 g/hour
Rapid recovery after training session or multi-day competition, especially when there is less than 8 h until next session Intake of 1-1.5 g/kg BM for every hour in the early stages of recovery after exercise, contributing to a total intake of 6-10 g/kg BM over 24 hours

Food Portions Providing 50 g of Carbohydrate

CEREAL
Wheat biscuit cereal (e.g. Weet Bix) 60g (5 biscuits)
'Light' breakfast cereal (e.g. Cornflakes) 60 g (2 cups)
'Muesli' flake breakfast cereal 65 g (1-1.5 cups)
Toasted muesli 90 g (1 cup)
Porridge - made with milk 350 g (1.3 cups)
Porridge - made with water 550 g (2.5 cups)
Rolled oats 90 g (1 cup)
Bread 100 g (4 slices white or 3 thick wholegrain)
Bread rolls 110 g (1 large or 2 medium)
Pita and lebanese bread 100 g (2 pita)
Chapati 150 g (2.5)
English muffin 120 g (2 full muffins)
Crumpet 2.5
Muesli bar 2.5
Rice cakes 6 thick or 10 thin
Crispbreads and dry biscuits 6 large or 15 small
Fruit filled biscuits 5
Plain sweet biscuits 8-10
Cream filled/chocolate biscuits 6
Cakestyle muffin

115 g (1 large or 2 medium)

Pancakes 150 g (2 medium)
Scones 125 g (3 medium)
Iced fruit bun 105 g (1.5)
Croissant 149 g (1.5 large or 2 medium)

Rice, boiled

180g (1 cup)

Pasta or noodles, boiled 200 g (1.3 cups)
Canned spaghetti 440 g (large can)
FRUIT
Fruit crumble 1 cup
Fruit packed in heavy syrup 280 g (1.3 cups)
Fruit stewed/canned in light syrup 520 g (2 cups)
Fresh fruit salad 500 g (2.5 cups)
Bananas 2 medium-large
Large fruit (mango, pear, grapefruit etc.) 2-3
Medium fruit (orange, apple etc.) 3-4
Small fruit (nectarine, apricot etc.) 12
Grapes 350 g (2 cups)
Melon 1,000 g (6 cups)
Strawberries 1,800 g (12 cups)
Sultanas and raisins 70 g (4 Tbsp)
Dried apricots 115 g (22 halves)
VEGETABLES
Potatoes

350 g (1 very large or 3 medium)

Sweet potato 350 g (2.5 cups)
Corn 300 g (1.2 cups creamed corn or 2 cobs)
Green Beans 1,800 g (14 cups)
Baked beans 440 g (1 large can)
Lentils 400 g (2 cups)
Soy beans and kidney beans 400 g (2 cups)
Tomato puree 1 litre (4 cups)
Pumpkin and peas 700 g (5 cups)
DAIRY PRODUCTS
Milk

1 litre

Flavoured milk

560 ml
Custard 300 g (1.3 cup or half 600 g carton)
'Diet' yoghurt and natural yoghurt 800 g (4 individual tubs)
Flavoured non-fat yoghurt 350 g (2 individual tubs)
Icecream 250 g (10 Tbsp)
Fromage frais 400 g (2 tubs)
Rice pudding/creamed rice 300 g (1.5 cups)
SUGARS and CONFECTIONERY

Sugar

50 g
Jam 3 Tbsp
Syrups 4 Tbsp
Honey 3 Tbsp
Chocolate 80 g
Mars Bar and other 50-60 g bars 1.5 bars
Jubes and jelly babies 60 g
MIXED DISHES

Pizza

200 g (medium -1/4 thick or 1/3 thin)
Hamburgers 1.3 Big Macs
Lasagne 400 g serve
Fried rice 200 g (1.3 cups)
DRINKS
Fruit juice - unsweetened 600 ml
Fruit juice - sweetened 500 ml
Cordial 800 ml
Soft drinks and flavored mineral water 500 ml
Fruit smoothie 250-300 ml
SPORTS FOODS

Sports drink

700 ml
Carbohydrate loader supplement 250 ml
Liquid meal supplement 250-300 ml
Sports bar 1-1.5 bars
Sports gels 2 sachets
Glucose polymer powder 60 g

(Source: Peak Performance: training and nutritional strategies for sport J. Hawley and L. Burke. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998).

Protein

Protein is another essential component of a good recovery nutrition plan. Similar to replacing carbohydrate stores, taking protein on board immediately after exercise means that more of it can be retained and used. Combining protein with carbohydrate is even better, as not only does it take care of your carbohydrate needs, but this combination also promotes muscle repair.

Below are some suggestions of ideal snacks to include in your triathlon recovery nutrition plan. They combine carbohydrate and protein for recovery:

  • Fruit yoghurt
  • Milkshakes
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Liquid meal supplements
  • Sandwiches with meat, cheese or peanut butter fillings
  • Breakfast cereal with milk
  • Sports/cereal/energy bars

Now that you've got your recovery nutrition sorted you might be interested in other ways to enhance your recovery, so have a read of our recovery pages which provide lots of information and advice about recovery techniques to optimise your adaptations to training.

You might also be interested in our:

Triathlon Nutrition for Competition:

Getting your nutrition right on race day will make all the difference to your performance. What you eat and when can have a big impact on the outcome of a race.



Triathlon Hydration Strategy:

Dehydration can have a huge impact on performance. Find out how to develop an effective triathlon hydration strategy.


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