Maximizing fitness, athleticism and performance in the world of endurance athletics is easier said than done. Many athletes focus too much of their effort on just the training component. To see consistent improvement, however, athletes should create an entire system to round out their training program.
Endurance athletes are tremendously hard workers, but sometimes this hard work will come back to haunt them as injury and pain tend to creep up in those who work too hard. Training is the foundation to getting results, but there are other components that make up the complete system. These other components need attention; and when they are disregarded, an athlete does not maximize their true potential.
Work on these six components to round out your complete triathlon training system.
Component #1: Performance Nutrition
Solid nutrition principles are imperative to staying healthy and injury-free, and truly maximizing your performance. When your diet is incomplete and lacking the nutrients and vitamins the human body needs to perform, recover and stay healthy, your training program will become stagnate.
As training is crucial, the nutrition program is just as imperative to an endurance athlete. Vigorous training hours lead to fatigue, broken down muscle tissue, tired joints, a run down nervous system and an immune system fighting to stay healthy.
Without a proper nutrition plan to assist recovery and replenishment, your body will spiral downward to a state of overtraining, which can lead to inconsistent sleep patterns, lack of motivation, and ultimately injury.
I use this as component #1 because there isn't enough focus on this tactic. Without changing any of the other training protocols, tweaking nutrition for peak performance can give endurance athletes an edge on their competitors.
An endurance athlete's diet should be full of complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and healthy whole grains; lean proteins like fresh and lean chicken, turkey, fish and occasional red meat; and healthy fats like natural peanut or almond butter, avocado, raw nuts and olive oil.
Keeping your food consumption to calories that are nutrient-dense and limited in saturated fats, high amounts of sugars and salts and empty calories is imperative for high-level performance.
Food timing is another critical aspect to understand. What you eat is important but dialing in your nutrient timing can expand your performance to optimal levels. Understanding what specific foods do for your system can assist your energy levels, increase the intensity of your workouts, and allow your body to fully recover after training.
Pre-workout food consumption is dependant on each individual and the needs of that person. Find what works best for your body. Do not rely on what you saw in a magazine or read in a book. What works for you? The basic nutrient breakdown before training should consist of a 3 to 1 ratio of complex carbohydrates to protein. This ratio will top off the glycogen tank to prepare for the work ahead. This pre-workout meal should not be heavy, fiber-dense or packed with empty sugar and calories. Instead aim for calories that will give you the necessary energy and jumpstart you will need to begin training, without overworking the digestive system.
Within thirty minutes post-workout, your body is in an anabolic state and will be at its highest response to the calories you consume. It's best to eat food that is easily and quickly digestible during this period. Whey protein, chocolate milk and your favorite supplement (hammer nutrition, Gatorade, etc) are all good choices.