Triathlon Success Begins in the Belly: Nutrition Tips from Katy Sports Nutritionist Melinda Molinas
Journey to Ironman Series
For endurance sports that require food for fuel, maintaining a healthy diet that does not just consist of salt tabs and fuel bars is important. The key to an athlete’s success, according to Shannon’s personal trainer Melinda Molinas, is not only the long hours of training an athlete is logging in, but the calories they are logging in as well. A healthy, high-quality diet is the foundation for any type of endurance fitness, whether it is in the pool, on a bike, or on the pavement. Melinda shares with us five crucial principles for building and maintaining a healthy nutrition plan, from during a training session to during a normal workweek.
A Quality Diet Happens on a Daily Basis
Having a healthy diet means thinking about what you are eating on a daily basis. A general problem many athletes experience is that they struggle to become leaner, despite the fact that they are logging in hours of heavy training. That is because the more calories you are burning, the more your body wants to refuel. To avoid overcompensating for the calorie loss, Melinda recommends planning out a “weekly food prep. “Spending one hour of week to food prep makes all the difference. Packaging simple snacks and meals ahead of time that contain protein and complex carbohydrates help you stay on task throughout a busy week. If you aren’t home for dinner and need to eat out, opt for skinless, lean proteins, steamed vegetables, and keeping sides like sweet potatoes and rice “dry” without all the fixings. Taking off cheese and croutons actually makes a big difference in calories!”
Practice Eating the Right Amount at the Right Time
A good workout session is determined one to two hours before the actual session. Skipping breakfast or a fuel session before training can actually do more harm than good. “If you haven’t fueled properly, it doesn’t allow you to function,” she says, “that’s when it’s good to have a nutritionist in your back pocket who will be able to tell you how many calories you need to take in and when. The exact amount of calories will depend on height, weight loss goals, and physical habits.”
“For Shannon, we’ll be having her take in about 400 calories per hour during the actual triathlon race,” she says. “Shannon will need to consume her last meal three hours before a race so we don’t have any indigested food in her gut because the stomach will not have much blood or energy available during the race to digest or break down food.”
What about after a workout or race? She says that muscles are primed to accept nutrients so it is absolutely essential to have protein and carbohydrates 30-60 minutes following a long or high-intensity workout.
Focus on Macro Nutrients
Eating healthy goes beyond just eating fruits and veggies. For triathletes, it is important to take advantage of macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These have important functions in the body and it is crucial that you have an appropriate amount of each for peak performance. The exact percentage varies from athlete to athlete, but as a rule of thumb, Melinda recommends 45-65% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, and 20-35% from fat. Some healthy choices of each are listed below:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grain rice, breads, pastas, cereals (no white)
- Some (not a lot) sweets like chocolate, ice cream, etc.
- Sports drinks, energy bars
- Milk (includes soymilk and almond milk)
- Protein powder/shakes
- Lean meats (chicken, turkey, fish, steaks)
- Olive Oil
Try and stay away from processed other oils and processed foods as much as possible and “it’s always good to try out what works best for you,” she says. “For example, Shannon can’t take caffeine; it gives her really bad headaches. So we’re working to find an alternative fuel gel that will work best for her and help her maximize her performance.”
Do Not Ignore Hydration
Hydration often does not get the attention it deserves. For bodies to be able to perform at their best, it is absolutely necessary to maintain proper hydration throughout the day. This is especially true come race day. Athletes will know when they have reached the proper level of hydration when urine is light in color; hydration is especially important the morning before a race to make up for H20 needs lost during sleeping hours. What Melinda recommends for Shannon and her other clients is taking in 6-8 ounces of water every 15 minutes during the race.
Maintain a Healthy Relationship with Food
During training season, many triathletes tend to obsess about numbers; this includes training hours and calories. Even when our bodies are craving for that pizza and milkshake, athletes are often prone to denying themselves or feeling guilty about it afterward. “Restricting yourself too much creates negative feelings towards food, which could then lead to other habits like skipping meals and binge eating.” Melinda says. When asked if she believed in a “cheat day,” she says, “Absolutely. A cheat day, but not a cheat week! Having a weekend meal with the family is not a big deal. Eating should not only be healthy, but it should be pleasurable too.”
About Melinda Molinas
Melinda is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer in Katy, Texas and is the owner of Premiere Training and Nutrition. With extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, injury prevention, nutrition, she specializes in customized training and diet plans to suit any personal goal or lifestyle. Everyday, Melinda dedicates herself to challenging and motivating others to live a happy, healthy, and balanced life.
Texas Fit Chicks Senior Trainer