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What to Eat & Drink in Preparation for an Ironman race

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For some people, completing an Ironman race is a life-long goal, one of those bucket list things that takes a long time to prepare for. There are lots of things to consider if an Ironman is on your radar – the location of the race, your fitness levels, acquiring proper equipment and gear, and, of course, training.

One of the most essential parts of training is knowing what to eat and drink. Diet, nutrition and hydration can make or break an athlete and can determine whether or not they are successful, suffer injuries or not, and maintain a good state of mental and physical health during and after the event.

Consideration when preparing for an Ironman race

1. Complex Carbs

To give yourself the best chance for a successful Ironman triathlon and to have high endurance while you train, consider making 1/3 of your plate nutrient-dense carbs at mealtime. This includes foods like whole grain cereals and pastas, potatoes and rice, all of which replenish glycogen and stimulate insulin production.

2. Lean Protein

Lean proteins like chicken, fish, nuts, eggs and some beans or legumes have essential amino acids and aid in muscle tissue recovery. It is beneficial to consume lean proteins within 45 minutes of a workout in preparation for the big day.

3. Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and veggies become supremely important as training heats up for an Ironman race. Raw vegetables and fruits are loaded with phytonutrients, fiber and antioxidants. All of these are essential to maintaining good digestion and overall physical health.

4. Scrap Fried Foods

Foods that are nutrient dense, easy to digest, and provide energy are key to success, and fried foods are none of these. Anything deep fried is stripped of healthfulness and will weigh you down with empty calories and fats.

5. Hydrate

During the final stages of preparation for an Ironman triathlon, you will need to pay close attention to your hydration, which may mean measuring how much fluid you sweat and replenish. Avoid sugary drinks that promise to rehydrate but do ensure you are consuming electrolytes.

A great way to incorporate all of the above suggestions are to make things like “Buddha Bowls”. These are basically a mix of small portions of ingredients into one bowl and they are great because they easily include delicious raw veggies, lean proteins and carbohydrates like rice or potatoes. Plus, they keep things interesting because you can mix up the ingredients with whatever you are craving.

Here are some good ideas for ingredients:

  • Raw, massaged kale or other dark, leafy greens like spinach
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Chickpeas
  • Roasted beets, yams and sweet potatoes
  • Raw cabbage and shredded Brussel sprouts
  • Sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, dill and mint
  • Tahini dressing

It’s also good to keep snacks on hand – the less processed the better. This is a great place to incorporate fruit – apples with cheese or a banana with peanut butter are great for a quick and easy pick-me-up. Or consider making your own protein bars at home with lots of delicious, high-protein nuts, seeds and sweeteners like dates or honey.

If you do decide to purchase pre-made foods and drinks, carefully read the ingredients so you know what you are eating. And if you are serious about completing an Ironman, remember that your diet and nutrition is a huge part of your preparation!