‘What’s happened to watershed’, I hear you shout, oh that’s right it’s the internet! Hopefully this will get through your firewall though… The double entendre of this phrase might well be missed by the younger generation but thankfully most of us triathletes will remember it! Sadly we’re talking about the performance damaging effects of nutrition which I guess could still be construed differently at least for those fans of 9 ½ weeks. Possible we’re ageing ourselves again…
Anyway keeping it firmly within the parameters of triathlon who wants to bonk? No one. Many of you will have experienced that miserable gnawing feeling in your gut which pre-empts the dramatic loss of power, motor control and cognitive ability. Usually resulting in you failing to unclip at a junction and always in the presence of a white van driver, some adolescent kids and a local news crew.
So taking into account that we’re now in the off-season how do you sensibly put a nutrition plan together to get through your training? For those social cake-lovers out there, don’t worry there’s always a place for cake, particularly in the off-season.
First off, let’s all accept that over winter we’ll put on a bit of weight – cold dark nights and gloomy weather send us all in search of comfort food, and then there are the inevitable Christmas celebrations which all add to the winter insulation we acquire. The key is to not let the winter bulk get out of control and neglect good nutrition. It’s hard to lose weight when race season begins so it’s important to keep the weight gain in check now, but without restricting yourself and ensuring you are fuelling your training sessions properly.
Below are some tips on healthy eating over winter, without sacrificing the cake! If you are interested in more closely monitoring your calorie intake then myfitnesspal is an easy to use app in which to log your daily diet.
Pre training. Eat porridge for breakfast – it’s comforting and warming on cold mornings and provides a sustained slow release of energy to get you through the long winter miles without the dreaded bonk. Have a big bowl roughly 2 hours before you set off. If you are going a longer ride >3hrs you could also add in some protein to your breakfast, e.g. an omelette. Don’t try to do long training sessions on an empty stomach as you will not be able to train as hard or for as long, and you might even start to break down your muscle as the body strives to find the calories it needs.
During training. Make sure to take snacks on your rides – you will need to refuel on rides over 2 hours, even if you have had your porridge! Take some energy bars or better yet homemade flapjacks or energy balls – we’ll share some of our fave recipes in due course – and, here comes the good news, once December hits a slice of Christmas cake full of dried fruit and nuts makes a great energy snack for on those cold rides. Equally, when you’re out riding don’t feel you can’t enjoy a slice of cake on your coffee stop. Just don’t enjoy another 3 or 4 slices when you get home! As a general guide aim for up to 1g carbohydrate per kg body weight per hour to sustain your energy.
Post-training. You want to eat a mix of carbs and protein to replenish energy stores and aid muscle recovery, and ideally within an hour of finishing your session to optimise recovery, and set you up for your next session, especially if training again within 24 hours. A great kitchen tool is the slow cooker – this way you can have a healthy, filling and warm meal ready and waiting for you to return to after long winter sessions, instead of snacking on whatever you can find. Other quick and easy options are scrambled eggs on toast or a smoked salmon bagel. And if you are cooking a meal that takes a while, have some chocolate milk while you wait to start the recovery process and stop you snacking.
The key is to make it easy and sustainable to eat healthy, wholesome food.
So, keep your bonking off the bike and look out for our energy balls recipes coming soon!