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Triathletes Need to Eat A LOT!


By Hanna Grinaker (thefitspace.com)

As a dietitian, and triathlete, I get asked what I eat in a day, A LOT. I think most people assume that because I went to school for nutrition and am highly active, I must eat perfectly. I wish I could say that were the truth but it is most definitely not. Like anyone, I can sometimes eat too much (or not enough), choose the wrong snacks at the wrong time (that don’t energize and/or satiate me), and forget to drink water. And believe me, I have done all of these, and I will do them again. And again. However, I can’t get away with these seemingly small mistakes as much as I used to. Now, if I am not fueled well or hydrated enough, my workouts suffer massively. And when I am asking my body to show up for me day after day, I can’t afford to get behind.

Even after a solid 20+ year athletic career, I am still learning what works best for me. As a former runner, I remember very clearly focusing on what I could remove from my diet, rather than add, to get faster. Leanness was the goal. I didn’t strive for thinness for the sake of vanity, although there might have been some of that, but I thought you had to be thin to be fast. That belief created some pretty negative eating...

patterns and eventually led me down a road of frequent injury and imbalanced hormones—scenarios that took years of solid work to un-do. When I began training for triathlons a few years back, those restrictive patterns I practiced while running started to surface again. Maybe it’s the domino effect of being highly competitive—always searching for that last 1%. Whatever it was, the tendency to underfuel didn’t last as long in triathlon as it did for me as a runner. To be frank, you literally can’t underfuel while training at the intensity triathlon requires. All that to say, my journey through sport is what has allowed me to honor my body in ways that make it run and feel it’s best—even if that journey has been anything but linear and clear over my 31 years.

Here are some things that have shifted for me nutritionally in the last couple of decades that has made the most profound of differences, not only in performance, but in mood, sleep and overall well-being.
I’ve increased my calories significantly.

I used to do many of my workouts fasted—meaning that I would wake up and start my run or swim or bike without so much as a sip of water. Whatever workout was on tap, I figured the previous night’s dinner was likely still in my system, giving me enough energy for the morning workout. In some twisted way, I thought this was an advantage—I felt I was “so fit” that I didn’t “need” the extra calories to help me get through whatever was on the schedule. Not only did I often forgo pre-workout nutrition but I would often delight in the post-workout appetite suppression window, eschewing the post-workout recovery snack or meal because if I wasn’t hungry, I must not need it. Gosh, how wrong I was. Now, I set my alarm a little earlier to make time to eat before and directly after every workout session. Outside of pre and post-workout fuel, I also snack more throughout the day and in general, have bigger portions. I ignore the “rules” of appropriate eating times, and instead, eat when I’m hungry—which is a lot.   READ MORE

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