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 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!
Immediately after a training session or race, for ideal recovery nutrition you should consume:
1 to 1.2g of carbohydrate per kilogramme body weight.
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|
|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)|
|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|
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)|
180g (1 cup)
|Pasta or noodles, boiled||200 g (1.3 cups)|
|Canned spaghetti||440 g (large can)|
|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)|
|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)|
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)|
|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|
|Mars Bar and other 50-60 g bars||1.5 bars|
|Jubes and jelly babies||60 g|
|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)|
|Fruit juice - unsweetened||600 ml|
|Fruit juice - sweetened||500 ml|
|Soft drinks and flavored mineral water||500 ml|
|Fruit smoothie||250-300 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 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:
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:
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.
Dehydration can have a huge impact on performance. Find out how to develop an effective triathlon hydration strategy.
Triathlon Recovery Nutrition: Top of Page