As a triathlete, you may be too exhausted to think about food after a workout, but it’s a vital step to your recovery. After a grueling endurance training session, your body’s energy and nutrients have been depleted. You need to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes and give your muscles the protein they need to recover. A healthy meal and snack will get you up and moving and ready to face your next workout.
Your body stores the carbohydrates you eat in the form of glycogen and keeps them in your muscles. During an endurance workout, your muscles rely on that glycogen to keep you moving. As you power through your training, your arms and legs probably start to feel like mush as your glycogen stores decrease. By the time you’re finished, they’re severely depleted, if not gone. It is essential for you to replenish your glycogen stores so your muscles immediately start to recover and you’re ready for your next swim, bike ride or run.
Post-workout Snack and Meal
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an endurance athlete consume a 30- to 400-calorie snack within 30 minutes of completing a training session. The snack should contain 75 to 100 grams carbohydrates and 6 grams protein. You can munch on a fruit and yogurt smoothie or nutrition bar or enjoy a cold glass of chocolate milk to promote muscle recovery. Your post workout meal should be four parts carbohydrate to one part protein. Larger meals include stir-fry with lean meat and vegetables, a whole-wheat pita with turkey and vegetables and rice and beans with avocado and tortilla chips.
You are probably more than a little sweaty after a triathlon workout. All that sweat you lost contains water and electrolytes that need to be replaced. To get an idea of how much fluid you lose during a training session, always weigh yourself before and after a workout. Drink about 1.5 liters of fluid for every kilogram of body weight you’ve lost. To best replace fluids, drink over a period of time rather than a large volume all at once. If you have plenty of time to recover, normal meals and snacks eaten with water will replace the electrolytes you’ve lost. Otherwise, sports drinks, which contain electrolytes, may be beneficial.
As a triathlete, your body endures a lot of oxidative stress because of training, air pollution and altitude. Oxidative stress causes you to produce free radicals, which can damage your cells. Antioxidants pair up with free radicals and help prevent the damage they cause. According to USA Triathlon, antioxidants can improve your recovery time. After your workout, choose brightly colored vegetables and fruits that contain vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, cantaloupe, papaya, spinach, asparagus, broccoli and bell peppers. Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts and seeds, sweet potato, fortified cereals and wheat germ. You'll find carotenoids in tomatoes, carrots, kale, collard greens, mango and sweet potatoes.
- American Fitness Professionals and Associates: How and What to Eat Before, During and After Exercise?
- American College of Sports Medicine: Preventing the "Low-Fuel" Light in Endurance Exercise
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Eating for Recovery
- American College of Sports Medicine: Exercise and Fluid Replacement
- USA Triathlon: The Power of Antioxidants
Michelle Fisk began writing professionally in 2011. She has been published in the "Physician and Sports Medicine Journal." Her expertise lies in the fields of exercise physiology and nutrition. Fisk holds a Master of Science in kinesiology from Marywood University.