Basics of Hydration:

Hydrating well is important to avoid fatigue, concentration drops and poor performance. Signs of poor hydration are cramping, headaches, dizziness during or post events/ training.
Thirst is usually a signal that you are already dehydrated so you won’t get signals you need to ensure adequate fluids are taken throughout training.
Avoid alcohol the night before intense training sessions, even sessions that are in the cold generate a lot of sweat into clothing. Avoid meals high in salt content like pizza the night before an intense training session but do not avoid salt completely as salt is important in electrolyte balancing.
Fluid requirements vary between individuals depending on sweat rate and sweat composition, weather conditions and ability to tolerate fluid while training and competing.
Athletes should start races well hydrated and continue to optimise hydration throughout the race. Use the bike leg and the transitions to get hydrated well. Also use an electrolyte drink or electrolyte drops if you sweat a lot but ensure you have tried these in training first.
In long events such as Iron Man events and in very warm climate events you should consider using salt tablets and trialling these in your training months leading up to the event. They should be taken typically every 30 minutes but this all depends on climate, the person’s sweat rate and if the person has high blood pressure. Always check with your GP before using salt tablets. They can be used in conjunction with electrolyte drinks and energy drinks with added electrolytes. Caffeine gels will lower salt levels as they are dehydrating so be mindful of how much caffeine you are consuming and if you tend to cramp or dehydrate choose caffeine free gels.
The key thing is trial and error in your early months of training so you are prepared on event days to know what suits your body best.

Off season:

A number of triathletes continue to eat through their off season as they would during peak season and they put on excessive weight which takes time to shed at the start of the season. To start your season at a healthy lean weight, reducing risk of injury and stress on
the body it is best to eat in the off season in proportion to your training. Training is lower and much less intense therefore your carbohydrate needs are lower and your calorie needs are lower. Ensure your protein remains the same as the needs are the same for satiety, repair and mood hormones. Protein should be between 1.6-2g of protein per KG of body weight for sufficient levels for repair, muscle building, mood hormones and balancing blood sugars.
Also use healthy fats as sources for energy as your need for carbohydrates is not as high while not competing. Eat a variety of avocado, salmon, sardines, mackerel, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds and almonds. They also offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
Include starchy carbohydrates like oats, potatoes, pasta and root vegetables for energy instead of sugary drinks, pastries, biscuits, excess fruit and syrups.

Training season:

Avoid long periods without food.
Avoid training on an empty tummy. Low blood sugars are no help to your performance and trigger inflammation in the body.
Ensure your calories are comprising 40% carbohydrates, 30% Protein, 30% Fats- if your training is more zone 2 based you will get away with less carbohydrates and more fats but if your training is for sprint-based races and high intensity sessions you need the higher carbohydrates approx. 40-50% when training at high intensity.
As intensity increases, time becomes a challenge for food preparation and sleep. Macros are important to ensuring you are well fuelled and repair well but it is also very important that you
do not compromise micronutrient rich foods for convenience and time. Micronutrients are your vitamins and minerals and are best found in fresh vegetables, fruit and real meat.
Substituting all meals for quick fast meals and protein shakes is going to leave you depleted in you micronutrients and results in lowered immunity, difficulty concentrating, over training
fatigue and slow healing from injury. Ensure you have most of your meals from fresh vegetables, whole grains and meat/fish with easy convenient meals and protein powders serving as supplementary only to help you meet your needs.
Including liquid meals and snacks can be helpful for those who struggle to eat or drink post training or before training – smoothies, protein shakes, protein balls are easy ways to get
calories and nutrients in.
Multivitamins and supplements can be useful to help you get sufficient nutrients when diet is not varied or energy output is high but be mindful that these supplements should not be
taken in the hour or two post training, training elicits an inflammation response in the body which encourages adaptation and increased fitness/ muscle growth. The inflammation
response is important and taking antioxidants in the window of inflammation can halt the natural response that is needed for adaption and increased performance. Take the supplements later in the day for optimal results. Also ensure your supplements are of high quality, not full of additives and binders which cause digestions and malabsorption issues. If unsure, consult with a Nutritionist or Health store where supplements are of much higher grade then over the counter shop bought.

Race Day Food:

In the 3 days lead up to a long endurance race event such as marathon or iron man, you should lower your training to allow the body to store glycogen and you should increase your
starchy carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, pasta) in your meals in the days leading up.
Nerves and early race start can hinder an athlete’s breakfast plans but it is important you do not race on an empty tank. Ideally you should eat 1 ½ -2 hours before race start to ensure blood sugars don’t drop and to ensure your energy is not taken in the digestion process.
Ensure your meal is rich in easy to digest carbohydrates – its best to go with a usual breakfast you would have before a cycle training morning or run session. If nerves are getting to you get up earlier and slowly make your way through breakfast but then take an
easy to digest carbohydrate snack 30 minutes before race start ie. Ripe banana/ half bagel with peanut butter/handful grapes/ tailwind carbohydrate in water/ Innocent smoothies.

During the Race:

For events which are over 3 hours you should aim to take in 60-90g of carbohydrates per hour depending on the level of competition and intensity of racing. To avoid gastric upset you should combine carbohydrate sources; this can be done with a combination of gels/
carbohydrate drinks/ carbohydrate bars/ sandwiches/ dates/banana- you should be testing these combinations in your long cycles and runs in lead up to an event.

Events under 3 hours do not require much carbohydrate fuelling.

Sleep for optimal performance:

It is during sleep we do our recovery and repair. It is also during sleep where our brain reinforces technique and exercise patterns, we have been drilling in during swim sessions, run session and bike sessions. It is imperative that sleep is not comromised for training, if sleep is cut short the immune system will be affected and you will get run down and may not make race day or will struggle with over training syndrome post-race event (adrenal exhaustion).
Aim to get 7-8 hours sleep per night for optimal performance, if you need to cut sleep short for training or other reasons catch naps during the day before or after training to help the body recover. Naps of even 20 minutes are beneficial.
If training at night leads to high adrenaline and difficulty winding down to fall asleep consider a herbal adaptogen such as valerian, ashwagandha, rhodiola or holy basil to bring down adrenaline and help the body produce melatonin. Consult with a nutritionist or health shop if unsure which one is best suited for you or a combination of them.

In short, eat smart, sleep well and don’t forget to enjoy it!