You scour the internet, pore over magazines and pester your triathlon friends to soak up every ounce of nutrition advice that might help you come race day. After all, nutrition (often referred to as triathlon’s “fourth discipline”) can be the easiest thing to fix in your triathlon training yet can have the most disastrous consequences if executed improperly. While no two bodies or fueling needs are the same, learning how the nutrition experts approach their own triathlon fueling can provide some useful insights that may make a big difference when put to use in your own nutrition plan.
Kim Mahoney, R.D., C.S.S.D.
The first triathlon Mahoney signed up for was an Ironman, which she completed in September 2012. A longtime runner who had picked up cycling, she decided to go all-in with triathlon (of course, she did a few sprints and half-Ironmans leading up to the big race). The Chicago resident fits her training in between working full-time as a clinical dietitian specialist for bariatric (weight-loss surgery) patients — helping them change their diets both pre- and post-op.
“Of all the specialties within dietetics, with this one your role is very valued in the practice,” she says. “Your job is essential to the patients … you really help them through changing their lives.”
It’s most rewarding when her patients start taking up endurance sports — marathons, half-marathons and triathlons: “That’s fun, for me especially, because that’s my main interest — seeing them do things that are more active and that they really enjoy.”
“The most important thing you can do is plan ahead for the week. You should know your workouts, your work schedule and your eating schedule. Make a list once or twice a week of foods you need for training (gels, bars, sports drinks) and foods you need for meals or snacks. … Make sure you are using your training rides or runs as opportunities to practice your nutrition plan for race day.”
“My favorite product for fueling during runs is PowerBar Energy Gel, in the tangerine flavor. It contains multiple carbohydrates and caffeine, and has higher sodium content than most other gels — and the consistency isn’t as syrupy as other gels.
My other favorite is Salt Stick caps — they provide the essential electrolytes that are lost in sweat, in particular sodium. I don’t like sports drinks very much, so these are a great way to get in the electrolytes I am losing in my sweat.”
“I usually have a starch and a protein. I stay away from any whole grains, vegetables or fruits because I don’t want to consume a lot of fiber the day before a race. In previous races I find a Noodles and Company [restaurant] and have macaroni and cheese with chicken. It may not be the healthiest option, but it does the job! Also, I will sometimes have a beer if at a restaurant.”
“I always eat a plain bagel at least two hours prior to the race. … I also always have 20 ounces of caffeinated coffee with skim milk and drink around 16 ounces of water. Right before the start of the swim I consume a PowerBar gel with water.”
“I love my crockpot! It’s the perfect tool for a busy triathlete. It doesn’t require a lot of prep work — you can throw in a few ingredients in the morning and have a delicious dinner waiting for you.”